London travel is synonymous with the Royal Family, Big Ben, and the Tower Bridge. When in London, you must visit Westminster if you wish to see many of London’s most famous attractions.
A section of London known as The West End contains Westminster, the seat of the British government. Many of London’s major attractions are located in the West End. You are likely to need several days to visit all the neighborhoods in London if you plan to see everything. This article discusses Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, St. James Park and Buckingham Palace, and the National Gallery.
The first day we were in London, we walked all over Westminster. The hotel was adjacent to Victoria Station, a great starting point for exploring London, especially the West End. A tourist office, bus tours, Starbucks Coffee, and other shops and restaurants are located at Victoria station, along with trains, buses, and taxis.
Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament
A top tourist attraction in London, everyone wants to see the clock tower. Located next to the River Thames, its 96.3 meter high (316 ft) tower (roughly 16 stories) looms over the river. The clock tower can be found in the Palace of Westminster, part of the Houses of Parliament. Both the House of Commons and the House of Lords are located here. Houses of Parliament tours are available, except Big Ben, which is only open to residents of the UK. Additionally, visitors from overseas can watch a live debate in both houses while they are in session.
Our walk down Victoria Street toward the River Thames took us past examples of gothic architecture at their finest. At the corner of Victoria Street and Trothill Street stands Westminster Abbey. Located right next to her is the Westminster Cathedral, a separate attraction, and cathedral. Westminster Abbey is technically not a cathedral; it is a Royal Peculiar, and over a million visitors visit it every year, so expect a lot of crowds.
Kings and Queens have been crowned and buried here for hundreds of years. Royal weddings have also taken place here, most recently Prince William and Catherine Middleton.
The gothic architecture is mesmerizing from the outside, but the interior is drab. Eight languages are available for audio tours. If you are considering entering Westminster Abbey, do some research before entering. The entrance fee isn’t cheap, and pictures aren’t allowed. Did you know Charles Dickens is buried here?
Buckingham Palace and St. James Park
The name alone conjures up images of royalty, tabloids, and famous state visits. It’s home to the British monarch, and in the summer, tours of staterooms are offered. Although the Victoria Memorial out front was under repair when we visited, it’s still a stunning photo of both the fountain sculpture and the Palace entrance together.
The oldest Royal Park in existence is St. James Park, which is adjacent to the Palace. It is large enough to include many attractions for tourists, measuring 23 hectares (58 acres). You can observe the feeding of pelicans, bird watching, observe guard changes, attend summer concerts or enjoy a meal in a British café.
The Trafalgar Square is one of the most beautiful squares in London, with the National Gallery, Nelson’s Column, numerous statues, and a large fountain. A New Year’s celebration is held at the square every year, and throughout history, demonstrations and protests have taken place there.
Nelson’s Column commemorates Admiral Horatio Nelson, who died at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Four giant lion statues guard it. In addition to celebrating England’s victory over Napoleon in 1805, the monument is also a reminder of that victory.
The National Gallery houses Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt, Gainsborough, Turner, Renoir, Cezanne, and Van Gogh, focusing on Western European paintings from 1250 to 1900. And it’s free!
Several modes of transportation are available in London, including a subway system, rail system, buses, taxis, and bicycles. Almost all of our vacation time was spent on the bus. While buses are less expensive than the subway, the “Tube” often takes longer. Throughout the city, a bike-sharing program provides a green and healthy way to travel.
Westminster Abbey Bus Station and Parliament Square
Consider one of the double-decker buses for your tour. Each company offers similar routes at comparable rates. Cycling on a Fat Tire Bike Tour is another way to go green. In tourist areas, bus stops and subway stations are marked.
Couple Travel Tips
When it comes to finding cheap holidays abroad, London will be a challenge, especially for Americans. Compared to the British pound sterling, the US dollar does not do well. Using public transportation instead of a taxi can save you money; look into Oyster cards for savings.
Photographs of Westminster are commonly taken on the Westminster Bridge, which crosses the River Thames between Big Ben and County Hall / The London Eye. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to take your picture. The London Eye and Waterloo Bridge make for the best backdrops in the late afternoon.
During the morning, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament make a beautiful backdrop for a picture. The London Marriott Hotel County Hall and The Royal Horseguards Hotel are the best hotels in the area.