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:
I made it! The very last person on Earth to visit London. But as people often say – better late, than never London-ing! I was going for the UK trip in May this year. There is no doubt – London has definitely enough to offer, even for a longer period of time than a week. Even so, I’m still keen on exploring as many different places as possible when travelling somewhere for the first time. So, I was planning to stay in London, but I also wanted to visit some other interesting destinations like Windsor (here), Stonehenge (here), Bath (here), and Oxford (here).
In fact, I spent three whole days in London and my “scheme” is easily doable for a weekend getaway. Just to be honest right at the beginning of my London Blog Series – I’m not aiming to give you the best London travel guide ever made. Whether I visited every interesting spot in the city, nor I was able to for the restricted time frame of 72 hours. There is nothing to be said about London which has not been said before somewhere on the Internet. Therefore I’m just going to share my first-time-London-experience and photo diary with you which is also suitable for somebody who is planning to visit the city for the very first time.
First stop in London – the home of the Queen and Prince Philip, the Buckingham Palace! The palace was built during 1705 by the Duke of Buckingham, John Sheffield. Sheffield decided to build the Buckingham building as a residence where he could stay during his visits in London. 100 years later, the Buckingham turned into Palace after some rigorous renovation made by the architect John Nash. Although the building was known as the Buckingham House, it was bought by George III for his wife Queen Charlotte. Since then it became also known as “The Queen’s House” as the Queen gave birth to 14 of her 15 children inside the Buckingham.
Since 1837 Buckingham Palace has been the official London residence of all Britain’s monarchs. The first monarch that proclaimed the palace to be the official residence was Queen Victoria who moved there after her coronation in 1837.
The Buckingham Palace has 775 rooms (19 state rooms, 52 royal bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices and 78 bathrooms), 1,514 doors and 760 windows in the palace (an interesting fact is that the windows are cleaned every six weeks). The Ballroom of Buckingham Palace was opened in 1856 and back in the days, it was the largest room in London – 36.6m long, 18m wide and 13.5m high!
Nowadays the Buckingham Palace is not only the home of the Queen and Prince Philip but also to 800 members of Queen’s staff, a residence of the Duke of York and the Earl and Countess of Wessex. Most of all, Buckingham Palace is also used as an office for the administrative work for the monarchy.
When visiting the Buckingham palace it’s very easy to tell if the Queen is at home – just look at the flag! The Royal Standard flag means that the Queen is “in the house” and the Union Flag – namely not.
Sir James Park
Taking a walk in Sir James Park on a sunny day is a great pleasure which you don’t want to miss during your visit to London! It is very unusual practice in London, but the Park wasn’t named after a King or Queen, but after a leper hospital for women called “James the Less”.
During the reign of Henry VIII, the park was as an area for breeding young deer. After the animals were big and old enough, they were shipped off to Hyde Park and Regent’s Park where the King was regularly hunting. The Sir James Park was definitely too small for practising his favourite hobby.
Later in the history, King James I opened an animal show with exotic animals, including crocodiles and elephants. And during the 17th century, King Charles II was very inspired by the Versailles after his visit to France so he decided to rebuild the park imitating the French gardens. He was also the one who opened the park to the public.
The beautiful lake that you can enjoy nowadays didn’t exist for six years during the last century. The reason was the WWI as the government decided to drain the lake in 1916 in order to build some temporary government buildings on its ground.
Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Walk
If you are a Princess Diana fan, you might be keen on doing the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Walk. It is a seven-mile-long walk that includes several famous buildings and places related to the life of the Princess. The memorial walk is marked with plaques that have a rose emblem at the centre and makes this road recognisable at any point. Some of the places along the walk are Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace, St James’s Palace, and Clarence House.
Westminster Abbey, London
Probably the most interesting must-visit place to me and one of the most popular landmarks in London is Westminster Abbey. The marvellous church collects the rich history of England since 960 and is actually the most “high-end” cemetery I have ever visited.
When to visit the Westminster Abbey: the abbey is opened to the public on Monday to Saturday from 9.30 AM to 3.30 PM and on Sunday for worship only. The tickets cost about 23 €.
Here are some of the most interesting facts about the Westminster Abbey:
The first church was established during the 10th century by Benedictine monks.
In 1042 Edward the Confessor rebuilt the church as a burial place for English kings.
Since 1066 many coronations have been held at the abbey. The first one is of Harold Godwinson in January 1066. And the last one of her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.
Altogether 39 coronations have taken place at Westminster Abbey.
The current building was built by Henry III in 1245 after he destroyed the original church. Henry III was known as Henry the Builder. During his reign no wars of great significance occurred, so he could focus on many other projects like building the Westminster Abbey.
17 royal weddings have been held at Westminster Abbey. The last one was on 29 April 2011.
The very first royal wedding in the Abbey took place in the 11th century as King Henry I married Matilda of Scotland.
The last royal wedding before the great “wedding-free history” was in 1382 as Richard II married Anne of Bohemia.
The next wedding was nearly 500 years after the last one when Princess Patricia of Connaught married Alexander Ramsay.
For the last 120 years, many royal weddings took place in the abbey including the wedding of King George VI to the Queen Mother, Queen Elizabeth II to Prince Phillip and Prince William to Kate Middleton, etc.
The official name for Westminster Abbey is the Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster.
And actually, it is not even an abbey but officially a Royal Peculiar.
The oldest Door in the Realm is an oak door by the Chapter House dated to approximately the year 1050.
Perhaps the most famous part of the church is the South Transept of the Abbey as many of the most famous writers of Britain are buried here: Thomas Hardy, Lord Byron, Edmund Spencer etc.
More than 3.300 people have been buried or commemorated at Westminster Abbey. The most famous of which are Henry III, Edward I, Edward III, Richard II, Henry V, Edward V, Henry VII, Elizabeth I, George II, Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton, and Charles Dickens.
The Palace of Westminster, London
On the north bank of the River Thames in London lies the House of Parliament, better known as the Palace of Westminster. Three years after re-building the Westminster Abbey, Edward the Confessor commissioned the building as a royal residence in London. In fact, the building that you can see today was designed by Charles Barry in 1840, after the old building was demolished by fire in 1512. The only part that has survived after the fire was the Hall of Westminster. Nowadays the palace has a floor area of 112.476 m² with more than 1.100 rooms, 100 staircases, and 4.8 km of passageways spread over 4 flours. On the ground floor, you can find offices, bars and dining rooms. On the first floor – the debating chambers, lobbies and libraries. The 3 th and 4th floors are occupied by committee rooms and offices.
There is no doubt, the most prominent landmark of London is the clock tower, Big Ben! Big Ben is located on the north side of the Palace of Westminster. The tower was complete in 1859 and became operational on 7th September. It was formerly known as the Clock Tower and since 2012 its official name is “Elizabeth Tower”. But why Big Ben? Many believe that the tower became its name after Sir Benjamin Hall. Others deem than the Big Ben was named after Ben Caunt – a heavyweight boxer.
Some quick facts about the Big Ben:
Big Ben is the world’s largest four-faced chiming clock. The four faces of the clock are 55 meters above ground.
The Big Ben is 96 metres tall, weighs 13.7 tonnes and has 11 floors.
For its construction were needed 850 cubic metres of stone and 2.600 cubic metres of bricks as well as other building materials coming from Yorkshire, France and Rutland.
The clock’s mechanism is regulated by adding pennies for weight.
You can hear the Big Ben every 15 minutes from a radius of up to 8 kilometres.
There are four smaller bells that ring on the quarter hours.
The bell broke during testing in October 1857.
During 1940 the Silent Minute was introduced in London so that the Big Ben would chime for 60 seconds and dedicate the minute to those who died on the battlefields.
The Big Ben has served through the reigns of six monarchs.
At the base of each clock face you can read the following inscription in Latin: “Domine salvam fac Reginam nostrum Victoriam Primam”, or “O Lord, keep safe our Queen Victoria the First”
The free tours of Big Ben have been suspended due to its ongoing renovation and should recommence in 2020.
To be continued …
Enjoy the day!
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