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For an urban area, London has quite a few lions. But not all of the fluffy-fur-and-big-teeth variety. From stone lions to stage lions to the real thing, we round up 10 of the best places to see the king of beasts in London.
If you want to see a real, roaring, mane-tossing lion in London, London Zoo is the place to go. This marvellous menagerie is home to members of the Asian lion species – of which there are fewer than 300 left in the wild – including Lucifer (pictured above).
Royal Beasts at the Tower of London
Lions were just one of the many exotic animals kept in the Tower of London’s Royal Menagerie. Founded in the early 1200s, the stately zoo went on to house everything from elephants and tigers to kangaroos and pelicans. Learn more in the fascinating Royal Beasts exhibition at the Tower of London.
In Chinese culture, lions are considered to be good omens – so it’s no surprise to see statues of these incredible mammals at the entrance to London’s Chinatown. Lions – specifically Lion Dances – are also a big part of the Chinese New Year Celebrations, which take place in Chinatown every February.
Trafalgar Square Lions
Designed by Sir Edward Landseer, the four bronze lions that sit on guard at the foot of Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square were installed in 1867 – 24 years after the column was completed. It is said that if Big Ben chimes 13 times, the 20-foot long, 11ft-tall lions will come to life!
The Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre
If you loved the Disney film, then you’ll adore the musical of The Lion King. With the help of imaginative costumes, powerful songs and colourful stage sets, the cast tell the much-loved story of Simba and his pride. Don’t miss the behind-the-scenes video (below) of this hit West End show for a chance to win a five-night trip to London!
Barbary Lion Skull at the Natural History Museum
Two lions skulls, a remnant of the Royal Menagerie at the Tower of London (see above), were discovered by workmen in 1937. Experts at the National History Museum used carbon dating to age the animals and found that one was the oldest lion found in the UK since the extinction of native wild lions. You can see the skull for yourself in the Treasures exhibition at the museum’s Cadogan Gallery.
The London Lions is the capital’s only professional basketball team – so choosing which side to support is easy if you’re a Londoner! The team’s next home fixture is on 29 December against the Newcastle Eagles at London 2012 Olympic venue The Copper Box Arena.
Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2013
The Natural History Museum comes up trumps again with the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2013 exhibition – featuring an amazingly close picture of a lion cub taken in South Africa by photographer Hannes Lochner. The picture was Joint runner-up 2013 (Animal Portraits) and is one of many stunning photos on show – until 23 March 2014.
Saint Jerome and the Lion at the National Gallery
While living in the desert as a hermit, Saint Jerome in reported to have removed a thorn from the paw of a lion. This remarkable feat is the subject of a number of paintings at the National Gallery, including Bono da Ferrara’s Saint Jerome in A Landscape (circa 1440) and part of the Santa Trinità Altarpiece (1455-60).
The Lion of Kings Road
You may have seen the dramatic and moving YouTube video of a lion hugging its former owners, who had released the animal into the wild a year earlier. Amazingly, the duo bought the lion at Harrods (in 1969) and took it to live in the flat above their furniture store on the Kings Road, where it became something of a local celebrity.