Have you been to London before? If not and you’re looking to visit in the next few months then you may be wondering just what to make a priority to see and do – and what not. It’s generally considered there’s a small selection of attractions that first-timers to the UK capital really ought to make for first of all; so here they are, the London venues that should be essentials on your itinerary…
Perhaps London’s most prestigious attraction of all, this is pretty much the greatest museum on earth. Yes, truly. Founded more than 250 years ago, its permanent collection – which apparently features just a fraction of all the artefacts it owns – numbers eight million objects from every era of history and every corner of the globe. That may sound mind-boggling, but this place is an essential stop for the likes of its Egyptian mummies, the Rosetta Stone and the notorious Elgin Marbles from Athens’ spectacular Parthenon temple.
Tower of London
With its most original part almost a millennium old, the Tower isn’t just the oldest building in the city, but also one of the most important – and one of its very best attractions. A word to the wise: take a tour of the place hosted by one the charismatic and colourfully turned-out Yeomen of the Guard; that way you’ll properly discover all the secrets of this one-time Norman fortification, medieval palace, Tudor prison and execution site, jewel depository and exotic Royal zoo.
Just down the road from the Tower is, yes, the bridge with which it shares its name. A glorious example of Victorian engineering at its very best, this part-suspension, part-bascule bridge is famed both for its two towers (bascules) and the fact its roadway splits in two and rises to allow tall river-going craft to pass through. Take the exhibition so you can have a look around inside and discover its fascinating inner workings and eventful history.
No visit to the capital’s complete without at least espying with your own eyes the world-famous London residence of HM The Queen. A magnificent slice of late Georgian grandeur and elegance, its grey-brick splendour casts a genuine spell for any passer-by, especially if it’s at the time of the morning when the Royal Guard are performing the Trooping of the Colour outside. And come the summer months, visitors can actually step inside and see the exquisite State Rooms, which showcase priceless works of art and fine furniture from the centuries-old Royal Collection. Be warned, though; if you fancy taking the tour you’ll have to book up weeks, even months in advance!
Slap-bang in the centre of the city – and so, if you’ve chosen to take advantage of one of the many London hotel deals available in the heart of the capital (for instance, at the Park Grand Paddington Court hotel London) – you may consider it a great area to start your sightseeing, Westminster is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it’s easy to see why. First off, there’s Westminster Abbey, the spectacular church that’s stood on the same site for seven centuries and where practically every English (and latterly British) monarch has been crowned, in addition to being the final resting place many legendary names of British culture – everyone from Darwin to Wordsworth and Tennyson to Chaucer…
Houses of Parliament
… And then there’s the Houses of Parliament, the utterly iconic neo-Gothic building that comprises the Upper (Lords) and Lower (Commons) meeting-places of the nation’s political representatives, thus the major seat of power in the UK. Of course, this building also features the unmistakeable tower at the summit of which is the clock-face and giant bell that’s affectionately referred to as ‘Big Ben’. It chimes every 15 minutes and fully on the hour – don’t miss it!
Finally, just across the river from Westminster, to be found at the terrific tourist-trap that’s the South Bank, is the London Eye. By far the youngest entrant on this list, over the past few years it’s quickly established itself as an must-do for any visitor to the capital thanks to the fact that to take a trip in one of this giant Ferris wheel’s 32 capsules is to experience a remarkable panorama of the centre of the city and beyond, whether you do so during the day or at night when all London’s glittering lights are switched on here, there and everywhere. Indeed, for many first-timers to the capital, it’s often the attraction they relish most of all – but which of these seven will be yours? Why not try them all and find out!