Visiting London - What to See and Do
(London City Airport LCY, England)
The Alpha World City of London
is a vibrant multiethnic hub for culture, heritage, world-class entertainment, nightlife, dining, shopping and sightseeing attractions. Millions of tourists flock to the capital year-round, especially when one of the city's famous Royal occasions is taking place. The heart of this 2,000-year old metropolis is the ancient City of London, now one of the world's most important financial centres and home to magnificent historical buildings and medieval churches.
The River Thames runs through the heart of the city and was the major commercial transportation hub from Roman times until the early 20th century, with London's Docklands being the berth for ships carrying cargo from across the world and the British Empire. Nowadays, its waterfront warehouses are fashionable loft apartments surrounded by restaurants, shops and bars.
Landmarks, famous museums, galleries, parks and historic heritage sites are scattered across the city, all easily accessed via London's underground (subway), overland trains and bus networks. Shopping is centered in the West End district, from Oxford Street and Regent Street to upscale Bond Street, Mayfair and Park Lane, as well as in exclusive Knightsbridge and Chelsea. Soho and its surrounding area is the center of the Theatre District, and everything from fine to casual dining is offered in every central neighbourhood.
Ten things you must do in London
- Buckingham Palace is the official residence of the British Royal Family, built in 1705 and acquired as a royal residence in 1761. Its spectacular interior, including grand state rooms, galleries, the Throne Room, the ballroom and the drawing rooms are open to the public from June to October, and give a fascinating glimpse of the majesty surrounding the monarch.
- The Tower of London was first constructed on the banks of the Thames by order of William the Conqueror, later crowned King of England, after the successful Norman invasion of England in 1066 AD. The magnificent medieval fortress was added to over the centuries and has been a prison, royal palace, mint and armoury, as well as the present-day home of the fabulous Crown Jewels.
- St. Paul's Cathedral was built after the 1666 Great Fire of London destroyed the previous basilica and was designed by Sir Christopher Wren. Set on Ludgate Hill, it dominated the cityscape for some 300 years. The tombs of many famous Englishmen, including Lord Nelson, Henry Moore, Winston Churchill, the Duke of Wellington and Alexander Fleming are found here.
- Trafalgar Square was created in the 1820s to celebrate Nelson's sea victory against the French at the Battle of Trafalgar and has the famous Nelson's Column at its centre. The magnificent National Gallery forms one side of the square and holds art works by the Western world's artistic geniuses from medieval times to the early 20th century.
- Westminster Abbey is a particularly historic attraction, dating from the late 11th century and commissioned by one of England's best-known kings, Edward the Confessor. Rebuilt in 1245 by Henry III, it is been the burial place of most Kings and Queens of England ever since. King Edward's Chair, on which the monarchs are crowned, has been in use since 1308, while this ancient abbey is also known for its Poets' Corner holding the tombs of Chaucer and other famed poets and composers.
- The Palace of Westminster is better known as the Houses of Parliament, set on the banks of the Thames and incorporating the world's best-known clock, Big Ben. Construction began in 1840 on the site of the previous Houses of Parliament, destroyed by a massive fire in 1834. Much of the interior is open to the public, who may even witness debates in the House of Commons, although access is restricted to a small number every day and stringent security checks are performed upon entry.
- The South Kensington Museum district is home to the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum, all world-class, set in massive Victorian buildings and a convenient hub for museum-lovers. The British Museum, a short stroll away from the Russell Square underground train station, is the fourth and most important London Museum, with over eight million artefacts covering human culture and history.
- Covent Garden was once a convent garden, hence its name, and was for several hundred years the centre of the wholesale vegetable and fruit trade. Its piazza and surrounding streets are now known for boutique shopping, pubs, bars, restaurants and open-air street performers. One side of this square is taken up by the imposing Royal Opera House.
- Quirky Soho, its Chinatown and the nearby Theatre District, all major attractions for visitors to London, are mostly set behind Piccadilly Circus in stylish, narrow streets. The area's long, colourful and slightly seedy history includes a red-light district, sex shows, Chinese gang warfare and a 60's rock-and-roll coffee bar culture. Theatreland is London's answer to Broadway, with many shows debuting in London before eventually transferring to New York.
- Set on the banks of the River Thames, some 18 km / 11 miles upstream from central London, the Tudor royal palace of Hampton Court was originally constructed in 1514 and was a favourite haunt of infamous King Henry VIII. Added to in the baroque style in 1694, this is one of the city's favourite visitor destinations for its depiction of royal life roughly 500 years ago. The palace is a huge complex and played a major part in the turbulent history of England's Middle Ages.