Wander through Wonderful Westminster: Ten must-see places in the heart of London
Welcome to the beating heart of British history and politics—Wonderful Westminster!
Nestled along the banks of the River Thames, this wonderfully vibrant district in London is home to numerous iconic landmarks that have witnessed centuries of fascinating stories and occasions.
Check out the ten most fascinating attractions around Westminster, each brimming with interesting facts that will leave you spellbound.
The Palace of Westminster and Big Ben
The Palace of Westminster – also called the Houses of Parliament – is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most significant examples of Gothic architecture in the world.
The Palace of Westminster has been the seat of British politics 11th century.
Big Ben, the enormous clock tower, has become synonymous with London’s skyline. The iconic clock tower stands at an impressive height of 315 feet (96 meters) and consists of 11 floors. Big Ben is not in fact the name of the clock tower but the nickname of the Great Bell inside. Big Ben’s bell weighs a staggering 13.5 tons and emits a deep, resonant chime that has become an audio symbol of London. The clock faces on Big Ben are made of opal glass and are illuminated at night. Throughout World War II, the clock faces were darkened to prevent German bombers from using them as bombing landmarks. The Tower of Big Ben leans slightly to the northwest due to the ground settling. The bells of Big Ben were silenced for four 4 years from 2017 to 2021 for extensive renovation works.
The palace was severely damaged by a fire in 1834, which led to the reconstruction of the current Gothic Revival-style building by architect, Charles Barry.
Westminster, London SW1A 0AA
The Churchill War Rooms
The Churchill War Rooms functioned as an underground complex where Winston Churchill and his government operated during World War II.
The war rooms were the nerve centre of the British government during the war and the site of crucial decisions. They feature an extensive network of rooms, including offices workplaces , meeting rooms conference room , a map room, and even Churchill’s private bedroom.
The map room remains as it was during throughout the war, with maps and documents files still in their original positions.
The complex includes a transatlantic telephone room. This line enabled direct communication with U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Visitors can experience the wartime atmosphere through audio recordings, interactive displays screens, and preserved artifacts.
The war rooms were so secret that even most government ministers were unaware of their existence.
Churchill frequently slept in his office during the war to be close to the action.
The war rooms were equipped with state-of-the-art ventilation and air filtration systems to safeguard against gas attacks.
The complex includes a small bunker known “Churchill’s Snuggery,” where he go for moments of solitude.
The war rooms were abandoned and sealed up after the war until they were opened the general public as a museum in 1984. Check out this fascinating piece of WWII history.
Clive Steps, King Charles St, Westminster, London SW1A 2AQ,
Explore Westminster Abbey, one of the most significant religious buildings in the United Kingdom, and the site of every coronation since 1066.
The Abbey’s spectacular architecture showcases different styles, including Early English, Perpendicular Gothic, and Tudor. The Abbey is stunning, and you won’t want to miss this extraordinary attraction.
The Abbey is burial place many famous people who have made significant contributions in their fields including Charles Darwin, Sir Charles Barry and Sir Isaac Newton. Poets’ Corner, is the final resting place of many prominent writers, including of Geoffrey Chaucer, Charles Dickens, and Rudyard Kipling. Royalty and important aristocrats are also interred in the Abbey. The tomb of Queen Elizabeth I is situated in the Lady Chapel of the Abbey, marked by a white marble effigy of the queen
The Coronation Chair, made in 1296, has been used in every British coronation since that time, and was recently prominently featured in the coronation of Charles III.
The Abbey’s magnificent stained glass windows portray scenes from biblical stories and significant historic events .
The Abbey has hosted numerous various many royal weddings, including the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton in 2011, and the funeral of the late Queen Elizabeth in 2022.
The Unknown Warrior, a memorial to the unidentified British soldier killed in World War I, lies in the Abbey. The Grave of the Unknown Warrior is covered by a slab of black marble from Belgium, symbolizing the soldier’s anonymity.
The Westminster Abbey Choir, renowned for its musical excellence, has been singing daily everyday day-to-day services since the 14th century.
20 Deans Yard, Westminster, London SW1P 3PA
A true symbol of British monarchy, Buckingham Palace was the official residence of the monarch until the ascendancy of King Charles. Previously, Buckingham Palace served as the official London residence of the British monarch since Queen Victoria’s accession in 1837.
Catch a glimpse of the Royal Standard flag fluttering atop the palace, signaling the monarch’s presence.
Buckingham Palace is huge. The palace boasts an impressive 775 rooms, including of 19 state rooms used for official functions and royal entertaining.
The palace’s opulent Throne Room is where significant royal occasions are conducted, including investitures and state banquets. The palace’s Throne Room features two thrones: the larger bigger one for the monarch and a smaller sized one for the consort.
The palace’s Ballroom, the largest room in the building, can host state banquets for up to 170 guests.
The iconic balcony of Buckingham Palace has been the stage for numerous royal appearances and the celebration of momentous occasions. Most recently, the royal family appeared on the balcony at the coronation of King Charles and Queen Camilla.
Don’t miss the Changing of the Guard ceremony takes place in the palace’s forecourt and is a spectacle of precision and tradition. This is a very popular tourist attraction and is rich with pomp and history.
Buckingham Palace Rd, Westminster, London SW1A 1AA
Queen Victoria Memorial
In front of Buckingham Palace, take a moment to admire the Queen Victoria Memorial.
This is a grand monument dedicated to Queen Victoria, who reigned for over 63 years.
The memorial stands at an impressive height of 82 feet (25 meters) and is made of made from white marble from the Lasa quarries in Italy. The central figure of the memorial depicts Queen Victoria seated on her throne, representing her reign and sovereignty.
The memorial’s gilded figure, known as “Nike,” stands atop the central pylon, symbolizing victory, marking at the time Britain’s colonial power.
Surrounding the base of the monument are several allegorical sculptures representing the arts, sciences, agriculture farming, and more.
The memorial’s friezes depict important events and figures from Queen Victoria’s reign, such as the Great Exhibition of 1851, as well as Florence Nightingale.
Bronze statues of mermaids, tritons, and dolphins adorn the base of the memorial’s cascading fountains adding a charming touch to the overall general design. The memorial serves as a popular meeting point and provides a stunning backdrop background for photographs. Very Instagram ready!
The Mall, Westminster, London SW1A 1AA, United Kingdom
Behind the Queen Victoria Memorial, and you will see The Mall. Take a leisurely stroll along The Mall, a grand avenue that stretches from Buckingham Palace to Trafalgar Square. The design of The Mall was inspired by the Champs-Élysées in Paris, France.
Lined with majestic trees and adorned with ornate lampposts, it creates a regal atmosphere for processions and celebrations.
The Mall is a popular route for royal processions, including the annual yearly Trooping the Colour ceremony which takes place mid-June. This is an event you wont want to miss!
During the recent coronation, The Mall was bursting with people eager to catch a glimpse of the King and Queen at this historic moment. During such significant events the Mall is adorned with decorative flags and banners.
Check out the spectacular views on The Mall, with Buckingham Palace at one end and the iconic Admiralty Arch at the other.
Parliament Square is a historic square located directly opposite the Palace of Westminster.
The square is home to numerous statues and memorials honouring significant historic and political figures.
The large statue of Sir Winston Churchill stands prominently in the square, representing his leadership during World War II. The statue of Sir Winston Churchill is made of made from bronze and stands at a height of 12 feet (3.65 meters).
The nearby statue of Mahatma Gandhi commemorates his peaceful struggle for Indian independence .
The statue of Nelson Mandela was unveiled in 2007 and acts as a testament to his fight against apartheid.
The statue of Millicent Fawcett is the only woman memorialised by a statue. Fawcett was a leading Suffragette fighting for the vote to be extended to women. She holds the banner: “Courage Calls to Courage Everywhere”, and honours the price paid by women in the struggle for universal suffrage.
The square is a common meeting place for protests and demonstrations due to its symbolic significance.
Parliament Square is also the location of the famous Buxton Memorial Fountain, which celebrates the abolition of slavery in the British Empire.
Parliament Square, Westminster, London SW1P 3BD
St. Margaret’s Church
Nestled beside Westminster Abbey is the picturesque St. Margaret’s Church, a hidden gem frequently eclipsed by its famous neighbour. With its stunning medieval architecture and tranquil atmosphere, it offers a peaceful escape from the crowds.
Take a moment to appreciate the beautiful stained-glass windows and elaborate woodwork. This beautiful church is among the less well-known attractions in Westminster.
St Margaret St, London SW1P 3JX
Victoria Tower Gardens
Located on the banks of the River Thames, Victoria Tower Gardens offers a peaceful oasis in the middle of the bustling city. This charming park provides stunning views of the Houses of Parliament, the Jewel Tower, and the London Eye.
Enjoy a leisurely stroll along the tree-lined paths or sit and relish the beauty of your surroundings.
Abingdon St, Millbank, London SW1P 3JA
Tucked away near the Palace of Westminster is the enchanting Old Jewel Tower, a hidden gem of medieval history. Built in the 14th century, this fortified tower was once used to safeguard the treasures of the royal household. Called the ‘King’s Privy Wardrobe’ it first housed Edward III’s treasures.
Today, an informative exhibition provides insights into the tower’s rich history and its function in protecting the country’s prized possessions. It’s a captivating medieval relic in the heart of Westminster and while a much overlooked attraction, you will be glad you took the time to explore it.
Abingdon St, London SW1P 3JY