Being one of the major capital cities in the world, it isn’t possible to explore everything that London has to offer in an entire day If you have travelled in from Heathrow airport and you’re staying in one of the hotels in Hounslow East, you have ease of access to get into the centre of London. Now all you have to decide is what to see while you’re there, do you want to go shopping near the British Museum or maybe down Oxford Street? Perhaps the art scene is more you where a trip to the Serpentine and the Tate Modern is more ideal? Luckily, this guide is designed to give you a few ideas on how to make the most of the sights.
- West End and Westminster
For this tour, Waterloo station is the best place to start as it is metres away from your first stop, the London Eye. Opened in 2000, it is a 30 minutes ride that gives passengers a stunning view of London; you will be able to spot some of the city’ most famous landmarks from this height so, even if you aren’t able to visit them, you will be able to catch a glimpse while riding the Eye. Be prepared to queue as the Eye is a very popular tourist attraction and, at its busiest, you could be waiting 45 minutes for a pod.
After your trip on the London Eye, cross over Westminster Bridge towards Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. There are tours that can be booked when parliament is out of session which allows you to learn more about the history of Westminster Palace and the workings of the British government. Just over the road from the Houses of Parliament lies Westminster Abbey, one of the oldest buildings in London that is home to over 3,000 iconic people that have influenced Britain in some way. For a fee, which aids the restoration and running of the abbey, you can go on a tour or use a recording and take yourself around the abbey seeing famous, influential people such as Geoffrey Chaucer, Aphra Behn, Ben Jonson, Issac Newton and Elizabeth I as well as the famous coronation chair that has seen many monarchs being crowned.
From Westminster Abbey you can cross Parliament Square and down Whitehall which is home to The Cenotaph and the Prime Minister’s home, Downing Street. Even though there are armed guards and access is not allowed, you can still get a glimpse of the famous black door and, who knows, you may get a sneaky glimpse of the man himself. At the end of this road lies Trafalgar Square which pays homage to one of the most famous battles and one of the most inspirational naval officers, Horatio Nelson. Not only is it home to Nelson’s Column, the National Gallery is also situated at the top of the square; it is free entry and has some of the world’s most famous artworks inside so, if you have a spare hour, it is well worth a look.
From the square, head through Admiralty Arch which takes you to The Mall; you may recognise this road from television as it is the main road leading to the Queen’s residence, Buckingham Palace. The walk will take around 15 minutes and it is well worth it; if it is the summer months you are able to take a tour of the palace and see its State rooms, bedrooms and grounds. Don’t forget to have your picture taken with one of the Queen’s guards. From here, walk through Green Park to Piccadilly where you can indulge in a spot of shopping in major stores such as Fortnum & Mason before arriving at the bright lights of Piccadilly Circus. In the day, these lights are impressive, but at night they are mind-blowing and this signals the start of London’s famous West End. There are usually ticket stalls selling last minute tickets to many of the shows in the West End, so why not complete your day with Les Miserables, Lion King or even Phantom of the Opera?
- South Kensington and the Museums
Take the Piccadilly line to South Kensington where the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and the V&A Museum can be found. As they are vast, two of the museums would be adequate for a day trip; the Natural History museum is an absolute must as it contains species from past to present, even ones that are now extinct such as the Dodo. Their dinosaur displays are incredible; on entry to the museum, which is free, you are greeted by a colossal dinosaur in the welcome hall. From here there are a mixture of bones and reconstructions including a motorised Tyrannosaurus Rex, a bug department and even gems and minerals that have been collected from all over the world. It really is a fantastic place to visit and you will need around 3 hours to fully explore and appreciate it.
If you choose to visit the Science Museum, it is a mere 2 minute walk away from the Natural History Museum. It covers everything that has become important in our lives such as mobile phones, computers, cars and even rockets. There is also a section on the beginnings of medicine and it shows some of the gruesome tools that were used during operations in the age of the curious Victorians. Within the museum is an IMAX cinema as well as a room filled to the brim with aeroplanes, it will not fail to unleash the inner child in you.
The Victoria & Albert Museum, or V&A for short, holds an array of jewels, trinkets and clothing from the last 200 years from all over the British Empire. Some of the pieces were showcased in the Crystal Palace Exhibition in the 19th century, while others are much more recent such as Queen Elizabeth II’s gowns. All of these museums are free of charge so just simply take your pick and explore.