London is one of the world’s top tourist destinations, attracting over fifteen million visitors annually. The capital city of Great Britain is a wholly vibrant and filled with art and entertainment along with theaters that are always busy. The icing on the cake when it comes to experiencing London. All this is complemented by the music scene which continues to thrill visitors. London houses a few of the most culturally significant concentration of cultural and historical attractions. From royal palaces to the people’s parliament, from Roman ruins to castles and cathedrals, puts a lot on to the traveller’s plate and many days can be spent discovering the wonder hidden in London’s sites without exhausting the unique aspects to experience.
Buckingham Palace and the Changing of the GuardOne of Britain’s most iconic buildings, the Buckingham Palace is the location for London’s most visited display of pomp and royalty, the Changing of the Guard. This event draws crowds at every morning and in every season, and it promises travellers with a colorful and disciplined display of precision marching. There’s also a chance to listen to music taking place at St James’s Palace where travellers can follow the band along The Mall as they march between sites. The Buckingham Palace, built in 1837 remains the London residence of the British Royal Family since Queen Victoria’s rise to the throne. Travellers find out whether the Queen is in the palace, by looking at the flagpole atop the building. The royal standard at full mast implies that the Queen is at home. On special state occasions, the Queen and members of the Royal Family emerge on the central balcony for a public appearance. When she’s away at her summer palace in Scotland, visitors can purchase tickets for tours of the State Rooms, the Queen’s Gallery and the Royal Mews. It’s recommended to tour the palace, view the Changing of the Guard, and experience a traditional afternoon tea, which works out to a five hour Buckingham Palace Tour that includes the Changing of the Guard Ceremony and Afternoon Tea. This tour is an efficient way of experiencing the highlights within a short amount of time, and a knowledgeable guide to explain the history takes the royal experience to a new level making your visit to the Buckingham Palace enjoyable and memorable.
The British MuseumDisplaying one of the world’s finest collections of antiquities, the British Museum contains more than thirteen million artifacts from the ancient world, with invaluable objects from Assyria, Babylonia, China, Europe, and other countries. However travellers are encouraged to first visit the museum’s most appealing exhibits such as, the controversial Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon, the Rosetta Stone, the colossal bust of Rameses II, the Egyptian mummies, and the spectacular hoard of 4th-century Roman silver known as the Mildenhall Treasure.
The Tower of London and Tower BridgeFrom prison to palace, treasure vault to private zoo, the magnificent Tower of London has played many different roles across history. One of Britain’s most iconic structures, this spectacular World Heritage Site offers a whole lot of fascination for travellers curious about the rich history of Britain. Inside the massive White Tower, built in 1078 by William the Conqueror, is the 17th-century Line of Kings with a remarkable display of royal armaments and armor. Other equally interesting highlights at the British Museum include the famous Crown Jewels exhibition, the Beefeaters, the Royal Mint and a few gruesome exhibits about the executions that took place on the grounds. The adjacent Tower Bridge, its two huge towers rising 61 meters above the River Thames, is one of London’s well known landmarks. Cozmo Travel recommends travellers to purchase the Tower of London Entrance Ticket Including Crown Jewels and Beefeater Tour in advance, to bypass the ticket office lines, especially during the busy summer season. This ticket guarantees the lowest price, helps avoid the crowds, and saves time and effort.
Big Ben and ParliamentNothing underlines the spirit of ‘London’ more emphatically than the ninety seven meter tower housing a giant clock and its resounding bell known as Big Ben. It’s definitely as iconic as a landmark as the Tower Bridge. The tolling of Big Ben is known throughout the world as the time signal of BBC radio. Below it, stretching along the Thames, are the Houses of Parliament, seat of Britain’s government for many centuries and once the site of the royal Westminster Palace occupied by William the Conqueror. Tours of the parliament buildings offer a unique chance for travellers to be a part of real-time debates and lively political discussions. From Parliament Square, Whitehall is lined by so many government buildings that its name has become synonymous with the British government.
Westminster AbbeyAnother location in London with a long association with British royalty, the Westminster Abbey stands on a site associated with Christianity since the 7th century. Officially known as the Collegiate Church of St. Peter in Westminster, Westminster Abbey was founded by Edward the Confessor in 1065 as his place of interment. From his burial in 1066 till the burial of George II almost 700 years later, most sovereigns were crowned here and they were also buried here. More recently, the Westminster Abbey has gained popularity as the preferred location for Royal Weddings.
Hyde ParkCovering over three hundred acres, Hyde Park is London’s largest open space and has been a destination for travellers since 1635. One of the park’s highlights is the Serpentine, an 18th century man-made lake popular for boating and swimming. Hyde Park is also where travellers will find and experience the Speakers’ Corner, a traditional forum for free speech and loud debates. Another Hyde Park landmark is Apsley House, former home of the first Duke of Wellington and purchased after his famous victory at Waterloo. Apsley House is now a museum, it houses Duke of Wellington’s spectacular collection of paintings, including Waterseller of Seville by Velázquez, along with gifts presented by grateful European kings and emperors. England’s greatest hero is also commemorated at the Wellington Arch.
Churchill’s War RoomsAmong the most fascinating and thought provoking of London’s historic locations is the well preserved nerve-center from which Prime Minister Winston Churchill commanded the British military campaigns and the defense of his homeland throughout the second World War. The war rooms suggest a Spartan simplicity and the cramped conditions underline the mood in Britain as the Nazi grip tightened across Europe. Visitors can also observe a tiny cubicle where Churchill slept and the improvised radio studio from where he broadcast his famous wartime speeches. Simple details, such as Clementine Churchill’s knitting wool marking the front lines on a map of Europe, bring to life to an era of London’s history not displayed by any other museum.
The London EyeBuilt to mark London’s millennium celebrations in 2000, the London Eye is Europe’s largest observation wheel. Its individual glass capsules offer the most spectacular views of the city as you embark on a circular tour rising four hundred and forty three feet above the Thames. The journey, one complete rotation, lasts thirty minutes, often quicker than the time spent queuing for your turn. Cozmo Travel recommends travellers to reserve their seats in advance. The best option is to skip the line completely with a London Eye: Skip-the-Line Ticket.
Hampton Court PalaceAnother magnificent ‘Thames-side’ attraction, the Hampton Court is one of Europe’s most famous palaces. Its Great Hall dates from Henry VIII’s time and it’s where Elizabeth I learned of the defeat of the Spanish Armada. Other interesting features include the Clock Court with its fascinating astronomical clock dating to 1540, the State Apartments with the Haunted Gallery, the Chapel, the King’s Apartments and the lush Tudor tennis court. The gardens are also worth visiting, especially in May when the flowers are in full bloom and it’s recommended for travellers to include the Privy Garden, the Pond Garden, the Elizabethan Knot Garden, the Broad Walk, an area known as the Wilderness and, of course, the palace’s famous hedge Maze.
The Victoria and Albert MuseumThe Victoria and Albert Museum is part of a South Kensington-based group of museums that includes the Natural History Museum and Science Museum. Founded in 1852, these museums cover about thirteen acres and contain one hundred and forty five galleries that span about 5,000 years of art and history. Exhibits at these museums include ceramics and glass, textiles and costumes, silver and jewelry, ironwork, sculpture, prints and photos.
Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar SquareDefinitely, two of London’s favourite tourist locations, Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square are two famous squares located near each other and mark the gateways to Soho, London’s lively theater and entertainment district. Trafalgar Square was built to commemorate Lord Horatio Nelson’s victory over the French and Spanish at Trafalgar in 1805. Nelson’s Column, a fifty six meter granite monument, overlooks the square’s fountains and bronze reliefs, which were cast using the metal from French cannons. Admiralty Arch, St Martin-in-the-Fields, and the National Gallery surround the square. Piccadilly Circus on the other hand marks the irregular intersection of several streets, Piccadilly, Regent, Haymarket, and Shaftesbury Avenue, and overlooking this somewhat untidy snarl of traffic stands London’s best-known sculpture, the winged Eros, delicately balanced on one foot, bow poised.
St Paul’s CathedralThe largest and most famous of London’s many churches, and undoubtedly one of the most spectacular cathedrals in the world, St Paul’s Cathedral is located on the site of a Roman temple. The previous church structure was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666, and Sir Christopher Wren provided the plans for the reconstruction of this monument. Today, the twin Baroque towers and magnificent three hundred and sixty five feet dome of St Paul’s Cathedral are a masterpiece of British architecture. Cozmo Travel recommends travellers to take the stairs for awesome views of the dome’s interior, including the experience at the Whispering Gallery.
Covent GardenThe market halls of Covent Garden are only the beginning of the neighborhood, which encompasses the shops and restaurants of Long Acre and other adjacent streets, those of Neal’s Yard and Seven Dials, as well as the Central Square with its street performers. The halls and arcades of Covent Garden Market are lined with specialty shops and kiosks selling everything from fine handcrafts to souvenirs. Housed in the former flower market, travellers can also visit the London Transport Museum, filled with historic buses, trolleys, and trams. This area is also where travellers can experience the Royal Opera House.
The Two Tates: Tate Britain and Tate ModernCollectively known as the Tate Gallery, London’s two Tate galleries, Tate Britain and Tate Modern, comprise one of the world’s most important art collections. Opened to the public in 1897 as the basis of a national collection of significant British art, the gallery continued to make acquisitions and needed more space for the display of its collections. The result was the establishment of Tate Britain, in Millbank on the north side of the Thames, as home to its permanent collection of historic British paintings. A superbly transformed power station across the Thames became home to the modern art collections. Art lovers can spend a whole day viewing both sites, conveniently connected by high speed ferry.
Greenwich and DocklandsFor centuries the hub of Britain’s naval power, Greenwich is best known to travellers as home of Cutty Sark, the last of the 19th century ‘tea clippers’ that sailed between Britain and China. The ship is adjacent to the Discover Greenwich Visitor Centre with exhibits that showcase more than five hundred years of maritime history, and the Palladian mansion known as Queen’s House. The impressive collections of the National Maritime Museum, the largest of its kind in the world, illustrate the history of the British Royal Navy. The revitalized Docklands across the river has been transformed into an international place of business and recreation, filled with some of London’s trendy new restaurants. The spectacular Museum of London Docklands, in the old Georgian warehouses, brings to life the river, port, and its people from Roman times to the present through hands-on displays which are of special interest for children.
Kew GardensKew Gardens, officially known as the Royal Botanic Gardens, is situated in southwest London on the south bank of the Thames and is a wonderful place to spend time as you enjoy the numerous plants growing in a landscape occupying around three hundred acres. Established in 1759, the gardens became government property in 1841. In 1897, Queen Victoria was responsible for the addition of the Queen’s Cottage and the adjacent woodland. Cozmo Travel recommends travellers to select from a variety of tours that are available free with admission, and many musical and cultural events are held here throughout the year.
National GalleryRanking among the top art museums in the world, London’s National Gallery represents an almost complete survey of European painting ranging from 1260 until 1920. The museum’s greatest masterpieces are housed in its collections of Dutch Masters and Italian Schools of the 15th and 16th centuries. Among the highlights of the National Gallery are a sketch of the Madonna and Child by Leonardo da Vinci, The Entombment by Michelangelo, Venus and Mars by Botticelli, Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers and The Waterlily Pond by Monet.
A Cozmo Travel Guide on Staying in London while Sightseeing
London’s top tourist attractions are spread out over several different areas of the city. Cozmo Travel suggests travellers to have a base in a central location and use the city’s excellent public transport system to travel between tourist spots.
When it comes to luxury hotels, the ‘Grande Dames’ still grace the list of London’s best. Pampering guests for more than a century are ‘The Goring’, a stone’s throw from Buckingham Palace, and ‘The Ritz London’, near the posh shops of Mayfair, while ‘The Langham’, in the heart of the West End, has played host to royals and celebrities for more than a hundred and fifty years.
‘The Fielding Hotel’, a popular boutique property, places travellers near Covent Garden, one of the city’s most famous locations. Located at about fifteen minutes from Covent Garden, Bloomsbury was once London’s literary hub and is now home to one of the city’s top attractions, the British Museum, as well as highly-rated, mid-range hotels such as ‘The Montague’ on the Gardens and ‘The Bloomsbury Hotel London’. Both are also located in close proximity to the Oxford Street shopping area.
The ‘Premier Inn London Kensington’ is an affordable option, located just minutes from museums and the Earls Court tube station. Travellers can also head north and try ‘The Alhambra Hotel’ or ‘Jesmond Dene Hotel’, both located near the busy King’s Cross tube station which is a bustling transport hub.
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