London Things to Do Tips by Paul2001
London Things to Do: 8,852 reviews and 14,894 photos
An Ancient Greek Temple
The British Museum should interest anyone with even a slightest interests in anthropology or archeology. There is so much to see here that there is something that might perk the curiosity of anyone who walks through its doors. However I should warn you that the British Museum is a big rambling place that can be visited in just a few hours visit. The collections spans such a wide variety of cultures and topics that it can seem overwhelming. Highlights include the exhibits on the Ancient worlds of Egypt, Greece, Rome, Asia and the Americas. Knowing in advance that I could not possibly explore the whole museum in just the three hours that intended upon spending there, I instead concentrated upon the Egyptian, Greek and Roman collections. This means I was able to take in such notable pieces like the Rosetta Stone, Lord Elgin's Marbles, the huge collection of marbles and a wide variety of Ancient Roman artifacts. Sadly I did not take in any of the Asian cultures exhibits. Regretably so since I have developed an interest in Indian art in particular since my visit to the British Museum. It is also advisable to visit this museum with lots of energy. I did not as I had arrived in London from Toronto just 7 hours before my visit and was somewhat jetlagged.
During my second visit in 2010, I was much more energized and really enjoyed my visit. I was able to comfortably visit all of the galleries that I intended on when I set out touring the musuem. I still found the place to mind boggling. There is no way one can visit it all in one day and if you do what I did, chart in advance what your interests are and aim for them, you will enjoy yourself throughly. Oddly enough I ignored the exhibits featuring North American native peoples. I guess I can see all want of these here in Canada.
At the time of my first visit to the British Museum I had never visited a museum of this scope in my life. 21 years later, having journeyed through 30 countries and having visited countless museum, I have concluded that this is certainly the great archeological museum in the world. Some call the greatest museum in the world of any kind and this is quite possibly true.
The British Museum is opened seven days a week. You pay by way of suggested donation which should be about 5 pounds. Since my last visit there are been the addition of a new cafeteria which was decent.
Address: Great Russell Street, WC1
Directions: Holborn tube, Bloomsbury
Phone: 0 20 7323 8299
Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery
The National Gallery of London is the first of the world's greatest collections of Western Art that I had ever visited. Being something of a novice in the art viewing at this time, I rushed through the gallery. I think my visit was completed in three hours. Compare that to my last visit to the Louvre where I allowed myself seven hours and I spent time in only the Italian, Dutch and German collections. I now feel ashamed that I did not give the astonishing collection in the National Gallery more time as it deserves at least a full days visitation.
All the great artists in art history are represented here from the early Renaissance by such artists as Van Eyk and Fra Angelico through to the post impressionists like Cezanne and early Picasso. What is most important is that the works on display here represent these artists at their best. The quality of the collection is even more impressive than the quantity. During my most recent visit I felt that the Dutch renaissance collection, in just one room, was kind of weak. On the other had the Italian collection is remarkable strong.
What is interesting about this collection is that it did not have it's beginnings as a royal art collection like some of the other great collections of Europe. Rather its quality is the result of very astute collectors working on behalf of the government when they began the collection in 1824.
I think that unless you have a lot patients that I might be a difficult personal to go through an art gallery with. I entered this gallery being the first person to walk through the door as it open and did not leave until a half hour before closing.
Here is an even more astonishing fact for you all, admission is what you are willing to pay. I coughed up 5 pounds.
Finally I highly recommend that you visit the website listed below before going. It is the best website of a major collection that I have visited thus far.
Directions: Northside of Trafalgar Square.
Phone: 020 7747 2885
Leopard, London Zoo
The London Zoo is probably far from being the best zoo in Europe but its collection of animals in huge. For my taste the animal enclosures are too small but just the same it should please any children that you are bringing along on your tip to London. The reason I visited was that I got the sick to death of museums and it was an absolutely beautiful day, so I decided to do some outdoors stuff. Therefore I visited the Zoo and some of London's lovely parks.
Address: London Zoo, Regent's Park, London NW1 4RY, England
Directions: Northeast side of Regent's Park near the Outer Circle.
Phone: (44) 020 7722 3333
Westminister Abbey and the Dreadful Scaffolding
Westminister Abbey is without doubt the most important house of worship in Britian. It's historical signifiance cannot be overstated as probably every major historical figure in English history has left some story to tell in this incredible building. Westminister Abbey is the first of the countless great medieval churches in Europe that I have ever visited. Sadly, as you can see the facade was covered with scaffolding, the supreme enemy of the hyper photograph taking tourist. The archway is suppose to be superb but at least I got to see the fine square towers that flank it.
Westminister Abbey has it's beginnings as a Benedictine Abbey founded by Edward the Confesser around 960 A.D. It has been the traditional sight for the coronations of the Kings and Queens of England since Harold was crowned here in 1066 at the beginning of his brief reign. Most of the building that you see today was built during the reign of Henry III in the mid-13th century.
Inside of the abbey are an array of magnificent tombs and shrines dedicated to important politcial, scientific and artistic figures throughout British history. They include Dickens, Chaucer, Tenneyson and Newton. The tombs are interesting and even amusing to visit. Having a statue of one of the Kings of England lying on his side smiling at you struck me at rather odd and says much about the sense of humour of the English.
The Abbey is open everyday but Wednesday. It costs a very expensive sum of 7.50 pounds to visit. Children under eleven are free while seniors can enter for 5.00 pounds
Address: Deans Yard, SW1
Directions: St James's Park tube
Phone: 0 20 7654 4900
World War One Tank, The Imperial War Museum
The Imperial War Museum was largely under renovation when I visited back in 1989. Still this did not distract from the fact that this is a quality museum well worth visiting if you are interested in military history.
The museum is housed in a domed building built in 1815. In fact the building was once an insane asylum. It primarly tells the story of the military history of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth throughout the 20th century. Special emphasis is given to the two world wars. During my visit you could still see the superb collection of tanks and aircraft however there is much more here to see. This includes many documents, artworks and artifacts used by the all branches of the British military. Recently two floors were opened up that tell the story of Holocaust.
Admission to the museum is free and it is open from 10am to 6pm.
Address: Lambeth Road, SE1
Changing of the Guard, Tower of London
One of the things I feel embarrassed about when I include must-see choices is adding sites that are so obvious. This includes The Tower of London. It simply has to be seen if you are visiting London. Furthermore it one site that I am certain will not disappoint even the most scenical traveler. This is probably because no other castle in Europe is so rich in history.
The Tower of London was begun as simply the White Tower, which sits in the middle of the Castle complex, in 1076. The rest of the walls and barracks that surround the barracks were built up over the centuries since then, mostly in the 13th century by Edward I. In your tour of the Tower you can also visit the Tower Green, just west of the White Tower, where numerous English notables met there end to axeman that beheaded them. The White Tower itself possesses a rather large collection of medieval weaponry. To the north of the White Tower is the Waterloo Barracks where you can visit the Crown Jewels, another key reason on why you probably visited the Tower in the first place. Your can also visit the castle walls and towers where various historical characters were at times imprisoned.
The picture you see here, is of the changing of guard, which like the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, is performed at 11:00 daily. It obviously is not as elaborate as the former presentation but I enjoyed the pageantry just the same.
Of note, the line up to get into the Tower is very long. This was the case for me even thought I visited first thing in the morning. However like other long lines in London, you will be rushed through the line very swiftly, so do not be deterred from visiting the Tower by it. The Tower of London is worth the wait of 15 minutes or so that you will spend in the line.
Address: HM Tower of London, London. EC3N 4AB, England
Directions: Near the Tower Hill tube station. East of the Central City District of London
Phone: +44 (0)870 756 7070
Picnicers in Regent's Park
One of the great delights of London is that it has so many great urban parks. After visiting the London Zoo, I took a stroll through one of London's finest parks, that being Regent's Park. This park has lovely landscaped rose gardens and a large duck filled pond on which you can row around with a special person. On the northern edge of the park by the zoo is a canal that gives the park sort of serene feel to it. On the day that I visited the park, there was a Muslim holiday being held at this mosque on the western periphere of the park. The park was saturated with picnicers. There were also lots of people playing softball which sort of surprised me as I did not think that the English liked the sport. There is also an open air theatre.
Directions: Near the Baker Street and Regent Park's tube station.
Pigeons, Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square is the most famous square in London. Named in honour of the most famous naval figure in British history, the square is dominated by a large 44m column called Nelson's Column. Trafalgar was the naval battle fought by Nelson against the French and Spanish fleets in 1805. Nelson won the battle but paid the ultimate price as he was mortally wounded. The battle is considered to be one of the most strategically important in military history as it cemented Britian's control of the seas during the Napoleonic Wars.
The square is where Londoners like to congregate when important events take place such as New Year's Eve celebrations and political demonstrations. A highlight of the visit here is the surrounding buildings. On the northeast corner is St Martin' Academy in the Fields, on the northside is the National Gallery and on the northwest corner is Canada House. All are wonderful examples of Victorian architecture and give the square a very regal atmosphere.
Address: Trafalgar Square, WC2
Directions: Charing Cross or Leicester Square tubes
Plaster Casts, the Victoria and Albert Museum
The Victoria and Albert Museum, commonly known as the V&A, is without question the finest collection of decorative arts in the world. Therefore before you visit, I issue a warning; decorative art covers a wide specturm of the arts and what is exhibited here may not please everyone. In fact many people may fine it downright boring. Before you go decide just what it is you want to see. Lots of decorated plates may not be for you.
As for me I was fascinated by whole place if a little overwhelmed at the scope of the place.
I did appreciate the religious artwork from Medieval time in particular. Sadly the exhibits featuring Asian art were closed when I visited. The V&A has the largest collection of Indian art outside of India. The Raphael Cartoons were stunning and justify a visit to the V&A alone if just to see them. What I found to be most wonderous was the collection of plaster casts of some of the most famed sculptures in the world, including Michelangelo's David.
There are artworks from seeminly every civilization on the globe spaning from every era. Therefore take it easy when you visit or you will find that exploring the V&A can be quite a numbing experience.
Address: Cromwell Road, SW7
Directions: South Kensington tube
Phone: 0 20 7942 2000
Facade of St. Peter's Cathedral
I must say that when I first approached such massive places of worship like St. Paul's Cathedral, I felt a little intiminated. This was from having yet been exposed to such magnificent structures in the course of my travels. Churches in Canada are of course nowhere near as large as those famous buildings that you come across throughout England and Europe. When you enter them you are awestruck by both the size and history of these places.
St. Paul's is of course one of the largest buildings dedicated to Christian worship in the world. So visiting it for me was one of the more jaw dropping experiences I had while in London. Also annoying because it is very hard to take a picture of the building that really does the Cathedral justice. Especially if you have a crummy camera like I did.
The present day building was completed in 1697. It was built by the famed architect Christopher Wren after the original St. Paul's was lost in the Great Fire of 1666. What are especially noteworthy aspects of the building are the outstanding facade and the huge dome overtop of the Cathedral. The dome is in fact the second largest (only St Peter's is larger) such dome in the world. The facade is an outstanding example of Baroque architecture. The Cathedral is also famous for the notable historical and artistic persons who are entombed here. They include military figures like Nelson and Wellington and Christopher Wren himself. So if you want to cozy up with some of your favourite historical characters from English history, then take a trip down to crypt, supposedly the largest in Europe.
Address: St Pauls Churchyard, EC4
Directions: St Pauls tube
Phone: 0 20 7236 4128
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