What will you see: Trafalgar Square, all the big government buildings down Whitehall, two big religious buildings in Westminster Abbey and Lambeth Palace, the London Eye, the theatre and galleries on Southbank
How long it takes: No more than two hours
This walk starts off in London’s great meeting place – Trafalgar Square. Before you go anywhere take time-out to sit down and admire the view.
On the northside you have the grand facade of the National Gallery – London’s premiere art gallery filled with masters like Rembrandt, Renoir, Titian, Turner and Van Gogh. Opening times: Gallery: 10 AM to 6 PM (Sat–Thu), 10 AM to 9 PM (Fri); Tours: 11.30 AM, 2.30 PM (daily) and 7 PM (Fri) . Cost: Free.
Carrying on clockwise around the square you’ll see St. Martin-in-the-Fields church and Admiralty Arch. In the centre stands Nelson’s Column – built to commemmorate the Admiral’s victory (and death) at the Battle of Trafalgar.
Head south down Whitehall – the heart of the British Government. This long road houses the Treasury, Foreign Office, Cabinet Office and Ministry of Defence.
The first sightseeing attraction you’ll come across is Horse Guards Parade. You can pick it out by the red-coated soldier standing guard in his alcove. It is a favourite pastime of tourists to try and make him smile.
Just opposite from Horse Guards is Banqueting House. Opening times: 10 AM to 5 PM (Mon–Sat); Last admission 4.30 PM; May close at short notice for private events and functions. Cost: Adults £5.00; Children free (under-16). This was built by Inigo Jones in the early 17th-century and was where Charles I was executed after the English Civil War.
Carry on down Whitehall until you come to the big black gates of Downing Street. If you’re lucky you might see the Prime Minister’s car speeding away to an important meeting. A short distance down the road is the Cenotaph. This is where the Heads of State come and pay their respects on Remembrance Sunday.
You will now enter Parliament Square – ringed by the statues of the great and good. The chief sights here are Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament.
Westminster Abbey is London’s most prestigious religious building – the setting for coronations, state funerals, and the burial place of many celebrated kings and queens. It is well worth a visit if you have got the time. Opening times: 9.30 AM to 4.30 PM (Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri), 9.30 PM to 7 PM (Wed), 9.30 AM to 4.30 PM (Sat); Last admission 1 hour before closing time. Cost: Adults £16.00; Children £6.00 (11–16); Infants free (under-16); Family ticket £32.00.
The Houses of Parliament – or Palace of Westminster, as it is also known – has occupied the same spot since 1016. The most famous part of this spectacular building is the large clock tower on the corner – Big Ben.
Skirt the back of the building into Victoria Tower Gardens, and walk along the river to Lambeth Bridge. We will then cross over and see the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The Lambeth Palace that we see today dates from 1440, and the large red brick gatehouse dates from 1495. It has been the scene of numerous uprisings throughout history, including Wat Tyler’s murderous rampage in 1331.
We will now walk back up the river, with fine views of Parliament across the Thames. When you get to Westminster Bridge carry on until you get to County Hall.
County Hall is home to a couple of popular tourist attractions, the chief of which is the London Aquarium. Opening times: 10 AM to 6 PM (Mon–Thu), 10 AM to 7 PM (Fri–Sun); Last admission 1 hour before closing time. Cost: Adults £19.02; Children £14.04 (3–15); Infants free (under-3); Family ticket £60.00. But just outside the door is the best one of all – the British Airways London Eye.
The London Eye is the largest observation wheel in the world, taking about 30 minutes to revolve. It is well worth the wait if the queues aren’t too heavy. Opening times: 10 AM to 8.30 PM (Jan–Mar), 10 AM to 9 PM (Apr–Jun), 10 AM to 9.30 PM (Jul–Aug), 10 AM to 8.30 PM (Sep–Dec). Cost: Adults £18.60; Children £9.54 (4–15); Infants free (under-4); Family ticket £56.28.
If you carry on up the river and you’ll reach the Southbank Centre. This is home to several cultural attractions, chief of which is the National Theatre and Royal Festival Hall. Opening times: 10 AM to 11 PM. Others include the Hayward Gallery, Purcell Room and Queen Elizabeth Hall.
Turn left at Aldwych, and head back down the Strand. This will take you straight back to Trafalgar Square.
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