start our tour at London - since this is the place most
travellers enter England. The River Thames divides Greater
London in half, with the old city and most of the attractions
of historical interest located to the north of the river.
was a Celtic settlement here before the Romans came in the
early first century AD, but it was the Romans that turned
London into a major trading centre. The old Roman walls
helped define the city for over a thousand years, and today
the financial district ("The City") fills much
of the space between those walls.
In 1066 the Normans came calling. William the Conqueror
began building the Tower
of London to keep the Londoners in line, and the Tower
has been expanded and added to many times since. It has
seen executions, murder, and dramatic escapes over the centuries.
A list of the prisoners who have been held within its walls
reads like a who's who of English history.
far from the Tower of London is domed St.
Paul's Cathedral, built by Christopher Wren in ebullient
classical style after the previous St. Paul's was destroyed
in the Great Fire of London (1667).
St. Paul's is the Whispering Gallery, so named because a
whisper against one side of the dome can be heard clearly
on the far side of the dome some 112 feet away. Within St.
Paul's are the tombs of the Duke of Wellington, poet John
Donne, and Wren himself, as well as artists such as Joshua
Reynolds and JMW Turner.
is blessed with some of the finest museums in the world.
Choose from the National
Gallery, Britain's national collection of European art,
or the nearby National
Portrait Gallery, with likenesses of the famous and
infamous in British history. The National Gallery fronts
on Trafalgar Square, famous for the statue of Admiral Nelson
atop his tall, slender column - and the pigeons which gather
at his feet.
elegant district of Kensington houses several more excellent
museums. The Victoria
and Albert (affectionately known as "The V&A")
is devoted to arts, crafts, and design from around the world.
The nearby Science
Museum explores the marvelous world of science through
hands-on exhibits and the Natural
History Museum showcases Britain's natural world, with
dinosaur skeletons, fossils, and exhibits on human biology.
familiar clock tower of Big Ben (the name actually refers
to the bell within the tower itself) soars above the neo-Gothic
of Parliament in Westminster. Just behind the Parliament
buildings is Westminster Abbey, begun by Edward the Confessor
in the 11th century.
Abbey can claim to be Britain's national church; certainly
it contains the tombs and memorials of more famous Britons
than anyplace else. From authors such as Shakespeare, Hardy,
and Keats, to politicians like Winston Churchill and most
of the kings and queens of England since the medieval period.
willing to venture further afield than the city core have
abundant choices for an enjoyable outing. To the east lies
Greenwich, where you can straddle 0° Meridian and stand
with one foot in each of the east and west hemisphere.
Royal Observatory at Greenwich traces the history of
navigation and the measurement of time. Near the riverbank
lies the Royal
Naval College, designed by Christopher Wren, and Queen's
House, built by Inigo Jones for Queen Henrietta Maria. Also
on display are the Cutty
Sark - the last and fastest of the clipper ships which
plied the tea trade in the Orient during the late 19th century.
can be reached by regular boat service along the Thames.
Boats also travel west, up the river to Hampton
Court, an extravagant palace built by Cardinal Wolsey,
who later found it politically prudent to give it to his
master, Henry VIII. Hampton Court is famous for its hedge
maze, and recreations of authentic Tudor gardens.
the theme of gardens, don't overlook Kew
Gardens, located just a few miles downriver from Hampton
Court. Kew was the first botanical garden in Britain, and
it houses a vast array of plants from around the world in
its massive Victorian greenhouses. Across the river from
Kew is Syon
House, an opulent stately home designed for the Dukes
all this emphasis on history, it is easy to forget that
London is a bustling, modern city. The theatre district
around Shaftesbury Avenue boasts some of the finest theatrical
events in the world, from first run plays to traditional
favourites. And modern attractions like the British Airways
"London Eye" and the Millennium Dome vie for traveller's
attention. London has so much to offer the visitor that
you could be forgiven for never venturing beyond the city
- but then you'd miss out on the rest of England!
more in depth information
St. Paul's in-depth
Tourist Information Centres