Travelling around is one of the most rewarding experiences we can have, the different cultures expand our horizons and broaden the mind. Most seasoned global travellers will come to London at least once. I’m currently planning a trip there with my sister in summer as it’s far enough away from us that it feels like getting away, but it’s close enough that we can spend a weekend there. Here is a guide to give you some ideas as to how best spend your time.
The Tower of London
Located on the northern banks of the River Thames, The Tower of London is a historic building that lies in the heart of Tower Hamlets. Steeped in tradition, the Tower of London consists of several buildings set within two rings of defensive walls, surrounded by a moat. The Yeoman Warders, commonly known as Beefeaters, are colourfully dressed as they perform the Ceremony of the Keys, which is a daily event. A Yeoman Warder must have at least 22 years military service, along with a list of other requirements, and his role is a ceremonial guard of the Tower of London.
Located in the borough of Westminster, it is one of the most famous religious buildings in the UK, and has been the traditional venue for coronations and burials of English nobility for many centuries. The two towers rise to a height of 225 feet, with perfectly manicured gardens that add colour to this stunning historical site. I sung at Westminster with school once which was kind of awesome!
Located in Kensington Gardens, in the borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Kensington Palace has been used by the British royal family since the mid-17th century. The State Rooms are open to the public, with a superb collection of art and other objects from the Royal Collection. The Palace underwent major renovations, re-opening in 2012, and offers visitors a choice of four different tours, with exhibits that are incorporated into a digital presentation, giving you an interactive experience, which makes the tour so much more informative. The garden is stunning, with scenic walks and a wide range of flora, making it a must-see for garden lovers. Recently, two new gardens that connect the property to Kensington Gardens were included.
Looking your best
While travelling through such a trendy city, it is essential to look good, and with so many beauty and hair salons to choose from, you can create that perfect image. Find more top London hair salons here, offering a wide range of beauty services in trendy areas of London.
The National Gallery
If you are an art lover, you cannot leave the National Gallery off your list. Set in Trafalgar Square, this gallery is filled with some of the best examples of painting, with masterpieces from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. They house works by many European painters including,
- Leonardo Da Vinci
- Van Gogh
These works are public property so admission is free, and there are many other fine examples of period work from the best artists in the continent.
London Transport Museum
The London Transport Museum is located in Covent Garden, and houses unique examples of transport used in England’s capital city over the centuries. It is open every day, and is well worth a visit for those who are interested in seeing how transportation has changed over time.
The Harry Potter Tour
If you read the books and saw the films, this tour is for you. This is the main focus of my trip with my sister in July actually – we’ve got it booked already!! The characters we’ve all loved for so long that were cleverly entwined by J.K. Rowling entered the realm of film, giving us a visual connection to that mysterious world. With perfect casting and stunning sets, the Harry Potter movies just kept getting better. Now they are behind us, why not gain an insight into the making of the series by taking this tour?
Some might call it a road junction in London’s West End, but it is definitely a place to see while you are here. Piccadilly Circus is a hub of West London that connects Shaftesbury Avenue with the Haymarket, two of the locations that house the well-known theatres in London. The best time to visit is in the evening, when the neon signs and lighting are at their best. With its own tube station, Piccadilly Circus is home to the London Palladium and the Criterion Theatre, the venues for so many award-winning shows. Many tourists flock to have their photo taken beside the Eros statue, which is a central focus of this attraction.
Madame Tussauds Wax Museum
This is a place that can invoke a strange feeling. Famous people from all walks of life have been expertly replicated using wax, to give an uncanny resemblance to the real person. This museum is on every tourist’s bucket list, with an amazing array of wax sculptures that will astound you. The museum has a long history and after several location changes, is now situated on Marylebone Road. The perfect copies include sports stars, actors and actresses, political figures, and royalty, which means a visit to this museum includes a meeting with some of the most influential people to have lived in Europe.
A royal residence set in the country town of Windsor in Berkshire. Windsor Castle is noted for its long royal association and stunning architecture. Constructed in the 11th century, the castle has been used by all the English monarchs since Henry I, and is one of the most prestigious palaces in Europe. Inside the grounds is St George’s Chapel, a classic example of gothic design, which was the scene of many historic events in English history. Apart from being a tourist attraction, Windsor Castle is the second home of Queen Elizabeth II, as well as hosting many state visits. The Castle employs more than 500 people, and is the largest inhabited castle in the world.
The London Eye
If you really want a bird’s eye view of the city, this is the place to go. Climb into the glass capsule and experience a view of London that is unique, and soak up a 360-degree vista of this busy metropolis. The trip takes 30 minutes, during which time you can admire the River Thames, with treasures such as Big Ben and Buckingham Palace in full view.
The administrative headquarters of Queen Elizabeth II, Buckingham Palace is an essential place to include on your tour of London. It was originally named Buckingham house when built in 1703 for the Duke of Buckingham. It underwent significant expansion in the 19th century, when three wings were added to the building, and it became the official royal residence for Queen Victoria in 1837, after her previous successor, William IV died before its completion. This magnificent example of British architecture has been added to continually, including the large Eastern front, which houses the traditional balcony from which the royal family acknowledge the crowds on auspicious occasions.
The Tate Modern
Housed in the former Bankside Power Station on the banks of the Thames, this is a national museum of modern and contemporary art. Admire works by Picasso, Dali, Matisse and Rothko, and the Tate Modern is free. The huge Turbine Hall runs the entire length of the building, with many paintings by prominent artists. A visit to the Tate is a wonderful way to spend a day in London.
A wonderful collection of man’s work from prehistoric to modern times, with such artifacts as the Rosetta Stone, and the mummies of the ancient Egypt collection. Located in Bloomsbury, in the borough of Camden, the British Museum houses a massive collection of 8 million works. Founded in the mid-18th century, the museum expanded over two centuries, as British colonialism grew, and this influence resulted in many treasures from far off lands coming to the British Museum. If you are at all interested in human development, a visit to the British Museum is essential.
A firm favourite of all, London Zoo first opened in 1828, which makes it the oldest scientific zoo in the world. Also known as Regent’s Zoo, it has a very large assortment of animals from all over the world. There are many interesting sections to visit.
The aquarium is divided into three sections, each with different types of aquatic wildlife. The first hall contains mainly freshwater fish, while the second hall displays stunning coral fish from different parts of the world. The third hall is home to species from the Amazon River, with arapaimas, piranhas, and river stingrays. There is a separate hall called “The Big Fish Tank”, which houses former pets that grew to a size where their owners could no longer care for them.
The Reptile House
This is one of the most popular sections of the zoo, with crocodiles, alligators, snakes, frogs, and chameleons on show. There are many fine examples of cobras, pythons and other large snakes, along with iguanas and bullfrogs, including the deadly poison dart frog.
First opened by Richard Attenborough in 2004, the Komodo section houses a few of these creatures in a cleverly designed area that mimics their natural environment. There is a soundtrack of Indonesian birds to make the dragons feel at home.
The monkey walkway houses a troop of black-capped squirrel monkeys, and with no roof and no boundaries between the visitor and the monkeys, it makes for a realistic experience. Nearby is another walk-through section where you can interact with lemurs. This hall is designed to resemble a shrub forest in Madagascar.
These are just a few of the amazing places in London, a city that is full of history and culture, with something for everyone.
Spot more of London’s iconic attractions by checking out this blog on Where to Stay in London: The Ultimate Sightseeing Guide by HotelsCombined.