As a proper northerner from the beautiful climate of Northumberland and now living in Lancashire, London is a bit big and scary still, even though I’ve been there a few times. But at the same time I know it’s pretty cool, and full of great things to do.
If you’ve booked a cruise departing from Southampton or Harwich, and you’re travelling from the North, London makes an ideal stop to break up the travel and begin your holiday early. Sometimes we take places at home for granted so, in case you’ve never been, here’s the best places to pay a quick visit if you travel to London on the way to a southern cruise port.
A trip to London isn’t complete without seeing this iconic structure, completed in 1894. Taking its name from the nearby Tower of London, the memorable design ensures it is always associated with the city, and the views from the elevated walkways are exceptional.
Houses of Parliament/Big Ben
The Houses of Parliament are a popular visiting spot for tourists, in particular at the Palace of Westminster where you’ll find the famous Elizabeth Tower, inside which is the Big Ben bell. The tower was renamed in 2012 from its original Clock Tower name to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee.
There are a number of amazing museums in London to explore so it’s up to you as to what interests you most. Visit the Museum of London or the British Museum, or try the National History Museum or the fascinating Science Museum. There’s a load of smaller museums too.
Originally built in 1705, Buckingham Palace acts as the weekday home of the British monarchy although it wasn’t until 1837 that the first monarch took residency in the palace, when Queen Victoria moved in. Now the state rooms are open to the public during August and September.
Tower of London (Crown Jewels)
Head to the Tower of London – or to give it the full title, Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress – to see the Crown Jewels and learn the history of this landmark, included the renowned story of the two princes, locked in the tower in the 15th century and then disappearing, rumoured to have been murdered.
Piccadilly Circus is an interesting and lively junction connecting Regent Street and Piccadilly, with illuminated advertising signs reminiscent of Times Square in New York. If you want to get to the heart of the shopping scene in London, this is it.
This giant ferris wheel is located on the South Bank of the Thames, and offers incredible views across much of the city skyline. It’s also become one of the more contemporary landmarks commonly associated with the city, meaning it’s always popular with tourists.
First built in the 10th century, there’s a lot of history surrounding the abbey, having hosted royal coronations since the start of the 12th century along with being the site of at least 16 royal weddings. It’s also a beautiful structure.
The Portobello Road Market is very popular with tourists, being a centre for antiques. The best day is Saturday but there’s always something to see regardless of when you visit.
St Paul’s Cathedral
Another iconic building in the city, St Paul’s Cathedral is a beautiful structure and another site of many important events throughout history including the funerals of Lord Nelson, Churchill and Thatcher, and the wedding of Charles and Diana.
Special mentions also go to Covent Garden, 30 St Mary Axe (the Gherkin) and the Shard, which could easily make the top 10. But have I missed anything else? Comment and let me know.
By Ian Lewis