Fun Facts about London
The ancient city of London is the capital of England. In addition to scores of fascinating sites and attractions, it boasts four UNESCO World Heritage Sites—the magnificent Kew Gardens dating to 1759, the massive Norman fortifications and Tower of London, Maritime Greenwich with its Royal Observatory, and the complex of three buildings that include Westminster Palace, Westminster Abbey, and Saint Margaret’s Church. Few cities in the world can rival all this city has to offer, from amazing museums and restaurants to shows and iconic sites such as Big Ben.
Big Ben is a common nickname for the clock tower at the Palace of Westminster, located right along the Thames and just steps from Westminster Abbey. This clock tower is the third largest free-standing clock tower in the world. It was completed in 1858 and ever since then has been a popular symbol of London, and has appeared in countless photos, TV shows, and films as a result.
This great palace that is the principal home of the reigning British monarch was once merely Buckingham House, albeit a townhouse suitable for the Duke of Buckingham. It was built in 1705 and King George III acquired it in 1762. It was enlarged by subsequent monarchs until it reached more or less the size it is today in about 1837 when Queen Victoria made it her official residence. There are public tours available of the palace, although not in the royal family’s quarters. The Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace is one of the most viewed events in the city, and the opening of Parliament is a grand spectacle when the Royal Horseguards trot trough the Mall in front of the palace to escort the monarch in his or her carriage to the Houses of Parliament.
The London Eye
In 1986, the London Council was abolished and the city had no real central government again until the Greater London Authority was established in 2000. To celebrate this event and the change of the millennium, the Millennium Dome, Millennium Bridge, and London Eye (also called the Millennium Wheel) were erected. This giant Ferris wheel (the tallest in Europe) is 443 feet tall and provides incredible panoramic views of the city. It was once the tallest wheel in the world, but it has been surpassed by wheels in Asia. It’s located on the South Bank of the River Thames near Jubilee Gardens. There are 32 air-conditioned, sealed cars and each holds 25 people. Its movement is slow enough to allow passengers to step on without the wheel stopping—it stops only for elderly and disabled passengers.
Westminster Abbey (founded in 900) is one of buildings that together comprise a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Westminster Palace dates to 1840, and St. Margaret’s Church is a small medieval church. Since the crowning of William the Conqueror in 1066, all monarchs have been crowned in Westminster Abbey, which is a magnificent and one of the most significant examples of Gothic architecture. It is a favorite venue for royal weddings, and one of the most popular places to visit in London. Perhaps surprisingly, many people are buried under the floors and in crypts in the abbey, including Laurence Olivier, Rudyard Kipling, and many members of the royal family.
Must See Sights
Hundreds of thousands of pages have been written about the sights of London, and it might take a lifetime to fully explore them all. However, sights not to be missed include Christopher Wren’s masterpiece of St. Paul’s Cathedral, which became a symbol of the strength and resilience of the people during the Blitz of World War II. They fought valiantly to prevent it from burning, and there is an iconic photograph of it still standing and wreathed in smoke while everything around it is in flames.
Shoppers may want to head to Piccadilly Circus or Covent Garden. Take a boat ride on the River Thames for great views of the city’s major landmarks, including the Houses of Parliament. If you want to get a look at as much as possible in as short a time as possible, you can book a tour in one of the city’s double-decker buses.
Other than Buckingham Palace, there are several palaces and stately homes open to the public, including Hampton Court Palace. Some of the finest museums in the world are located in London, including Royal Albert Hall, the Tate, and the National Portrait Gallery. London is a very green city with numerous parks. The two largest are Hyde Park, which is a fixture of the city, Kensington Gardens, and Regent’s Park where the London Zoo is located.