6 Places You Should Visit
Going to London, UK for a short stay? Here are 6 popular landmarks I think you should visit along the majestic River Thames that you will love.
The magnificent River Thames is the life of London. It is England’s longest river with an incredible 33 bridges spanning across it in London itself, and plays host to a plethora of historic landmarks and fun places to visit.
1. The Tower Bridge
One of the most iconic features of the London landscape is the beautiful Tower Bridge spanning over the River near the Tower of London. It boasts twin towers, suspension chains, two high pedestrian walkways and a lower pedestrian and vehicular bridge, which opens and closes to allow for water traffic about 3 times per day. It’s known as a bascule bridge or a drawbridge.
Tip: Check the website for opening times of the drawbridge, if you want to see it in action.
It took 8 years to build and was opened in 1894. It spans 240m in length. Both towers are 65m high which you can climb if you wish; only 206 steps. Easy, right? Or, just take the lift.
You can visit the Tower Bridge museum inside the towers and see the old steam engines and hydraulic machinery on display that were used to power the bridge decades ago.
Also, you are able to walk across the top level which has a super-cool glass floor section to view the cars and the river way down below, under your feet. How amazing!
For something totally different you can do a sunrise Yoga class up there! Don’t say I don’t give you cool info. But, personally, I think I would find the views beneath the glass floor a bit distracting during the class.
The old engine room is quite fascinating and a real thrill for young kids, and some big kids too, like my husband!
2. Palace of Westminster and Big Ben
The Palace of Westminster (Houses of Parliament) was first an actual palace built in 1016 before it became the main seat of Parliament in the 1500’s. It was later rebuilt after a fire in 1870.
Big Ben isn’t actually the name given to the huge clock tower that resides next to parliament; it’s actually called Elizabeth Tower. Big Ben is just a nickname. Whaaat? It’s true, don’t argue with me!
A rather tall clock standing at 96 metres, it is the most recognised monument of London, and possibly worldwide. Don’t you agree?
Both Westminster and Big Ben are Unesco World Heritage sites.
There are strict rules regarding visitors and tours; who and when visitors are allowed, time of year, etc. My understanding is that mainly UK residents are permitted. Please do your research to avoid disappointment.
I was quite happy to just wander around the outside and take photos of these iconic historic monuments.
3. The Shard
This is not exactly on the river but very close and a must-see. The Shard is a modern glass skyscraper which stands out on the skyline and is truly magnificent. It is currently the tallest structure in England with 95 stories. It was opened in 2012 and has viewing floors to provide you with an unbeatable panoramic view of London. There is also a partial outdoor gallery, if you have the guts. Go on; I dare you.
The building is fully clad in glass, and that’s why it is sometimes called The Glass Shard. A pyramid shape, with angled glass panes, it reflects the sunlight, giving it a mesmerising appearance; absolutely stunning.
The Shangri-La Hotel is located in the Shard. (Hmm, note to self for a future trip).
Tip: Be sure to check opening times of the viewing platforms, as they vary throughout the year, and book tickets on the website.
Interesting fact: 95% of it is owned by Qatar. Check out Qatar’s capital Doha.
4. The Tower of London
I have previously written a post on the fascinating Tower of London, so be sure to have a read for all the details. In short, it is a major highlight of London and is a must see with a fascinating history of royalty, prisoners, murder and tortures; plus loads more. I was totally enthralled by the place and definitely one of my favourite landmarks in London.
The Crown Jewels are here on display in all their glory for you to peruse. No, you can’t try them on! You might like to read about Buckingham Palace too.
5. HMS Belfast Ship
This vessel is a World War 2 battleship, permanently docked near the Tower Bridge as a museum. ‘Permission to come board?’ Granted. I was curious to see what sailors had to endure back then. This ship witnessed a lot of history and it’s exciting to wander the decks and see the berths, galley etc.
If you love ships, or war memorabilia, you will be enraptured. Kids enjoy it too.
6. London Eye
The London Eye gives you a spectacular bird’s eye view of the city. In 2000 when it opened, it was the biggest Wheel in the world. But of course, others have since surpassed it.
I know ferris wheels aren’t everyone’s ‘cup of tea’, as it is pretty high up there at 135m tall, yikes, but you know you will regret it if you don’t go on it; I’m speaking from experience, or lack thereof.
So, if you’re only in London for a short visit, and don’t have a lot of time to go all over town, you can take in some of the most popular landmarks right on, and around, the river banks.
You’ll be pleased to know all of my hotspots, except number 2, are included in the London Pass, and will grant you access.
Finally, a cruise on a ferry down the majestic Thames is a fun and relaxing way to take in the river vista, if you don’t want to traipse around on foot, which also happens to be included in the Pass. Yay!
Interesting fact: Most of London’s drinking water comes from the Thames; 70% in fact.
Another interesting fact (last one, I promise): It is against the law to swim in the river.
London tours you may like
I’d love any comments you may wish to leave in the section below. Have you been to any of these places?