Things to Do in London - page 2
Home to several of London’s most iconic attractions—including Parliament, Westminster Abbey, and Buckingham Palace—Westminster has been the capital’s political center for more than 1,000 years, and has been the setting of historical events, such as the Reformation, Gunpowder Plot, and Churchill’s World War II campaign.
A vast patch of green in central London, Hyde Park originally served as a hunting ground for Henry VIII. Though the land is still owned by the British Crown, the 358-acre (145-hectare) space is open to the public, hosting picnickers, boaters, joggers, and cyclists, as well as seasonal events, from rock concerts to Christmas festivals.
One of London’s most popular and most visited tourist attractions, Parliament Square links many of the capital’s iconic buildings. The square is ringed by Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, the Supreme Court, and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and features 12 statues of famous world leaders and historical figures.
On the south bank of the River Thames, just downriver from central London, Greenwich is one of London’s most atmospheric boroughs. Famous for its UNESCO World Heritage–listed maritime history and Royal Observatory—the home of Greenwich Meantime—it’s a lively retreat from the busy inner city.
The Monument to the Great Fire of London, known locally as the Monument, commemorates the fire that swept London in 1666. Designed by Sir Christopher Wren and completed in 1677, the 202-foot (61-meter) Doric column stands exactly 202 feet (61 meters) from where the fire began. Today, visitors can ascend the landmark for panoramic views of the city.
Commissioned by Henry VIII in 1531, St. James’s Palace served as principal royal residence for 300 years. Today, the official palace houses members of the wider royal household and is used for state events, ceremonies, and as royal offices. Much of the original Tudor brickwork remains, making it well worth a stop on a city tour.
One of the world’s largest tennis museums, the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum—located just steps from the world-famous Centre Court—delves deep into the history and highlights of the sport. Items on display range from trophies and outfits worn by former Grand Slam champions to Olympic memorabilia and other historical mementos.
A branch of the acclaimed Imperial War Museum, the Churchill War Rooms are set in the secret wartime bunker from which the cigar-puffing Prime Minister of Britain, Winston Churchill, directed the country’s war efforts. Situated beneath street level in London’s Westminster district, the Cabinet War Rooms were constructed shortly before the outbreak of World War II. Little has changed within them since the war came to a close in 1945, though these days, the underground complex functions as a museum, documenting the workings of the United Kingdom’s wartime government.
One of Central London’s most affluent districts, Mayfair is known for its designer stores, luxurious hotels, and stately architecture—and as the birthplace of Her Majesty the Queen. It’s also bordered by two of the city’s largest green spaces—Hyde Park to the west and Green Park to the south—and home to immaculate gardens.
Packed with monuments and lined with some of London's most significant government buildings, busy Whitehall is an important thoroughfare. Originally constructed as an entryway to the now-demolished Palace of Whitehall, the road may be short, but its heavy concentration of landmarks means walking down it is a must when touring London.
More Things to Do in London
Founded in 1753, the British Museum is London’s largest and most visited museum. Its gigantic permanent collection includes over 8 million historical artifacts, with everything from Egyptian mummies to Roman treasures. Highlights include sculptures from the Parthenon, the Rosetta Stone, and the 12th-century Lewis chessmen.
The neo-Gothic Westminster Bridge connects Lambeth and Westminster. Though popular for its panoramic views, the Victorian bridge’s decorative details and cultural importance make it an attraction in its own right. The present-day structure opened on Queen Victoria’s birthday in 1862, though its history reaches back to the 17th century.
Nestled between Soho, St. James’s, and the West End, Leicester Square is the intersection that never sleeps. Home to world-famous movie theaters, nightclubs, and a recently renovated park, the square attracts more than 2 million visitors each week. It has been popular as an entertainment hub since the 19th century.
With a prime location on the south bank of the River Thames, looking out across London Bridge, Southwark Cathedral is one of central London’s oldest churches, dating back to the 12th century. Its official name is the Cathedral and Collegiate Church of St. Saviour and St. Mary Overie.
Now permanently docked in Greenwich, London, this 19th-century tea clipper—one of the fastest vessels of its era—once sailed the seas between Britain and China. Onboard exhibitions and costumed characters document what life was like for the crew as they steered the ship to ports all around the world.
As the official London home of Britain's favorite royal couple, Prince William and Kate Middleton, along with little Prince George and Princess Charlotte; Kensington Palace's fame rivals that of Buckingham Palace. Will and Kate aren't the only members of the royal family to walk the halls of Kensington Palace, though—King George II, Queen Victoria, Queen Anne, Princess Margaret and Princess Diana have all also called the palace home.
The smallest of London’s network of eight Royal parks, Green Park is located in Westminster, between Hyde Park to the west and St. James Park to the east. The 40-acre (16-hectare) green space is dissected by the Mall on one side and Constitution Hill on the other, right next to Buckingham Palace. It’s a peaceful triangle, known for mature plane and lime trees as well as a number of memorials, statues, and fountains.
Made up of Camden Lock Market, Camden Stables Market, and Camden Canal Market, the area known as Camden Market is the largest collection of street vendors in the United Kingdom. In continuous operation since the 1970s, the market draws crowds of visitors who come to explore the huge variety of unusual stalls and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere.
This London neighborhood has it all: theaters, live music, eclectic nightlife, shopping, historical sites, and a quirky food scene. Located in the West End District popular with actors, artists, musicians, and fashionistas, Soho is also the epicenter of London’s gay scene.
The world’s oldest scientific zoo with a history dating back to 1828, the ZSL (Zoological Society of London) London Zoo remains one of the city’s most popular family attractions. The zoo’s myriad animal residents include over 750 species, from mighty lions to cute penguins to creepie crawlies.
London’s Millennium Bridge, aka the London Millennium Footbridge, sits at the intersection of architecture, art, and engineering. The sleek, 1,083-foot-long (330-meter) steel suspension bridge stretches over the River Thames, connecting St. Paul’s Cathedral on the north bank to the Tate Modern and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre on the south.
The immersive London Dungeon transports visitors into London’s past for a theatrical journey into the city’s underbelly. Participants make their way through a series of shadowy rooms, where costumed actors reveal the most horrible tales from the capital’s history, including accounts of the gory murders committed by Jack the Ripper and Sweeney Todd, the failed Gunpowder Plot of Guy Fawkes, and the Great Fire of London. The meticulous sets, spooky special effects, and thrilling rides make for a memorable, shriek-out-loud experience.
Once the center of London’s newspaper industry, Fleet Street is one of the city’s most storied locations. At the top of the street you’ll find the Royal Courts of Justice, the UK’s highest court, also known as Old Bailey. Also here is the historic Temple Church—built by the Knights Templar and featured in Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code.
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