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Top Things to Do in London
Steeped in history and tradition, the pillars of this great Christian edifice stand around the final resting place of the men and women who built Britain. Not only an iconic monument, the abbey continues to play an active role in the life of the nation, from the coronation of sovereigns to royal weddings and state funerals.
Not the largest or prettiest royal residence, the palace at the center of London is nonetheless a must-see for the glimpse it affords into the life of the Royal Family. The opulence of the state rooms open to the public are jaw dropping, and don't forget the collection of china and carriages at the Queen's Gallery and Royal Mews (stables) next door.
Tower of London
The Tower is London at its majestic, historic best. This is truly the heart of the kingdom—with foundations dating back nine centuries, every brick tells a story, and the ax-blows and fortunes that have risen and fallen within this turreted mini-city provide an inexhaustible supply of intrigue.
St. Paul's Cathedral
No matter how many times you have been here before, Sir Christopher Wren's masterpiece never fails to take the breath away. Climb the enormous dome, one of the world's largest, to experience the freaky acoustics of the Whispering Gallery, and higher still to the Golden Gallery for far-reaching views across London.
One of the world's greatest cultural institutions has been wowing visitors to London since 1753. Its collection spans virtually all recorded history, including the Elgin Marbles, the Rosetta Stone, and the treasures of Sutton Hoo.
Shakespeare's Globe Theatre
You can catch a Shakespeare play almost every night of the year in London. But standing in the yard on a floor of leaves and sawdust in a scrupulously re-created version of the Tudor theater for which he wrote is a genuine thrill.
More of an event than the average museum visit, Tate Modern, housed in the striking 1940s Bankside Power Station, is a hip and immensely successful feature of London's artistic landscape. Passing judgment on the latest controversial temporary exhibit inside the giant turbine hall has become almost a civic duty among art-loving Londoners.
London's Central Parks
A whopping 25% of London is parkland, so it seems churlish to pick out just one in the middle of it all. But if you must choose: pick St. James's Park for fairy-tale views; Green Park for hillocks and wide boulevards; Regent's Park for its open-air theater and the zoo; and Hyde Park for rowing on the Serpentine Lido.
Hampton Court Palace
This idyllic palace on the banks of the Thames so captivated Henry VIII that it became the main seat of the British monarchy and remained so for centuries. Its Tudor charm, augmented by Wren's touch, and a picturesque location make it a great day out—not even dour Oliver Cromwell, who moved here in 1653, could resist its charms.
Whatever the collective noun is for a set of old masters—a palette? a canvas?—there are enough here to have the most casual art enthusiast drooling with admiration. When you've finished, pause by the raised front door for one of London's great photo ops—Big Ben and Nelson's column are framed by pedestrianized Trafalgar Square.
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