London, England Travel Review

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Images of England

Did you know: London was the setting of two famous crime sprees in the late 1800's- the Jack the Ripper murders and ones which he likely inspired, written about by Arthur Conan Doyle, mysteries solved by his super sleuth Sherlock Holmes.

London Map

Considering a trip to Europe? London, England is one of the most fascinating, cosmopolitan cities in the entire world, with a huge range of attractions worth seeing, including superb museums, an enormous assortment of great restaurants and rustic old pubs, quaint cathedrals from centuries past. Travel the English countryside where you can see quaint villages, hatched roof dwellings and yes- even castles which you can tour. A must see if you've never been to Europe, England will provide fun and interesting activities for the entire family.

London History

Westminster Abbey - London, EnglandOld London Town has been a tourist destination for decades- and for good reason. Dating back two millennia, the city has its roots with settlement in 43 A.D. by the Romans, who named it Londinium. Recent archeological discoveries have revealed structures built near the River Thames dating back even further- to around 4,500 B.C. Roman influence declined as the Empire fell prey to outside invaders, so by the fifth century, London reflected Anglo-Saxon and then later Viking culture. By the ninth century, the town started to rebound, with a “refounding” by Alfred the Great in the year 886 rejuvenating the metropolis. By the 11th century, London was clearly on the rebound and its population grew dramatically, leading to its rank as the most populous city in the British Isles. Replete with grand structures like Westminster Abbey, the city gained recognition as having some of the most striking examples of architecture in all of Europe. Following victory at the Battle of Hastings, William the Conqueror was crowned King there on Christmas Day in the year 1066. The area was the source of material for hundreds of authors over the years, who wrote about everything from the Knights of the Round Table to Tudor Kings, epic battles and even super sleuths like Sherlock Holmes. Any way you look at it, London is an ancient town with a storied past.

London Locations of Interest

Tower of London - London, EnglandBased on international arrivals at their world-class airports like Heathrow and Gatwick, London is the world’s most visited city. There’s good reason for tourists to flock there- the region holds four World Heritage sites, including the Tower of London, Kew Gardens, Westminster Abbey and the Royal Observatory where world time is set daily at the Greenwich Prime Meridian. It doesn’t stop there- visitors can spend weeks strolling the old back streets, sipping ale in ancient pubs and viewing great art and works from antiquity at numerous cultural sites. It’s a treat simply to stroll around town, visiting Fleet Street, the Tower Bridge and the Canary Wharf area, now a revitalized, modern business district. You’ll be thrilled with the huge variety of things to see, places to visit, restaurants and pubs where you can enjoy a diverse menu- from the Middle East, India, Far East and the Mediterranean. Visitors for the first time may even be confused- since the food served in London pubs sometimes appears to be taken right from markets in Pakistan and India.

London Customs and Culture

Ten Bells Pub - London, EnglandIf you take “The Tube” (the legendary London subway, the oldest in the world), you’ll rub elbows with people from dozens of different countries. In fact, if you talk with the local cabbies, they’ll tell you that native Londoners will be a minority in the next 20 years. Approximately 300 languages are spoken in and around London. Much of the influx of immigrants over the past 30 years has been from countries like Pakistan, India, Egypt, Morocco and the U.A.E. They’ve come to enjoy one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world with a vibrant financial sector and a thriving art and music scene. One might ask “What happened to “Old London”? Well, as of this writing in January 2014, it is rapidly disappearing. Brick and stone buildings constructed as far back as the early Middle Ages are being replaced by wild-looking soaring glass and steel structures, some with nicknames like “The Guerkin” (the pickle). Walking the streets of Old Town, my wife and I were in search of ancient London, happening upon the trail of Jack the Ripper who terrorized the area in the late 1880’s. We were thrilled to see some of the old pubs still operating, but realized that they too may be gone someday soon. The customs and culture of London are changing as rapidly as the Internet due to the enormous influx of new citizens who are bringing attitudes and practices of far-off lands to this ancient city which once ruled those lands.  

London's Top Attractions

Any visitor to London wishing to experience its heritage and culture needs to visit these spots: the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square. We'd also add Fleet Street and St. Paul's Cathedral. Numerous travel guides give the history behind each place- suffice it to say you cannot tell people you’ve “seen London” if you haven’t set foot in each of these places. Take a tour with a Beefeater at the historic Tower of London, where dozens of famous people lost their heads at the direction of the reigning king. Walk across the Tower Bridge at sunset, an architectural wonder with numerous historic plaques, carvings and monuments along its beams. Watch the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, then stroll over to Westminster Abbey, where you’ll see the gravestones, markers and sarcophagi of hundreds of famous personalities, from Darwin to Dickens. Visit spectacular St. Paul’s Cathedral- one of the few structures left standing after “The Blitz” (the German bombing campaign over London in 1940). If you’re lucky, you’ll be there when the church bells ar ringing, a wonderfully beautiful cacophony which will uplift your spirit. Fleet Street holds so many great shops and pubs, so we can only name a few. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese and The George are wonderful places to dine and drink- spots mentioned by Charles Dickens in his novels. Twinings Tea Shoppe dates back to 1706; you can buy literally dozens of fine teas there from around the world. History buffs will enjoy Trafalgar Square, which was erected honoring Lord Nelson and his victory at the Battle of Trafalgar.

British Museum- London, England

Those seeking to enrich themselves in not only British- but world culture need to stop at the British Museum, which holds the Rosetta Stone and hundreds of carvings from around the ancient world. Art lovers should stop in at the National Gallery and The Tate, which hold numerous masterpieces of western art. The National Portrait Gallery focuses on famous personalities rendered over the centuries. Those preferring modern art can stop in at the Tate Modern. Thankfully, you can reach all of these places easily by riding the tube. If you want to save money, take The Tube instead of a cab. One ride you’ll definitely want to take is on one of London’s famous Double Decker buses. They run regularly around town, stopping at many of the historic sites. Stop in at Harrod’s- the world’s greatest department store and do some shopping. Have High Tea and enjoy the superb window displays and even the Egyptian-motif displays around the elevators on several floors.

For some offbeat spots, we highly recommend The Sherlock Holmes Museum on Baker Street. The Museum is a living monument to Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of the super-sleuth character Sherlock Holmes, who wandered the old city in the late 1890’s and early 1900’s in search of clues to solve many mysteries. It’s thought that the real-life killer Jack the Ripper may have been an inspiration for Doyle to become an author; he started his career as a physician. We also recommend- but just for die-hard Dickens fans- a stop at the Dickens Museum on Doughty Street. The home is one of the few he owned in his lifetime. He wrote some of his famous novels in this home, which harks back to Victorian London.

England's Countryside

Windsor Castle - England

Outside of London, we highly recommend a visit to Windsor Castle. The structure itself is beautiful, but its contents are truly breathtaking. From coats-of-arms to weapons from the 13th century, paintings from some of the finest artists in Europe and even dollhouses, the Castle holds thousands of treasures. Not far away lies the ancient city of Bath, founded by the Romans, where you can tour the spots built out of marble more than 2,000 years ago which still stand strong today. Roaming the British countryside, you might be reminded of scenes right out of Harry Potter novels- and you’ll be correct. Some of the local towns were used in filming the movies based on the books. The old towns are simply lovely, the thatched-roof cottages and old stone walls so quaint and all a reminder of how things… used to be.

No matter how many times you visit England, you’ll probably never run out of places to see. We recommend a stop at Stonehenge, the ancient site which has been studied by generations of archeologists who still aren’t sue of its origin. From the Lake District to Stratford-on-Avon and Winchester Cathedral, you will have a near endless list of fascinating places to see.