London is one of the most famous cities in the world. Each year, millions of visitors fly, sail, and drive into the iconic United Kingdom capital to experience the ancient architecture, art, and buzzing city life. Countless books, movies, TV shows, and video games have taken place in London, but how much do you know about its history?
As one of the world’s oldest cities, London has ties to the Holy Roman Empire, the Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, and cultures that predate modern history. Case in point, there’s a lot to see and a lot to learn in the Big Smoke. Our history buff’s guide to London will help you get started.
Just don’t forget to stash your gear with a luggage storage service. You’ll want to be hands-free to explore all the London sights!
Major cities like London have more than their fair share of famous landmarks. Take New York, for instance; the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, and the Brooklyn Bridge are just a few notable monuments. But what’s the first monument you see when you look up images of London? Chances are you’ll see a large spire with a clock on top.
Big Ben was constructed centuries ago in 1859 and its striking Gothic Revival aesthetic is simply unmistakable.
Big Ben sits at 96 meters tall and has 11 floors. In 2012, the structure was officially dubbed the Elizabeth Tower by the city. Nevertheless, Big Ben is a name that endures. At this point, the clock tower has become the symbol of London and even the UK as a whole.
The British Royal Family has held the respect of the people long after the UK became a democracy. Queen Elizabeth II is one of the most respected figures in the modern world, as are her relatives and descendants. Buckingham Palace is one of the Royal Family’s most cherished homes.
The opulent palace was initially built in 1703 for the Duke of Buckingham, and numerous coronations and court ceremonies have been hosted here ever since. The building’s architecture alone is simply awe-inspiring, and the interior can be admired via annual tours.
Charles Dickens Museum
Few writers are as well respected as Charles Dickens. This man was the literary savant responsible for iconic stories like A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield, and Oliver Twist. Anyone with a love of literature has likely encountered his work before.
The Charles Dickens Museum is a fitting tribute to this distinguished author. Dickens’ former home has been transformed into an extraordinary exhibit where visitors can learn about the author’s personal life and the inspirations behind some of his most famous characters.
Churchill War Rooms
World War II was one of the most harrowing eras in London’s history. When the Axis initially mobilized, London was one of the first cities that was attacked. Daily air raids, ravaged storefronts, and mounting death tolls practically became commonplace.
A visit here offers a glimpse into life during the war. Prime Minister Winston Churchill rallied the people of London during these dark times, with these War Rooms serving as his command centre. From here, Churchill organized Britain’s armies and dramatically improved the morale of London’s citizens.
The London Wall hearkens back to the days of the Holy Roman Empire when London was known as Londinium. The wall used to wrap around the entire town, protecting citizens from outside threats for years.
Over time, London grew larger and the Wall became more of a sentimental fixture. These days, parts of the wall are scattered all around the city. A sizable fragment of the Roman London Wall can be located near the Tower Hill tube station.
History isn’t all ancient buildings, bygone eras, and centuries-old authors. History is made each and every day by each and every one of us. It occasionally manifests as a grandiose palace. Other times, it manifests as a 72 story skyscraper.
The Shard, aka the Shard of Glass, is one of the newest additions to London’s skyline. This stunning building was constructed in 2009 by Italian Architect Renzo Piano. The view atop the Shard is truly breathtaking, as are the various points of interest inside this building.
St. Paul’s Cathedral
The United Kingdom houses some of the world’s most brilliant cathedrals, and unsurprisingly many of these buildings are concentrated in London. No trip to London is complete without a visit to St. Paul’s Cathedral.
By far one of the oldest buildings in the city; St. Paul’s Cathedral was constructed in 1697, making it over 320 years old. A true masterwork of English Baroque design, St. Paul’s Cathedral is a piece of history that will survive for many years to come.
Many of London’s bridges are iconic in their own right. They help thousands of people commute through the city each day, and they look pretty great while doing it. The Tower Bridge is special among London’s Bridges, namely due to its close proximity to other landmarks.
Tower Bridge was constructed in 1894, though it was conceived as early as 1877. Horace Jones oversaw construction, ensuring that Tower Bridge was built to last. Today, this historic landmark is outfitted with LED lights and played a role in the Olympic Games.
The British Navy is renowned as the world’s most effective Naval Force. During World War II, the Axis practically avoided the British Royal Fleet at all costs. The Battle of Trafalgar is one of the many reasons why.
Napoleon Bonaparte was soundly defeated by the British Navy during the Battle of Trafalgar. Trafalgar Square was named after this triumphant victory, and statues commemorating the battle can be found just about everywhere you look.
How many readers thought of Abbey Road when they saw the name of this entry? While Westminster Abbey might not house any Beatles, it is still a famous and well-respected building.
This Gothic church is often touted as a “Royal Church”. That’s because several monarchs like Henry III frequented this holy place. Over 3,300 people have been laid to rest here, leading Westminster Abbey to sometimes be called Britain’s Valhalla.