Every great city in the world has famous monuments that symbolise them in the eyes of the people who may never have seen them in person – the Eiffel Tower, The Kremlin, and The Coliseum (of course) all come to mind.
But what about London?
London perhaps has more famous buildings than any other city in Europe and possibly on Earth, as it was the focal point of a huge empire that once spaned across continents and lasted for centuries. That’s great news for all visitors staying in Park Grand Hotel London or another downtown establishment, especially since a majority of iconic monuments and landmarks are clustered together in the city centre.
Still, with so many instances of historical heritage on display, London can be confusing for a first-time visitor. The best antidote is to learn a bit more about the most important buildings of historical importance before you arrive in town, making it easier to select a handful of those that truly appeal to your tastes.
While this list is certainly not comprehensive, some of the suggested landmarks should definitely be considered by anyone coming to London.
1. Big Ben
This building is perhaps most synonymous with London, as its unique shape and size present a truly memorable image.
Officially known as Great Bell, Big Ben is a large clock housed in a tower more than 300 ft. tall and featuring gigantic 23 ft. clock dials that are clearly visible from afar. Built in 1859 by the renowned architect Augustus Pugin, Big Ben is a fine representation of the neo-gothic style that originated in Britain.
Big Ben gained the status of UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987, while a renovation project was started in 2017 – which is why it’s currently impossible to hear the sound of its 13.5 tonne bell.
2. Tower Bridge
Another magnificent example of 19th-century architecture, this bridge across the Thames has an imposing silhouette that exudes a combination of power and elegance. It is located very close to the Tower of London, another iconic building worth visiting, while London Bridge is also just a stone’s throw away.
Tower Bridge is open to vehicular and pedestrian traffic, but it also serves as a Victorian-era museum under the open skies. The towers and the connecting elevated walkways are the most interesting tourist areas, although there is an entry fee to pay to access them. With most nearby hotels book now pay later deals available, Tower Bridge and Tower of London are visited by a huge number of international visitors.
3. Hyde Park
The history of this park goes back to the 16th century when Henry VIII made it his private hunting grounds.
It was consequently converted to public space and went through several stages of changes over the centuries. May Day celebrations were traditionally held here, but it was also the grounds for numerous infamous duels between gentlemen. It enjoyed a moment in the global spotlight in 1851 when it was used as a site of The Great Exhibition.
Due to its location, guests of the Hyde Park Hotel can easily visit a few other notable sites, such as Kensington Palace and Kensington Gardens.
4. St. Paul’s Cathedral
Positioned on the Ludgate Hill overlooking central London, St Paul’s Cathedral is another iconic landmark that most UK-based and even foreign tourists have no trouble recognizing.
The site has been occupied continuously by religious structures since the early 7th century, while the baroque building that now bears this name was built in the 17th century, right after the Great Fire of London. For a long time, it was the tallest building in London, standing more than 360 ft. from the ground. Since the building literally towers above the city, it’s nearly impossible to miss once you get to the general area.
5. Buckingham Palace
Among the many palaces that were historically used as royal residencies, this is the one that currently serves as the home of the Queen and her family.
Originally built for the Duke of Buckingham in the early 18th century, it was purchased by George III and subsequently expanded. The East Front of the palace was one of the newly built wings, and today it represents the best-known face of the building because it contains the famous balcony that monarchs use to address the people. This is also the location where the traditional Change of the Guard ceremony can be viewed, providing some of the best photo opportunities for tourists.
6. Trafalgar Square
Named for the famous British naval victory over Napoleon’s fleet, this public square in the city of Westminster is adorned with the impressive monument known as Nelson’s Column. The column has a height of nearly 170 ft. and is topped by the statue of the beloved admiral whose name it carries and surrounded with four lions.
The monument was built in the 1840s but was recently renovated in 2006 to restore it to its full glory.
There are several smaller monuments in the square, including busts to fellow admirals Lord Jellicoe, Lord Beatty, and Lord Cunningham. Since it’s located in the City of Westminster and doesn’t require too much time to see, Trafalgar Square is relatively easy to squeeze into the agenda. You can stop by, snap a few pictures in front of the Nelson monument, and be on your way.
7. The British Museum
Another of the fundamental symbols of London, the British Museum is easily available to guests staying at Park Grand Paddington Court and other nearby hotels.
It may not share the impressive exteriors typical of many other landmarks on this list, but it more than makes up for it with its wealth of priceless items that tell a story about Britain’s past. It has occupied the same location since 1759, although it has been substantially expanded and rebuilt several times since, most recently with the addition of Great Court in 2000.
This institution is definitely too large to tour in a single day, but it’s organised into numerous departments dedicated to a specific region or theme, allowing guests to explore only those collections they are truly interested in.