London, England is the capital and largest city of the United Kingdom, and one of the most influential cities on the planet. With history going back well over 1,000 years, a comprehensive post on what to do in this metropolis would go on for pages. I’m only going to summarize a few of the best things to enjoy here, based on my personal experiences exploring “the LD.”
The British Museum is one of my favorite museums in the whole world. Established in 1753, today the museum draws over a million visitors annually to its exhibits on human history, culture, and archaeology. Among its most popular exhibits is the Rosetta Stone, which helped linguists decipher Egyptian Hieroglyphics.
There is one important point to make about the British Museum though. As of late, there have been increasing calls for the museum to repatriate a lot of their collections, much of which was acquired through colonialist practices. I agree with this stance. But for the time being, I can’t deny how incredible it is to see such a large collection of archaeological relics all in one massive place. We’ll see what the future holds.
Great Russell St, London, England WC1B 3DG
If you’re looking for a fun way to spend an afternoon with your family in London, look no further than the South Bank! The South Bank is an eclectic cultural center in the heart of London, lying along the shores of the River Thames between Blackfriars Bridge and Westminster Bridge.
South Bank as we know it goes back to 1951, when the area was used for the Festival of Britain. There are a number of London Underground subway stops dotting the area, and is easily navigated on foot.
Today, South Bank is a lively neighborhood known for its interesting mix of street performers, restaurants, and points of interest. However, the true magic of South Bank lies in walking along the shores of the River Thames and seeing the street performers. They range from the silly to the odd to the one-of-a-kind, and many performers will gladly incorporate onlookers into their act. You can create awesome memories in the South Bank just for the price of an afternoon stroll.
When you enter one of the carriages of the London Eye, and rise to the pinnacle of its 443-foot height, and see the expanse of urban London sprawl out before you, you’ll see why it’s the most popular tourist attraction in the UK.
Over 3 million people visit the London Eye every year, and was the tallest Ferris wheel in the world when it opened in 2000 (currently 4th tallest).
County Hall, London SE1 7PB
Tower of London
Just across the Thames from the South Bank, we find Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London…or for us plebes, just The Tower of London.
This is where the history of London really shows its depth: the castle was built in 1078. For almost its entire history (852 years, to be exact, from 1100 to 1952), the tower was a prison. The last prisoners to grace the innards of the tower were the Kray Twins, two violent brothers who ran The Firm, a London crime syndicate (if you’ve ever seen that movie Legend, the two guys Tom Hardy portrays).
London EC3N 4AB
Nighttime Cruise of the Thames
There are many cities that lend themselves perfectly to river cruises (Chicago comes to mind). London is one such place. Like a lot of old cities, London owes it’s success to the River Thames (pronounced “tems”), which provided an important connection to the English Channel for oceangoing commerce and trade.
Getting a nighttime cruise up and down the Thames will point out a number of landmarks, the highlight of which is Tower Bridge, also known as London Bridge. Saiing under its majesty, all lit up at night, is the best way to appreciate this marvel of architecture and engineering.
St. Paul's Cathedral
One of the really cool things about London is that it’s perfectly normal to see ultra-modern skyscrapers juxtaposed with ornate old churches from before the US was even a country.
St. Paul’s Cathedral was built in 1710, and oversees London from the highest point in the city. At 365 feet in height, it was also the tallest building in the city until well into the 1960s.
Tours will give you detailed history of this magnificent structure, including pointing out repairs done to the dome following bombing during World War II.
London EC4M 8AD
Leadenhall Market is one of the trendier shopping areas in the city. It is one long covered marketplace that has been in operation in one form or another since the 1300s.
Even if you buy nothing, you have to go for a stroll around Leadenhall Market. It’s truly an architectural marvel.