England’s capital city is a buzzing, cosmopolitan metropolis with a population of over 7.5 million in the Greater London area alone. Considered a global powerhouse with strengths in the areas of fashion, finance, commerce, education, media, healthcare, and tourism to name a few.
It’s no surprise that such a vibrant, exciting city has a lot to offer its visitors. It would be impossible to put everything in to this short article, so here are the very best of the best things to see and do.
The London Eye was built to celebrate the millennium and was opened to the public in 2000, since then 30 million people have ridden on it. Situated on the south bank of the River Thames opposite the Houses of Parliament; this giant ferris wheel transports visitors on a 30 minute journey which provides a breath-taking panoramic view of London.
Buckingham Palace is both the office and official London residence of Her Majesty the Queen. During the summer (July to October) visitors can tour the 19 state rooms which house some of the greatest treasures in the Royal Collection. Visitors can also get a slice of pomp and circumstance at the Palace with the Changing of the Guard ceremony. The Queen’s Guard change shifts in a ceremony set to music from a military band. This is a free event and a great photo opportunity, people can even have their photo taken with a guard in full uniform.
If that wasn’t a big enough dose of all things royal then a trip to The Tower of London should be next on the itinerary. Founded in 1066 by William the Conqueror the Tower has a dark history as a place of torture and execution. In more modern times it has housed a zoo, been a palace and is now the site of the Crown Jewels. Take a tour with one of the Yeomen or wander around at your own pace, check out the tower museum and marvel at the magnificent Crown Jewels, one of England’s greatest treasures.
From the Tower visitors can catch a Thames River Cruise that will take passengers down the river towards the Houses of Parliament, affording them a great view and with excellent commentary explaining the history of the buildings you are passing on either side of the river.
The Houses of Parliament (Palace of Westminster) is perhaps one of London’s most recognised landmarks. Home to ‘Big Ben’ and where politicians sit in the House of Lords and House of Commons this extensive building is well worth a visit. Overseas visitors can watch Parliamentary debates from the public galleries and attend committee meetings when the houses are sitting.
Westminster Abbey is a 700 year old working church, and the coronation site of the Kings and Queens of England as well as the resting place of many famous people from royalty to poets. St Paul’s Cathedral is another great place of worship in London. Visitors can explore the crypt where some of the nation’s great heroes lie, or experience the acoustic phenomenon of the Whispering Gallery. Keep climbing to the Golden Gallery for stunning panoramic views of London.
London is world-renowned for its theatre district. The West End contains a dense collection of theatres showing all types of plays and musicals, which, since the 1990’s have been attracting more and more well-known screen actors. Whatever your tastes you’re sure to find something in the West End to suit you.
Shopping in London is a favourite pastime of many visitors to the capital. Oxford Street is a shoppers heaven with Selfridges, John Lewis and many individual designer and high-street names. Regent Street offers some of the oldest and most famous department stores such as Hamleys and Liberty. For shopping on an even more upmarket scale visit Hammersmith for that British stalwart Harrods and designer names such as Harvey Nichols. For variety and something a little easier on the wallet visit Covent Garden which is home to individual boutiques as well as high-street names selling everything from jewellery to arts and crafts.
London is one of Europe’s greenest capitals, with eight Royal Parks alone visitors are spoilt for choice. Regent’s Park is the city centre’s largest green space for sports and is home to a boating lake, play areas, open-air theatre, cafes, restaurants as well as the world famous London Zoo.
London is home to many fantastic free museums and galleries. Perfect for a rainy day, the National Gallery, grandly situated in Trafalgar Square is home to hundreds of Western European paintings from the 13th to the 19th Centuries. The Natural History Museum is packed with interactive exhibits that will delight all ages, highlights include the dinosaurs, ecology and human biology displays.
Overall London is an impressive city that won’t fail to wow visitors with its grandeur, attractions, views and multi-cultural vibe. This article covers a very small percentage of all the things to see and do that London offers, but it will give you a good start.
Getting to London:
Plane - London has five major airports in and around the city, all with excellent public transport links to the capital.
Train - Europe is connected to London via the Eurostar network which has its terminal at St Pancras station. London is easily reached from all corners of the UK by mainline trains which call at many stations across the city.
Coach - Coach companies link across Britain with some connecting to mainland Europe as well. Coach times tend to be longer than the same train journey but are often cheaper. Victoria Coach Station is the cities coach hub and most services stop here.
Car - London is well served by the motorway network and the orbital M25 is intersected by motroways from acorss the country. Drivers mustn’t forget the congestion charge in the centre of London, applicable Monday to Friday between 7am and 6pm.