As a tourism destination, London is fantastic! There are so many great historic sites ...........and sights!!
Nearby, straddling the River Thames is Tower Bridge, the most recognisable bridge in the world, even if the people of San Francisco, New York and Sydney disagree. The fact that Tower Bridge has such an unique historic design, and is a bascule bridge, lifting in the middle, to allow shipping to pass, makes it instantly recognisable.
However, don't mention that fact to the Americans who purchased London Bridge to put in the Arizona Desert as a tourist attraction. They thought they were purchasing Tower Bridge! Oops!!
Next to Tower Bridge is the Tower of London, one of the most famous historic buildings in the world, dating back to William the Conqueror, who began building the oldest part, the White Tower, in 1078.
The Tower of London is forever linked with the British monarchy and Henry VIII , in particular. This is where two of his wives, Ann Boleyn and Catherine Howard, were executed.
Long before his time, there were the tragic little princes incarcerated in the Tower. Imagine if those walls could only speak!? Many a person has lost his or her head in the Tower of London. They did not mess around in the old days! If your face did not suit those in power.......it was removed!!
The Tower of London also house the priceless Crown Jewels, the most famous collection of crowns, sceptres and precious stones in the world. They are kept in the Jewel House.
Not too far away is Buckingham Palace, the chief Royal residence of the monarchs of the UK. The present Queen, Elizabeth II, resides here when she isn't in one of the other Royal residences, Windsor Castle, outside London; Sandringham in Norfolk or Balmoral in Scotland.
Tourists, from all over the world, flock in their tens of thousands to Buckingham Palace to take photographs, especially of the Changing the Guard ceremony outside the gates, which takes place at 11.30am daily....affairs of State and weather permitting.
The roads leading to Buckingham Palace ...The Mall, Buckingham Gate, Buckingham Palace Road, Constitution Hill and Birdcage Walk are important thoroughfares thronged with people on Royal occasions.
The funeral of Princess Diana, Princess of Wales, saw record crowds lining London's roads. It was a very emotional time, with the roads in front of Buckingham Palace and surrounding the Queen Victoria Memorial bedecked by tens of thousands of wreaths and bouquets of flowers. There was an outpouring of grief from people from all over the world on that unforgettable occasion.
St James's Park, a beautiful haven of peace, is in front of the palace. Tourists love
to feed the ducks and cheeky coots here. Other even more famous London Parks are
Regents Park, housing the terrific London Zoo, Green Park, Kensington Gardens
and Hyde Park with its world-famous Speakers' Corner. Here anybody can stand on a
soap box and hold forth on any subject under the sun, often being shouted down by a
barrage of hecklers who disagree with the speaker. It's certainly a great, unique tourist attraction!!
In the centre of London is Piccadilly Circus, with its iconic fountain and statue of Eros. Is there a more famous little statue anywhere? Piccadilly Circus is the hub of London's West End. The many theatres in the surrounding streets of the West End, are world famous. Tragedies, comedies, musicals and farce.......they can all be seen in the theatres of the West End, especially around Shaftesbury Avenue, Piccadilly, Haymarket, Coventry Street, Leicester Square and Covent Garden!
There is a theatre on every corner around there! It's a great area for an entertaining night out, followed by a meal in nearby Chinatown!
Then, of course, there is the risque Soho area, just behind Piccadilly Circus and Shaftesbury Avenue, with its lewder "entertainment" and sex shops. It's well worth going to Soho , if only for its great pubs and restaurants.
There are great historic pubs all over the West End, to suit
every taste. Be careful, though, the area has its share of rip-off clip joints!! The unwary
can be charged £50 for a "cock-tail" consisting only of a mixture of fruit juices. A "heavy" stands threateningly in the doorway making sure that the unsuspecting tourist,
who has not studied the prices, coughs up!! No-one returns to such places, but a steady
flow of new, naive tourists keep these charlatans in business. Don't enter an establishment until you are certain of the prices. Beware the welcoming smlle from the doorman!! There could be a snake behind it!
The Covent Garden area, near The Strand, with its great cafes, shops, pubs and
restaurants, plus its vibrant street entertainment, all located in and around the old
Covent Garden fruit and vegetable market, has taken over from Soho, as a popular
night-time area for tourists in recent decades. It does not have the tawdry feeling that
still exists in Soho, even though the latter has been cleaned up substantially from the
less well-regulated days of the Sixties. Covent Garden is a much more respectable and "safer" area.
If Soho strike tourists as being a bit "cheap and nasty" in parts, they should jump on the London Underground, or grab a black cab, and go to Park Lane and Mayfair. This is the "posh" area of Central London, where all the most expensive houses, restaurants and hotels are located.
Park Lane overlooks Hyde Park. It is a quiet, chic area. The only thing you need here is MONEY!! However, there are still several good value pubs and restaurants around Mayfair and Park Lane. Check the prices before reaching for the wallet!
The American Embassy is in Grosvenor Square in Mayfair. Another famous square here is Berkeley Square.
Leading off from Piccadilly Circus is one of the two most renowned shopping streets
in London, the world-famous Regent's Street, with its superb architecture curving
across the middle of London. At the far end of it, and a good walk away, is Oxford
Circus, as Regents Street reaches the more populist, even busier, Oxford Street,
forever thronged with shoppers from all over the world, as well as the UK. This has to
be one of the most popular, well-known, shopping streets in Europe, if not the world.
Coach trips galore, from all over Britain, head for Oxford Street on shopping sprees, especially in the run-up to Christmas. The ladies really love Oxford Street!! It leads directly onto Bayswater Road, overlooking Hyde Park.
Check out the Serpentine, the large
lake in the middle of Hyde Park. With the Italian Gardens at end called The Long Water and a Lido
and cafetaria in the middle, it is a wonderful place to relax, away from the traffic, on a warm summer's day.
There are plenty of other famous London shopping streets, such as New Bond Street; Bond Street; Burlington Arcade; Jermyn Street; Carnaby Street, made famous in the Swinging Sixties; King's Road, Chelsea; Kensington High Street and ,of course, Knightsbridge, home of London's most famous, iconic, store, Harrods!
There is specialist shopping available in Charing Cross Road [books]; London Silver Vaults [antique silver]; Hatton Garden [gold, silver and diamonds] and Tottenham Court Road for hi-fi, video and electrical equipment.
Then there are colourful street markets in Berwick Street, Soho; Camden Lock; Portobello Road; Leather Lane and the world-famous Petticoat Lane on Sunday mornings.
There is so much else to see in London. Step down the Haymarket, from Piccadilly and you are in Trafalgar Square with its world-famous Nelson's Column and thousands of pigeons. Let's hope that bird flu never reaches London!!
Admiralty Arch, the Albert Memorial, Cleopatra's Needle, Cenotaph, Barbican Centre, Planetarium, Royal Albert Hall, Royal Opera House and Kensington Palace are other famous landmarks well worth visiting.
Then there is the new attraction, the popular London Eye big wheel, an outstanding addition to London's landmarks, located on the Thames near Parliament.
The most famous religious landmarks and examples of fine historic architecture, are
the iconic Westminster Abbey, next to the Houses of Parliament and the superb St
Paul's Cathedral, designed by Sir Christopher Wren. These are must-see locations for
any tourist visiting London. They are breath-taking structures on a par with the finest
architectural masterpieces in the world. Westminster Abbey has hosted every coronation from William the Conqueror to Elizabeth II.
Other fine churches are St Clement Danes, dedicated to the RAF; St Martin-in-the-Fields; St Mary-Le-Bow and Great Britain's most important Catholic Church, Westminster Cathedral. They all display very lovely architecture!
Speaking of architecture, whilst in London ,pay a visit to the National History Museum. It is a beautiful building of unusually fine, coloured stone-work . The contents of the museum are even more fascinating. Children will love the huge dinosaurs!
Other fantastic museums are the British Museum, Science Museum, Cabinet War Rooms, Imperial War Museum, Clock Museum, London Toy and Model Museum, Wallace Collection, London Transport Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum.............all different! All fascinating!!
Don't forget to go to the globally- renowned Madame Tussaud's waxworks museum! Unique!!
Then there are superb art galleries, like the National Gallery, the Tate Modern, Bankside Gallery, Tate Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, Royal Academy of Arts and the Courtauld Institute Galleries.
London is not only one of the greatest cities in Europe, it is also one of the great international cities of the world. Its global influence is enormous, especially as a leading financial centre.
London is the chief financial centre of Europe. The next in line, Frankfurt, Germany, is well behind London in importance. The City of London and the Canary Wharf area on the River Thames matches the Wall Street area of New York as a leading world finance centre. The third and fourth most important monetary centres, globally, are Tokyo and Hong Kong.
The FTSE 100 index of London, the Dow Jones of New York, the Nikkei of Tokyo and the Hang Seng index of Hong Kong control the economies of the world.
When one of these indices suffer a huge fall in one day, the others tend to follow suit and alarm bells ring all over the world. The lives of billions are controlled by the fortunes of these four financial centres.
Peoples' pensions and jobs depend on these international stock markets.
International finance, including the Stock Market, insurance and banking, all centred on the City of London, is the leading contributor to the UK economy. Without this financial centre, the United Kingdom would be a non-entity economically.
Visitors are allowed in to the London Stock Market to view from above ......a fascinating place!!
London has so many interesting venues for the visitor to enjoy, that it is difficult to know where to end. The best idea is to book a holiday or week-end break there on visit-london.co.uk.
Don't forget the forthcoming London Olympic Games in 2012! Book accommodation in plenty of time, to avoid disappointment!! Hotel rooms will be snapped up in the run-up to the London Olympic Games in the summer of 2012.
If you are interested in attending the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008, check out our www.beijing-olympic-games.co.uk web-site.