Things to Do in London - page 3
Once the center of London’s newspaper industry, Fleet Street is one of the city’s most storied locations. At the top of the street you’ll find the Royal Courts of Justice, the UK’s highest court, also known as Old Bailey. Also here is the historic Temple Church—built by the Knights Templar and featured in Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code.
Lined with grand Victorian buildings and big-name stores, Regent Street was London's first dedicated shopping street, dating back to the early 19th century. Running for over a mile (2 kilometers) between Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Circus, the historical boulevard is a major traffic thoroughfare and one of London's busiest streets.
Opened in 1871 by Queen Victoria and named after her husband, London’s Royal Albert Hall has played host to countless concerts, award ceremonies, and banquets. The domed red-brick auditorium is best known for the Proms, a long-running series of informal and inexpensive concerts designed to make classical music accessible to all.
Home to England’s greatest collection of paintings, the London National Gallery's pantheon-style facade looms over London’s Trafalgar Square. With a storied history dating back to 1824, it’s no wonder this is one of the most-visited art museums in the world.
Amid the blur of traffic of one of central London’s busiest intersections—the meeting point of Oxford Street, Park Lane, and Edgware Road—the grand Marble Arch is one of the city’s most striking landmarks, and it boasts an impressive royal history.
Built upon one of London’s oldest Roman roads, Oxford Street is now Europe’s most famous retail avenue. An array of major outlets and boutiques cater to about a half million shoppers each day. The street’s history, architecture, and Christmas light displays also draw all manner of visitors to the capital.
Leadenhall Market itself dates back to the 14th century, while its City of London location has links to Roman Londinium (AD 43). The ornate structure of today was designed by Sir Horace Jones in 1881, though the market has since swapped meat trade for modern retail, and adopted an alter ego as Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter film series.
A highlight of London’s vibrant South Bank, the Royal Festival Hall has been a cultural powerhouse since its debut in 1951, and is considered one of the world’s leading performance venues. Housed in a Grade I–listed building overlooking the Thames, the 2,700-seat auditorium hosts a regular program of concerts and other events.
Housed inside a gigantic Victorian-era edifice, this treasure trove of a museum holds 80 million specimens, including fossils, minerals, bones, insects, and taxidermy. Visitors can come face to face with a huge animatronic Tyrannosaurus rex at the Dinosaur Encounter exhibit, see a live leafcutter ant colony at work at the Creepy Crawlies gallery, and experience the sensation of the earth’s shaking at the earthquake simulator.
Once a Tudor palace, Somerset House was redesigned by Sir William Chambers in 1776 as part of the city’s infrastructural improvements. Now a creative and cultural hub offering shows and activities year-round, the building is also known to have appeared in the Sherlock Holmes and James Bond films, among others.
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The National Maritime Museum explores the naval and maritime history of Britain, which was for centuries one of the world’s leading sea powers. The exhibitions showcase everything from real-life vessels and model ships to nautical instruments, objects, manuscripts, and maritime-themed artworks from the likes of J.M.W. Turner.
The famous former residence of the infamous King Henry VIII, Hampton Court is one of the king’s two remaining palaces and one of the grandest castles in England, having once been planned to rival the Palace of Versailles in France. Today, visitors can explore the castle interior, which showcases two architectural styles (the Tudor palace of Henry VIII and the baroque palace of William III), stroll through its massive hedge maze, see the historic tennis court, and view the largest grape vine in the world. Don’t miss the State Apartments’ royal bedrooms and galleries, the Tudor kitchens, Chapel Royal, or the medieval Great Hall, which has been in continuous use for more than 450 years.
Pop pilgrims flock to this black-and-white-striped crosswalk in north London for the ultimate photo opportunity. Day in, day out, Beatles fans can be seen trying to recreate the iconic 1969 Abbey Road album cover at this pedestrian crossing—their movements broadcast to the world via live webcam. Nearby lies Abbey Road Studios, where the Beatles recorded many of their hits.
Built by Charles Henry Harrod in 1834 and now owned by Qatar Holdings, Harrods is London’s largest and most iconic department store. With 330 different departments spread over seven floors, it’s a top choice for shoppers, selling everything from luxury souvenirs and gourmet British foods to renowned designer brands and stylish homewares.
The third theater to have stood on this Covent Garden site, the Victorian-era Royal Opera House (ROH) was given a major facelift at the turn of the 21st century. The landmark venue now hosts performances by two of the United Kingdom’s most prestigious companies: the Royal Ballet and the Royal Opera.
Graffiti-lined Brick Lane has long been an immigrant neighborhood, having hosted French Huguenot, Irish, Jewish, and—most recently—Bangladeshi communities. The string of curry houses at its southern end specialize in Indian and South Asian cuisine, while farther north, retro clothing shops, cafés, and bars dominate the scene.
As the grand centerpiece of Hyde Park Corner, Wellington Arch is among London’s most viewed landmarks, but it’s also possible to explore inside the historic monument. Built for George IV between 1826 and 1830 to commemorate the British victories in the Napoleonic Wars, the Wellington Arch was originally intended to stand at the entrance to Buckingham Palace.
A short stroll from both Hyde Park and Green Park, the Arch offers great views over the royal parks and nearby Buckingham Palace, as well as making a great spot from which to watch the daily Changing of the Guards ceremony – the mounted Horse Guards pass right beneath the arch. Visitors can also enjoy three floors of exhibitions telling the story of the arch’s history and the Battle of Waterloo.
Opening its doors back in 2002, the glass-fronted, semi-spherical London City Hall marked a new dawn of London’s governance, providing a sleek, modernist façade for the London Assembly. The building alone is impressive, a geometrical masterpiece designed by architect Sir Norman Foster (who also designed the nearby Gherkin) and featuring eco-friendly natural ventilation, lighting movement sensors and solar panelling, as well as a dramatic transparent spiral stairwell that dominates the interior and climbs all ten stories.
The landmark building now not only serves as the official headquarters of the Mayor of London, but as a public exhibition and meeting space, including an open-air observation deck and free Wi-Fi to all visitors.
Few British royals were as universally adored as Princess Diana, the affectionately nicknamed ‘People’s Princess’, and the Diana Memorial Fountain is just one of the many tributes and memorials erected in her name after her untimely death back in 1997.
Opened by Her Majesty The Queen in 2004, the unique water feature is the design of Kathryn Gustafson and represents Diana’s life, quality and openness, a continuous circle of flowing water, crafted from Cornish granite and crossed by three bridges. The memorial fountain lies on the route of the Princess Diana Memorial Walk, an 11km circular trail running through five of London’s royal parks and linking sights like Kensington Palace, Buckingham Palace and the Princess Diana Memorial Playground.
Madame Tussauds may have branches around the globe, but its London wax museum is the birthplace of it all, with a history dating back almost 250 years. The ever-expanding collection of wax figures features everyone from Hollywood movie stars, pop icons, and record-breaking Olympians to politicians, historic figures, and members the British royal family. The museum’s fun, interactive exhibitions are sure to entertain the whole family.
Made up of Camden Lock Market, Camden Stables Market, and Camden Canal Market, the area known as Camden Market is the largest collection of street vendors in the United Kingdom. In continuous operation since the 1970s, the market draws crowds of visitors who come to explore the huge variety of unusual stalls and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere.
Built in 1608 by William the Conqueror on the banks of the River Avon, Warwick Castle was and still is one of England’s most magnificent medieval castles. Now a historical theme park run by Merlin Entertainments, it’s a full-on medieval experience filled with fascinating exhibits, interactive tours, and activities for the whole family.
Packed with cultural hot spots and boasting a uniquely laid-back atmosphere, the South Bank district is a must for anyone curious about London life. Locals and visitors alike stroll the riverbank for striking views of Westminster and beyond, or pop into any of the museums, galleries, theaters, or pubs for which the area is famous.
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