One weekend in London: what to see?
October 17, 2015
London is a huge city: it has 7,5 million inhabitants and it’s about 1500 km2. This cosmopolitan city knows 200 languages and has 2000 years of history. So spending one weekend in London means making choices.
Houses of Parliament
This Victorian palace on the Thames is known as the Houses of Parliament. It is London’s youngest palace. In 1834 the former palace, since William the Conqueror the main royal residence in London, was destroyed by a fire. I love the equestrian statue of Richard Lionheart.
The Big Ben is the symbol for the British governement. When the parliament has meetings in the evening, there is light burning in the top of the tower.
Saint Pauls Cathedral
Saint Pauls Cathedral is one of the most famous sights of London. It’s dome, the only dome in Great Britain, dominates the skyline for already 300 years.The cathedral is dedicated to Paul the Apostle. This dedication dates back to the original church on this site, founded in AD 604. The present church, dating from the late 17th century, was designed in the English Baroque style by Sir Christopher Wren. The building of St. Pauls was part of a major rebuilding programme in the City after the Great Fire of London in 1666. Untill 1962 it was with it’s 111 metres the tallest building in London.
St Paul’s Cathedral was the scenery of some important events: the funerals of Lord Nelson, the Duke of Wellington and Sir Winston Churchill, jubilee celebrations for Queen Victoria and ofcourse the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana. Famous or not I was not impressed by it’s interior. It is a cathedral like other cathedrals. The entrance fee is high, around 20 pounds, and inside you are not allowed to take pictures. It is possible to climb the 560 steps of the dome. But to be honest: the view isn’t that spectaculair.
The Tower of London
Everyone knows the phrase ‘sent to the Tower’! But the Tower of London was more than a prison. It was founded towards the end of 1066 as part of the Norman Conquest of England. The White Tower, which gives the entire castle its name, was built by William the Conqueror in 1078. Ever since the Tower played a prominent role in English history. Most famous is the peak period of the castle’s use as a prison in the 16th and 17th centuries. Even Elizabeth I, before she became queen, was held within its walls. This use as a prison led to the famous phrase ‘sent to the Tower’. But beside being a prison the Tower has served as a royal residence, an armoury, a treasury, a menagerie, the home of the Royal Mint, a public records office and ofcourse as the home of the Crown Jewels of England.
The Tower Bridge is an iconic London landmark. This bridge was built to reduce the traffic on the other bridges. The bridge received a special form because ships must be able to pass. It’s worth while to wait for a while and see the bridge open for passing ships.
The Knights Templar, or the Red Knights so called after the red crosses they wore, built the Temple Church between 1160 and 1185. They held worship services and their secret initiation rites in the Round, the oldest part of the Temple Church. The order of the Knights Templar was very powerful in England in the 12th and 13th century. In 1215 the Temple was the scene of important negotiations leading to the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215. In the 14th century the Knights Templar lost their power and wealth. Most interesting to see in the Temple are the 10 knightly effigies in the old round church. They were believed to be tombes untill restoration revealed no bodies, just effigy memorials. Also look at the Norman Door. Gargoyles are common for churches but it is unusual for them to be placed indoors. Nowadays the church is best known for Dan Browns novel ‘The Da Vinci Code’.
St Dunstan Hill
Visiting a church and being outside at the same time! The bombed ruins of a medieval church and Wren Tower are made into a charming city garden by imaginative planting of wall chrubs and climbers.
Ofcourse you can’t miss the British Museum. The archeological, and especially the Egyptian collections are impressive. For me the Rosetta Stone was the absolute highlight. Don’t forget to admire the treasures of Sutton Hoo, an Anglo-Saxon royal burial ship.
After your visit to the museum it’s nice to get some fresh air and to explore the Bloomsbury district. Many famous writers lived here. Blue signs indicate the houses of writers like Virginia Woolf, Vanessa Bell, T.S. Eliott and Bernard Shaw. Charles Dickens’ house became a small, intimate museum.
White cliffs of Dover
This last one is ofcourse outside of London. But when you depart by boat it’s a great idea to leave early and take a walk on the famous White Cliffs and visit the Castle. It’s a great place to watch the sun set: a perfect end to a weekend in London!