London attracts millions of tourists and visitors each year and is quite often dubbed as the ‘Most Popular‘ tourist location in the world. It boasts many tourist attractions and is even the home to royalty and the rich and famous. In this post, we’ve managed to whittle down our list of London’s top landmarks and monuments to a list of what you must see when you make a visit to the City!
1. Coca Cola London Eye (Lambeth)
The Coca Cola London Eye was officially opened by, then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, on the 31st December 1999 to mark the new Millennium; gaining its then name, The Millennium Wheel. It was not open to the public until March 2000 due to technical problems with the wheels clutch.
Over the years that it has stood tall, the giant Ferris Wheel has had many names including, the EDF Energy London Eye and the Merlin Entertainments London Eye.
The wheel previously held the record for the highest public viewing platform in London until it was overtaken by the observation deck on the 72nd floor of The Shard. There is a total of 32 sealed ovoidal passenger capsules which each weigh 10 tonnes.
When guests are entering and exiting the London Eye, the wheel does not normally come to a stop; it goes slow enough to let people get on and off safely. The wheel does, however, stop to allow disabled and elderly passengers to get on and off safely.
2. Big Ben (City of Westminster)
Despite being known as the clock tower by the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben is officially the name of the great bell that hangs in the Elizabeth Tower, standing at the north end of the Houses of Parliament.
The tower was completed in 1859 with the bell itself taking 30 hours to winch up the tower. The bell was first heard on the 11th of July that year.
There are many theories as to why people think the bell was given the name ‘Big Ben’, one being that it was named after Ben Caunt, a championship heavyweight boxer of the 1850s.
Spanning over the River Thames between the City of London and Southwark, many bridges have been named ‘London Bridge.’ The current structure, which opened in 1973, is built from concrete and steel. This box girder bridge replaced a 19th century stone arch bridge; one of many bridges formerly in its place. At one point there was a 600-year-old, medieval stone-built bridge and prior to that a succession of timber bridges.
Designed by architect Lord Holford, the current London Bridge (modern London Bridge) started construction in 1967 and was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in March 1973
4. The Shard (Southwark)
Located in Southwark, The Shard is a 97-story tall building designed by Italian Architect Renzo Piano. It is currently the tallest building in the United Kingdom. It sits on the site formally housing Southwark Towers, an office block that stood only 24-stories tall.
Construction on the Shard started in March 2009 and took until 2012 to be topped off; it was then inaugurated on July 5th the same year.
There is a privately operated observation deck named ‘The View From The Shard’. There are 72 habitable floors which house restaurants and businesses including Tiffany &Co and the Office Group.
The total height of the building is 244 meters.
5. Buckingham Palace (City of Westminster)
Often the centre of state occasions, Buckingham Palace has been the focus of national rejoicing and mourning.
It was originally known as Buckingham House as the original building at the core of today’s palace was a large townhouse. It was acquired by King George III as a private residence for Queen Charlotte in 1761. It was then enlarged during the 19th century when three new wings and a central courtyard were constructed. More additions were made in the 19th and 20th century including the famous balcony on which the royal family stands to greet the crowds.
Buckingham Palace is one of the most recognisable symbols of British culture and is one of the homes Queen Elizabeth II resides in.
6.Kensington Palace (Kensington and Chelsea)
A Royal residence in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, set in the beautiful Kensington Gardens. It is currently the official residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Princess Eugenie and her husband, the Duke and Duchess of Kent, Prince and Princess Michael of Kent and the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester.
Originally a two-storey mansion in a Jacobean style built in 1605 by Sir George Coppin, Kensington Palace was purchased in 1619 by 1st Earl of Nottingham and became known as Nottingham House. In 1689, King William III and Queen Mary II brought the house and began an expansion instructed by Sir Christopher Wren, adding a three-story pavilion at each of the four corners of the original structure. Wren also reorientated the house to face west, building further north and south wings to border the entry.
The palace is surrounded by formal gardens and lawns set out at right angles in a Dutch fashion.
7. St Paul’s Cathedral (City of London)
St Paul’s Cathedral has stood for over 700 years.
The dedication to Paul the Apostle dates back to the original church that stood on the site which was founded in AD 604.
The current cathedral was designed by Sir Christopher Wren in a Baroque style. The dome is recognised as a symbol of London and is framed by the spires of Wren’s city churches. Many historical services have been held in the cathedral including the wedding of Prince Charles to the late Lady Diana Spencer and the funeral of Winston Churchill. It still plays host to daily services and hourly prayer.
8. Tower of London (Tower Hamlets)
The Tower of London was built in the 1070s by William the Conqueror to dominate the skyline and declare his royal power in the wake of his victory.
The tower took 20 years to build with Masons from Normandy using French stone and labour being mostly provided by English men. Throughout history, adaptations and developments have been made to the Tower such as enlarging the moat and adding a huge defensive wall.
The tower was transformed into England’s largest and strongest castle in the concentric style. Kings and Queens have used the Tower to protect their possessions and even themselves.
Today the Crown Jewels are locked away and protected by a garrison of soldiers. The Yeomen Warders, also known as Beefeaters guard, still carry out ceremonial duties.
9. Hyde Park (City of Westminster)
Established in 1536 by Henry VIII after taking the land from Westminster Abbey to be used as a hunting ground, Hyde Park is the largest of four royal parks.
Now, the park hosts many events including the very popular annual Winter Wonderland event that features rides, attractions and Christmas markets.
Speakers Corner in the park has a national reputation for demonstrations and other protests due to its tolerance for free speech.
In the 350 acres, there are over 4,000 trees, a flower garden, meadows and a large lake. While in the park you can forget that you are in the middle of the city.
Whatever season you visit in, there will be something to do.
10. Kew Gardens (Richmond Upon Thames)
Consisting of 132 hectares and formally starting in 1759, Kew Gardens houses one of the largest and most diverse botanical and mycological collections in the world. It has many features which can be enjoyed on a visit including a treetop walkway, Sackler crossing, alpine house and what is said to be the ‘world’s most important surviving Victorian glass and iron structure,’ the Palm House.
Kew Gardens has its own police force, the Kew Constabulary, which has been operational since 1847. This force has two sergeants and twelve officers.
What do you think of our list? We would love to see your pictures so make sure to tag us if you’ve visited any of these landmarks and monuments! If you think we’ve missed any must-see sights either, then let us know in the comments below!