London is the UK’s cosmopolitan capital and one of the greatest cities in the world.
It is always packed with foreign tourists, especially in the summer. They love the tradition and pageantry and the fact that Britain is one of the few countries left in the world with a Royal Family.
Successfully hosting the 2012 Olympic Games only increased interest in the very old but modern city.
London has so many attractions to offer that you would need to spend several months there to see all of them. But if you’re just in the city for a few days, here are the top ten things you should do, in no particular order.
10 Buckingham Palace and the Changing of the Guard
This magnificent building at the end of The Mall is the official residence of Queen Elizabeth II when she is in London. You can tell when she is at home as the Royal Standard flies on the roof.
From late July to September, when the Queen is on holiday at Sandringham, it is now open to the public. But every day you can see the Ceremony of the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace.
When the Guard marches down the Mall to the Palace is British pomp and circumstance at its best. At 11.15am the Guards with Bands begin to arrive and the official start time is 11.30am, with the ceremony ending at 12 noon.
9 London Eye
Originally called the Millennium Wheel it was built in 1998 and officially opened on March 9th 2000 to commemorate the new Millennium.
The London Eye stands on the South Bank of the River Thames and is 135 meters (443 feet) high with 32 air conditioned glass capsules carrying up to 25 people.
One revolution of the wheel takes thirty minutes and you get magnificent views over London from the top of the wheel, including Buckingham Palace Gardens.
It never actually stops when it is running but moves slowly enough for you to get on and off the wheel safely.
8 The Lord Mayor’s Show
The Lord Mayor’s Show is an annual event that is free to watch and always takes place on the second Saturday in November after the new Lord Mayor of London has been appointed.
Usually the procession leaving Mansion House at 11am and goes down to the Royal Courts of Justice in Aldwych. It then returns via the Embankment between 1pm and 2.30pm.
The streets are full of floats, samba dancers and the twelve original Livery Companies that have been represented in every parade since they first started in the 16th Century. The new Lord Mayor in his splendid uniform rides in a magnificent gold coach leaning out to wave to the crowds.
7 Tower of London
The famous Tower of London is well worth a visit as at the same time you can see Tower Bridge.
What is more, you can travel down to the Tower on one of the Thames Clippers so you can experience a boat ride on the great river on your way to the tower. You will get great views of both the tower and the bridge as you approach the jetty.
On Tower Green you can see the Scaffold Site where Anne Boleyn and other famous and infamous names in history were executed.
The White Tower is one of the most famous castle keeps in the world and is the oldest part of the Tower of London, having been started under orders from William the Conquerer around 1075.
You can visit all four floors and of course the Tower of London is where the Crown Jewels are kept, and the collection includes the actual crown worn by the monarch on the day of their Coronation.
The Imperial State Crown has over 2800 jewels including the diamond known as the Lesser Star of Africa, so some impressive bling!
6 Greenwich, the Royal Naval College and the Cutty Sark
Another trip down the river will take you to Greenwich where you will find the Royal Naval College, now a museum with its magnificent Painted Hall.
A short walk will take you to the Cutty Sark, the British Clipper Ship built on the Clyde in Scotland in 1869. She was one of the last tea clippers to be built.
On the morning of 21st May 2007 a fire broke out on board and extensive damage was caused. But the ship re-opened to the public in April 2012 and she has been restored to her former glory.
You can wander all over the ship from deck to deck and get an idea of what it was like to have been a sailor at sea for months at a time in the late 1800s.
These ships were the cutting edge of technology in their time, just before steam arrived and made them obsolete within a few decades.
5 Globe Theater
The Globe Theater founded by American actor and director Sam Wanamaker is an exact reproduction of Shakespeare’s Globe built in 1599. It looks the same, the seating is the same and the theater is dedicated to the exploration of Shakespeare’s work and the playhouse he wrote for.
You can watch a performance at the theatre, visit the Globe Exhibition or take a tour of the building. It stands on Bankside in Southwark and as soon as you see the building it is like stepping back in time.
Visiting it will be an experience you will never forget as there is not another theater like it anywhere in the world.
4 Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Formally Olympic Park in Stratford, East London which was constructed for the London 2012 Olympic Games it is now a beautiful landscaped park.
You can swim in the aquatic center where many medals were won and lost, play a variety of sports in the Copper Box arena or visit the velodrome.
This green and pleasant park with flowers, plants and gazebos where music is played in the summer makes a pleasant change from the hustle and bustle of central London.
3 Madame Tussauds
Madame Tussauds is the famous waxworks founded by wax sculptor Marie Tussaud. Although there are now a number of branches found in major cities around the world the London waxworks is the original one which opened on July 14th 1884.
It is the ultimate fun day out for all the family with lifelike figures of members of the Royal Family, film stars and celebrities, sports stars, super heroes and music megastars.
There is also the infamous Chamber of Horrors which is even scarier now than when it first opened. You have to be 12 years old or more to go down there and pregnant women are not allowed!
A maximum security prison has been taken over by the unhinged inmates and live actors mingle with the wax figures to give you the fright of your life.
2 Tea at the Ritz
If you want a quintessentially British experience which is a truly theatrical event then you should take tea at the world famous Ritz Hotel.
In its heart lies the elegant salon the Palm Court where tea is served in delicate china cups from silver tea pots to the accompaniment of the resident pianist. You will have a choice of sixteen loose leaf teas and get nicely cut sandwiches with traditional fillings including cucumber.
Every day there is a daily selection of tea cakes, pastries and freshly baked scones with strawberry jam and Devon clotted cream.
There are gleaming mirrors around the walls, gilded statues and romantic chandeliers. The centerpiece of the room is a very elegant floral arrangement.
1 The Royal Mews
The Royal Mews are at the back of Buckingham Palace and it is like going behind the scenes of every state occasion. You will see the red and gold livery worn by the Royal coachmen and the carriages used on state occasions plus the horses that pull them.
The highlight of the visit will be seeing the gold State Coach built for King George III in 1762. Weighing nearly four tons it takes eight horses to pull it and it has carried every monarch to their Coronation since 1821.
Among the horses you will see are the Cleveland Bays used to escort newly appointed Ambassadors to their audience with the Queen and the famous Windsor Grays that pull the Royal coach and carriages.