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Top 10 London Historic Attractions

Posted: 2009-06-29

Top 10 London Historic Attractions

I see where the official Visit London tourism website has come up with a list of Top 10 London Attractions. The list includes all the usual suspects; in fact, I'll wager that anyone reading this post could easily name at least seven of the ten without even trying. While the Visit London list includes modern attractions like the London Eye, I thought it might be fun to create a list of the top 10 historic attractions in London.

I dare say that many of these choices will be pretty obvious, too, but maybe one or two will surprise you. Just to keep the criteria simple, in order to be considered for this list, an attraction has to predate 1900, and have strong historic interest, so, I've arbitrarily discounted museums and galleries, for example. Right, here we go ...

  • 10. St Giles Cripplegate - this ancent church is surrounded by the modern maze of the Barbican development. It was built in 1090, and houses the grave of poet John Milton.
  • 9. St John's Gate - the former gatehouse of the priory of the Knights of St John in Clerkenwell. The gatehouse was built in 1504, and is now the headquarters of the Order of St John (the ambulence people). William Hogarth once lived here,and Samuel Johnson worked at St John's Gate.
  • 8. Southwark Cathedral - this ancient church only became a cathedral in 1905, but it can trace its history back to Saxon times.
  • 7. St Bartholomew the Great - one of the lesser known attractions on this list, St Bartholomews was begun in the 12th century as a monastic church. After the Dissolution it was used as a stable and a factory, before being restoed to its original purpose.
  • 6. Tower Bridge - one of the youngest attractions on this list, Tower Bridge was built in 1894. The twin towers have become an instantly recognized symbol of London. You can ascend the tower to the walkwy above, and see the Victorian steam engines used to raise and lower the centre of the bridge to allow ships to pass through.
  • 5. Buckingham Palace - I hesitated over whether to include Buckingham Palace on this list, because it is only infrequenly open to visitors, but, hey, its Buckingham Palace! Rebuilt by John Nash for the then Prince Regent (later George IV).
  • 4. Hampton Court Palace - Cardinal Wolsey's little place in the country ... a grand, rambling Tudor mansion, enlarged by Henry VIII, and later by Sir Christopher Wren.
  • 3. Westminster Abbey - It is hard to imagine that when Edward the Confessor began the construction of Westminster Abbey, it was on a marshy countryside site, well away from the hustle and bustle of London.
  • 2. St Paul's Cathedral - there was a cathedral on this site for centuries, but by the time of the Great Fire of London that old building was in a dreadful state of disrepair. The fire saved St Paul's from being pulled down, and gave Christopher Wren the cghance to create his masterpiece, a glorious neoclassical church surmounted by the famous dome that hasbecome a London landmark.
  • 1. Tower of London - begun by William the Conqueror, and the site of so many pivotal moments in British history.

There you have it, my top 10 historic attractions in London. Next up, how about a list of the best medieval sites in London? Stay tuned...

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