London: Your Guide to the Heart of Britannia

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London: Your Guide to the Heart of Britannia:table of contents

One of the most diverse and vibrant cities in the world, the English capital is known for its iconic, picturesque Gothic style architecture contrasting with the modern face of towering skyscrapers that have shot up in recent years. First founded by the Romans around two thousand years ago, London has a distinctive culture and charm you won't find anywhere else on earth. Here are ten sights you just have to visit when traveling to the capital of the UK.

London Eye

Located at the heart of London, this Ferris wheel gives stunning 360 views from its huge glass pods, allowing visitors to see over some of the famous sights of the city such as a front seat perspective of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. Pod rotation lasts for about 30 minutes and are never really that crowded due to a cap on the amount of people.

British Museum

This beautiful Neoclassical designed building holds a total of eight million artifacts, many of which were procured from around the world during the British Empire. As one of the largest collections in the world, the British Museum holds items from throughout the history of the world such as human tools dating back as far as two million years ago and a huge collection of artifacts from ancient Egypt. A must-see for anyone with the slightest interest in world history.

Tower of London

Looming over the northern bank of the River Thames, the Tower of London is a historic castle first built in the 11th century and served as a royal residence for several centuries. It's particularly famous for housing the beautiful Crown Jewels still used today after centuries of being worn by British kings and queens at their coronation. Another highlight is the Royal Armouries, a grand display of historic weaponry and armor housed in the White Tower.

National Gallery

Photo by Mike Peel / Wikipedia

The National Gallery holds an impressive collection of over 2,300 paintings, including famous works of artists like Van Gogh, Monet and Leonardo da Vinci along with a whole range of other works dating back to over five centuries old. Apart from the impressive content of the museum, the architecture of the building is also particularly stunning and well worth the trip to see.

Buckingham Palace

Photo by Diliff / Wikipedia

The residence and headquarters for the British monarch, this huge impressive structure is often used by the royals for special occasions such as state visits and other events like garden parties and banquets. Along with viewing the beautiful neoclassical facade of the building, the Victoria Memorial is another impressive sight to see with its gilded goddess of victory crowning the top. Make sure to visit in the morning at 11:00 when you can see the changing of the guard ceremony.

St. Paul's Cathedral

St Paul's Cathedral is a grand Anglican cathedral and the mother church of the Diocese of London. This architectural masterpiece was built in the 17th century, however dates back to as far as AD 604 when the first church to St Paul was built at the site. Some of the most iconic events have been held at St Paul's cathedral including the royal wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana. If you don't mind climbing several hundred steps, the views at the top of the cathedral are particularly stunning allowing you to see the iconic skyline of the city.

London Underground

As the lifeline of transport in the city, if you're visiting London then chances are you'll have to use the underground at some point. However few often appreciate just how iconic and important this railway network is in the history of the city. The London Underground is the first metro system to open in the world, running continuously since its first opening in 1863. Nicknamed 'the Tube' for its circular underground tunnels, it was first used between Paddington and Farringdon stations, being updated and extended ever since. If you're in London for more than a couple of days then it's advisable to buy an Oyster card, which makes getting around easier and often gives slightly lower fares.

Sky Garden

Housed in the building known as the 'Walkie Talkie' for its iconic shape, the Sky Garden is popular not so much for its exhibit of greenery but for the breath-taking views of central London and the River Thames. Along with the picturesque gardens and flowers that warrant a moment of appreciation, the observatory also features an outside area although it closes during bad weather so be sure to check on the day. The garden and observatory are free to visit but you'll need to book in advance as they only allow a certain amount of people up at a time.

Camden Town

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In the north of the city, this historical neighborhood has long been an important district in the history of the city and is known particularly for Camden Market, a collection of street markets selling a wide range of different products. Be sure to check out the market around the locks, apart from its picturesque setting beside the Regent's Canal the market offers a range of different mouth-watering street dishes both local and from around the world. It's the perfect spot to dive into the diverse gourmet offerings you can find in the city.

Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster

Probably the most famous of all the landmarks in the city, Big Ben has always been a prominent feature of London since its construction in 1859. Along with the adjacent Palace of Westminster or more commonly the Houses of Parliament, the complex offers some of the most stunning architecture in the world. Unfortunately as the tower is currently scheduled for renovations until 2021, tours of the building have been cancelled. However you can still book a tour for the Houses of Parliament on days when Parliament is not in session.

Conclusion

From its iconic grand Gothic architecture to royal palaces and grand cathedrals, visiting London will feel like traveling back in time as a city with a wealth of history. Along with being renowned for art and culture and its colorful street markets, London is a diverse hub of vibrant cultures, who have flocked to the city from times during the British Empire and earlier.

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