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London, UK

“Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford."

— Samuel Johnson

The quote above comes from a discussion in 1777 between Johnson ("Dr Johnson"), famous for his Dictionary of the English Language, and his Scottish friend and biographer James Boswell. Johnson was a man whom hated being alone and enjoyed all that London had to offer. This particular quotation would most definitely still apply today and like many other great global cities, to attempt to cover it comprehensively in one single webpage would be impossible. And so, the aim here is to outline a brief history of London followed by some photographs and brief text about a selection of the main tourist sites to see. The author of this webpage is all too familiar with the city although despite visits in the past being of a social nature, for shopping, or to see a single particular sight (such as when Tate modern opened), the aim of the visit here was to stay in a hotel and attempt to see the city through the eyes of a tourist.

A Page Index of the attractions covered below may be found by clicking Here.

London is the capital and largest city of the United Kingdom. It also serves as the principal city of the Commonwealth of Nations. It stands on the River Thames in the Southeast of England, some 40 miles (65km) from the mouth of the river. The population depends on definition; whilst the City of London itself refers to the historic and financial district (also simply known as “the City” or “the Square Mile”), where due to the building usage only just under 9,500 people actually reside, at the time of writing Greater London has a population of roughly 8.8 million, whilst the metropolitan area has a population of just over 14 million.Since 1965, the whole city has been officially called Greater London, which comprised the City of London and 32 boroughs which cover an area of 607 square miles (1,572 km²). NB - Some photographs taken of buildings in “the City” are shown on a separate webpage Here.

 

Not much is known about London’s history before the Romans arrived in Britain (in 43 AD). Known as Londinium, it was the most important town in Roman Britain, developing over time as a port and commercial centre. By the 3rd Century AD, the population was approximately 40,000 and the town covered an area of about 300 acres (120ha). London saw a period of decline after the Romans left Britain (in the 5th century AD) until the 9th century when Alfred the Great repaired the city’s defences, encouraged the development of trade, and made the city the seat of government. After the Norman invasion of 1066, William the Conqueror built the White Tower in the Tower of London to the east of the city walls, to protect the city from river attack. During the 10th century, the settlement of Westminster, to the west of the city walls, grew in size. Edward the Confessor built Westminster Abbey and later a palace, making Westminster his capital in 1042. The Normans and the Plantagenets kept Westminster as the seat of government, as it still is today, finalizing the distinction between the business area in the east and Westminster, which by the 13th century had the Parliament, the Court and Law Courts.England’s prosperity during the Tudor Period (1485-1603) firmly established London’s position financially, during a time which saw a large increase in commercial activity. During the reign of Elizabeth I (1558-1603), the population increased from under 100,000 to nearly 250,000. However, in the years 1665-66, the Great Plague of London killed 75,000 residents and in 1666, The Great Fire of London destroyed a large number of buildings. After the fire, the city was rebuilt according to a similar plan, with Sir Christopher Wren playing a significant role, designing many of the buildings, famously including St Paul’s Cathedral. During the 17th century, the area between the City and Westminster became built-up. England’s most notable architect of the time, Inigo Jones (1573-1652), designed Covent Garden as an upmarket residential area, and other fashionable squares were built in Soho, Bloomsbury and Mayfair.

Above: Hyde Park is one of many green spaces throughout London. It is the largest of four interconnected Royal Parks, the others being Kensington Gardens, Green Park and St. James' Park.

The year 1750 saw the construction of Westminster Bridge; until this time, London Bridge (first built in the 10th century) had been the only bridge crossing the Thames in London. With the onset of the Industrial revolution in the latter part of the 18th century, London’s population reached 4½ million during the 19th century. Transport services underwent a transformation, with the construction of Euston Railway Station in 1838, soon followed by other mainline stations. In January 1863, the world's first underground railway opened, between Paddington and Farringdon, using gas-lit wooden carriages hauled by steam locomotives.By the end of the 19th century, London extended as far north as Hampstead and other suburbs were being developed. During the 20th century, further growth between the two World Wars was accompanied by extensions to the transportation network; as the city expanded further afield, 1938 saw the implementation of the Green Belt Act, which controlled urban growth outwards. As a result of this, many of the people who work in London today commute from surrounding towns more than 40 miles (65km) away from the City. London, of course was heavily affected by both World Wars during the 20th century and as well as (sometimes uninspiring) post-war construction, new areas continued to be developed, particularly in the latter part of this century right through to today, with the rejuvenation of the docklands area to the east of the city, which had previously seen a period of decline.

Above: Zoomable Map of London (Courtesy of Openstreetmap.org)

London is one of the world’s most important financial, commercial and industrial cities as well as a leading global city in areas including the arts, education, entertainment, fashion, healthcare and media. Major industries here include engineering, IT, paper, clothing, printing and publishing, chemicals, food processing, brewing, furniture, precision instruments and entertainments.In terms of total students, London University, founded in 1836, is the largest in the country. London is a major port and transportation hub and attracts millions of tourists each year. Places of interest featured on this webpage include Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament, Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus. Other attractions (not shown here) include Hampton Court Palace, Greenwich, the BT (Post Office) Tower, Madam Tussaud’s and the Monument. Art galleries and museums include the British Museum, National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, Tate Britain, Tate Modern, Science Museum, Natural History Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum and the Imperial War Museum. Each of the sites below are in no particular order, other than how they were visited chronologically during the course of 3 days in May 2018. Alphabetical index of each one Here.

St Pancras International Station

St Pancras Station Façade Composite Image

Above: Composite image showing the main façade of St Pancras International Station

There are several UK mainline railway stations in central London, each offering train services to various parts of the country in different directions. With the construction of the High Speed Channel Tunnel Rail Link, which opened in 2003/2007 (sections 1 and 2 respectively), St Pancras International Station has served as London’s only International railway station (replacing Waterloo which previously served Channel Tunnel services). It is not only this fact for which this particular station is featured on this webpage, but for the building itself, which is celebrated for its Victorian architecture. Situated on Euston Road between the British Library and King’s Cross station, this fine building is Grade I listed. The station was opened in 1868 by the Midland Railway as its southern terminus. Midland Railway later became the London, Midland and Scottish railway (LMS). On its completion, the arched train shed was the largest single-span roof in the world. The fine building, an example of Victorian Gothic architecture, was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott. The main part of the building's frontage is in fact the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel. In the 1960’s, there were plans to demolish the building, but fortunately these were abandoned. In the 2000’s, the building complex (which includes the hotel) underwent an £800 million renovation and expansion. This included the addition of a secure terminal area for international departures and arrivals via the Eurostar services which run through the Channel Tunnel. As well as fifteen platforms, the station contains a shopping centre, a bus station and an underground station which is shared with the adjacent King’s Cross Station.

The British Library

The British Library

Also situated on the north side of Euston Road, between St Pancras International Station and Euston railway station, is the British Library, the United Kingdom’s national library. This public institution is one of the world's largest research libraries. Since 1997, the library’s main collection has been housed in a modern state-of-the-art building. With about 388 miles (625km) of shelves, the library houses over 150 million items in every known language. This comprises approximately 25 million books, more than any other library in the world. The collection here also includes manuscripts and historical items dating back as far as 300 BC. It also includes journals, newspapers, magazines, sound and music recordings, patents and a multitude of other printed and hand-produced written and drawn material. By law, the British Library receives copies of every book that is published and sold in the UK and Eire; many other books published outside this area are also acquired for the collection - a sum total of approximately three million items added per annum. The institution’s roots date back to the 18th century from private collections which were donated to form a national library. It was originally part of the British Museum with some of the most important items being on display to the public. The British Library itself was formed in 1973 as a result of the British Library Act 1972. It is possible to go inside the modern building today and view a four-storey glass tower containing the ‘’King's Library’’, with 65,000 printed volumes alongside other items collected between 1763 and 1820 by King George III. There is also a public display containing all manner of items from old manuscripts to more modern writings, such as original penned Beatles lyrics. It is only possible to access the British Library’s collection with a reader’s permit and then, this can only be obtained by evidencing that the required material cannot be found elsewhere. Part of the collection (e.g. journals) is kept offsite at the Document Supply Centre in Yorkshire and all of the newspapers from before 1800 are kept at the newspaper library in north-west London. Important items housed in the British Library include the Diamond Sutra (the world's earliest dated printed book from the year 868), the Lindisfarne Gospels, two 1215 copies of the Magna Carta, the only ancient copy of the poem Beowulf, 347 leaves of the Codex Sinaiticus (the oldest Bible in the world), one of Leonardo da Vinci's notebooks and the working manuscripts of several important classical and more contemporary composers.

The British Museum

The British Museum

The British Museum opened in London in 1759. It was established by an Act of Parliament as a storehouse of knowledge for the benefit of the “learned and curious”. The original collection was purchased and bequeathed in 1753 by Sir Hans Sloane, an Irish physician, naturalist and collector. Later additions to the collection included the Rosetta Stone and the “Elgin Marbles” from the Parthenon in Athens. A large number of items to be found here were widely sourced during the era of the British Empire, the largest empire ever to have existed in the world. The museum is a public institution dedicated to human history, art and culture, documenting its developments through time from the beginnings right through to the present. The museum’s departments are those of Ancient Egypt and Sudan, Greece and Rome, the Middle East, Prints and Drawings, Britain/Europe and Prehistory, Asia, Africa and Oceania and the Americas, Coins and Medals, Conservation and Scientific Research and the Libraries &archives. The Department of Prints and Drawings alone houses some 50,000 drawings, including works by Turner, Rembrandt, Rubens, Michelangelo, Dürer and others. It ranks as one of the largest and best print room collections to be found anywhere, alongside the Albertina in Vienna, the Paris collections and the Hermitage in St Petersburg, Russia. The permanent collections in the British Museum number some 8 million works, making it amongst the most comprehensive and largest to be found anywhere. The museum’s library department was separated from the collection in 1973 by the British Library Act 1972, although it continued to host the now separated British Library in the same Reading Room and building as the museum until 1997 (when the new building for the library opened - see section above).The British Museum is located in the Bloomsbury area of the city. Entrance is free (with voluntary contributions and paid-for special exhibitions).Photographs from some of the items to be seen on display in the permanent collection are shown in the thumbnail gallery below, followed by a brief description of each exhibit (click on an image to enlarge):

Shown above are:

[1] The Great Court- A glass-roofed addition designed by architect Sir Norman Foster which opened in December 2000.
[2] An Easter Island Statue.
[3-5] The Parthenon Sculptures - A 5th century BC frieze from the Parthenon in Athens which was made under Pericles and shows a procession in honour of the Goddess Athena. It was obtained in 1799 by Lord Elgin (hence the alternative name ‘the Elgin Marbles’) who was at the time the Ambassador to Constantinople.
[6] The Rosetta Stone- A famous stone tablet with three pieces of writing carved into it that read the same thing in three different languages (an Ancient Egyptian script called demotic, hieroglyphics and Ancient Greek). French soldiers found it in Egypt in 1799 and it played a pivotal role in the understanding of hieroglyphics, the Ancient Egyptian writing system.
[7] Mummified Cats- Cats and sacred cows were mummified in Ancient Egypt.
[8] Ramesses II- The object on display here is all that remains from the colossal granite statue of Ramesses II (circa 1279 BC) from his memorial temple at Thebes.
[9] Ram in a Thicket- This valuable ornament comes from the ancient Sumerian city of Ur, which was one of the world’s earliest civilisations. It is decorated with shells, gold leaf, copper and lapis lazuli (a blue gemstone).
[10] Double-Headed Serpent Mosaic- This is an Aztec ornament probably worn on the chest for ceremonial occasions. It is carved in wood and covered with turquoise mosaic.
[11] The Portland Vase- A first century blue and opaque glass vase dating from the 1st century. It is not known where and when this vase was found and seen here is it reassembled, after a visitor smashed it into 200 or so pieces in 1845.
[12] Stone Lintel- This piece from China features an early depiction of the historical Buddha and would have been placed over the doorway of a pagoda or temple.
[13] A Silver Plate from the Mildenhall Treasure - Mildenhall in Suffolk, UK, is a site where some of the most significant early English treasures were found. These include silver plates from the 4th century.
[14] The Snettisham Great Torc - A large Iron Age electrum torc or neck-ring that was the most spectacular object in the Snettisham Hoard of metalwork. Featured on this list of museum highlights due to the website Author’s links to the local area.
[15] The Sutton Hoo Helmet - One of just four complete helmets to survive from Anglo-Saxon England. This website contains a separate page on the Sutton Hoo site, which may be found Here.
[16] The Enlightenment-An exhibition featuring the British Museum’s 18th century collections from around the world.

Covent Garden

Covent Garden   Covent Garden

Above: Covent Garden Opera House (Left) and Market (Right) 

Covent Garden is the leading opera house of England [above, left]. It was founded in 1732 in the heart of a produce market and has been located in its present building since 1858. From 1946, it has also been the home of the Royal Ballet. In the late 19th century, the Royal Opera Company became world famous through many prominent singing stars of the time. During the 1950’s, Joan Sutherland achieved world renown here and musical directors since the Second World War have included Rafael Kubelik (1955-58), Georg Solti (1961-71) and Colin Davis (1970-86). When the fruit and vegetable market moved from Covent Garden to Nine Elms in 1974, the old market site and its surroundings were developed into a busy commercial and social area [above, right]. The site remains popular as a place for shopping, spending time in the numerous cafés and restaurants and watching street artists perform.

Leicester Square

About 400 yards (370m) west of Covent Garden is situated Leicester Square, a pedestrianised square in the City of Westminster. It lies just to the south of London’s Chinatown and just to the north of the much larger Trafalgar Square. As such, Leicester Square lies right in the heart of London’s lively West End. It was originally laid out in the 1670’s as an upmarket and fashionable residential area. Famous people from the 17th and 18th centuries who lived here included Sir Isaac Newton, Joshua Reynolds and William Hogarth. In modern times, Leicester Square has formed the heart of London’s entertainment district. It houses the Vue multiplex, the Empire Leicester Square and the Art Deco Odeon Leicester Square cinemas (the latter two both regularly used for film premieres), booths here selling tickets for West End theatre productions, a (in the author’s opinion) landmark Burger King and in more recent times, the largest Lego store, which opened on 17 November 2016. With the cinemas and nightclubs, the square is a major magnet for tourists and locals alike and consequently was pedestrianised in the late 20th century. With a rich history, the middle of the square has a small park and in the centre of this stands a statue of William Shakespeare atop a fountain which is decorated with dolphins. Also here, the centre of the square has been home to statues of William Hogarth, Charlie Chaplin, John Hunt and Sir Isaac Newton.

West End Theatres

Above: Her Majesty's Theatre - One of many located in and around London's West End

In and near the West End of London is an area known as “Theatreland”. There are approximately forty venues here in an area generallydefinedbyOxford Street to the north,Kingsway to the east, The Strand to the south and Regent Street to the west; a few other theatres just outside this area such as The Apollo Victoria Theatre in Westminster, are also considered "West End Theatres”. Main theatre streets include Drury Lane, Shaftesbury Avenue, and The Strand. The shows on offer at these venues are mainly musicals, plays and comedy performances. The West End productions are generally regarded as the highest level of commercial theatre in the English-speaking world, alongside New York City's Broadway. The shows here are certainly popular with tourists, as well as locals and those coming to London specifically for a night or two’s short break. A large number of the theatres are privately owned and of late Victorian or Edwardian construction. Many of them are of architectural note, with the largest and most well preserved featuring grand neo-classical, Romanesque, or Victorian façades and glamorous, detailed interior décor. The length that shows run here depends upon ticket sales, with the longest-running musical in the area’s history being Les Misérables. This previous record was held by Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats, which closed in 2002 after running for 21 years. Other long-running musicals include Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera and Disney’s Lion King. St Martin’s Theatre is home to the non-musical Agatha Christie play The Mousetrap, which has been performed continuously since 1952, making it the longest-running theatre production in the world.

Piccadilly Circus

About 400 yards (370m) west of Leicester Square lies Piccadilly Circus, a bustling intersection originally formed as a crossroads in 1819 by the crossing of Piccadilly with Regent Street, which was being laid out to the designs of John Nash. Located in the borough of Westminster, Piccadilly Circus is situated between the neighbourhoods of St. James, to the south, and Soho, to the north. As well as Piccadilly and Regent Street, joining here are Coventry Street and Shaftesbury Avenue. The construction of the latter resulted in the circus losing its circular form in 1886. An 1893 aluminium statue, popularly known as Eros and formerly known as the Angel of Christian Charity, stands on the steps of Piccadilly Circus’ stone island and this is a popular meeting place for people, as well as a convenient rest stop for sightseeing visitors. The statue of Eros was built as a memorial to the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury. The traffic hub is characterised by neon-lit advertisement signs, putting one in mind of Times Square, in New York City; the first electric signs appeared as early as 1910 and from 1923, giant electric billboards were set up on the façade of the London Pavilion, which at the time was a theatre. During the 1980’s, many of the buildings surrounding Piccadilly Circus were redeveloped as retail space. Within a short distance on foot from here are the West End theatres and the shops on Regent Street, as well as some notable nightclubs.

National Gallery

National Gallery

The National Gallery represents one of the world’s finest collections of art. It is located on the northern side of Trafalgar Square and houses some 2,300 or so pictures from the early Renaissance to the Impressionists (1250-1900). On display are works by the most influential painters of the major European schools. The collection originated from London businessman and Lloyd's underwriter John Julius Angerstein when it was acquired by the government in 1824. The works were moved to the present building in 1838.An additional wing, the Sainsbury Wing, was built in 1991 and houses the early Renaissance collection, as well as temporary major exhibitions. Highlights in the National Gallery include Leonardo da Vinci’s The Virgin of the Rocks, The Ambassadors by Hans Holbein, The Rokeby Venus by Diego Velázquez, Van Gogh’s The Sunflowers, Samson and Delilah by Rubens, Rembrandt’s A Woman Bathing in a Stream and Bathers at La Grenouillière by Claude Monet. Entrance is free, except for temporary major exhibitions.

National Portrait Gallery

National Portrait Gallery

The National Portrait Gallery is an art gallery located in St Martin’s Place, somewhat on the side of the same building as the National Gallery. It houses portraits of outstanding men and women in British history. It was built in 1858 and exhibits the work of British portrait painters dating from as far back as the 1400’s.

Trafalgar Square

 

Situated in the City of Westminster, Trafalgar Square is amongst the, if not the, most famous of squares in London. It was named after the Battle of Trafalgar, a naval victory for the fleet of Lord Nelson (1805). Trafalgar Square is a public space and has never had any gardens. Seven major artery roads in the city join up here, with traffic to and from these moving around a large paved area. Central to the square prominently stands Nelson’s Column (1839-43), a 185 foot (56m) high monument to Lord Nelson that includes at the top a 17 foot (5m) high statue of him by E.H. Baily. At the corners of the column’s plinth stand four bronze lions sculpted by Sir Edwin Landseer and cast by Baron Marochetti. Overlooking the square on the northern side is the main façade of the National Gallery. Also looking over the square is the church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. The Charing Cross intersection is adjacent to the south of the square, and from it the Strand (an avenue) runs off to the City to the east, where it continues as Fleet Street. Construction of the square itself took place between the 1820’s and 40’s on the site of the former King’s Mews.The square is sometimes the focal point for political rallies and during the festive period, a large Christmas tree stands here. The tree is donated annually by Norway, and has been given annually since World War II as a symbol of gratitude towards the nation’s liberation from German occupation. The square has historically been a focal point for New Year’s Eve celebrations, but since the turn of the century, with the construction of the London Eye, New Year revellers have been drawn away from here and tend these days to congregate by the riverbank, where the main firework display takes place.

Whitehall

     

Above: The Cenotaph on Whitehall (Left) and Downing Street (Right)

Connecting Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square is Whitehall, a wide street named after the Palace of Whitehall, which was the main residence of the Tudor monarchs. The palace itself was guarded by what is now Horse Guards on the building’s northern side. Today, the guard is still mounted daily at 11am (10am Sundays) and there is a dismounting inspection at 4pm. One of the main features on Whitehall is The Cenotaph, a war memorial, originally a temporary structure which was erected for a peace parade following the end of the First World War. The temporary structure was replaced in 1920 by a permanent structure which was designated the United Kingdom’s official national war memorial. Running off to the west of Whitehall and approximately two thirds of the way down from Trafalgar Square is Downing Street. The most famous address here is at No. 10, which is the official home and office of the UK’s Prime Minister. This property is one of four surviving houses built in the 1680’s for Sir George Downing (1623-84) who went to America as a boy and returned to fight for the Parliamentarians in the English Civil War. Also on Downing Street is the traditional residence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer (at No. 11) and the Whips’ Office (at No. 12). Whitehall offers a view through large gates of Downing Street, although unfortunately for the tourist, do not expect much in the way of a view as the road has been closed off to the public since 1989, for security reasons.

London Eye

 

As a modern piece of engineering placed in the heart of a historic city, the London Eye was daring and unconventional, although the project was pulled off as one of the most successful of additions to the London Skyline. This impressive feat of engineering, the world’s tallest cantilevered observation wheel, became an iconic symbol seemingly overnight and offers the visitor stunning panoramic views over the whole of the city. The London Eye towers over the river Thames opposite the Houses of Parliament. Innovatively constructed to celebrate the dawn of a new millennium, it has proved extremely popular right from the start; perhaps putting the doubters to right in the same way the 2.4 times taller (albeit static) Eiffel Tower in Paris was at first thought to be a temporary feature and potential eyesore on the cityscape. The London Eye has 32 enclosed capsules each accommodating up to 28 people at a time and offers complete visibility in all directions. The ride takes some 30 minutes for a single rotation and on a clear day, the view extends for 25 miles (40km) across the capital and surrounding areas.

The Houses of Parliament

 
     

Above: Due to restoration works and inclement weather, thus probably not shown in all its splendid glory, The Houses of Parliament (top) as seen from the south bank of the River Thames. At the time of the visit, the famous “Big Ben” clock tower was covered by scaffolding (lower left) and so included here is a photograph taken by the webpage author from an earlier visit to London in 2007, at a time when The Tour De France came to “Town”.

The Houses of Parliament (or more officially, The Palace of Westminster) is probably one of the most iconic symbols of Great Britain. This fine building is constructed in the Gothic revival style and was to the design of Sir Charles Barry and Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin. It was built between 1840 and 1870, after a fire largely destroyed the original Westminster Palace in 1834.The building covers some 8 acres, comprises 1,100 rooms and is situated around 11 courtyards. The parliament is bicameral (having two chambers), consisting of the House of Commons, where elected Members of Parliament sit, and the House of Lords. In essence, the two-chamber system here acts as a check and balance for each house and this form of government has been emulated in many other nations, particularly those with historical ties to Great Britain. Perhaps the most photographed and most well-known part of the building is the monumental clock tower situated on its northern end, adjacent to Westminster Bridge. Commonly known as “Big Ben”, it contains a 13.5-tonne bell named so, thought to be named after Sir Benjamin Hall, who was the Chief Commissioner of Works when it was installed in 1858. Also of note here is Westminster Hall, more-or-less all of the remaining part of the original palace that survived the 1834 fire. For centuries, the courts of law sat under its mighty 14th century hammerbeam roof.

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey is a large church where the coronations have taken place of most British monarchs since William the Conqueror. Edward the Confessor ordered a cruciform church to be built in 1050 to replace a Benedictine monastery on the site. In 1245, Henry VIII began rebuilding the church. Henry VII’s chapel was begun in 1503 and is noted for its ornate roof. Sir Christopher Wren and Nicholas Hawksmoor were the architects behind the two western towers, which were built between 1722 and 1740. In the late 19th century, Sir George Gilbert Scott supervised extensive restoration to the building.

     

Today, the church is an impressive conglomeration of Gothic and Perpendicular styles alongside French influences and Victorian décor. Many famous people are buried here - as well as various monarchs and consorts, Poet’s Corner in the south transept contains the tombs of Geoffrey Chaucer, Robert Browning, Charles Dickens, Dr Samuel Johnson, Rudyard Kipling, Laurence Olivier and Alfred Tennyson, amongst others. In the nave, famous tombs include many renowned scientists, including Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and at the time of writing soon to be interred here are the ashes of physicist Stephen Hawking. With explorers, politicians and other famous people, Westminster Abbey can feel like a sort of Who’s Who of dead people at times. Not to be missed here is the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior. Whilst the building has to be one of the top sites to visit in London, the Author’s only criticism whilst reflecting on visits to other famous cathedrals in other countries is the admission fee of £20 and the fact that photography inside the building (apart from in the cloisters) is not permitted. Online booking is recommended, if possible; this style of ‘queue jumping’ was particularly useful on the day of the visit when in typical British fashion, it was raining. The included audio guided tour is highly recommended and really helped with making the most of the visit to this most magnificent of buildings.

Parliament Square

Parliament square stands in the City of Westminster, which has been part of the London Borough of Westminster since 1965. Westminster was the site of a monastery from 785 and it is here that Edward the Confessor had Westminster Abbey built, as well as a palace which served as the main royal residence until 1512. Parliament met in Westminster Palace until the fire in 1834. As mentioned above, this resulted in the planning and building of the Houses of Parliament (1840-70) and also of the square here, which forms the political and spiritual heart of London. The Houses of Parliament, as commonly referred to is thus more formally the ‘new’ Palace of Westminster and it stands opposite Westminster Abbey. To the north side of Parliament Square, Parliament Street leads to Whitehall and the Prime Minister’s residence at 10 Downing Street. Surrounded by The Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey, featured on this webpage above respectively, some of the other main sights around and near to Parliament Square are shown in the thumbnail gallery below and subsequently described (click on an image to enlarge):

Overlooking Parliament Square [Photo 1, above], is St Margaret’s Church [Photo2]. This 15th century church is located adjacent to Westminster Abbey and several notable people have been marriedhere, including Sir Winston Churchill. William Caxton (who set up the first printing press in England) and the explorer Sir Walter Raleigh are buried here. Perhaps one of the most pleasurable sights around parliament Square taken in during this particular visit to London was Central Hall [Photos 3-6]. Far from the madding crowd of tourists, it was possible to walk inside this gem of a building and take an impromptu guided tour which included a visit onto the building’s balcony, overlooking Westminster Abbey from the sort of angle worthy of a postcard or the cover of a souvenir guidebook. Central Hall was in itself fascinating. It is a large assembly hall built in Viennese Baroque style and was funded by a collection amongst members of the Methodist Church to celebrate the centenary of their founder, John Wesley (1703-91). Inside, a collection of bound volumes records the names of every single person whom contributed either directly or as a remembered pauper towards the sum placed upon followers to help pay for the construction of the hall. There have been several major events held here. Possibly one of the most significant in the history of Global Affairs was the first ever sitting of the United Nations and the minutes of this meeting are proudly on display [photo 5]. As well as major public inquiries, the BBC has also broadcast its New Year’s television spectaculars from inside this fine hall. To the south of Parliament Square lies the Jewel Tower [Photo 7]. It wasbuilt for King Edward III in 1365-66 by Henry Yevele, the ‘deviser of the King’s works of masonry’ and formed part of the king’s palace, serving as a private treasury to protect his valuables. The Jewel Tower represents an isolated survivor of the 1834 fire. Today, there is a museum about the history of parliament housed inside. Parliament Square is also a place where several statues of prominent figures may be seen, including the UK’s wartime leader, Sir Winston Churchill [Photo 8] and Nelson Mandela [Photo 9]. An easy to miss place located through what may appear to be an official gateway adjacent to the western end of Westminster Abbey leads into Dean’s Yard [Photos 10 and 11]. The buildings around this secluded square were used by monks before the times of Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries during the 1530’s when their school here was closed. However, in 1560, a new school was founded at the site by Elizabeth I, namely Westminster School; one of the nation’s most prestigious public schools. Finally, another main sight to see around Parliament Square stands right outside the ‘new’ Palace of Westminster, and that is the statue of Oliver Cromwell [Photo 12]. Contrary to the mainstay of British political history, Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) presided over England’s only republic, which resulted from the Civil War. Cromwell was lavishly buried in Westminster Abbey initially, although when the monarchy was restored in 1660, his body was taken to Tyburn and he was hung as a criminal. Although Cromwell is thought to have died from septicaemia in 1658, he is one of only a few people whom has been executed posthumously. Bizarre. Welcome to England.

Tate Britain

Located at Millbank on the northern bank of the river Thames, Tate Britain (formerly known simply as the Tate Gallery) is an art gallery which originated through the generosity of English sugar merchant and philanthropist, Sir Henry Tate. Built in 1897 and since extended, it houses collections of British paintings and sculptures from the 16th century and of foreign art from 1800. Tate Britain is particularly noted for its works by Turner, Blake and the modern French painters. The gallery is also noted for its many temporary retrospective exhibitions.

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace has been the London residence of British sovereigns since 1837. It was formerly owned by the dukes of Buckingham and purchased in 1761 by King George III. In 1825, the property was remodelled into a 600-room palace by the architect John Nash. Sir Aston Webb redesigned the east front in 1913. The changing of the guard takes place here daily.

Tate Modern

     

The Tate Modern, as well as the following three London sites shown on this webpage (Shakespeare's Globe, Golden Hinde II and The Shard), is located on the south bank of the river Thames. This gallery is affiliated with Tate Britain (see just further up this webpage) and is one of the most modern and exciting galleries in London. It is housed in the old riverside Bankside power station; a further expansion took place in 2016 with the inclusion of the Switch House (to right of righthand photo, above) to the galleries. Tate Modern is large enough to house huge installations and provides a large open internal space for a large collection of international modern art. Works on show here include those by Dali, Picasso, Matisse and Warhol, as well as those by renowned contemporary artists. Although displays are frequently changed, including those associated with the Turner Prize, there are several permanent exhibits of note. These include Picasso’s Three Dancers, The Snail by Matisse, Roy Lichtenstein’s Whaam!, Summertime No. 9A by Jackson Pollock, Mondrian’s Composition B (No. II) with Red and The Reckless Sleeper by René Magritte.

Shakespeare's Globe

The Globe Theatre was built in 1599 by William Shakespeare's playing company, the Lord Chamberlain's Men, on land which was owned by Thomas Brend. The theatre was able to seat an audience of 3000 people with a further 1000 standing in the 'Yard'. Shakespeare wanted to make his plays accessible to as many people as possible with respect to social class and so poorer people stood, whilst the richer people could sit in seats with cushioned chairs. In 1613, the Globe Theatre was destroyed by fire. By the following year, a second theatre had been built on the site, although this closed in 1642. Although plenty of drawings survived through to the modern age, it is not entirely known by historians what the interior looked like. Evidence, however, comes in the form of written descriptions, details from the building’s contracts, drawings from the interiors of other theatres from the same time and clues in the plays which were written to be performed here. Archaeological excavations in 1989 at the site revealed the building to be in the shape of a 20-sided polygon 100 feet (30m) across. Today a modern reconstruction of the Globe Theatre can be seen on the south bank of the river. Named "Shakespeare's Globe", it is constructed of oak, thatch and 36,000 handmade bricks and is approximately 750 feet (230m) from the site of the original theatre. Opening in 1997, the theatre's reconstruction was a project started by the American actor, director and producer, Sam Wanamaker, who set up the Globe Theatre Trust aimed at bringing it back to life. Alas, Wanamaker passed away before the new Globe was finished. The centre of the theatre is uncovered, so performances do not take place all year round, although an exhibition is available for all seasons. The performances of Shakespeare's plays are popular, with the open-air theatre containing seating in three tiers around the sides and standing in the central courtyard, as it would have been. For those wishing to see year round performances however, the adjacent Sam Wanamaker Playhouse provides this option; this building is based on the designs of early 17th century-style indoor playhouses.

Golden Hinde II

     

Located on the south bank of the Thames is a full-size replica of the Golden Hind, the ship in which Sir Francis Drake circumnavigated the world from 1577 to 1580. The original Golden Hind was previously known as Pelican, but was renamed by Drake mid-voyage in 1578, in honour of his patron, Sir Christopher Hatton, whose crest was a golden 'hind' (a female red deer). Hatton was one of the main sponsors of Drake's world voyage. This reconstruction was built by traditional methods in Appledore, Devon, and launched in 1973. It has since made its own voyages around the world, having travelled more than 140,000 miles (225,000km) and has been berthed at St Mary Overie Dock, in Bankside, Southwark since 1996. The replica ship is open to the public and hosts a range of educational activities.

The Shard

The Shard is a 1,004 foot (306m) tall skyscraper rising from London Bridge station on the south bank of the river. Designed by the architect Renzo Piano, this glass spire gave the city skyline a new defining point. At the time of writing, the 95-storey building is the tallest in Western Europe. It houses offices, restaurants and a hotel. There is an observation deck on the 72nd floor (‘The View from the Shard”) and if visibility (as measured from 5 key London landmarks) is poor, it is possible to visit again, at no extra charge. Some photos from “The View” are shown in the thumbnail gallery below (click on an image to expand):

Harrods

Harrods is a famous upmarket department store on Brompton Road in Knightsbridge. Whilst the brand also applies to several other business enterprises, the store, for which the name is most commonly associated, stands on a 5 acre (20,000m²) site. There are some 330 departments covering one million square feet (90,000m²) of retail space. It is claimed to be the largest department store in Europe and over the years, built up a reputation for the claim that if they didn’t stock it, they would be able to source it for the customer. Harrods was founded in 1834 by Charles Henry Harrod. During the 20th century, the organisation purchased other stores in the country. Department store holding company House of Fraser bought Harrods in 1959 and in 1985, it was famously sold to the Egyptian business magnate Mohamed Al-Fayed (whose son, Dodi, died in the car crash in Paris with Diana, Princess of Wales). Harrods department store was sold in 2010 to Qatar Investment Authority (QIA). The department store is popular during the festive period and is known at this time of year for its window displays, decorative lights and annual Christmas bears.

The Embassy of Ecuador

The Embassy of Ecuador in London

Not so much of a tourist site, The Embassy of Ecuador in London is the diplomatic mission of Ecuador in the United Kingdom. It is located near Harrods (See above) in a building it shares with the Embassy of Colombia. The author of this webpage took a look at the outside of the building, whilst in the area, out of pure curiosity. This was because the embassy here has been known as the long-time home of the Australian editor, activist, publisher and journalist Julian Assange. Assange, co-founder of WikiLeaks, entered the Ecuadorean Embassy on 19 June 2012 claiming diplomatic asylum, after being wanted in Sweden for questioning over four alleged sexual offences. At the time of writing (July 2018), over six years later, he is still living in this relatively small space and has not stepped outside. There was no sign of him at the window, although he has been known to make appearances on the balcony at times.

The Royal Albert Hall

The Royal Albert Hall is situated in an area of London nicknamed "Albertopolis". Centred on Exhibition Road, this area is in South Kensington, split between the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and the City of Westminster, and the area bordered by Kensington Road to the north and Cromwell Road to the south. Albertopolis is the location of many important cultural, scientific and educational sites. As well as the Royal Albert Hall, sites include Imperial College, the Science Museum, the Natural History Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum. The latter four are shown in the next four sections of this webpage respectively.

     

Built from 1867-1871, the Royal Albert Hall (simply known as the Albert Hall) is a distinctive nearly circular building, designed to resemble a Roman amphitheatre. When Queen Victoria laid the foundation stone for what was to be The Hall of Arts and Sciences, she put the words "Royal Albert" before its name, a reference to her spouse, Prince Albert, who died in 1861. Around the outside, beneath the roof, can be seen a great mosaic frieze, depicting "The Triumph of Arts and Sciences" - a reference to the Hall's dedication (detail shown above, left). The atmosphere inside makes the main auditorium, which can seat up to 5,272 people, a terrific venue for all manner of events from circuses to film premieres and music concerts. Perhaps one of the most famous of these are the Proms concerts (the popular name for the Sir Henry Wood Promenade Concerts), which have been held here annually each summer since 1941. For those not attending a show here, inside there is a café and shop area (from which guided tours are available). In this area can be seen a large mural by Pop Artist Sir Peter Blake, titled Appearing at the Royal Albert Hall. The mural (shown above, right) was unveiled in April 2014 and shows more than 400 famous figures who have appeared on stage in the hall. Blake co-designed the album cover for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, the eighth studio album by the Beatles. For those familiar with the album cover, similarities can be seen in the style of this mural on display here.

Imperial College

Also located on Exhibition Road in South Kensington is the main entrance to the main campus of Imperial College London. Imperial College is a large university specialising in business, engineering, medicine and science. It was a constituent college of the University of London until 2007, when it became fully independent; this year marking the 100th anniversary of its founding. The faculty and alumni include 15 Nobel laureates and academically speaking, it consistently ranks amongst one of the best universities, not only in the UK, but globally.

The Science Museum

Continuing with London’s main sites centred on Exhibition Road in the area nicknamed "Albertopolis", The Science Museum is the most visited science and technology museum in Europe, attracting 3.3 million visitors annually. It was founded in 1857 and there are over 15,000 items on display, including world-famous objects such as Stephenson’s Rocket (an early locomotive which became the template for most steam engines for the following 150 years), the Apollo 10 command capsule (from the fourth manned mission in the United States Apollo space programme, and the second, after Apollo 8, to orbit the Moon), the first jet engine and a working example of Charles Babbage's Difference engine. Due to the sheer size of the collection (over 300,000 items), not everything is on display. The museum is made up of a number of permanent (and temporary) galleries, each named, including The East Hall (focussing on ‘Power’ and mostly filled with iconic steam engines of various sorts), Exploring Space, Making the Modern World, Flight, Launchpad, Media Space, Information Age and Engineer your Future (a gallery that aims to inspire school children to go into careers in engineering). Like other publicly funded national museums in the UK, admission is free (with paid-for temporary exhibitions). The museum is part of the Science Museum Group, having merged in 2012 with the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester.

Natural History Museum

     

The Natural History Museum, located in South Kensington, is the principal centre in the United Kingdom for research into animal and plant taxonomy. A popular attraction for visitors from all over the World, it houses vast collections of animals preserved by taxidermy. These include a blue whale (the largest of all animals). Also on display here are animal and plant fossils and reconstructions, and ores, rocks and meteorites. In total, there are some 80 million items housed here, within five main collections: botany, entomology, mineralogy, palaeontology and zoology. The museum also contains an extensive library, housing journals, manuscripts, and artwork collections linked to the work and research of the scientific departments, although access to this is by appointment only. Admission to the museum is free; it is an exempt charity and a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. The building, sometimes dubbed a ‘cathedral of nature’, stands along Exhibition Road, although its main frontage is on Cromwell Road. In essence, the Natural History Museum came about as the result of recognising a need for a separate building for the British Museum’s ever-growing collection of natural history specimens. In 1864, a competition to design a new building was won by the architect Francis Fowke. Fowke had previously designed the Royal Albert Hall and parts of the Victoria and Albert Museum. Unfortunately, he died a year later and the relatively unknown Alfred Waterhouse took over, coming up with a new plan for the South Kensington site. Waterhouse’s design used terracotta for the entire building, as this was a longer-lasting material for coping with the conditions of Victorian London. The result of his design was one of the UK’s most impressive examples of Romanesque architecture. The building is considered a work of art in its own right and has become one of London’s most iconic landmarks. For those interested in this particular style of architecture, but not Natural History, the museum is still well worth visiting. For those interested in both disciplines, the visitor is in for a real treat.

Victoria and Albert Museum

Billed as “The World's Leading Museum Of Art And Design”, the Victoria and Albert Museum (or V&A for short) is indeed the largest museum in this field to be found anywhere in the world. The museum was founded in 1852 and named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. It houses a permanent collection of over 4.5 million objects. The items on display here span some 5000 years of art in virtually every medium up until the present day. Represented are the cultures of Europe, North America, Asia and North Africa and so the V&A collection is amongst the largest and most comprehensive in the world. Themuseum is split into four departments and within these are the following collections: Architecture (in an annex of the Royal Institute of British Architects, Asia, British Galleries, Ceramics, Childhood, Contemporary, Fashion & Jewellery, Furniture, Glass, Metalwork, Paintings & Drawings, Photography, Prints & Books, Sculpture, Textiles and finally, Theatre. Spread over 12½ acres (5ha) are 145 galleries which, given the sheer size of the collection, only display a small percentage of it at any time. The museum is sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and like other national British museums, admission has been free since 2001. Since the same year, a £150m renovation programme has seen major improvements to the galleries and amenities.

Shopping in London

     

Above: Oxford Street (Left) and Regent Street (Right), two of a number of major shopping streets in London. The two streets meet at Oxford Circus.

London is one of few cities in the world classed as a global city (also called a world city or sometimes an alpha city or world centre). This refers to its position as a primary hub in the global economic network. With all the commerce, sheer size of the urban area and international connections, as one might imagine, it is a shopper's paradise. In fact, Forbes Magazine reports that London has outlets for 60% of all the world's top retailers, well ahead of Paris which comes second according to their criteria in terms of choice. From large department stores to small specialist outlets, London has it all. Many department stores may be found along Oxford Street and Regent Street. Famous more central stores in London include Fortnum & Mason (which has a luxury food hall on the ground floor, fine wines in the basement and designer fashion and gifts on the upper floors), department stores (such as Debenhams, John Lewis, House of Fraser, Marks & Spencer and Selfridges), Hamleys (London’s largest and the world’s oldest toy store), Liberty (for fashions, beauty, home-ware, fabrics, home furnishings or gifts) and Foyles (on Charing Cross Road and the largest bookshop in Britain, making it a Mecca for any bibliophile). Tottenham Court road is known for its electrical and computer stores. Smaller streets include Denmark Street (for its musical instruments and music shops), Bond Street (known for its up-market drapers and tailors), Savile Row (for famous tailors and shirt-makers) and Carnaby Street (known for its hip trendy boutiques). Further afield are the Covent Garden area (for small delis and a range of other small specialist outlets - see towards the top of this webpage), Knightsbridge - location of Harrods (see further up on this webpage) and the designer emporium Harvey Nichols, the trendsetting King's Road in Chelsea, Borough Market (London’s oldest food market), Portobello Road (West London’s liveliest street known for its stalls selling a mixture of antiques and bric-a-brac) and Camden Market (a very busy place to pick up street fashions, world crafts and the like). The list of shopping localities and outlets in London given here on this webpage could go on and on, and is far from exhaustive.

On the subject of Shopping in London, a special mention must go to Stanfords (shown above). Located near Covent Garden Underground Station on Long Acre, this is one of this website author’s most favourite visited shops anywhere. It is billed as the ‘World’s biggest and best map and travel bookshop’ and many a time has been spent by the author here seeking inspiration (and spending money) for travel ideas, several of which have resulted in visiting places featured in this website’s Travel section.

Broadcasting House

     

Broadcasting House is located in Portland Place, just north of Oxford Circus, where Oxford and Regent Streets meet. This is the headquarters of the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation). As well as housing television and radio studios, it contains the offices of key figures within the organisation, such as the Director General. The original Grade II listed building was completed in 1932 (8 years after the founding of the corporation) and was designed by architect George Val Myer in collaboration with the BBC's civil engineer, M T Tudsbery. From 2003, a two-phase renovation of the site took place, beginning with a much-needed renovation of the original building and a new wing to the east, followed by the creation of the large wing to the rear of the building, joining the two parts, and the creation of a plaza between them. Since 1960, the headquarters of BBC Television had been on a different site (Television Centre) in White City. In March 2013, the first news programmes began to be broadcast from the site here, on Portland Place, marking its newly rediscovered status as the heart of one of Britain’s most famous institutions (known affectionately as ‘Auntie’ and also nicknamed the ‘Beeb’). By the main entrance is a café with window views - perhaps somewhere a bit different to sit with a coffee and people watch.

St Paul’s Cathedral

St Paul’s Cathedral was built in 1675-1710 and is Britain’s only cathedral constructed in the Classical style. It was erected on the site of a medieval cathedral which was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666, with the building's first service taking place in 1697. St Paul’s is a Protestant cathedral and was famously designed by the architect Sir Christopher Wren in the shape of a Latin cross, containing a large circular space at the crossing where eight piers support the great dome. The towers are influenced by the Baroque style, as are the main façade and other elements within the design, which has many similarities with St Peter's in Rome. Events in the history of the cathedral include the execution of the Gunpowder Plotters in the churchyard (1606), World War II bombing (1940), the funerals of Nelson, the Duke of Wellington and Winston Churchill, the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer and the Diamond Jubilees of Queen Victoria (1897) and Elizabeth II (2012). One of the cathedral bells, Great Paul, was the largest in Europe until the bell cast for the London 2012 Olympics. Another bell, Great Tom, strikes every hour and is also rung to mark the death of royalty as well as senior officials of the church. Inside the cathedral are several points of interest. The dome contains the famous Whispering Gallery known so because when whispering words into the wall on one side, another person may hear the sounds of these on the opposite side. The Stone Gallery and smaller Golden Gallery at the top of the dome offer great panoramic views of London. The cathedral's organ dates from 1695 and has been played by both Handel and Mendelssohn. St Paul's contains many other points of interest including the Italian marble high altar, several notable paintings and mosaics. There are also monuments and memorials in abundance here, including St Paul's Watch Memorial, the American Memorial, John Donne's Memorial, the Gallipoli Memorial, the Churchill Memorial Gates, The Worshipful Company of Masons Memorial, the OBE Chapel and the tombs of the Duke of Wellington, Admiral Lord Nelson, the painter JMW Turner and last but not least, the tomb of Sir Christopher Wren himself.

The Tower of London

The Tower of London is a fortress on the northern bank of the River Thames. The original keep, or White Tower, was begun by William the Conqueror in 1078 on the site of previous British and Roman fortifications. King Richard I added concentric curtain walls with towers at intervals. Later monarchs, including Henry VIII,made further additions to the building. The Tower, as it is commonly known, once housed the Royal Mint and was also a royal residence for centuries. The fortress is famously known as a place imprisonment for state offenders; Henry VIII sent two of his wives to their deaths on Tower Green. As well as Henry VIII's beheaded wives (Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard), famous Tower prisoners included the Bishop of Durham, Henry VI (during the Wars of the Roses), Sir Thomas Moore, the Little Princes, Lady Jane Grey, Guy Fawkes and the final prisoner to be kept here, Hitler's deputy, Rudolf Hess. The Tower is now a barracks and an armoury, and houses the British Crown Jewels. It is guarded by "Beefeaters" (Yeomen of the Guard) whom can be seen here in their traditional Tudor uniform. Other sights to look out for include the Chapel of St John the Evangelist, the Traitors' Gate (a water gate in the outer wall which was used to bring many prisoners to the tower), the Bloody and the Beauchamp Towers, and also the ravens; there are seven ravens in residence here, looked after by the Ravenmaster. It is said that when these birds leave the Tower, the building and the British monarchy will fall.

Tower Bridge

And finally, last but not least on this webpage, a photograph above of one of London's iconic symbols, Tower Bridge. Spanning the River Thames, this cantilever bridge was built by Sir Horace Jones between 1886 and 1894. It has twin Gothic towers and a double-leaf bascule mechanism which opens up to provide a 250 foot (76m) gap. During earlier times, when the need for ships bringing cargo in and out of the city was greater, the bridge was constantly being raised and lowered. However, pedestrians would still be able to cross the river, by climbing the 200 steps of each tower to the walkways high above the river. Today, tourists are able to enjoy the 90-minute Tower Bridge Exhibition tour, ascending the tower on the northern bank of the river, taking in spectacular panoramic views of the city 140 feet (42m) up, crossing over and descending on the southern bank, where it is possible to see the large engine room before the obligatory souvenir shop on the way out.

Page Addendum (November 2018)

Trellick Tower

It is a given fact that as there is so much to see in London and in November 2018, another trip further to the above was made to see a couple of other sights - one maybe not so well known and one regarding a certain literary figure known the world over…

 

First off, the author of this website, having a keen interest in Brutalist architecture (think concrete) took a spontaneous walk up to Trellick Tower, via a few other "carbuncles", walking under the equally concreted Westway (A40 road) of London. After taking in skateboard parks, magnificent street art and not stepping on pigeons, a visit was made up to the base of this 31 storey, 322 feet (98m) tall structure which imposes itself amongst the surrounding cityscape. Trellick Tower, is a Grade II listed tower block on the Cheltenham Estate in Kensal Town and is formally known as “Trellick Tower Cheltenham Estate”. At the time of its completion in June, 1972, high-rise apartments and Brutalist architecture were falling out of favour. The building became a magnet for crime, vandalism, drug abuse and prostitution. The author first visited the building in the early 1990’s, whereby it was possible to simply walk into its iconic separated lift shaft and ascend the structure in a lift characterised by strange smells,  naïve graffiti and concerns about risks to personal health and safety. The fortunes of the tower improved from after the 1980’s, with the establishment of a residents' association and the later addition of security measures and employment of a concierge, leading into a reduction in crime. In the last decade of the 20th century, it became a more desirable residence, despite still being dominated by social housing. Private residences here have now been in greater demand, with this reduction in crime, people seeking a property in a much more attractive location than it was in the past and at an address known to many to be within an iconic building which has become familiar through films, television and music videos.

On arrival, it was discovered that this Grade II listed building is currently being refurbished, with (thankfully) no changes to its outside appearance. Where some people see an ugly building, I see pure beauty. Trellick Tower was designed by Hungarian-born architect Ernő Goldfinger. It is the case that Ian Fleming decided to name his James Bond villain “Goldfinger” after him with objections to the foreigner’s modern architectural ideas. Ernő started to consult lawyers about Fleming’s use of his name and wanted to sue. The case was dropped, with agreement, when Fleming simply responded by suggesting he rename his latest Bond novel from “Goldfinger” to that of a newly suggested named villain called “Goldprick”. The original title was left, much to the excitement of Burley Chassis fans, the world over. There is another similar building in London - Balfron Tower, a 26 storey 276-foot (84m) tall residential structure also designed by Goldfinger in the Brutalist style and located in Poplar, East London. Balfron is also characterised by having a separate lift shaft set aside from the main structure - perhaps another site to take photographs of sometime in the future. Some more photographs from the visit to Trellick Tower and nearby city scenes may be seen in the thumbnail gallery below (click on an image to enlarge):

Further urban exploration ensued, including a phone box which has an ATM and phone on the outside and is not really a box anymore and then to 221B Baker Street, to visit Sherlock Holmes’ pad. I love Sherlock as he looks for clues, whereby I simply do not have one myself at all…

The Sherlock Holmes Museum

Touted as the most famous address in the world, 221b Baker Street, London, is the location of the Sherlock Holmes Museum. It was at Apartment 221b where the fictional private "consulting detective" Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson lived, according to the stories written by British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The museum here is in the form of a house recreating the detective and his sidekick's imagined dwelling and office. Complete with staff in Victorian attire and available in situ literature, expect to be taken into a world presenting a factual history of real life events with no apparent disclaimer or small print given that the events of the past, as inspiring and imaginative as they may be, were actually a complete work of fiction. Photographs from the visit to this bizarre tourist site are shown below:

 
     
 
     
 

A final photo here (below) is of London’s Madame Tussauds, which for over 250 years has enthralled and entertained guests with incredible life-like wax figures of some of the world’s most famous faces. Located on Marylebone Road, not too far from the Sherlock Holms Museum, here is a flagship attraction now emulated in 23 other cities around the world. For further information, click on the external link Here (Wikipedia article). The British Museum is a lot cheaper to visit.

Index of Attractions on this Webpage

Click on any of the below to jump up the page to the relevant section (then click back to return to this index):

British Library
British Museum
Broadcasting House
Buckingham Palace
Covent Garden
Embassy of Ecuador
Golden Hinde II
Harrods
Houses of Parliament, The
Imperial College
Leicester Square
London Eye
Madame Tussauds
National Gallery
National Portrait Gallery
Natural History Museum
Parliament Square
Piccadilly Circus
Royal Albert Hall, The
Science Museum
Shakespeare's Globe
Shard, The
Sherlock Holmes Museum, The
Shopping in London
St Pancras International Station
St Paul's Cathedral
Tate Britain
Tate Modern
Tower Bridge
Tower of London, The
Trafalgar Square
Trellick Tower
Victoria and Albert Museum
West End Theatres
Westminster Abbey
Whitehall

References and Further Reading

1. Ackroyd, P. (2009). London. London: Vintage.
2. Boswell, J. and Hibbert, C. (2003). Life of Samuel Johnson. London: Penguin.
3. Cook, S., Fry, H., McQuillian, N., Norman, M. and Park, A. (n.d.). The rough guide to London.
4. Coppock, Simon. and Bouteba, Miriam. (2017). TIME OUT LONDON CITY GUIDE. [S.l.]: CRIMSON PUBLISHING.
5. Harper, D., Dragicevich, P., Fallon, S. and Filou, E. (2018). London. Footscray, Vic.: Lonely Planet.
6. Harwood, E. and Saint, A. (1991). London. London: HMSO Books.
7. Hedley, O. (1976). Her Majesty's Tower of London. London: Pitkin Pictorials.
8. Howard, R., Nash, B., Rivoal, S., Monedero, J. and Tucker, A. (n.d.). Secret London.
9. Pepys, S. and Latham, R. (2003). The diaries of Samuel Pepys. London: Penguin.
10. Ring, T. and Salkin, R. (n.d.). International dictionary of historic places. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn
11. Tanner, L. (1965). Westminster Abbey. London: Pitkin Pictorials.
12. Williams, R. (2017). Top 10 London. London: Dorling Kindersley Publications.

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