London, the capital of England and the United Kingdom, was founded 2000 years ago by the Romans as Londinium. The city has been Western Europe’s largest city for centuries: as early as in the year of 1700, more than 575,000 people lived in London.
is not only the largest city but also one of the most visited thanks to its numerous famous attractions such as the Tower Bridge and the Big Ben.
The City of London
The Square Mile
The City of London is the historic heart of London. This area was already a bustling trading post almost 2000 years ago, when it was part of the Roman Empire.
Many of the irregular streets still follow the ancient Roman roads. The boundaries of the City also loosely follow the path of the Roman wall that was built here in the 2nd century AD.
Today the City is a mostly commercial district dominated by the stately buildings and skyscrapers that house offices for the finance industry.
There are however plenty historical landmarks that were built in an era when the City was still densely populated. The star here is the majestic St. Paul’s Cathedral, but there are also noteworthy civil structures such as the Guildhall, the Leadenhall Market.
The Museum of London too, which is appropriately located in the oldest part of London and documents the tumultuous history of the city.
Sights in the City of London
Plenty of historic landmarks attest to the City’s storied past.
The most famous is the domed St. Paul’s Cathedral
, built in the 17th century by Sir Christopher Wren after the Great Fire had destroyed the existing cathedral.
Wren built many more churches in the City – 51 in total!
They include the nearby St. Mary-le-Bow church (only those born within earshot of the church’s clock can be considered a true Cockney), the Gothic St. Mary Aldermary and the St. Margaret Patterns Church with its tall spire are just a small sample of the 23 surviving churches designed by Wren.
Some buildings managed to survive the Great Fire of 1666, most notably the Guildhall, a beautiful early 15th century edifice that was reconstructed in the 17th century in a neo-Gothic style.
One of the few Victorian structures that survived to this day is the Leadenhall Market, a glass-covered shopping arcade. Nearby is the Royal Exchange building, a stately 19th century building. Once a center of commerce, it is now an upscale shopping center.
Just north of the Royal Exchange is the equally imposing headquarters building of the Bank of England, which is also home to a museum dedicated to the bank’s 300 year history.
Opposite the bank stands the Mansion house – the official residence of the Mayor of the City of London – with a Palladian facade to match the neoclassical facades of the bank and exchange buildings.
There are also some visible remains of the very early origins of the City of London.
The longest surviving remnant of this era is the London Wall, originally built in the 2nd century, but later expanded at around 200 AD.
The 4.5 km long and up to 4 meters high wall ran in a more or less semi circular shape from the site of the current Blackfriars station to the site of the Tower of London at Tower Hill.
It was still mostly intact until the 17th century, after which it was gradually demolished as the city expanded.
Some sections of the wall can be seen along the route, including at Tower Hill – a statue of Trajan marks the site – and at the Museum of London, which is located at the site of a former bastion on the route of the Roman wall.
Another visible remnant of the Roman era is the ruin of the Temple of Mithras, excavated in 1954. Several sculptures discovered at the site are now on display at the Museum of London, which has an extensive exhibition on London’s Roman past.
Other displays in the museum cover the history of London until today, with exhibitions that focus on the different periods in the history of the city – Saxon, medieval, Tudor, Stuart and other – and on important events such as the devastating fire of 1666.
To commemorate this “Great Fire”, a tall column – simply named “The Monument” – was erected in 1671 near the location of the start of the fire in Pudding Lane. A long staircase leads to a platform on top of the Monument, from where you have a great view over the City.
London Millennium Footbridge
|The Millennium Bridge – a pedestrian only footbridge
Originally opened in June 2000 then closed almost immediately due to structural problems, London’s modern Millennium Bridge is now a favorite with locals and tourists alike.
A New Bridge
London’s Southwark Council sponsored a competition in 1996 to choose the designer of a new Millennium Footbridge that would span the Thames River between the Southwark Bridge and the Blackfriars Bridge.
This would be the first bridge built across the Thames River since the building of the magnificent Tower Bridge in 1894 and was to be a part of the city’s millennium celebration.
The winning entry, a suspension bridge, was tagged “the blade of light” and was designed by Arup, Foster and Partners and Sir Anthony Caro. This footbridge would stretch a total of 325 meters and would include supporting cables below the deck level in order to preserve the view of several landmarks on either side.
The design allowed for a 4-meter-wide deck for walkers and the structure was designed to hold 5,000 pedestrians at any given time.
Construction of the bridge began in late 1998 and was completed in June 2000, about 2 months behind schedule.
The total cost to build the bridge was £18.2 million or about €30 million!!
The southern end of this gently swooping suspension bridge is located near the new Globe Theater and the Tate Modern Museum.
The northern end of the bridge sits near London’s imposing St. Paul’s Cathedral.
|The London Millennium Footbridge gives you spectacular views of the city, especially at night when everything seems to glow with a magical twinkle
Pedestrians can gain a wonderful view of the cathedral’s dome from the bridge and the sight is especially marvelous at night. The Tower Bridge, London’s most famous bridge, is also clearly visible from here.
The Wobbly Bridge
Unfortunately, during the first two days that the structure was open, the thousands that crossed it noticed that the Millennium Bridge seemed to wobble. It was quickly nicknamed “The Wobbly Bridge” or “The Wibbly-Wobbly” and was immediately closed for modifications, just three days after it opened.
Modifications succeeded in entirely eliminating the problem, but those necessary modifications caused the bridge to remain closed until February 2002. It cost an additional £5m to complete the changes, but no significant vibrations have been felt since that time.
One of London’s most modern buildings, City Hall houses the Greater London Authority (GLA) including the mayor of London and the London Assembly. The GLA is responsible for the administration of Greater London.
A Startling New Design
Completed in July 2002 and situated on the south bank of the Thames River near the Tower Bridge, City Hall was designed by well-known British architect Norman Foster, who also designed the Millennium Bridge and was responsible for the renovation of Berlin’s famed Reichstag.
The subject of some controversy among those who dislike modern architecture, the bulbous-shaped building has been compared to a misshapen egg, a motorcycle helmet, and an onion.
Designers say they chose this particular shape for the glass and steel structure because it reduces surface area and makes the building more energy efficient.
|City Hall of London
The building is part of a complex known as More London, which includes shops, offices, and a sunken amphitheater that’s named: “The Scoop” – that is the site of many summer open-air concerts and other arts performances.
Enter City Hall in London and the first thing you’ll notice is the long helical walkway, which measures about 500 meters and ascends from the bottom all the way to the top of the building, which measures 10 stories tall.
The walkway provides excellent views of the interior and the river, and at the top of the ramp is a large exhibition hall known as “London’s Living Room”, which is sometimes opened to the public.
The building includes an assembly chamber with seating for 250 members of the public. There’s a total of about 17,000 square meters of floor space inside the egg-shaped building and the office space inside is flexible – able to be subdivided, when necessary, with solid or transparent partitions.
Windows can be opened for natural ventilation and the building leans back towards the south to avoid the most intense direct daytime sunlight.
Cold ground water air conditions the building and there are no “chillers” (air conditioners) inside.
In addition, solar panels were installed on the roof to reduce electrical consumption, making City Hall one of London’s “greenest” buildings.
The Shard is a modern glass skyscraper in London.
The observatory at the 72nd floor offers some spectacular 360 degree views of the city.
The skyscraper is situated in the London Bridge Quarter in Southwark, a neighborhood along the south bank of the river Thames.
|Here, you can see the Shard towering over all the other adjacent buildings nearby – at more then twice the height!
It is right near the heart of London and only the river separates it from the City of London. The area is full of history: a bridge was built here by the Romans around 50 AD and in 1836 London’s first railway station opened here.
The idea to build a super tall skyscraper in the London Bridge Quarter was first mooted at the end of the twentieth century. The building would replace the Southwark Towers, a one hundred meters tall high-rise complex built in 1976.
The site seemed ideal: it is only a couple minutes’ walk from London’s financial center across the London Bridge and the site is right smack near the London Bridge Station, a transport hub connected to both the railway network and the underground.
Plans for the new skyscraper were initially drawn up by the architectural firm of Broadway Malyan, and called for a circular 365 meters tall tower.
These plans were soon scaled back and a new design was submitted, this time from the hands of the Italian architect Renzo Piano. The renowned architect designed a glass pyramid-shaped structure with a height of just over three hundred meters.
The plans for the London Bridge Tower – as the building was initially called – caused an outcry from preservationists who considered the glass tower inappropriate for a historic neighborhood with mostly low-rise brick buildings.
They claimed the tower would cut through the neighborhood like a shard of glass. The name “shard” stuck and the developers even renamed the tower “The Shard”.
In 2008 the Southwark Towers were demolished and construction of the Shard started one year later. The tower topped out in 2012 and eventually opened in early 2013.
When it was completed the Shard held the title of Europe’s tallest skyscraper with a height of almost 310 meters. Only a couple of months later it was narrowly surpassed in height by Russia’s Mercury City Tower.
The Shard towers over the neighborhood and is visible from afar. The iconic skyscraper looks particularly spectacular at night when seen from across the river.
The tapered tower has a glass facade consisting of some 11,000 window panes. The seemingly unfinished spire is designed to act as a radiator to naturally dissipate excess heat, thus reducing the need for air-conditioning.
The building is multi-functional, with offices and a hotel at the lower floors and residential apartments on the upper floors.
The top floors of the Shard are home to the “View from the Shard”, an observation deck that offers visitors spectacular 360 degree views of the city. On a clear day you can see as far as sixty kilometers.
At a height of 245 meters, this is the highest public viewing gallery in London and is almost twice as high as the London Eye.
Always wanted to fly?
You’ve gotta ❤ Qatar Airways, for never failing to provide reliable, non-stop flights!
A special thanks to EXPEDIA PACKAGES for making such incredible journeys possible!
And now, follow us as we continue with our travels!
I hope you did enjoy this post and found it informative.
If you want to be my friend, just add me on my personal Facebook account(s)!