Top 10 London Landmarks Worth Visiting

When visiting London, especially if it's your first time, there are a few sites you should experience to really appreciate this ancient city. With the rich majesty and unique historic landmarks, London is a city that has something for everyone.

1) The Tower of London & Tower Bridge

The original tower, the White Tower, was begun by William the Conqueror in 1066. Henry VIII had two of his six queens (Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard) executed there on Tower Green for treason. Home to the Crown Jewels, the exhibit contains 5 English royal crowns including one of Queen Victoria's.

Learn the superstition of the ravens from the Yeoman Guards (or better known as Beefeaters) and see the infamous "Traitor's Gate" from which royal prisoners rarely returned alive. Tower Bridge, which crosses the Thames, is located next to the Tower and is still a working drawbridge.

2) Buckingham Palace

If you're lucky enough to be visiting during August or September when this official residence is open to the public, you'll see the Queen's beautiful home. If not, be sure to take in one of the Changing of the Guard ceremonies that ends at the palace daily. It's a wonderful example of the pageantry that's still alive and well in London.

3) Windsor Castle

The largest occupied castle in the world, Windsor is also an official residence of the Queen and is still a working palace. The Queen often goes to Windsor for the weekend and you'll know if she's there when the Union Jack is flying. Some of the treasures you'll see at Windsor are original paintings by Van Dyck, Rubens and Holbein plus beautiful tapestries, sculpture and armour.

4) Hampton Court

Boasting over 500 years of royal history, Hampton Court originally belonged to the Archbishop of York, Thomas Wolsey who was somewhat forced to give it to his King (Henry VIII)as a gift. Its Victorian Garden features the world famous maze which runs along the Thames. In 1604, James I held the Hampton Court Conference which led to the King James Version of the Bible.

5) St. Paul's Cathedral

Where Prince Charles & Di tied the knot, St. Paul's was designed by Sir Christopher Wren. It was begun in 1675 and took 35 years to complete. With its soaring dome, St. Paul's has been the location of state funerals for some of the most famous Englishman: Lord Nelson, the Duke of Wellington and Sir Winston Churchill to name a few. The pinnacle of any visit has to be the Whispering Gallery, an architectural masterpiece.

6) Westminster Abbey

Since King Harold and William the Conqueror in 1066, all English and British monarchs have been crowned at Westminster Abbey. A visit to the crypt will take you to the final resting place of many famous Englishmen (such as Charles Darwin, Sir Issac Newton and Geoffrey Chaucer) and most royals until George II.

7) Big Ben & Parliament (Palace of Westminster)

During the eleventh through sixteenth centuries, Westminster Palace was a residence of medieval English Kings. After a fire nearly destroyed the palace in 1834, the remains were incorporated into the new Houses of Parliament designed by Sir Charles Barry which took over 30 years to construct.

Attached to the Houses of Parliament is Big Ben. The name actually refers to the 13 ton bell that is housed within the familiar clock tower, not the clock itself. Each clock face is 23 square feet and the minute hands are 14 feet long. The clock was completed in 1854, but the tower was not fully constructed until 4 years later.

8) Trafalgar Square

Finished in 1841 to commemorate Lord Nelson's victory at Trafalgar in 1805 (a British naval victory of the Napoleonic Wars), the monument itself is 17 feet tall and sits atop a 185 foot column. The square was laid out in 1829 and is famous for it pigeons and fountain.

9) Piccadilly Circus

This is the junction of 5 busy streets and features a famous display of backlit signs much like Times Square in New York. The name refers to a 17th century frilly collar (think of Elizabethan and Shakespearean times) called a picadil. A dressmaker who grew rich making them built a house in the vicinity and the name stuck.

10) London Eye

Also known as the Millennium Wheel, the London Eye was built at the turn of the 21st century and is the one of the most modern landmarks in London. Sponsored by British Airways, the London Eye is the largest observation wheel ever built and soars 135 meters (443 feet) over the Thames. Each of the 32 capsules holds 25 people who can see up to 25 miles in each direction from the top.

Also suggested to do while in London (but didn't make the top 10):

The New Globe Theatre (rebuilt at its famous original site)
Harrod's (famous department store where royals shop)
The Victoria & Albert Museum
The Millennium Bridge
Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum
The National Gallery
Covent Garden
Take a ride on the Tube, in a London taxi & a double decker bus

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