City of London Walking Tour, London

City of London Walking Tour (Self Guided), London

The City of London, widely referred to simply as the City (with the capital C), is also colloquially known as the Square Mile, for being just 1.12 sq mi in area. Situated on top of the original Roman center of commerce, called Londinium, established in 43 AD, this neighborhood is the historic and financial heart of the British capital. It has been a major meeting point for international business since the 19th century, and is currently home to both the Royal Stock Exchange and the Bank of England headquarters.

Albeit now only a tiny part of the metropolis, The City is a notable segment of it. Here, standing side by side one can see the ancient Roman ruins and classical architecture surrounded by modern buildings towering over the vestiges of medieval alleyways!

Perhaps the best starting point for exploring The City is 17th-century St. Paul’s Cathedral. Also worth checking out is the historic Guildhall from where the district administration is run. Hidden between corporate skyscrapers, one shouldn't miss a chance to visit the covered Leadenhall Market with its pubs, smart restaurants and bars frequented by affluent white-collar workers. Other notable sites include Cheapside, Mansion House, London Stone, Sky Garden, and of course, the Monument to the Great Fire of London.

Spanning the Thames, London Bridge is one of the few overpasses remaining under the City jurisdiction. Next to it downstream is the iconic Tower Bridge. The adjacent Tower of London (which is, in fact, a castle), although not within the City itself, is a part of its old defensive perimeter, and has a lot to see on its immaculately kept grounds. For a more detailed acquaintance with one of the most historic neighbourhoods of London, take this self-guided walking tour.
How it works: Download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from Apple App Store or Google Play Store to your mobile phone or tablet. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and its built-in GPS navigation functions guide you from one tour stop to next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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City of London Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: City of London Walking Tour
Guide Location: England » London (See other walking tours in London)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 16
Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.6 Km or 2.9 Miles
Author: Xena
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • St. Paul's Cathedral
  • Cheapside
  • Guildhall
  • Bank of England Museum
  • Royal Exchange
  • Mansion House
  • St. Stephen Walbrook
  • London Stone
  • Leadenhall Market
  • Sky Garden
  • The Monument
  • London Bridge
  • St. Mary-at-Hill
  • All Hallows-by-the-Tower
  • Tower of London
  • Tower Bridge
St. Paul's Cathedral

1) St. Paul's Cathedral (must see)

For centuries, this iconic structure has symbolized London's enduring spirit of survival and rejuvenation, captivating visitors both inside and outside its grand walls. Sir Christopher Wren embarked on the design of the present-day cathedral in 1666, immediately following the destruction of the prior medieval building, founded in 1087, during the Great Fire. This historical context is evident in the inscription "resurgam" ("I shall rise again") on the pediment of the south entrance. Saint Paul's Cathedral once more became a symbol of the city's resilience during the Blitz, as local volunteers bravely fought to extinguish a fire on the dome (though despite their efforts, a significant portion of the building's eastern end and its high altar were lost). It has frequently served as the backdrop for momentous state events, including Winston Churchill's funeral and the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

Construction commenced in 1675 and took 35 years to complete. Interestingly, this was Wren's third architectural proposal: the initial design was rejected for being too modern, while the second was deemed too modern and too influenced by Italian (Catholic) architecture. The "Great Model" of this second design, a 20-foot representation, can be seen in the crypt. In a compromise with the Anglican clergy, Wren included a traditional English spire but ultimately installed a neoclassical triple-layered dome, the second-largest cathedral dome globally after Saint Peter's in Rome.

The cathedral's interior showcases a remarkable example of English Baroque design. Ascend 257 steps up the meticulously engineered Geometric Staircase, a stone spiral marvel, to reach the Whispering Gallery, named so because a whisper against one wall can be heard clearly on the wall 112 feet away. Another 119 steps lead to the Stone Gallery, encircling the dome's exterior and offering panoramic views of London. For those with a head for heights, an additional 152 steps lead to the small Golden Gallery, an observation deck at the dome's zenith. At 278 feet above the cathedral floor, it presents even more breathtaking vistas.

Descending to ground level, in the south choir aisle, rests the grave of John Donne, the poet who served as dean of Saint Paul's from 1621 until his passing in 1631. His marble effigy stands as the cathedral's oldest surviving memorial and one of the few to endure the Great Fire. The intricately carved figures on the nearby choir stall are the creations of master carver Grinling Gibbons, who also adorned Wren's great organ. Behind the high altar lies the American Memorial Chapel, dedicated to the 28,000 American GIs stationed in the UK during the Second World War. Notable figures interred in the crypt include the Duke of Wellington, Admiral Lord Nelson, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Henry Moore, and Wren himself. Aptly, the Latin epitaph above Wren's tomb reads, "Reader, if you seek his monument, look around you."

Saint Paul's serves as a prominent backdrop in many of Dickens' novels. In "Master Humphrey’s Clock", for instance, he portrays Master Humphrey ascending to the summit of the cathedral, then the tallest structure in London, to relish the sweeping panorama of the city. He writes, "Draw but a little circle above the clustering house tops, and you shall have within its space, everything with its opposite extreme and contradiction, close beside." Another Dickens work, "David Copperfield", takes Peggotty to the top of Saint Paul's to savor the impressive views over London, a practice that visitors continue to enjoy to this day.

The vicinity surrounding this iconic cathedral was intimately known to Dickens, and he frequently visited for various reasons, including attendance at significant public events such as the Duke of Wellington's funeral in 1852.

During Shakespeare's era, the vicinity around Saint Paul's was quite distinct from its present appearance. Beyond serving as the hub of religious, political, cultural, and social activity in the city, the Cathedral also played a pivotal role in London's book trade, significantly impacting the literary creations of that time. By the year 1600, Shakespeare had become the most widely published professional playwright, and the earliest versions of his plays, such as "Titus Andronicus", "Richard II", "Much Ado About Nothing", and "The Merchant of Venice", were all bought and sold in the vicinity of Saint Paul's Churchyard. It is highly probable that Shakespeare himself frequented the local bookstores in search of materials that could serve as source material for his own works. To a considerable extent, the atmosphere around Saint Paul's influenced the Bard's writing and played a significant role in its survival and reception.

Other than architecture and history buffs, nowadays Harry Potter fans also have their reason to visit Saint Paul's. The focal point of their interest lies is the spectacular spiral Geometric Staircase (also referred to as the Dean's Stair) that creates the illusion of floating out from the walls of the Cathedral's South West Bell Tower. Recognizable from "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban", this winding staircase served as the pathway for students ascending the stone steps on their way to Professor Trelawney's Divination classes, which were held in a classroom situated atop one of Hogwarts' North Towers. Additionally, the same staircase was featured in "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" as the Turris Magnus staircase. To catch a glimpse, you'll need to enter the Cathedral with a visitor ticket.

Why You Should Visit:
An architectural marvel and an iconic representation of London.
There's a wealth of exploration to be had, whether you venture above ground or into the crypt.

Entrance to this cathedral requires a fee. Opt for online ticket purchase to streamline your visit and save time.
Additionally, you have the option to purchase an audio tour at the entrance.

2) Cheapside

This thoroughfare served as the primary east-west street in 16th-century London when the city had a population of approximately 200,000 inhabitants. The expansive street was home to The City's marketplace, and this is reflected in the names of the streets that radiate from it, such as Poultry, Honey Lane, Milk Street, and Bread Street.

In the 19th century, Cheapside remained a bustling shopping district and played a prominent role in English literature, frequently appearing in Dickens's works. In "Great Expectations", Pip described the nearby street market of Cheapside as "all asmear with filth and fat and blood ... the great black dome of Saint Paul's bulging at me."

Charles Dickens, Jr. penned in his 1879 book "Dickens's Dictionary of London": "Cheapside remains now what it was five centuries ago, the greatest thoroughfare in the City of London. Other localities have had their day, have risen, become fashionable, and have sunk into obscurity and neglect, but Cheapside has maintained its place, and may boast of being the busiest thoroughfare in the world, with the sole exception perhaps of London-bridge."

In the contemporary landscape, Cheapside retains its status as a vibrant retail hub widely known for its diverse array of outlets and offices. The area also features The City's lone major shopping center, One New Change (at the Saint Paul's Cathedral end), with restrooms and a glass elevator leading to a rooftop terrace offering panoramic views of Saint Paul's and the London cityscape.

3) Guildhall

Excavate beneath the streets of London, and you'll uncover layers of Roman, Saxon, and Medieval remnants. This locale has served as a gathering point since the days of ancient Rome (take note of the circular trace of the former Roman amphitheater on the square). During medieval times, it served as the meeting place for various guilds, a tradition that endures with approximately 100 professional associations congregating here today.

The venerable hall, which miraculously has withstood both the Great Fire of 1666 and the bombings of World War II, can trace its origins back to the 15th century, making it a precious relic of civil architecture from the Middle Ages that still stands. Adjacent to this historic hall is the Guildhall Art Gallery, offering free admission and a fascinating glimpse into the social fabric of old London through a collection primarily consisting of Victorian paintings depicting various scenes from the city's past. This gallery houses one of London's finest Victorian art collections, thoughtfully arranged into thematic categories such as home, beauty, faith, leisure, work, love, and imagination. Additionally, it showcases enchanting Pre-Raphaelite artworks. In the gallery's basement, you'll find a meticulously curated exhibition dedicated to the aforementioned Roman amphitheater unearthed during a construction project in 1988.
Bank of England Museum

4) Bank of England Museum

Since its establishment in 1694 as the central bank of England, the role of the institution famously known as the "Old Lady of Threadneedle Street" (a nickname derived from a political cartoon) has evolved significantly. It now encompasses various responsibilities such as overseeing foreign exchanges, issuing currency, safeguarding the nation's gold reserves, and supervising the United Kingdom's banking system. Since 1997, it has also been entrusted with the operational management of Britain's monetary policy, most notably in the context of setting interest rates, similar to the role played by the Federal Reserve in the United States.

The institution's premises occupy a three-acre area enclosed by a massive Neoclassical curtain wall, originally designed by Sir John Soane in 1828. Interestingly, this windowless outer wall is the sole remaining structure from Soane's original bank building, which was demolished in 1925. If you wish to delve deeper into the bank's history, the Bank of England Museum, conveniently located around the corner on Bartholomew Lane, offers a surprisingly diverse range of exhibits. Alongside the bank's original Royal Charter, the museum hosts a dynamic program of special exhibitions and interactive displays, allowing visitors to even try their hand at understanding the control of inflation. One of the museum's most popular attractions is a solid-gold bar on display in the central trading hall, which visitors can actually hold, although it's important to note that stringent security measures are in place.
Royal Exchange

5) Royal Exchange

Easily the most impressive and refined among the Bank's structures is the Royal Exchange, originally constructed in 1570 through the lavish financial support of the extraordinarily wealthy businessman, Thomas Gresham (notice his gilded grasshopper adorning the rooftop). During that era, the term "stock" referred to goods that could be loaded onto or unloaded from ships on the Thames. Over time, Londoners began to assemble here, transitioning from trading live goats and chickens to exchanging slips of paper representing "futures." As trading grew, so did the need for money changers and subsequently, bankers, leading to the flourishing of London's financial district.

The present-day structure, featuring an imposing eight-column portico and convenient steps for the lunchtime crowd, is the third building to occupy this historic site and was constructed in the 1840s. Today, the Royal Exchange is home to upscale shops catering to those with expense accounts. Nevertheless, it's still worth taking a look inside the inner courtyard, which boasts a beautifully tiled floor, a glazed roof, and half-columns designed in three classical orders. The stylish Fortnum's Bar and Restaurant occupies both the courtyard and the mezzanine level, offering a vantage point to admire a series of frescoes depicting the City's history.
Mansion House

6) Mansion House

Mansion House, the opulent neoclassical residence of the Lord Mayor during their term in office, is open to the public once a week, but access is available solely through guided tours (lasting approximately 1 hour) with no prior booking required. Designed in 1753 by the architect George Dance the Elder, the most splendid room within the building is the Egyptian Hall, characterized by its impressive columns and a soaring barrel-vaulted ceiling adorned with coffered designs.

Another noteworthy aspect of Mansion House is its extensive collection of gold and silver tableware, including the Mayor's remarkable 36-pound gold mace and the pearl sword gifted by Queen Elizabeth I, traditionally presented to the sovereign during visits to the City. As you explore the rooms, you'll encounter a remarkable assortment of Dutch and Flemish paintings by renowned artists such as Hals, Ruisdael, Hobbema, Cuyp and de Hooch.

Tour spots are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis, so it's advisable to arrive promptly at the Walbrook entrance.

After your visit, consider taking a stroll down Cornhill, keeping the Royal Exchange on your left. Along the way, you'll come across a monument dedicated to James Henry Greathead, the 19th-century engineer whose inventions, including the "traveling shield," played a pivotal role in making the construction of the Tube possible. A few blocks further down at Cornhill #50 on the right, you can also drop by The Counting House pub, originally built as a bank in 1893 and a popular lunch spot in the area.
St. Stephen Walbrook

7) St. Stephen Walbrook

The parish church of the Lord Mayor, designed by architect Christopher Wren between 1672 and 1679, is widely regarded as the most exceptional among his City churches. Notably, its intricately coffered dome, adorned with elaborate plasterwork, served as an early precursor to the grandeur of Saint Paul's Cathedral.

Upon entering Saint Stephen's, visitors are often taken aback by its airy, columned interior, which contrasts starkly with its unassuming exterior. The font cover and pulpit canopy are adorned with exquisitely carved figures, offering a striking juxtaposition to the minimalist design of Henry Moore's substantial white stone altar, installed in 1987 but originally from 1972.

Yet, perhaps the most poignant memorial within the church is an enclosed telephone in a glass case, which serves as a tribute to Rector Chad Varah, who, in 1953, established the Samaritans, a helpline staffed by volunteers offering support to those in emotional distress.

Additionally, the church is home to the London Internet Church, a community that gathers individuals from around the globe for worship and discussions on Christianity. Saint Stephen's hosts a bustling schedule of free musical events, including Tuesday lunchtime concerts at 1pm and Friday organ recitals at 12:30pm, where visitors are encouraged to bring and enjoy a packed lunch.
London Stone

8) London Stone

The Bank could be argued as the central hub of the City, or perhaps Guildhall serves as its administrative core. However, London's true focal point, its mystical center, resides in the form of the London Stone. This unassuming block of limestone, believed to have been transported from Bath during Roman times, rests within an iron enclosure and is embedded into the outer wall of 111 Cannon Street, right at the intersection with St. Swithin's Lane. Regardless of your reaction to this peculiar relic, it has endured the test of time, dating back to at least the 1450 Peasants' Revolt when the rebellious Jack Cade, hailing from Kent, struck the stone and declared himself the "Lord of the City". Hitting the stone proved easier than confronting the King, yet both Cade's rebellion and his own rule were swiftly put to an end.

Numerous myths surround the London Stone. Some have referred to it as a "Druidic" marker linked to ancient rituals, while others speculate it may have been a Roman milestone. William Blake even wrote of it, saying, "In offerings of Human life...They groan'd aloud on London Stone..." Another legend suggests that medieval kings would strike the stone to assert their dominion, though, in the case of Jack Cade, this tactic proved less than effective.

One enduring myth insisted that moving the stone would trigger calamity. Nevertheless, the stone has been relocated several times. In 1742, it found a new home beside Saint Swithin's Church. Unfortunately, in 1940, the church fell victim to the Blitz and was replaced by an office building at 111 Cannon Street. In 2016, this building was demolished to make way for another structure, prompting the stone's relocation to the Museum of London. Subsequently, in 2018, with the new building in place, the stone was returned to its former location at 111 Cannon Street. As of now, there are no plans for further relocations, and the mystery surrounding this peculiar relic endures.
Leadenhall Market

9) Leadenhall Market

Originally the location of Londinium's Roman Forum, this place has accommodated two millennia of trade. Its name was derived from the innovative lead roof of the medieval market hall. The present-day hall, a classic Victorian structure from the 19th century, complete with its charming iron meat hooks, serves as a retreat for office workers. In this 21st-century era of towering skyscrapers, it survives solely due to government protection. While exploring this area, you'll encounter pubs, stores, and even a traditional shoeshine station, making it a truly enchanting destination for shopping.

The contrast between the ancient market and the modern high-rises is believed to have sparked J. K. Rowling's inspiration for creating Diagon Alley, the shopping hub of the wizarding world where Hogwarts students stock up on school supplies like spell books and wands. Harry and Hagrid pass through the market on their way to the Leaky Cauldron, which holds a sneaky entrance to the alley.

In both "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" and "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," an unoccupied storefront at 42 Bull's Head Passage (in Leadenhall Market) served as the entrance to the Leaky Cauldron. The shop was vacant at the time, allowing filmmakers to paint it black and install a Leaky Cauldron sign for the scene. Its distinctive rounded blue doorway is now instantly recognizable to Harry Potter enthusiasts. Today, the shop is home to Glass House Opticians, so you might even chance upon Mad-Eye Moody here, getting fitted for a contact lens with a bit of luck...
Sky Garden

10) Sky Garden

Designed by the Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly, 20 Fenchurch Street is commonly referred to as the "Walkie-Talkie" due to its distinctive resemblance to a radio handset. Although not without its share of controversy, primarily because of its shape and prominent position in the city skyline, it stands out as one of the few skyscrapers offering free public access. To gain entry to the Sky Garden, a three-level observation deck, visitors need to make advance reservations. Tickets are made available every Monday for bookings up to three weeks in advance and tend to sell out rapidly. The bars and restaurants within the Sky Garden remain open until late.

This location serves as an ideal vantage point for taking in the views of London's other towering structures. To the south, you can spot the Shard, while to the north, you'll find Tower 42, the "Gherkin", the Leadenhall Building (also known as the "Cheesegrater"), "The Scalpel", and 22 Bishopsgate, the tallest skyscraper in the City.

The garden itself features semitropical trees and succulent plants that create a natural border around the bars, restaurants, and expansive walkways spanning the 35th, 36th, and 37th floors. Among the flowering plants, you can admire African Lilies, Red Hot Pokers, and Birds of Paradise, accompanied by aromatic herbs, particularly French Lavender.
The Monument

11) The Monument

Conceived by Sir Christopher Wren and Dr. Robert Hooke as a memorial to mark the devastating aftermath of the Great Fire of London in 1666 (notice the gilded orb of fire crowning the top of the column), this monument stands as the world's tallest freestanding stone column, offering vistas of the city from its viewing platform located 160 feet above the ground. The commission given to these two architects was to place the monument as near as possible to the fire's point of origin, which led to its precise positioning at a distance of 202 feet from the suspected source, Farrier's bakery on Pudding Lane.

Constructed over the period spanning 1671 to 1677, this fluted Doric column also attains a height of 202 feet. For those who find ascending the 311 steps of the captivating spiral staircase to the public balcony too demanding, an alternative is available: you can enjoy a live view from the platform streamed on a screen located at the entrance. Meanwhile, the bas-relief on the column's base vividly depicts Charles II and the Duke of York, both garbed in Roman attire, overseeing the emergency relief operation.
London Bridge

12) London Bridge

For nearly as long as the city of London has existed, a bridge has stood at this very location. The inaugural bridge was constructed over 2,000 years ago, and successive bridges were erected during the Roman era, William the Conqueror's reign, and King John's rule.

In the year 1014, the Danes held control of London, prompting King Ethelred the Unready, a Saxon monarch, to join forces with a Viking raiding party led by King Olaf of Norway in a bid to reclaim the English throne. They navigated up the Thames, fastened their boats to the wooden bridge supports, and, as the tide carried them away, pulled down the bridge behind them, giving rise to the famous chant, 'London Bridge is Falling Down'.

During the Tudor era, about 600 structures lined the bridge, some soaring to heights of over six stories. It was so densely populated that it became its own city ward. The heads of traitors were a gruesome sight, impaled on the poles of the bridge's gatehouse. However, as automobiles became widespread, and traffic continued to surge, the bridge began to sink at one end in the 1960s. The structure was acquired for £1 million (equivalent to $2.4 million at the time) by the McCulloch Oil Corporation, which then transported the bridge across the Atlantic and reassembled it, piece by piece, over Lake Havasu in Arizona, where it stands today.

The current London Bridge, completed in 1973, comprises three spans of pre-stressed concrete cantilevers and is rather minimalist in appearance, featuring only granite obelisks on the pier faces and polished granite cladding on the parapet walls.

Each autumn, on one Sunday, vehicle traffic yields to a unique tradition known as the Sheep Drive by the Freemen of the City of London, a practice dating back to the 12th century, where sheep replace vehicles on the bridge for the day.
St. Mary-at-Hill

13) St. Mary-at-Hill

During the 10th and 11th centuries, Billingsgate Quay held significant importance as an Anglo-Saxon harbor, serving as the primary pathway leading north into the historic city. This route directly passed by the church, and its distinctively steep ascent from the River Thames earned the church its name, Saint Mary at (or "on") the Hill.

In 1666, the Great Fire of London nearly obliterated the medieval structure, causing considerable damage to its walls and tower. Subsequently, all new church designs were supervised by Sir Christopher Wren, with Robert Hooke contributing to the design of Saint Mary-at-Hill. The church underwent reconstruction, with the south and north walls rebuilt, and a new frontage added.

During the Second World War Blitz, Saint Mary-at-Hill remarkably escaped damage, preserving its Victorian-era interior featuring lofty box pews and rich dark wood carvings. However, in May 1988, the church faced a devastating setback when fire led to the collapse of its dome and roof, causing substantial harm to the interior. Despite this setback, the primary framework underwent extensive restoration, and the surviving internal furnishings were safeguarded in storage. Archaeological excavations, uncovering evidence of ancient graves predating the medieval construction, confirmed the church's location as part of Roman London and later an Anglo-Saxon settlement.

Today, this venerable church is renowned for its free lunchtime recitals, continuing a long tradition of musical excellence. Donations are appreciated during Tuesday performances.
All Hallows-by-the-Tower

14) All Hallows-by-the-Tower

This ancient church, predating the Great Fire, stands as one of the city's oldest, with origins dating back to 675. It narrowly survived the Blitz, and much of its current appearance is a post-World War II reconstruction in a neo-Gothic style, crafted from concrete. Nevertheless, the interior is a treasure trove of fascinating items, including numerous maritime memorials, model ships, two sections of a Flemish triptych from around 1500, and, most notably, the exquisitely carved limewood font cover by Gibbons, located in the southwest chapel.

Nearby, you'll find the original 7th-century Anglo-Saxon arch featuring repurposed Roman tiles, making it the oldest reamaining piece of church architecture in the city. In the small Crypt Museum, visitors can also view remnants of a tessellated Roman pavement, and the entry is free of charge. Additionally, All Hallows church boasts some impressive pre-Reformation brasses.

Due to its close proximity to the Tower of London, the church was endowed with royal associations. Edward IV designated one of its chapels as a royal chantry, and the unfortunate victims of executions at the Tower were temporarily interred here.
Tower of London

15) Tower of London (must see)

Nowhere else in London does history appear as vividly alive as within this miniature city, founded by the Normans over a millennium ago. Throughout its existence, the Tower has served various roles, functioning as a fortress, a coin mint, a palace, an archive, and even housing the Royal Menagerie (the foundation of London Zoo). However, its most notorious role has been as a place of confinement and death. Countless individuals, including many nobles and even a few monarchs, spent their final days here, with some leaving their last thoughts etched into the walls of their cells. The Tower's stones have witnessed the shedding of royal blood, making it a place of grim significance.

Executions within the Tower were reserved for the aristocracy, with the most privileged meeting their end in the seclusion of Tower Green rather than facing the public spectacle at Tower Hill. Only seven individuals were granted this macabre "honor", including Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, two of Henry VIII's six wives.

The White Tower, the oldest structure within the complex (comprising 20 towers in total), stands as its most prominent feature. Initiated by William the Conqueror in 1078 and later whitewashed by Henry III (1207–72), it houses the Armouries, a remarkable collection of weaponry and armor. Across the moat to the right lies the riverside Traitors' Gate, where the most famous prisoners were rowed to their impending doom. Opposite is the Bloody Tower, infamous for imprisoning the "little princes"—uncrowned boy king Edward V and his brother—by their malevolent uncle, who subsequently claimed the throne as Richard III.

Not to be missed are the exquisite Crown Jewels housed in the Jewel House. The original symbols of royal authority—the crown, orb, and scepter—were lost during the English Civil War, and the ones on display here date from the Restoration in 1661. The most dazzling gems were added in the 20th century, during the time when their nations were part of the British Empire.

You can take advantage of free 60-minute tours of the Tower, departing every half hour until mid-afternoon from the main entrance. These tours are conducted by the Yeoman Warders, otherwise known as Beefeaters, who have safeguarded the place since their appointment by Henry VII in 1485. Recognizable in their navy-and-red Tudor uniforms, they are often associated with Britain's armed forces. Keep an eye out for the ravens, too, for legend has it that the safety of the kingdom hinges upon their residency in the Tower.

Purchase your ticket(s) online ahead of time and print them out to bypass the majority of the queues. Simply follow the signs designated for ticket holders for expedited entry.
Join one of the free Beefeater guided tours, which typically last about 45 minutes. These tours are both educational and enlightening, offering a comprehensive understanding of the Tower's rich history. Ensure you explore the entire perimeter of the Tower, as intriguing exhibitions are tucked away in various locations that you might otherwise overlook.
Tower Bridge

16) Tower Bridge (must see)

Tower Bridge, surprisingly, only opened its iconic spans in 1894, a fact that often astonishes both tourists and Londoners. Nevertheless, this relatively brief history hasn't stopped it from becoming an iconic symbol of London and the Victorian Era.

Interestingly, Queen Victoria initially harbored reservations about Tower Bridge. Her concern revolved around potential security compromises for the Tower of London, which was serving as an armory during that period. Despite her reservations, the bridge was originally adorned in Queen Victoria's favored hue: Chocolate Brown.

Sophisticated steam-powered engines orchestrate the bridge's ascent and descent, enabling the passage of tall-masted ships through its span. In its inaugural year, Tower Bridge was raised an impressive 6,160 times, and to this day, it continues to open approximately 1,000 times annually. Remarkably, despite this extensive operation, there have been no major accidents. If you happen to be fortunate, you might witness the bridge's operation as it swings open to allow barges and ships to navigate through.

For a memorable experience, take in the panoramic views of the bridge, the river, City Hall (the distinct egg-shaped glass building on the opposite bank), the Shard (London's striking architectural statement), and the vibrant cityscape. Alternatively, consider purchasing tickets that include elevator access to and from the top of the bridge. From there, you can enjoy unobstructed vistas of the east and west banks of the Thames River, complete with a captivating glass floor on the elevated walkways. Visitors also have the opportunity to explore the original steam engines that were once responsible for raising and lowering the two bascules—a genuinely captivating and informative experience. To top it off, there are convenient restroom facilities at the top for added convenience.

Why You Should Visit:
Unique and majestic structure; amazing to see especially at night!

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With so much history surrounding London there is no shortage of historic pubs to choose from. Whether you fancy half-timbered, rambling watering holes or small but perfectly...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.6 Km or 3.5 Miles

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip

London Souvenirs: 20 Distinctively British Products for Travelers

London Souvenirs: 20 Distinctively British Products for Travelers

Most visitors to London consider shopping as part of their must-do London experience. From street markets to Victorian arcades to snobbish Sloane Square to busy Oxford Street, there are a host of shops selling items which typically represent this vibrant city. Whether you are shopping for souvenirs...