The annual London Festival of Architecture takes place in June. As the world’s biggest architecture-based festival, it makes sense that it’s held in London since London is one of the world’s most fascinating capitals from an architectural standpoint. From timeless Tudors to gravity-defying skyscrapers, the architecture in London is at once historic, diverse, influential and ultra creative.
The festival program includes over 400 events happening throughout the month, such as exhibitions, installations, tours, displays, talks and workshops. (You can keep up to date on the core program here. Also, you can find the festival highlights here.)
Even if you’re not around to participate in the London Festival of Architecture, you can still expect to be impressed and humbled by the huge array of interesting architecture in London. With that in mind, we’re rounding up just a few of the most iconic buildings, churches and bridges in the city.
Stunning Architecture in London
Southwark’s The Shard is the tallest building in the United Kingdom at 1,016 feet. The 95-story, super-tall skyscraper is the product of Italian architect Renzo Piano. You can visit the viewing galleries for incredible views over London. Also, The Shard is home to Aqua Shard, one of the most romantic restaurants in London.
St Paul’s Cathedral
Standing proudly on the highest point in London is the Anglican St Paul’s Cathedral. The cathedral’s origins date back to AD 604, but the structure’s current iteration dates from the late seventeenth century. Designed by Sir Christopher Wren in the English Baroque style, this was London’s tallest building until 1967. If you’re feeling energetic, you can even climb the 528 steps to the top of the dome to admire the views of the cathedral from above.
One of London’s best department stores, the refined Liberty store was built in the 1920s in a Tudor revival style. (During the roaring ’20s, that style was very fashionable in London.) The timbers used in construction were from two historical ships: the HMS Impregnable and HMS Hindustan.
Houses of Parliament
No doubt the most famous piece of architecture in London, the neo-Gothic Houses of Parliament are largely the work of architects Charles Barry and Augustus Pugin. Dating back to 1097, Westminster Hall is the oldest building in the Houses of Parliament. Elizabeth Tower dates back to 1856. (Most tourists call the tower itself Big Ben, but Big Ben is actually the name of the bell inside the tower. Learn more common tourist mistakes to avoid with this handy list.)
Though Westminster Abbey dates back to the 960s or early 970s, the construction of the present abbey was started by Henry III in 1245. The stunning chapter house (pictured above) was first used as a daily meeting place for Benedictine monks.
Another key example of architecture in London is Tower Bridge. Most tourists view the bridge from the sides of the river, but for a unique perspective, try walking along the bridge. It’s a nice way to admire the small details on the Victorian Gothic bridge towers and walkways.
The Millennium Bridge
The Millennium Bridge is a steel suspension bridge that opened in 2000 (thus the name). It was the first bridge to be built across the River Thames in London for more than 100 years. From the bridge, there are great views of St Paul’s Cathedral too.
Designed by famed British architect Sir Norman Foster, The Gherkin is one of London’s most iconic modern buildings. Though the name of the building is actually 30 St. Mary Axe, it’s called The Gherkin because of its pickle-like shape. It first opened in 2004 and completely changed the skyline of the financial area of London.
Classic-Revival Tate Britain is one of London’s best museums. It houses priceless British art that dates from 1500 to the present day. Though the front of the building has a classical portico and dome, inside, there’s a mix of building styles. For example, the Clore Gallery, which houses many J. M. W. Turner masterpieces, is commonly regarded as a prime example of postmodern architecture. We love this white, shell-like entryway and spiral staircase, which is a mix of classic styles with modern touches.
Want admire London’s amazing architecture in person? The team at London Perfect can help you find the perfect London apartment to stay in on your next trip to the capital city.