Things to Do in London - page 5
Few addresses hold the majesty of ‘Number One London’, the official address for the central London abode of Apsley House, located at Hyde Park Corner. Once home to the Duke of Wellington, the Georgian manor was built between 1771-1778 and remains remarkably preserved with much of its interior design and furnishings dating back to the start of the Duke’s residency in 1817. The stunning house, a popular attraction in itself, became an English Heritage site in 1947 and is now home to the Wellington Museum where the Duke’s personal collection of art and artifacts – many gifted to him in thanks for his military successes – are on display.
Located in the heart of London, the Household Division’s headquarters looks back on hundreds of years of tradition and rich history. But the integrated Household Cavalry Museum isn’t just any old dusty exhibition; it’s an actual workplace that provides insight about real people doing their real jobs – jobs that involve longstanding ceremonies that haven’t been changed in over 350 years. The Household Cavalry is responsible for guarding the queen on various occasions in the United Kingdom and also for serving as part of the British Army around the world in vehicles. As a military museum, this site offers an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the ceremonial duties and working role of the British Army’s senior regiment, the Household Cavalry.
Evocatively nicknamed London’s Secret Garden, the Chelsea Physic Garden is a green oasis in the heart of Chelsea, hidden away by the Thames riverbank. Founded in 1673, it’s London’s oldest botanic garden, set up by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries and renowned for its impressive collection of medicinal plants and rare species.
The 4-acre walled-garden is home to some 5,000 different edible, medicinal and historic plants, with highlights including Britain’s largest outdoor olive tree, the world’s northernmost outdoor grapefruit tree, a series of endangered plants from Madeira and the Canary Islands, and a World Woodland Garden, devoted to forest plants from around the world. There’s also the Tangerine Dream café, which serves lunch and afternoon tea; a gift shop and an annual schedule of workshops, tours and activities.
The official home of Chelsea Football Club since 1905, Stamford Bridge Stadium has a long legacy and watching a match at the iconic stadium is a popular choice for football fans. The 42,000-capacity stadium is even more impressive since undergoing £100 million worth of renovations back in 2001 and the complex now includes 2 hotels, a number of restaurants and the Chelsea FC museum, where interactive displays and exhibitions chronicle the rise of West London’s top football club.
Chelsea home matches are held biweekly at Stamford Bridge Stadium during the annual football season, but fans can also peek behind-the-scenes on a stadium tour, allowing access to the changing rooms, the players’ tunnel, the dugouts and the press room.
The Royal Air Force Museum London gets travelers in touch with history and puts them up close with more than 100 on-site aircrafts that are ready to be explored. Visitors will learn about World War I on an interactive tour of the brand new First World War in the Air exhibit, and travelers can see a life-sized model of an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet—the only one of its kind displayed in the world!
Young aviation enthusiasts can get a taste of air traffic control operations in an interactive display that lets them run the show. The Princess Mary’s RAF Nursing Service gives visitors a different view of war, with a behind the scenes look at those who have cared for the sick and wounded since the early 1900s. Travelers in search of education and entertainment agree, the Royal Air Force Museum London is worth a visit.
Reopened in 2015 after a £1.7 million renovation project, Eltham Palace is looking the best it ever has and the grand Tudor residence makes a worthy detour from nearby Greenwich. As the childhood home of Henry VIII, the medieval palace boasts a fascinating royal history, but it’s best known for its elaborate art deco style interiors, transformed in the 1930s by wealthy businessman Stephen Courtauld. Visitors to Eltham Palace are whisked back to the 1930s as they explore the domed entrance hall, where the Courtaulds held their glamorous cocktail parties; peek into the opulent gold bathroom and stroll the exquisite orchid and rose gardens. Also open to guests are a series of new rooms, including a map room, a walk-in wardrobe filled with beautiful period clothing, a basement billiard room and a WWII bunker. Traces of the palace’s medieval roots can also be seen, most notably in the glorious wood-beamed Great Hall and the historic moat, crossed by London's oldest working bridge.
More Things to Do in London
London’s Garden Museum is the first museum in the world dedicated to the history of gardening. Founded in 1977, it is housed in the once-abandoned ancient Church of St. Mary’s. The church is the burial place of John Tradescant, Britain’s first great gardener, and his tomb forms the centerpiece of a knot garden within the museum. The museum contains a permanent display of paintings, tools and historic artifacts representing 400 years of gardening in Britain, but only a fraction of its collection is on display. A redevelopment project that should conclude in 2017 will double the space while also establishing the country’s first archive of garden design. The museum hosts several exhibitions each year exploring the creation of British gardens, as well as several dozen presentation related to the history of gardening. The museum is currently closed for redevelopment, but once it reopens, garden-lovers would be well served to visit as part of a tour of London’s secret gardens.
Discover the history of London’s famous gin at the city’s first gin distillery visitor center. The iconic Beefeater Gin Distillery opened its doors to visitors in 2014, with the aim to tell the story of London’s legendary gin production. Visitors are whisked on a journey back to London’s 18th-century gin heyday, walking down a recreation of William Hogarth's famous Gin Lane, through a Victorian-era Covent Garden where the herbs, fruits and flowers to flavor the gin were sourced, and peeking into 'Burrough's American Bar', where the secrets of gin cocktails are unveiled.
The experience is split into two areas, starting with the interactive exhibition space, accompanied by personal iPad guides, and followed by a guided tour of the distillery, where you’ll see the original copper stills, learn more about the art of gin making and enjoy a complimentary gin and tonic at the distillery bar.
Is this India or England? Shri Swaminarayan Mandir would have anyone believe they’ve travelled halfway across the world in the blink of an eye thanks to its distinct architecture. The pristine white Hindu temple was built using entirely traditional methods and materials and up until 2000 it held the Guinness World Record of biggest Hindu temple outside India.
The construction posed two major challenges: the temple had to be built in accordance with the steel-free Vastu Shastras, India’s ancient architectural texts, all while respecting Britain’s strict building code in order to withstand the occasionally harsh weather. 3,000 tons of Bulgarian limestone and 1,200 tons of Italian Carrara marble were shipped to India to be carved and coded by professionals, returning to North London two years later as one gigantic, 26,300 pieces 3D jigsaw puzzle.
Standing proud on Greenwich dock, the Cutty Sark is one of London’s principal maritime attractions, the world’s only surviving tea clipper and an iconic landmark of Greenwich pier. One of only three surviving period ships built in its style, the Cutty Sark, designed by Hercules Linton, was constructed in 1869 for the Jock Willis Shipping Line and was one of the fastest tea clippers built on the cusp of the steamship revolution. The 963-ton vessel is now a popular tourist attraction, listed on the National Historic Ship Register and housing a museum that not only tells the story of the ship but allows visitors to explore the ship’s interiors, restored to their former glory. Visitors can explore the cargo holds and living quarters of the merchant seaman; walk the decks and look out to sea from the helm; and delve into the fascinating stories of the ship’s epic voyages.
The Banqueting House is nothing short of one of London’s finest establishments; it is, in fact, the only remaining component of the Palace of Whitehall –the main residence of London-based English monarchs between 1530 and 1698, including prominent members of the Tudor and the Stuart families like Bloody Mary and Henry VIII. At 1500 rooms and 23 acres in surface, it had grown to be the largest royal palace in Europe before it was destroyed by fire.
The Banqueting House actually played a significant role in English history: it is where King Charles I’s was executed and where the Declaration of Rights was read to new King and Queen William and Mary, before it was granted to the Royal United Service Institute for use as a museum by the philanthropic Queen Victoria in the late 1800s.
Few historic ships can boast of voyages as great as the Golden Hinde, whose round-the-globe expedition between 1577 and 1580, captained by Sir Francis Drake, was one of the great journeys of the Elizabethan era.
Today, a full sized reconstruction of the iconic ship, originally called the ‘Pelican’ and renamed the Golden Hinde mid-voyage, stands at Bankside along the River Thames, offering visitors the chance to step onboard and learn about the galleon’s great adventures. As well as peeking into the cabins and engine room, costumed actors and interactive tours allow visitors to discover the life of a Tudor sailor, and it’s even possible to help raise the anchor and fire the guns.
The grounds that once hosted athletes from all over the world has since then been turned into the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Though obviously constructed for the games, the site has expanded beyond the stadium and now serves as a major component of East London; the area is now open to the public and includes new shops, restaurants, trails, galleries and venues. The Olympic Park has been designed to host Londoners and visitors long after the completion of the games in summer 2012.
Sports reign supreme here, as they should in an area where world records were once broken. The state of the art Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre comes equipped with 10 court and two hockey pitches available for public use year-round. There’s also the one-of-a-kind VeloPark open for all sorts of two-wheeled fun, from track cycling and road racing to BMX and mountain biking.
Things to do near London
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