London is a leading global city, with strengths in the arts, commerce, education, entertainment, fashion, finance, healthcare, media, professional services, research and development, tourism and transport all contributing to its prominence. It is one of the world’s leading financial centres and has the fifth-or sixth-largest metropolitan area GDP in the world depending on measurement. London is a world cultural capital. It is the world’s most-visited city as measured by international arrivals and has the world’s largest city airport system measured by passenger traffic. London’s 43 universities form the largest concentration of higher education in Europe.
What to See in London
The world-famous British Museum exhibits the works of man from prehistoric to modern times, from around the world. Highlights include the Rosetta Stone, the Parthenon sculptures and the mummies in the Ancient Egypt collection. Entry is free but special exhibitions require tickets.
The crowning glory of Trafalgar Square, London’s National Gallery is a vast space filled with Western European paintings from the 13th to the 19th centuries. In this iconic art gallery you can find works by masters such as Van Gogh, da Vinci, Botticelli, Constable, Renoir, Titian and Stubbs. Entry is free but special exhibitions require tickets
Natural History Museum
As well as the permanent (and permanently fascinating!) dinosaur exhibition, the Natural History Museum boasts a collection of the biggest, tallest and rarest animals in the world. See a life-sized blue whale, a 40-million-year-old spider, and the beautiful Central Hall. Entry is free but special exhibitions require tickets.
Sitting grandly on the banks of the Thames is Tate Modern, Britain’s national museum of modern and contemporary art. Its unique shape is due to it previously being a power station. The gallery’s restaurants offer fabulous views across the city.Entry is free but special exhibitions require tickets.
The London Eye
The London Eye is a major feature of London’s skyline. It boasts some of London’s best views from its 32 capsules, each weighing 10 tonnes and holding up to 25 people. Climb aboard for a breathtaking experience, with an unforgettable perspective of more than 55 of London’s most famous landmarks – all in just 30 minutes!
From the future of space travel to asking that difficult question: “who am I?”, the Science Museum makes your brain perform Olympic-standard mental gymnastics. See, touch and experience the major scientific advances of the last 300 years; and don’t forget the awesome Imax cinema. Entry is free but some exhibitions require tickets.
Victoria and Albert Museum
The V&A celebrates art and design with 3,000 years’ worth of amazing artefacts from around the world. A real treasure trove of goodies, you never know what you’ll discover next: furniture, paintings, sculpture, metalwork and textiles; the list goes on and on… Entry is free but special exhibitions require you to purchase tickets.
Tower of London
Take a tour with one of the Yeoman Warders around the Tower of London, one of the world’s most famous buildings. Discover its 900-year history as a royal palace, prison and place of execution, arsenal, jewel house and zoo! Gaze up at the White Tower, tiptoe through a medieval king’s bedchamber and marvel at the Crown Jewels.
Royal Museums Greenwich
Visit the National Maritime Museum – the world’s largest maritime museum, see the historic Queen’s House, stand astride the Prime Meridian at Royal Observatory Greenwich and explore the famous Cutty Sark: all part of the Royal Museums Greenwich. Some are free to enter; some charges apply.
At Madame Tussauds, you’ll come face-to-face with some of the world’s most famous faces. From Shakespeare to Lady Gaga you’ll meet influential figures from showbiz, sport, politics and even royalty. Strike a pose with Usain Bolt, get close to One Direction or receive a once-in-a-lifetime audience with Her Majesty the Queen.
The London Royal Air Force Museum
The Royal Air Force Museum (RAF Museum) in Hendon in North London has a series of exhibitions dedicated to the history of the RAF and aviation in general.
Housing a fantastic collection of over 100 aircraft, the RAF museum has an impressive selection of planes including some of the most famous to have ever graced the skies.
Also on show at the London Royal Air Force Museum are a series of objects and structures from throughout the history of aviation, such as two World War I hangars, a World War II Battle of Britain exhibition and a timeline of aviation history.
Westminster Abbey is an iconic medieval structure and the site of many historic royal and national events, from coronations and weddings to burials and even deaths. Centrally located in London, Westminster Abbey was first constructed in the eleventh century by King Edward the Confessor, a Saxon king who dedicated this new church to St Peter. To have an informed visit and to see the most interesting parts of Westminster Abbey, take a tour, as just wandering around can be overwhelming. Westminster Abbey is a UNESCO world heritage site.
Buckingham Palace has been the official residence of Britain’s monarchs since 1837, at the start of the reign of Queen Victoria. With its 775 rooms, Buckingham Palace was originally built for the Dukes of Buckingham at the beginning of the eighteenth century.
In August and September, the nineteen State Rooms and some other sections of Buckingham Palace are open to the general public and to tourists. Here, visitors can see the Royal Collections, which include an incredible array of artwork as well as some of the finest English and French furniture. Audio guides are included in the ticket price and a visit usually lasts around two hours.
One of the major attractions at Buckingham Palace is the ceremony of Changing the Guard. This takes place on a daily basis during the summer at 11:30am on the forecourt of the palace and on alternate days in winter. This ceremony lasts for 45 minutes.
St Paul’s Cathedral
Carved into London’s skyline, St Paul’s Cathedral is the city’s central church and the seat of the Diocese of London. The current building of St Paul’s Cathedral was built between 1675 and 1710, however the site on which it sits has been home to cathedrals since 604 AD. In fact, the St Paul’s Cathedral seen today is the fourth of its kind. Visitors can see the magnificent architecture of St Paul’s Cathedral, originally designed by Sir Christopher Wren as well as the artwork and decorations which have been changed and added to over the centuries.
St Paul’s Cathedral is also a famous burial site. Its crypt houses many world famous icons, including Admiral Lord Nelson, the Duke of Wellington and Sir Christopher Wren, whose funerals were hosted at the cathedral. Though not buried at St Paul’s, the state funeral of Sir Winston Churchill was also held here.
Guided tours are available in English and last approximately ninety minutes. Audio tours are available in English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Russian, Japanese and Chinese (Mandarin).
Houses of Parliament
The Houses of Parliament or ‘Palace of Westminster’ is where both houses of the UK Parliament are located. The great hall of the Houses of Parliament was used for state trials including those of Sir Thomas More, William Wallace and King Charles I.
The original Westminster Palace burned down in 1834, and the building you see today is the result of the subsequent rebuilding by Sir Charles Barry and Augustus Pugin.
The iconic clock tower, housing Big Ben, is probably the most famous part of this building and the complex is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Windsor Castle is the oldest occupied castle in the world. Covering an area of approximately 13 acres, it contains a wide range of interesting features. These include the State Apartments, Queen Mary’s dolls house and the beautiful St George’s Chapel. It is also the burial place of ten monarchs, including Henry VIII and his beloved wife (the one who gave him a son), Jane Seymour There are numerous exhibitions and tours at Windsor Castle. In fact, a typical visit can take up to three hours.
London has a diverse range of peoples and cultures, and more than 300 languages are spoken within Greater London. The region had an official population of 8,416,535 in 2013, making it the most populous municipality in the European Union, and accounting for 12.5% of the UK population. London’s urban area is the second-largest in the EU with a population of 9,787,426 according to the 2011 census. London’s metropolitan area is the largest in the EU with a total population of 13,614,409, while the Greater London Authority puts the population of London metropolitan region at 21 million.
- Hinal Shah