Friday, April 19, 2024

London – Gothic by the River

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One of the world’s most visited cities, London has something for everyone: from history and culture to fine food and good times.

Top Experiences in London

British Museum

The country’s largest museum and one of the oldest and finest in the world, this famous museum opened in 1759 and boasts vast Egyptian, Etruscan, Greek, Roman, European and Middle Eastern galleries, among others. It’s London’s most visited attraction, drawing 5.9 million people annually. Don’t miss the Rosetta Stone, the key to deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphics; the controversial Parthenon sculptures, taken from Athens’ Acropolis by Lord Elgin (British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire at the time); and the large collection of Egyptian mummies.

Other must-see items include the Anglo-Saxon Sutton Hoo Ship Burial relics and the winged bulls from Khorsabad.

Begun in 1753 with a ‘cabinet of curiosities’ sold to the nation by physician and collector Sir Hans Sloane, the collection mushroomed over the ensuing years partly through acquisitions, bequests and plundering the empire. The grand Enlightenment Gallery was the first section of the redesigned museum to be built in 1823.

The light-filled Great Court, restored and augmented by architect Norman Foster in 2000, has a spectacular glass-and-steel roof, making it one of the most impressive architectural spaces in the capital. In the centre is the Reading Room, currently closed, where Karl Marx researched and wrote Das Kapital, and where Mahatma Gandhi was a cardholder.

The museum is huge, so make a few focused visits if you have time, and consider taking one of the free tours. There are 14 free 30-minute Eye-opener tours of individual galleries each day. The museum also has free 45-minute lunchtime gallery talks (1.15pm Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday), an Around the World in 90 Minutes tour (£14; 11.30am and 2pm Friday, Saturday and Sunday) and free 20-minute spotlight tours on Friday evenings. Audio and family guides (adult/child £7/6) in 10 languages are available from the desk in the Great Court.

Tate Modern

One of London’s most amazing attractions, this outstanding modern- and contemporary-art gallery is housed in the creatively revamped Bankside Power Station south of the Millennium Bridge. A spellbinding synthesis of modern art and capacious industrial brick design, Tate Modern has been extraordinarily successful in bringing challenging work to the masses, both through its free permanent collection and fee-paying big-name temporary exhibitions. The stunning Blavatnik Building opened in 2016, increasing the available exhibition space by 60%.

National Gallery

With more than 2300 European masterpieces in its collection, this is one of the world’s great galleries, with seminal works from the 13th to the mid-20th century, including masterpieces by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Titian, Vincent van Gogh and Auguste Renoir. Many visitors flock to the eastern rooms on the main floor (1700–1930), where works by British

Hyde Park

Hyde Park is central London’s largest green space, expropriated from the church in 1536 by Henry VIII and turned into a hunting ground and later a venue for duels, executions and horse racing. The 1851 Great Exhibition was held here, and during WWII the park became an enormous potato field. These days, it’s a place to stroll and picnic, boat on the Serpentine lake, or to catch a summer concert or outdoor film during the warmer months.

Tower of London

The unmissable Tower of London (actually a castle of 22 towers) offers a window into a gruesome and compelling history. A former royal residence, treasury, mint, armoury and zoo, it’s perhaps now most remembered as the prison where a king, three queens and many nobles met their deaths. Come here to see the colourful Yeoman Warders (or Beefeaters), the spectacular Crown Jewels, the soothsaying ravens and armour fit for a very large king.



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