Visit London Blog » westminster abbey Enjoy the very best of London Tue, 13 Oct 2015 14:49:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Five Of The Best: Historic London Landmarks Mon, 28 Jul 2014 09:00:07 +0000 A Guest Post by London Pass

London is a historical hub and a centre of culture so when visitors arrive in the city they expect the cobbled streets to whisper the secrets and scandals of centuries gone by. Sightseeing city card company London Pass has delved into London’s unique history and picked out five of the best attractions in and around the capital.

Tower of London

Tower of London
Arguably one of London’s most popular attractions, the Tower of London goes all the way back to the days of William the Conqueror and Richard the Lionheart. Passing through the hands of many rulers and sovereigns, it’s no surprise that the building’s purpose and influence over the city has radically changed over time, from a stronghold, to a zoo – and more memorably, a prison…

Learn about the gory history from those who lost their heads in execution, to the most notorious prisoners. It’s not all about blood and brutality though, the Tower of London is most famous for housing the priceless Crown Jewels, the most monarchic symbol in the UK.

Visit the exhibitions and events over the summer and learn about the history of the Royal Mint and the Line of Kings – the world’s longest-running exhibition.

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge
Not to be confused with London Bridge, Tower Bridge is a feat of London’s industrial ingenuity with its hydraulic bascules (drawbridges) and 11,000 tonne steel framework.

Over 128 years old, Tower Bridge was built as a solution to ease East End congestion with both roads and foot passages. As a landmark of architectural glory, it was given a facelift in celebration of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, from brown to blue, white and red. Much more patriotic!

Now you can explore the high level walkways and admire the views over the River Thames, as well as gain an interesting insight into the history of the bridge through an exhibition and photo gallery.

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey
As one of London’s most impressive buildings, Westminster Abbey is not only a stunning Gothic church, but a UNESCO World Heritage Site with hundreds of years of history. As one of the most important churches in the city, it has played host to numerous national events, royal weddings and influential ceremonies.

Westminster Abbey celebrated over 1,000 years of worship – and some believe it might even date as far back as 785 with some evidence of an abbey on an islet in the Thames. Now, the Abbey is the resting place of some of Britain’s most prominent figureheads from royals and poets, to scientists and politicians. Explore the graves of Geoffrey Chaucer and Charles Dickens, even Sir Isaac Newton.

Most recently it was the church in which Kate and Wills, the Duchess and Duke of Cambridge, got married. And what a splendid affair that was!

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle
Slightly outside London lies the Queen’s preferred weekend residence: Windsor Castle. As the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world, it’s a must-see for any visitor to London – and definitely worth the trip. Handed down through a line of Kings and Queens, the castle has undergone years of restoration following a destructive fire and, let’s be honest, clashes in personal ‘decorative’ taste!

The State Apartments are testament to the extravagance of the royals and you can see priceless paintings and portraits of the monarchs who made Windsor Castle their home.

Hampton Court Palace maze

Hampton Court Palace
When you think of King Henry VIII, you think of Hampton Court Palace – or you should. With an infamous reputation that proceeds him, this King was one of the most memorable of the monarchy. With die-hard habits and a ruthless character, he helped transform Hampton Court into what we see today.

One of the most impressive features of Hampton Court Palace – and certainly one of the most ridiculous – is the huge kitchen! Known for his huge appetite, Henry’s kitchen was equipped to cook for up to 600 guests, at least twice a day, so you can imagine the size. You can still explore this kitchen today, as well as the hedgerow maze and 60 acres of manicured gardens, including a vineyard.

Make the most of your sightseeing experience with a London Pass and you can enjoy all of these London landmarks for free. 

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Best Bus Routes for Sightseeing in London Tue, 28 Jan 2014 11:00:35 +0000

London’s famous double-decker buses are an ideal way to see the city if you’re on a budget. Buy a Travelcard for the day and take a self-guided city tour on London’s best bus routes. These four cover most of the major sights in the city. Their routes are described from west to east and the return journey passes the same sights in reverse.

Number 74
Starting in Putney, this route travels past London’s museums hub in South Kensington where the Natural History Museum, Science Museum and Victoria and Albert Museum sit side by side. It then passes luxury department store Harrods and the boundary of one of London’s largest green spaces at Hyde Park Corner. You can catch a glimpse of The Dorchester hotel just after, followed by the famous haunt of public rhetoric – Speaker’s Corner at Marble Arch. The final stop is Baker Street, home to both the Madame Tussauds wax figure museum and the Sherlock Holmes Museum, at the site of the fictional detective’s residence.

Number 9
The number 9 is one of only two routes operating the old-style Routemaster buses on part of its route. Leaving from Hammersmith, it passes Kensington Palace (you’ll have to get off to see it) followed by the beautiful Royal Albert Hall and the monument to Queen Victoria’s husband which sits opposite it. Like the number 74, the 9 passes the museums in Kensington, Harrods and Hyde Park corner. It takes a different route afterwards to visit St James’s Palace, Trafalgar Square, The Savoy hotel and arts and cultural centre Somerset House.

Number RV1
The RV1 is a favourite route for us here at VL Towers! Despite being a single decker, it still passes through some of the best parts of London, giving you a great cultural tour of the city. Soak up some shops and street theatre at Covent Garden before taking the RV1. Hopping on it will take you to the South Bank where you’ll see the London Eye and Royal Festival Hall. The London Bridge stop is metres from the London Dungeon and City Hall is the next sight on the route, which crosses Tower Bridge to finish up at the Tower of London.

Number 24
The 24 sets off from Camden Town which offers alternative fashion and food. The bus then heads to the more mainstream Leicester Square in the centre, calling in at Trafalgar Square and Horse Guards Parade. The political heart of London is next as the bus passes Parliament Square where you’ll find Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, as well as the nearby Westminster Abbey where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were married in 2011. The final site is the city’s policing headquarters at the iconic New Scotland Yard building.

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It’s a Boy! Welcome to London, Prince of Cambridge Tue, 23 Jul 2013 07:00:34 +0000 Buckingham Palace has announced the birth of William and Kate’s son at 4.24pm (BST) yesterday.

The royal arrival was announced with a doctor’s certificate placed on an easel at the central gates of Buckingham Palace. The notice announced the delivery of the baby, adding: “Her Royal Highness and her child are both doing well.”

Last night, Tower Bridge was lit up with spectacular blue lights in celebration of the little boy’s birth. (You can watch Tower Bridge anytime with our popular webcam.) Other London institutions now sporting a blue hue include the top floor of City Hall, the Trafalgar Square fountains, the BT Tower and the London Eye.

The bells at Westminster Abbey (the church where William and Kate were married) will ring for three hours and 15 minutes today, to mark the royal arrival.

The birth will also be marked with gunfire: 62 shots from the Tower of London, and 41 from Green Park at 2pm today. The Green Park salute will be more spectacular, with horse-drawn guns; but if you want a good view, you’re advised to get down there early. The best place to watch the Tower of London salute will be from Tower Bridge or opposite on the other side of the river at More London, near The Scoop. The Tower of London offers a longer salute, adding 21 to mark the loyalty of the City of London to the newborn.

The child’s official title is His Royal Highness the Prince of Cambridge.

Prince William said the couple “could not be happier”. Kensington Palace said the baby would be named in due course.

For ideas on how to celebrate the royal arrival in London and details of the capital’s royal attractions, take a look at our royal baby page.

And for the little prince or princess in your life, you can purchase some beautiful royal baby merchandise at the webstore.

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Visiting the Past: Capturing The Queen’s Coronation Mon, 03 Jun 2013 13:35:45 +0000 If you step out onto The Mall this week it might be busier than usual. It won’t, however, contain the estimated three million exuberant spectators who lined the streets along the Coronation route 60 years ago.

On 2 June 1953, Queen Elizabeth II left Buckingham Palace for Westminster Abbey to be officially crowned, more than a year after her accession to the throne. In eager anticipation of a personal glimpse of the Queen on her way to the Coronation ceremony, many had camped up to two days in advance to secure their spot on the pavement and be a part of the great occasion.

The Coronation received vast media coverage, not least as the first ceremony to be broadcast on television, bringing royalty into the homes of millions worldwide.

The event was also documented photographically, including official portraits by Cecil Beaton, and candid photographs by Fleet Street press and freelancers such Bob Collins whose work is in the Museum of London collections. Celebrations ran beyond central London of course, to include thousands of street parties in the capital and nationwide. Photographs of these events, many made by amateur photographers, captured the extensive preparations undertaken and the upbeat, merry atmosphere amidst all the Union Jack flags and bunting.

A guest blog by the Museum of London as part of our Visiting the Past series. More next week

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Video of the Week: William and Kate return to Buckingham Palace after the Royal Wedding Fri, 29 Apr 2011 13:41:25 +0000

What else could possibly have been our choice as Video of the Week for this week?

Here’s an amazing film of the new Duke and Duchess of Cambridge – Prince William and Kate – on their way from Westminster Abbey after the wedding ceremony to Buckingham Palace. And it gives a great view of that gorgeous dress!

Did you see the Royal Wedding on TV? Or were you watching from the Mall? Perhaps you were hosting a street party in honour of the royal couple. Let us know in the comments below.

And don’t forget to add your Royal Wedding photos to the Visit London flickrpool.

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Singapore in London: Restaurants, Tiger Beer and the Search for a Singapore Sling Wed, 16 Feb 2011 14:00:45 +0000

Author John Malathronas writes about Singapore for our World in London challenge.  John Malathronas is a freelance travel writer and photographer. He’s been travelling to Singapore and following its fortunes for more than 20 years. He is the author of travelogue Singapore Swing and co-author of the Michelin Green Guide to Singapore:

“The first point of call for those who want a Singaporean experience in London is a pilgrimage to Westminster Abbey.  There, in the north choir aisle, you can find a seated marble statue of Sir Stamford Raffles who founded the colony in 1819.

“Although a legendary figure in Singapore itself , Raffles incurred the displeasure of his employers, the East India Company, and died in London in relative penury at the age of 44. You can also visit his actual grave in the church of St Mary’s in Hendon, where a carving on the stone floor identifies the burial spot.

“Singapore has a well-earned reputation as  a gourmand’s paradise and its citizens are fanatical about food.  There seems to be surprisingly little argument among its London expat community about where to sample the best Singaporean dishes in the capital. The Bugis Street Brasserie at the Millennium Hotel in Gloucester Road  is rightly said to serve the best Singapore food outside Asia: try the Taste of Singapore Set Menu for a quick introduction.

“At the cheaper end of the spectrum, The Hare and Tortoise in Russell Square is also a restaurant with an extensive Singaporean menu. Its distinctive Char Kway Teow (a rice noodle dish with Chinese sausage) is a particular favourite of London-based Singaporeans.

“The best accompaniment for the light, spicy Oriental mix that is Singaporean food is, of course, Tiger Beer which is brewed in the city-state but found everywhere in London.

“As for a cocktail you could try its most famous alcoholic export: the strikingly pink and flavoursome Singapore Sling. Alas, it requires dedication to find a Sling in London nowadays. I have asked for it in bars from Shoreditch to Soho and have received concoctions that range from a passable imitation of a Sling to a mojito in disguise.

“So I end with a plea: if anyone knows of a London bar that serves a good Singapore Sling, please let me know.”

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Kate and Wills To Marry on 29 April in Westminster Abbey Tue, 23 Nov 2010 13:00:33 +0000

It’s official! Kate Middleton and Prince William are going to be married on 29 April in Westminster Abbey.

And Prime Minister David Cameron has confirmed that the occasion will be marked with a public holiday. 

Westminster Abbey is the same place that hosted the Queen and the Queen Mother’s weddings; it was also the venue for Princess Diana’s funeral in 1997.

The prince’s private secretary Jamie Lowther-Pinkington said the couple wanted a spring wedding and felt that the abbey offered relative intimacy despite its size.

The extra day’s holiday falls in the same week as Easter Monday, giving millions of workers a three-day week.

David Cameron said, “We want to mark the day as one of national celebration, a public holiday will ensure the most people possible have a chance to celebrate on the day.”

What do you think of the date? Are you going to come and watch from the streets of Westminster? Let us know in the comments below…

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Video of the Week: London As I See It by Sharron Levy Fri, 19 Nov 2010 13:00:55 +0000

Here’s a great YouTube video of London in all its glory from Sharron Levy. If you like it, you can find out more about Sharron on her myspace page:

Check out more London videos on the Visit London YouTube channel:

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Prince William to Marry Kate Middleton in a Royal London Wedding Tue, 16 Nov 2010 15:00:25 +0000

We’re thrilled at the news Prince William is going to marry Kate Middleton in London next year.

Here at VL Towers, we’ve been in deep discussions about the London location for the ceremony, the dress and of course, the reception.

Will they go for the tradition of a royal wedding ceremony at Westminster Abbey? Or perhaps St Paul’s Cathedral, like William’s parents, Charles and Diana did 29 years ago. Or maybe they’ll go for something a bit quirkier: did you know you can get married at London Zoo, Kew Gardens and the Science Museum, not to mention Wembley Stadium and HMS Belfast!

And we’re hoping they’ll take tips from our ideas for hen weekends and stag dos in the capital.

If you’re inspired by the new royal being welcomed into our midst next year, why not take a few tips from our Royal Day Out in London.

Above images of Kate and William from flickr, by Nick Warner and Rob the moment.

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Video of the Week: Look Right Fri, 01 Oct 2010 12:00:15 +0000

Charlie (@chazferrari) and Andy (@LunarAnders) got in touch with us on twitter (@visitlondonweb) to tell us about this cool video they made during a weekend in London.

They take in top London attractions like Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s Cathedral, Tate Modern, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, the Tower of London and the British Museum.

But are these cheeky chappies aiming to do London on the cheap impressed with what they see? You’ll have to watch the video to find out!

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