If you have 10 or so minutes free and you need to get some fresh air why not think about visiting the following places?
Somerset House is built on the site of a Tudor Palace; this neoclassical building offers a spectacular inner courtyard and a terrace overlooking the Thames. It houses the gilded State Barge of the Lord Mayor of London and various art and creative exhibitions. In the winter there is also a beautiful ice-skating rink.
York House Watergate marks the site of the original course of the Thames before the construction of the Thames Embankment in the mid-19th century. Once part of York House, the watergate provided quick and easy access onto the Thames and was located at the bottom of the mansion’s garden.
The gardens were built in 1874 and these gardens offer an oasis of greenery in central London. In the main garden there is a café, open in the warmer periods, and a band shell where concerts are held daily in June and July. A charge is made for seats in the enclosure, but the concerts can easily be heard outside on the paths' seats. The York Water Gate can be seen adjacent to the Villiers Street entrance. The park is also filled with various statues of historic famous people.
Victoria Embankment is part of the Thames Embankment. Take a stroll down the road and river-walk along the north bank of the River Thames in London. It runs from the Palace of Westminster to Blackfriars Bridge in the City of London. Be on the lookout for ships permanently moored by Victoria Embankment including HMS President, HQS Wellington, and PS Tattershall Castle. Other attractions along the embankment include the General Charles Gordon Memorial, Royal Air Force Memorial, National Submarine War Memorial, Battle of Britain Monument, Cleopatra's Needle and the modernistic Cleopatra's Kiosk.
An Egyptian obelisk on the Victoria Embankment which was originally built by Thutmose III around 1450 BC and is over 3000 years old. It was re-erected in London in 1877. The pair of sphinxes that are supposed to guard it are in fact facing the wrong way.
Also known as MOD Whitehall or originally as the Whitehall Gardens Building. While obviously, you can’t visit the building inside, you can view the Grade I listed government office building located on Whitehall in London. The building was constructed between 1939 and 1959 on the site of the Palace of Whitehall. The gardens on the Thames face contain a number of statues to the military.
The Palace of Westminster is home to the Parliament of the United Kingdom and is still officially classed as a royal palace, where you can visit and take a tour. The current building sits on the site of the old Palace of Westminster which was almost totally destroyed by fire in 1834. Notable remnants of the medieval palace are Westminster Hall, the Cloisters of St Stephen's, the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft, and the Jewel Tower. The current building houses the Queen Elizabeth Tower often mistakenly called Big Ben, the tower houses the actual Big Ben which is the bell itself.
Also known as the Queen's Chapel of the Savoy, The Queen's Chapel of St John the Baptist is a church dedicated to St John the Baptist, behind IET London: Savoy Place. It sits on the site of the Savoy Palace, once owned by John of Gaunt, which was destroyed in the Peasants' Revolt of 1381. The chapel is owned by the Duchy of Lancaster and as such is a royal peculiar, not being under the jurisdiction of a bishop, but under that of the reigning monarch. The Chapel welcomes casual visitors during its normal opening hours.
The sewer lamp on Carting lane is a reminder of the architecture underneath London's streets. Patented by British engineer Joseph Edmund Webb in the 1890s, the so-called “sewer gas destructor lamps” were designed to extract gases from the pipes and burn them off at high heat. Most of these lamps are now gone, but you can still find one just off the Strand, not far from Trafalgar Square and Covent Garden. Duck off the Strand and onto Carting Lane, continue down the narrow street, and head toward the water. You’ll find the dark-coloured, elegantly decorated lamp on the right-hand side, near a fence-mounted plaque that identifies it as “the last remaining sewer gas lamp in the City of Westminster.”
Just up the road from Savoy Place, located on the Strand, there has been a church on this site since the 9th century. The current building was built by Sir Christopher Wren after the great fire in 1666 and restored in 1958 after being blitzed. It sits on an island in the middle of the Strand and is now the central church for the Royal Air Force and can be visited throughout the year.
One of the most historic and beautiful churches in London. The Church was built by the Knights Templar, the order of crusading monks founded to protect pilgrims on their way to and from Jerusalem in the 12th century. The Church is in two parts: the Round and the Chancel. The Round Church was consecrated in 1185 by the patriarch of Jerusalem. It was designed to recall the holiest place in the Crusaders’ world: the circular Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
The Royal Festival Hall is a concert, dance and talks venue within Southbank Centre in London. It is situated on the South Bank of the River Thames directly opposite Savoy Place, not far from Hungerford Bridge. It is a Grade I listed building, the first post-war brutalist building to become so protected (in 1981). The London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Philharmonia Orchestra and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment are resident in the hall.
A music venue on the South Bank that hosts daily classical, jazz, and avant-garde music and dance performances. It was opened in 1967, with a concert conducted by Benjamin Britten. It was built along with the smaller Purcell Room as part of the Southbank Centre arts complex. It stands alongside the Royal Festival Hall, which was built for the Festival of Britain of 1951, and the Hayward Gallery which opened in 1968.
Commonly known as the National Theatre, it is one of the United Kingdom's three most prominent publicly funded performing arts venues, alongside the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal Opera House. Internationally, it is known as the National Theatre of Great Britain. It was founded by Laurence Olivier.
The world-famous iconic square in central London contains a number of treasures. On the north side sits the National Gallery housing paintings from great masters throughout the world. To the right lies St Martin in the Fields, a church built by Sir Christopher Wren and housing an unusual glass window. South of the square lies the top of Whitehall, home to major UK government departments. To the left through the Admiralty Arch is The Mall which leads directly to Bucking Palace. However, in the middle of the square lies Nelson’s Column surrounded by four massive bronze lions. If you look closely the lions have cat paws due to the sculptor taking too long to produce them, using a dead lion he had obtained from London Zoo.
Located on the South Bank is Europe’s largest cantilevered observation wheel - the London Eye - offering panoramic views of up to 40 kilometres in all directions (as far as Windsor Castle on a clear day). Despite there only being 32 capsules, for superstitious reasons they are numbered 1 to 33, there is no capsule numbered 13. Built in 2000, it is now celebrating its 20th year and is one of London’s top tourist attractions. Pre-booking is essential.
The Jubilee Gardens are located on the South Bank of the Thames just upriver from Savoy Place. This park is nestled between the Shell Centre (London offices for Royal Dutch Shell), the London Eye and County Hall. Originally it housed the Skylon and the Dome of Discovery during the 1951 Festival of Britain and nowadays provides an open space in central London directly on the bank of the Thames. Filled with food stands, cafes and bars it provides a haven to foodies as well as a haven from the bustle of London.
A 300-year-old tea shop that brought tea to the English, not to mention the Queen herself. Today Twinings is synonymous with the history of British tea. Over 300 years later, the original Twinings shop on the Strand is still in business. The Twinings logo, a simple, gold sign bearing the company name, has remained unchanged since 1787, making it the oldest corporate logo still in use.
Almost a dead ringer for the frontage of 10 Downing Street including the front door.
Situated on Trafalgar Square is one of the many St Christopher Wren churches built after the Great Fire in 1666. It contains an unusual window designed by Iranian artist Shirazeh Houshiary that makes an interesting change to standard stained glass.
Just to the north of Trafalgar Square, narrows to 1 foot 3 inches or 0.38 metres wide at one point and claims to be London’s narrowest street.
Covent Garden is a shopping and entertainment hub in London's West End. It centres on the elegant, car-free Piazza, home to fashion stores, craft stalls at the Apple Market, and the Royal Opera House. Street entertainers perform by the 17th-century St. Paul’s Church and the London Transport Museum houses vintage vehicles. Upscale restaurants serve European cuisines.
The Savoy Theatre is a West End theatre in the Strand. The theatre opened on 10 October 1881 and was built by Richard D'Oyly Carte on the site of the old Savoy Palace as a showcase for the popular series of comic operas of Gilbert and Sullivan, which became known as the Savoy operas as a result. The theatre was the first public building in the world to be lit entirely by electricity.
If you have more time on your hands and want to venture further afield then why not visit these places?
Britain’s national gallery of international modern art. It is based in the former Bankside Power Station, in the Bankside area of the London Borough of Southwark. Tate holds the national collection of British art from 1900 to the present day and international modern and contemporary art. Tate Modern is one of the largest museums of modern and contemporary art in the world.
Opened in 1927, this narrow-gauge driverless railway transported mail underneath London between sorting offices and ran till 2003. In 2017 it reopened as the Postal Museum allowing you to journey back in time through the original tunnels and station platforms of London's 100-year-old postal railway.
A student driver's nightmare! Once located in the junctions of Westferry Road, Heron Quay Bank and Marsh Wall, this traffic light mutation was moved to Billingsgate Market. This eight-metre-tall stoplight “tree” changes its 75 sets of lights in a random order, no doubt much to the confusion of unprepared drivers.
The world's first underground farm situated in a Word War II bomb shelter beneath the streets of London. Growing Underground uses innovative LED lights to grow produce such as coriander, broccoli, fennel, and other micro herbs in an effort to promote zero-carbon food. The farm’s bounty goes on to fill the plates and shelves of high-end London restaurants and big-name stores such as Marks & Spencer. You can book a tour to visit the world’s first underground farm.
One of London’s most respected wine merchants is located a few doors down from St. James’s Palace in the City of Westminster. They have been providing wines, ports, and whiskeys to the monarchs of England since King George II. Built in 1730, the property has two whole acres of wine cellars and caves which run underneath St. James’s Street. But between 1836 and 1845 it was home to perhaps one of its most unusual tenants; for the space above the wine shop was briefly home to the Embassy of the Republic of Texas. At the time of its founding, Texas was an independent sovereign country. Texas finally joined the Union in 1845, and the Texan delegation departed the capital leaving a £160 rent bill outstanding.
Remains of the London Wall are scattered throughout London. These are the remnants of the Roman wall that surrounded the Roman city of Londinium and then the medieval City of London. The best-preserved remains can be found at Coopers Row which is adjacent to the Museum of London.
Located just off Gower Street, this museum contains over 80,000 objects and ranks among some of the world's leading collections of Egyptian and Sudanese materials. The collection was sold to UCL by Flinders Petrie, the father of modern archaeology and spans a period in Egyptian history from 5000BC to the Islamic period (over 6000 years of history). It’s easy to miss but well worth a visit.
Kyoto garden is a beautiful Japanese garden gifted to the British capital by the city of Kyoto in 1991 to commemorate the longstanding friendship between England and Japan. The garden was designed by renowned Japanese landscape architects, who created a stunning green space marked by a large and beautiful pond fed by a tiered waterfall.
Archie is held in a custom-made acrylic tank filled with a 10% solution of formol-saline. The giant squid is at the centre of the London Natural History Museum’s Spirit Collection and was caught off the coast of the Falkland Islands in March of 2004. The 8.62-meter-long creature is an Architeuthis dux, or giant squid, and known at the museum as “Archie.” Although enormous, the giant squid is not actually the largest of the feared semi-mythical undersea ship eaters – that position of honour is reserved for the colossal squid, or Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni.
A century-and-a-half old brass placard outside the Royal Observatory in Greenwich was originally installed for those eager for a way to officially verify their measuring sticks. Located alongside the Shepherd 24-hour Slave Clock and the green Meridian Laser, an inquisitive visitor can hypothetically calibrate a lab full of scientific instruments using nothing more than this public display.
This iconic building, now decommissioned, was once one of a number of coal-fired power stations providing London with electricity. Another is the Tate Modern further downriver. The site is currently being redeveloped to provide a mix of residential, leisure and business accommodation.
Charles Babbage's proto-computer painstakingly brought to life. The 1991 Difference Engine #2 is on display at the London Museum of Science along with half of Babbage’s brain. The other half is housed at the Hunterian Museum, London.
The lab where the scientist made his ground-breaking discoveries is carefully preserved on the basement floor of the Royal Institution.
Marked today by a small stone marker on the pavement, however, this was once the site of London’s public hangings for nearly 600 years. The Tyburn Tree was not a tree at all, but rather a wooden gallows where felons were executed in front of crowds that could number in the thousands. The “tree” was a triangular-shaped scaffold with three beams, able to hang up to 24 people at once, which was considered quite an innovative mechanism for medieval Europe.
One of the few surviving remnants of the old London Bridge, Saint Magnus the Martyr’s Church is a historical treasure for another reason. Tacked to the wall of the bell tower’s archway is a 2,000-year-old piece of wood that once formed part of the roman wharf in the city.
A monument to the Victorian scientist Michael Faraday. It is located at Elephant Square in Elephant and Castle, London, England. Housing an electrical substation makes it appropriate for a memorial to one of the great pioneers of electricity.
Completed in 2004 over the Grand Union Canal, it should be more accurately called the curling bridge. The bridge is scheduled to unfold across the canal every Wednesday and Friday at noon and every Saturday at 2pm
Established in 1887, this shop will cater for the most hard-core caffeine addict with coffees from around the world and a large selection of teas as well.
If you look carefully at the lamp posts on Tower Bridge you will notice one appears to be missing a light – it is, in fact, a chimney for a room where guards used to keep warm.
One of the few remaining examples of 19th-century London’s attempt to clean up its reputation. During this period the area was filled with alehouses and over time the persistent pummel of piddle began to take a toll, corroding the brick walls that made up these alleyways. To prevent further damage, urine deflectors were installed along the length of Clifford's Inn Passage.
More commonly known simply as the Monument. A Doric column, situated near the northern end of London Bridge. Commemorating the Great Fire of London, it stands at the junction of Monument Street and Fish Street Hill, 202 feet (62 m) in height and 202 feet west of the spot in Pudding Lane where the Great Fire started on 2 September 1666. Constructed between 1671 and 1677, it was built on the site of St Margaret, New Fish Street, the first church to be destroyed by the Great Fire.