Things to Do in London - page 2
In the heart of London’s West End, Covent Garden is one of the city’s most popular dining and entertainment hubs. Home to the Royal Opera House; several top theaters, including the Lyceum and the Donmar Warehouse; world-class restaurants; and many major brand-name stores, most travelers to London plan to explore this area while visiting.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Perched on the banks of River Thames, Tate Modern is the epicenter of London’s contemporary art scene. It’s a culture lover’s paradise and one of the world’s largest modern art museums, complete with cutting edge works, thought-provoking installations, and dramatic think pieces.
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.
Built upon one of London’s oldest Roman roads, Oxford Street is now Europe’s most famous retail avenue. An array of major outlets and boutiques cater to about a half million shoppers each day. The street’s history, architecture, and Christmas light displays also draw all manner of visitors to the capital.
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.
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The Cenotaph is a war memorial that stands on Whitehall Street in central London. It began as a temporary structure built for a peace parade at the end of World War I and in 1920 was replaced by a permanent structure made of Portland stone. It is now considered the United Kingdom’s primary war memorial, also commemorating those killed in World War II and other wars in which Britons fought and died. King George VI unveiled the memorial for the second time in November 1946 following the end of World War II. The design of the Cenotaph has been replicated elsewhere in the U.K., as well as in Australia, Canada, Bermuda, Hong Kong and New Zealand.
Standing 35 feet high and weighing 120 tons, the memorial has the words “The Glorious Dead” inscribed on it twice. It is the site of the annual National Service of Remembrance, held on Remembrance Sunday, the Sunday closest to November 11.
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.
Built by Charles Henry Harrod in 1834 and now owned by Qatar Holdings, Harrods is London’s largest and most iconic department store. With 330 different departments spread over seven floors, it’s a top choice for shoppers, selling everything from luxury souvenirs and gourmet British foods to renowned designer brands and stylish homewares.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Housed inside a gigantic Victorian-era edifice, this treasure trove of a museum holds 80 million specimens, including fossils, minerals, bones, insects, and taxidermy. Visitors can come face to face with a huge animatronic Tyrannosaurus rex at the Dinosaur Encounter exhibit, see a live leafcutter ant colony at work at the Creepy Crawlies gallery, and experience the sensation of the earth’s shaking at the earthquake simulator.
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.
Lined with grand Victorian buildings and big-name stores, Regent Street was London's first dedicated shopping street, dating back to the early 19th century. Running for over a mile (2 kilometers) between Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Circus, the historical boulevard is a major traffic thoroughfare and one of London's busiest streets.
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