The Capital – LONDON facts about places to see and visit

There are so many things to list about London, a history and wealth of attractions, here are just a few favourite places and facts about London.

Formed by two ancient cities – City of London and City of Westminster, both forming the region of Greater London.

They may be head of state for the United Kingdom, as well as countries such as Canada and Australia, but the Queen (or King) are not allowed to enter the City of London without permission from the Lord Mayor.

“The citizens of London, through the Corporation of the City, retain their ancient privilege of being able to bar the Sovereign from entering their streets.”

One of many interesting facts about London – below a small list of places, things and facts I like about London.

Buckingham Palace

The Queen’s official London residence and a working royal palace. Buckingham Palace is the London residence and administrative headquarters of the monarch of the United Kingdom. Located in the City of Westminster, the palace is often at the centre of state occasions and royal hospitality.

Buckingham Palace gets its name from a man named Duke of Buckingham, he built Buckingham House for himself as a grand London home.

The first monarch to use Buckingham Palace as their official residence was Queen Victoria, who moved there in 1837.

Buckingham Palace has 775 rooms. These include 19 State rooms, 52 Royal and guest bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices and 78 bathrooms, and employs over 800 members of staff.

Although she has many other royal residences, the Queen still sometimes resides in Buckingham Palace. When she’s home, you can see her royal flag flying from the flagpole. This flag, which is called the Royal Standard, must only be flown from buildings where the Queen is present.

Wellington Arch

Built as an original entrance to Buckingham Palace, later becoming a victory arch proclaiming Wellington’s defeat of Napoleon.

Crowned by the largest bronze sculpture in Europe, it depicts the Angel of Peace descending on the ‘Quadriga’ – or four-horse chariot – of War.

Hyde Park

Covering 142 hectares (350 acres) and with over 4,000 trees, a large lake, a meadow and ornamental flower gardens. It is home to a number of famous landmarks including the Serpentine Lake, the Serpentine Bridge, Speakers’ Corner, the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain, the Joy of Life fountain and the famous statue of Achilles.

In 1536 King Henry VIII confiscated Hyde Park from the monks of Westminster Abbey and was used primarily for hunting. King Charles I opened the park to the public in 1637.

A Grade I-listed major park, the largest of four Royal Parks that form a chain from the entrance of Kensington Palace through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park.

Victoria and Albert Museum

Founded in 1852, the Victoria and Albert Museum is the world’s largest museum of decorative arts and design, housing a permanent collection of over 2.27 million objects, named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

British Museum

Located in the Bloomsbury area of London, the British Museum a public institution dedicated to human history, art and culture.

The British Museum collection totals at least 8 million objects. Roughly 80,000 objects are on public display at any one time. This is 1% of the collection. Many objects within the collection cannot be put on permanent display because of light sensitivity.

Much of the permanent collection as possible is available to the public for research, even when objects are not on public display, through research
libraries administered by each department. Two million objects and background information are available to the public through the online catalogue.

National Maritime Museum

The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London, is the leading maritime museum of the United Kingdom and largest museum of its kind in the world.

The museum holds over 2.5 million items including astronomical and navigational instruments, ship models and plans, coins, medals and flags, uniforms and weapons, plus historical art, film and photography. A vast collection that spans artworks, maps and charts, memorabilia and thousands of other objects.

Home to treasures such as Nelson’s Trafalgar uniform, the Caird Library and Archive and Turners‘s largest painting.

The museum’s name was suggested by Rudyard Kipling, although the writer passed away a year before it was opened by King George VI in 1937. His young daughter Princess Elizabeth (Queen Elizabeth II), was also in attendance.

The uniform Lord Admiral Nelson was wearing when he was fatally wounded at the Battle of Trafalgar is on display in the Nelson, Navy, Nation gallery.

It also houses the Caird Library and Archive, the world’s largest maritime historical reference library (100,000 volumes) including books dating back to the 15th century.

Cutty Sark

A British clipper ship built in 1869, one of the last and fastest tea clippers to be built, which halted as sailing ships gave way to steam propulsion.

Over 90% of the ship’s hull structure is original to 1869.

Clipper ships are marked by three design characteristics – a long, narrow hull, a sharp bow which cuts through the waves rather riding atop – and three raking masts extending to over 150 feet (47m) high. It carried a maximum of thirty-two sails; supported by eleven miles of rigging and set in the right conditions help the ship to achieve a top speed of 17.5 knots (20 miles an hour).

Having travelled 957,995 nautical miles, it served as a working ship for 52 years, a training ship for 22 years, in 1954 a dry dock was built for Cutty Sark , opened by HM the Queen on 25 June 1957, as a symbol of Britain’s maritime trade, it became a memorial to the Merchant Navy and the 44,000 men killed in both world wars.

653 men served on it as a British ship.  Fifteen members of Cutty Sarks crew died while in service. Six were lost overboard; seven died of illness including dysentery and cholera; one was killed in a brawl and one committed suicide.

A Portuguese ship for longer than it was a British cargo ship, Cutty Sark was sold to a Portuguese firm in 1895. It served as Ferreira for twenty-seven years and then, following another exchange of ownership, as Maria do Amparo for a number of months.

Cutty Sark left London in 1922, when Ferreira encountered a storm and had to call in at Falmouth for repairs. Here it was spotted by retired sea Captain Wilfred Dowman, who had fond memories of Cutty Sark as a ship that surged past his own some twenty-seven years, vowed to bring this remarkable ship back to Britain.

Old Royal Naval College

The architectural centrepiece of Maritime Greenwich, a World Heritage Site, described as being of “outstanding universal value” and reckoned to be the “finest and most dramatically sited architectural and landscape ensemble in the British Isles“.

Designed by Christopher Wren, the buildings were originally constructed to serve as the Royal Hospital for Seamen at Greenwich, built between 1696 and 1712. The hospital closed in 1869.

Elite naval officers from across the world studied at the Royal Naval College between 1873 and 1997, widely regarded to be one of the best naval academies in Europe.

Birthplace of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, the history of the site is as rich as it is complex, buried beneath is a vast palace complex inhabited by medieval and Tudor monarchs.

Greenwich Park

A former hunting park and one of the largest single green spaces in south-east London. Overlooking the River Thames and home to one of London’s most iconic views, Greenwich Park is a mix of 17th century landscape, stunning gardens and a rich history.

Once open to the public until 1917, three tunnels large enough for a person to walk upright are beneath the surface of  Greenwich Park. One could enter through Hawksmoor Conduit House, built in 1720. They were designed to channel natural groundwater to the buildings of the Royal Hospital.

Prime Meridian

Stand on the Prime Meridian, the reference point for the world. Lines of Longitude define how far east or west a location, the Prime Meridian is an imaginary line that, similar to the equator, divides the earth into eastern and western hemispheres. It is sometimes referred to as the Greenwich Meridian.

A prime meridian is a meridian in a geographic coordinate system at which longitude is defined to be 0°. Together, a prime meridian and its antimeridian form a great circle. This great circle divides the sphere, e.g., Earth, into two hemispheres.

Queen’s House

A former royal residence built between 1616 and 1635 in Greenwich, a few miles down-river from the then City of London and now a London Borough.

Canary Wharf

Canary Wharf is a busy financial area filled with skyscrapers, takes its name from the sea trade with the Canary Islands, whose name originates from the Latin ‘canis’ (dogs), the location being the Island of Dogs.

In 1802, the West India Docks were the world’s busiest shipping port and the heart of the British Empire.

Tower Bridge

A steel frame clad in stone, Tower Bridge opened on 30 June 1894 by The Prince of Wales (the future King Edward Vll).

Tower Bridge is the only bridge over the Thames that can be raised as it is a combined bascule (drawbridge) and suspension bridge. This means that the middle section of the bridge can be raised to allow river traffic to pass through. It takes 61 seconds to open Tower Bridge, which opens about 1,000 times a year.

Central span split into two equal bascules, weighing over 1,000 tons each, and two towers clad in stone to give a more “traditional” appearance to match nearby Tower of London, from which it is named.

HMS Belfast (C35)

One of ten Town-class cruisers launched on St Patrick’s Day 1938 for the Royal Navy, now permanently moored as a museum ship on the River Thames in London and is operated by the Imperial War Museum since 1967.

Tate Modern, London

A modern art gallery, Britain’s national gallery of international modern art forms part of the Tate Group.

Originally built as a power station, Tate Modern is designed around a series of vast spaces that lend themselves to art exhibitions and sculptural installations perfectly. Sitting across the river from St Paul’s Cathedral and linked by an easy stroll across the Millennium Bridge, the gallery was opened in 2000 but quickly became a favourite with Londoners and art lovers from all over the world.

The building was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, who also designed the classic red telephone box.

London Eye

Europe‘s tallest Ferris wheel. on the South Bank of the River Thames in London.

Trafalgar Square

The centrepiece of Trafalgar Square is Nelson’s Column, which was built to honor Admiral Horatio Nelson, who led the British to Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar. The pedestal of Nelson’s Column is decorated with four bronze relief panels, cast from captured French guns, depict the Battle of Cape St Vincent, the Battle of the Nile, the Battle of Copenhagen and the Death of Nelson at Trafalgar.

There are fourth plinths in the square, 3 of which features statues of previous English Kings. The fourth plinth, however, never had a statue built for it and has been turned into a public display of art that rotates regularly.

National Gallery, London

The National Gallery is an art museum in Trafalgar Square, . Founded in 1824, it houses a collection of over 2,300 paintings dating from the mid-13th century to 1900. Works include paintings by Da Vinci, Van Gogh, Titian, Michelangelo, Botticelli, Raphael, Rembrandt, Monet, Seurat, Caravaggio, and many others.

Palace of Westminster

Often referred to as the Houses of Parliament, the palace that stands today was designed by architect Charles Barry in the Gothic Revival style.

Construction started in 1840 and lasted for 30 years, suffering great delays and cost overruns, as well as the death of both leading architects; works for the interior decoration continued intermittently well into the 20th century.

Until 1512 it was home to the Monarchs of England and the only original part of the building that still stands is Westminster Hall. The other parts of the palace have been rebuilt over the years either because they have been destroyed in a fire, bombed or could not withstand the effects of London’s pollution. Remnants from old tradition still remain within the palace., for example, hooks intended for people to hang their swords on are still installed in the lifts.

The Palace of Westminster contains over 1,100 rooms, 100 staircases and 4.8 kilometers (3 miles) of passageways, which are spread over four floors.

The exterior of the Palace of Westminster — especially the Elizabeth Tower (96.3 meters (316 feet)) houses the bell known as Big Ben.