I still remember my idea of London when I have never been there before. Gray, rainy and just as shitty as the job that sends me there.
I did not feel like going there, and London was never a destination I could inspire. But as always, if you expect absolutely nothing, you will be positively surprised in any case. London even impressed me so much that I’ve been there four times and would go back anytime. Although baked beans and sausages are not my passion at all – certainly not for breakfast!
Both Heathrow Airport and Stansted Airport are very easy to get to the city center. The fast express train from Stansted is relatively expensive, but it is also very fast in the city center. I once tried the bus, but the track is just too far for that and you should do that only if you have plenty of time left. But that will not happen – London simply has too much to offer!
The Stansted-Express stopped for me at Liverpool Street. I got out of the train and was impressed by all the business men and women looking busy and fancy at the same time. London definitely is a fashion capital. I always thought Milan would be it, but I convinced myself of the opposite. (I am going to write about it and insert a link here)
The high buildings in the financial district fascinated me so much and, very different than expected, the sun was shining to its fullest, it felt warm and blissfully. I could even see The Gherkin from this position. The Gherkin is 30 St Mary Ax, and looks like a cucumber. It is a 180 m high skyscraper and was built as the office tower of reinsurer Swiss Re and is therefore also known as Swiss Re Building or Swiss Re Tower.
London’s most famous landmark is probably the Tower Bridge. As children, we had a 3D puzzle of it, but the bridge at that time could not convince me as a model and to be honest she does not really do that in reality as well. Of course, the bridge is impressive, but on the one hand it is much smaller than I expected, and on the other hand, it is just one of those typical attractions that you look at once and then you have just seen it. Do you know what I mean?! But anyway, it’s not a far walk to the other sightseeings, so it’s no big effort watching it. From the upper footbridges, you can experience the spectacular new glass floor and breathtaking views of London and visit the Victorian-era engine rooms to learn more about the inner workings of the world’s most famous bridge.
Not far from The Tower Bridge is The Tower of London – who would have thought…
These ancient walls have seen London change in the past 1,000 years and as the city grew and grew and transformed into the modern metropolis we know today, the Tower of London stayed in place, learning here and there Additions and conversions, but in the core he always remained the fortress, which was built in 1078 by William the Conqueror. Could speak these thick, massive walls, they could not only tell many episodes in the history of London, but also tell of many fates. Hardly any other place in Britain is associated with as many ghost stories, myths and legends as the Tower of London. One might even go so far as to suggest that the Tower of London is probably the most bespoke building in Britain. Among the spirits are simple people, citizens, traitors and thieves, but also crowned heads, like Anne Boleyn.
As I have been there in 2014, my sister and me were very surprised about the look of The Tower. An art project with poppies immersed the landscape around the Tower of London for months in a bright red sea. We had to research what the ceramic flowers were about. 2014 we remembered that the First World War broke out 100 years ago. In England, therefore, an impressive art project was installed: It is called “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red”. The Tower of London was decorated with 888,246 poppies. The poppies were handcrafted from pottery and set up by numerous volunteers. Each of these poppies represents a fallen soldier during the First World War.
Incidentally, the British crown jewels are kept in the Tower.
In London, getting from A to B is very simple. The underground takes you everywhere you want to go and even if it’s very narrow, it works fantastic. Waiting time a maximum of two minutes. You feel a bit like a mouse in your underground passageways.
Next stop: Buckingham Palace.
Every other day you can watch the changing of the guard there. This is very interesting, but you should be there early, because once all tourists are gathered on the forecourt, the visibility is quite limited due to the many backs of the heads. Only here you get a real idea of how important the royal family and the traditions are in England. Of course, it’s also a huge commercial, but I think it’s nice to keep traditions alive. The guards look very impressive. It’s a mix of a joker and a nice costume. All in all, it seems a bit unreal with the strict movements. However, the weapons of the guards bring you back to reality, because I think they would not hesitate to use them if necessary. The headgear is enormously large and in summer it must be a veritable ordeal to be dressed like this in the blazing sun.
With its austere neoclassical facade, Buckingham Palace has little of a romantic fairytale castle. He lacks turrets, oriels and playful details. But its rigor shows the visitor that the royal family does not want to be seen as just a glamorous tourist attraction, but as one of the foundations of Britain. With its 775 rooms, Buckingham Palace is a truly royal structure.
In 2014, I was very lucky. Although Queen Elizabeth had already turned 85 on April 21st, the monarch’s birthday is traditionally celebrated in the UK in June, as the weather is usually better. So William, who had been promoted to Colonel of the Irish Guards in February, rode with his father Prince Charles and his aunt Princess Anne on a parade through downtown London on Saturday, and his wife took with Charles’s wife Camilla and William’s younger brother Prince Harry in a coach seat. Kate, wearing a white blazer and an elegant black hat, was cheered on by spectators along the way. And we were two of these spectators. The Queen herself drove in her own carriage, she had chosen a light blue ensemble for her day of honor. The ceremony was attended by 1300 soldiers and more than 300 musicians. Absolutely awesome!
Being flashed by having seen the Queen herself, we took the next stop to Big Ben and the House of Parliament:
They say “Big Ben” and mean the neo-Gothic style clock tower just next to the Palace of Westminster. This has been naturalized, but is not entirely correct, because actually the name “Big Ben” only designates the largest and heaviest of the five bells inside the clock tower. Big Ben weighs a whopping 13.5 tons and the tune he announces the full hour is legendary. Popularly called “The Voice of Britain”!
Just around the corner, there’s beautiful Westminster Abbey. This is the church where Kate and William said “Yes”. To be honest, I’m not a big fan of churches who are taking money for a visit. Where ist the faith thought? So we only checked the church from the outside, although it must be very pretty from the inside too.
Since Edward the Confessor, who had the first abbey built on this site, and who was buried therein a year after its completion in 1065, more than 100 members of the English royal family were buried here and almost all of them were crowned here. Edward the Confessor, the penultimate Anglo-Saxon king, was followed by historic celebrities such as Henry III, Edward I, Mary Stuart, Elizabeth I and James I, who found their final resting place here. The royal tombs and tombs of other prominent figures in history, including Charles Darwin, Lord Kelvin, George Frideric Handel, Isaac Newton and Charles Dickens, make Westminster Abbey one of London’s major attractions today.
At 135 meters high, the gigantic Ferris Wheel towers over most buildings in the City of London: The London Eye. In ideal conditions, visitors can see up to 40 kilometers, including Windsor Castle, which is just outside London. The London Eye is the perfect spot to get an overview of London city center and begin the exploration of the most exciting city in England. But beware: If you think you could just spontaneously buy a ticket for the so-called Millennium Wheel and get in, that was wrong. If you want to travel with the third largest Ferris wheel in the world, you must book your ticket days in advance. And cheap is not the fun – tickets cost between 19 and 31 pounds – but who has once changed the perspective with the London Eye and London seen from above, will swear that it was worth it.
The Trafalgar Square is one of the most beautiful squares in London and got its name in memory of the famous Battle of Trafalgar in October 1805. In this sea battle, the British Navy managed to beat and capture France and Spain off Cape Trafalgar thereby, for more than a century, the supremacy of sea. It is important to note that Trafalgar Square, despite its central role in London, is geographically not the center of London.
Probably the most well-known monument in Trafalgar Square is the Nelson pillar, which is very similar to the pillars of Colon in Barcelona or Madrid. Built between 1840 and 1843, this pillar commemorates the death of Admiral Horatio Nelson, who fell at the Battle of Trafalgar. With pedestal and statue, the pillar reaches a height of over 50 meters and directs its view to the south. But to be honest, I liked the lion more than Nelson!
Madame Toussauds is not a special attraction for London, because there are other cities having a Madame Tussauds. But to have fun, it is quite perfect – and it protects from the rain:
You already see, there’s too much to visit so you should bring a lot of time with you. And a lot of money… Visit St. James Park and feed the squirrels, go to Spitalfield Markets and get some fresh food or some other beautiful stuff (I liked it a lot there), go shopping to Harrods or rather to Oxford Street!! Or even watch a city which I underestimated so much!