Best Of London
To coincide with the release of the new London travel guide, the experts at Lonely Planet have provided us with London’s Top 5 experiences!
There is an extraordinary amount to see at the Abbey. The interior is chock-a-block with ornate chapels, elaborate tombs of monarchs and grandiose monuments to sundry luminaries throughout the ages. First and foremost, however, it is a sacred place of worship. Though a mixture of architectural styles, the Abbey is considered the finest example of Early English Gothic (1190–1300). The original church was built in the 11th century by King (later St) Edward the Confessor, who is buried in the chapel behind the sanctuary and main altar.
Britain’s most visited attraction – founded in 1753 when royal physician Hans Sloane sold his ‘cabinet of curiosities’ – is an exhaustive and exhilarating stampede through 7000 years of human civilisation. The British Museum offers a stupendous selection of tours, many of them free. There are 14 free 30-minute eye-opener tours of individual galleries each day. The museum also has free 45-minute lunchtime gallery talks, an Around the World in 90 Minutes tour and free 20-minute spotlight tours on Friday evenings.
The palace has been the Royal Family’s London lodgings since 1837, when Queen Victoria moved in from Kensington Palace as St James’s Palace was deemed too old-fashioned. The State Rooms are only open from mid-July to September, when Her Majesty is holidaying in Scotland. The Queen’s Gallery and the Royal Mews are open year-round however.
Houses of Parliament
Both the House of Commons and the House of Lords sit in the sumptuous Palace of Westminster, a neo-Gothic confection dating from the mid-19thcentury. The most famous feature of the Houses of Parliament is the Clock Tower, officially named Elizabeth Tower to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012, but commonly known as Big Ben.
With some 2300 European paintings on display, this is one of the world’s richest art collections, including works by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Titian, Van Gogh and Renoir. The National Gallery’s collection spans seven centuries of European painting displayed in sumptuous, airy galleries. All are masterpieces, but some stand out for their iconic beauty and brilliance. Don’t overlook the astonishing floor mosaics in the main vestibule inside the entrance to the gallery.
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