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One of London’s most popular and iconic tourist attractions, the Tower of London, is a great way to spend a family day out learning about the history of the Royals and the Tower’s past. Built by William the Conqueror in 1078, it is a historic castle that is located on the north bank of the River Thames in central London.
Used as a prison until 1952 and now classed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the tower is a complex of several buildings set within two concentric rings of defensive walls and a moat. The Crown Jewels are currently stored in the Waterloo Barracks at the Tower, as they have been since 1669 and the Tower is now also home to the ceremonial regimental headquarters of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers. With guided tours by Yeomen Warders, a shop and a café, the tower is visited by over 2.4 million people each year.
The London Eye, also known as the Millennium Wheel, was built in 2000 to celebrate the millennium and now over 3.5 million visitors use it each year. Originally named the British Airways London Eye, it is now owned and managed by EDF Energy and is now named the EDF Energy London Eye.
Standing at 443ft tall with a diameter of 394ft, it is currently Europe’s tallest Ferris wheel, and when it was built in 1999, it was the tallest in the world. With 32 sealed and air conditioned oval capsules, visitors can see each area of London, and they are free to walk about, although seating is provided. Each revolution of the wheel takes around 30 minutes with a rotation of 26 cm per second, and it does not normally stop to take passengers on as the rotations are slow enough to walk on and off. However it does stop to allow disabled and elderly passengers to embark and disembark.
With easy access to the underground from Waterloo, Charing Cross, Embankment and Westminster, visitors can access the Eye from locations across London.
Visit the London Eye website.
Buckingham Palace is one of the most iconic royal buildings in the country and is the London residence of Her Majesty the Queen. One of only a few working royal palaces left in the world, Buckingham Palace was built in 1703 and is located in the City of Westminster. Originally built as a large townhouse for the Duke of Buckingham, the site finally became the official royal palace of the British monarch on the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837. At the rear of the palace is the large and park-like garden, which together with its lake, is the largest private garden in London.
Buckingham Palace’s 19 state rooms, ballroom and gardens are open to visitors during August and September each year while the Queen maker her annual visit to Balmoral. The state rooms house some of the Royal Family’s greatest treasures including paintings and fine French and English furniture. Visitors can also see the spectacular Ballroom and tour the palace gardens with views of the Palace and the lake.
Big Ben is the nickname for the Great Bell of the clock at the north end of the Palace of Westminster that was completed in 1858. It holds the title of the largest four-faced chiming clock in the world as well as the third tallest free-standing clock tower.
The Palace of Westminster is the meeting place of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, and was first built in the Middle Ages before being demolished and rebuilt in the 1840’s. Commonly known as the Houses of Parliament, the Palace is now one of the centre’s of politics in the United Kingdom. The Palace of Westminster has been a Grade 1 listed building since 1970 and it is now part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Although there is no casual access to the interior of the Palace, UK residents can obtain tickets from an MP for a place in the viewing gallery of the House of Commons. Overseas Visitors and UK residents can also book tickets for tours of the Palace during the summer recess where they can access the state rooms, as well as the chambers of the House of Lords and House of Commons.