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The National Gallery is a magnificent Georgian edifice on the northern side of Trafalgar Square that houses a massive collection of Western European art. Started in 1838, you can find the works of master Leonardo Da Vinci in the Sainsbury wing of the gallery, alongside Botticelli and Bellini. The west wing contains works by Titian, Michelangelo and Raphael, the north wing contains works by Rubens, Rembrandt and Caravaggio, and the east wing contains works by Seurat, Canaletto, Degas and Monet. A portable audio guide is available in six different languages.
This area was formerly home to London's fruit and vegetable market, which moved down to the New Covent Garden Market in Bermondsey. Today, it is a collection of stores that sell a variety of goods, from antiques and crafts to pictures and handmade clothing. There's also an open-air cobbled area where miming and juggling acts can often be found. Musicians regularly play in the pretty courtyards around the market stalls. There are also a few places to eat lunch or grab an ice cream.
Known as both the London Eye and the Millennium Wheel, this huge 137-meter (450-foot) Ferris wheel on the South Bank gives a fabulous bird's eye view of London. The spectacular views from the top stretch as far as 40 kilometers (25 miles) in every direction on a clear day to include views of Windsor. Its inception at the turn of the 21st Century conferred upon it the title of 'the Millennium Wheel', symbolic of the progress made thus far and the promise of a glorious future. The London Eye has since come to be an icon of the city skyline, renown as the world's tallest cantilevered observation wheel and one of the city's highest observation points. Each of the glass-encased pods of the London Eye can transport up to 25 passengers around its 120-meter(394-foot) diameter at a leisurely pace, a circuit that takes close to 30 minutes to complete. For the duration of the ride, the city and its many attractions lie sprawled all around for a glimpse of London's girth in a single sweep.
To the west of the Palace of Westminster, this superbly striking piece of Early English Gothic architecture enthralls one and all with its 700-year-old history and its immediate association with British Royalty. First built by King Edward the Confessor between 1042 and 1052 as St Peter's Abbey, the church was meant to serve as a royal burial site for himself, and all regal heirs that followed. Quickly, this originally Romanesque church also became the site where coronations and royal weddings took place, thus going on to become one of the most significant religious buildings for British monarchs. While the abbey held the status of a cathedral for several years in the 16th Century, it was soon designated the title of a 'royal peculiar', or a church that is directly governed by the crown, in the later years. The abbey, with its majestic ivory turrets that aim for the sky, dramatic buttresses that line the southern facade, and the Norman-style nave that sits between the two towers, stands as one of London's most astonishing royal landmarks today.
The grand and stately Buckingham Palace has been the official London residence of the British monarch since 1837. Although the origins of the palace go back to the 18th Century when the Duke of Buckingham built his townhouse at the site, the palace as it stands today is principally the work of architects John Nash and Edward Blore. The palace holds 775 rooms, each lavishly decorated with fine art by the likes of Rembrandt, Vermeer and Van Dyck, Sevres Porcelain, and rich architectural details in a range of styles. From the cream and gold palette of the Belle Epoque to the intricacies of the Chinese Regency, each room is a showcase of extravagant yet tasteful interior design. The Grand Staircase is perhaps one of the world's finest examples of bronze casting, illuminated by an etched glass dome, and the focal point of the palace, while the forecourt is the setting for one of London's most popular tourist events - the Changing of the Guard. The Royal Mews and the Queen's Gallery are other popular features of this royal residence that are also open to visitors. All of this is surrounded by manicured lawns and lush gardens alive with myriad blooms in summer, painting a picture of grandeur befitting Britain's royal family.
The British Museum is one of London's top tourist attractions, as well as a major scholarly resource. Its collection was bequeathed to the nation in 1753, and the museum's distinctive Greek Revival structure was constructed during the 19th Century. The collection expanded massively during the heyday of the British Empire, leading to the museum's reputation for controversially acquiring from sources all over the globe, leaving it with over 6.5 million objects. The displays cover about 5.5 hectares (14 acres) making it impossible to see everything in one visit. The famous Rosetta Stone, Assyrian Reliefs, Parthenon Marbles, and the vast Egyptian collection are a few of the British Museum's most well known exhibits.
The UK's National Gallery for Modern and Contemporary Art, Tate Modern has been a dazzling microcosm of the art world since it first opened its doors in 2000 and is one of the largest of its kind in the world. A remarkable merger between the past and present, Tate Modern displays the stunning national collection of modern and contemporary art, featuring both British and international artists from 1900 to the present. Here, artwork by the likes of Matice, Warhol, Picasso, Dalí, and Pollock, sit alongside those of contemporary artists who are redefining the very meaning of art. The gallery sits amid the concrete jungle of Bankside, fitted into the former Power Station with a few nifty additions. The most obvious is the two-storey glass extension that sits atop the roof, while the original lattice brickwork and towering chimney of the heritage building have been retained. Later extensions include the Blavatnik Building, with its striking sloped facade, and the conversion of the subterranean oil tanks into a permanent showcase for the performing arts. Admission is free, however, tickets must be purchased for special exhibitions.
With a history dating back to the 1500s, Hyde Park is one of the oldest and largest parks in central London. On the north-east side of the park is Speakers' Corner, a traditional haven of free speech. The Serpentine Lido (a designated swimming area of the Serpentine Lake) and the Serpentine Gallery are famous tourist spots. Many visitors to the park choose to see the Isis statue or to sunbathe near Diana Fountain. There is also a memorial site near the south-east corner of the park that pay homage to the victims of the July 7, 2005 bombings in London. Head a little more south, and you will find yourself in the midst of the Rose Garden between Serpentine Road and Rotten Row. If you feel like fitting some activity into your visit, head on over to the Hyde Park Tennis and Sports Centre, which is open to all. Overall, it's a fantastic place to spend the day and a must-visit during your sojourn in London.
The Victoria and Albert Museum celebrates the rich culture of a bygone era. It includes around 4.5 million objects including ceramics, fashion, furniture, glass, metalwork, paintings, photographs, prints, sculpture and textiles. Collections from as far as East Asia, South and Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Egypt are housed in the V&A Museum. One can explore the world's most comprehensive holding of post-classical European sculpture. The museum frequently holds exhibitions of its collections. And what's more, you could even shop for books, stationery, gifts and jewelry at the museum. After working up an appetite, head to the V&A Cafe for a bite.
900 years of history are enshrined within the thick, turreted walls of the Tower of London. Originally built as a stronghold by William the Conqueror in 1066, the Tower of London was expanded over the years by various monarchs. Its most distinctive feature is also its oldest, the White Tower built in 1078 by William the Conqueror as a symbol of the Norman supremacy. Although variously used as a royal residence, armory and mint, the Tower of London is best known for its stint as a prison and the site of numerous executions, most notably of Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard. Elizabeth I, Sir Walter Raleigh and Prince Edward V are a few of the other famous personalities who were imprisoned here. Stories of treason, conspiracy and espionage are rife amid these historic walls, countless secrets just waiting to be uncovered. Today, the Tower of London is a museum and the home of the fabulous Crown Jewels. Another curious feature are the ravens; according to folklore, if they ever leave, the British crown will crumble, her empire along with it. Tours of the castle are led by the Yeomen Warders, also popularly known as the Beefeaters.
Explore the natural history of the planet Earth, from the prehistoric era to the present day, at one of London's most visited museums. In 1881, the Natural History Museum moved to its present venue. Designed by Alfred Waterhouse, this building is now one of London's most beautiful and recognized museums. The halls house more than 300 years worth of collections, with over 68 million specimens. Broadly divided into Life and Earth galleries, the museum provides much more than can be seen in a day, and your feet will get tired before your brain does. Let your kids run wild among dinosaur skeletons, erupting volcanoes and life size constructs of blue whales - it's unlikely they'll ever forget their first visit here.
One of the best locations for a day outing with the family, Paradise Wildlife Park is among the first interactive wildlife parks of its kind in the United Kingdom. Home to more than 400 animals, what sets this park apart from the regular zoos and sanctuaries is that it provides an opportunity for interaction with animals of all kinds, which includes feeding the wild ones and penguins. Not only this, the wildlife park, which came about during the 1960s, also comprises of an indoor play area for kids as well as outdoor attractions like Safari Adventure Golf, Fantasyland and an amusement park for one and all. Entertaining daily shows like the Animal Olympics Show, Weird and Wonderful Show and Creepy Creatures Show are some of the other attractions that are favorite among kids. Operated by the Sampson Family, the Paradise Wildlife Park is open to visitors throughout the year.