Are you looking to visit London in the coming weeks? If so, you couldn’t choose a better time of year to do so. Prices are generally cheaper than during the spring and summer months and the temperatures are placid enough to enjoy both indoor and outdoor attractions. Speaking of which, here are the select few venues you absolutely must make time for…
Afternoon Tea at The Ritz
What better than to combine one of the most famous hotels in the world with one of the most famous of traditionally British rituals? That’s what you get when you pop into The Ritz and frequent the decorous beauty of its Palm Court for a deliciously indulgent afternoon tea, accompanied as you munch away on pristine sandwiches and sample exquisite cakes by a harpist, pianist or string quartet. Glorious.
Many automatically assume ‘Big Ben’ is the iconic clocktower that, steeple-like, rises up from the gloriously gothic Houses of Parliament high into the sky, but it’s actually the name of the bell inside the clocktower (the latter’s called Elizabeth Tower). Whatever, frankly; the overall site – and, in fact, Westminster in general – is a tremendous spot to get snap-happy. The best selfie vantage-point’s to be had standing on one of the pavements of Westminster Bridge with the clocktower behind you.
Maybe the most legendary of all of London’s historic sites, nay, all its buildings, Buck Palace is, of course, HM The Queen’s official residence in the capital. It’s true that, being in advanced age as she now is, she doesn’t actually visit it much nowadays (she tends to prefer Windsor Castle), but it still undoubtedly lives up to its picture-postcard image when you’ve strode down The Mall and it looms into view ahead of you – or, indeed, from whichever direction you’ve approached it; perhaps journeying from one of the hotels around Victoria Station London, for instance.
Kensington Gardens and Palace
Delightful and charming to the last, Kensington Gardens is full of colour, charisma and an exquisite Peter Pan-themed play-area for the little ones, while the Royal residence on its doorstep offers an unrivalled opportunity to wallow in the chic style of the Windsors and their recent forebears, having been home at one time or another to Queen Victoria, the Princesses Margaret and Diana and, currently, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry. It also puts on especially fascinating exhibitions drawn from the Royal Archives and an afternoon tea enjoyed in its Orangery is absolute bliss.
One of the capital’s – indeed, the entire UK’s – most popular attractions, this gigantic Ferris wheel that stands on the River Thames’ South Bank (opposite the Houses of Parliament) is a magnificent draw for millions of tourists from throughout the world every year. Offering up outstanding views of the entire capital, day and night, it’s arguably the perfect way to kick-off a first visit to the city, giving you the opportunity to orient yourself in the city in the most spectacular way.
London Transport Museum
Ever popular as a venue because it appeals to the little kid in all of us that’s simply fascinated by ‘things that go’, London’s museum officially dedicated to its distinguished history of public transport is jam-packed full of old-school buses, Tube trains, trams and charabancs, as well as a treasure trove of historic poster art and interactive exhibits to delight small ones. If you’re after a family-friendly day out then, this could prove perfect; not least because it’s centrally located and admission is free – ensuring it’s ideal if you’re staying at one of the cheap hotels near Victoria Station.
St Paul’s Cathedral
An utter icon of London Town (not least because it’s the official church of the city’s people), St Paul’s is, of course, the sumptuous cathedral with that *domed* roof that miraculously survived the bombing of The Blitz during World War Two and was designed and constructed by the legendary architect Sir Christopher Wren to replace its ancient forerunner that burnt down in the Great Fire of 1666. This place simply drips history.
Its gothic fortress-like look inspired by the medieval Tower just a short walk away, Tower Bridge is as much a monument to supreme Victorian architecture and construction as it is an aesthetically glorious crossing of one of the world’s most famous urban waterways. A part-bascule-bridge, part-suspension-bridge, its tour (which enables visitors to see all its innards and stride along its elevated walkways and take in quite the view) simply has to be done; it’s a fascinating insight into how this 123-year-old icon was so well designed that it still operates just as well today as the day it was opened.
The Tower of London
Simply the most historically resonant building in all London (if not the whole country), the Tower – as mentioned above – is so ancient it’s surely the oldest still standing in the city. Having served myriad functions throughout its millennium-long existence (fortress, palace, jewel depository, garrison, prison, execution site and even exotic zoo), it’s now one of the world’s leading visitor attractions, not least because it’s where Her Maj’s Crown Jewels are stored.
Finally, vying with the Tower in London’s age-old legendary building stakes, a place of worship has stood on the Abbey’s spot since the Anglo-Saxon age. The beautiful gothic masterpiece that’s occupied the site for much of the last millennium is the Church of England’s primary ceremonial venue, being the venue of every English and then British monarch’s coronation (since King William I) – aside from just one or two. It’s also the resting place of some of the nation’s most celebrated figures; former monarchs, poets, playwrights and unknown soldiers among them.