London is full of take- your –breath- away views and vistas. With its hilly terrain and marvelous buildings, anyone can have the opportunity to behold the city’s many facets and angles. By getting around London, I have seen as much of life as the world can show. The city has served me well, I think. I am so grateful that we have discovered and explored ‘the most visited attractions’ in the city with the help of public transport (bus, Tube, Tram, Overground, etc.), Oyster card, and flat shoes… London is perfect for seeing the sights on foot.
By the way, before I forget , for the first time during our stay in London, I was able feel to the spirit of Shakespeare, one of my favorite English literature icons. If W. Shakespeare were still alive, I would make a way to see him in the flesh and ask him to write a poem dedicated to me, col (chuckling out loud)! Anyway, I am sure most of you are either bored stiff or cheesed off at this point so I shall move on.
Since I have already recapped a bit of our London trek, let me just enumerate some of the tour highlights by picking the Top 10 major bits to see or do in London. These are the landmarks you should not miss. And apart from these, there are so many other tourist attractions that can be looked for when visiting London.
(1) London Eye
Take a spin on this Ferris wheel overlooking the Thames. More than a Ferris wheel ride — London Eye’s rotating attraction offers 32 enclosed capsules for full, 360 degree views of historic London.
The London Eye is a major feature of London’s skyline. It is the world’s highest cantilevered observation wheel and offers passengers spectacular views of over 55 of London’s most famous landmarks – all in just 30 minutes. And while taking in the amazing views, you can enjoy a glass of champagne to spoil yourself. Champagne flight normally costs £35.
(2) Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey is neither a cathedral nor a parish church. It is a Gothic monastery church owned by the royal family. When you pay visit here during the day, you can attend a church service for free. An architectural masterpiece of the 13th to 16th centuries, the Abbey has been both the coronation and burial site of English monarchs since William the Conqueror.
(3) The Houses of Parliament and the Big Ben
The House of Parliament is one of the largest parliaments in the world. Dating back to the nineteenth century, it contains about 1,200 rooms and displays intricate architecture and holds ceremonial events. The House of Parliament is also known as The Palace of Westminster. It is where two Houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom meet: the House of Lords and the House of Commons.
Big Ben: When I first heard about “Big Ben”, the image that came to my mind was the famous tower, or the four huge clock faces. However, during my stay in London, I’ve learned (from a planner booklet) that Big Ben actually refers to the largest of the five bells inside the clock tower. In other words, “Big Ben” does not refer to the whole clock tower, but to the huge thirteen ton bell that strikes the hour.
Another theory that I’ve proven wrong was that the bell was named after a popular heavyweight boxer Benjamin Caunt. The consensus however, seems to be that it was named after Sir Benjamin Hall, a (literally) weighty politician of the time who was the Parliamentary Commissioner of Works.
Parliament is open to the UK public and overseas visitors. You can attend debates, watch committee hearings and tour the buildings. Beware, MPs have absurdly long holidays or “recesses”.
(4) Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar commemorates the Battle of Trafalgar (1805), a British naval victory of the Napoleonic Wars. Trafalgar Square is the largest square in London and has been a central meeting place since the Middle Ages.
What makes it ‘the Square’: Nelsons Column surrounded by 4 bronze lions, the National Gallery, Fountains and statues , including one of Charles I on horseback, and of course the pigeons. The Column itself is some 170 foot high, with the statue of Nelson himself being some 18 foot high.
(5) Piccadilly Circus
Spending hours hanging out in here, you will see street performers, travelers, and busy business types wearing pink ties with blackberry as their weapon. If you are into books, you can hit the Europe’s largest bookshop, the Waterstone’s Piccadily bookstores, situated in the heart of London’s West End.
The name ‘Piccadilly’ originates from a 17th century frilled collar named piccadil. Roger Baker, the tailor who became rich making piccadils lived in the area. The word ‘Circus’ refers to the roundabout around which the traffic circulated. Piccadilly Circus is a good place to meet before heading off to eat, shop or go to area theaters. Soho isn’t too far a walk from here and neither is Trafalgar Square. The fashionable stores of Carnaby Street are also nearby. The area is quite a sight in the evening, with colorful and brightly lit advertising signs illuminating the area, high above the streets.
Further, Piccadilly Circus is an intersection where five roads meet; it is most famous for the advertising signs that light up the sky at night. It is London’s version of Times Square and the first ever lighted neighborhood in the world. People crowd around the steps of the statue known as Eros, the Greek God of Love (but really meant to be the angel of charity), erected in 1892 as a memorial to the Earl of Shaftsbury, the Victorian philanthropist. I didn’t dare to take a seat here though. The bustling noise made me giddy.
(6) The Royal Parks
Spring is a glorious time to discover London. With blossoming flowers and warmer-brighter days, and the great outdoors bursting into life, there’s no better time to venture outside and embrace the wonderful history and culture that London has to offer. London is blessed with eight royal parks offering 5,000 acres of historic parkland – and entrance is free! (but not the chairs). The grass carpet will serve as your bed when you get tired of walking . You can read book too, while savoring the crispy breeze. We had a lovely stroll through the park on a beautiful sunny day.
(7) Buckingham Palace and Changing of the Guard
It’s the Queen’s home. Tourists love to go to see Buckingham Palace not because they wanna see the Queen but to witness the colorful ceremony of the Changing of the Guard: Accompanied by a military band, a detachment of the Queen’s Foot Guard march to Buckingham Palace in their bearskins and red tunes, and change with the Old Guard. Yes, we strolled around and in front of the palace and mingled with groupie tourists, unluckily, we missed the Changing of the Guard.
Surrounded by vast park lands and gardens, this grand palace has been the Royal London residence since Queen Victoria’s time, and contains priceless works of art, fine furniture and decorations that form part of the Royal Collection.
(8) The Tower of London and Crown Jewels
The Tower of London is one of the most famous fortified buildings in the world. If you are in London, place the Tower of London under your ‘must see’ list.
(9) Covent Garden
No trip to London (or nywhere in the world) is complete without shopping experience. London boasts cutting- edge fashion houses, world famous department stores and quirky shops that are full of intrigue and wonder, making for a truly unique experience. Covent Garden offers a world- class cultural experience as well as excellent shopping. Talking about shopping, even if you close your eyes, it would be hard for you to resist some tempting shops; you might as well get carried away 😉
Primark is also a ‘going for a song’ shop but difficult to navigate. It is always jam-packed with shopaholics and the long dressing room lines… OMG! Anyone impatient like me, standing in queue was a No way José! So I just did the ‘pick and grab your size’ thing then zoomed to a cashier. I thought I could dodge the long lines but getting face to face with a cashier was another course of action. Sigh!
(10) St. Paul’s Cathedral
To experience the whole of St. Paul’s Cathedral, you should climb 220 stairs to the enormous dome and Whispering Gallery and on to the heights of the Golden Gallery above the Dome with its panoramic views of the capital.
St. Paul’s Cathedral is so much a part of London skyline. In recent years, it has seen the wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales, to Lady Diana Spencer and, most recently, the thanksgiving services for both the Golden Jubilee and 80th Birthday of Her Majesty of the Queen.
That’s all for now.
Note: I have tried to mount numerous pictures but I got tired of uploading them to the galleries one by one. Time-demanding.