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London is Europe’s most visited city. In terms of attractions and entertainment, its offering is hard to beat. In terms of sightseeing, London’s historic architecture is outstanding and should be part of any sightseeing trip to London. Here I’ll outline iconic London buildings that are worth seeing.
ICONIC LONDON BUILDINGS
HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT:
The Palace of Westminster with its Elizabeth Tower and Big Ben bell not only hosts the two houses of parliament (Commons and Lords) but is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located directly on the north bank of the Thames, the current Gothic-style palace was rebuilt in the 19th century after a fire.
And whatever your view on British politics, there is no doubt that the Palace of Westminster is one of the most impressive buildings in the world. It’s possible to take a guided tour, although such is subject to restrictions. Tube Station: Westminster
Another instantly recognisable London landmark, Tower Bridge is located near the Tower of London complex. Dating back to the Victorian 19th century, this elaborate structure contains exhibition rooms in the towers and a raised walkway. The lower vehicular tier can be raised for ships to pass through. It is recommended to start tours from the north tower. Tube Station: Tower Hill
Headquarters and London residence of the Head of the UK royal family since Queen Victoria moved there in 1837, the sumptuous Buckingham Palace is also used for ceremonies and visiting heads of state. Arrange a visit through the Royal Collection Trust website. Tube Station: Green Park, Hyde Park Corner, St. James’s Park
Around the corner from the Houses of Parliament lies Westminster Abbey, the Gothic church that has strong connections to the Royal Family. This has been a religious site since the 10th century with the present church dating back to the 13th century. Since 1066, the coronation of monarchs has taken place at Westminster Abbey.
It has hosted a number of royal weddings including those of Queen Elizabeth II, her sister Princess Margaret, daughter Princess Anne, son Prince Andrew and grandson Prince William. The funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, was also held here. Along with tours, the abbey has daily church services. Tube Station: Westminster, St. James’s Park
ST. PAUL’S CATHEDRAL:
The dome that peers out among the skyscrapers of London’s financial district is that of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Sir Christopher Wren’s Baroque construct was England’s first purpose-built Anglican cathedral. It’s currently the second-largest religious building in the UK.
The dome is best viewed from the Millennium Bridge. St. Paul’s offers tours and has daily prayer services. The wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana took place here in 1981. Tube Station: St. Paul’s, Mansion House
At the southern end of the Millennium Bridge lies the Globe Theatre, a replica of the playhouse associated with Shakespeare’s plays. The current Globe Theatre opened in 1995 and is located near the original Globe site. It hosts guided tours along with live performances of Shakespearean and non-Shakespearean material. Tube Station: Mansion House, Blackfriars, London Bridge
ROYAL ALBERT HALL:
Another entertainment venue, the Royal Albert Hall dates back to the 19th century Victorian era. Shaped like a Roman amphitheatre, the interior has sumptuous décor and hosts world-class performances. It was named in honour of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband. The venue offers tours as well as performances. Tube Station: Knightsbridge, South Kensington, Gloucester Road
ROYAL OPERA HOUSE:
Another opulent entertainment venue, the Royal Opera House is home to the Royal Ballet and Royal Opera companies. The current building is a mix of 19th century and modern construction but the original building on the site dates back to the 18th century. The opera house is located in Covent Garden, a district worth visiting in its own right, particularly for shopping. Tube Station: Covent Garden
I once stood inside the door of the National Gallery from a shower of rain and emerged six hours later. Such was the attraction of the gallery rather than the length of time it rained.
Located on Trafalgar Square, I consider the National Gallery one of the world’s best galleries. Its collection includes works by Van Gogh, Botticelli, Rembrandt, Monet, Renoir, Turner and Constable. Dating back to the 19th century, the building itself is worth the visit. Tube Station: Charing Cross.
ST. PANCRAS STATION:
It’s hard to believe that this station, with its grand red-brick Gothic exterior, was earmarked for demolition in 1960s. Campaigning paid off and St. Pancras International is now the terminus for Eurostar services to continental Europe along with national mainline rail services.
The St. Pancras Renaissance London Hotel and a clock tower form the facade of the building. Rail information and tickets are available from the Trainline website. Tube Station: King’s Cross St. Pancras
There are so many other beautiful buildings worthy of inclusion in this list of iconic London buildings: Somerset House, the Royal Courts of Justice and Tate Britain to name a few.
Here I have listed a mix of both tourist attractions and my personal favourites. From royal palaces to modern skyscrapers, London’s architecture is varied, extensive and a delight to discover. I’m pretty confident it will be a highlight of your trip to London.
Have you been to London? What is your favourite building? Leave your comments below.