London is the capital and largest city of Great Britain. It is a truly cosmopolitan city with a population speaking over 300 languages. It was and has remained one of the cities Europeans tend to favour when choosing where to live. London is one of the world’s largest financial and political centres, as well as the capital of fashion, culture, and art. No wonder every year millions of tourists decide to spend their vacation there.
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London - the city of queens and princes
London is one of Europe’s oldest cities. Through its 2000-year-long history, it has changed, grown, been burned to the ground, and rebuilt from ashes. Today it is a fascinating city, which leaves everyone who sets foot in it breathless. First-time visitors keep returning, to see yet another street they missed or get to know another of the city’s many facets. Besides being the capital of Great Britain, London is also the centre of the Greater London region, from which it got its name. In Roman times, it was called Londinium, and landmarks from that era have been preserved in its streets and museums. Another of London’s attributes is that it is home to the oldest royal family in the world, respected by the nation and since many years the perpetual source of inspiration for many films and series depicting the lives of royals. The presence of the royal family is evident at every corner of the city, and royal residences are an inevitable item on tourist lists of the city’s sights.
There is no particular time when it is best to visit London, as it is fascinating year round. As seasoned travellers know, and first-comers soon find out, it is wise to keep in mind the changeable weather conditions. When touring the city, it is a good idea to have an umbrella and sunglasses handy, to be prepared for both clouds and sunshine.
London attractions – fascinating architecture and history
London is known for its sophisticated and splendid architecture. The influence of the royal dynasty is evident, making this city a testament to centuries of power and opulence. A tour of London should start at Buckingham Palace. Currently the residence of Queen Elizabeth II, this magnificent complex is located in the City of Westminster, an inner borough of London. The palace was built in 1703, and its first resident was Queen Victoria. The building has 775 rooms and incorporates the largest private garden in London. Parts of the palace are open to the public, so visitors can walk in the footsteps of royals. One of the attractions is the ceremony of changing of the guard, a tradition going back over 300 years. Visitors should pay attention to the position of the British flags on the palace. The Royal Standard is flown only when the Queen is present in the palace.
Another attraction is the Tower of London, a medieval fortress overlooking the Thames. This is where the crown jewels are kept. The second most important building in Great Britain is the Palace of Westminster, housing the Parliament. It serves as the meeting place for both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, and the hall is open to visitors interested in learning about the country’s rich political history.
Traditionally, the heart of London is Trafalgar Square, named after the Battle of Trafalgar, the British naval victory over Napoleon. A number of statues and fountains commemorating naval heroes occupy the square. Tower Bridge, the most famous bridge in England, is also a must-see. The view of the city from this moveable bridge is fantastic.
One of the buildings featuring on most photographs of London, is Big Ben, the nickname for the Great Bell of the striking clock at the north end of the Palace of Westminster. Once they get tired after touring the city, visitors can take a rest in Hyde Park, the Royal Park with over 4000 trees, or enjoy the view of the city from the Millennium Wheel – the biggest observation wheel in the world, also called the London Eye, in operation since 1999.
London museums – historic and contemporary art collections
London is a city of many museums boasting a long tradition. The British Museum follows the development of civilization on all continents, while the exhibits at the National Gallery show collections from the Renaissance, and works of Impressionists and Post-impressionists. Here visitors can see works of Leonardo da Vinci, Van Gogh, Titian, and Jan van Eyck. The Museum of London has an incredible 6 million items, showing the entire history of the city, from the first settlements to the present. A visit to Shakespeare’s Globe, another must, features interconnected parts of the theatre’s history, iconic plays by Shakespeare, and their interpretation. For visitors looking for something different, there is the Natural History Museum in London. It is famous for its collection of dinosaur skeletons and the Darwin Centre. The London Sea Life aquarium allows visitors to stroll alongside creatures of the deep, through the glass Ocean Tunnel connecting two parts of the aquarium. Visitors can see areas dedicated to stingrays, sharks, coastal and deep- sea life, and take a look at the ecosystem of the Thames.
The spirit of London – an unforgettable experience
London is a lively urban city that never sleeps. The favourite areas for going out of both visitors and locals are Soho and West End. Covent Garden is another part of town filled with bars, restaurants, and clubs, offering something for everyone’s taste. The people of London are friendly and cheerful and visitors often leave with memories of fun nights out. The most popular drink is beer, and after a few glasses, it is usually followed by orders for waffles, bagels, and chips. The staple British dish is fish and chips. The fish can be fried or baked and this traditional dish is best tried in local restaurants like the Fish Bone, the Laughing Halibut, and North Sea Fish Restaurant.
London is a fascinating city, revealing its charm to tourists at every visit. A simple ride on the famous red buses can be an interesting experience. Now always painted the distinctive red colour, these buses once came in a variety of colours until red became mandatory in 1907. Tourists who decide to see the city this way will probably learn from their tour guide that Karl Marx wrote his Manifesto in London, in rooms overlooking a bar that still exists, or that dying in Buckingham Palace is forbidden by law.
Among London’s secrets are 20 underground rivers flowing under the Thames, and the abandoned stations of the London subway, often used as film sets and places for private parties. A single visit to London can never be enough and people who love London keep returning to it, knowing it will never lose its fascination.
The Harry Potter Adventure in London
Tourists who wish to get away from the city bustle, can enter an entirely different dimension at only 30 kilometres northwest of the city. Fans of the iconic work of modern English literature and the most famous wizard in the world, Harry Potter, can take a tour of the magical universe of magic wands and mythical creatures. The Making of Harry Potter is an official Warner Bros Studio tour, which takes visitors to see the sets where Harry Potter movies were filmed. The site can be reached from London by bus or train and, depending on the mode of transport, the journey takes between 20 minutes to an hour. The tour comprises a visit to the legendary sets, a chance to see the original costumes and props, and experience the special effects used in the movies.