London is one of Europe's most popular cities, receiving an average of 30 million tourists every year. This cosmopolitan metropolis has literally hundreds of exciting attractions including historical monuments, official buildings, cathedrals, museums and parks.
London is a museum city, with a millennial history and deep rooted traditions, some of which are perpetuated even today. One of London’s biggest and most famous attractions, Buckingham Palace was built in 1703 by the Duke of the same name. At first, the building was initially just a very big mansion; it was only during the reign of George IV that it was transformed into the glamorous palace as we know it today.
Buckingham Palace is now the official residence of the King and Queen of England and has been so since the reign of Queen Victoria. It also serves as the office of the monarchy and hosts several important official ceremonies and events each year. The palace is open to the public during August and September, and the ceremonial changing of the guard is an additional tourist attraction worth seeing.
Among the many historical monuments, museums, theatres, parks and department stores you can find in London, here are a few of the essential ones that absolutely must be seen:
Tower Bridge on the River Thames is probably one of the most impressive buildings in London. A movable swinging bridge consisting of two towers connected by a footbridge, it is a most impressive feat of architecture. The bridge and the machinery inside the bridge are both open to the public, making for a highly interesting visit.
Another must see is the infamous Tower of London, which can be found on the banks of the river Thames. This impressive structure was built in 1018 by William the Conqueror, and is instantly recognizable by its four distinct towers that have earned it the designation of castle. The Tower of London is home to the crown jewels of England, and it is also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Finally, with over 50,000 exhibits, the British Museum attracts over 4.5 million tourists every year, making it one of the largest and most famous museums in the world, with numerous different collections of jewels, artifacts and art works from countries all over the world.
More for the London Visitor
London is the capital of Great Britain and is the largest city in the country both in actual size and the number of inhabitants. Located in the south-east of England, it is intersected by the River Thames. There are 33 districts, or boroughs, in London, with the most famous being the City of London or simply the City, a mecca of global finance that has special status throughout the world. Equally famous is the City of Westminster and the administrative district, where most of the key UK government buildings are located, such as the Westminster Palace and its famous bell tower and clock, Big Ben.
The history of London dates back more than a millennia, all the way back to Roman times when the city was called Londinium. Even then, it was a busy trading town. Following the departure of the Romans in the 400s, London was subsequently occupied by the Anglo-Saxons. The kings of England, who had succeeded one another since the Middle Ages, established a dynasty and constructed several buildings in the city such as the Tower of London, the Westminster Palace and Buckingham Palace. London’s history has been strongly influenced by many historical incidents such as the terrible black plague between 1665 and 1666, and also the Great Fire of London, in 1666.
Today however, the city is a thriving metropolis and one of the most dynamic cities in the world, a status which was confirmed when it was chosen to host the 2012 Olympic Games.
If That’s Not Enough
The attractions in London are as numerous as its historic monuments, many of which serve as important administrative and government buildings. Some of the biggest highlights not to miss include the London Eye, St Paul's Cathedral, Hampton Court Palace and Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. The city also has many interesting museums like the British Museum, National Gallery, the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and the National Maritime Museum.
London is also a center of culture, music, dance and opera, with many famous concert halls such as The O2 Arena, Wembley Arena and Wembley Stadium which was recently redeveloped and now seats 80,000 people, plus the famed Royal Opera House and the Royal Albert Hall.
Like all major world cities, London has a vibrant nightlife, with hip clubs like Fabric, the Notting Hill Arts Club, Plan B and Pasha all located in the city center.
Major attractions: Tower Bridge, Oxford Street, British Museum, Leicester Square, Covent Garden, Nelson's Column, Tower of London, Piccadilly Circus, Museum of Natural History
Budget for one week: More than €520 Euros
Taxes and Tipping: Tipping and service charges depend on the situation and on the tariffs.
Currency: British Pound (GBP)
Official language: English
Area: 607 sq mi (1,572.1 km2)
- Voltage: 220-240 Volts (U.S./Canada are 110-120 Volts)
- Primary Socket Type: British BS-1363
- Multi-voltage appliances (laptops, etc.)
- 110-120V electronics: Plug adapter + step-down transformer
- Hair dryers, curling irons, etc.: Plug adapter + voltage converter
Visas: European visitors must have their passport or identity card. Others should inquire at the British Embassy.
Sanitary/Medical requirements: Tap water is drinkable in London.
Other things to see and do: Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Buckingham Palace, St Paul's Cathedral, Canary Wharf, the Royal College of Music, Olympic Stadium, and many, many more.