The London residence of the Queen, Buckingham Palace was originally a large townhouse built for the Duke of Buckingham in 1703. Enlarged in the 19th Century, it was Queen Victoria who made Buckingham Palace into the London residence of the British monarch, on her accession to the throne in 1837.
Although it is still used for many official events and receptions, the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace have been opened to visitors in the Summer from 1993, a relatively recent development which is intended to help raise funds for the management and restoration of the Royal properties.
The Apollo Victoria Theatre is a leading West End Venue which has staged some of the most popular shows. Since 2006 audiences have been wowed with its production of Wicked the Musical, the Apollo Victoria Theatre’s longest-running show.
Visitors to this grade II listed building will be treated to a unique art-deco interior design. Opened in 1930 as a cinema, stepping into the auditorium is like entering a fairy cavern beneath the sea with its nautical-themed décor. The Wicked workshops offer a great chance to learn musical theatre skills.
A maze of rooms below the Government Office building this is where the War Cabinet met during World War II.
There are living quarters for politicians and military leaders and a Cabinet room.
You’ll find Churchill’s desk, communications equipment and military maps all set out as they would have been during the war.
The Houses of Parliament, sometimes also called the Palace of Westminster, is a historic site which has been the seat of the House of Lords and the House of Commons for over 500 years.
Before then, it was a Royal Palace, from the 11th century through to 1512, when fire destroyed the buildings. In fact, most of the replacement was destroyed yet again by fire in 1834 and what you see today is the work of Charles Barry, in Gothic Revival style.
Tate Britain contains the nation’s largest collection of British art from the 16th to the 21st century. It’s open almost every day of the year from 10am to 6pm.
Viewing the main collections is free of charge, though special exhibitions are not. If for no other reason you should visit to see the Turner Bequest, a collection of works by J M W Turner which are displayed in their own space, the Clore Gallery.
There are around 300 oil paintings and around 20,000 watercolours and drawing by Turner in this collection (not all on display!).
Regarded as one of the finest mansions in London, Grade I Listed Spencer House was commissioned in 1756 by John, first Earl of Spencer. It’s now owned by Princess Diana’s brother, Charles, the 9th Earl of Spencer though it is leased to Rothschild.
You can visit the eight state rooms on Sundays throughout the year with a guide and at certain times of the year the gardens are also included in the tours.
There’s something quite unexpected about the grandiose building which is Westminster Cathedral. A little along Victoria Street from the Station, the Neo-Byzantine structure dominates.
And the Catholic Cathedral has an intriguing heritage – the site was a pleasure garden, a bull baiting ring and more recently a prison until the Catholic Church acquired the land and built the Cathedral in 1895.
Famous for the fourteen stations of the cross by sculptor Eric Gill created during the First World War, it’s definitely worth looking inside.
Part of a chain of open spaces along Victoria Embankment, the Park was opened in 1865. There are grassy spaces to sit, floral displays, a bandstand and a café.
The Watergate built in 1626 for the Duke of Buckingham is still in place, but the Thames has moved and the gate is now over 100 metres from the river.
A warren of exhibition and performance space in Nash House, Carlton House Terrace, the Institute of Contemporary Arts is best known for a radical approach to The Arts.
Founded in 1947 it was inspired by the facilities afforded to artists in New York at the Museum of Modern Art. There are galleries, a theatre, two cinemas, a bookshop and a bar, just a stone’s throw from Buckingham Palace.
To the East of Buckingham Palace and South of The Mall, St James’s Park is one of the prettiest in London, with fountains and a lake. There are two islands, West Island, and Duck Island.
The Park is full of exotic and indigenous waterfowl including a group of Pelicans who have been in residence since 1664 when they were gifted to Charles II by the Russian ambassador.
You’ll find a stunning view across the lake to Horseguards Parade in one direction and to Buckingham Palace in the other interrupted by the Blue Bridge, so named and painted to avoid spoiling the view.
The park at one time had a collection of animals – camels, crocodiles and elephants and Birdcage Walk is so named because it was home to King James I’s collection of rare birds.
Westminster Abbey, originally built by Benedictine monks, has been the Coronation Church for Kings and Queens of England since 1066.
Today’s Abby is a stunning building, commissioned by Henry III in 1245 which contains many historical treasures together with the shrine of Edward the Confessor.
This street, lined with men’s tailors, shirt makers, food and wine merchants, restaurants, hotels and galleries dates back to 1664.
Charles II authorised Henry Jermyn, Earl of St Albans to develop the area.
It’s known for British craftsmanship and a place to visit if you are looking for hand-made leather goods.
The opposite end of the Mall to Buckingham Palace, the Admiralty Arch was commissioned in memory of Queen Victoria.
A Grade I listed building it was originally the residence of the First Sea Lord and used by the Admiralty.
In 2012, a lease on the building was sold and it is currently being redeveloped as a luxury hotel due to open in 2022. The building does have amazing views
While we all tend to call the world-famous clock in the tower attached to the Houses of Parliament Big Ben, it’s actually only the name of the bell inside the tower, which is thought to have been named after the Chief Commissioner of Works, Sir Benjamin Hall.
It was cast in 1858 after the first bell put in place cracked during test ringing. The tower itself is correctly called the ‘Elizabeth Tower’, though it was only given that name in 2012 in celebration of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee year.
Currently undergoing major conservation work, Big Ben is currently silent and Elizabeth Tower tours are suspended, though the famous bell did manage to ring in the New Year in 2018 and hopefully will continue to do so until the work is completed in 2021.
Originally Henry VIII’s tournament ground, the buildings of Horse Guards Parade were designed by William Kent and completed in 1755.
A great place for group selfies even if you miss the changing of the Life Guard at 10am or the Guard Inspection at 4pm.
Part of the original Palace of Westminster, The Jewel Tower dates to around 1365.
You can see still the ornate ceiling carvings from the 14th century and there’s also a model of the Palace of Westminster, together with an exhibition about the history of Parliament and of the tower itself.
If you ever thought The Mall looks just like a gigantic red carpet, you’d be right – it is painted red deliberately to give the impression of a red carpet leading to Buckingham Palace.
Originally a field used for playing a game called Pall Mall (a precursor of croquet), the Mall is now best known for the royal processions to the Palace.
The oldest surviving Royal Palace in London, St James’s was built between 1531 and 1536 by Henry VIII on the site of an old lepers’ hospital. It remained the main royal residence in London throughout the Tudor and Stuart period.
Today it is still a working palace, and the Royal Court is still formally based there. It’s also the official London residence of many of the Royal Family including Princess Anne.
Nearby Queen’s Chapel built by Inigo Jones is open to the public at select times.
Perhaps London’s grandest square, St James’s Square was built after the restoration of Charles II (in 1660) on land belonging to Henry Jermyn.
In the 1720s it was surrounded by houses occupied by seven dukes and seven earls.
It’s open to the public every day from 10am to 4.30 pm and is a fine place to stop for a sandwich!
To the North of the Mall, Green Park was originally enclosed by Charles II in 1668 and stocked with deer.
It developed into a pleasure garden at the beginning of the 18th century and housed a reservoir called the Queen’s Basin which was designed to supply water to Buckingham House and St James’s Palace.
None of that remains today, but you will find plenty of green space and a charming café with a rooftop terrace where you can enjoy tea, an ice-cream or a glass of Pimms in the summer.
Want to know a little bit more about those famous Horseguards? You can visit the Household Cavalry museum and discover the history of Her Majesty The Queen’s mounted bodyguards.
Best of all you can peek into the mid-18th Century stables and even try on the helmets and uniforms of the officers. Open daily.
St Margaret’s was built by the Benedictine Monks of Westminster Abbey as a place where local people could come to worship without disturbing the day to day work of the Abbey.
The current building dates back to around the 1520s, when the original church was almost completely rebuilt.
It once had a unique state, outside of the diocese of London and exempt from the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1189 through to 1840 when it was placed back in the diocese of London.
The Grade I Listed monument which stands in Whitehall was designed by Edwin Lutyns and built between 1919 and 1920 as the United Kingdom’s official national war memorial.
In addition to the original details of the First World War, those of the Second World War were added to the sides of the memorial and there was a second unveiling by King George VI on Sunday 10 November.
There’s an annual Service of Remembrance at the site on Remembrance Sunday, the closest Sunday to Armistice Day, 11 November, each year.