London is one of the world's oldest cities and there is no shortage of historical buildings to visit and admire. If you are a history lover then you will definitely enjoy the marvellous sights that the great city of London has to offer; London has thousands of years to define its rich history and culture.
Here are 10 of the most famous historical London landmarks which surely should not be missed out when touring the city:
The most famous cathedral in Britain, located at Ludgate Hill, and one of the most notable ones in Europe. St Paul's Cathedral is an Anglican Cathedral with fascinating origins; it has been destroyed and rebuilt countless times. It first started off as an Anglo-Saxon church devoted to St. Paul in 604, there is no evidence that this one is in the same place that the present and medieval cathedrals were it is just assumed that it was.
The church was destroyed in a fire so it was rebuilt in 675 only to be destroyed again by the Vikings in a raid. The Normans built the Old St Paul's Cathedral but this was damaged by various fires and had to be rebuilt several times, due to this it was consecrated in 1240 even though construction began much earlier, in about 1087. During this time, architectural styles changed from Romanesque to Gothic so the cathedral was rebuilt with pointed arches and larger windows.
After standing for 5 centuries, St Paul’s Cathedral was burnt down in the Great Fire of London in 1666 and construction for a new cathedral began in 1668; the new St Paul's Cathedral was completed in 1711. The new St Paul’s Cathedral had many famous events and services held here throughout history from celebrations to executions.
In 1913 a bomb was found in the cathedral, planted there by suffragettes in an attempt to destroy the place, fortunately for the cathedral which had been destroyed so many times, the bomb was found before it detonated. St Paul’s Cathedral became a symbol of British resistance during World War II as it miraculously escaped destruction during the Blitz.
Alongside St Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, located in Westminster, is one of the most famous religious buildings in the United Kingdom and also served a place for coronation used by English and, later on, British monarchs (this has been upheld since William the Conqueror’s coronation in 1066).
There have been 16 royal weddings at the abbey and many notable people have been buried there earning in the name of “Britain’s Valhalla” (Valhalla is a sort of heaven where Viking warriors killed in combat were said to go to).
Westminster Abbey was saved from the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII as it was granted cathedral status, unlike other abbeys at the time. It also suffered some damage during World War II when it was set alight by incendiary bombs.
Westminster Abbey is built in the Anglo-French Gothic style but some English Gothic features, in contrast to the rest of the abbey, such as the Lady Chapel were built during the reign of Henry VII.
Southwark Cathedral, or known by its official name, The Cathedral and Collegiate Church of St Saviour and St Mary Overie is located near London Bridge close to the River Thames. It was originally a church during the reign of William the Conqueror and evidence for this is found in the Domesday Book where it is referred to as a minster owned by Bishop Odo of Bayeux in 1086.
The church was destroyed by fire several times throughout history and was rebuilt in many styles; it was also dissolved during Henry’s Dissolution but was leased and eventually bought by parishioners. The medieval building had fallen into disrepair at the turn of the 19th century and had to undergo major improvements. The church became a cathedral in 1905 when the Diocese of Southwark was created: a district under the care of a bishop.
Southwark Cathedral is in an area that was heavily bombed during World War II, in fact, shrapnel damage to the building can be seen today.
Located in Kensington Gardens in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, the palace is home to some members of the royal family and has been used as a residence for royalty since the 17th century. Kensington Palace was built in 1605 and the first monarchs to live there were William III and Mary II, (who became joint monarchs in 1689) they were in search of a better place to live for William who suffered from asthma; the former residence, Whitehall palace, was in a much industrial area near the Thames.
Over the years it has been used by many notable monarchs and the current royal family members that reside there are: Prince William and Catherine (Duke and Duchess of Cambridge), Princess Eugenie and her husband Jack Brooksbank, Prince Richard and Birgitte (Duke and Duchess of Gloucester), Prince Edward and Katharine (Duke and Duchess of Kent), and Prince and Princess Michael of Kent.
A very popular tourist destination with a remarkable history, Windsor Castle has survived many sieges and has withstood against being lost in time. The former castle, in the same site, was built by William the Conqueror after the Norman invasion of England during the 11th century. It is the longest-occupied palace in Europe and has been used by monarchs since Henry I who came to the throne in 1100; he made the castle a royal residence due to the easy access to London and an old Saxon hunting ground.
Windsor Castle has undergone many changes over the years; one of the more notable ones is the Gothic transformation by Edward III in 1357 to 1377. Other monarchs made changes and added improvements to the castle, a gallery and famous pieces have also been famous additions to Windsor Castle.
During the English Civil War (1642-1651), Windsor Castle was seized by the Parliamentarians and was used as Oliver Cromwell’s headquarters; carvings in the cells of the Norman Tower made by Royalists that were imprisoned there can still be seen today. It was made principal palace by Queen Victoria in 1837 and had further changes made during her reign including the State Entrance in 1861. Tickets can be purchased to visit Windsor Castle, see their official website for prices and timings.
Built between 1616 and 1635, The Queen’s House is a former Royal Residence and is located in Greenwich. The building is now part of the National Maritime Museum and used to display art; the building itself is a work of art being the first of the classical style of architecture to be built in the country.
The Queens House played a part in the 2012 London Olympic Games, the building was used as a VIP centre, equestrian events were held behind the Queen's House and the modern pentathlon was staged at Greenwich Park. Due to its role in the Olympics, some parts of the building were remodeled in order to install cameras for security precautions.
Originally known as Buckingham House, a residence built for the Duke of Buckingham in 1703, it is now the official residence of Queen Elizabeth II and the administrative headquarters of the British Monarchy. King George III purchased the building in 1763 making him the first monarch to own the building, it then became known as The Queen’s House due to it being used as a residence for George’s wife, Queen Charlotte.
In 1837, Buckingham Palace became the official London residence of the British Monarch when Queen Victoria came to the throne. Although George III owned the building in 1763, Queen Victoria is known as the first monarch to use Buckingham Palace as an official residence, it was George’s wife who resided in Buckingham Palace, not the king himself.
During World War II the palace chapel was destroyed in an air raid, the Queen’s Gallery, which was opened to the public in 1962, is now built in the former location of the chapel.
Why not pick up some London souvenirs, such as a magnet of Buckingham Palace to commemorate this stately building?
The Somerset House was originally built in the 16th century as a residence for Edward Seymour who was Duke of Somerset but he was executed before the work was finished. After coming into the possession of the Crown, Elizabeth I lived there before becoming queen while Queen Mary I was in power, she was her half-sister.
In the 17th century, Somerset House began to be used as a residence for royal consorts, Anne of Denmark, who was married to King James I lived there, she dubbed it “Denmark House” but this name changed after she no longer resided there.
In the English Civil War, it was taken over by the Parliamentarians and was no longer used as a royal residence; the Parliamentarians tried to sell the buildings but were unable to so it became part army headquarters and the rest contained lodgings for Parliamentarian notables.
After being used by some other royal consorts after the Restoration in 1649, Somerset House eventually fell into disuse and it was demolished in 1775. Due to demand for more great buildings that the public could access, a new Somerset House began to be built in 1775, the same year it was demolished, and was completed in 1801.
Much has happened in Somerset House since and it can be visited by the public, why not book a ticket and learn about its fantastic past in more detail?
Located in Kew Gardens, Kew Palace is a Royal palace with parts that were constructed in the 16th century. The main building that remains standing is known as the Dutch House; other buildings fell into disuse and were eventually demolished.
Kew Palace isn’t a royal residence and hasn’t been since 1818, the palace is managed by an independent charity known as Historic Royal Palaces.
The official name is Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London, the Tower of London is a historic castle located in Central London and is one of the most well-known landmarks in Britain. It was built by the Normans after their invasion of England in 1066, the White Tower, the name of the entire complex that comes from this tower, was built by William the Conqueror. The complex consists of a few buildings constructed between defensive walls surrounded by a moat.
It was used as a prison from 1100 to 1952, and was originally hated by the people of London; it was seen as a sign of oppression built by the ruling elite. The castle was expanded by various monarchs and was also besieged several times; the Tower of London has played an important part in English History, in some cases, control of the castle meant control of the Country. The crown jewels are also kept here.
Times have changed and now the Tower of London is a fantastic place to visit with the family and there are lots of things to see and activities to take part in.