When the Millennium Commission announced their intention to build an observation wheel that would stand 135 metres over the city of London, people were initially cynical. The London Eye is one of the world’s tallest observation wheels, providing up to 40 kilometres of panoramic views on a clear day. The gradual rotation in one of the 32 high-tech glass capsules takes approximately 30 minutes, offering breathtaking views of London and its famous landmarks.
The London Eye has turned out to be the finest and most popular new attraction in London since Queen Victoria’s Great Exhibition. The Eye now welcomes between 3.5 and 4 million guests every year and, conceived and designed by Marks Barfield Architects, is a feat of modern engineering, both beautiful to look at and from.
Sir Christopher Wren’s mighty St Paul’s Cathedral draws the eye like nothing else in London, even though the City’s skyscrapers now tower above it. The centrepiece of the great reconstruction of London after the great fire of 1666, it is still the spiritual focus of Great Britain. Royal weddings and birthdays, the funerals of Britain’s leaders and services to celebrate the ends of wars all take place beneath the famous dome.
Whether you climb the Dome, discover the crypt, or treat yourself to afternoon tea there’s something for everyone. Ascend the spiral staircase to the Whispering Gallery before travelling up and out to the Stone and Golden Galleries, there you will experience a breathtaking panoramic view of London unmatched in the city.
HMS Belfast, is a World War Two cruiser with nine decks. As you explore this floating museum, pop into the Captain’s Bridge and then head down to the massive Boiler and Engine Rooms, well below the ship’s waterline. It is a wonderful opportunity to imagine life onboard an amazing warship – the only surviving ship of her type to have been active during World War II and the Korean War.
Launched on St Patrick’s Day 1938, the 187-metre long ship is a 6-inch cruiser, designed for the protection of trade, for offensive action, and to support military operations by aiding landings from the sea. One of her last jobs was to help evacuate emaciated survivors of Japanese prisoner of war and civilian internment camps from China. Up until the autumn of 1947 she was fully occupied with peace-keeping duties in the Far East.
For a thousand years the Tower of London has protected, threatened, imprisoned and occasionally executed the people of London. Originally the fortress of the hated Norman conquerors, built with imported white stone from France, it has been through many different incarnations in its life; the bloody tower where Richard III allegedly murdered his nephews, a patriotic symbol, home to British monarchs and armies, a prison and in modern times a treasury museum and UNESCO World Heritage site.
Tower of London has also served as a Royal Mint, an armoury, the treasury, home of the Crown Jewels and of course, most infamously, since 1100 a prison. Being sent to the Tower became a famous phrase in London.
England’s most famous royal palace, and the official residence of Queen Elizabeth II. Originally acquired by King George III for his wife Queen Charlotte, Buckingham House was increasingly known as the ‘Queen’s House’ and 14 of George III’s children were born there. On his accession to the throne, George IV decided to convert the house into a palace and employed John Nash to help him extend the building.
The State Rooms are now still used by the Royal Family to receive and entertain guests on State and ceremonial occasions. Visitors can admire some of the more unusual gifts received by the current Queen, including drawings by Salvador Dali, an embroidered silk scarf from Nelson Mandela and a grove of maple trees. Buckingham Palace has 775 rooms. These include 19 State rooms, 52 Royal and guest bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices and 78 bathrooms. In measurements, the building is 108 metres long across the front, 120 metres deep (including the central quadrangle) and 24 metres high.
The Palace is very much a working building and the centrepiece of Britain’s constitutional monarchy. It houses the offices of those who support the day-to-day activities and duties of The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh and their immediate family.