Monuments of London
Two unmissable Westminster sites
Start by admiring the façades of Westminster Abbey and its flying buttresses from Broad Sanctuary . Once inside, it is worth to visit the Chapter House and the Henry V11 chapel with its magnificent vaulted ceiling.
Tip: if you go to see the collection of effigies in the Abbey Museum, look carefully at the statue of Henry VII and you will see a few hairs above his ears. They were apparently caught in the mould when his death mask was made…
Continue on to the Palace of Westminster (Parliament Square), a 19th century neogothic building, home to the House of Commons and the House of Lords. In the hub of British politics: 3,000 people work in a thousand offices spanning 3km of corridors. Yet the palace is best known for its bell, Big Ben, whose famous chime can be heard within a radius of 3km of Westminster.
No visit to London is complete without seeing Buckingham Palace (The Mall) ! In its current state, the famous residence of Queen Elizabeth dates back to the early 19th century. (with the exception of its 1913 façade). Architect John Nash transformed the original manor house (dating from 1705) into a vast palace, originally designed to be a city pad for King George IV. To finance the reconstruction of Windsor Castle, which was damaged by fire in 1992, some rooms are open to the public in summer.
Next enjoy a walk under the shade of the trees on The Mall. It has been a fashionable spot since 1660 , despite the fact it was then only a simple tree-bordered walkway. It wasn't until 1911 that the wide avenue was created by the same architect who built Admiralty Arch in homage to Queen Victoria.
As you walk down Whitehall towards Trafalgar Square you will come across Downing Street. For security reasons you can't enter this street but, to your left, you will see one of the façades of the Foreign Office. And to your right Number 10, a building dating back to 1684, is home to the Prime Minister. You then pass the Cabinet Office and the Scottish Office.
This monumental square was designed by John Nash in the 1830s. Taking pride of place is Nelson's Column (50m high) which is topped by a statue of the famous admiral who was killed in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Nowadays Trafalgar Square has become a rallying point for political demonstrations, election nights and New Year's Eve revellers.
The north corner of the square gives place to the St Martin in the Fields church.The church has been there since the 13th century but it owes its current design to James Gibbs, who completed his work in 1726. Its anti-Baroque style went on to inspire many American architects. Inside you'll notice the box in the left choir stalls, which is reserved for members of the Royal family, as this is the parish church of Buckingham Palace.