One of the world’s top tourist destinations, London is where many of our Europe Coach Tours begin and end. If you’re spending a few extra nights in the British capital (and why wouldn’t you!?), then be sure to check out some of these incredible attractions!
- Buckingham Palace
Probably the top of most people’s London bucket-lists, Buckingham Palace is hugely popular – and with good reason. It’s the official London residence of the monarchy of the United Kingdom, and it also serves as their administrative headquarters. It’s often at the centre of royal hospitality, receiving dignitaries and foreign officials on state visits, and when not in use for these purposes, the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace are open to visitors at certain times of the year. Buckingham Palace is decorated with works of art forming part of the Royal Collection, one of the major art collections in the world. From the outside, the principal façade is one of the most recognisable sights in the country – if not the world – with its gardens and gilded statues. If you can, try to time your visit with the changing of the guards, which takes place on selected dates at 11:15am. The Welsh Guards are a highly trained regiment in the British Army, taking part in conflicts all over the world and serving as the monarchy’s troops. Catch them on parade if you can!
- The Palace of Westminster
Just down the road from Buckingham Palace – in a manner of speaking – is the Palace of Westminster, where the UK’s two houses of Parliament (the House of Lords and the House of Commons) meet. You’ll probably recognise the pointy bits and especially ‘Big Ben’, which is actually the name given to the bell inside the clock tower, which is called Elizabeth Tower. The site has a long history stretching back to the Middle Ages, the palace having existed in some shape or form since the Danish King Cnut began building here in the first half of the 11th century. The palace as it is today was built after the Great Fire of 1834.
- The Tower of London
Probably most well-known as the home of the Crown Jewels, the Tower of London was built in 1066 by William the Conqueror to keep hostile Londoners at bay. Since then it’s functioned as – among other things – a royal palace, the royal mint, a state prison and a storehouse for the army and navy. 22 people were executed here, the last one being Lord Lovat, who was convicted of treason. On the day of his execution, and apparently to his great amusement, one of the scaffolds built for onlookers collapsed, killing twenty of them. He didn’t laugh for long though as he was beheaded soon afterwards. You might say he laughed his head off! The execution block used in the beheading is actually on display in the White Tower – a 57kg piece of solid oak.
- St Paul’s Cathedral
One of London’s most iconic buildings, St Paul’s Cathedral overlooks the Thames and to many Londoners it’s a symbol of the hope, resilience and strength of the city of London. It was one of the few buildings to emerge largely unscathed from the bombings of World War II, and photos of the dome of St Paul’s rising above the destruction of its surroundings sealed the cathedral in the minds of many as an enduring icon. Completed in 1708, it was the tallest building in London until 1962. Important services that took place here include the funerals of Lord Nelson and Sir Winston Churchill, Jubilee celebrations for Queen Victoria, the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana, and the 80th birthday and Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.
- Tower Bridge
Probably one of the most well-known structures in London, Tower Bridge is often mistakenly called ‘London Bridge.’ Taking its name from the Tower of London, the bridge is a suspension bridge and bascule, opening to allow ships to pass beneath it when necessary. Built 120 years ago, it’s become a key part of the London skyline. The Tower Bridge Exhibition details the history of the bridge, from initial construction to Royal visits and daredevil stunts. Excitingly, the bridge now features glass floor panels, allowing you to see London life through a glass floor – a completely unique experience!
Look out for more unmissable attractions in Part 2 – and remember that we offer sightseeing tours of London too!