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A Guide to UNESCO World Heritage Sites in London

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Of the 28 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the UK, three are located in London. These sites are some of the most impressive buildings in the city and offer a great insight into the history of London and its modern operation as the capital city.

From the Tower of London with its purely ceremonial role in modern city life through to the very current affairs taking place daily at the Palace of Westminster, UNESCO has chosen a number of sites that reflect the rich cultural and political history of London.

Maritime Greenwich

The combination of great architecture with great discovery marked out Greenwich for attention by UNESCO and led to designation of the Maritime part of Greenwich as a World Heritage Site in 1997.

With buildings designed by the great architects Sir Christopher Wren and Inigo Jones, the architecture of the buildings was sufficiently remarkable to see the site designated for that alone.

This was also strengthened by the presence of the Royal Observatory, which has seen some of the greatest advances in the understanding of naval navigation and astronomy anywhere in the world.

Old Royal Naval College

The striking Old Naval College in Maritime Greenwich

The Observatory and the Old Naval College are both open to visitors all year round and make for a very educational trip in stunningly beautiful surroundings.

Palace of Westminster

The impressive Gothic façade of the Palace of Westminster makes it amongst the most iconic sites in London and one that people instantly associate with the city. Widely envied around the world, the design was emulated in the creation of the Hungarian parliament in Budapest on the banks of the Danube as well as being a sought-after backdrop for countless paintings, photographs and films throughout the years.

Nominated for the length of consistent use, the location where the Palace now stands has been the centre of government administration of Britain in its evolving form since the 11th century. Including Westminster Abbey, where all Monarchs have been crowned since William the Conqueror, and St Margaret’s Church as the oldest part of the whole Palace, Westminster is brimming with tales of government, political machinations and intrigue through the ages.

Helicopter view of the palace of westminster

A helicopter view of the Palace of Westminster

The British Parliament is still housed in the Palace of Westminster in the Houses of Parliament, which occupy the majority of the Palace’s riverside buildings. British citizens can apply to visit the House of Commons and House of Lords when Parliament is not in session for organised tours or visit individually as a guest of their Member of Parliament at any other time. Those who don’t have British citizenship can only enjoy the House from the outside, which is no bad thing given its beautifully intricate gothic exterior.

Tower of London

One of the earliest examples of Norman military architecture is located in Tower Hamlets, right on the banks of the river. The Tower of London was started in 1066 by William the Conqueror right after the Norman Conquest and was later added to by Henry III and Edward I in the 13th century making it one of the most important and influential castles in England. The Tower was used as a place of strategic military importance even into the 20th century, with influential prisoners of war held there during World War II.

The tower of london

The Tower of London

Today, the role of the Tower is purely ceremonial. No longer the destination for traitors to the Crown, instead it is home to the Crown Jewels and a small company of Yeoman Warders who guard the jewels and offer guided tours to the crowds of tourists who flock to the Tower.

Conclusion

London is fortunate to be able to number three UNESCO World Heritage Sites amongst some of its greatest attractions. Visiting these sites will give you a great feel for the history of the city and how that history is being preserved and brought forward into the current life of the city.

Image Credits: Wikipedia, Keith Roper and ymmat

A Visitors Guide to the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, London

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Greenwich, on the south bank of the Thames, is a thriving suburb of London and almost feels like village in itself. A thriving hub of maritime history, visitors can see the Cutty Sark in dry dock and the Royal Observatory as well as taking in arguably the greatest attraction in Greenwich – the Old Royal Naval College.

Instantly recognisable by its twin domed exterior designed by Sir Christopher Wren, the College sits right next to the river and continues to watch over the water as it has done for hundreds of years. The building continued to serve as the college for the Royal Navy until 1998, at which time it was turned into a museum and centre for arts and culture.

History of the site

The site has long had a key role to play in the maritime activities of Great Britain. From the original establishment of the Royal Hospital for Seamen, later known as Greenwich Hospital, it was a focus for naval activities. Injured sailors were brought to the hospital from the time of the Battle of La Hogue until its closure in 1869.

Old royal navy domes

The famous domes of the College as viewed from the rear

Once the sick and the wounded had been moved out of the hospital, the site was taken over and turned into a training establishment for Royal Naval recruits. It continued to train sailors and officers into the late 1990s when the college was handed over to the Greenwich Foundation to preserve the Grade I listed buildings and ensure their revival and on-going cultural use.

Today at the College

The use of the College buildings today varies and provides a unique mix of historical, educational and cultural activities and is open to visitors on a daily basis. The grounds are open every day throughout the year for people to visit and enjoy the landscaped gardens and stunning facades of the buildings.

The University of Greenwich has secured a long-term lease on a number of the buildings from which to deliver teaching programmes and house academics researching in the area. In addition, Trinity College of Music has also secured use of some of the buildings bringing some of the finest music students in the country to one of the most scenic locations in London to learn and perform.

The painted hall greenwich

The painted hall greenwich

The dramatic Painted Hall

The remainder of the buildings on the site are open for viewing on a daily basis. Regularly scheduled guided tours of the buildings and grounds run daily from the Visitor Centre and allow visitors to learn about the history of the Hospital, the College and the modern inhabitants of the buildings. The stunning Painted Hall is a particular attraction and is currently undergoing extensive conservation work to bring the painted frescoes back to their original splendour under the careful guidance of art restoration experts.

Events

The College holds a regular programme of events that link back to the heritage of the site as a place of great naval significance and draw in contributions from the newer occupants of the buildings on the campus.

From November to January, the Peregrine Trophy Photographic Awards will showcase some of the finest modern Royal Navy reportage photography and give visitors to the exhibition and insight into modern Naval service. Fans of classical music will also find a lively programme of events including the Royal Greenwich International Early Music Festival taking place from 7-9 November focusing on music composed before the original hospital was even built.

Conclusion

The Old Royal Naval College is open daily from 10am – 5pm except between Christmas Eve and Boxing Day. Check before you visit and try to coincide your visit with one of the free events or concerts taking place at the College and make your trip a truly special one.

Image Credits: Wikipedia 1 and 2

7 Great Theme Nights for a Christmas Party in London

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Christmas is a time for Christmas parties, but there are few ideas that haven’t already been done to death in the season of festivities. If you want to throw a bash that makes a splash this year, try doing something different and really make an impression on your party guests.

1) Christmas bikini party

For a holiday party with a difference, why not book a spa day with some of your closest friends and enjoy some pre-Christmas pampering? Admittedly this is something that you’re more likely to do during the day but you can get yourself in the mood with some Christmassy cocktails at the poolside and some steam in the sauna before getting dolled up for a night on the town.

2) Holiday movie marathon

Ask many people how they get themselves in the mood for Christmas and they will tell you that the feeling comes when they put on their favourite festive films.

This year, you can make it a party of your favourite Christmas films with a reservation at The Exhibit in Balham. With space for 24 adults on squishy leather sofas with comfy cushions, the state-of-the-art projector and surround sound system will bring your chosen films to life while you enjoy hot chocolate or hot toddies from the bar.

3) Christmas Carol-aoke

If your way of getting in the Christmas mood is with a few favourite festive ditties, maybe this idea is the party plan for you. Lucky Voice karaoke in Soho has private booths you can hire for as little as £5 per person to get a minimum of two hours to sing your heart out. Whatever your favourite Christmas tunes, you can belt out at the top of your voice without worrying about wowing the crowd while staff bring a steady supply of drinks to your sound-proofed room.

4) Santa crawl

This year, why not dress up like the most iconic modern Christmas figure – Santa Claus! There’s nothing to stop you strapping on your fake beard and hearty belly if you’re a guy or a girl, and with a group of friends you can enjoy the Christmas equivalent of a masquerade ball.

santa con

Not just Santa-con. A Santa conga!

If you want to join other like-minded Santa fans, get yourself and your Santa suit to London on the 14th December for Santa-Con – the world’s premier Santa event! Take along a bag of goodies to give out to good girls and boys as you and your fellow Santa’s wend your way from, pub to pub around central London.

5) Ice and Fire

George R. R. Martin doesn’t have the monopoly on Ice and Fire. You can create your own and bring it to one of the most stylish locations for your London party. Advise your guests to dress warmly along the theme then invite them to the unique IceBar on Heddon Street just off Regent’s Street. Enjoy cocktails in glasses made of ice as you enjoy the stunning ice sculptures before retiring to the belowzero bar to enjoy the rest of your evening.

6) Nativity party

A true Christmas staple, the Nativity party allows you to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas in costume to suit the occasion. Dress as your favourite King, Mary, Joseph or even the donkey that bore them to Bethlehem and seek out one of London’s many spit-and-sawdust pubs for a real stable experience.

One such hostelry, the Mug House under London Bridge, has wood panelling and sawdust on the floor to put you in the mood for a festive Nativity.

7) Ugly sweater party

Christmas is known for many things – peace on earth, goodwill to all men… and that awful sweater that your great aunt got you when you were 10. Not a new party theme but one that benefits from the ability to do it anywhere, the Ugly Sweater party recalls and celebrates that hideous knitwear your family got you as a kid.

Christmas sweaters

Nice sweaters!

With prizes for the worst jumper, most festive and most inventive, you can inject a bit of competition into proceedings that can be held at any pub or party venue without risking causing offence.

Conclusion

If you choose to hold your Christmas party in London this year, take some inspiration from our list for a festive event to remember.

Image Credits: Annie Mole and TheUglySweaterShop

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