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The Tower of London

The Tower of London is actually a castle. Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress to be exact, and it’s right next to Tower Bridge.

The structure itself is impressive, and its history makes it all the more so, being formerly the royal residence, armoury, menagerie, royal mint, prison & of course home to the Crown Jewels. It also is known for the several executions carried out in the tower. You can take a free guided tour by one of the Tower’s Beefeaters (aka Yeoman Warders, the guards dressed in the iconic red uniform and black hat).

Tickets are £20.90 (including a voluntary donation of £1.90), Audio Guides £4. Note, tickets are valid for up to seven days from selected date, so know your dates if booking ahead.

Walk from Tower Hill Station.

Tues – Sat – 09:00 ~ 17:30
Sun – Mon – 10:00 ~ 17:30

(Last admission 17:00)

Trafalgar Square

A landmark in London, Trafalgar Square is a large, open plaza with Nelson’s Column at its center, guarded by the Four Lion Statues and flanked by 2 fountains. There are also four plinths with statues, with the fourth having seen rotating artwork atop it since 2005, as the original statue was never completed.

The Square is used for many festivals, celebrations, protests and events throughout the year, and daily for people having lunch, relaxing, playing, etc. There is basically always a crowd here. It’s worth seeing just for the people watching, but aim to visit during good weather and/or an event.

While previously famous for the number of pigeons in the area (I visited in the 90’s when they were in the tens of thousands!), after laws banning the feeding of pigeons and the use of trained birds of prey, the numbers have dropped to the same as the rest of London.

Walk from Charring Cross or Leicester Square Station, or from Leicester Square, Chinatown, Soho etc.

St Paul’s Cathedral

St Paul’s Cathedral is a famous part of London’s Skyline. You can see the iconic dome from the Thames, and it offers a great view of London after you climb the 271 steps to the galleries. In the whisper gallery, a whisper on one side can be heard clearly 100 feet away.

Note, golden galleries closed for maintenance, 9 January – 2 April 2012

Near St Paul’s Station.
Tickets are £14.50 (£12.50 online)
Mon – Sat 08:30 ~ 16:00 (galleries from 09:30)

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace and Royal events draw in thousands of visitors every year to London. The Palace is the official residence of the Queen and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh. If the flag on the top of the Palace is raised, it means the Queen is ‘in the house’. The Palace itself includes 19 state rooms, 52 royal and guest bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices & 78 bathrooms!

Most people just want to see the Changing of the Guards (or Guard Mounting), which takes place at 11:30, daily from May to July, and on alternate dates throughout the rest of the year (go early to get a good spot).

However parts of the Palace are also open to the public at different times of the year:

The State Rooms, Buckingham Palace
Diamonds: A Jubilee Celebration
1 August – 30 September – 09:45 ~ 18:30 (last admission 15:45)

The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace
Leonardo da Vinci: Anatomy
4 May – 7 October – 10:00 ~ 17:30 (last admission 16:30)

The Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace
1 February – 31 March 2012, 1 November – 22 December 2012
Monday – Saturday – 10:00 ~ 16:00 (last admission 15:15)

1 April – 31 October 2012
Daily – 10:00 ~ 17:00 (last admission 16:15)
Adult £8.25

A Royal Day Out
This ticket gives admission to three sites: The State Rooms, the Royal Mews and The Queen’s Gallery.
1 August – 30 September 2012

For more information and an up-to-date calendar, visit the royal.gov.uk and royalcollection.org.uk

London Bridge (You mean Tower Bridge)

London Bridge is not what you think it is. Many people believe the beautiful blue-and-white bridge with the two towers is London bridge. It’s not. That is actually Tower Bridge.

Located next to the Tower of London, with two towers connected by walkways, Tower Bridge officially opened on 30 June 1894, and the lower road section can be raised to allow large ships through. The walkways were closed off to the public in 1910 and re-opened in 1982 as part of the Tower Bridge Exhibition, offering great views in London. The walkways are fully sealed, with a roof and windows so it is not open to the elements at all. In this case they should really open it later, it would be great to get some night shots over London City. Currently the walkways are under refurbishment, but you can still visit, use one of the walkways, and see the engine room that controls the bridge.

FYI, London Bridge is the next bridge West of Tower Bridge. While very plain in comparison, it does have an interesting history. Known previously as Rennie’s Bridge, in 1968 it was falling apart, and sold to Missourian entrepreneur Robert P. McCulloch for US$2,460,000. He denies he thought he was actually buying Tower Bridge, dismantled it, re-constructed it back in Arizona, and it became the area’s second biggest tourist attraction!

Tower Hill Tube Station is the closest or simply walk along the Thames River banks from other nearby sights and stations. You can walk across the road section of the bridge any time, but the upper walkways are only open during the day. Entry discounted to £6.00 while only one of the walkways is accessible.

Summer Opening Hours
April – September 10:00 ~ 18:30 (last admission 17:30)
Winter Opening Hours
October – March 09:30 ~ 18:00 (last admission 17:00)