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

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.

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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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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16 amazing things to do in London for free

These 15 things to do in London for free will help you plan your trip and save money. Keep this in mind for your next visit!

Whether you’re a budget traveller or have deep pockets, here’s a list of things to do in London for free. Not only they won’t cost a penny, they’re fun and interesting places to visit. Don’t miss out on these activities in one of the most fascinating cities in the world (for me, at least).

Things to do in London for free

1. Sky Garden

The Sky Garden is at the top of the the Walkie Talkie building, so called because of its shape, at 20 Fenchurch St. The Sky Garden is a public garden with 360-degree views of London. Although admission is free, you must book a ticket as space is limited. You don’t need a ticket if you make a dinner reservation. Admission tickets are timed, do get there early to go through security first.

These 15 things to do in London for free will help you plan your trip and save money. Keep this in mind for your next visit!

2. The British Library

If you love reading and literature, The British Library is the place to go. There’s always different temporary exhibitions, like the one on medieval illuminated manuscripts I enjoyed so much. The Treasures of the British Library permanent collection includes a copy of Carta Magna, a notebook belonging to Leonardo Da Vinci or Jane Austen’s writing desk.

3. Twinings Flagships store

This one is for tea lovers. At 300 years old, 216 Strand is the oldest tea shop in London. Come in, browse, and sample new flavours at their Loose Tea Bar at the back. The Twinings shop is very close to the Temple Church.

4. Tate Modern

Tate Modern is part of a network of four museums. It houses a collection of modern and contemporary art from 1900 to the present. Even if you’re not into modern art, the building opened in 2000 is worth a visit. The museum is housed in the former Bankside Power Station on the River Thames. The views from the top are amazing too.

These 15 things to do in London for free will help you plan your trip and save money. Keep this in mind for your next visit!

5. The Guildhall

The Guildhall is home to the City of London Corporation. The building is fascinating and it includes a Gothic great hall, a medieval crypt, a Victorian library, an art gallery and the ruins of a Roman amphitheatre.

6. Choral Evensong at St. Paul’s Cathedral

Tickets to see St. Paul’s can be pricey. However, if you attend choral evensong, you can see it for free. The only drawback is that you won’t be able to move freely as a sign of respect for those who are there to worship. Evensong is a daily evening service that usually starts at 6:45 pm.

7. Tate Britain

British art from the 16th century to the present day has a home at Tate Britain. Here, you’ll see works by Constable, Turner, Picasso, Sargent, Tracy Emin, or Henry Moore, to name a few. Keep an eye out for amazing temporary exhibitions as well. Tate Britain is in Millbank, Westminster.

These 15 things to do in London for free will help you plan your trip and save money. Keep this in mind for your next visit!

8. National Maritime Museum

Head to Greenwich to see the National Maritime Museum. Its collection spans 2,000 years of maritime history. You can learn about Captain Cook’s expedition to the Arctic, Tudor and Stuart seafarers, polar expeditions, pirates, or Nelson’s Trafalgar uniform. And, of course, you can stand on the Prime Meridian Line.

9. Burlington Arcade

In posh Mayfair, you’ll find a covered shopping arcade built in 1818. It predates European shopping galleries and, of course, shopping malls. Window shop at high-end stores, take Instagram-worthy shots at 51 Piccadilly, London W1J 0QJ.

10. Southwark Cathedral

Southwark Cathedral is close to London Bridge on the south bank of the Thames, right next to Borough Market. It has medieval origins. It was built on some Roman ruins, which can be seen through a glass floor. In fine weather, you can sit in the patio at the back.

These 15 things to do in London for free will help you plan your trip and save money. Keep this in mind for your next visit!

12. British Museum

You can spend as many hours as you want exploring the British Museum, and it probably won’t be enough! It holds so many treasures from around the world that it would take many pages to describe: the Rosetta Stone, Egyptian mummies, Roman art, and so on. Admission is free, although you’ll have to go through security, so go early to avoid long lines.

13. Somerset House

In Somerset House, you can enjoy the beautiful architecture, courtyard and terraces, and see art exhibitions (some are free, some carry a charge). The palace dates from 1547 and was built by the Duke of Somerset. You can also take the free Historical Highlights Tour.

11. Supreme Court

The Supreme Court’s building is right opposite the Houses of Parliament and with Westminster Abbey to one side. Visitors are welcome Monday to Friday from 9:30 to 4:30 pm. You can see the Justices in action too. Entrance is free, although guided tours are paid. It’s a fascinating insight into the workings of democracy in the UK.

These 15 things to do in London for free will help you plan your trip and save money. Keep this in mind for your next visit!

14. Museums galore!

Among the things to do in London for free are most of the museums: the Victoria & Albert (I love the cafeteria), the Natural History Museum, the Museum of London tells the history of London from prehistoric times to the present, the National Gallery at Trafalgar Square, the National Portrait Gallery (behind the National Gallery), the Royal Academy of Arts, the Wallace Collection, or the Watercolour Society in the South Bank.

15. Southbank Centre

The Southbank Centre comprises the Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room, Hayward Gallery & Cafe and the National Poetry Library. There are pop-up art exhibitions, concerts, cafes and restaurants. Check out the skatepark in the undercroft and the terrace on the 5th floor with great views of the Thames. Don’t miss out on the singing lift!

16. The roof garden at 120 Fenchurch Street

This lovely roof garden is located at 120 Fenchurch Street in the City of London. Admission is free, just go through security on the ground floor and take the lift to the 15th floor. Although it’s not the tallest rooftop, the 360-degree views are wonderful. You can see the river, the Tower, the Lloyd’s building is so close you can see it in detail, the Sky Garden, the City and beyond. And the flowers and plants are beautiful too. 120 Fenchurch closed on Bank holidays.

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Practical guide to London markets

London has lots of street and indoor markets with food stalls, international dishes and one-of-a-kind arts and crafts, pubs and restaurants #London #travel

One of the things I love about London is its markets, both covered and open air. Continue reading “Practical guide to London markets”

Pink Floyd exhibition at the V&A

Yesterday, we went to the Pink Floyd exhibition, called Their Mortal Remains, at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. We had a blast!

Sean bought our tickets in advance for the 11:15 slot. At £23 each, they weren’t exactly cheap but they were worth every penny (or pence!)

The multimedia exhibition included original artwork for the albums, photos, interviews, posters, props they used for their concerts, and lots of music. They gave us a device with headphones that tuned to wathever was playing on the TVs or just played fantastic music.

The grand finale was a dark room with screens in all 4 walls, where videos were played in a loop. It was phenomenal!

If you happen to be in London between now and October 1, you must see this exhibition.

(Apologies for any inconvenience, I typed this post on my phone. I was escuted and had to share ASAP)