900 years of history is 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 which dates back to 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, with countless secrets just waiting to be uncovered. Another curious feature is the ravens here, that are said to safeguard the British Crown. Today, the Tower of London is a museum and the home of the fabulous Crown Jewels. Tours of the castle are led by the Yeomen Warders, also famously dubbed as the Beefeaters.
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, lavishly decorated with Sevres Porcelain and fine art by the likes of Rembrandt, Vermeer and Van Dyck. 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 Globe Theatre is universally known as the place where the great plays of Shakespeare came alive. Today, Shakespeare’s Globe, located on the banks of the River Thames is a reproduction of the original Globe, which burned down in 1613 after a cannon shot set fire to its roof. The theater was built near the site of the original using nearly identical methods and materials, and is believed by historians and architects alike to be very realistic. Since it opened in 1997, The New Globe has been a popular and iconic addition to London theater, and has turned from hosting only open-air summer productions into a vibrant center of Shakespearean drama, education, exhibitions, and tours. The ‘groundling’ tradition is still alive at the Globe, whereby visitors can watch world-class theater from the yard for a low price.
See over 300,000 different types of plants at Kew Gardens. The gardens were started in 1759 by Princess Augusta and are located on a 121 hectare (300 acre) site. The greenhouses here are architectural marvels, and are a must-visit attraction. They include the Japanese Pagoda, the Palm House and Queen Charlotte's Cottage. Throughout the year, themed gardens keep things fresh.
Regent's Park offers a variety of facilities and amenities for the public to enjoy, including outdoor ping pong tables, a bandstand, an open air theater, elegant gardens and tennis courts. London Zoo is just next-door. A short walk away is Primrose Hill, a neighborhood that's popular with young and trendy families, actors, artists and other media folk. It is particularly steep and offers a superb panorama of the London skyline. Queen Mary's Gardens is located within the park, and St. John's Wood Church Gardens is also nearby, offering an additional tranquil retreat off of Wellington Road.
Built in the early 1700s and retaining most of its original characteristics, this beautifully restored Georgian building is the only surviving residence of Benjamin Franklin. Serving as his home during the 16 years he spent in London as a mediator, it is essentially the first U.S. embassy. Designed to be a historical experience, the Benjamin Franklin house is now a museum and educational institution. State of the art lighting and projection technology recreate the fascinating life and discoveries of this politician, inventor, scientist, and philosopher, while the Student Science Centre offers a hands on look at Franklin's London based discoveries. Opened on Ben's 300th birthday in 2006 and just steps from Trafalgar Square, this is a wonderful variation from traditional museums and well worth the stop.
Whitehall Palace was the primary residence of the royal family from 1530 until the building's destruction by fire in 1698. The Banqueting House is the last remaining section of this historic palace and is an excellent example of the architecture of that time period. It was built to house various masques, balls, plays and important state events. It has seen other more nefarious moments, being the site of the execution of King Charles I. After the fire destroyed the rest of the palace, the building was used first as a church chapel and then as a museum for the state. Be sure to leave some time to explore the displays and be sure to check out the stunning interior decoration, especially the ceiling artwork.
What was once a place for the wealthy and important, now is a place for business and leisure. St. James' Square features a garden at its center with an imposing statue of William III on a horse. Surrounding the garden are various buildings that house different business and other places of interest. This square, laid out in the 1670s, is one of the earliest in all of London and is historically significant. The most prestigious of families lived and wanted to live in the large homes surrounding the square including Dukes and Earls. The area was the most sought after because of their proximity to the important business and royal palaces. The famous have also resided along St. James' Square including General Eisenhower and de Gaulle during World War II.
Fun London Tours is just that - fun! Take a walking tour based around a theme and learn all about this exciting piece of London. Fun London Tours provides a lot of great tour options. Book a spot on the Changing the Guard Tour where you can see the entire changing of the guard and even walk along with the band. If you enjoy interactive tours perfect for the whole family go on the Liar Liar London tour where at each spot your guide will tell you two truths and one lie, proving that sometimes the truth is stranger then fiction. You can also book a private tour with them.
This granite obelisk was first erected in Egypt around 1500BC by Pharaoh Thotmes III. Although Cleopatra had nothing to do with the obelisk, it was named after the famous queen when it was moved to Alexandria in 12BC. In 1819, it was given as a gift to the British people in recognition of Nelson's victory over the French fleet. It was later erected on the Victoria Embankment in 1878. Magnificent bronze lions guard Cleopatra's Needle. The pink-granite monolith sits on a pedestal, within which are two earthenware containers enclosing objects which are bizarre, to say the least. Some of those objects are: bibles in various languages; a box of hairpins; a box of cigars; a hydraulic jack; copies of an engineering magazine and portraits of 12 of the most beautiful Englishwomen.
With a vast collection of books in arts, culture, design, law and business, Westminster Reference Library is a landmark destination. A range of engaging art exhibitions and cultural events are also held in the library.