Since young, I have always had London stowed in a special place in my heart because it was my dream city. To me, it has always been a place that looks effortlessly magical and filled with stories that are waiting to be told. Each time I stumbled across a literature or fictional book with the setting in England, I immediately dived into the storyline while noticing the lines that describe every single detail of the surrounding, picturing in my mind how it would actually look back in history. That was how strong my enthusiasm for England was in general, I was looking forward to the day when I will set my foot onto this land filled with magic and youthful dreams.
Nevertheless, the day that I am finally visiting London has finally come! We stayed there for 3 days in Soho, which is a part of the West End of London. The hotel we stayed in is ‘The Z Hotel Soho’ and I would recommend it for its great location, its contemporary and minimalistic design and also its friendly customer service. We arrived at midday in the city, checked-in and ate some rice with roasted duck in Chinatown since we were famished and unfed since the morning.
After we filled our tummies, we were energized enough to start our journey to explore the city!
Officially known as Elizabeth Tower, Big Ben is one of London’s iconic buildings that has been in existence since 1859. But what makes it more interesting is that only UK residents are allowed to visit the clock tower (and you have to send in an application since there are limited spots). Don’t worry, as overseas visitors you can still get a chance to tour around the Houses of Parliament, which is right next to Big Ben.
The design of the clock’s dial is sophisticated and so well matched like a fitting puzzle. We were so impressed by every single detail crafted with precision and virtue. The bell would chime hourly reminding you that time is passing. Sometimes a reminder is what you need to look at the brighter side of our lives and that we should make most of our time.
This gothic church was founded in 960, which makes it one of the oldest buildings in London. Westminster Abbey is not only known as the location where royal weddings and the monarch’s coronations are held, but also the burial site of many monarchs such as Henry III. In order to conserve Westminster Abbey well, it is not allowed to take pictures inside the building.
Gotta say, this is one of the largest churches I have ever been to while there are many important figures buried here. In a way it felt like we were in a graveyard since we are surrounded by all the coffins and grave markers.
Tower of London
A grand palace at its heart, Tower of London was built in the 11th century for the royal families. The Tower of London was the most exciting and picturesque attraction in London (to us then :P). Maybe it was because how historic and well-preserved the castle was or how the architecture style was different compared to the other iconic landmarks (e.g. Big Ben, Westminster Abbey) that we favored this castle the most. When you go through the main gate of the castle, you would feel like time has rewinded and brought you back to the Middle Ages and the livid past where your title in the society plays a large role.
Interestingly, the Tower of London also houses the Crown Jewels of England in the Waterloo Block. When you enter this jewel house, you would have walk in several rooms filled with screens of information regarding the history of the crowning. It is not allowed to take pictures inside the jewel house, so it is definitely worth it to visit this castle. There are several crowns in display, each crown carry many diamonds and other kinds of jewelry. What amazed us the most is that the oldest crowns are also so precisely crafted that the English’ skilled craftsmanship are dated back to the very beginning of their royal history.
The British Museum is one of the must-visit in London, so we gave it a try. We were super enthusiastic in the beginning going through the first few rooms filled with antique objects, but then we realized that there were more than 80 rooms in total and approximately 8 million precious objects to see… Then we realized we would never finish it in half a day of time since we still have two other activities to do for that day. What we did next was to select all the themes that seems interesting and visited those instead.
Furthermore, they also have special exhibitions that are only temporary available at the museum just like the current exhibition ‘Sunken Cities: Egypt’s lost worlds’. So for those enthusiastic museum visitors out there, keep an eye out for these special exhibitions on their website.
The Buckingham Palace
The Buckingham Palace was built in 1703 and it is a symbol of the British monarchy. There is a Buckingham Palace tour, which would give you the opportunity to explore the State Rooms (some royal treasures are found here), the Grand Staircase, some fine art, the Throne Room and more. However, we did not opt for the tour but instead we decided to sightsee. When we reached the Buckingham Palace, it started to rain lightly. Just our luck, it started pouring harder after we tried to take a few pictures at the main gate.
When people refer to the London Bridge they are not talking about the famous London’s bridge that you see in movies or magazines, because that bridge is actually called the Tower Bridge.
We visited the Tower Bridge glass floor walkway, which is four floors up from ground level. We didn’t think twice whether there was an elevator available or not, or that the stairs are non-stop and will lead us to the exhibition directly without a sign of the elevator between the floors. After climbing two floors, we were questioning ourselves that it was impossible to not have an elevator in this tower and that how come it was only us climbing the stairs since we couldn’t hear any footsteps after or before us?
When we finally reached the top floor after climbing the stairs, we were exhausted. So people, always double check where the elevators are before you start climbing the stairs and do what we did because you will regret it like we did. But once we were up there, it was worth it to visit glass floor walkway since we could see all the miniature looking cars and people below us minding their own business. What’s cuter is that there is a machine where you can take pictures and customize your very own London postcard! Don’t miss out on this one ?
Heart of London
The three days we spent in London went by really fast because of the early mornings and late nights. We were so unlucky with the public transport on the last day because some routes were changed or replaced because of a preparation of a large cycling event. The funniest occurrence was that we checked-in at a metro stop and had to check-out at the same metro stop because the metro line wasn’t running there and we got charged the single fare while we didn’t go anywhere with the metro. In the end we had to walk to another metro stop while we only have less than half a day to do 3 activities.
However, in the end we did manage to squeeze all the activities in half a day since we were rushing like crazy from point A to B to C. Maximizing our experience is what matters right ?.
London is a place rich in historic monuments and national figures that once ruled a kingdom or that contributed greatly to the society. It was once a city that I always wished to visit and now I have accomplished a partial part of my travel dream and one bullet point scrapped off my bucket list. London is definitely a beautiful city with many historic architecture and styles, a well-preserved carved city for the monarchs and the citizens.