Featured Image: Palace of Westminster - London, England

Sightseeing in London

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In the course of my travels the first international city I could envision myself living in was London, England. I initially selected London as a destination to visit most likely for the same reasons many Americans do. There is an immediate sense of familiarity. Part of the roots of America can be traced to those same English streets. Several buildings and streets remind you of American cities such as Boston. Although they say loo instead of toilet, no language barrier needs to be overcome. The biggest hurdle to American’s visiting London is that cars drive on the other side of the road. Even that isn’t a big issue as they’ve written on the pavement which way to look to cross the street. A trip to London is a good gateway to further international travel.

Deciding on traveling to London is the easy part. The difficult part is deciding which sites to visit if you will be in London only a few days. An entire paragraph can be written just listing out the sites to visit. Any trip to London has to include a plan of action. After a couple visits to London my goal with this article is try to simplify the sightseeing landscape. I hope that the suggestions I’ve written below will help you decide what to do during your trip to London.

The London Eye

London Eye - London, England

If you’re looking to take aerial photos of London your top three choices are the London Eye, The Shard, or St. Paul’s Cathedral. If your time is limited my suggestion is to choose the London Eye. St. Paul’s requires climbing a narrow staircase while The Shard’s entrance price is the most expensive of the three choices. The London Eye is a Ferris wheel that provides aerial photos of The Palace of Westminster. The Parliament buildings, which include Elizabeth Tower and the “Big Ben” bell, are one of the most recognizable sites in the world. For photos it’s impossible to capture the entire building from street level since the buildings are just too big. Since the London Eye is just across the river it allows you the opportunity for that photo you crave. The risk of rain in London is always high, but within a London Eye capsule even your rain soaked photos come out beautiful. If you’re scared of heights an alternative for a photo that captures The Palace of Westminster is on a cruise on the River Thames.

Views From London Eye - London, England

View from a London Eye capsule. The photo on the left side was taken when it wasn’t raining, the photo on the right side was taken when it was raining.

The Theater

A visit to the theater in London makes for an enjoyable afternoon or evening. For historian buffs a good choice is Shakespeare’s Globe. The building is a replica of the original Globe that premiered many of Shakespeare’s works. The current Globe allows one to watch a Shakespeare play just as it was centuries ago. Another choice besides the Globe is The West End, home to world-class play productions. With runs of popular musicals and dramas it can be difficult choosing which one to see. Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap is a solid choice. The Mousetrap’s first performance was in 1952 and ever since it has continued to be performed. The Mousetrap is the longest running play in the world. When you watch the actors in The Mousetrap you become a part of that history.

Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap at St. Martin's Theatre - London, England

Abbey Road

Even if you’re not a Beatles fan chances are you’ve seen their famous Abbey Road album cover. The fab four stride with confidence through the crosswalk. Many Beatles fans enjoy traveling to London to reenact the album cover. To those who have never been to London the album cover’s crosswalk looks unique. One of the sobering moments upon arriving in London is that other crosswalks look the same as Abbey Road. In fact, making the trek out to Abbey Road can be disappointing for many people. For starters it’s a thirty-minute journey from the center of London (Trafalgar Square). The actual Abbey Road crosswalk looks the same as the surrounding crosswalks. What makes Abbey Road different is a ton of graffiti on the walls of the nearby recording studio and on the Abbey Road street sign. With nothing else of note in the region one could recreate the album cover anywhere in London and get the same effect in a photo. If you are pressed for time and not a die-hard Beatles fan you could skip visiting the actual Abbey Road.

Abbey Road - London, England

The real Abbey Road.

10 Downing Street

10 Downing Street is where the British Prime Minister lives. Similar to the White House in Washington, DC the building is gated, has a ton of security, and your chances of seeing a political figure are slim to none. Unlike the White House one cannot stand in front of 10 Downing Street. The government building is on a narrow street blocked off from pedestrian access. There is no lawn in front from which you can view it yards away. The clearest view you have is that of a crowd of tourists trying to peek through the gated bars to see something of note. If a crowd of tourists sounds fun then hail a black cab and head to 10 Downing Street. If you don’t enjoy crowds you should have no hesitation in avoiding this site.

Downing Street - London, England

The only view tourists get of 10 Downing Street.

Harrods

If you love shopping then visiting Harrods is more than a must it’s a life calling. Even if you are someone who doesn’t enjoy shopping a quick visit to Harrods is an essential part of visiting London. The department store is humongous and you can shop for a variety of products within its walls. You can buy clothes, books, electronics, toys, jewelry, and food. A large department store means you can lose track of time and unintentionally spend hours there. In fact, like a casino in Las Vegas, finding an exit in Harrods is difficult. It’s as though the people behind Harrods want you to spend as much time as possible in their building. The longer you stay the higher the chances are you’ll find something to buy. To maximize your time as you enter Harrods be sure to pick up one of their maps. The map will help you find an exit and locate the departments and merchandise you are most interested in exploring.

Harrods - London, England

 

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Sightseeing in London

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London Eye: 51.503324, -0.119543
The Shard: 51.504382, -0.086279
St Paul\'s Cathedral: 51.513845, -0.098351
Palace of Westminster: 51.499480, -0.124809
Shakespeare\'s Globe: 51.508076, -0.097194
Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap: 51.512858, -0.127646
Abbey Road: 51.536791, -0.183003
10 Downing Street: 51.503364, -0.127625
Harrods: 51.499405, -0.163234
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London Eye
Sightseeing in London
London Eye, London, United Kingdom
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The Shard
Sightseeing in London
The Shard, London Borough of Southwark, United Kingdom
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St Paul's Cathedral
Sightseeing in London
St. Paul's Cathedral, London, United Kingdom
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Palace of Westminster
Sightseeing in London
Palace of Westminster, London, United Kingdom
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Shakespeare's Globe
Sightseeing in London
Shakespeare's Globe, New Globe Walk, London, United Kingdom
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Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap
Sightseeing in London
St. Martin's Theatre, West Street, London, United Kingdom
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Abbey Road
Sightseeing in London
Abbey Road, London, United Kingdom
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10 Downing Street
Sightseeing in London
10 Downing Street, Downing Street, London, United Kingdom
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Harrods
Sightseeing in London
Harrods, Brompton Road, London, United Kingdom

 

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