Guard Change at Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace needs no introduction. Perhaps the most famous building in London if not the world, the Queens official Residence was originally known as Buckingham House. It became the London residence of the British monarch on the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837 and on this trip we’ll see the iconic ‘changing of the guard’.
Westminster Abbey is a large Gothic Abbey in the heart of the City of Westminster within central London. It is the burial site of more than 3300 persons of prominence in British history: at least 16 monarchs, 8 Prime Ministers, poets laureate, actors, scientists, military leaders, and the Unknown Warrior, an unknown soldier killed in Europe during World War I.
Built in 1859 Big Ben is often used to refer to the clocktower within parliament, but in fact is the name of the bell housed within the gothic tower. Big Ben is an iconic and historic part of the London skyline and was renamed ‘Elizabeth Tower’ to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II in 2012.
The epicentre of British Politics, the ‘Palace of Westminster’ serves as the meeting place for both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, the two houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.
Now Known as the Lastminute.com London Eye, it was originally named ‘The Millennium Wheel’ the London Eye is a large rotating observation wheel on the Southbank. It has had many sponsors over the years including British Airways and Coca Cola. It is one of many projects built around the Uk to commemorate the millennium in 2000. The Eye recently celebrated its 20th birthday.
The iconic square at the eastern end of The Mall is entered by driving through Admiralty Arch, It is a grand public space with Nelson’s Column standing pride of place in the centre of the iconic landmark. The imposing facade of the National Gallery towers above the other side of the square.
St Jame’s Park
Nestled into a corner of Westminster, St Jame’s Park has grand neighbours, having boundaries with Buckingham Palace, Horse Guards and St Jame’s Palace across The Mall. It is a public park and is 23-hectare (57-acre) in size, featuring a memorial to Queen Victoria at its centre.
St Jame’s Palace
Located on Pall Mall it was built by Henry VIII in the 1530s and was extensively remodelled in 1544. It was once the most senior palace in London and saw service to three royal families; The Tudors, The Stewarts and The Hanoverians. George III declared St Jame’s Palace not fit for purpose, moving to (what became) Buckingham Palace in 1762.
Clarence House is immediately opposite St Jame’s Palace. built in 1827, It was commissioned by the Duke of Clarence who in 1830 became King William IV. Clarence House has been the London residence of Prince Charles and Camilla, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex.
A wide avenue that runs 0.93km / 0.58 mile between Buckingham Palace to Admiralty Arch and Trafalgar Square. The road surface is red to give the effect of a giant red carpet leading up to Buckingham Palace. The Mall has been used for many state occasions including the annual ‘Trooping the Colour’, royal occasions and we’ll drive along it on our journey.
We’ll drive through the financial and business district of London where grand neo-classical buildings stand side-by-side with modern and daring architectural marvels. We’ll see the Bank of England headquarters, the ‘Walkie Talkie’ building, guildhall and Fleet Street where the nations newspapers were once famously based.
St Paul’s cathedral
For more than 1,400 years, a Cathedral dedicated to St Paul has stood at the highest point in the City of London. A masterpiece of Britain’s most famous architect Sir Christopher Wren was built between 1675 and 1710 is at least the fourth place of worship to stand on the site, its predecessor having been destroyed in the Great Fire of London.
Tower of London
Opened in 1066 as part of the Norman Conquest, the Tower of London is a sprawling castle complex on the north bank of the river Thames. The White Tower (which gives the entire castle its name) was built by William the Conqueror in 1078. The Castle has played a prominent role in English history, having been besieged several times. The Tower has served as an armoury, a treasury, a notorious prison, the home of the Royal Mint, an office of public record and is the permeant home of the Crown Jewels of England.
Next to the Tower of London is one of, if not the most iconic structure in London, tower bridge was built in 1894 and connects Tower Hamlets to Southwark and is still operational for vehicle and pedestrian traffic. The bridge can open for passing vessels on the River Thames and even though River Traffic is much reduced, the bascules are still raised about a thousand times a year.
The birthplace of Queen Victoria Kensington Palace was originally known as Nottingham House. New monarchs William III and Mary II chose this modest mansion in 1689 to be their country retreat. It has been the home to a host of young Royals including Princes Diana and now The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Situated within Kensington Gardens a stone’s throw from the Palace is The Albert Memorial, a grand Victorian gothic monument to Queen Victorias’ beloved late husband Prince Albert. The memorial was opened in July 1872 by Queen Victoria.
Royal Albert Hall
The Royal Albert Hall is a grand concert hall opened by Queen Victoria in 1871. The world’s leading artists from many performance genres have appeared on its stage. Classical music is the halls mainstay, but other genres have appeared on stage including a controversial performance by Death metal band Opeth in 2010! It is the venue for the iconic BBC Proms concerts, which the venue has hosted every summer since 1941.
Natural History Museum
The NHM was established as part of the British Museum in 1881 in an age of adventure and exploration. It’s aim was to enable ordinary Victorians to learn about both the natural world and different cultures. The museum is famous for its collection of intact dinosaur skeletons and because of its grand architecture and vast exhibition spaces it is dubbed the ‘cathedral of nature‘. Many of the collections have great historical as well as scientific value, such as specimens collected by Shrewsbury-born naturalist Charles Darwin.
The V&A houses a permanent collection of over 2.27 million objects making it the world’s largest museum of applied and decorative arts and design, as well as sculpture. Named after Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert, it was founded in 1852 at the height of The Victorian Era. It’s collections include Asian, Indian and European artefacts as well as modern items like Elton John’s spectacles.
An area of west London within the affluent Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Notting Hill is a bohemian enclave with lots of beautiful muse lanes (alleys), street markets and a diverse culture. Made internationally famous by the 1999 film by the same name, this area is well worth a visit to experience ‘London like a local’.
Hidden about halfway down Portobello Road is a Saturday market that offers thousands of visitors antiquities, curiosities, fashion and street food. Even on non-market days this area has an exciting buzz around it.
As we drive through London
Along the way we will pass through many of London’s boroughs and past other famous locations that make the city so famous. Your guide will point these locations out with interesting stories and facts as the tour continues.
Please note that this is a street level private tour with walking and photo stops, we see the exterior of all the venues listed but do not enter them given the time allocated. This tour gives great inspiration for the rest of your time in London.