The London cathedrals you can’t miss

The London cathedrals you can’t miss! London is rich in history and art, and you can experience both at the city’s cathedrals.

London is rich in history and art, and you can experience both at the city’s cathedrals.

Westminster Cathedral

Not to be confused with Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales. It is also the seat of the Archbishop of Westminster.

Westminster Cathedral is located on Victoria street. The nearest tube and train station is Victoria. As you walk along Victoria Street, you discover a wide piazza among commercial and office buildings. That is the main entrance to the cathedral. You will probably think that you have been transported to Constantinople. No, you are still in London.

The London cathedrals you can't miss! London is rich in history and art, and you can experience both at the city's cathedrals. #London #travel #cathedral

Built in the late 19th century (1895), the cathedral building is actually Victorian. However, its design style is Early Christian Byzantine. The nave and the mosaics reminded me of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul (modern-day Constantinople).

The cavernous nave and chapels are decorated with over one hundred different types of marble from all over the world, like red granite from Sweden or lapis lazuli form Chile. The effect is truly astounding.

The mosaics are Neo-Byzantine in style. They were installed between 1912 and 1916 by members of the Arts and Crafts Movement, which stood for traditional craftsmanship and often inspired by medieval, romantic or folk styles.

Victoria St, Westminster, London SW1P 1LT

Cathedral of the Holy Family in Exile

This is a little-known cathedral, or, at any rate, I never heard of it until now. It is the cathedral of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Eparchy of the Holy Family of London.

This is bit is confusing to me: “Though independent from the authority of the Latin Rite hierarchy in England and Wales, and instead under the jurisdiction of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchial bishop, territorially, the cathedral is considered to be part of the Marylebone deanery of the Latin Rite Catholic Archdiocese of Westminster.”

The Ukrainian Catholic church bought this building in 1967. It was originally built in in the Italianate classic design in 1891 for the Congregational King’s Weigh House. The architect, Alfred Waterhouse, also designed the Natural History Museum. learn more about the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Exile here.

22 Binney Street (Chancery), London, W1K 5BQ

St. George’s Cathedral, Southwark

Two cathedrals grace Southwark: St. George’s, which is Catholic, and Southwark Cathedral, which is Anglican. Of the two, St. George’s is lesser known. Let’s change that.

The Metropolitan Cathedral of the St. George is the seat of the Archbishop of Southwark, which the London boroughs south of the Thames, the Medway and Kent.

The London cathedrals you can't miss! London is rich in history and art, and you can experience both at the city's cathedrals. #London #travel #cathedral


The building was designed by the renowned Victorian architect Augustus Pugin and was officially opened in 1848. Almost a century later, in April 1941, an incendiary bomb caused a lot of damage. After rebuilding, the cathedral was reconsecrated in 1958.

St. George’s Cathedral is a stone’s throw away from the Imperial War Museum and the South Bank. It’s a short walk from Waterloo Station.

Lambeth Road, (SE1 6HR)

St. Paul’s Cathedral

St. Paul’s Cathedral is the best known of all London’s cathedrals. It’s one of the quintessential landmarks we think of when we think of London.

The London cathedrals you can't miss! London is rich in history and art, and you can experience both at the city's cathedrals. #London #travel #cathedral

St. Paul’s has a very long history that goes back to the 7th century. The current building was designed by Sir Christopher Wren in the English Baroque style, after the Great Fire of London of 1666 destroyed the medieval cathedral.

This was not the only time that St. Paul’s was under attack. The suffragettes planted a bomb in 1913, but it didn’t go off. However, the German bombs during the Blitz did not miss the cathedral, which then became a symbol of resistance.

The London cathedrals you can't miss! London is rich in history and art, and you can experience both at the city's cathedrals. #London #travel #cathedral

St. Paul’s is the seat of the Bishop of London and is the mother church of the Anglican Diocese of London. It’s a wonderful building. If you have time to visit just the one cathedral, do choose St. Paul’s.

St Paul’s Cathedral, St Paul’s Churchyard, London, EC4M 8AD

Southwark Cathedral

Southwark Cathedral is located on the south bank of the Thames in Bankside. It is the seat of the Diocese of Southwark of the Church of England, which serves South London and Surrey.

Its full name is The Cathedral and Collegiate Church of St Saviour and St Mary Overie. Its history dates back to the Doomsday Book (1086), as it mentions the existence of a minster at that location. The Normans re-founded it in 1106 as a priory under the Augustinian rule.

The London cathedrals you can't miss! London is rich in history and art, and you can experience both at the city's cathedrals. #London #travel #cathedral

The many highlights of Southwark Cathedral include a Roman pavement, the stained glass, Edmund Shakespeare’s memorial stone (he was William’s brother), and the altar piece and screen. And a lovely café to sit and relax. Find visitor information here. You’ll find the cathedral behind Borough Market, at the foot of London Bridge.

London Bridge, London SE1 9DA

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The London cathedrals you can't miss! London is rich in history and art, and you can experience both at the city's cathedrals. #London #travel #cathedral
The London cathedrals you can’t miss! London is rich in history and art, and you can experience both at the city’s cathedrals. #London #travel #cathedral
The London cathedrals you can't miss! London is rich in history and art, and you can experience both at the city's cathedrals. #London #travel #cathedral
The London cathedrals you can’t miss! London is rich in history and art, and you can experience both at the city’s cathedrals. #London #travel #cathedral

St. Margaret’s Chapel Edinburgh Castle

St. Margaret’s Chapel Edinburgh Castle
La Capilla de Sta. Margarita en el castillo de Edimburgo

St. Margaret’s Chapel

Built on the highest point of Castle Rock, St. Margaret’s Chapel dominates Edinburgh Castle and the city below. This small unassuming Chapel, with an internal width of 3 metres and a 4.8-metre-long nave, is Edinburgh’s oldest building.  

King David I (1124-1153) had the Chapel built in about 1130 and dedicated it to his mother, Queen Margaret. It is a simple rectangular stone construction, with an entrance door near the back of the nave, and a round chancel arch decorated with chevron mouldings. The arch leads to the small apsed sanctuary. The ornate arch and three of the walls are original. The walls are 61 centimetre thick.

St. Margaret’s Chapel is redolent of earlier Celtic Chapels in Scotland and Ireland. However, the style is Romanesque, as evidenced by the round-headed windows and the round arch.

This Chapel is still standing after some brutal historical events. When the Earl of Moray captured Edinburgh Castle from the English in 1314, King Robert the Bruce had it demolished to prevent it falling onto English hands again. However, St. Margaret’s Chapel was spared. Before he died, Robert the Bruce gave orders for the Chapel to be repaired.

The Chapel was virtually forgotten after the Reformation in the 16th century. It was also used to store gunpowder. Restoration work began in the 1850s. The stained-glass windows, which depict Scottish saints, were installed in the 1920s. the Chapel was rededicated in 1934. It is still used for religious services, like baptisms or weddings. The St. Margaret’s Chapel Guild ensures that there are always fresh flowers.

La capilla de Santa Margarita

La capilla de Sta. Margarita domina el paisaje desde el punto más alto del Castillo de Edimburgo. Esta pequeña capilla, de solo 3 metros de ancho interior y una nave de 4,8 metros de largo, es la construcción más antigua de la ciudad.

El rey David I (1124-1153) mandó a construir la capilla en 1130 dedicada la memoria de su madre, la reina Margarita. Es una construcción rectangular de piedra, con una entrada en la parte posterior de la nave y un arco decorado con motivos angulares. El arco separa el ábside de la nave. El arco triunfal y tres de las paredes son originales. Estas tienen un espesor de 61 centimetros.

Si bien la capilla tiene características parecias a capillas celtas de Escocia e Irlanda, su estilo es románico, como lo indican las ventanas redondeadas y el arco triunfal.

La capilla soportó varios eventos históricos violentos. Cuando el conde de Moray recapturó el Castillo de Edimburgo en poder de los ingleses en 1314, el rey Robert the Bruce lo mandó a demolir para evitar que volviera a caer en manos inglesas. Si embargo, ordenó conservar la capilla. Antes de morir, ordenó que fuera restaurada.

La capilla cayó en el abandono luego de la Reforma Protestante del siglo XVI. Incluso, se la utilizó como polvorín. Los trabajos de restauración comenzaron en la década de 1850. Los vitrales con santos escoceses son de la década de 1920. La capilla fue vuelta a consagrar en 1934. Todavía se usa para servicios relgiosos como bautismos o casamientos. La Cofradía de la Capilla de Sta. Margarita se ocupa de que simpre haya flores frescas.

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St. Margaret's Chapel  Edinburgh Castle
La Capilla de Sta. Margarita en la castillo de Edimburgo 
#Edinburg #Castle #Scotland #Escocia #viajar #travel

Who was St. Margaret?

Although born in exiled in Hungary in 1045, Margaret of Wessex was an English princess, sister to Edgar Ætheling, claimant to the throne of England. Her family returned to England when she was ten but had to flee after the Norman invasion of 1066.

Their ship, headed to the Continent, was blown off course and ended up in Scotland. King Malcolm put the family under his protection. He eventually fell in love with and married Margaret in 1070.

Margaret was a devoted catholic. She exerted her influence on her husband, who was not vey religious. Queen Margaret promoted the arts and education, advocated religious reform in Scotland and founded several churches. She fed the poor and nursed the sick.

Pope Innocent IV canonized Margaret in 1250 for her life of holiness and reform of the Church.

Saint Margaret is the patron saint of Scotland and her feast day is 16 November. Incidentally, my mother-in-law’s name was Margaret, and she was Scottish.    

¿Quién fué Sta. Margarita?

Si bien nació en el exilio en Hungría, Margarita de Wessex era una princesa inglesa hermana de Edgar Atheling, pretendiente al trono de Inglaterra. Su familia volvió cuando ella tenía diez años, pero debieron escapar de los invasores normandos en 1066.

Su barco se dirigía al continente, pero una tormenta lo desvió a las costas escocesas. El rey Malcolm los puso bajo su protección. Con el tiempo, se enamoró y casó con Margarita en 1070.

Margarita era muy devota y su influencia suavizó el carácter y las decisiones de su marido. Promovió las artes y la educación, abogó por la reforma religiosa en Escocia y fundó varias iglesias. Hizo también muchas obras de caridad.

El papa Inoncencio IV canonizó a Margarita de Escocia en 1250 por sus obras de caridad y la reforma de la iglesia.

Sta. Margarita es la patrona de Escocia y su santo se celebra el 16 de noviembre. Mi suegra era escocesa y se llamaba justamente Margaret.

St. Margaret's Chapel  Edinburgh Castle
La Capilla de Sta. Margarita en la castillo de Edimburgo 
#Edinburg #Castle #Scotland #Escocia #viajar #travel

Edinburgh Castle

The igneous rock intrusion known as Castle Rock that looks over Edinburgh has always played a defensive role, from a fortress in Roman times to royal residence in the Middle Ages. King David I built some of the remarkable buildings in 1130 that are still standing.

The English captured and destroyed the castle a few times, but the Scots always reclaimed and rebuilt it. The castle was the scene of sieges and battles. As a royal residence, it is where Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to her son James IV of Scotland and later, James I of England. The castle withstood the Jacobite rebellions in the 18th century.

Nowadays, Edinburgh Castle serves as a military station, is home to the Scottish National War Memorial and of the Crown Jewels (the Honours of Scotland). The Stone of Destiny, also known as the Stone of Scone, where Scottish kings were crowned, has been on display since 1996, when it was returned from Westminster Abbey. I have been immensely lucky to have seen the Stone in both places.

Edinburgh Castle is part of the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

El Castillo de Edimburgo

La formación de roca ígnea conocida como Castle Rock que ese eleva sobre Edimgburgo siempre cumplió un papel defensivo, tanto como fortaleza romana o residencia real medieval. El rey David I construyó en 1130 algunos de los edificios majestuosos todavía en pie.

Las fuerzas inglesas capturaron y destruyeron el castillo varias veces pero los escoceses siempre lo recuperaron y lo arreglaron. El castillo fue escena no solo de batallas sino de asedios. Como residencia real, fue donde la reina María Estuardo dio a luz a su hijo Jacobo IV de Escocia y I de Inglaterra. Tambié soportó las rebeliones jacobitas del siglo XVIII.

Hoy en día, el Castillo de Edimburgo cumple funciones militares, alberga el Monumento Nacional de Guerra y las joyas de la Corona, u Honores de Escocia y la Piedra del Destino (Stone of Scone), donde eran coronados los monarcas escoceses. La Piedra del Destino estuvo en la Abadía de Westminster hasta 1996, cuando fue devuelta a donde pertenece. Tuve la gran suerte de verla en ambos lugares.

El Castillo de Edimburgo forma parte del grupo Old and New Towns of Edinburgh, declarado Patrimonio Histórico de la Humanidad por la UNESCO.

St. Margaret's Chapel  Edinburgh Castle
La Capilla de Sta. Margarita en la castillo de Edimburgo 
#Edinburg #Castle #Scotland #Escocia #viajar #travel

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St. Margaret's Chapel  Edinburgh Castle
La Capilla de Sta. Margarita en la castillo de Edimburgo 
#Edinburg #Castle #Scotland #Escocia #viajar #travel

5 fascinating London churches you must visit

5 fascinating historic London churches you can’t miss ***

Las 5 iglesias de Londres que no te podés perder

As well as places of worship, London churches are the guardians of history and art of a city. They bear witness to changes in society, even politics, the advent of new traditions and customs, and the impact of historical events and urban planning.

In London, two catastrophic events have changed the face of the city. The Great Fire of 1666 destroyed large swathes of the city. And so did the Blitz, the bombing of London by the German air force in 1940-41.

These London churches lived through both catastrophes. Most of them are located within the City of London.

Además de funcionar como lugares de culto, las iglesias londinenses cumplen un rol de conservación de la historia y el arte de una ciudad. Son testigos de cambios sociales y políticos, nuevas tradiciones y costumbres, así como tambié del impacto de hechos históricos y hasta de planeamiento urbano.

En Londres, dos terribles catástrofes cambiaron la cara de la ciudad. Una fue el Gran Incendio de 1666, que destruyó grandes sectores de la ciudad. La otra fue el Blitz, el bombardeo alemán de 1904/41. Estas iglesias londinenses sufrieron ambas catástrofes. Casi todas están ubicadas dentro de la City.

5 London churches you must visit

5 iglesias londinenses para visitar

These are, in no particular order, the most fascinating London churches you should visit.

Esta son las iglesias londinenses, en orden aleatorio, que no te podés perder.


1. All Hallows-by-the-Tower (Tower of London)

Founded in 675 AD, All Hallows-by-the-Tower is the oldest church in the City of London. Although it has suffered significant alterations throughout the centuries, some original features remain, like the Saxon arch.

We can go further back in time to the 2nd century AD and see the Roman pavement discovered in 1926. It tells us that there has been human activity on this site for the last two millennia.

Al haber sido fundada en el año 675 dC, All Hallows-by-the-Tower es la iglesia más antigua de la City de Londres. Si bien ha sufrido modificaciones alo alrgo de los siglos, todavía quedan algunos detalles originales como un arco sajón.

Podemos retroceder aún más, al siglo II dC y ver el pavimento romano descubirto en 1926. Este demuestra que este lugar estuvo habitado duranto los últimos dos milenios.

 5 fascinating historic London churches you can't miss ***Las 5 iglesias de Londres que no te podés perder

Although All Hallows-by-the-Tower survived the Great Fire, it sustained extensive bomb damage during the Blitz. Only the tower and walls survived. The church was rebuilt and rededicated in 1957.

The Undercroft Museum has a collection of Saxon and religious artifacts, as well as the Roman pavement.

You can see the original crow’s nest from the Quest, the ship that took Ernest Shackleton on his final expedition to South Georgia in 1922, where he died.

As it’s next to the Tower of London, All Hallows-by-the-Tower was used as a temporary place of burial after execution on Tower Hill.

All Hallows was also used to interrogate imprisoned Templars following their arrest in 1308.

Si bien All Hallows-by-the-Tower sobrevivió al Gran Incendio de 1666, sufrió graves daños durante los bombardeos alemanes. Solo la torre y paredes quedaron en pie. La iglesia fue reconstruida y vuelta a dedicar en 1957.

En la bóveda (Undercroft) hay un museo que contiene objetos sajones y religiosos, adem5s del pavimento romano.

Podés ver la cofa (o carajo) original del Quest, el barco que llevó a Ernest Shackleton a su última expedición a Georgia del Sur, donde murió en 1922.

Al estar junto a la Torre de Londres, All Hallows fue utilizada como lugar de eentierro temporario de prisioneros ejecutados.

También fue escenario de interrogatorios durante el juicio a los caballeros templarios en 1309/11.


2. St. Lawrence Jewry (Guildhall)

5 fascinating historic London churches you can't miss ***Las 5 iglesias de Londres que no te podés perder
The interior

St. Lawrence Jewry was originally built in the 12th century near the medieval Jewish ghetto, hence the word Jewry in its name.

The construction we see today dates from 1670-87. It was built by the great architect Sir Christopher Wren after the medieval church was lost in the Great Fire.

It was not unscathed during the Blitz either. After suffering extensive damage, the City of London Corporation restored the church to Wren’s design: a classic interior, stunning glass windows, white walls and dark wood.

St. Lawrence Jewry is the official church of the Lord Mayor of London and the City of London Corporation.

La iglesia de St. Lawrence Jewry fue construido por primera vez en el siglo XII. Estaba ubicada cerca del desaparecido barrio judío medieval, de ahí el nombre (jewry es judería en inglés).

La construcción actual es de 1670-87. El encargado de hacerla fue el gran arquitecto Sir Christopher Wren luego de que la iglesia medival se perdiera en el Gran Incendio.

Tampoco salió ilesa de los bombardeos de la Segunda Guerra. La Corporación de la City de Londres se encargó de restaurarla según los planos de Wren: diseño clásico, imponentes vitrales, paredes blancas y madera oscura.

St. Lawrence Jewry es la iglesia oficial del Lord Mayor (alcalde) de la City y de la Corporación de la City de Londres.

5 fascinating historic London churches you can't miss ***Las 5 iglesias de Londres que no te podés perder
The exterior

3. St. Katharine Cree (Aldgate)

St. Katharine Cree is located in the Aldgate ward near Leadenhall Market.

Although the original church dates back to the 13th century, the current building is one of the few London churches to have survived the Great Fire. It was used by the livery companies to feed workers as their halls were rebuilt.

Additionally, St. Katharine Cree is the only surviving Jacobean church in London (1633), with its original rose window and stained glass.

While the church survived the fire, it suffered some damage during the Blitz and the Baltic Exchange terrorist attack of 1992 by the IRA.

St. Katharine Cree está en el distrito de Aldgate, cerca del mercado de Leadenhall, en la City the Londres.

Aunque la iglesia original se fundó en el s. XIII, el edificio actual es de 1633 y es una de las pocas iglesias londinenses que sobrevivieron el Gran Incendio. Los gremios la utilizaron como comedor para sus obreros mientras reconstruían las sedes.

También es una de las pocas iglesias de estilo jacobino todavía en pie en Londres, con su rosetón y vitrales originales.

Si bien sobrevivió al fuego en 1666, St. Katharine Cree sufrió daños durante el Blitzkrieg y el ataque terrorista perpetrado por el Ejército Revolucionario Irlandés en 1992.

5 fascinating historic London churches you can't miss ***Las 5 iglesias de Londres que no te podés perder
St. Katharine Cree on Creechurch Lane

St. Katahrine Cree is a guild church now, as opposed to a parish church. It ministers full-time to the non-resident City workers on weekdays.

St. Katharine Cree es una guild church. No tiene funciones administrativas como las iglesias parroquiales y su congregación son los empleados de la City.


4. St. Botolph-without-Bishopsgate (Bishopsgate)

St. Botolph-without-Bishopsgate is located in Bishopsgate, between Liverpool Street Station and the London Wall, in the City of London.

St. Botolph-without-Bishopsgate (without significa afuera o extramuros) se encuentra en Bishopsgate entre la estación de Liverpool Street y la Muralla Romana.

5 fascinating historic London churches you can't miss ***Las 5 iglesias de Londres que no te podés perder

The original Saxon church was first mentioned in the 13th century. There were three other churches on the site, concluding one that survived the Great Fire, although it fell into disrepair later.

The present, and fourth, church dates from 1729. The pulpit, organ and font are original from the 18th century.

Even though the Blitz did not affect St. Botolph’s, the 1993 bomb planted by the IRA did. It blew up the roof, doors and windows. It was restored and the churchyard was the first in London to be converted into a public garden.

La primera mención a esta iglesia es del siglo XIII. Hubo otras tres edificaciones en este solar, incluyendo una que sobrevivió al Gran Incendio, aunque luego cayó en el abandono.

La actual, y cuarta, iglesia es de 1729. El púlpito, órgano y pila bautismal son también del s. XVIII.

Aunque el Blitzkrieg no afectó a St. Botolph, el ataque terrorista del ERI (IRA) de 1993 le voló el techo y puertas y ventanas. Luego fue restaurada. Su cementerio fue el primero en convertirse en un parque público.


5. St. Bartholomew-the-Great (Barbican)

St. Bart’s is London’s oldest parish church. It was established in the 12th century, together with an Augustinian priory and a hospital. The priory was dissolved in 1539 and the land was sold at a later date.

As to original features, St. Bartholomew’s has a 12th-century arcade and gallery, and a 13th-century clerestory. The alternating bands of flint and stone were added in the 14th century.

St. Bartholomew es la iglesia parroquial más antigua de Londres. Fue fundada en el siglo XII, junto a un hospital y un monasterio agustino. Este último fue disuelto en 1539 y los terrenos se vendieron años después.

En cuanto a detalles originales, St. Bartholomew tiene arcos y una galería del siglo XII, y un triforio del siglo XII. Las franjas de sílex y piedra clara fueron agregadas en el siglo XIV.

5 fascinating historic London churches you can't miss ***Las 5 iglesias de Londres que no te podés perder

St. Bart’s has been used a s location for many movies, like Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994), Shakespeare in Love (1998) or Sherlock Holmes (2012).

St. Bartholomew is the parish church of the Diocese of London. It’s next to Smithfield Market, which used to be a medieval place of execution. William Wallace was famously executed here in 1305.

Esta iglesia ha aparecido en varias películas, tales como Cuatro bodas y un funeral (1994), Shakespeare in love (1998) y Sherlock Holmes (2012)

St. Bart’s es la iglesia parroquial de la Diócesis de Londres. Se encuentra junto al mercado de Smithfield, que, a su vez, era donde ejecutaban a los criminales en la Edad Media. La mejecución más famosa fue la de William Wallace en 1305.

5 fascinating historic London churches you can't miss ***Las 5 iglesias de Londres que no te podés perder

This list of London churches is by no means complete. I have previously written about other churches, like the Temple Church (the Templar church), or St. Mary-le-Bow (the Cockney church).

I hope this list of London churches will help you plan a great day out in this wonderful city.

Esta lista de iglesias londinenses no est5 apra nada completa. Ya he escrito sobre otras, como la iglesia de los templarios, o St. Mary-le-Bow (la iglesia Cockney).

Espero que este post te sirva para planificar un día inolvidable en esta ciudad tan maravillosa.

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5 fascinating historic London churches you can't miss ***Las 5 iglesias de Londres que no te podés perder
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Visit Clerkenwell, London’s vibrant urban village

Clerkenwell is London’s hub for creativity with a strong sense of community thanks to the many creative businesses that settled here .

A 10-minute walk due north separates St. Paul’s Cathedral from the urban village of Clerkenwell. Once the headquarters of the Knights Hospitaller, Clerkenwell is now home to a community of creative young professionals.

Who were the Knights Hospitaller?

The very name evokes romantic notions of chivalrous knights. The Order of Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem, more commonly known as the Knights Hospitaller and later the Order of Malta, was a religious military order founded in Jerusalem in the 11th century.

The order’s original mission was to care for the sick and poor pilgrims in their hospital in Jerusalem, that is why they were called Knights Hospitaller. They combined that humanitarian task with defending the Holy Land during the Crusades.

Clerkenwell is London’s hub for creativity with a strong sense of community thanks to the many creative businesses that settled here .
Priory church

From Jerusalem, the order spread throughout Europe. In Clerkenwell, a Norman baron and his wife founded the Benedictine nunnery of St. Mary’s and the Priory of St. John of Jerusalem in the 12th century. Thus it became their European headquarters.

Why is the area called Clerkenwell?

The area that developed around the nunnery and priory received its name from the Clerks’ Well located next to the nunnery. Clerks -inferior clergy- used to perform miracle plays around the well in the presence of the king and queen and their court. By the 13th century, the plays had lost their ecclesiastical spirit.

Clerks’ Well was the most famous among the many freshwater wells in the area. Some were said to have healing properties and attracted people searching for cures for their ailments.

If you walk around the area, you will not be transported back in time to the Middle Ages. There’s precious little medieval architecture left.

Clerkenwell is London’s hub for creativity with a strong sense of community thanks to the many creative businesses that settled here .

Would you believe that the original well was rediscovered by accident in 1924? It was covered by new buildings after the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The well is now inside the basement of the office building located at 14-16 Farringdon Road.   

The evolution of Clerkenwell

Clerkenwell experienced a population growth after the reign on Elizabeth I. By 1619, noblemen and gentlemen had moved to the area, and it became a fashionable place to live.

The medicinal properties of the many wells attracted the public, so a number of houses of entertainment sprung up around the wells.

The rural setting was gradually overtaken by the urban growth brought about by the construction of the Regent’s Canal to the north (1812), the New North Road and the North London Railway in the 1850s.

Clerkenwell was traditionally associated with breweries, distilleries, clock making and printing, mainly during the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century.

Clerkenwell is London’s hub for creativity with a strong sense of community thanks to the many creative businesses that settled here .
Playful architecture

The area was badly hit by bombing during World War II. As a result, people moved to other neighbourhoods, away from destruction.  Neglect was inevitable, as was the construction of housing estates and buildings for light industries in the 1950s and 60s.

Clerkenwell’s urban regeneration began when Clerkenwell Green was declared a conservation area in 1969. Slum clearing took place well into the 1970s.

By the late 1980s and early 1990s, craftspeople took over the warehouses. Later, these premises were converted to hostels, offices, apartments and hotels. The loft-living trend came here to stay.

Today, Clerkenwell is London’s hub for creativity thanks to the many creative businesses that settled here. And it has a strong sense of community as well.

What to see in Clerkenwell

The Museum of the Order of St. John and St. John’s Gate is where you should start your exploration. The crypt of the original church consecrated in 1185 can be see only with a guided visit.

Clerkenwell is London’s hub for creativity with a strong sense of community thanks to the many creative businesses that settled here .
The medieval crypt

St. James Church on Clerkenwell Close. This church was built in 1792 on the site of the 11th century nunnery. It sustained bomb damage during the war but was restored.

There isn’t a patch of green on Clerkenwell Green, but still, go see it.

Fans of Zaha Hadid’s work can see the office of her architectural firm. Obviously not open to the public, but at least you can see the front door! (10 Bowling Green Farringdon)

Jerusalem Tavern (55 Britton St.) There have been several taverns on this spot. This one dates form 1720.

Take a moment to breathe deeply at the Cloister Garden.   

Clerkenwell is London’s hub for creativity with a strong sense of community thanks to the many creative businesses that settled here .
Cloister garden

The hustle and bustle of Smithfield Market is a stone’s throw away.

Any of the pubs, gastropubs and restaurants. Clerkenwell has earned a reputation as the gastronomic hub of London.

An urban village

It’s hard to believe that Clerkenwell is an urban village in the heart of London. Unlike other boroughs, there are no big monuments, palaces or popular attractions. It’s where history coexists in harmony with the pace of modern life. It’s a place of old stones and young spirits.

Guide of things to do in Canterbury, England

Guide to things to do in Canterbury, from its wonderful cathedral to a pedestrian-friendly town centre and medieval battlements.

Canterbury has it all: a wonderful cathedral that is a UNESCO site, a pedestrian-friendly town centre, roots that go back to pre-Roman times and loads to see and do. It is also the principal ecclesiastical centre of England. This guide to Canterbury will come in handy to plan your visit.

Guide to things to do in Canterbury, from its wonderful cathedral to a pedestrian-friendly town centre and medieval battlements. #Canterbury #England
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Things to do in Canterbury

A potted history

Canterbury is located in Kent, in the south east of England. After the invasion of 43 AD, the Romans founded the town of Durovernum Cantiacorum on the site of an earlier settlement. The Roman wall, some of which still stands, was erected in 200 AD and rebuilt in the Middle Ages.

In the late 6th century, Canterbury was the capital of the kingdom of Kent under King Ethelbert I. He welcomed St. Augustine of Canterbury’s Christianising mission, probably under the influence of his queen, who was a Christian.

The cathedral, originally established by St. Augustine, attracted many pilgrims in the Middle Ages, who came to see St. Thomas Beckett’s shrine. Thus, catering to the needs of pilgrims became Canterbury’s main source of income.

Guide to things to do in Canterbury, from its wonderful cathedral to a pedestrian-friendly town centre and medieval battlements. #Canterbury #England

With the 16th-century Reformation, the cult of Beckett was suppressed. The town’s economy languished until Huguenot and Walloon refugees revived Canterbury’s economy thanks to the weaving trade.

During the Second World War, Canterbury sustained extensive damage from air raids. However, the cathedral suffered little in comparison. Canterbury became a college town with the creation of the University of Kent at Canterbury and Canterbury Christ Church College.

The Canterbury Tales

The town of Canterbury is immortalised in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. It’s a long poem written in Middle English in the 14th century. The poem follows the journey of 31 pilgrims and Chaucer from Southwark to Beckett’s shrine in Canterbury.

Each pilgrim tells a tale to entertain everyone during the long walk. The characters in the stories represent a cross-section of medieval society, from knights to carpenters. The Canterbury Tales provide a fascinating insight into the life of 14th-century England.

The work is said to have popularised the use of the vernacular English as opposed to the Norman French spoken by the elites. It has become one of the major literary works in English.

Canterbury Cathedral, UNESCO World Heritage Site

In 1988, the UNESCO declared Canterbury Cathedral, St. Martin’s Church and St. Augustine’s Abbey as World Heritage Sites. Together, these buildings “reflect milestones in the history of Christianity in Britain,” according to the UNESCO website.

They also reflect Canterbury’s role as the seat of the Church of England, “the development of Anglo-Saxon building in mortared brick and stone, and the flowering of the Romanesque and Gothic styles.”

Guide to things to do in Canterbury, from its wonderful cathedral to a pedestrian-friendly town centre and medieval battlements. #Canterbury #England

Cathedral’s timeline

Pope Gregory the Great sent St. Augustine as a missionary to England in 597 AD. King Ethelbert gave him the church of St. Martin’s.

Augustine, consecrated bishop in France, built a cathedral, which he called Christ Church.

In 1070-77, the Norman bishop Lanfranc rebuilt the cathedral, which the Saxons had enlarged and rebuilt, due a to a big fire. Each century brought changes and additions to the cathedral. However, parts of the Quire and some stained glass windows are from the 12th century. Also, a staircase and parts of the North Wall date from 1070.

Thomas Beckett was King Henry II’s chancellor between 1154 and 1162. The quarrel between the king and Beckett begun when the latter was elected Archbishop of Canterbury. The king wanted to control the church and Beckett refused to obey.

Guide to things to do in Canterbury, from its wonderful cathedral to a pedestrian-friendly town centre and medieval battlements. #Canterbury #England
Area in the north transept where Beckett was slain

Beckett’s attitude exasperated the king. He is said to have uttered a fatal phrase that resulted in Beckett’s bloody murder at the cathedral. Incidentally, a play by T.S. Elliott, Murder in the Cathedral, reconstructs Beckett’s martyrdom.

As miracles were believed to have taken place, Canterbury became one of the most important centres of pilgrimage in medieval Europe. People came to see the shrine of Thomas Beckett in Trinity Chapel, who had been canonised. The influx of pilgrims brought wealth to the town.

By 1498, the Cathedral, with the addition of the cloister vaulting, the Pulpitum Screen and the Bell Harry tower, was largely completed as we see it today. However, Beckett’s shrine was destroyed in 1538 by the order of King Henry VIII.

Canterbury Cathedral suffered extensive damage, and was successively restored, after two major historical events: under Oliver Cromwell’s Puritan Commonwealth of England (17th century) and the bombings during World War II.

Cathedral’s highlights

The Martyrdom: the place where Beckett was slain is marked with the Altar of the Sword’s Point.

Tomb of Edward, the Black Prince: the eldest son of King Edward III was one of England’s best military leaders, known for the victory at the battle of Crécy. He died in 1376.

Guide to things to do in Canterbury, from its wonderful cathedral to a pedestrian-friendly town centre and medieval battlements. #Canterbury #England

St. Augustine’s Chair: it dates back to the 13th century and is the ceremonial enthronement chair of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Quire: rebuilt after 1174, the Quire is England’s first Gothic building.

The Tomb of King Henry IV and Joan of Navarre: Henry came to the throne in 1399 and reigned until 1413. Joan was his second wife.

The 12th- and 13th-century stained glass windows known as the Miracle Windows.

The Norman Crypt, the oldest part of the cathedral.

Things to do in Canterbury

The Eastbridge

Guide to things to do in Canterbury, from its wonderful cathedral to a pedestrian-friendly town centre and medieval battlements. #Canterbury #England

The Hospital of St. Thomas the Martyr, or Eastbridge for short, was founded in the 12th century to cater to the pilgrims. It isn’t a hospital in the modern sense, but, rather, a place of hospitality.

Nowadays, a part of it is still an almshouse. The oldest bits (Undecroft, the Greyfriars chapel and Franciscan garden) are open to the public. ****due to the COVID pandemic, they will remain closed until Easter 2021. Click here for updates.****

St. Augustine’s Abbey

St. Augustine’s Abbey is part of the Canterbury World Heritage Site. The remains of the abbey are outside the walls of the city, of which the Great Abbey Gate still stands.

A museum displays Roman and Saxon objects excavated from the site. St. Augustine’s Abbey was the place of burial for Anglo-Saxon kings, as well as the site of the rebirth of Christianity in the south of England after the departure of the Romans.

The Buttermarket

The Buttermarket is an area right outside the cathedral and the Christ Church Gate. In the past, bulls were tied to a stake here overnight, as it was close to the shambles (slaughter area of the city). By 1664, there was a market hall here called Buttermarket. The decayed structure was demolished in 1888.

Buttermaket is mainly a pedestrian area dotted with monuments, like the Christopher Marlowe’s memorial and the war memorial.

Christchurch Gate

Guide to things to do in Canterbury, from its wonderful cathedral to a pedestrian-friendly town centre and medieval battlements. #Canterbury #England

Christchurch Gate is the main entrance to the cathedral and dates from the early 16th century. It’s thought that the gate was built in honour of Prince Arthur, Henry VIII’s elder brother. Restoration of the gate took place after the damage inflicted by Puritans in 1643.

Westgate Towers

The Westgate Towers date from 1380, built as part of England’s defences against a French invasion during the Hundred Years’ War. When the threat of invasion disappeared, Westgate functioned as the city jail until the late 19th century. After a brief stint as an archive, it became a museum. However, it also played an important defensive role during both world wars.

The Kent Museum of Freemasonry

If you’re into freemasonry and secret societies, you may want to give this museum a whirl (when it reopens after Covid). The Kent Museum of Freemasonry’s collection includes regalia, objects and books about all Masonic orders.

Canterbury Festival – Kent’s International Arts Festival

This annual arts festival takes place in October and is the biggest festival in the region. See here for more info.

The Goods Shed Farmers’ Market, Food Hall and Restaurant

The restaurant serves a seasonal menu with local ingredients sourced from the market. In the market, you’ll find fresh fruit and veg, local meats and fish, as well as artisan cheeses. Fine wines, charcuterie, coffee and pastries and cocktails are also on offer at The Good Shed.

The Rideau Canal UNESCO World Heritage Site in Ottawa

The Rideau Canal UNESCO Heritage Site runs from Kingston to Ottawa in Ontario, Canada. It’s a well-preserved historic site that people can enjoy year round.

Ottawa, Canada’s capital city, is full of surprises. It’s compact and easy to visit, and crammed with Instagrammable sights. The Rideau Canal UNESCO Heritage Site is one of them. It is a perfect example of a well-preserved historic site that people can enjoy year round.

What is the Rideau Canal UNESCO Heritage Site?

The Rideau Canal is a 202 km (126 mi) long waterway that runs between Ottawa and Kingston in Ontario. It joins Lake Ontario with the Ottawa River. The Rideau Waterway, as it’s also known, is a series of natural rivers, lakes and connecting locks and canals, of which 19 km (12 mi) are man-made.

The Plaza and the Chateau Laurier

Built between 1826 and 1832, Rideau is the oldest canal in North America to remain in operation. The locks are hand-operated the way it was it was back then. Locks 1-8 are located between the Parliament Buildings and the Hotel Fairmont Chateau Laurier in the heart of Ottawa.

I didn’t get the chance to see the locks in action because the water was frozen, which makes navigation impossible. However, if you’re interested in seeing how locks work, may I suggest you read this post about British canals and locks. 

Why was the Rideau Canal built?

As they say, war is the mother of invention. In this case, it was the War of 1812 that sowed the seed of the canal. After their independence from the United Kingdom, the United States had become a threat to the British possessions in Canada. So much so that both countries went to war in 1812. The British Canadians needed to find a safer  and more easily defensible route to the Great Lakes.

After conducting surveys and much toing and froing, actual work began in 1827. Colonel By and some Royal Engineer officers supervised hundreds and hundreds of labourers. It took them until the summer of 1832 to finish the canal. It became a busy trade route until the advent of the railway. Nowadays, it’s used for recreational purposes.

Why is the Rideau Canal a UNESCO Heritage Site?

From the UNESCO website: “The site, one of the first canals to be designed specifically for steam-powered vessels, also features an ensemble of fortifications. It is the best-preserved example of a slackwater canal in North America, demonstrating the use of this European technology on a large scale. It is the only canal dating from the great North American canal-building era of the early 19th century to remain operational along its original line with most of its structures intact.”

How can I enjoy the canal?

Navigation

As mentioned above, nowadays the canal is used for recreational rather than commercial navigation. Gone are the days of the steam-powered vessels carrying goods. The navigation season, which is when the locks operate,  runs from mid-May to mid-October. 

Boats, canoes and kayaks are welcome on the canal. While there is no minimum size required, there maximum size for boats is 27.4 m (90 ft.) long, 7.9 m (26 ft). wide, 6.7 m (22 ft) high. If you’re wondering how long it takes to boat the length of the Rideau, plan for six days at the very least, unless you’re on a speedboat.It’s advisable to plan for 30 minutes per lock and an average speed of 10 kph. Lock fees are based on the length of the boat.

Skating

Although the most popular time to visit the Rideau is spring to fall, people can enjoy it year round. When it freezes in winter and the locks are closed, Canadians go skating, ice-fishing, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. 

Every winter, the Rideau Canal becomes the largest skating rink in the world: the  7.8 kilometre long Rideau Canal Skateway. It winds its way through downtown Ottawa and it’s a beautiful sight. The sake season, of which 2020 was its 50th, runs from January to late February. Skaters are advised to check for ice conditions, though.

Walking trails

The Rideau Trail network has 387 km of walking trails between Kingston and Ottawa. Learn more here.

The Rideau Canal UNESCO Heritage Site runs from Kingston to Ottawa in Ontario, Canada. It's a  well-preserved historic site that people can enjoy year round. #RideauCanal #UNESCOsite #CAnada #Ottawa

From my travel diary

Monday, 10 January

We arrived via Chicago. The cold air hit me like a wall. We drove along the Rideau Canal to our hotel. It’s now frozen and it’s like a huge open-air skating rink.

Tuesday, 11 January

 I walked around the Byward Market, and up the York steps to a park behind the Chateau Laurier hotel. Wonderful views of the Ottawa River and the park. I chatted briefly with a lady walking her dog and kept walking along the canal.

I remember it was all white with snow, and very cold. Cold finger and cold toes were rather painful. But what spectacular views!

Canals and locks in Britain

Britain’s canals played a key role in the Industrial Revolution. Nowadays, they’re used for leisure. Read about their history and their use today.

“Pop your windlass onto the spindle, then wind it slightly to release the ratchet and lower the paddle.” This sort of instructions make sense only to narrowboat enthusiasts who must open and close locks on navigation canals. But what are those locks and where are they? And, more importantly, why do people still sail along the canals in the era of air travel?

Canals and the Industrial Revolution

To understand the construction of the canal system, we must go back in time to the Industrial Revolution. It started in the mid-1700s, when imperial state and industrial power drove the economic growth of Britain from 1750 on1.

By the 1880s, the vast production of coal, pig-iron and steel in Britain, which was bigger than that of Europe, led to the growth of the shipping industry. Water made the transport of bulky goods easier and more cost-effective than roads. However, not all rivers were navigable and sometimes mills and weirs blocked them.

 canal

The response to these problems was to build canals. Canal-building was especially active in the 1770s and 1790s1. Although not exempt from problems, canals like the Staffordshire and the Worcestershire, which connected to the River Severn and the sea, provided cheaper transport for bulk goods like iron and coal.

According to Black and MacRaild1, canals were integral to the process of industrial change. Industrialists built mine shafts, factories and wharves near the canals to facilitate the transportation of their goods. Another advantage of canals was that many roads became impassable in the winter, so canals were a better option unless the water froze.

Eric J. Evans2 posits the notion that canals were crucial to a successful industrial revolution because it depends on the creation and satisfaction of a mass market. Canals reduced transport costs, thus lowering the price of mass-consumption goods like coal.

By the 1820s, there were about 4,000 miles of navigable waterways in Britain. Canals linked the rivers Mersey, Severn, Trent and Thames. This “canal mania” also had a positive impact on the construction industry, as there was a high demand for workers, bricks and iron2.

Britain's canals played a key role in the Industrial Revolution. Nowadays, they're used ofr leisure. Read about their history and their use today. #Britain #locks #canals #narrowboats

Towpaths

When canals were first built, men and horses towed the barges upstream along some stretches when sailing was impractical, or if the wind was unfavourable. They had to walk on the banks, which were sometimes muddy.

In the late 1700s, tow path companies started to build brick towing paths along the canals. These paths were suitable for horses, which pulled the boat as they walked along the towpath. Nowadays, towpaths are a favourite place to jog, walk, or cycle.

What is a lock?

According to the dictionary, a lock is “an enclosed chamber in a canal, dam, etc., with gates at each end, for raising or lowering vessels from one level to another by increasing or decreasing water in the chamber.” As you probably guessed, the water level varies between canals and rivers.

I’ve never been on a boating holiday or even sailed in a narrow boat for the day. However, I was lucky enough to see a lock in action by pure chance. I’d gone to Guildford for the day. I was strolling along the River Wey after lunch and shopping when I came across people operating Millmead Lock.

Why is there a lock in Guildford? Created between 1651 and 1653, the River Wey Navigation is one of the oldest in the country. It connects Guildford with London and provided a fast and cheap way to transport wool to the capital. But the Wey’s meanderings made it unnavigable. Locks like Millmead bypassed sections of the river and make the journey shorter.

How does a lock work?

As I approached the lock, I saw a narrow boat waiting behind the paddle and a man and a woman at either side of the water. They were about to open the lock, so I stayed and asked for permission to video the whole process. Although I found it very interesting, I’m happy to let other people do it. It’s hard work!

    1. Pop the windlass onto the spindle, wind it slightly to release the ratchet and lower the paddle.
    2. In order to open the gate, lean on the white bit of the gate and push gently.
    3. The boat sails into the lock, making sure it’s kept forward of the cill markers, which mark the bottom of the lock.
    4. Shut the gate behind the boat and lower the paddle.
    5. Do the windlass thing again on the other gate.
    6. Open the paddle up half-way first. Let water come in.
    7. When the turbulent water settles down, open the gate and let the water level rise.
    8. When the water is level with the river, open the gate. The boat sails out of the lock.
    9. Close the gate.

The canals today

For some people, narrowboating is a lifestyle. They live in their houseboats full-time, sailing along the canal network. So, what about winter? Narrowboats are insulated against the cold and have diesel-fuelled central heating. They can stay in a marina over the winter if they wish.

Others like to go on boating holidays or weekend breaks and rent a narrowboat, like the people I saw in Guildford. They can sail along and stop wherever they like. However, they’re expected to move on after 14 days.

Would I do it? Probably for a weekend or so. Although I prefer to stay on terra firma, I’d love to see parts of Britain from a boat. It seems to me that you can visit places you’d never reach by car. You have the freedom to stay put or move on wherever and you don’t need to worry about transport and accommodation because it’s an all-in-one deal.

Sources

1 J. Black and D. MacRaild, Nineteenth-Century Britain, Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.

2 Eric J. Evans, The Forging of the Modern State: Early Industrial Britain 1783-1870, 3rd ed., Longman, 2001

 

Also read about London’s Little Venice

The ultimate travel guide to the City of London

This is your ultimate travel guide to the City of London: what to see and do in the Square Mile, the oldest part of London.

You may have heard the name City of London, and it might have conjured images of well-known places. The Tower of London, Buckingham Place, Harrods, The Shard, Westminster Abbey and so on. Actually, none of these places is located in the City. What do you mean!? you may ask. Let me show you what I mean with this ultimate travel guide to the City of London.

The ultimate travel guide to the City of London

What is the City of London?

The City of London, also known as the Square Mile, is the oldest part of London. This is where the Romans first settled and founded Londinium in 50 AD. By the way, if you like historical fiction, get a copy of London by Edward Rutherfurd. It weaves the story of a few families with that of London since Roman times to the present.

The City of London is part of Greater London, which is made up of 32 boroughs and the City. The City of London’s Corporation is Britain’s oldest local government. In other words, it elects its own Lord Mayor and members of the governing bodies (the Court of Common Council, the Town Clerk and the the Court of Aldermen.)

Strange Facts about the City of London

Please include attribution to citifocus.co.uk with this graphic.

Where is the City located?

The City lies on the north bank of the River Thames, between the Temple Bar memorial and the bottom of Tower Hill. Although the City maintains the Bridge Tower through its charity Bridge House Estates, the City doesn’t include the Tower of London.

The Temple Bar, one of the eight gateways to the city, was designed by Sir Christopher Wren. It first stood where Fleet Street and the Strand intersect. It was removed in the 19th century and taken down to the countryside. In 2004, it was restored and placed in Paternoster Square.

What’s there to see and do in the City of London?

Loads! For one, it’s one of my favourite places to roam around. Some streets are very quiet and tourist-free, no pushing through crowds here like you might have to do in, say, Westminster. Moreover, I find the mix of ultra-modern architecture and medieval churches and Roman remains fascinating. Modern buildings, which spring up like mushrooms, have wonderful nicknames, like the Can of Ham or the Gherkin.

City of London’s boundaries

The Temple

The Temple complex of buildings house two of the Inns of Court, the Inner Temple and the Middle Temple. Located between Fleet Street and the Embankment, this is where the members of the legal profession have their offices. The name comes from the original owners of the land, the Knights Templar. Incidentally, the Temple Church, the famous round church that the Templars built in the 12th century, is located here as well. The Inner Temple Gardens provide a lovely place to rest.

Victoria Embankment

Victoria Embankment runs from Westminster Palace to Blackfriars Bridge. It’s a road as well as a river walk.

Bridges

Blackfriars, Southwark, Millennium and London bridges connect the City with the South Bank.

Churches

St. Paul’s Cathedral is a symbol of London. You must visit it at least once in your life. Walk around to Paternoster Square to see the Temple Bar Memorial and maybe grab a bite.

St. Paul’s

The medieval church of St. Olave (8 Hart St.) survived the Great Fire of 1666. It’s the final resting place of noted diarist Samuel Pepys.

St. Bride’s on Fleet St. is known as the journalists’ church. Sir Christopher Wren redesigned it after the Great Fire.

St. Andrew Holborn (5-7 St. Andrew St.), a medieval church with Roman foundations, was rebuilt by Sr. Wren after the Great Fire.

London’s oldest parish church, St. Bartholomew the Great, dates from 1123. It’s right next to St. Bartholomew’s Hospital and Smithfield Market.

The medieval church of St. Giles Cripplegate on Fore St. is slap bang in the heart of the Barbican.

One of Sir Wren’s most expensive churches, St. Lawrence Jewry (Gresham St., next to the Guildhall) got its name form the nearby Old Jewry Street, where a Jewish community lived in medieval times.

It is said that a true Cockney must be born within earshot of the bells of St. Mary-le-Bow in Cheapside

Founded in 675 AD, All Hallows-by-the-Tower on Byward St. is London’s oldest church. The Undercroft Museum has some original Roman pavement.

St. Dunstan-in-the-East

St. Dunstan-in-the-East (St. Dunstan’s Hill) is not a church anymore, sadly. Originally built around 1100, the bombs of the Blitz destroyed most of it. Now, a tranquil garden surrounds the ruins. I recommend coming here for a breather, maybe bring a picnic.

Museums

The Bank of England is the central bank of the UK. Not only that, it has a museum where, among other things, you can learn about the history of banknotes.

The Guildhall, the seat of the local government, has some gems that you should visit. For example, the City of London Police Museum, the Roman Amphitheatre, the Great Hall and an art gallery. More about the Guildhall here.

If you want to learn about the history of this fascinating city, head to the Museum of London (150 London Wall, Barbican). Everything you need to know, and more, is here.

In order to get a glimpse of Roman London, book your visit for free at the London Mithraeum to see the Roman Temple of Mithras.

Where to get amazing views

The base of The Monument

The Great Fire of London of 1666 cut a wide swathe of destruction. In order to celebrate the rebirth of London from its ashes, The Monument was built. The view at the top of the 311 steps up narrow circular stairs more than make up for the effort.

One of the buildings with a silly name is the Walkie Talkie, whose official name is 20 Fenchurch Street. At the top sits the Sky Garden, a public garden with breathtaking 360-degree views of London.

A little shorter than the Sky Garden, Garden at 120 is another public garden in the area. Whereas the Sky Garden is more like greenhouse, this is in the open air.

The Royal Exchange

The Royal Exchange dates from 1571, although the current building is from 1844. You won’t see any City types shouting “buy!” “sell!” here. Nowadays, they come here to shop for luxury goods or to enjoy a meal or a drink. Do come in and admire the spectacular central courtyard.

The Royal Exchange central courtyard.

Leadenhall Market

Leadenhall Market on Gracechurch St. is one of the covered markets so particular to London. Look up and spot the dragons, or griffins, which part of the crest of the City of London. Also, Leadenhall Market was used as a film location for the Harry Potter films.

The Financial District

The City, as well as other areas of London, got badly damaged during the WWII bombings. However, the city arose quite literally from the ashes. Now, you walk around and see beautiful historic buildings that survived shoulder to shoulder with magnificent new constructions. I do encourage you to simply walk around, look up, read the plaques to get a sense of the City of London.

Architecture lovers should to look out for some amazing buildings (and creative naming!), like Lloyd’s of London (1 Lime St.), the Can of Ham (70 St. Mary Axe), the Gherkin (30 St. Mary Axe), the Walkie Talkie (20 Fenchurch St.), Heron Tower (110 Bishopsgate), the Cheesegrater (122 Leadenhall St.), the Scalpel (52-54 Lime St.)

120 Fenchurch St. public garden

Fun facts to complement the ultimate travel guide to the City of London!

  • The Old Bailey, nowadays the Central Criminal Court from England and Wales, started as a prison. The country’s last beheading took place outside in 1820.
  • The Freedom of the City is a tradition that started in 1237. Nowadays, this honour is bestowed upon a valued member of the community, but in the past it meant that the citizens of London were free to trade independently.
  • The City has about 8,000 permanent residents. However, around half a million people come in to work every day. It receives more than ten million tourists a year (but I promise it’s quiet!)
  • The City of London is the oldest continuous municipal democracy. The ancient rights and privileges that predate the Norman Conquest (1066) inspired the City’s constitution. Moreover, the City’s form of government led to today’s parliamentary system.
  • Fleet Street was the hub of Britain’s newspaper establishment. Every major newspaper had their head offices here between the 16th and the 20th centuries. St. Bride’s church is the “spiritual home of the media”

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Things to do in Surrey: RHS Garden Wisley

Looking for things to do in Surrey, England? RHS Garden Wisley,RHS flagship garden, is a wonderful place for the family to spend the day.

Every time we arrive in England and go home near Guildford, we drive past one of those brown signs on the A3 that tell you about tourist attractions and the like. This particular one reads “RHS Garden Wisley”. It dawned on me that we’d never been to Wisley. Time to remedy that.

RHS Garden Wisley belongs to the Royal Horticulture Society since 1903. The property’s owner was a plant enthusiast and collected and grew rare specimens in his experimental garden. He was also treasurer of the RHS. After he died, a wealthy gardening enthusiast bought the property and donated it to the RHS.

Looking for things to do in Surrey, Englad? RHS Garden Wisley,RHS flagship garden, is a wonderful place for the family to spend the day. #Surrey #England #Wisley #garden #EnglishGarden

Wisley is the RHS flagship garden and the largest purveyor of hardy plants in the UK: perennials, exotic plants, and the like. The plant centre has all kinds of pretty things for the home and the garden.

One of Wisley’s distinguishing features is the lab. Scientists there promote the conservation and cultivation of ornamental plants, they research pests and diseases and develop gardening good practices.

Looking for things to do in Surrey, Englad? RHS Garden Wisley,RHS flagship garden, is a wonderful place for the family to spend the day. #Surrey #England #Wisley #garden #EnglishGarden

We went to Wisley on a weekday. With the children at school and the parents at work, it was pretty quiet. Some pensioners, mums with babies and we were the only ones to enjoy such a wonderful garden. I imagine that it gets crowded at weekends, especially in good weather. Mind you, the intermittent rain didn’t keep us away.

Hungry? Thirsty? Not to worry, there are cafes and restaurants at Wisley. We sheltered from the rain in one of the cafes too.

Entrance

Wisley is stunning from the beginning. As soon as you enter, you see the lab, a beautiful Victorian mansion surrounded by terraced gardens. At its feet, the Jellicoe canal displays all kinds of water lilies and lotuses.

Looking for things to do in Surrey, Englad? RHS Garden Wisley,RHS flagship garden, is a wonderful place for the family to spend the day. #Surrey #England #Wisley #garden #EnglishGarden

Exotic Gardens

Plants that look tropical but can withstand a typical English summer grow in the Exotic Garden.

Seven Acres

This used to be pastureland. Now, it’s all about big open spaces, ponds and trees like liquidambar

The Rock Garden

The Rock Garden was created between 1910 and 1912. It showcases Alpine plants and pools and cascades. One of my favourites.

Looking for things to do in Surrey, Englad? RHS Garden Wisley,RHS flagship garden, is a wonderful place for the family to spend the day. #Surrey #England #Wisley #garden #EnglishGarden

The Glasshouse

The Glasshouse resembles a glass cathedral. It’s as big as 10 tennis courts. It’s divided into three different climatic zones, from less to more warn and humid. Ferns, orchids, palms and many other tropical species flourish here. I chuckled to myself because I saw many plants that grew with abandon in both my grandmothers’ gardens in Argentina.

RHS Garden Wisley has 97 hectares of pure English landscaping, It would be impossible to describe it in detail here. Go and see it for yourself!

Where: Wisley Lane, Wisley, Woking (Surrey)

How to ge there: take the train to Woking and then a taxi. By bus, take the 715 from Kingston to Guildford via Wisley, or the RA2 Guildford to Wisley plus a 20-minute walk. By car, take the A3 to Portsmouth and follow the signs.

Admission: adults £14,50, children under 16 £7,25. Let them know if you want to pay GiftAid or not.

When to go: open all year round except Christmas Day.

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Looking for things to do in Surrey, Englad? RHS Garden Wisley,RHS flagship garden, is a wonderful place for the family to spend the day. #Surrey #England #Wisley #garden #EnglishGarden

What to do in London: Whitehall and Westminster guided walk

Whitehall and Westminster in London are the heart of British political, royal and religious life. This guided walk will show you the highlights

Whitehall and Westminster have been the epicentres of England’s political and religious life for about a millennium. Let that sink in. Besides their obvious importance for the nation, these two areas are a tourist magnet for their amazing attractions. You must include them in your London itinerary.

What to do in London: Westminster

The first king to build a palace here was King Cnut (or Canute), king of England, Denmark and Norway (1016-1035). Cnut’s palace was right next to the church that would in time become Westminster Abbey.

We start our walk at the foot of Westminster Bridge. You must be patient and negotiate your way among street performers and the crowds they attract. Especially if you want to take the perfect photo of the Parliament building. as there’s always a lot of people coming and going.

Whitehall and Westminster in London are the heart of British political, royal and religious life. This guided walk will show you the highlights. #London #travel #traveltips
Boudica

When we reach the other end, we’ll see Boudica’s statue to our right. Boudica was an Iceni warrior queen who fought against the Roman invaders in Britain. Although she existed in real life, during Victorian times her image became legendary and was associated with that of the British Empire.

Immediately to our left we can see the Houses of Parliament.

The Houses of Parliament (palace of Westminster)

The Houses of Parliament, with the House of Lords and the House of Commons, is actually called Palace of Westminster. Big Ben is the name of the bell located in the clock tower called Elizabeth Tower. The tower is covered in tarpaulin as it’s under renovation, and will be like this until 2021.

The building dates from 1837. Although it isn’t as old as some other London buildings, it needs lots of very expensive maintenance, anything from new wiring to the stonework.

View of the Houses of Parliament from the London Eye

You can do a guided visit of the Houses of Parliament on Saturdays, provided Parliament isn’t in session for £26, or do an audio tour for £19. You can have afternoon tea for an extra £30 per adult.

Westminster Abbey

The setting of lavish royal weddings and coronations, Westminster Abbey is one of those places you just can’t miss when in London.

The beginnings of the abbey go back to the 10th century, when St. Dunstan established a Benedictine monastery here. In the 11th century, King Edward the Confessor has a bigger church built. But it was King Henry III, in the 13th century, who had the magnificent French Gothic nave built that we see today. Actually, it’s been added to throughout the centuries, but that’s to be expected in a building of this importance.

Whitehall and Westminster in London are the heart of British political, royal and religious life. This guided walk will show you the highlights. #London #travel #traveltips

30 kings and queens are buried at Westminster Abbey, from Edward the Confessor to Elizabeth I. The artwork from all centuries is wonderful, like the magnificent Lady Chapel’s fan vault ceiling. You’ll also see the Coronation Chair, the wooden throne used to crown monarchs for the last 700 years.

The first time I visited Westminster Abbey, back in 1994, the Stone of Scone was still under the Coronation Chair. That is the stone used to crown Scottish kings in the Middle Ages. Nowadays, it’s on display back at home in Edinburgh Castle’s Crown Room.

I could spend hours writing about all the treasures held inside and around Westminster Abbey. My only recommendation is don’t miss it! And be patient, there’s always a crowd.

You’d do well to buy the tickets in advance to avoid long waits. Online tickets are fast track, which is a great advantage during tourist season.

Jewel Tower

If you stand facing the Abbey, with the Houses of Parliament behind you, you’ll see the Jewel Tower to your left. The Jewel Tower is what remains from the old Palace of Westminster. The tower was built in 1365 to store king Edward III’s treasure. Later, it housed the Office of Weights and Measures (1869-1938). You’ll be able to see also the remains of a medieval dock and a moat. The admission ticket was £6 when I visited in 2019.

Peek-a-boo Jewel Tower!

The Supreme Court

Surprising as it may seem, the Supreme Court exists as such since 2009. Before that, the Appellate Committee if the House of Lords had last word in legal matters.

The Supreme Court building is located in the western end of Parliament Square, where the Middlesex Guildhall used to be. I happened upon this building on a rainy day. I wasn’t carrying an umbrella, so I walked into an open door to shelter from the rain (not that I walk into random open doors, there was sign that said it was open!).

Admission is free and it is possible to sit in on a court case. I arrived as the last case was wrapping up, so I missed it. I saw the court rooms, the press room and an exhibition that tells the story of the Supreme Court.

Whitehall and Westminster in London are the heart of British political, royal and religious life. This guided walk will show you the highlights. #London #travel #traveltips
The Supreme Court building

What to see in London: Whitehall

As we walk back to the bridge along St. Margaret Street, we come across Parliament Square and go straight down Parliament Street.

Cabinet War Rooms and Churchill Museum

Winston Churchill worked from this place during the Second World War, which is now a museum: the Cabinet War Rooms. It consists of a series of underground offices and private spaces used by the Cabinet, safe from the bombs dropped by the Germans during the Blitzkrieg. Among the see you can see are Churchill’s desk, maps, and the like. As usual, it’s best if you buy the tickets in advance. This museum is part of the Imperial War Museum.

Treasury

On that same block, but on the corner of Parliament and Great George Streets, we’ll find the Treasury. It i also known as the Exchequer for the board used in the Middle Ages to work out taxes. The board looked like a chequerboard. The word exchequer derives from the French word for chess board, Échiquier.

Cenotaph, Downing Street, Horse Guards Parade

As we continue down Parliament Street, we come across the Cenotaph. It commemorates the soldiers killed in the wars. This is where the Queen lays a wreath every Armistice Day, November 11 at the eleventh hour.

A bit farther down is Downing Street, the official residence of the Prime Minister. Obviously it is not open to the public but you can take a peek through the gate.

We end our walk at the Horse Guards Parade. This is where Henry VIII used to hold his beloved tournaments. Nowadays, you can see the changing of the mounted guard twice daily. The Household Cavalry Museum is nearby.

The Ministry of Defence building is also not open to the public. However, take a minute to look at the statues and memorials that surround it, like that of Montgomery or the women who played an active role during WWII.

If you want, you can go down to the river and relax at the Whitehall Gardens on the Embankment. Otherwise, go straight down Whitehall, which takes you to Trafalgar Square. If you have the energy, you can now do my Trafalgar Square to Covent Garden guided walk.

Whitehall and Westminster in London are the heart of British political, royal and religious life. This guided walk will show you the highlights. #London #travel #traveltips
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