Buckingham Palace is the official residence of the Queen and is without doubt the top landmark to visit in London. It was built in 1702 as a large townhouse for John Sheffield, 1st Duke of Buckingham (1647 - 1721) and was transformed into a palace during the 19th century, and became the London residence of the British monarch on the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837. The current palace contains 775 rooms, including 19 stunning state rooms which is where the Queen entertains her guests and visiting dignitaries. These rooms are open for public viewing during the summer months with guided tours and contain incredible antiques, furnishings and art from the Royal Collection.
One of the most famous landmarks in Britain and instantly recognisable to many is Big Ben, the big clock in London, and the most famous part of Westminster Palace. What some people don't know is the clock tower itself is named Elizabeth Tower (renamed in 2012 from its original name 'Clock Tower') and Big Ben is actually the nickname of the Great Bell that sits inside the tower.
The Great Bell is the largest of five bells and weighs in at 13.5 tons and was the largest bell in the UK for 23 years. Elizabeth tower stands about 320 feet tall, and the hands on the clock are 9 and 14 feet.
Open to visitors throughout the year (except Sundays), the beautiful Westminster Abbey is another must visit attraction in London, attracting over a million visitors each year who come to this historic church building, that was once a cathedral (between 1540 - 1556) and now has the status of a Church of England "Royal Peculiar" - a church which is responsible directly to the sovereign.
Since 1066 all coronations of English and British monarchs have happened in Westminster Abbey, and it is also the resting place of 30 kings and queens, 8 Prime Ministers, and more than 3,000 great Britons including poets, scientists, musicians, noblemen and women. It has also hosted 16 royal weddings, including that of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2011, which was watched by nearly a billion people worldwide. The Queen was also married in Westminster Abbey back in 1947. However, Charles and Diana were married at St Paul's Cathedral instead, apparently because St Paul's offered more seating and permitted a longer procession through the streets of London.
Built between 1886 and 1894, the awe-inspiring Tower Bridge (sometimes referred to as London Bridge) is a defining landmark of London and Britain, spanning the river Thames close to the Tower of London. It was first operated by Steam but in 1976 was converted to oil and electricity. The high level walkways which span the bridge were closed in 1910 due to lack of use, however they were reopened in 1982 with a permanent exhibition inside called The Tower Bridge Experience. The walkways offer superb views over the city of London and include a glass floor section too, offering a fascinating view down to the road and river below.
The British Museum was first opened in 1759, making it the oldest public museum in England, housing many treasures from around the world. It was first housed in a building called Mantagu House which stood on the spot of the current museum but was demolished in the 1840's to make way for the present much larger building, which was designed in the neoclassical style by architect Sir Robert Smirke in 1823 and opened to the public in 1857. The museum is free and well worth a visit.
This mighty fortress standing on the north bank of the river Thames attracts over 3 million visitors a year, who come to experience the history, the mystery and intrigue of this 900 year old castle. First built for William the Conqueror 1078, the Tower of London has gone on to play a prominent role throughout history, being used as a prison, a royal residence, a place of executions and murder, a place to house the Crown Jewels, and home to the most pampered ravens in the whole of Britain! A few of the famous prisoners at the tower have been William Wallace, Edward V of England and his brother Richard of Shrewsbury (together known as The Princes in the Tower), Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard (Wives of King Henry VIII), Sir Walter Raleigh, Guy Fawkes, Rudolph Hess (deputy leader of the Nazi party), and even the Kray Twins in 1952! and some of these were never to be seen again.
St Paul's Cathedral sits on Ludgate Hill at the highest point in the city of London where it has dominated the London skyline for over 300 years. Designed by famous English architect Sir Christopher Wren, the present building dates back to the late 17th century, and its dome remains one of the highest in the world.
The cathedral was almost destroyed during world war 2 when it was hit by bombs which shifted the whole dome laterally by a small amount. One bomb dropped in September 1940 was a time-delayed bomb which was successfully defused and removed. Had it exploded, it would have destroyed the cathedral completely.
St Paul's Cathedral is where the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana took place, as it seated more than the traditional place for royal weddings, Westminster Abbey.
The Palace of Westminster, along with Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben) is the ultimate London landmark and is an incredible sight in its position along the thames where a palace has stood since the 11th century. It is also the home to the Houses of the Parliament, where politicians meet to discuss and debate issues and decide new laws.
The first palace was the primary residence of the Kings of England until fire destroyed the royal apartments in 1512, followed by an even greater fire in 1834. Consequently, most of the palace was rebuilt by architects Sir Charles Barry and Augustus Pugin, who both would not live to see its completion. Pugin died in 1852 after a breakdown saw him committed to the famous Royal Bethlam Hospital, also known as 'Bedlam', and Barry died of a heart attack on 12th May 1860.
The oldest remaining part of Westminster is called Westminster Hall and dates from around 1097. It was the largest hall in Europe when it was erected by King William II. The roof of the hall is the largest clearspan medieval roof in England, measuring 68 by 240 ft.
Opened in 2000 as the world's tallest Ferris wheel, The London Eye, also known as the Millenium Wheel, is one of the more modern landmarks of London and has become the most popular paid tourist attraction in the whole of the UK, attracting over 3 million visitors each year. It offers one of the highest viewing points over London at 443 ft tall, second only to the observation deck on the 72nd floor of The Shard, which is 804ft and opened on 1st February 2013.
Trafalgar Square is a public square in the City of Westminster, Central London which was constructed in the late 1830's by famous Georgian architect John Nash, although the site around the square had been a significant landmark since the 1200s.
The square is faced by the National Gallery (art gallery), and other prominent buildings including St Martin-in-the-Fields (church), Canada House and South Africa House, and the centerpeice of Trafalgar Square is the incredible Nelson's Column, a monument built to commemorate Admiral Horatio Nelson who died at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, where he led the British Royal Navy in beating the combined fleets of the French and Spanish Navies. The monument stands over 169 feet tall and is built from Dartmoor granite, with the statue of Nelson himself carved from Craigleith sandstone.
Trafalgar square, as well as a major tourist attraction, is also used for community gatherings and demonstrations, including Bloody Sunday in 1887, and recent campaigns against climate change.
Each year the square erects a Christmas tree donated by Norway for Britains help during the war. It is also the place where many gather to celebrate on New Year's Eve.