Travel to London
All photography courtesy of Historic Royal Palaces, Peter Smith for St Paul’s Cathedral, © Tate Photography, The Langham London and John Tramper of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
Nearly everywhere the discerning eye gazes, London’s richness reveals its history and culture — from the compelling architecture of St. Paul’s Cathedral to the mystery of Stonehenge, to the artifacts buried in the Tower of London and a longstanding theatrical heritage. With the advent of the 2012 Olympic Games, world travelers will have much to take advantage of before and after the festivities; and while London holds countless iconic blank to be discovered, here are a few choice destinations when enjoying your next British holiday.
Outside of London’s city center, Stonehenge rises out of the ground as if to capture prehistoric mysteries of the universe. Originally built around 3100 B.C., two significant construction stages followed, creating what travelers see today. Although it is unknown why Stonehenge was actually built, it is considered to have served a ceremonial or ritualistic function for the Druids. To be there at sunrise or sunset with light streaming just so, provides awe and reverence like no other location on earth. Stonehenge is open daily except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Tower of London
Situated on the north bank of the River Thames, the Tower of London is both compelling and sobering. More than a mere tower, it is comprised of a series of towers, palaces, and wards set within two concentric rings; the Gothic Rival architecture remains one of London’s most history-laden locations for travelers. Originally built in the 11th Century, the Tower is known for many things: the crown jewels, the execution sight of Anne Boleyn, and a palace for kings and queens. Additionally, it served as a prison with its most infamous occupant being Elizabeth I.
The Ceremony of the Keys, taking place every evening – without fail for at least 700 years, is the traditional locking up of the Tower and a popular attraction for tourists as well; and although the Monarch no longer resides at this palace, the crown jewels and many other valuables still do.
St. Paul’s Cathedral
Set on the highest point in London, St. Paul’s Cathedral was partially destroyed only to be rebuilt again. Originating in A.D. 604, this imposing Church of England icon is built in a Renaissance–Baroque era style; its awe-inspiring dome was patterned after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The Cathedral itself is made of Portland stone that form chapels and cloisters, along with three circular galleries, and a tower of 13 bells. The Cathedral also includes a substantial crypt with over 200 memorials; from Sir Winston Churchill to author Samuel Johnson.
Guests are also welcome to climb the dome towards the Whispering or Golden Galleries – displaying breathtaking panoramas of London’s landscape. In addition, afternoon tea – a quintessential English tradition, is hosted between 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
Tate Modern Museum
The Tate Modern Museum is one of four museums comprising Britain’s National Gallery. As the most contemporary, color and form define its modern style with pieces from 1900 to today. Located in Milbank, the Tate has over 66,000 pieces in total and visitors can lose themselves in its magnificence. While the museum system originally focused on British, Western European and North American artists, Tate Modern has expanded its collections representing contemporary art from Latin America, Southeast Asia, and Eastern Europe.
Current exhibit collections feature: Joan Miro, an iconic Surrealist artist known for his personal vision, sense of freedom and energy; as well as a photographic display featuring recent work by Luc Delahaye, Mitch Epstein, Guy Tillim and Akram Zaatari, as well as two important earlier works by Boris Mikhailov – the collection explores, extends and questions the power of photography as a documentary medium. Upcoming displays, beginning in October, will feature both Gerhard Richter and Tacita Dean.
The Langham Hotel
Originally built in the 1860s, the Langham Hotel is impressive indeed. Housing 380 rooms, ballrooms, restaurants and a spa, this five-star luxury hotel is as much ‘art’ as it is hotel. Nestled in the heart of London’s prestigious West End, the hotel is in close proximity to picturesque walks and shops. Entertaining numerous dignitaries along with the world-famous, the Langham’s breathtaking interiors have delighted the likes of Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, and Antonin Dvorak. It has also been a popular filming site for numerous period films including the Sherlock Holmes series.
Aside from hosting award-winning dining at the ever-celebrated Roux at The Landau, the Langham is home to Europe’s first Chuan Spa; offering a number of treatments and therapies, the holistic spa is rooted in the values of Traditional Chinese Medicine, revitalizing a balance between body and soul.
From the country that gave us William Shakespeare and Geoffrey Chaucer, a trip to London would not be complete without visiting one of their numerous theaters. ‘Life on stage’ in London’s West End remains the largest theater district in the world; and at its heart, lays the infamous Shaftesbury Avenue. Patrons can enjoy the Apollo Victoria Theater, Victoria Palace Theater, Soho and Lyceum Theaters, to name a few; not to mention the opportunity to bask in phenomenally-designed buildings and stages.
From Jersey Boys and Rock of Ages, to Phantom of the Opera, Mamma Mia and Wicked, London’s longstanding theatre scene would be remiss without mention of the Royal Ballet and Opera, the National Theatre and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre as well. A number of well-produced children’s theatres are also worth a look for the entire family.