With its historical architecture, world-class museums and a distinct elegance rarely found anywhere else in the world – it is no surprise that the city of London has remained at the top of the world’s most favourited tourist destinations. We outline six of the most monumental landmarks and historic buildings that capture British architectural beauty at its best:
1. Buckingham Palace
Since the reign of Queen Victoria I, Buckingham Palace has set the stage for the life and work of the entire British royal family. Queen Victoria moved into this gilded royal court back in 1837; a little known fact is that the original Buckingham Palace was privately built and owned by the Duke of Buckingham in 1703. It was later that its ownership was transferred to the royals as one of their official estates during George III's reign.
Today, the palace has become a tourist hotspots and an emblem of the United Kingdom. Known for its stately silhouette as well as daily attractions such as the changing of the guards, it is indeed a perfect encapsulation of the country’s history and evolving modernity. It is currently the residence of the Queen of England and Prince Philip, and also the office of about 800 workers.
2. Tower Bridge
Before it was regarded as one of Britain’s most iconic structures today, stretching magnificently over River Thames, it may surprise some to know that the Tower Bridge was met with overwhelming dismay from the general public when it was first announced, who were mostly critical of its aesthetic. "It represents the vice of tawdriness and pretentiousness", once wrote architect Henry Heathcote Statham.
In a few short decades, it is now regarded as one of the country’s most symbolic architectural achievements. Built between 1886 and 1894, the Tower Bridge is a 800-feet-long suspension bridge that aimed to alleviate road congestions while facilitating the entrance of ships and fleets into the London Pier. It is also a busy crossing of the Thames, crossed by over 40,000 people daily. It boasted a different look only a few decades ago; painted red, white and blue for the Queen's Jubilee celebrations in 1977, the red was stripped when it underwent a restoration process in 2010 lending to its current look.
3. The Victoria & Albert (V&A) Museum
The world's largest museum of arts, design and sculpture, the Victoria & Albert (V&A) Museum houses a staggering 2.3 million treasures and artefacts tracing back to 5,000 years of human growth and creativity.
From collections of ancient ceramics and world-famous sculptures to cutting-edge fashion and priceless jewellery, V&A presents a range of exhibitions that capture the very pinnacle of art and culture, as well as the evolution in world history.
4. British Museum
Founded in 1753, the British Museum is the world's first ever national museum. Today, it is the most visited museum in the United Kingdom, with over 7 million people stepping in and out of its doors every year.
Like some of the country’s most beloved establishments, the British Museum is completely free to enter, with its stunning collections and treasures from the Rosetta Stone to Parthenon sculptures and ancient Egyptian architectural pieces attracting tourists and locals alike. The museum itself is in fact an architectural gem on its own right; the recently refurbished Queen Elizabeth II Great Court – the largest covered square in Europe – is an unmissable highlight.
5. Royal Albert Hall
From Adele to the Beatles and the world’s most acclaimed operas and ballets, many of our time’s biggest artists have graced on the stage of the Royal Albert Hall since it was opened by Queen Victoria in 1871. London's premier concert venue located on the northern edge of South Kensington is in itself one of the United Kingdom's most treasured and distinctive buildings.
Seating 5,267, it is a Grade I listed building with a signature glass and wrought-iron dome roofing, complete with a a great mosaic frieze around its exteriors. It is also home to annual awards such as Proms and the Brit Awards.
6. St Paul’s Cathedral
Visitors and design enthusiasts would have recognised its dome from miles away; the St Paul’s Cathedral designed in the English Baroque style by Sir Christopher Wren has been one of London’s most famous and recognisable sights since it was built 1675.
At 365 feet (111 m) high, it was once the tallest building in London and its dome still boasts the highest point in the city. It is also the second cathedral building in the UK, after Liverpool Cathedral, that is a Grade I listed building. Visitors have access to three galleries in the cathedral floor, basement and dome; multimedia guides and guides are also included. It should be noted that the cathedral is only open for worship on Sundays.
Photos via Instagram, Cover Photo via @britishmuseum & @buckinghampalaceshop