Is there another place on Planet Earth that offers up as many famous and iconic, historically resonant and recognisable buildings than London? Whether it’s due to centuries of imperialism or due to modern-day dynamism, the centre of the UK capital is simply chock-a-block with indefatigable, unforgettable landmarks.
But, then, that begs the question, if you’re planning a stay sometime soon at, say, one of the chic hotels near Paddington Station, just which of these London landmarks are absolute must-adds to your city-break’s itinerary…?
The official residence and headquarters of Britain’s sitting monarch, Buck Palace is a grand and hugely elegant grey-stone landmark that looks impressive on the outside but, undoubtedly, is even more so on the inside. Its construction dates way back to the second half of the 18th Century and became a Royal palace and the sitting monarch’s home in the early 19th Century.
Best of all, though, is the fact that, nowadays, anyone and everyone can check out all its gloriousness for themselves, thanks to the place being open to the public in the summer months – so long as they book long enough in advance, that is! Not only can they walk around its famed banqueting halls, throne room and many exquisite exhibitions, but also watch the pageantry of the daily Changing of the Guard ceremony – the latter outside and entirely for free.
The Palace of Westminster
Thanks chiefly to the Big Ben clocktower (‘Big Ben’ is actually the name of the biggest of its bells and the tower itself is officially called Elizabeth Tower, don’t you know?), the Victorian neogothic masterpiece that’s the Palace of Westminster is undoubtedly one of London’s most iconic sites of all. Essentially comprising the clocktower and the two ornate Houses of Parliament (the House of Commons and the House of Lords), it looks mighty impressive up close or even across the river on the South Bank where you can pose for a selfie in front of the building and fit the whole thing in the picture.
St Paul’s Cathedral
Sir Christopher Wren’s iconic 17th Century baroque basilica, St Paul’s Cathedral is, frankly, along with the Houses of Parliament and Tower Bridge, one of London’s buildings that are globally recognised symbols of the city. Topped by its utterly iconic white dome, St Paul’s – located in the heart of the City of London – originally opened to all and sundry way back in the year 1711 and, believe it or not, was actually the tallest building in the capital for the next three centuries (nowadays it may even be rivalled on that score by some Hyde Park accommodations!).
In the 21st Century, it’s both a hugely popular tourist attraction (the inside of its dome and its crypt with tombs of giants of British history are must-visits), as well as a working place of worship. It was where both the wedding of the then Prince Charles and Princess of Wales and the funeral of Winston Churchill took place.
Another incredible example of supreme Victorian architecture and, indeed, its extraordinary engineering, Tower Bridge lies across the Thames, within walking distance of the Tower of London; hence its name. Not to be confused with the much-less-impressive-looking, 20th-Century-built London Bridge, Tower Bridge is famed for its battlement-like stone abutments, as well as its bascule-bridge-functionality.
It first opened its roadway to allow boats and ships to pass way back in 1894, a function it still performs today (in fact, it opens to let river traffic through around 800 times each year), while its roadway actually plays an important role in the city’s road network. Moreover, it also serves as a fascinating tourist attraction; the exhibition detailing its inner workings is a real winner; an ideal afternoon activity before heading back to one of those hotels near Hyde Park for dinner.
The Tower of London
Yes, the aforementioned Tower is also, without doubt, one of London’s most historically resonant, acclaimed and important sights. Over the course of its millennium-spanning history, the Tower of London has variously served as a fortress, palace, armoury, prison, exotic zoo and, of course, depository of treasures and major tourist attraction – the latter two of which are still its functions today.
In fact, here, you can look around not just the likes of the centrally-located White Tower (which dates all the way back to 1066) and *the* Crown Jewels, as well as witness rituals such as the awfully traditional Ceremony of the Keys, the would-be locking up the tower come the evening – after which, naturally, it’ll be time to return to where you’re staying, the hotel Park Grand London Hyde Park.
The most instantly recognisable of London’s highly impressive piazzas, Trafalgar Square was laid out in the early 19th Century to commemorate the nation’s victory in the then recent Napoleonic Wars. Its centrepiece is the extraordinary, sky-piercing Nelson’s Column, atop which, of course, stands a statue of the naval hero of those wars, Admiral Lord Nelson.
Today, it serves as a place of congregation for events and even protests, as well as the point at which the political power of the country (the Westminster district) meets the capital’s chief entertainment district (the West End). Here, too, you’ll come across the magnificent attractions that are the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery, in addition to the square’s famous four bronze lions and the ever-changing contemporary art-piece that occupies its ‘fourth plinth’.
Finally, following the funeral of HM Queen Elizabeth II, Westminster Abbey has surely reasserted itself as one of London’s most instantly recognisable landmarks. The site of not just this year’s extraordinary Royal event, but also where the vast majority of English/ British sovereigns have been crowned (going all the way back to William I in 1066), this incredible Gothic medieval masterpiece is one of the capital’s true tour de force attractions.
For, aside from its sheer beauty and modern-day Royal associations, it’s also where you’ll find the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior and is the resting place, too, of a vast array of eminent peeps – that is, everyone from William Wordsworth to Geoffrey Chaucer (in Poets’ Corner) and 16 monarchs and eight Prime Ministers.