Referring both to the famous tower that forms the north end of the Palace of Westminster, as well as the iconic clock built into its face, the Elizabeth Tower or Big Ben as it is popularly referred to, is deemed as one of the most prolific timekeeping devices of the 19th Century. This hugely exalted monument was constructed when the old Palace of Westminster was ravaged by a fire in 1834, sparking the need for a newer structure. It was then that English architect Augustus Pugin's spectacular design for the tower found fruition, an imposing Gothic Revival structure that would go on to become one of the most striking icons of the British empire. Towering over 315 feet (96 meters), the Big Ben is a brilliant blend of sand-colored Anston limestone that dominates its lower half and a cast-iron spire that pierces the city's ashen skies. Its impressive timekeeping mechanism weighs in at over 5 tons, and the pendulum, which beats once every two seconds, weighs 203 kilograms (447.53 pounds). While this imposing structure can be admired from a distance by overseas visitors, only residents are privy to the internal depths of the tower.
Designed by Sir Horace Jones and opened in 1894, Tower Bridge is one of London's most recognizable landmarks. This famous monument is built on the River Thames and overlooks the iconic Tower of London. Due to the volume of river traffic in the 19th Century, the Tower Bridge was designed to have twin bascules that could be raised. One of the most fascinating features of the bridge is the Victorian-era engine room that houses the coal-powered motors used to raise the bridge lifts. The two towers, the North Tower and South Tower, are open to visitors. There is a glass-covered enclosed walkway that runs between the two that offers a bird's-eye view of vibrant city life.
The Victoria and Albert Museum celebrates the rich culture of a bygone era. It includes around 2.27 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.
Known as both the London Eye or 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, renowned 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.
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 acquiring from sources all over the globe, leaving it with over 8 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 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.
England's first equestrian statue built in Renaissance style, the Equestrian statue of Charles I at Charing Cross was cast probably in the year 1633. Designed by Hubert Le Sueur, a noted French sculptor, the statue was commissioned by Richard Weston, Charles's Lord High Treasurer. The statue was originally built for Charles' Roehampton country house garden. It depicts him on horseback, wearing an armor demi-suit, sans a helmet. A scarf is tied across its chest on right hand. The king is portrayed carrying a baton in the same hand while he handles the horse reins in the left hand. This prominent statue is officially termed as London's official center.
The capital of the United Kingdom, London is a historic city built on the River Thames. The past is ever-present along the city's historic quarters and cobbled streets - visible in world-famous landmarks like the Westminster Abbey and Tower of London. While rooted in its heritage, there's little doubt the city looks toward the future with contemporary landmarks along Canary Wharf and the modern icon, the Gherkin. Few cities beat London on the culture front and there is something for everyone, from Tony-winning musicals at West end to classical ballet and opera. Borough Market and Covent Garden retain an old-world charm that lures visitors to linger along cobbled streets buying handcrafted goods much like in the bygone days. From shopping to world-class museums and a buzzing after-hours scene, London has global appeal.
Trafalgar Square embraces the past and the present of the city in a single sweep, forming the vibrant core of Westminster. The public square hosts a lively milieu of events throughout the year and features the magnificent National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery along its hem. Trafalgar Square was named thus to commemorate the Battle of Trafalgar of 1805, an event that marks the fall of the French naval fleet, securing Britain from invasion. A column with a statue of Admiral Horatio Nelson at the summit is the centerpiece of the square, honoring the man responsible for this momentous victory. At the base of the column is the renowned Landseer Lions, flanked by babbling fountains. Renovations in 2003 removed traffic lanes to make room for a sizable staircase, connecting the National Portrait Gallery to the square. A beating heart of the neighborhood, Trafalgar Square is forever bustling with tourists making their way to the galleries and locals passing through.
The Trafalgar Studios occupy the same space as the iconic Whitehall Theatre did. Studio 1 is one of the two small theaters that together make up the Trafalgar Studios. With a capacity of 380, the Trafalgar Studios - Studio 1 opened in 2004 and it delighted patrons with Othello. The building that is calls home is a listed Grade II structure.
Intimate and charming, Studio 2 is one of the two theaters that make up the Trafalgar Studios. In 2005, Studio 2 was opened to theater aficionados and its inaugural event was the play Cyprus. The theater has 100 seats in all, and is equipped with modern acoustics and light fixtures. It occupies the same building as the historic Whitehall Theatre.