London, England: Things To Do
TOURIST ATTRACTIONS IN LONDON
Things to do in London, England
London, England is the largest city in the European union, so as one might imagine, there is no shortage of activities in which to engage. Whether you are interested in taking a walking tour, visiting historical sites, cathedrals, art museums or galleries, taking in a live theater production or indulging in culinary delights in one of the many cafes and restaurants, you won't be disappointed.
Here is just a sampling of the many must-see places in London.
Located in the City of Westminster, a borough of central London, this palace is the official residence of the Queen of England. It's sheer size occupies much of the West End. Despite this being a private residence to the royal family, the queen is not in residence during August or September, and during these months, the palace’s nineteen staterooms are open to the public from 9:45 a.m. until 6:00 p.m.
Guests are greeted at the gates to the palace by the Victoria Memorial, a stately cement rendering of Queen Victoria, flanked by the angels of truth, justice and charity. The pinnacle of this monument features a large, gold winged figure, looking out over the throngs of visitors. The monument was erected in 1911.
The staterooms are a must see for any art lover as their galleries are filled with priceless art. Tourists who enjoy botanical gardens will love the palace gardens, and if you're into pricy, vintage automobiles, the Royal Mews house the state vehicles of royal family including the Gold State Coach.This is the horse-drawn carriage used by royals for state weddings, coronations, and other momentous occasions.
THE ELIZABETH TOWER a.k.a. BIG BEN
Located at the north end of the Palace of Westminster, Big Ben is the world's largest four-faced chiming clock and one of the most recognizable sites in London. It is the third tallest free-standing clock tower in the world. Today it is known as The Elizabeth Tower, but most people still identify with the name, Big Ben, but in fact, Big Ben refers to the largest bell in the tower. The tower also features four quarter bells which chime Westminster Quarters on the quarter hour. You may have seen Big Ben during the day, but don't forget to return at night. The tower is lit in spectacular fashion by a warm, golden light that will take your breath away.
BIG BEN BY NIGHT
This gothic cathedral located in the city of Westminster, is the famed venue for major royal weddings and coronations. Future Queen Elizabeth wed Prince Phillip here in 1947 and her coronation took place here in 1953. Lady Diana's funeral was held here in 1997.
Originally founded as a monastery in 624, the cathedral's first stone abbey was erected somewhere between 1045 and 1050. Over 3000 people are entombed in the Abbey, including King Henry III. There are also over 600 memorials and monuments.
Visiting hours are Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 9:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. The last admission is at 3:30 p.m. On Wednesdays the church remains open until 7:00 p.m. with last admission at 6:00 p.m.. Saturdays the church closes at 2:30 p.m. with last admission at 1:30 p.m. No tours are available on Sundays due to the worship schedule. Daily worship includes morning prayers, evensongs and Eucharist.
THE LONDON EYE a.k.a. MILLENNIUM WHEEL
Located at the west end of Jubilee Gardens on the south bank of the Thames is one of the more modern attractions in London. Known as the London Eye, this 443 foot tall Ferris Wheel has become the most popular paid tourist attraction in the UK since it opened to the public in March 2000. The London Eye features thirty two air conditioned capsules that can hold up to twenty five passengers. You are free to move around inside each capsule and will have great views of London from all sides. Don't miss the fireworks display here on New Year's Eve. The fireworks are set off from the structure itself!
HER MAJESTY'S ROYAL PALACE AND FORTRESS a.k. a. TOWER OF LONDON
Rich with scandalous history, this tower was founded in 1066, though building continued for centuries. The tower is best known for its use as a prison but throughout history has also housed the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom and served as a treasury and an armory.
One of the most famous names associated with the Tower is Queen Mary I. She was the eldest daughter of King Henry VIII. After Henry's death, Mary, a devout Catholic, dreamed of restoring England to its Catholic roots. In the process, she ordered the deaths of over 300 men and women of the Reformation, that were deemed a threat to this pursuit. As a result, she earned herself the nickname Bloody Mary. Those whose lives were spared, were often imprisoned in the tower, including Mary's half-sister, who was confined briefly in 1554. After her release, her half-sister went on to become Queen Elizabeth I, one of the country’s most beloved monarchs.
Tours of the tower operate daily.
ST. JAMES'S PARK
There are eight royal parks throughout London, of which St. James's Park is the oldest.This park boasts views of Buckingham Palace and includes a small lake with two islands that are home to countless birds.
Each year, the park hosts the Queen's birthday parade, otherwise known as Trooping the Colour, which takes place along the Horse Guard's Parade along the edge of the park known as The Mall.
The park also features part of the official Princess Diana Memorial Walk, a seven mile long hike that also takes visitors through Hyde Park, Green Park and Kensington Gardens.
Not to be confused with a real circus, Picadilly Circus is actually a district in the city of Westminster and a hub of city entertainment. It features fine dining, shopping, live theater, some of the city's hottest nightclubs, and other entertainment. In 1819 it connected Regent Street to the shopping mecca, Picadilly Street.
Like other major cities such as New York City, large neon signs and videos are a major feature in this area. Among the largest signs are those by Samsung and LG, McDonald's and Hyundai Motors.
Those looking for more traditional photo ops may be drawn to the statue of the Greek God Eros that was erected in 1893.
At 215 miles long, the Thames is the second longest river in the United Kingdom. It flows through central London, snaking past the houses of parliament, Big Ben and other areas of historic importance.
River cruises are available through a number of cruise companies and feature sightseeing opportunities, dinner and show cruises, lunch and tea cruises and more. Evening cruises are especially magic as patrons enjoy the golden glow of Big Ben against a canopy of stars with the London Eye as a spectacular backdrop.
SUNSET ON THE THAMES
TATE BRITAIN AND TATE MODERN GALLERIES
Art lovers flock to the famous Tate Galleries, known as the Tate Britain and the Tate Modern. They are part of a four-gallery family, but are the only two located in London. The others are Tate Liverpool and Tate St. Ives.
The Tate Britain is home to exhibitions of priceless art by British artists dating back to 1500. It was originally known simply as the Tate Gallery.
As its name implies,the Tate Modern houses a collection of modern and contemporary art by British and international artists that dates from 1900 to the present.
Works include priceless paintings, sculpture, photographs, films, drawings and maquettes.
The galleries offer free general admission, making them a real draw for art lovers who are short on cash.
Famous for its plethora of fountains and monuments, this square is located in the borough of Westminster in central London. It opened to the public in 1844.
In the 1960s, architects discovered the remains of cave lions, straight tusked elephants, rhinos thought to be from the last glacial period 40,000 years earlier.
The square features a large central area from which three roadways spoke off. One leads to the National Gallery. The square also boasts several memorial statues, fountains, and public artworks. Giant video screens display some of England's biggest sporting events, and celebrations about for special holidays and VE Day.
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