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Welcome to the center of London! Westminster is where British power lives, where Justices preside at the Supreme Court, where politicians pace the floors of the Houses of Parliament, where the cabinet meets and the prime minister sleeps at 10 Downing Street. Of course, this is also where the Queen resides at Buckingham Palace, so you’re in good company. On a stroll through the area you can admire statutes of honored Great Britons including Winston Churchill and David Lloyd George alongside admired foreigners Abraham Lincoln and Nelson Mandela.
Fan of the royalty? Well head straight to Westminster Abbey, for this is where royal weddings, coronations and funerals are held and where we recently saw Wills and Kate walk down the aisle. Westminster is also a neighborhood to simply wander and appreciate the majesty of the surroundings, with the River Thames within view and St. James’s Park a short stroll away.
All year round you can peer through the railings of Buckingham Palace to admire the building itself and most days you can also catch the changing of the Queen’s guard, too. From late July to the end of August you can also visit The State Rooms inside the Palace, where the monarch receives and entertains her subjects and visiting dignities. You’ll also have the chance to admire the Picture Gallery and indulge in specially created Buckingham Palace cakes and find royally good gifts at the gift shop, too!
Housed in the grounds of Buckingham Palace, the Royal Mews takes care of royal carriages, State vehicles and carriage horses. This includes the Gold State Coach, which is used for Coronations, and carriages used for Royal and State occasions, State Visits, Weddings and the State Opening of Parliament. For those with a particular interest in all things equine, the horses are mostly Windsor Grey or Cleveland Bays.
As well as one of London’s most iconic sights, Westminster Abbey is the place for royal events. This is where Prince William and Kate Middleton made it official. It’s also where coronations take place and where state funerals are held, including Diana, Princess of Wales’s funeral which was held here. Things went a little crazy for the Abbey following a mention in the popular book and film “The Da Vinci Code,” and whilst the crowds may have thinned a tad since then, Sir Isaac Newton’s tomb is still a big draw for Dan Brown fans and everyone else, too!
The mother church of the Catholic community in England and Wales, and a beautiful cathedral to behold, this is Westminster Cathedral. (Not to be confused with Westminster Abbey!) Admire the red and white striped brick and stone building on the outside and the impressive mosaics inside. For film buffs, the Campanile Bell Tower also featured prominently in Alfred Hitchcock’s film “Foreign Correspondent.”
Palace of Westminster (Houses of Parliament)
Home to both the executive and the legislative branches of UK government, this is where the debates, the policy and the drama all happen. You are welcome to take a trip inside to see democracy in action in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Opening times vary, but being a mere skip away will mean you can be amongst the first there on the day.
Hear the chimes of Big Ben!
The sound of the Elizabeth Tower, or Big Ben as it better known, are on hand to mark time, and a must snap for your holiday photographs. The tower’s official name was changed to Elizabeth Tower in 2012 to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II. Before that it was just known as “Clock Tower” – no wonder it got a nickname like Big Ben!
St James's Park
Great for a stroll or a picnic in the summer, this beautiful Royal Park is also where the Trooping of the Color takes place on The Mall. With its pretty avenues of trees, formal flower gardens, lakes and islands, St. James’s Park is often considered one of the most romantic parks in London. Spend a quiet evening strolling through the park or start your day with a morning run with stunning views of London!
The River Thames
Westminster is the perfect place to admire the Thames. Either head across the water to indulge in the creativity and culture of the Southbank, or once you fancy seeing more of London, pick up a clipper and speed down the river to London Bridge or Greenwich in the East or Chelsea Harbour or Putney in the West. If you do head east, why not take a trip to the Tower of London, located on the waterfront at Tower Bridge?
Across the Thames you can’t miss the 135 metres tall giant Ferris wheel known as the London Eye. Residing on the South Bank, this very popular attraction is a great way to grab a 360 degree view of London. A rotation, or “flight,” takes approximately 30 minutes, and you can enjoy a seat in one of the 32 sealed and air-conditioned capsules as you see London from up high.
Also on the South Bank is the London Aquarium. One of Europe’s largest collections of global marine life with over 500 species, take part in animal feeding, marvel at the 40 different types of sharks and explore over 3 floors and 14 themed zones of species.
National Portrait Gallery
Founded in 1856 to collect portraits of famous British men and women, explore over 195,000 portraits from the 16th century to the present day. Look out for the Chandos portrait of William Shakespeare and ponder with art historians worldwide if this is truly the Bard himself.
This Tate gallery holds the national collection of British art from 1500 to the present day. The collection includes painting, drawing, sculpture and prints to photography, video and film, installation and performance, with artists chosen for their contribution to British history and development, rather than their nationality alone. From here you can pick up a Damien Hirst designed Tate boat, which speeds you down the Thames to the Tate Modern in polka dotted glory.
Churchill's Cabinet War Rooms
Take a trip below ground to the original cabinet war rooms of Winston Churchill’s government during World War II. Wind through the maze of historic rooms that once buzzed with strategies and secrets and make sure you stop at the Map Room, which appears exactly as it did when the lights were finally switched off in 1945. Look out for the tiny pinholes marking the progress of the Allied stops across the Convoy map. At the end of the tour you can also learn all about the life and legacy of the British Prime Minister in the Churchill Museum.
This grand Banqueting House at Whitehall is most famous for being the site of Charles I’s execution in 1649. Previously used for his royal entertainment, one cold morning in January he was led outside to a very public end. Inside you can also explore the Undercroft, originally a drinking den for James I, and inside and out you can appreciate the building itself as a very early example of neo-classical architecture in Britain with its incredible ceilings painted by Peter Paul Rubens.
Victoria Street & House of Fraser
Victoria Street is the place to head for fashion in the Westminster neighborhood. We recommend The House of Fraser, a department store that can equip you head to toe, should an occasion present itself during your stay.
Jump on the tube and you can be at London’s shopping center, Oxford Circus, in 9 minutes. One of London’s best shopping areas, simply head down Oxford Street or Regent’s Street for fabulous shopping, including favorites like John Lewis, Hamley’s Toy Store and Liberty’s of London.
It’s just a hop, skip and jump to Covent Garden and the West End where you’ll find excellent shopping, tons of great dining spots and all the best of London’s vibrant nightlife scene. Enjoy an afternoon shopping in Covent Garden and catch a show at one of the many theaters during your holiday in London.
The Cinnamon Club
Housed in the beautiful surrounds of the former Westminster Library, this modern Indian restaurant has been turning the traditional British curry house on its head for the past decade with a more sophisticated menu. Offering either a tasting menu or a la carte, the restaurant offers up delicious fare with wines matched to each course.
The Mango Tree
Exquisite Thai food right next to Buckingham Palace, the Mango Tree serves up delicious dishes in Belgravia.
Mayfair & Soutbank
If you fancy an evening stroll, you could also head across the river to the South Bank, and pick from a host of restaurants offering you the chance to dine with riverside views. Or alternatively, head to Mayfair to choose food from across the globe in Shepherd’s Market.
A short walk down Victoria Street and you will find the luxury supermarket Waitrose, ideal for picking up freshly prepared meals or all the ingredients you need to cook from scratch. Only a little further down the road is Marks and Spencer’s, which also offers a great selection in their food department.
The nearest tube stop is Westminster, located right next to Big Ben. It is served by the Circle, District and Jubilee Lines, taking you swiftly to all the sights you wish to see. As Westminster is right in the heart of the city, you’ll find buses to all the top spots just a few minute’s walk away. We recommend the Thames clipper boats to quickly and easily reach top sights like Tower Bridge and the Tower of London all while enjoying a scenic boat tour along the way!