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Three fabulous London walking tours

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Although London is a large, sprawling city, getting around the inner city sights is relatively easily done on foot. Flat and well-signposted, the city is well laid-out to be explored on foot and there are plenty of opportunities to stop and have a cuppa en route as you make your way around the attractions.

Take a look at our three recommended tours and find something to inspire you to take to your own two feet on your next trip to the city.

 

1)  Iconic sights of London

Our first tour takes you from the heart of what’s known as Westminster Village through the heart of the UK’s administrative heart and back to Jubilee Gardens at the foot of the London Eye.

Starting at Westminster Tube station, you’ll see the tower of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament before heading down Abbingdon Street past St Margaret’s Church – a 11th century parish church that serves as the local church for the Palace of Westminster. After reaching the prestigious Westminster School, the route loops back towards the vast and imposing Westminster Abbey, where you can stop for a look around.

Heading into Horse Guards Road, you’ll pass the Cabinet War Rooms where Churchill held his War Cabinets during World War II and on to the Cenotaph at the start of Whitehall. After passing Downing Street on your left, where the Prime Minister and Chancellor reside, and Horseguards with its mounted sentries you’ll head to St James’s Park where you can stop for tea in sight of Buckingham Palace.

A handsome steed at Horseguards
Horseguards

After walking towards the Palace, you turn onto The Mall and reach Trafalgar Square through the Admiralty Arch. After taking in Nelson’s Column and the plinths leave the square along Duncannon Street and find your way to the London Eye across the river via Jubilee Bridge. As your final stop on the route, get an ice-cream and enjoy the view of Westminster from across the Thames.

 

2)  The shopping tour

If you’re in town to give your credit card a workout, take a walk through the heart of London’s finest shopping and find your way to some bargains.

Starting at Goodge Street Tube station, turn south down Tottenham Court Road to find some of the best electrical shops in the country. If you’re looking for cameras, phones or computers, you won’t do any better than here!

Once you hit Charing Cross Road, electronics stores become book shops with plenty to interest any bookworm. Foyles has a great selection of best-sellers and less popular works while Stanford’s Travel has maps and travel books galore.

Following along Gerrard Street will bring you to Chinatown, where there are dozens of shops selling Oriental goods and trinkets to take home. From there, head for Jermyn Street for fine gentlemen’s tailoring before heading for Knightsbridge and the shopping temple that is Harrods.

 

3)  City of London Tour

Taking in some of the best sights in what’s known as the Square Mile, this tour brings you a whole lot of history. Starting out at the Tower of London, you’ll also see the famous Tower Bridge, which opens to allow large vessels up the Thames. From there, head to Monument, where the commemorative column marking the Great Fire of London can be climbed for spectacular views across the City.

Onwards to Bank, and you’ll see the Mansion House. As home to the Lord Mayor of the City of London, its grand columns at the entrance welcome members of the establishment to grand banquets in the heart of the City.

St Paul's Cathedral
St Paul’s Cathedral

 

Walking up Poultry and onto Cheapside, you will begin to see signs of the dome of St Paul’s, which has hosted many state occasions and royal weddings. Here you can take time to pause before walking back towards the river and finishing your tour on the south bank at the Globe Theatre, London home of Shakespeare’s players in 1599; a delightful cultural end to a historical tour.

 

Conclusion

London has a great many sights that can be toured on foot. Going above ground helps you see a different angle on the city and spot things you would have otherwise missed.

Image Credits: Wikipedia 1 & 2

London’s Ecclesiastical Treasures

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London is a city of many churches, many of which have a long history of standing in the same location through the trials and tribulations that have faced the city and its residents throughout its history. Several of the churches, cathedrals and abbeys have a heritage dating back to the medieval era and boast some of the most spectacular interiors and external facades of any building in the city.

There are some particularly prize examples that are well worth a visit on your trip to London. Whether you wish to pay homage or simply wonder at the architecture, there are lots to attract you to the churches and cathedrals of London.

 

Oldest church

Although there are plenty of churches that have had places of worship on the same grounds dating back to the Middle Ages, the oldest church in continuous use in the city is St Bartholomew the Great in Smithfield, West London.

st bartholomew the great

St Bartholomew the Great, with its peaceful and austere interior

The church has stood in place and been used as a place of worship continuously since at least 1143 St Bartholomew’s, Or Bart’s as it’s affectionately known locally, has battled the odds and survived through two World Wars and the Great Fire of London to stand completely unscathed almost exactly as it did when it was first erected some 850 years ago. Today it is known for its excellent music and café, which serves a selection of monastic beers and fresh food seven days a week in the 15th century cloister.

 

Multi-purpose church

The church with probably the most varied use in London is the Union Chapel in Islington, North London. As well as having a growing congregation of worshipers that attend the chapel on a daily basis, the Union offers a number of other services that help make it into a thriving and vibrant community of people from all backgrounds.

The Chapel runs a charity that supports homeless people and people in crisis from across London. The Margin is a drop-in centre that offers food, shelter, healthcare and a social meeting place for people who have nowhere else to turn. A legion of volunteers keep the place running and offering to support to some of the most needy people in the city.

In addition to its charitable works, the Union Chapel has a busy events calendar that sees some top names in comedy and music appearing at the atmospheric gothic chapel with its domed interior making it perfect for both spoken word and musical performance. London’s top entertainment weekly Time Out recently voted the Union Chapel London’s number 1 music venue.

 

London’s grandest place of worship

If you’re looking for out-and-out grandeur, there can only be one church that tops the list of most spectacular churches in London.

st pauls cathedral building

St Paul’s Cathedral – easily London’s most imposing ecclesiastical building

Designed by the great British architect Sir Christopher Wren, the cathedral as it now stands covers consecrated ground that has been used as a site of worship since the early 4th century. The vast domed roof dominates the skyline and can be seen for miles around from both sides of the river.

The interior of the cathedral is no less imposing with a vast gilt high altar and thousands of engravings and paintings by some of the foremost painters and craftsmen of the age.

Visitors can wander around the interior of the church and enjoy some of the splendour that has seen princes and princesses married at the altar and the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in 2012.

 

Conclusion

London has some of the most varied and interesting places of worship that also counts amongst their number the grand and the beautiful. It wouldn’t be possible to visit London without seeing some of its thousands of churches, chapels and cathedrals, so keep your eyes peeled and your camera handy.

Image Credits: Wikipedia 1 and 2

Keep the Kids Entertained on a Fun-packed London Weekend

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If you’re traveling to the city with the family, it can be difficult to find a balance of activities that keep everyone entertained. While you might want to go and see museums and exhibitions, little ones are quickly bored and need fun activities that will keep them interested and engaged.

There are plenty of things to do in London that have enough to keep the adults happy while making sure that the kids have fun in the process. Plenty of London’s most popular museums have things that will keep the youngsters in your party enthralled while still having something to offer for the grown-ups.

 

The Science Museum

Less of a museum, more of a collection of interactive exhibits, the Science Museum is designed with young people in mind. With lots of fascinating information about advances in science and the ways in which scientific discoveries have impacted on the world around us, the various halls have plenty of places where kids can get hands-on with the exhibits to learn about science and have loads of fun in the process.

Current exhibits in the museum include the history of British innovation and the science of pain, both of which have games and interactive activities for kids to get involved with. Your trip will be interesting, exciting, educational and fun for all concerned as you wander through the halls and find something new around every corner.

The museum is open every day except between Christmas Eve and Boxing Day and has free entry.

 

Gory history

If your kids are fans of the Horrible History series, they’re likely to get a real kick out of the Old Operating Theatre Museum at St Thomas Church, near St Thomas Hospital. The oldest operating theatre in Europe is found at the top of a rickety old staircase surrounded by deliciously macabre exhibits and at the top, the steeply pitched seating surrounding the operating theatre at the bottom.

The theatre occasionally has re-enactments of the surgery that would have taken place before crowds of morbidly curious wealthy patrons and would-be surgeons. These are, of course, somewhat sanitised from the original versions but are likely to have the older kids in your party squirming with gruesome delight.

 

Visit Hamley’s

This might be one you want to save for a time when you have a bit of money in your wallet, because you’re unlikely to leave empty-handed! Hamley’s toy store is the largest in the UK and has floors of toys of all kinds for kids of all ages.

hamley lego queen

Hamley’s Lego Queen, complete with corgi!

The displays of toys and games change throughout the year, and visiting close to Christmas is a particularly magical experience. Its window displays are legendary and kids will have a wonderful time wandering around and ogling all the wonderful toys from small to seriously large.

 

Princess Diana Memorial Playground

If you have a bunch of little monkeys with lots of energy to burn, head down to Kensington for an afternoon at the Princess Diana Memorial Playground. While they run themselves ragged, you can take the opportunity to enjoy the peace and tranquillity of Kensington Gardens.

sunny day memorial playground

A lovely sunny day at the Memorial Playground

In sight of Diana’s former residence at Kensington Palace, the playground has a sensory trail, teepees, sandpits and a full-scale wooden pirate ship inspired by The Jolly Roger in Peter Pan on which children can climb and play. There are plenty of areas where children who are less able to run and climb can play with those who are more physically active, making it a wonderfully inclusive place for kids to spend an afternoon.

 

Conclusion

London has plenty of places that are fun and rewarding to visit with children. Whatever it is your kids enjoy, you’ll be able to find something to keep them entertained.

Image Credits: Wingingit and alecea

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