London. One-day tour
The heart of Big Ben ticks to measure the time of the whole world. The Clock Tower of the Palace of Westminster, known as the Big Ben, is a symbol of the true meaning of London. The capital of the United Kingdom sets the pace of the global economy, global population movements and culture. Its population of almost 9 million people makes it one of the greatest cities in the world, especially with its inherent diversity. To the metaphor of time we must add the fact that the Greenwich prime meridian, the line of longitude that serves as the basis for the world's standard time zone system, passes through South Eastern London.
The purpose of this article is to provoke you, to stimulate your curiosity for discovering this wonderful city. Every rock in London can tell you a tale of the great British Empire. Why not discover a tiny little bit of it by walking?
So, what place is better to start the first day discovery of London? Big Ben, of course! The image of this 16-storey Gothic clock tower and national symbol at the Eastern end of the Houses of Parliament will fascinate you. The crowded place will accommodate you with the atmosphere of the city and it is a great place to start the journey. Also, if you have only one day to visit London, this place and the nearby attractions will be enough to feel the beat of London’s lifestyle.
The tower is temporarily closed to visits. If you want to visit the Houses of Parliament, the public entrance is the Cromwell Green Entrance, next to St Stephen’s Entrance. But we encourage you to feel the rhythm of the place instead of ticking a visit in your agenda.
The next stop in this district of London will be the Westminster Abbey. A splendid mixture of architectural styles, this church is considered the finest example of Early English Gothic architecture (1190–1300). Every monarch since William the Conqueror has been crowned here, with some exceptions. Did we say that every rock tells a tale of greatness?
Admiring this spectacular abbey will also bring you to the understanding of the royalty’s importance in daily life of the Londoners. We recommend you to spend some time here, admiring the architecture and the majestic interior. Parts of the Abbey complex are free to visit. This includes the Cloister and the 900-year-old College Garden. Adjacent to the abbey is St Margaret's Church, the House of Commons' place of worship since 1614.
Before continuing with the next attraction, do not forget to take a break for to enjoy a coffee or a tea in a place that suits your preferences. Walking in this tour, allow yourself to check the nearby coffee shops and to test the ones you find appealing. It is a part of discovering for real a new place, going beyond the very touristic aspect of the experience.
The next attraction may be the Saint James Park, to balance the equilibrium between cultural/historic parts and the lifestyle aspects. This 23-hectares park is a great place to walk and enjoy the scenery, providing the weather is good. There is also an excellent restaurant overlooking the lake where you can be served a good choice of healthy food. It will be the perfect stop for having lunch. You can also enjoy the wild fowls, squirrels, shrubs, ferns and trees in the park, taking a break from the city’s noise.
Energized and relaxed, you can go to the next attraction: The Buckingham Palace, the royal home of the British family. Here, you can tour the palace's opulent private and state rooms or watch the changing of the guards. The magnificent State Rooms at Buckingham Palace are only open to the public for two months a year, when the Queen is not in residence, usually between the end of July and late September. Changing the Guard, also known as Guard Mounting, takes place outside Buckingham Palace from 10.45 am and lasts around 45 minutes, with the actual handover taking place at 11 am. So, if you want to see the guard changing, feel free to make this the first or second stop of the day. Prepare yourself for the crowded feeling, because it is a very popular place.
The next attraction may be Trafalgar Square, the true centre of London, where rallies and marches take place, tens of thousands of revellers usher in the New Year and locals congregate for anything from communal open-air cinema and Christmas celebrations to political protests. It is dominated by the Nelson's Column - 52m-high - and ringed by many splendid buildings, including the National Gallery and the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields. We recommend you to take a look also on the shops nearby this place.
After spending time wandering around this great place, in order to finish the day-tour in a great manner, we recommend you to take a ride at the sunset with the London Eye. It is a huge observation wheel that gives visitors a privileged bird's-eye view of the city's landmarks. Standing 135m high in a fairly flat city, the London Eye affords views 40 kilometers in every direction, if weather permits it. Prepare yourself for half hour of panoramic views explained by the interactive guides on-board. Remember to book the ride online, to buy the fast pass before you go and you’ll fly through the ticket line.
After such a busy and enjoyable day, a good and healthy dinner and a refreshing beverage is all you need to end this one-day tour.
Did we miss a lot of attractions on the way? Of course we did and we did it on purpose. Observing all the landscapes along the way of this tour will make you curious and eager to discover more of this wonderful metropolis. The next day or the next city trip will be fulfilled by the desire to discover more and more. In our honest opinion, that’s how to maintain a constant daze for discovering new places on the same city, day after day, trip after trip.
We encourage you to share with us your experiences and recommendations for visiting London. We are eager to share our experiences, but also to learn about your perspectives.