Famed English writer Samuel Johnson once noted: “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life”. The city is indeed filled with attractions that draw businesspeople and tourists alike, including Chinese President Xi Jinping who is currently on a state visit to the U.K.
View some of the top attractions in London:
Big Ben is in the northern end of the Palace of Westminster that includes a 156-year-old clock and an extended clock tower. The Great Bell of the clock was finished in 1858 after a 16-ton heavy bell cracked. On Sept. 13th, 2012, the Big Ben clock tower housing the great bell, the Big Ben, was officially renamed “the Elizabeth Tower” to honor the 60 years of Queen Elizabeth on the throne. The tower is not open to the general public except U.K. residents who submit written applications.
Flowing through the southern part of England including the most picturesque towns like Oxford, Reading, London and Windsor, the River Thames is the mother river of the United Kingdom. The waterway has nourished the area for centuries. The River Thames has inspired many British writers, artists and musicians. While watersports do take place on the Thames, most people just enjoy walking along the riverbanks.
Tower of London
Built by William the Conqueror in 1078, the Tower of London once served as the world’s most well-known fortress. The tower is home to the throne’s priceless crown jewels and has served as a residence for royalty and a prison for those that opposed them. The crown jewels are locked away in Jewel House behind defending guards.
Suspending over the River Thames and sitting close to the Tower of London, construction on the Tower Bridge started in 1886 and lasted for eight years before 11,000 tons of steel were molded and reshaped into one of London’s most famous symbols. The bridge deck is currently accessible to both vehicles and pedestrians. With the installation of glass floors in the walkways in 2014, visitors now get an even more unusual view from the bridge.
The palace is the official London residence and principal workplace of Britain’s sovereigns since 1837. The Changing of the Guard takes place at the forecourt of Buckingham Palace between May and July each morning and on alternate days the rest of the year. The palace, together with 19 state rooms, is accessible to visitors during August and September while the Queen makes her annual visit to Balmoral.
Houses of Parliament
Sitting at the river bank of the Thames, the Houses of Parliament are also known as the Palace of Westminster and serves as the meeting place of the House of Commons and the House of Lords in the United Kingdom. The houses were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987 and is considered a great example of Gothic architecture.
Westminster Abbey is also a Gothic style building located just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. The abbey is attracting visitors from every corner of the world with its intricate memorials to the country’s kings and queens. The building has also served as a traditional place of coronation and burial site for Britain where some of the nation’s celebrities and personages such as Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Winston Churchill are buried.
Built by William the Conqueror in the 11th Century, Windsor Castle is the largest and oldest occupied castle in the world. The castle was originally designed to protect from Norman dominance. After surviving the turbulent timespan of English Civil War, the castle is currently used by the Queen both as a private home and as a royal residence every year for a month over Easter from March to April.
Can’t misses outside of London
Also known as St Peter’s, the York Minster Cathedral Church is one of the finest medieval buildings in Europe. Located 200 miles north of London, the church we see today is an architectural masterpiece that took more than 250 years to complete.
Built on an extinct volcano in Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh Castle, located 400 miles north of London, is a formidable building that houses hundreds of years of history. Of interest within the castle are St Margaret’s Chapel, Royal Palace, as well as National War Museum of Scotland.