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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 Big Ben 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.
This park was enclosed as a hunting park by Charles I in 1637 and still retains many ingredients of a medieval deer park. Essential to its character is the rich landscape of semi-natural acidic grassland, areas of bog and bracken, wetland, woodland and ancient parkland trees, and the herds of fallow and red deer that still roam the park. The resplendent Isabella plantation is especially noteworthy, particularly in early summer when the rhododendrons are in full bloom, but the park is lovely any time of year. Bring along a football, a picnic, go for a bike ride, in-line skating or take the dogs out for some fun and fresh air. There are designated cycle paths so you don't have to grapple with the cars that can also drive through the park. Open until dusk, it is the perfect park to choose for a few hours of fresh air or even for a day trip.
Covent Garden is a historic district that is famous for its street performers, shops, restaurants, bars and theaters. The most well known attraction in the area is the Royal Opera House. Before it became the capital’s premiere destination for entertainment and leisure, Covent Garden served as the largest fruit and vegetable market in England. Currently, the Apple, East Colonnade and Jubilee markets are held in the piazza area. Visitors can browse through antiques, artwork, jewelry and clothing that can be found among the market stalls.
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.
Hampton Court Palace is a magnificent blend of Tudor and Baroque architecture, sprawling over two hectares (six acres) on the banks of the River Thames. After taking over from Cardinal Wolsey, King Henry VIII lived here with some of his many wives. The palace is famed for its verdant gardens, where music and flower shows take place in the summer. The maze is a very popular attraction, as well as tours of the grounds, complete with costumed guides. To get to here, hail the river launch from Westminster, Richmond or Kingston for a scenic trip up the river. Alternatively, a train departs every thirty minutes from Waterloo to Hampton Court Station. Hours vary by season.
Journey to the clouds where an ethereal vista of the metropolis awaits you, and see the Ben, Eye, Bridge, Palace and Thames in a way like never before. Soaring above London, The View from The Shard is the highest viewing deck in the city, offering 360-degree panoramic views from a spellbinding height of 244 meters (800 feet). Opened to the public in early 2013, this iconic attraction above The Shard is based on three levels- 68, 69 and 72. Supersonic elevators fitted with multimedia take you to 'The View' in merely ear-popping 30 seconds. From the topmost level on floor 72, the spectacular view of the shimmering city unravels and if you look above then you will see the shards of glass melting into the heavens. This one is truly an experience you can't afford to miss, so book your tickets ahead.
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 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, with countless secrets just waiting to be uncovered. Another curious feature are 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 popularly known as the Beefeaters.
This symbol of royalty resides in the heart of Kensington Gardens. Revered for centuries, this grandiose abode has served as a royal residence since the 17th Century. Surrounded by emerald lawns, and sparkling ponds, the Jacobean Kensington Palace is endowed with courtly interiors. Across the span of centuries, the palace has been variously altered by resident monarchs who sought to furnish the palace in accordance with their own tastes. One of the most dramatic additions is the Cupola Room, designed and decorated by William Kent. The ornate Orangery and Winter Café are replete with English flair, while the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection, complete with ceremonial garb dating as far back as the 18th Century, offers insight into the historic cultural nuances of England.
Nestled on the edge of the Thames, the O2 is London’s largest entertainment complex and includes the music venue indigo at The O2, an exhibition hall, an 11-screen movie theater, a nightclub, piazzas, an indoor arena, and a variety of eateries, bars, and shops. The iconic dome was originally built to house the Millennium Experience, an exhibition celebrating the arrival of the third millennium. The O2 is referred to by other names, including “The Dome,” “The Millennium Dome,” and “The O2 Arena,” which refers to a indoor multipurpose and sports arena within The O2.
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.
Visible from miles around, the Monument to the Great Fire of London, also simply known as The Monument, is a humongous Doric column that reaches upto the height of 202 feet (62 meters). It was built to commemorate the Great Fire of London that lasted from the 2nd of September, 1966 to the 5th of September and destroyed the homes of nearly 70,000 of the city’ habitants. Designed by Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke, the Doric column is made of Portland stone and also offers visitors magnificent views of the city from the top. Note that, The Monument only accepts cash payments.
For over 900 years, this impressive assemblage of Gothic buildings has been the home of British government. The building covers an area of 3.23 hectares (8 acres) and consists of over 100 rooms. The House of Lords occupies the southern end of the building while the House of Commons occupies the area to the north. The best view of this massive expanse can be seen from nearby Parliament Square. Within the Houses of Parliament there is Westminster Hall, the Crypt Church, Members' Lobbies, the Commons Library and the Peers Lobby. The tower containing Big Ben looms just outside. To attend PMQ (Prime Minister's Question Time) in the House of Commons, UK citizens need to contact their local MP in advance. Otherwise, there is a line at St Stephen's entrance.