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Thursday, 18 November 2010

Sightseeing in London - Monuments:

Big Ben
Big Ben is not open to the public. Possibly the most famous clock face and chimes in the world, Big Ben is actually the name of the biggest bell (13.5 tons) inside The Clock Tower (320ft) which forms part of the Houses of Parliament. Built in 1858/9 the bell was named after one Sir Benjamin Hall and when it was cast it was Britain’s heaviest bell. The clock’s four dials each have a diameter of 23ft, the minute hands are 14ft long and the numerals on each face are nearly 2ft high. The placing of old pennies in the mechanism controls the accuracy of the clock movement, yet it is incredibly accurate.
The tower which houses Big Ben has been called by many names, one of the most popular is St Stephen’s Tower. The official line, from the Head of Public Information at the Palace is that the Clock Tower is simply called The Clock Tower. However, the name Big Ben has now passed into every day use and the locals call it Big Ben so we’ll go along with that too.

Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace has been the official London residence of Britain's sovereigns since 1837 and evolved from a town house that was owned, from the beginning of the eighteenth century, by the Dukes of Buckingham. Buckingham Palace is the London home of The Queen and Prince Philip. Queen Victoria was the first monarch to take up residence here after the architect John Nash transformed it from Buckingham House into a palace. In 1845 Queen Victoria asked for the Palace to be extended to make more room for her growing family of four children. As part of the alterations, Marble Arch, which was originally the entrance to the palace, was moved to a new position at the corner of Hyde Park.
The Palace is also the administrative headquarters of the monarchy. The Queen receives visiting heads of state at the palace and it is here that the Queen holds garden parties and bestows knighthoods and other honours. Foot Guards from the Household Division, in their distinctive red tunics and black bearskins, can be seen on guard duty outside the palace daily. The Changing The Guard ceremony now takes place only every other day in the winter but it is still daily in the summer months.
After a serious fire damaged Windsor Castle in 1993 the Queen allowed the Palace State rooms to be opened to the public for the first time, to help pay the Windsor Castle repair bill. When not away, The Queen and Prince Philip spend most weekends at Windsor Castle, where they enjoy horse riding.
To book tickets call: +44 (0)20 7321 2233
Phone: +44 (0)20 7930 4832
Nearest Tube: St James's Park /Hyde Park Corner /Victoria 

House of Parliament - Palace of Westminster
Now more commonly known as the Houses of Parliament, the Palace of Westminster began life as a royal residence in 1042 under Edward the Confessor. The major structure to survive various fires, Westminster Hall, was built between 1087-1100 and is one of the largest medieval halls in Europe with an unsupported hammerbeam roof. During the fourteenth-century the hall housed shops and stalls selling wigs, pens and other legal equipment and the courts of law met there. Thomas More, Charles I and those accused of trying to blow up parliament (1605) were all tried in Westminster Hall.
Following a fire in 1512, Henry VIII decided to abandon the palace and from this moment onwards it became home to the two seats of parliament - the Commons and the Lords. However, it was to suffer from another disastrous fire in 1834 and everything was lost except Westminster Hall and the Jewel Tower. A competition was launched to redevelop the whole site. Sir Charles Barry was responsible for the mock gothic building that has become such a familiar landmark today; including the Clock Tower that houses Big Ben, the bell that chimes on the hour, and is home to the largest clock face in the country.
Members of the public can watch debates when parliament is in session. Tickets can be obtained from a member of parliament (British citizen) or from your consulate or High Commission. You need to plan this in advance. For more information call the Public Information Office on 020 7219 3000.
Alternatively, guided tours of the House of Lords and Commons and Westminster Hall are available between 6 Aug-29 Sep 09.15-16.30 Mon-Sat. Closed Bank Holidays. Parliamentary business may interrupt these tours. Call to check in advance. Tours last 1hour 15min.
Phone: +44 (0)20 7344 9966
Nearest Tube: Westminster


Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey is one of Europe's finest Gothic buildings and the scene of coronations, marriages and burials of British monarchs. It dates back to the 11th century, and highlights include the Coronation Chair made in 1300, Poets' Corner and the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior.
An architectural masterpiece of the thirteenth to sixteenth centuries, Westminster Abbey also presents a unique pageant of British history - the Confessor’s Shrine, the tombs of Kings and Queens, and countless memorials to the famous and the great. It has been the setting for every Coronation since 1066 and for numerous other Royal occasions. Today it is still a church dedicated to regular worship and to the celebration of great events in the life of the nation. Neither a cathedral nor a parish church, Westminster Abbey is a “royal peculiar” under the jurisdiction of a Dean and Chapter, subject only to the Sovereign.
The Coronation chair is here. Coronations, marriages and burials of English Monarchs have taken place at this church which was originally built by Edward the Confessor in 1065, rebuilt and added to in the 13th to 18th centuries.Open for sightseeing Monday-Friday and Saturday morning, Sundays for worship only.
Phone: +44 (0)20 7222 7110
Nearest Tube: Westminster / St James's Park.


Royal Opera House
The Royal Opera House re-opened in December 1999 as a theatre at the heart of the nation's artistic and cultural life. It is open to the public Monday to Saturday from 10am, allowing visitors to take advantage of a wide range of daily free events, while in the evenings, there is a programme of world class opera and ballet. During the day, a programme of backstage tours and open ballet classes offers visitors the opportunity to experience the behind-the-scenes life of the theatre.
Box office: 020 7304 4000
Nearest Tube: Covent Garden

Tower Bridge
At the Tower Bridge Experience visitors can see one of the most famous bridges in the world and spectacular views from the high level walkways 140ft above the Thames. In the two towers, there's an exhibition which explains the history of Tower Bridge. Open daily.
Phone: +44 (0)20 7403 3761
Nearest Tube: Tower Hill


Tower of London
At The Tower of London, guarded by the celebrated Beefeaters, visitors can see Traitors' Gate, the priceless Crown Jewels and the famous ravens. Over the centuries, this amazing building has been fortress, prison, palace - and even a zoo. The carefully-restored medieval part of the Tower is brought alive by costumed guides. There is also exhibitions of armour and swords and you can see the spot where Henry VIII's Queen, Anne Boleyn, was beheaded.
The Tower of London opens daily 0900-1700 Mon-Sat 1000-1700 Sun (Mar-Oct). 0900-1600 Tues-Sat 1000-1600 Sun-Mon (Nov-Feb). Closed 24-26 Dec and 1 Jan. Open daily.
Enquiries: 020 7709 0765.
Phone: +44 (0)20 7680 9004
Nearest Tube: Tower Hill 


Trafalgar Square
It would seem all roads lead to Trafalgar Square, and most cars seem to end up there, in a perpetual traffic jam. So if Nelson's column is on the agenda, get the tube (Charing Cross) and leave the car behind. The statue of Admiral Horatio Nelson, buried at St Pauls Cathedral, stands high above the traffic at Trafalgar square. Below him, tourists gather to feed the frightening number of pidgeons who sweep in and out of the crowds and accross to St Martin in the Fields, a church which has been standing since the thirteenth century. Worth a visit, especially for it's stunning interior.
Nearest tube: Charing Cross


Piccadilly Circus
An unholy coming-together of traffic and commerce, all overseen by some flashy neon advertising hoardings (first erected in 1910), Piccadilly Circus is one of central London's pivotal points. The name derives from the speciality of a tailor, Robert Baker, who made his fortune selling stiff collars known as 'picadils' and lived nearby in the early 17th century. The connection is apposite, for the posh shops of Mayfair, Piccadilly and Regent Street have long been a fixture of the area.
But like many of central London's pivotal points, Piccadilly Circus is a mess. Traffic pours in from all directions with little apparent rhyme or reason. Its main feature, a 'statue' of Eros - it's actually a memorial fountain (not a statue) to the philanthropic Lord Shaftesbury, representing the Angel of Christian Charity (not the god of love) - loses much of its grandeur and appeal due to its cramped location on a traffic island. Even the neon signs seem less impressive in the 21st century than they did two decades ago, while the only other defining feature of the square is the inedible pizza served by the slice from caf├ęs on every corner.
The best thing you can say about Piccadilly Circus is that it's unapologetically urban, and that its dirty, slightly seedy hustle and bustle offers up the quintessence of London urban life. However, short of stopping by the late-opening Tower Records or passing through it at 3am in order to flag a black cab on Piccadilly itself, few locals ever feel the need to pass through it, let alone pay it a visit, while tourists are invariably disappointed by the charmless chaos they find upon making its acquaintance.
Two big tourist attractions lie just to the east of the Circus: the bafflingly popular Rock Circus and the Trocadero. Leading south from here, Haymarket's associations are with older forms of fun. The market, after which the street is named, traded until 1830; by then, Haymarket was already famed for its theatres (the Theatre Royal opened in 1720, Her Majesty's Theatre in 1705) and notorious for its prostitutes. Today, it's short on charm of any variety. 


Covent Garden
No visit to London is complete to London without a visit to Covent Garden, a most atmospheric London institution.
In addition to an arts and crafts market, outdoor street performers who would do the Royal Albert Hall proud, perform on the sidewalks for free (Well there is always a hat passed around at the end!). Covent Garden's restaurants, bars, shops and street entertainers make it the ideal location for a great day or night out. Covent Garden is world famous for its jugglers, musicians and mime artists.
In the Arts and Crafts Market hall, you will find you will find 120 craftsmen selling their original handmade Arts and Crafts, Ceramics, Knit-wear, Pottery, Silk Screen Printing, Etching, Chinese Art, Hand Painted House Plaques & House Signs, Heraldry, Coats of Arms, Hand Painted Crests & Shields, Board Games, Enameling, Jewellery, Wooden Toys, Goldsmiths, Doll Houses, Silversmiths, Glassware, Hobo Dolls, Calligraphy, Lace-ware, Mohair Sweaters, Cardigans and Coats, Soft Toys and Dolls, Luxury Bathrobes, Wood Turning, Karum game boards and lots more. 






London sightseeing:

1 comment:

  1. It's the restaurants in covent garden that have me going back time and time again. They food is sublime and the venues themselves very different from anything else in London.

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