4 iconic London structures and how to see inside them
What is it?
Built between 1886 and 1894, Tower Bridge is a combined suspension bridge and bascule – that’s a moveable bridge to you and me – which crosses the River Thames. It’s been one of the capital’s most recognisable landmarks for over a century. And its current red, white and blue lighting colour scheme was added in 1977 for our late Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee.
Cross the bridge and you get a close-up look at the structure and a brilliant view of London across the Thames. Step inside, though, and you get an even better view from the high-level walkways and 11-metre-long glass floor. Time it to coincide with a bridge lift and you can watch the bascules raise beneath your feet.
The nearest Tube station is London Bridge. There are two parts to the Tower Bridge Exhibition – the main entrance and ticket office is at the north-west Tower of the Bridge. The entrance to the Victorian Engine Rooms is located on the south side, at river level, on Shad Thames. It’s open all year, although opening hours vary in summer and winter. Tickets are available to book online.
St Paul’s Cathedral
What is it?
St Paul’s is definitely a place you’ll recognise from the outside. Visible from all over the capital, this beautiful baroque Anglican Cathedral was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and built in the late 17th century. It has one of the world’s highest domes and, until 1967, it was the tallest building in London.
With a sightseeing ticket, you can explore the main Cathedral, head down to the crypt and make your way all the way up to the Golden Gallery at the top of the dome. It’s 528 steps, but you’re rewarded with spectacular views over London. The Whispering Gallery is less of a climb – 257 steps, to be precise – and it’s so-called because a whisper against its walls can be heard all the way over on the opposite side.
The closest Tube is St Paul’s. The Cathedral is closed for worship on Sundays. You can book online for cheaper tickets and fast-track entry.
What is it?
The Shard is the tallest skyscraper in the UK. Famed for its dramatic angular shape – it punctures the London skyline like, you guessed it, a shard of glass – it opened to the public in 2013 and now contains offices, restaurants and a hotel. It also boasts London’s highest viewing platform, The View from The Shard.
If you’re not working or staying at The Shard, you can eat or drink in one of seven restaurants and bars, and you’re guaranteed a superb view over London. And if you’re only here for a flying visit, just book tickets for the viewing platform and take in the panoramic city vistas. It’s even available for private hire, if you really want to push the boat out.
London Bridge is the nearest Tube station. And it's best to book online in advance. If you pay a little extra, you can snap a photo of the city from the top in the daytime, and again at night, so you can really capture the beauty of it. There are also private guided tours available for two to six people.
What is it?
‘Big Ben’ is actually the nickname of the Great Bell in the clock tower at the Palace of Westminster, on account of the fact it weighs more than 13 tonnes. More often than not, though, it’s the name given to the actual clock tower that’s become a London landmark. Standing 315 feet high, the structure is officially called the Elizabeth Tower and has four clock faces, so the time can be seen from all directions.
Although you can’t currently get inside the clock tower itself – you can still get pretty close with a tour of the Houses of Parliament. There are guided and audio options available, and you can take afternoon tea in one of the riverside rooms in the House of Commons if you fancy making a day of it.
The nearest Tube is Westminster.
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