London - Around Town : Westminster, the South Bank and Southwark (part 1)

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Here there is a rich mix of things to do. Sights range from Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament to the Tate’s stunning art institutions, the Southbank Centre and Shakespeare’s Globe. In between there’s the spectacular London Eye and other entertainments around County Hall, former headquarters of the Greater London Council. Two new footbridges have opened – one at Hungerford Bridge, the other at Tate Modern – helping to bring the two sides of the river together.

Whitehall and Horse Guards

The wide street connecting Parliament Square and Trafalgar Square takes its name from the Palace of Whitehall built for Henry VIII in 1532. The palace was guarded on the north side at what is now Horse Guards, where the guard is still mounted every morning at 11am (10am on Sundays), with a dismounting inspection at 4pm.

Statue of Queen Boadicea, near Westminster station

  1. Westminster Abbey

    London’s most venerable and most beautiful church, the scene of coronations and royal weddings and the resting place of monarchs.

  2. Tate Modern

    One of the world’s great contemporary art galleries. A boat service connects Tate Britain and Tate Modern. It leaves from Bankside Pier outside Tate Modern every 20 minutes.

  3. London Eye

    The second highest observational wheel in the world (after the Singapore Flyer) offers amazing views of the city. While waiting for a flight, visit the attractions in County Hall – the London Aquarium, Namco Station and the Dalí museum .

    View from London Eye towards Big Ben and Westminster Abbey

  4. Houses of Parliament

    The ancient Palace of Westminster is the seat of the two Houses of Parliament – the Lords and the Commons. A Union flag flies on the Victoria Tower when the Commons is in session. Night sittings are indicated by a light on the Clock Tower – the tower that houses Big Ben, the 14-ton bell whose hourly chimes are recognized around the world.

    Houses of Parliament
  5. Tate Britain

    The best of British art is held at the Tate and works range from 1500 to the present. Look downstream to see the home of British Intelligence (MI5). This large building, known as Thames House, is built inside a bug-proof “Faraday cage” .

  6. Downing Street

    The official home and office of Britain’s Prime Minister is one of four surviving houses built in 1680 for Sir George Downing (1623–84) who went to America as a boy and returned to fight for the Parliamentarians in the English Civil War. The building contains a State Dining Room and the Cabinet Room, where a group of 20 senior government ministers meets regularly to formulate policy. Next door, No. 11, is the traditional residence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Downing Street has been closed to the public for security reasons since 1989.

    • Downing Street SW1

    • Closed to public

    No. 10 Downing Street
  7. Cabinet War Rooms and Churchill Museum

    During the dark days of World War II, Winston Churchill and his War Cabinet met in these War Rooms beneath the Government Treasury Chambers. They remain just as they were left in 1945, with sandbags outside and colour-coded phones. Take a guided audio tour through the rooms where ministers plotted the course of the war, or visit the Churchill Museum which records Churchill’s life and career.

    • Clive Steps, King Charles Street SW1

    • Open 9:30am–6pm daily

    • Admission charge

    Cabinet War Rooms
  8. Southbank Centre

    The most accessible arts centre in London still has the air of friendly, egalitarian optimism that brought it into life in the 1950s and 60s. The Royal Festival Hall’s three concert halls have diverse programmes, while the Hayward Gallery is a major venue for art exhibitions. The BFI Southbank, run by the British Film Institute, has a varied programme of movies. The National Theatre’s three theatres (Olivier, Cottesloe and Lyttelton) are to the east along the river .

    • Southbank Centre SE1

  9. Shakespeare’s Globe

    To see a Shakespeare play at the reconstructed Globe is a magical experience. Seated in three tiers, open to the skies, the audience heckles and shouts as they did in Shakespeare’s day. Except when a matinee is playing, visitors to the exhibition next door are given guided tours of the theatre by staff .

    • New Globe Walk, Bankside SE1

    • Bookings (plays from May–Sep only)

    • 020 7401 9919

    • Exhibition/theatre tour: May–Sep: 9am–5pm daily; Oct–Apr: 10am–5pm daily

    • Admission charge

  10. Imperial War Museum

    It is well worth the effort to visit this museum, which documents the social effects of war as much as the technology involved in fighting it, with displays on food rationing, censorship, air-raid precautions and morale-boosting strategies. Concerned mainly with conflicts in the 20th century to the present, it has changing exhibitions and an excellent shop that will appeal to those with a nostalgia for wartime London .

    Exhibits in the Imperial War Museum
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