London is the biggest city in Britain, with more than 7 million people. It’s the capital city of the United Kingdom. Millions of visitors come to London every year.
London used to be a small village by the River Thames. The Romans came and built a town, whose name was Londinum. The name “London” comes originally from them. The Romans arrived in England in the year 43. Their ships came up the River Thames from the sea and they built houses and other buildings next to the river. Londinium was a rich town but soon after the year 400, the Romans left and went back to Rome. For three hundred years London was a quiet place.
As people began to live in the town again, London became very big. In 1600 there were 200.000 people. The plague often came to London, but 1665 was the worst year of all. In the hot summer of that year thousands of people fell ill, and 100.000 of them died. That year was later called the “Year of the Great Plague”.
The year after there, London was hit by a huge fire called the Great Fire of London. It began near London Bridge. Most houses were built of wood at that time, and the city caught fire. It didn’t stop for four days. If you go to the City, you can still see a 60 metres high building, called the Monument. It’s near Pudding Lane, and was built because people wanted to remember the Great Fire of 1666.
In the XVII century, Britain was one of the most important countries in the world, and London was its most important city. Many of the buildings that still exist in London today were built at the times of Queen Victoria. However, in the Second World War, German bombs destroyed many buildings. Nowadays, people from all over the world live in London, and you can hear 300 different languages here. There also lots of tourists who visit London every year.
Buckingham Palace stands at the end of the Mall. It has served as the official London residence of Britain's sovereigns since 1837 and today is the administrative headquarters of the Monarch. Buckingham Palace has 775 rooms, about 300 people work inside the Palace. At half-past eleven most mornings, the soldiers change the guard. It takes about 30 minutes, and you can watch it. Hundreds of visitors do it every day. In August and September it is usually possible to visit also some of the rooms in the palace and some of the palace gardens.
Tower Bridge is more than 100 years old. It’s one of London’s most famous bridges. It was opened on 30 June of 1894. The bridge consists of two bridge towers tied together at the upper level by two horizontal walkways. Its construction started in 1887 and took eight years. The bridge connected Iron Gate with Horselydown. When tall ships go up the river, the centre of the bridge opens.
St Paul’s Cathedral is in the centre of the City. Its dome is 110 metres high, and it’s the second biggest dome in the world, after St Peter’s in Rome. St Paul is an Anglican cathedral, dedicated to Paul the Apostle. The two bells in the tower are called Great Paul, which is the biggest bell in United Kingdom, and Great Tom, which rings every hour, and also rings when a king or a queen dies.
Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament are situated in St Margaret’s Street. It is London’s oldest and most famous Church. Construction started in 1895. The cathedral opened in 1903. English kings and queens have their coronations here.
The Houses of Parliament is the home of British government. The Old Palace was destroyed by fire in 1834 and replaced by the New Palace that stands today. The clock high up on the building is called Big Ben. In tribute to Queen Elizabeth II, its real name is"Elizabeth Tower". The real Big Ben is the bell inside the clock. You can hear it ring every hour. The tower was completed in 1858. It has become one of the most prominent symbols of the United Kingdom.
The first Globe Theatre was built at the time of Queen Elizabeth the First. People watched William Shakespeare’s plays there. Theatre-going was extremely popular in Shakespeare's time. The theatre was open to people from all social ranks. Most Elisabethan theatres had the same architectural structure. The theatre had a circular shape, it was made of wood and covered with a thatched roof, on top of which there was a canon. The firing of the canon signalled that the play was going to begin.
Inside the theatre, the ground floor was called the yard and it was open to the sky. The yard was surrounded by three levels of covered galleries that only rich people could afford. At the Globe, during a performance of Henry V cannons were fired when the actors entered on stage. Unfortunately, cannons set lights to the thatched roof and suddenly the theatre went up in a mass of flames. The theatre was completely consumed to the ground.
What we can see today along the river Thames in London is the reconstructed version of the old Globe. It is situated about 200 yards from the site of Shakespeare's original Globe.
Kensingtom Gardens is next to Hyde Park. It’s one of the Royal Parks. Kensington Gardens is open only during the day, at night it's always closed . Here you can see a statue of Peter Pan. There is also a playground here, called the Diana, and dedicated to Princess Diana. The playground has lots of exciting things for children.
Madame Tussauds in Marylebone Road is famous for its wax figures. It has branches in a number of major cities. In 1835 Marie built in Baker Street this museum. Marie Tussauds was born as Marie Grosholtz in 1761, in France. She created her first wax sculpture in 1777. Nowadays, tourists can see famous people from the past and famous people of today. In the ‘Chamber of Horrors’ you can see some very bad people and criminals.
London’s West End has some of the best theatres in the world. There is something for everyone. Musical was born in the USA in 1777. Already in the twenties some Broadway shows began to reach the West End theaters in London, which is now the greatest European capital of this theatrical genre. Some of the most famous musicals are: “Cats”, “Mary Poppins”, “The Lion King” and many others.
Soho is the district of London where most of London’s night life takes places. Most of London theatres are situated there, so that it is also called Theatreland. One of the most important theatre is The Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, which is one of the main attractions of London. The Royal Opera Ballet was born thanks Dame Ninette de Valois, dancer, choreographer and entrepreneur, who assembled a small company and school. The building dates back to 1732. It was destroyed by fire in 1856 and replaced by the current structure in the space of two years. The name of "Royal Opera House" was given in 1892. Nowadays, one of the guest artist is an italian dancer, Roberto Bolle.
London has restaurants from nearly every country in the world and not all of them are expensive. For a very English afternoon, go to the Ritz in Piccadilly or the Savoy Hotel in the Strand for afternoon tea. You can listen to music, drink tea and eat wonderful food, but it’s very expensive!
When you go to London you don’t need to bring a car because you can take an underground train or a bus. The Underground, also called The Tube, is fast. It’s the oldest underground in the world. The world's first underground railway was opened in January 1863. Between 8 am and 10 am and between 4 and 6 o’clock in the evening, thousand of people are going to and from work. This is the morning and evening ‘rush hour’ and you can’t move easily on the trains and the buses.
You can see much more of London from the famous red buses than from the Tube. Buses have been used on the streets of London since 1829. The red bus has two levels. It’s the symbol of London. There are buses for visitors too. It takes about one and a half hours, but you can get off the bus for a visit and get on again later. Another option is to travel around in one of London’s famous black taxis, called ‘black cabs’.
London has something for all. It is a big city, rich in culture and easy to reach. Moreover it is a mecca for shopping. I hope you enjoyed this short trip in the most important places in London. If you liked it and want to visit, you don't have to wait, book a trip and fly to this beautiful city.