Travel Articles

London architecture

There are so many architectural gems to check out in London and the city is known for its diverse range of buildings located so close to one and other it’s sometimes hard to take a picture of the one you really want. 

This is only a short list of the most famous, but you’re likely to find a bit of architectural history around every corner if you look hard enough.

Parliament Clock Tower: Architect: A W Pugin:  You can’t talk about architecture in this city without mentioning what may be the official symbol of London. Designed by AW Pugin, Parliament Clock Tower is known to people around the world. Don’t recognize the name? That’s because everyone commonly refers to it as Big Ben , even though technically Big Ben is the name of the bell within the clock tower. This iconic structure has survived even the bombings of World War II. Check out the view from across the river at sunset, when the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben light up to provide a spectacular photo opportunity.

The London Observation Wheel: Architects: David Marks & Julia Barfield:  A fairly recent addition to the London horizon is a giant observation wheel. Over 443 ft. tall and shaped like a giant Ferris wheel (but don’t say that to David Marks and Julia Barfield, the architects behind the design) the London Eye offers the best views of the city from a bird’s eye perspective. The original goal was to have it up and running for the New Year’s celebration of the Millennium, but like many such projects, there was a slight delay and it didn’t open until March of 2000. Sometimes the lines can be a little long to get in a viewing pod, but it’s well worth a look.

Buckingham Palace: Architects: John Nash & Edward Blore:  Of course, you can’t visit London without seeing the Queen’s haunting grounds, otherwise known as Buckingham Palace. This is probably one of the most famous “homes” in the world, but with over 600 rooms, this is no ordinary house.You can actually get a glimpse of some of the State Rooms during the summer months and see some of the Queen’s own personal art collection. And if the Royal Standard is flying, that means the Queen is at home, perhaps with her famous grandsons.

Tower of London:  The Crown Jewels themselves lie within a jewel of a structure at the Tower of London, and you can tour the building to check out all the goodies and maybe even catch a glimpse of Anne Boleyn’s ghost, which is said to roam the corridors of the White Tower. The famous Beefeaters, also known as the Yeoman Warders, guard this structure along with a band of Ravens. Here’s a bit of trivia for your next party – legend is that if the Ravens ever leave the Tower, a huge tragedy will occur in England; therefore these birds are protected by Royal Decree. Next to the Tower of London lies the impressive Tower Bridge, probably one of the most photographed sights in London. Don’t confuse this with London Bridge, which is located further up the Thames and considerably less attractive.

Westminster Abbey:  For those with a morbid sense of curiosity about architecture, a stop at the most famous burial ground in London is a must. There are over 3,000 people estimated to be buried in this one area, which includes the famed Poet’s Corner. This is also where Princess Diana’s funeral took place. Westminster Abbey has also been the location where every monarch (with the exception of Edward V and Edward VIII) has been crowned since 1066.   In this area you can also visit the Banqueting House, by architect Inigo Jones.

The Barbican: Architects: Chamberlin, Powell & Bon:  To transfer back to the City, if you are interested in Brutalist and concrete architecture, the vast, ambitious Barbican Centre (tube station: Barbican) is a must.  This 60s designed, 80s constructed mainly residential development - covering a vast area, and including 3 40-floor+ towers, is Brutalism at its best, with towering lines, sharp, unsympathetic edges and curious 60-70s visions of elevated walkways, square lakes with curious modern water features and buildings elevated on stilts.  Although the buildings look grim to some, the flats are expensive and quite desirable, given their excellent location and views over the city as a whole.  The Barbican Centre is also home to the large Barbican Performing Arts centre, with theatres and concert halls, as well as library and exhibition space, all of which has been done out in the same 60s style, complete with concrete interiors and exteriors, loud carpets and interesting lighting.

If you are in London in September, don’t miss the annual autumn event, London Open House.  Not only for architecture and design buffs, it’s also for those who are just interested in getting to places you don’t normally visit when in London or just want a fun outing with friends and family this event is also for you.  London Open House literally opens up some of 600 of the city’s distinctive places and spaces, which are not normally open to the public. 

For a unique piece of rooftop architecture, visit the Roof Gardens surrounding the Babylon Restaurant (owned by Sir Richard Branson) which are now open to the public.  OVer one and a half acres of historic and spectacular rooftop gardens containing over 500 species of plants and shrubs.  There are even a few streams and a pond, with flamingos and ducks! 

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