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London, England: Travel Guide

Your guide to the top London attractions.
London is one of the world's most visited cities, and without a doubt also one of the most beautiful; brimming with history, culture, royalty and well-preserved, centuries-old architecture. If you're a culture fan, this metropolitan city is a destination not to be missed. Apart from its historic splendour, London is also a global capital of culture, fashion, finance, politics and trade.

Weather/ when to go:

The British weather is notoriously unpredictable and it's wise to expect rain, whatever the season. Evenings are usually quite cool -- even during the hotter months. Summer's a great time to visit, though spring and autumn are also good and slightly less crowded. Winter is typically wet and cold, but it's worth visiting during this off-peak season if you prefer fewer crowds and shorter queues.

Do & see:

You can't go to London without ticking off at least a few of these famous attractions:

Buckingham Palace

The Royal Family have used the Palace as their London home since 1837 but the State Rooms, ballroom and gardens have been open to the public since 1993. You'll need to visit in either August or September if a visit to the Palace is on your to-do list though as these are the only months in which the general public is given permission to look around while the traditional annual stay in Balmoral (another of the Royal Family's residences) takes place. There are usually only a limited number of tickets available for each day.
Address: Buckingham Palace Rd SW1


Tower of London

Building work began in 1078 under William the Conqueror and the Tower is now a prominent tourist attraction. There is plenty included in the admission price, including a guided tour by the world-famous "Beefeaters", who stand guard outside the Tower. The White Tower was originally built to act as a deterrent for foreign invaders and to scare the London residents and is now a big tourist attraction. Inside, you'll find Henry VIII's armour and the Chapel of St John the Evangelist, which dates from the 11th Century. A tour and the chance to get involved in some hands-on learning are also included in the admission price. The Green Tower acts a memorial to those who were executed in the Tower. Famous names that died this way include Lady Jane and two of Henry VIII's wives -- Anne Bolelyn and Catherine Howard. The Fusilier Museum is dedicated to a British army regiment created at the Tower in 1685.
Address: Tower Hill EC3


Houses of Parliament

The Parliament buildings are open to guided tours, which take in the Commons and Lords Chambers, the Queen's Robing Room, the Royal Gallery and Westminster Hall. Visitors from the UK can arrange a free visit through their Member of Parliament (MP) but overseas visitors are limited to paid visits on Saturdays or during the Summer Opening. Debates and committees can also be attended throughout the year.
Address: Parliament Sq SW1


Tower Bridge

London Bridge (which is slightly upstream to Tower Bridge) was originally supposed to be the only crossing point over the River Thames but as the population continued to grow and subsequent bridges still proved inadequate for transporting people and transport across the river, Tower Bridge was built in the latter part of the 19th Century to address the problem. It is now one of the most famous bridges in the world and is still used to transport traffic from one side of the Thames to the other. High walkways were later built to allow pedestrians to cross the river at times when the bridge has been lifted to allow boats with high masts to pass underneath and these can be accessed as part of the exhibition for spectacular views of the river. The exhibition gives an insight into the history of the bridge.
Address: Tower Bridge Rd


London Eye

See London from a different angle with a trip on the London Eye -- the world-famous cantilevered observation wheel that features a design allowing stunning views of the city with 360 degree views at the top.
Address: Riverside Building County Hall Westminster Bridge Rd


The West End

If you're a fan of shopping, entertainment and culture, you'll want to pay a visit to the West End. Here, you'll find plenty of attractions including theatres showing a range of West End shows, shopping streets such as Oxford Street, independent boutiques and vintage shops in Seven Dials, art/design exhibitions at Somerset House (and an ice rink in winter) and the Opera Quarter to name but a few.

Trafalgar Square

Now used as a public space, Trafalgar Square was named after the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar. Prominent features include Nelson's Column, the fountains (which date from 1845) and various statues.
Address: Trafalgar Square


Westminster Abbey

Since 1066, the Abbey has been the place of choice for royal Coronation ceremonies and no less than 17 monarchs have been laid to rest there. The museum contains royal treasures, including 2 panes of medieval glass and Mary II's Coronation chair.
Address: 20 Dean's Yard SW1


Victoria and Albert Museum

Don't let the name mislead you -- the V & A Museum isn't just about Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. It's actually a diverse collection of some of the greatest art and design in the world so it's a must-see for any culture fan. Over 5000 years of art are displayed in the museum from a wide range of cultures.
Address: Cromwell Rd SW7


British Museum

There are a huge 8 million items on display so don't expect to see everything in one visit and be prepared to prioritize items of particular interest if you're short on time. Some of the objects on display include Greek sculptures from the Parthenon, Japanese Samurai armour, African art, an Egyptian mummy and a statue from the lost civilization of Easter Island. Entry is free so there's no excuse not to visit if you're a culture fan.
Address: Great Russell St WC1


Shakespeare's Globe

The Globe is a reconstruction of the original Globe Theatre, which was destroyed -- and is situated just a few hundred yards from where the original theatre used to stand. The exhibition details the efforts to reconstruct the theatre, the Elizabethan costumes from Shakespeare's era, the special effects commonly used in his shows, and live demonstrations of sword fighting, costume dressing and 17th Century printing. Guided tours are also available.
Address: 21 New Globe Walk SE1


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