Things to Do in London - page 3
Lined with grand Victorian buildings and big-name stores, Regent Street was London's first dedicated shopping street, dating back to the early 19th century. Running for over a mile (2 kilometers) between Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Circus, the historical boulevard is a major traffic thoroughfare and one of London's busiest streets.
Fortnum & Mason is one of London’s most iconic and best-known department stores. Set on Piccadilly Street, it has been a key local shopping destination since 1707, but it’s also a must-see for visitors who want to peruse luxury goods, enjoy a traditional English afternoon tea, and purchase souvenirs.
Home to England’s greatest collection of paintings, the London National Gallery's pantheon-style facade looms over London’s Trafalgar Square. With a storied history dating back to 1824, it’s no wonder this is one of the most-visited art museums in the world.
Having moved from their original Charing Cross location to Buckingham Palace in 1825, the Royal Mews continue to serve as the monarch’s head stables today. Responsible for the road travel of the entire royal family, the mews are home to a number of famous royal coaches, as well as working carriage horses and several state cars.
Opened in 1871 by Queen Victoria and named after her husband, London’s Royal Albert Hall has played host to countless concerts, award ceremonies, and banquets. The domed red-brick auditorium is best known for the Proms, a long-running series of informal and inexpensive concerts designed to make classical music accessible to all.
Madame Tussauds may have branches around the globe, but its London wax museum is the birthplace of it all, with a history dating back almost 250 years. The ever-expanding collection of wax figures features everyone from Hollywood movie stars, pop icons, and record-breaking Olympians to politicians, historic figures, and members the British royal family. The museum’s fun, interactive exhibitions are sure to entertain the whole family.
Amid the blur of traffic of one of central London’s busiest intersections—the meeting point of Oxford Street, Park Lane, and Edgware Road—the grand Marble Arch is one of the city’s most striking landmarks, and it boasts an impressive royal history.
Built upon one of London’s oldest Roman roads, Oxford Street is now Europe’s most famous retail avenue. An array of major outlets and boutiques cater to about a half million shoppers each day. The street’s history, architecture, and Christmas light displays also draw all manner of visitors to the capital.
Housed inside a gigantic Victorian-era edifice, this treasure trove of a museum holds 80 million specimens, including fossils, minerals, bones, insects, and taxidermy. Visitors can come face to face with a huge animatronic Tyrannosaurus rex at the Dinosaur Encounter exhibit, see a live leafcutter ant colony at work at the Creepy Crawlies gallery, and experience the sensation of the earth’s shaking at the earthquake simulator.
Extending for 1,247 feet (380 meters) across the curving dome of London’s landmark O2 Arena, the Up at The O2 rooftop walkway promises far-reaching vistas and open-air thrills. Equipped with climbing suits and safety harnesses, visitors traverse the fabric walkway with a guide, making their way up to an observation platform where spectacular 360-degree views of the River Thames, leafy Greenwich, and the glinting skyscrapers of Canary Wharf await.
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Once a Tudor palace, Somerset House was redesigned by Sir William Chambers in 1776 as part of the city’s infrastructural improvements. Now a creative and cultural hub offering shows and activities year-round, the building is also known to have appeared in the Sherlock Holmes and James Bond films, among others.
Leadenhall Market itself dates back to the 14th century, while its City of London location has links to Roman Londinium (AD 43). The ornate structure of today was designed by Sir Horace Jones in 1881, though the market has since swapped meat trade for modern retail, and adopted an alter ego as Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter film series.
Built in 1608 by William the Conqueror on the banks of the River Avon, Warwick Castle was and still is one of England’s most magnificent medieval castles. Now a historical theme park run by Merlin Entertainments, it’s a full-on medieval experience filled with fascinating exhibits, interactive tours, and activities for the whole family.
Built by Charles Henry Harrod in 1834 and now owned by Qatar Holdings, Harrods is London’s largest and most iconic department store. With 330 different departments spread over seven floors, it’s a top choice for shoppers, selling everything from luxury souvenirs and gourmet British foods to renowned designer brands and stylish homewares.
A highlight of London’s vibrant South Bank, the Royal Festival Hall has been a cultural powerhouse since its debut in 1951, and is considered one of the world’s leading performance venues. Housed in a Grade I–listed building overlooking the Thames, the 2,700-seat auditorium hosts a regular program of concerts and other events.
The grand focal point of the Maritime Greenwich UNESCO World Heritage site, the Old Royal Naval College (ORNC) is an impressive architectural feat, stretching along the banks of the River Thames. Originally designed as a Royal Naval Hospital, the ORNC was the work of legendary architect Sir Christopher Wren (whose other masterpieces include St Paul’s Cathedral) and was built on the site of the Greenwich Palace, the birthplace of Henry VIII.
The magnificent classical buildings, with their twin domes, striking colonnaded façade and vast lawns now serve as the dramatic centerpiece of Greenwich and offer a fascinating introduction to the neighborhood for visitors. Highlights of a visit include the Discover Greenwich Visitor Centre, where exhibitions are devoted to the ORNC and Greenwich’s maritime heritage; Sir James Thornhill’s spectacular Painted Hall; and the neo-classical style Chapel of St Peter and St Paul. Throughout the year, the ORNC also hosts a number of music performances, exhibitions, workshops and special events.
Pop pilgrims flock to this black-and-white-striped crosswalk in north London for the ultimate photo opportunity. Day in, day out, Beatles fans can be seen trying to recreate the iconic 1969 Abbey Road album cover at this pedestrian crossing—their movements broadcast to the world via live webcam. Nearby lies Abbey Road Studios, where the Beatles recorded many of their hits.
The National Maritime Museum explores the naval and maritime history of Britain, which was for centuries one of the world’s leading sea powers. The exhibitions showcase everything from real-life vessels and model ships to nautical instruments, objects, manuscripts, and maritime-themed artworks from the likes of J.M.W. Turner.
The third theater to have stood on this Covent Garden site, the Victorian-era Royal Opera House (ROH) was given a major facelift at the turn of the 21st century. The landmark venue now hosts performances by two of the United Kingdom’s most prestigious companies: the Royal Ballet and the Royal Opera.
As the grand centerpiece of Hyde Park Corner, Wellington Arch is among London’s most viewed landmarks, but it’s also possible to explore inside the historic monument. Built for George IV between 1826 and 1830 to commemorate the British victories in the Napoleonic Wars, the Wellington Arch was originally intended to stand at the entrance to Buckingham Palace.
A short stroll from both Hyde Park and Green Park, the Arch offers great views over the royal parks and nearby Buckingham Palace, as well as making a great spot from which to watch the daily Changing of the Guards ceremony – the mounted Horse Guards pass right beneath the arch. Visitors can also enjoy three floors of exhibitions telling the story of the arch’s history and the Battle of Waterloo.
Fans of Harry Potter will be familiar with Platform 9 3/4. The fictional platform is located at the very real King's Cross train station in London, between platforms 9 and 10, and is where the Hogwarts Express can be boarded—by running directly at what appears to be a solid wall barrier.
Opening its doors back in 2002, the glass-fronted, semi-spherical London City Hall marked a new dawn of London’s governance, providing a sleek, modernist façade for the London Assembly. The building alone is impressive, a geometrical masterpiece designed by architect Sir Norman Foster (who also designed the nearby Gherkin) and featuring eco-friendly natural ventilation, lighting movement sensors and solar panelling, as well as a dramatic transparent spiral stairwell that dominates the interior and climbs all ten stories.
The landmark building now not only serves as the official headquarters of the Mayor of London, but as a public exhibition and meeting space, including an open-air observation deck and free Wi-Fi to all visitors.
Graffiti-lined Brick Lane has long been an immigrant neighborhood, having hosted French Huguenot, Irish, Jewish, and—most recently—Bangladeshi communities. The string of curry houses at its southern end specialize in Indian and South Asian cuisine, while farther north, retro clothing shops, cafés, and bars dominate the scene.
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