This post is part of the series England
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This post is part of the series London
Other posts in this series:
Travel Stories to Inspire Your Wanderlust
Learn more about London!
The last day of my London trip! This day came much faster than expected… City trips make me always kind of tired and filled to overflowing with impressions. London is different – the city screams for “more is more” and as long as the weather plays along, everything on my google maps is doable! So we made it through the longest day of our UK week.
In the morning we to went the north bank of the River Thames in central London: we visited St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tower of London, Tower Bridge and its surrounding on the south bank of the River Thames.
In the afternoon we strolled through Hyde Park, almost attended a Justin Bieber concert (luckily or not :D) and chilled at Serpentine Lake while the afternoon sun was shining. Of course, we decided to check the best-known shopping centre in the World afterwards – the Harrods. And at the end of the day, we enjoyed the sunset over the River Thames. So let’s start!
St Paul’s Cathedral
First stop – St Paul’s Cathedral! “What a stunning and titanic architecture”, was my very first thought when I saw the Cathedral … St Paul’s Cathedral is the second-largest church in the United Kingdom after Liverpool Cathedral. The Cathedral is located on Ludgate Hill, the highest point in London! The cathedral is one of the most famous and most recognisable sights of London. St Paul’s is an Anglican cathedral, the seat of the Bishop of London, as well as the mother church of the Diocese of London. It is definitely worth your visit!
Here are the most interesting facts about St Paul’s Cathedral:
St Paul’s Cathedral which you can visit today was built between 1675 and 1710. The old St Paul’s church stud on the same place. The first cathedral was built in 12th century.
The St Paul’s Cathedral was designed by Sir Christopher Wren during the rebuilding plan after the Great Fire of London during 1666.
St Paul’s dominated the skyline for 300 years – with its 111 meters high it was the tallest building in London from 1710 to 1962. Furthermore, the building is the second largest in the World.
Sir Christopher Wren was the first to be buried in its tombs.
Many other famous people have been buried in St Paul’s Cathedral too. Some of them are James Barry, John Donne, Alexander Fleming, Henry Moore etc.
The best known prime ministers of England, Winston Churchill and more recently Margaret Thatcher have had funeral services held here.
St Paul’s Cathedral was hit by several German bombs during WWII.
Surprise, surprise: the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana was also held there and not in Westminster Abbey as usual.
The Cathedral was featured in some movies, e.g. in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Sherlock Holmes and Thor: The Dark World.
Martin Luther King once gave a sermon at St Paul’s Cathedral.
The cathedral’s crypt is the largest in Western Europe.
The Tower of London
Next stop: The Tower of London! The Tower London is a medieval castle that has been a standing guard over London for more than 900 years! The Tower was originally built by William the Conqueror, following his successful invasion of England in 1066 and later, in 1078 he also built the White Tower. During the rich history of London, the tower has been used as a royal residence, an armoury, a fortress, a prison, a tower mint, a place of execution, an arsenal, a treasury, a zoo, a records office and a jewel house! Today the Tower of London is still the main attraction, despite the modern Shard just across the river.
Here are the most interesting facts about the Tower of London:
In the centre of the Tower of London is the famous and oldest part of the tower – White Tower.
It was a royal zoo during the 1200s! The Zoo remained there for 600 years and was the home to some exotic animals such as polar bears, lions, kangaroos, and elephants.
The tower’s primary function of military stronghold didn’t change until the late 19th century.
However, the Tower of London is probably better known as a prison as thousands of people have been locked in the Tower! The most famous prisoners are Anne Boleyn (the second wife of Henry VIII), Lady Jane Grey (who was the queen for just a week), Sir Walter Raleigh and Elizabeth I. Queen Elizabeth I was a prisoner for two months because of her half-sister Queen Mary due to “crown competition”.
(Only) 22 famous executions have ever taken place inside the Tower of London: William Hastings, Queen Anne Boleyn (wife of Henry VIII), Margaret Pole the Countess of Salisbury, Catherine Howard (wife of Henry VIII), Lady Jane Grey (surprisingly another wife of Henry VIII), etc.
The Tower of London also hosted the Royal Mint. For more than 500 years, the majority of England’s coins were made here! King Henry became the nickname “Old Copper Nose”- the gold and silver rubbed off his new coins, exposing the copper beneath! Instead of producing good quality coins he used the gold and silver for building beautiful palaces.
The Ravens and the Legend: many ravens have lived at the Tower of London for hundreds of years! The legend says: “If the ravens leave the Tower the Kingdom will fall…” Today, 7 ravens are kept at the Tower of London. Each raven has a wing clipped so that they cannot fly too far away from the Tower.
The Tower of London was damaged during the WWII. However, the bombs missed the white tower.
The Tower is one of the very few medieval buildings listed in the World Heritage site by UNESCO.
Nowadays the Tower of London is a museum which houses the Crown Jewels and more than 23.500 jewels (2.868 diamonds, 273 pearls, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds and five rubies.). The total value of the jewels is estimated at £20 billion.
London Tower Bridge
Next stop: the iconic London Tower Bridge! Tower Bridge is a combined bascule and suspension bridge in London which crosses the River Thames close to the Tower of London and is one of the best-known landmarks!
Interesting facts about the London Tower Bridge:
Tower Bridge was built between 1886 and 1894.
There were more than 50 designs submitted for the bridge. But the city architect Sir Horace Jones won the competition.
Tower Bridge was originally chocolate brown. In 1977 the bridge was painted red, white and blue in order to celebrate The Queen’s Silver Jubilee.
The Bridge is 244 metres long and each tower is 65 meters high.
More than 432 workers, 70.000 tons of concrete and 11.000 tons of steel were needed for building the bridge!
In 1894 Tower Bridge was the largest and most sophisticated bascule bridge in the World!
Furthermore, the bridge combines elements of a suspension bridge and a bascule bridge design.
It has two towers linked by two walkways and suspended sections to each side of the towers, stretching towards the banks of the Thames.
These bascules were operated by hydraulics, using steam to power the engines! But since 1976 the bascules are driven by oil and electricity rather than steam.
The central span of the bridge can be raised to allow ships to pass. All in all the bascules are raised around 1000 times a year.
The pedestrian walkways are over 40 m above the river. Over 40.000 people use Tower Bridge every day.
Between 1910 and 1982 the Tower Bridge was closed to the public.
The Tower Bridge LEGO set (4000+ pieces) released in 2010.
It is a Party Bridge! There are several event spaces with spectacular views to rent within the bridge towers.
For the 2012 Olympic Games in London, a massive set of Olympic Rings was displayed on Tower Bridge.
The most significant development of the bridge – the glass walkway was launched in 2014.
Visiting the Bridge is for free! There is an admission charge only for the Tower Bridge Exhibition.
Next stop: the city getaway in London – Hyde Park! The Hyde Park is one of the largest royal parks in London. We were “lucky enough” to be in the park during the Justin Bieber concert – thousands of drunken teenagers were guarded by thousands of policemen – idyllic! However, we had some great sunny hours at Serpentine Lake in the afternoon.
Here are the most interesting facts about Hyde Park:
Henry VIII disbanded the monastery, confiscated the area from the monks of Westminster Abbey and created Hyde Park in 1536 for hunting.
The one who opened the park to the public was King Charles I in 1637 and it has never closed since.
Hyde Park has 625 acres in total: 350 acres of Hyde Park proper as well as the 275 of Kensington Gardens.
There are over 4.000 trees scattered throughout the park, as well as a large lake, a meadow and ornamental flower gardens to discover.
Inside the park, you can also find the Speakers’ Corner, the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain, the Joy of Life fountain and the famous statue of Achilles.
The Serpentine lake is a 40 acre recreational lake in Hyde Park created in 1730 at the behest of Queen Caroline.It is one of the more visited places in the park as it offers plenty of opportunities for swimming and boating.
The Serpentine Bridge was built in the 1820s – it divides the lake into the Serpentine East and the Long Water West.
The Statue of Achilles is 5.5 meters high and was installed by order of King George III and unveiled on 18 June 1822.
The Rose Garden opened in 1994. Here you can find the marble Boy and Dolphin Fountain made in 1862.
The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain contains 545 pieces of Cornish granite and is designed to be a tribute to her life and love of children.
The speakers’ corner is the most famous location for free speech in the World which began in 1855! It is located in the north-east corner near the Marble Arch entrance to Hyde Park. The most important speakers were George Bernard Shaw, Karl Marx and Winston Churchill.
Hyde Park has been the venue for some famous rock concerts: Pink Floyd, Queen, Rolling Stones … And I came across Justin Bieber, damn it! 😀
From November to January, Hyde Park is a Winter Wonderland as it offers ice skating, a circus, Ferris wheel, and an ice palace! There’s even an ice bar for adults to enjoy some cool drinks!
The only home shared by all four Beatles is near Hyde Park at 57 Green Street in 1963.
The Hyde Park hosted the Triathlon in 2012 Summer Olympic Games! The brother Alistair Brownlee and Jonathan Brownlee from team GB won the Gold and Bronze medals!
There is no way to leave London without shopping marathon! We were heading to one of the most well-known shopping districts in London and probably in the world too – Kensington! The high-end shopping Centre Harrods has the motto “Omnia Omnibus Ubique” or “All things for all people, everywhere” which reflects the Harrods mission to provide everything one could wish for! Nowadays, the shopping centre has more than 330 departments and there is nothing you cannot find in the deluxe stores. Harrods has more than 100.000 visitors on an average day and 300.00 on peak days! This is more than the citizens of Innsbruck!
The history of Harrods dated back to 1834 as the 25 years old Charles Henry Harrod opened the doors of the exquisite shopping centre to the public. The construction of the current building took 4 years and was completed in 1905. Here you will find the first moving staircase in England – the first escalators in the former building were installed by Richard Burbidge in 1898.
Mohamed Al-Fayed and his brother Ali bought Harrods in 1985. Mohamed Al-Fayed was the father of Dodi who was famous for his affair with Diana, Princess of Wales. That’s why you will spot the memorials of Dodi and Diana inside the shopping mall. In 2010, Al-Fayed sold Harrods to Qatar Holdings for £1.5 billion.
I think you can easily spend the whole day, even a whole week inside the monster building and you probably will need several credit cards with an appropriate bank account limit if you want to spread your wings and shop ‘til you drop! Maybe next time after winning the lottery 😉
The glorious hot weather we’ve had over the past week in London conjured the stunning sunset on our last evening in London! What a lovely “Good Bye” – the combination of still water, clouds, the lilac-orange colours of the sky above London and the silhouette of the Big Ben … See you next time, London! Thank you for the great week and gorgeous weather!
On the second day of our Phi Phi Islands trip, we joined a full day speed boat tour to Bamboo