The city of London dates back almost 2 millennia and has amassed rich layers of history in its buildings and architecture. From revolutionary train stations to newly developed skyscrapers, the city’s personality truly marks the landscape. Those who are staying in central accommodation like the Park Grand Hotels London will already be used to the incredible architecture of our West London townhouse hotels, but the history of the city’s buildings runs far deeper than just our humble hotels.
Below are some iconic landmarks and lesser-known buildings that will no doubt capture the imagination and help you learn something new about the artistry, relevance and unique makeup of London. From North to South, West to East, there’s a lot to learn from just looking up.
Whilst London’s skyscrapers exude modernity, the reality is that they also give a good indication of the city’s long history too. Whether it’s your first-time visiting London’s business districts, or you’re a regular UK capital commuter and resident in the corporate suites of the Park Grand Hyde Park, make sure that you’ve explored these dazzling, often revolutionary buildings, at least from the outside.
The Shard was opened in 2012 and is the tallest building in the whole of the UK. Its sharp glass structure is known for its distinctive design and was created by famous Italian architect Renzo Piano. At over a thousand feet tall and with a stunning observation deck, this building is one of the most distinctive in the London cityscape. Whilst it acts as the headquarters for London branches of companies such as Al Jazeera media network, it also devotes many floors to leisure. With four restaurants and its own observation deck, the Shard is well worth a visit for newcomers to the city who want to be wined and dined alongside stunning views as an appetiser.
Known to most as the Gherkin, the real name of this quirky skyscraper is number 30 St Mary Axe. This skyscraper in the heart of Central London’s financial district is 591 feet tall and was designed as the UK headquarters of Swiss Re reinsurance company. Its unique design comes with a range of innovations that mean the Gherkin only uses half of the power a similar-sized building would. With six natural ventilation shafts running vertically down the sides of the building, the office tenants, who also include Kirkland and Ellis Law Firm and Standard Life investments company, are insulated by the innovative design.
The Walkie Talkie building
Another unique addition to the London skyline, the Walkie Talkie building, also known as number 20 Fenchurch Street, was opened in 2015 and acts as the headquarters for a range of companies on Leadenhall Market. The most popular public aspect of this curved skyscraper is the Skygarden on its top floors, which comprise of three floors worth of urban conservatories, cafes and bars.
! Canada Square
Known generally as 1 Canary Wharf, 1 Canada Square was the tallest building in London before it was overtaken by the aforementioned Shard. With its distinctive prism top, Canary Wharf is home to financial companies such as Barclays Bank and Credit Suisse. Based in the Isle of Dogs area, this is the bastion of the secondary London financial district and comes with its own public observation floor.
The BT Tower in the Tottenham Court Road area of the West End is a communications tower that was built in 1964. Whilst it was built in secret due to its importance as a national communication hub during the Cold War, the tower itself is very distinctive and is easily distinguishable in the London skyline. Whilst it is closed to the public on most days of the year, guests at the nearby book hotel pay on arrival accommodation and other visitors can gain access to the observation deck on selected days of the year, where they can learn a little more about its history of this incredible piece of modern architecture.
Whilst the future and present London can be summed up through its modern architecture, the historic buildings in the city set the first precedent for the UK capital’s stateliness. Below are just a handful of the buildings that add character and depth to the city through their past and present.
Completed in 1859, Big Ben or Elizabeth Clocktower as it is now known is one of the most impressive sights on the River Thames. With its 96 metre spire, this clocktower overlooks Westminster and the Houses of Parliament and when it’s not being repaired (as it currently is), chimes its characteristic ring every hour. Built by famous Victorian architect Augustus Pugin, Big Ben is best seen during a walk or river cruise along the Thames.
St Paul’s Cathedral
Dating back thousands of years, St Paul’s Cathedral has been rebuilt four times but last was probably the most famous. Designed by Christopher Wren, the Anglican cathedral stands at the tallest point in London and towers over the city at a massive 366 feet high. The second-largest cathedral in the world, St Paul’s is famed for its impressive dome and stunning interior.
This Church of England abbey is located in Westminster and dates back to the year 960. The abbey was built on the site of a previous monastery and was designed to be the crypt and resting place of influential Brits and monarchs. With many famous figures buried here, the stunning gothic facade of the cathedral spans 225 feet and is open every day of the week.
Royal Albert Hall
Built after and in memory of the death of Queen Victoria’s husband in 1871, the Royal Albert Hall is a music hall that is easily reachable from the Hyde Park-based Park Grand hotel afternoon tea rooms nearby. Hosting classical music concerts and popular gigs throughout the year, many famous stars have performed in the 5000-capacity hall. Noted for its breathtaking domed structure, the interior of the hall is just as magical as its facade.