Welcome to MetroGuide Networks' overview of London-area attractions. The Greater London
area is full of attractions for all ages. Huge, multicultural and cosmopolitan, London's 33
boroughs stretch over 600 square miles, making it a good thing there are nearly 20,000 licensed
taxis, double-decker buses and other public transports, plus the Underground tube for getting
around. London, however prim and proper in perception, is far from doddering, since a huge 47.3
percent of its 7.5 million population is aged between 16 and 44, with one in five residents
from an ethnic minority. Little wonder that more than 200 languages are spoken here, with the
café culture encompassing cuisines from more than 70 countries in some 6,000 restaurants and
5,000 pubs and bars. With 30-plus historic gardens and 123 historic buildings, London also has
more than 200 museums, 600 cinema screens, and 108 music halls. Within an hour of London are
95 golf courses, 2,000 tennis courts, seven ice rinks, and six race courses. London has no known
founder, although historic record points to King Lud of Ludgate Hill fame. Shortly after the
Roman conquest of 43 AD, invaders realized the strategic significance of the river Thames
running through the flat, fertile mainland. The Norman invasion of 1066 was marked by
construction of the mighty Tower of London,
located to protect London Bridge from raiders coming upstream. As throughout Europe, London was
hard hit by the Bubonic Plague known as the Black Death, which wiped out a third of its
population in 1348-49. Yet the population tripled under the Tudors, and by 1700, it had
passed a half million, ranking with Paris and Naples as one of Europe's three largest cities.
When Edward VII ascended the throne in 1901, London was the largest city in the world, and it
remains Europe's largest.
Below is a list of some suggested things to do in the London Metropolitan Area,
with links to more details when available.
- Bank of England Museum
Also known as the “Old Lady of Threadneedle Street Museum,” the Bank of England Museum tracks the bank's history from 1694 to its current role as the nation's central bank. Gold bars date from ancient times, and pikes and muskets used to defend the bank are also on display. History includes a mob attack on the Bank during the Gordon riots in 1780, and the introduction of paper money in 1797. Some documents relate to well-known customers including George Washington and the Duchess of Marlborough. In March, 2003, the museum welcomed its one-millionth visitor.
Threadneedle Street. (020) 7601-5545
- Banqueting House
Famed for its Rubens ceiling paintings, the Banqueting House (the only remaining part of the Palace of Whitehall) was designed by Inigo Jones and commissioned by James I in 1619.
Whitehall, SW1. (020) 7930-4179
- British Airways London Eye
The London Eye is a Ferris-wheel of sorts with 32 high-tech, glassed-in carriages, each accommodating up to 25 passengers, rotating upward and around with continuous piped-in commentary. Each air-conditioned carriage rotates on a device designed to keep everyone upright as the wheel slowly revolves. On a clear day, the panorama can stretch as far as Heathrow Airport and Windsor Castle. By night, London's landmarks are floodlit against the darkness, showcasing the Gothic houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, the Tate Museum, and Tower Bridge along with stretches of the Thames.
On the south side of the River Thames, opposite Big Ben.
- British Museum
Displays within the world's oldest museum, founded in 1753 by an Act of Parliament, include the Assyrian treasures, Egyptian mummies, the Rosetta Stone, sculptures from the Parthenon, and the Portland Vase. The spectacular Great Court, opened in 2000, includes 12 of the museum's most famed exhibits and serves as Europe's largest indoor square. It encompasses the Reading Room, restored to former glory when readers included Marx and Lenin.
Great Russell Street. (020) 7323-8000
- Buckingham Palace
Residence to Queen Elizabeth II, Buckingham Palace first opened to the public in 1993 to finance Windsor Castle repairs. The Edwardian façade palace dates to the early 19th century. In summer, nearly 6,000 visitors per day tour 19 state rooms, including the Throne Room, Picture Gallery and Ballroom (the largest room in the Palace) used for investitures and banquets. The extended visitor route includes a walk through the south side of the Palace garden. At the Royal Mews, the Queen's horses and carriages, including the Coronation Coach, are displayed. The Queen's Gallery at Buckingham Palace is a permanent space dedicated to changing exhibitions from the Royal Collection art and treasures. Built 40 years ago on the west front out of the former private chapel's bomb-damaged ruins, the Gallery was opened by the Queen in 2002 to receive the public daily.
Buckingham Palace Road, SW1. (020) 7321-2233
- Cabinet War Rooms
Sir Winston Churchill, his cabinet and the chiefs of staff used this underground complex during WWII air raids. Displays include the Map Room, Trans-Atlantic Telephone Room, and Map Room, and in 2003, Churchill's bedroom, private kitchen and dining room were added to the tour. An audio guide includes first-hand accounts of life in the War Rooms.
Clive Steps, King Charles Street. (020) 7930-6961
- Camden Markets
Among London's top tourist magnets drawing crowds of some 500,000 per week, Camden Markets specializes in alternative fashion, vintage, and emerging designers, funky furnishings, and international food at an array of diverse restaurants, bars, and stalls.
At Camden High Street & Chalk Farm Road.
- Changing of the Guard
At Buckingham Palace, the Royal ceremony takes place at 11:30 a.m., lasting 40 minutes inside the palace railings. The Queen's Guard, accompanied by a band, leaves Wellington Barracks and marches via Birdcage Walk to the Palace. The ceremony is scratched only in very wet weather. Nearest Underground stations are at Victoria, St. James Park and Green Park. A separate ceremony takes place daily near Horse Guards Parade, Whitehall, at 11 a.m., Monday through Saturday, and 1 p.m. on Sunday. The Queen's Life Guard leaves Hyde Park Barracks and rides to Horse Guard Parades via Hyde Park Corner, Constitution Hill and The Mall. Nearest Underground stations are Embankment, Charing Cross, and Westminster.
- Clarence House
Clarence House, now the Prince of Wales' official London residence, was thrown open to the public in 2003 from Aug. 16 through Oct. 17 with plans for future public access at intervals. The house was the London home of the Queen Mother until her death in 2002 and has undergone extensive refurbishment. The 2003 guided tours showed five rooms on the ground floor where official engagements are undertaken. Much of the Queen Mother's collection of art and furniture remain, with examples of Faberge, English porcelain and silver, and works by John Piper. Tours must be pre-booked.
The Mall. (020) 7766 7303
- Cutty Sark Clipper Ship
The last and most famous tea-clipper, breaking all records in 1885, is open for total exploration including the Lower Hold, with a collection of figureheads, and the Tween Deck, telling the story of the Cutty Sark with display of ship photos and models. Cabins have been reconstructed to show life at sea in the 1870s.
King William Walk, Greenwich. (020) 8858-3445
- Diana, Princess of Wales' Memorial Fountain in Hyde Park
Unveiled in July, 2004 with both the late Diana's family and the royal family including Queen Elizabeth II present, the $6.5 million memorial to the late Princess of Wales is designed by American architect Karen Gustafson. The oval fountain of 545 blocks of Cornish granite – a ring of water likened to a miniature race course near the Serpentine Bridge -- has water flowing down both sides for both agitated and calming effects. Hyde Park (London's largest) is a 1.5 mile long and .5 mile wide haven with 350 acres of woods, grasslands, lake and gardens. Admission is free from 5 a.m. to midnight.
Hyde Park. (020) 7298-2100
- Dickens House
Victorian London found its perfect chronicler in Charles Dickens, whose home on Doughty Street survives as his museum, the site were some of Oliver Twist was written. The house offers a journey through Charles Dickens' life during his most prosperous years.
48 Doughty Street. (020) 7405-2127
- Downing House
This world renowned address is home to the official residence for the Prime Minister (no. 10) and the Chancellor of the Exchequer (no. 11).
10 Downing Street.
- Freud Museum
After fleeing Nazi Austria in 1938, the Freud family lived in this house until the death of Ann in 1982. Within are Sigmund Freud's antiques, Oriental rugs, research center, and, yes, the psychoanalysis couch.
20 Maresfield Gardens via Finchley Road. (020) 7435-2002
- Hampton Court Palace
King Henry VIII's apartments are shown off by guides in period costumes. The tour includes the Tudor kitchens, the Chapel Royal and the legendary maze, or fountain garden.
East Molesey, Surrey
- Highgate Cemetery
Victorian Gothic atmosphere with extensive and overgrown grounds include cypress trees and Egyptian-style catacombs. The cemetery is closed during funerals. No children under age 8 are allowed on the west side, and photography is by permit.
Swain's Lane. (020) 8340-1834
- Jewish Museums
The Jewish Museum in Finchley traces the history of Jewish immigration and settlement in London, including reconstructions of East End tailoring and furniture workshops. Holocaust education is a major feature, and displays include recollections from London-born survivor Leon Greenman. The Jewish Military Museum and Memorial Room illustrates British Jewry's contribution to the armed forces of the Crown from Crimea to the present. Camden Town's award-winning Jewish Museum in the Raymond Burton House, an elegant Victorian building, has a ceremonial art gallery illustrating Jewish religious life with objects of rarity.
Jewish Museum, Finchley, 80 East End Road. (020) 8349-1143
Jewish Military Museum, Stamford Hill. (020) 8800-2844
Raymond Burton House, 129-131 Albert Street. (020) 7284-1997
- Kensington Palace
This Jacobean building, enlarged by William and Mary in 1702, became the residence of Queen Anne, King George I and King George II. Queen Victoria was born here and remained in residence until she was 18.
Parts of the palace remain a private residence for members of today's Royal Family. Kensington's best known resident in recent years was Diana, Princess of Wales, who occupied apartments in the north-west part of the Palace from 1981 to 1997. The State Apartments and the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection, including dresses worn by Queen Elizabeth II and Diana, are open to the public.
Kensington Gardens, W8. (0870) 751-5170
- Royal Botanic Gardens
Founded in 1761 and covering 288 acres, the Gardens at Kew contain living collections of more than 40,000 varieties of plants, seven spectacular glasshouses and two art galleries, along with a Japanese rock garden. Open all year, closing depends on sunset.
Kew, Richmond TW9 3AB. (020) 8332-5655
- London Aquarium
Opposite Big Ben, the London Aquarium is the one place where visitors can come upon sizable sharks, gaze at seahorses, and meet frenzied piranhas. Touching is permitted for friendly rays, starfish and crabs.
County Hall, Riverside Building, SE1 7PB. (020) 7967-8000
- London Bridge Experience and London Tombs
Enjoy 2 of London's scariest tours, London Bridge and the London Tombs, while learning about London history, any day of the week year around with special programs presented during holiday periods appropriate for the season.
Under London Bridge, 2 - 4 Tooley Street, SE1 2PF. (020) 4847 2287
- London Dungeon
Medieval tortures heavy on bloody detail prevail at this site buried beneath paving stones of historic Southwark. London Dungeon brings more than 2,000 years of gruesome history into twisted perspective, with 2003 debuting the Great Plague's apothecary shop remedies from minced toad and roasted viper skins to hare's feet, bat wings and leeches. Other popular unpleasantry focuses on the Ecclesiastical Section's rendition of Thomas Becket's demise while in prayer at the altar, 1665's Great Fire of London, Jack the Ripper, and the Judgment Day Execution Barge where some 2,000 victims were transported from docks, bound together, and tossed into roiling waters. Gift shop branded merchandise includes perfectly horrible clothing for all occasions and a library of revolting reference books. London, buried beneath the paving stones of
28-34 Tooley Street, SE1. (020) 0891-6000
- London for Free
Britain's capital has many happily free attractions: The British Library, on Euston Road houses the Gutenberg Bible, Shakespeare's First Folio of 1623, King John's Magna Carta, Handel's Messiah and original Beatles' manuscripts. Kenwood House, a fine example of the work of architect Robert Adam, and a filming site for scenes from Notting Hill, has important paintings and neo-classical furnishings. The National Gallery is home to the Leonardo Cartoon by da Vinci and the Hay Wain by Constable. The National Portrait Gallery charts British history through portraits of eminent poets, statesmen and sportsmen. Royal portraits include the Queen and Diana, Princess of Wales. The Tate Britain in a 100-year-old classical building contains sculptures, drawings, oils, watercolors and works by William Blake. Tate Modern, in the former Bankside Power Station, showing 20th century art, is open until 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
British Library, Euston Road, NW1. (020) 7412-7332
Kenwood House, Hampstead Lane NW3. (020) 8348-1286
National Gallery, Trafalgar Square. (020) 7747-2885
National Portrait Gallery, St. Martin's Place, WC2. (020) 7306-0055
Tate Britain, Millbank, SW1. (020) 7887-8008
Tate Modern, Bankside, SE1. (020) 7887-8008
- London Pass
Visitors can use the London Pass for free entry into 50 top attractions including: The Alexander Fleming Laboratory Museum, Cutty Sark, Florence Nightingale Museum, Jewel Tower, Kew Gardens, London Aquarium, London Zoo, Tower of London, Windsor Castle and more. Included is a travel card for use on public transport in zones 1-6. The travel card is date-stamped, and no amendments can be made. Available on line and through travel agents.
- London Zoo
ZSL London Zoo has over 12000 amazing animals for you to see. The Zoo has been "bringing down the bars" to allow visitors to get closer to an astonishing 650 species of animal. Highlights include Meet the Monkeys, Butterfly Paradise and Into Africa while you can also experience an 'Animals in Action' display - 30 minutes of flying, foraging and leaping action with animals showing their amazing natural skills and abilities. Young visitors (or the young at heart!) can enjoy an encounter with farmyard favourites at the touch paddock in the Children's Zoo. Two major attractions, Gorilla Kingdom and Clore Rainforest Lookout are incredibly popular – both get you closer than ever to primates of Africa and South America. Admission ranges from £12.50 to £16. Under 3 free.
Regent's Park, London NW1. (020) 7722-3333
- Madame Tussaud's
Things have gotten much, much livelier at Madame Tussaud's with the arrival of a likeness of Jennifer Lopez, whose cheeks turn pink when someone whispers in her ear. Live actors now work the room, joining visitors in celebrity gossip, even in the powder room. Visitors also can be interviewed by a reporter, or made up by a live stylist. Another new attraction is the 15-foot Hulk, inspired by the Universal Pictures film version. The Queen is on display, along with Henry VIII and all six of his wives, Queen Elizabeth I, and Diana, Princess of Wales.
West End, Marylebone Road. NW1 5LR. (020) 7935-6861
- Museum in Docklands
Among London's newest attractions, the Museum in Docklands
Galleries explores the story of London's river, port and people from Roman times through recent regeneration. A dozen galleries showcase artifacts, paintings, engravings, and photographs.
1 Warehouse West India Quay, Hertsmere Road. (0870) 444-3857
- Museum of London
Exhibits cover more than 2,000 years of London history, with highlights including the Roman gallery, a reconstructed Victorian walk with shops, Newgate Prison, the Great Fire Experience, and a display of Elizabethan jewelry. Galleries are arranged in chronological order, but are designed so visitors can start anywhere.
150 London Wall Street. (020) 7600-3699
- Natural History Museum
First opening in 1881 and one of Europe's largest museums, the Natural History Museum serves as Britain's national museum for natural history. Displays include dinosaurs, the mammal balcony at the Blue Whale exhibit and the moonlit rainforest in the ecology gallery.
Cromwell Road, SW7 5BD. (020) 7942-5011
Constructed between 1675 and 1710, this magnificent structure stands on the site of two previous cathedrals dating to 604. The whispering gallery in the main dome is so named because a whisper can be heard anywhere within the dome by pressing an ear to the wall. Open each summer, visits are by guided tour starting at Victoria Tower, proceeding through the Robing Room, Royal Gallery, Chambers of the House of Lords and House of Commons, Central Lobby, St. Stephen's Chapel and Westminster Hall. Westminster, with an exhibition of cartoons, and the Parliamentary gift shop can be visited free of charge via the St. Stephen's entrance.
Parliament Square, Westminster. SW1A0AA. (0870) 906-3773
- Pub Grub
London's 5,000 pubs and bars make it seem there's literally one on every corner. Brew varies from “real ale” pulled from barrels to bottled lagers. Most pubs offer wines and spirits, some even exotic cocktails. Once solely for drink, most now serve food from sandwiches to banquets, with prices often cheaper than at restaurants. Among quirky establishments with historical background: The Albert, at 52 Victoria Street, near the Houses of Parliament where a division bell rings in the bar summoning MPs back to work. Samuel Johnson reportedly wrote part of his diary at The Anchor Bankside, 34 Park Street, an 18th century pub near the Globe Theatre. Bunch of Grapes, 207 Brompton Road, has original Victorian décor including “snob” screens separating gentlemen from working stiffs.
- Ragged School Museum
Originally a lime juice storage facility, Dr. Thomas Bernardo transformed it in 1868 to become the first and largest Ragged School in London, until 1908 when all the buildings on Copperfield were condemned. The warehouses have become a virtual classroom showcasing how Victorian children learned.
46-50 Copperfield Road London. (020) 8980-6405
- Royal Courts of Justice
In a Victorian Gothic building completed in 1882, the Royal Courts are the centerpiece of the British legal system. A legal costume exhibition is on the first floor overlooking the main hall where there is also a small exhibit of legal prints. Neither cameras nor children under age 14 are allowed in court. Mobile phones must be turned off.
The Strand, WC2A. (020) 7947-6000
- Science Museum
Opening in 1868, the Science Museum has 10,000 exhibitions ranging from the Well Cathedral (1392) that still chimes on the hour to the launch pad of Apollo 10 where kids can play. Admission is free.
Exhibition Road, South Kensington. (020) 7942-4455
- Spencer House
Built in 1756-66 for the first Earl Spencer, ancestor of Diana, Princess of Wales (1961-1997), its eight state rooms with 18th Century interiors are open to the public and furnished with antique and neo-classical interiors. Designed by John Vardy and James Stuart, these rooms were some of the first neo-classical interiors in Europe. Stuart's gilded furniture has been returned to its original location in the Painted Room.
27 St. James's Place. (020) 7499-8620
- Taking Afternoon Tea
Taking tea has been a London tradition for more than 150 years. The practice was launched by the Duchess of Bedford in 1830 when she ordered a little something to ward off pangs between lunch and dinner. By the 1840s, wafer thin slices of bread spread with chopped cucumber along with light sponge cakes and freshly brewed pots of tea were being served up with tidbits of gossip all over London. Afternoon tea became hot and haute throughout the Edwardian period (1901-1910). With the arrival of the Argentine Tango, London's grand hotels began hosting tea dances, so entrenched by the 1920s, they continued to reign as a social event until WWII. The prospect of scones and a spot of tea remains enough to restore energy for any weary traveler. For many, tea at the Ritz Hotel's Palm Court (jacket required for men, and early booking recommended) is the ultimate indulgence at any of three seatings. Food emporium Fortnum & Mason, in business since 1707, beckons with Traditional Tea, a Champagne Tea, or High Tea at St.
James's Tearoom. At Kensington Palace, where the gardens were a favored retreat of Diana, Princess of Wales, the Orangery was built by Queen Anne in 1705, and tea includes fresh strawberries and double cream in season. Pre-booking is essential at Brown's Hotel, opened in 1837 by James Brown (a former valet of Lord Byron), and a favorite of Rudyard Kipling and Agatha Christie, serving sandwiches and scones on Wedgwood porcelain near a fireplace.
Brown's Hotel, Albemarle Street, Mayfair. (020) 7518-4108
Fortnum & Mason, Piccadilly, Mayfair. (020) 7734-8040
Orangery at Kensington Palace, Kensington Gardens. (Booking not possible.)
Ritz Hotel, Palm Court, 150 Piccadilly, Mayfair. (020) 7493-8181
- Tower of London
According to Shakespeare, Edward IV's young princes and heirs were killed here by their wicked uncle, Richard III. In 1066, William the Conqueror erected the first wooden fort on this site, replaced by a stone keep, later known as the White Tower. Begun in 1078, the Tower of London is a one of the world's most famous fortified complexes constructed over several centuries. It provided Royal families with a residence for more than five centuries, and was a prison for other Royal figures, including Lady Jane Grey. The Tower housed the Royal Mint until 1810. Armor worn by Henry VIII remains. The Tower is the storehouse of the Crown Jewels and regalia, as it has been for nearly 700 years. Also on view are the Medieval Palace, the infamous Bloody Tower, and over 90 inscriptions made by prisoners in the Beauchamp Tower. The Martin Tower has free guided tours, and the Crowns and Diamonds Exhibition.
Tower Hill, EC3. (0870) 756-7070
- Victoria and Albert Museum
Opened in 1852, the world's largest museum of decorative art was renamed the South Kensington Museum in 1857, and renamed again in 1899 after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Its 145 galleries, with 3,000 years worth of artifacts from many of the world's richest cultures, include the Cast Courts, the national collection of paintings by Constable and the largest collection of Italian Renaissance sculpture outside Italy. Jewelry, metalwork, photographs, sculpture, textiles and paintings are part of the extraordinary mix. Admission is free.
Cromwell Road, South Kensington. (020) 7942-2000
Several locations in London are associated with the Waterloo campaign of 1815, regarded as the most famous of the 19th century. It culminated in the overthrow of Napoleon Bonaparte by Wellington and the end of 25 years of warfare.
Wellington Arch, Hyde Park. (020) 7930-2726
- Wesley's House and Chapel
John Wesley's 18th century house is part of the chapel site, which also includes the Museum of Methodism in the crypt. The house contains many personal effects of the founder of Methodism. The museum traces the history of Methodism from the 18th century to the present. Wesley's tomb is at the rear of the chapel.
47 City Road. (020) 7253-2260
- Westminster Abbey
- One of the world's most visited churches, Westminster Abbey is the scene of coronations, marriages and burials of British monarchs. Visitors can see the Grave of the Unknown Warrior, Royal Tombs and the Shrine of St. Edward the Confessor, and the Coronation Chair.
Parliament Square. (020) 7222-5152
- Westminster Cathedral
An example of neo-Byzantine architecture and the headquarters of Britain's Catholic Church, the 14 Stations of the Cross were beautifully sculpted by Eric Gill. Begun in 1895, Westminster Cathedral is noted for unusual architecture, mosaics and marble decorations. It was designed to be built quickly with interior décor added as funds became available. The structure, completed in 1903, has the widest, highest nave in England.
Victoria Street SW1P 1QW. (020) 7798-9055
- Windsor Castle
Windsor, one of the world's largest, oldest inhabited castles, has been the home of the Royal Family for more than 900 years. Largely rebuilt by George IV, the castle covers some 13 acres. Visitors can see St. George's Chapel and the Albert Memorial Chapel. Within the Castle complex there are many additional attractions. In the Drawings Gallery regular exhibitions of treasures from the Royal Library are mounted. Another popular feature is Queen Mary's Dolls' House, a miniature mansion built to perfection. The 14th century St. George's Chapel is the burial place of 10 sovereigns, home of the Order of the Garter, and the setting for many royal weddings. Nearby on the Windsor Estate is Frogmore House, an attractive country residence with strong ties to Queen Charlotte, Queen Victoria and Queen Mary.
Windsor. (020) 7321-2233
- Whipsnade Zoo
ZSL Whipsnade Zoo is one of Europe's largest wildlife conservation parks. The Zoo is home to more than 2,500 animals, many of which are endangered in the wild. Watch tigers, elephants, hippos and giraffes in huge outdoor enclosures. Get closer to Lions of the Serengeti, check out the cheeky chimpanzees. Drive your car round the scenic park, or hop on and off the free Safari Bus. With daily live talks, demonstrations and feeds, and beautiful picnic areas, there's something for everyone at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo. Admission ranges from £12.50 to £16. Under 3 free.
Dunstable, Bedfordshire LU6 2LF. (01582) 872171