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Travel guide to London
I went two times to London, the first time in August for my birthday and the second time during the Christmas period. In both periods it was raining, so I can't suggest the best seasons to visit it, but I know that with every meteorologic condition, London is fantastic and a splendid city to stop by.
The first time I went, I fell so in love with this city that I decided this would become the city where I wanted to live. I don't know why, maybe the atmosphere, people running everywhere, a multitude of black cabs and the famous red buses was something that fascinated me. I thought that my life here would have been perfect. Today, even If I chose Dublin, I still believe that London is fantastic and I love to go also just for a couple of days, especially in the Christmas holidays.
Things to do in the city of London
Trafalgar Square is a must, the famous large square with two fountains at the sides, Nelson's column at the centre and four bronze lions that seem to protect the columns.
In the beginning, there was the royal mews, and only in 1844, it open as a public square after a work of redeveloping. Its name recalls the Battle of Trafalgar, a British naval victory during the Napoleonic Wars with France and Spain which took place on 21 October 1805. Today the Trafalgar is not only one of the main attractions of London, but also the place where many events take place such as the Chinese New Year, the large and colourful Christmas tree, the Pride and many more. I loved seeing the square during Christmas; it is full of lights, colours and of course the big Christmas tree, amazing!
I'm pretty obvious, but my favourite attraction is the London Eye, first of all, the view of the city from above is fascinating, second, the wheel is gorgeous at night with all the lights changing colour, and as the last, I always loved the scenic wheels. The London Eye was inaugurated in 2000 in the Thames, and was the largest wheel in the world until 2006; originally it had to stay only for five years, but since it became trendy it has never been dismantled. The ticket is a bit expensive, but the view will compensate you.
Big Ben and The Houses of Parliament are the main attractions of London. Honestly, I have to say that I like them a lot; and when I like something it means taking hundreds of photos: with the Thames, with the red bus, at night, during the day...
In 1934 the House of Parliament was destroyed by a fire, and it was decided to add a tower with a clock. The official name of the tower was originally the Clock Tower, and Big Ben technically is the name of the massive bell inside it. In 2012 the House of Commons announced that Big Ben was to be renamed the Elizabeth Tower in honour of Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee. The clock tower is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987. Unfortunately, it is not possible to visit the tower, but even from outside, it is lovely, especially in the evening when all the façades of the clock are illuminated.
Buckingham Palace is another top attraction in the capital, it is the official Queen's house and for this, only in the summer, when the Queen is in other residencies, is possible to visit some rooms at its inside. The first time I saw the Palace surrounded by a high gate, I thought it was elegant, impressively large and showing all the greatness of the Crown.
It was acquired by King George III in 1761 as a private residence for Queen Charlotte and became the official residence in 1837 with Queen Victoria. During the years it changed a lot, it was renovated multiple times to add other rooms. Today the Palace counts 775 rooms in total and during the remodelling was also added the celebrate balcony used in special occasions from the Royal Family.
If you’re around Sunday morning, you can’t miss the Changing of the Guard. It’s a formal ceremony to change the guard group to another group. The change begins at the Wellington barracks and arrives at Buckingham Palace accompanied by a march and horses. At least once you see the changing of the guard.
In London, we can find many beautiful green parks, and Hyde Park is one of the best, when you are at its inside you will forget that you are actually in the heart of London. In the park, you can find any type of plants, flowers, some animals, lakes with boats, monuments and of course coffee shops. If you have half a day to spend in relax I recommend coming for a walk to Hyde Park with a nice cup of coffee or a hot chocolate in winter. Funny Story?? I remember this park very well because I was with my dad, we were walking and a squirrel very cheeky, it wasn't afraid at all about humans, it started to climb my dad's leg looking for food; it was hilarious.
Piccadilly (which is often described as the "Times Square" of London) is another top and well-known attraction. It’s a crossroads of busy streets, and if you stop here for a couple of minutes, you’ll see a multitude of people walking and crossing these streets, a real mess. Picadilly is primarily known for the neon video and light signage displays mounted on corner buildings.
My favourite part of London is Soho. Soho is close to Piccadilly and is a creative and extravagant area of the capital. Soho is originally a trendy neighbourhood that you can discover on foot, you can find special and original clothing shops, designer shops, nightclubs, bars and restaurants. I especially like the lively nightlife with live music and good entertainment.
St Paul’s Cathedral is another must-see in London; it is an Anglican cathedral dedicated to Paul the Apostle. It is the largest church in London and has played an important role in many state functions such as the celebration of the Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, the funeral of Winston Churchill and even the royal wedding. The Cathedral burned, like much of the city, in the great fire of 1666 and promptly rebuilt as today, a large white church with an imposing facade. I first saw the Cathedral on a bus and I was amazed by its size and beauty that I immediately jumped off the bus and visited the interior.
Another "must see" in London is the majestic Tower Bridge. I know I’ve already said that for almost every attraction, but this is, for me, the best place in town, not just the bridge but the whole area with old and modern buildings that make everything more attractive. Tower Bridge was built between 1886 and 1894 and is a suspension bridge to allow ships to pass. Today is possible to visit the engine machine that permits the bridge to move, not only that; you can also visit the high-level walkways, which initially allowed people to move across the bridge when the bascules were raised. The people always preferred to wait rather than climb, so the access was closed in 1910. In 1982 it re-opened as part of the Tower Bridge Exhibition. Curiosity?? The Tower Bridget changed many colours in its history from red to the last white and blue chosen for Queen Elizabeth II's Silver Jubilee.
Everyone has heard at least once about the gigantic Harrods store and all the nice things you can buy here. And even if you don’t want to buy anything go take a look.
Charles Herry Harrods established it in 1824 in a different location and in 1849 the famous shopping centre was moved to its current location in the lively Knightsbridge district. Harrods has eight floors connected by 146 elevators, lots of escalators and 300 departments of food, fashion, shoes, expensive jewellery and much more. The exterior of the building is illuminated by 11,300 lights and has ten entrance doors. Today it is owned by Mohammed Al-Fayed since 1985.
• Since 1989 there is a sort of dress code for everyone to enter Harrods as not to wear skimpy clothes...
• the first escalator in London was built here
On the ground floor, there is a statue in memory of Lady Diana and Dodi Al-Fayed, son of the owner.
• Since 2000 Harrods is no longer an official supplier to Buckingham Palace after the accusation of Al-Fayed against the royal family.
Day trip from London
In my opinion, Greenwich is something you should visit, not only for the meridian but also for the fantastic, large green park. It is about 40 minutes by bus from Westminster, but worth a visit, especially if you want to escape the chaos of the city centre.
For a day of relaxation: start with a walk in the large green park before arriving at the hill where the Observatory is located and a long line of gold and silver on the ground that represents the meridian of Greenwich.
In 1884, the Greenwich Observatory was chosen as the zero meridians by the Washington Conference, which decided to adopt a single meridian, instead of one for each country, to unify time and geographical measures. I spent a day in Greenwich, not only at the Observatory but also throughout the neighbourhood for a nice sunny day outside the chaotic city.
I went to Stonehenge as a birthday present, and I can say that I could not ask for better, I went on a tour arranged, and it took about 2h 30 minutes from Westminster to reach it.
When I arrived I was surprised; I found this place almost magical, full of mystery and things to discover. I took an audio guide to satisfy my curiosity behind Stonehenge and I must say I was very happy because I knew the story but also some funny legends.
Stonehenge has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986. The most reliable hypothesis is that Stonehenge was an astronomical observatory, especially for the solstice and equinox. The legends instead tell several stories; the funniest tells that some giants were playing with these massive stones as if they were Lego, and after the game, they forgot to tidy up.
Another fine legend behind Stonehenge is tied to King Arthur, but I’ll let you find out for yourself.
I highly recommend visiting Stonehenge because it is an unusual thing to see the thought that they have moved those massive stones without technology and truck is amazing.
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