If you’ve stayed at hotels in London City before, then you’ll have seen first hand how monumental its architecture is. From the Victorian bombast of Westminster to the high tech high rises of Canary Wharf, the diversity of the cityscape is part of London’s beauty.
But amidst the hustle and bustle, there are a fair few buildings that will especially catch the eye. If you’re a guest of London hotel packages who has embarked on the open roof red bus tour of London, you may have passed some of them on your sightseeing trip. Others are scattered further across the city. This blog will outline some of the most famous, historic and beautiful buildings and structures that you’ll find in London.
Elizabeth Tower And The Houses Of Parliament
The heart of British governance, the Houses of Parliament and the adjoining Elizabeth Tower AKA Big Ben are two of the most well known landmarks in London. Visible from the River Thames, the tower was completed in 1859 and stretches 96 metres into the air. London residents are permitted to take a guided tour for free of the tower, and daily ticketed tours of the neo-Gothic Westminster’s unrestricted areas are available to visitors too.
Unfortunately The Shard, London and the UK’s tallest building, is not open to public access without a dinner reservation at one of its 6 eateries and bars or a room at one of its high end hotels. The Shard stretches to 309 metres high and is located in the London Bridge area, though you can see it shining from many parts of the city.
One Canada Square
Once London’s tallest building before the arrival of the Shard in 2012, One Canada Square dates back to 1991 and has 50 floors. Designed by Cesar Pelli, One Canada Square is famous for its pyramid shaped top and is mainly home to industrial, banking and finance companies. Often misnamed as Canary Wharf, One Canada Square is actually situated in the business district known as the former and is teachable via Canada Water Station and the DLR Line.
20 Fenchurch Street
Known as the Walkie Talkie Building due to its shape, 20 Fenchurch Street is either the coolest building or the ugliest, depending on who you ask. You can find 20 Fenchurch Street in the Aldgate area of the City of London. Easy to reach from the Montcalm Royal London House, 20 Fenchurch Street is a neo-futurist marvel and on its top floors 38th to 40 floors is the viewing deck and urban garden known as the Sky Garden. Visitors can reserve a half hour spot in advance for entry to this tourist attraction and restaurant floor.
Heading east now, the ArcelorMittal Orbit is a structure in Stratford that was built as an observation tower for the London 2012 Olympics. The ArcelorMittal was designed by famous British Asian sculptor Anish Kapoor and stretches its red painted, non-linear architecture 114 metres into the Queen Elizabeth Park sky. Whilst its official duties as a base for commentators during the Olympics is now redundant, it’s still used as a pay per ride slide and observation platform.
Once shrouded in mystery due to its use as a Cold War radio transmitter, the BT Tower is now a communications base for the brand it took its name from. Easy to see from much of Central London, the BT Tower cannot be visited save for a week in September during the city’s Open House event. You’ll need to enter a ballot to get a chance at entry though!
London’s Brutalist culture hub, The Barbican is almost hidden from view in the City of London due to its gargantuan size, almost blending into the walls of the surrounding area It’s only when you enter its pond-lined courtyard that you’ll be able to see it in all its majesty. With four levels and a labyrinthine network of cinemas, music halls, galleries and live theatre spaces, the Barbican is easy to reach for guests of City of London spa hotel packages, but admittedly hard to navigate, especially if you’re in a rush to reach an event!
Royal Albert Hall
The legendary music hall first dreamt up by Queen Victoria’s husband, the Royal Albert Hall sits beside Kensington Gardens and was opened in 1871. Funnily enough, the domed shape of this Italianate Concert Hall was actually to the detriment of its purpose. This was because the acoustics of the hall originally wouldn’t carry the sound across the 5000 capacity venue. Luckily amendments were made to Captain Francis Fowke’s designs and to this day visitors can enjoy live shows from classical and pop music's greatest creators.
From one circular social hub to another, Wembley Stadium is the largest in the UK with a 90,000 capacity. Based in northwest London, Wembley is the home of the England women and men’s football team and also hosts a range of other high profile sports and music events throughout the year.
St Paul’s Cathedral
Designed by famous architect Sir Christopher Wren, this iteration of St Paul’s was opened in 1710 after the previous cathedral was burnt down in the Great Fire of London. One of the most iconic symbols of English Anglicanism, visitors can explore the halls and galleries of this cathedral which has played host to many royal and state funerals and weddings over its 322 years of service. Interestingly, many of London’s most famous viewpoints, including Greenwich Park Observatory and Primrose Hill are designed so that you can see St Paul’s atop its perch in Ludgate Hill.
Tower Of London
Another historic gem that symbolises British power, the Tower of London has its origins in the Norman invasion of 1066 and was originally built as a symbol of oppression over London. Its role has shifted from dictatorial tower to prison, to royal armoury and even to an exotic animal menagerie over almost a thousand years of existence. Visitors can tour the still royally functioning tower and learn about its many roles throughout London’s history.