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A Guide to London
An ancient city founded by the Romans, London was once the most populous city in the world. This capital city is still the top destination of choice for many world travelers because it combines captivating historical sites with a truly modern feel that intrigues everyone who visits. From the fascinating journey through the monarchy to the greenery of the city’s spacious parks to the unparalleled level of theatre—there’s something for every taste.

Regal London
Venues associated with royalty are among the most popular attractions because they’re also among the most enthralling. One of the can’t-miss sites is the majestic Buckingham Palace, the royal residence in London (though it was actually built on the site of a notorious brothel). Watching the changing of the guard outside Buckingham Palace is a quintessential experience for visitors. Another private residence for the monarchy is Kensington Palace, where tourists can explore the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection, including gowns worn by Princess Diana.

For a peek inside the lives of Henry VIII and William III, visit Hampton Court. Discover 500 years of history, a priceless collection of royal paintings, and a world-famous maze. Built by William the Conqueror in 1066, the Tower of London has served as a royal place, fortress, prison, execution site, mint, and arsenal. Today, it’s home to the Crown Jewels.

In addition to sites dedicated to royalty, millions of visitors agree that you can’t come to London without a trip to some of the military and cultural venues. The Houses of Parliament, where laws are debated and created, includes the soaring Big Ben, which sounds on the quarter hour. Trafalgar Square is known for the statue of Admiral Lord Nelson, which rises 167 feet above the square and was commissioned to mark his naval victory in 1805. Learn a little more about Shakespeare and his enduring legacy at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, where visitors discover how plays were produced in his time. 

Museum-Quality London
“London” and “art museums” are practically synonymous for good reason: there is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the museums here. If you’re an art lover—and even if you aren’t—it’s worth a trip or three to check out the phenomenal offerings (most of which are free).

The stalwarts include the National Gallery, with its notable collection of Western European art from the middle ages to the early 20th century; Tate Britain, housing a collection of modern, pre-Raphaelite, neo-classicists impressive, Tudor, and more; and the National Portrait Gallery, a repository of portraits of monarchs and other famous historical figures.

Museums that might not be at the top of your list—but should be—include the Museum of London, recording London’s history from prehistoric times to the present; the British Museum, featuring artefacts from throughout the world; the Victoria and Albert Museum, a surprising and somewhat eclectic range of decorate art objects covering 3,000 years; and Geffrye Museum, with its insight into the everyday lives of Brittons from the 1600s through today.

Unique London
Take advantage of the sites and attractions you’ll only find in and around London. Sign your name on the wall in front of Abbey Road Studios, and get your picture taken in the zebra striped crosswalk. Hop on the London Eye, the world’s highest observation, for a 30-minute ride that takes you 135 metres above the River Thames and gives you sweeping views of the city.

If terrifying true-life events get your heart pounding, a visit to London Dungeons is essential. It brings to life terrifying chapters such as Jack the Ripper, the Great Fire of London, and the plague—not to mention torture instruments. A more sedate look at death can be found in the cemetery in West Brompton, where children’s author Beatrix Potter often strolled. Tombstones including Mr. Nutkin, Mr. McGregor, Jeremiah Fisher, and Peter Rabbett provided names for her most famous characters.

Entertaining London
There are over 40 major theatre venues in the heart of London, and because Britain doesn’t have a separate film industry, its best actors can found trodding the boards. Traditionalists will love anything at the National Theatre or by the Royal Shakespeare Company. Tried-and-true plays can also be found in the theatres on Shaftsbury Avenue. For new and perhaps scandalous plays, check out the Royal Court Theatre, the Ambassador, and the Young Vic Soho Theatre. There are also many other smaller venues that you can take a chance on; you may find a hidden gem.

The club scene in London is thriving, with some of the most famous DJs in the world getting paid big bucks to spin the hottest sounds. A few of the most celebrated: Ministry of Sound, Fabric, and Canvas. London also boasts some of the best salsa venues. They expect you to have a bit of knowledge about salsa dancing before you take to the floor, so take advantage of the lessons most salsa clubs provide.

Britain is famous the world over for its pubs, and London has a dizzying array from which to choose. Some of the favourites among locals: The Water Poet, a quintessential Georgian pub; The George, the last of the old coaching inns and a national monument; Olde Cheshire Cheese, a pub frequented by literary giants such as Thackeray and Dickens, whose chair still awaits him; and the beautiful Black Friar, with its stunning Pre-Raphaelite murals. If you want to avoid the rowdiness most pubs exhibit late at night, choose one of the numerous “All Bar One” bars across London, which are designed for women and those with a more refined taste.


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