London is the capital and largest city of Great Britain. Romans, who conquered part of England, called it Londinium. It’s situated in the southeast of England on the river Thames. It’s the seat of central government and one of the world’s commercial and cultural centers. London has the population of about 8 million.
There are two cities in the center of London – the City of London and the city of Westminster.
THE CITY OF LONDON is the oldest part of London. On the East End are situated docks. On the West End there is a lot of shops, cinemas and theatres.
The Tower of London was built by William the Conqueror in 11th century. It was once the royal palace, then a prison for enemies of the king (for example Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard or sir Thomas More were imprisoned there). There are many buildings here like Bloody Tower or Traitors Gate, but the most important is the White Tower, which is the oldest. There is also the Jewel House, which contains the famous Crown Jewels.
The men who guard the Tower and Crown Jewels are called the Warders of Beefeaters. They make the 700-year Ceremony of Keys - ceremonial locking of the main gates of Tower.
Tower Bridge is near the Tower. There are two towers. The bridge opens when the ship wants to pass.
St. Paul’s Cathedral was built after the Great Fire in 1666 by sir Christopher Wren and it is his masterpiece. Inside the dome is the Whispering Gallery. When you whisper close to the wall on one side of the dome, you can be heard on the other side.
St. Paul’s has seen many important occasions, like the Royal Wedding of 1981 when Prince Charles and Prince Diana were married. And famous people are buried here – sir Christopher Wren and others.
THE CITY OF WESTMINSTER is the center of political and administrative life in Great Britain.
The Houses of Parliament on the left bank of the Thames were rebuilt in gothic style. Visitors can go both to the House of Lords and the House of Commons to hear debates from the Visitors’ Gallery, open only when Parliament is in session. The House of Lords is a Gothic hall, with the throne of the Sovereign. In front of this is the seat of the Lord Chancellor, who presides over the House.
In front of the building is the statue of Lord Oliver Cromwell.
Big Ben is the bell of the clock tower of the House of Parliament. It was made in 1858 and called after Sir Benjamin Hall, one of the ministers, who was very tall and called Big Ben by the people. The tower is 97 metres high.
Many English kings and queens have been crowned and buried in Westminster Abbey since William the Conqueror in 1066. There is the Coronation Chair. In the church there are buried Queen Elizabeth the First, Mary, Queen of Scots, King Henry the Seventh and many others. In Poet’s Corner are graves of Geoffrey Chaucer and Georg Fridrich Händel. Shakespeare is memorialised here.
Buckingham Palace is the London home of the Queen. When Her Majesty is in the residence, the Royal Standard is flown from the flagstaff. The changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace is a popular event and so is the mounted ceremony at the Horse Guards in Whitehall, the street of government offices.
No. 10 Downing Street, has been the official residence of the Prime Minister since 1715.
Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square commemorates admiral Nelson and his sea victory at Trafalgar in 1805.
The Old Royal Observatory, from where Greenwich Mean Time is taken, stands in Greenwich Park, overlooking the river Thames
SHOPPING AND ENTERTRAINMENT
London’s best-known shopping streets in the West End are Oxford Street (there are large department stores like Marks and Spencer or Selfridges), Regent Street and Piccadilly.
They’re about 100 theatres in London – like the Royal National Theatre or the Globe Theatre, where Shakespeare acted.
The principal museums and galleries include the British Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Science Museum, the National Gallery, and the Tate Gallery.
The British Museum houses major archeological and ethnographical collections from the entire world like the Rosetta stone and Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon of Athens, together with prints and drawings, coins and medals.
In the British Library you can find a lot of important manuscripts and printed books including the Gutenberg Bible, first Folio Shakespeare, and authors’ original manuscripts.
The collection of Western painting from the 13th to the 20th centuries is in the National Gallery on the Trafalgar Square. There are paintings from Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Monet and many others. The national collection of British painting and the 20th century painting and sculpture is placed in the Tate Gallery.
Fossils and examples of living plants and animals, minerals, gems, rocks and meteorites can be found in the Natural History Museum. The Science Museum shows exhibits outlining the history and development of science and industry – from veteran cars, trains and aeroplanes to the exploration of space and development of computers.
There are also plenty of smaller museums in London. In Madame Tussaud’s Museum are vax portraits of famous world figures.
London is proud of her many large parks.
Hyde Park was originally a hunting forest belonging to Henry VII. There is large Serpentine Lake. On the Speaker’s Corner anyone can stand up and address their audience on any topic.
Hyde Park together with Kensington Gardens are the largest green areas in central London.
In Kensington Gardens stands the Albert Memorial, which Queen Victoria built in memory of her husband.
Regent’s Park contains London’s ZOO. There are about 6000 animals. St. James’s Park near Buckingham Palace is the oldest one.
London Underground, often called the Tube, is very old; the first line was opened in 1863. It has about 170 stations and is very complicated. Taxis are very popular in London and so are red double-decker buses. Green lines buses operated within 25 miles of London.