Historical London: Visit 4 UNESCO Sites

Historical London:  Visit 4 UNESCO SitesHistorical London:  Visit 4 UNESCO SitesHistorical London:  Visit 4 UNESCO SitesHistorical London:  Visit 4 UNESCO SitesHistorical London:  Visit 4 UNESCO Sites

Thinking about vacationing in London can evoke a frenzy of thoughts about this major continental city that is the UK’s financial center, seat of politics, and hub for fashion, entertainment, and the arts.

But don’t forget that London is an old city, steeped in culture and tradition.  In a city of hundreds (if not thousands) of wonderful historical sites, four have been designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites.  They’re worth a look see!

Tower of London

Tower of London:  Located on the north bank of the Thames in central London, the Tower is actually a compound of multiple buildings – and a moat.  It’s currently the oldest British governmental building, but has an impressive history as a fortress, palace, prison, and place of execution and torture.  Must see sites there today include the Crown Jewels, the White Tower, the Ravens, and the Medieval Palace.  The Tower is open Tuesday – Saturday, 9 am – 5:30 pm, Sunday & Monday, 10 am – 5:30 pm.  Tickets start around £16.00 for adults and £9.00 for kids. (map)

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew:  Consisting of just under 300 acres in southwest London, Kew Gardens (as they are generally called) consists of gardens and landscaping depicting traditions from the 18th century to the present.. Beautiful outdoor gardens along with indoor botanicals make a great place for a sunny day.  Kew opens daily at 9:30 am.  Tickets are £13.50 for adults, children are free. (map)


Combination Site:  Palace of Westminster, Westminster Abbey and St. Margaret’s Church:  This site on the north bank of the Thames contains three historic sites.  The Palace of Westminster is usually referred to as the Houses of Parliament because it contains House of Lords and the House of Commons.  It’s is the hub of politics in the UK, and is also home to one of the iconic symbols of London – Big Ben.  Visiting hours vary based on whether Parliament is in session, along with other special events, so consult website for details. (mapWestminster Abbey is probably best known as the church where royal coronations occur,  It was also the place where Princess Diana’s funeral was held.  Westminster Abbey is open to visitors Monday – Saturday.  On Sunday and religious holidays it is open for worship services only.  Please remember this is a house of worship.  (map)  St. Margaret’s Church is an Anglican church on these grounds, and is the parish church of the Houses of Parliament.  The church is generally open to visitors Monday – Friday, 9:30 am – 3:30 pm, Saturday 9:30 – 1:30 pm, and Sunday 2 – 5 pm.  (map).

Royal Observatory, Greenwich

Maritime Greenwich:  This group of buildings includes a park, the former Royal Naval College, and the Royal Observatory, home to the Greenwich Meridian (0 degrees longitude) and Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).  (map)

Although many London destinations are modestly priced, or free, the dollar-sterling pound valuation can still make it a very expensive city.  If you do your research about the things you’d like to see, the area you’d prefer to stay in, and can be fairly flexible, there are some great offers to be found.

Photo credit: pikous @ flickr (Tower of London); DAVID ILIFF (Kew Gardens); wikipedia (Westminster Palace); wikipedia (Royal Observatory)


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Mary Jo Manzanares is a traveler, travel blogger, and podcaster. In addition to her blog, Traveling with MJ, she hosts the Where Else to Go podcast, and is the founder and the editor-in-chief of The Traveler’s Way, an online travel magazine. Her travel ethos is value luxury - luxury for real people - and her goal is to help travelers know when to splurge and when to save. Mary Jo has been a speaker at various industry events around the world. When she’s not traveling, Mary Jo likes lingering over a cup of coffee, wandering in a museum, sipping wine at a cafe, and sharing it all with friends and readers. Her most recent travels were to Israel, Stockholm, and a Baltic cruise.

2 Responses to “Historical London: Visit 4 UNESCO Sites”

  1. August 1, 2010 at 2:19 am #

    To be quite technical, it’s impossible to see Big Ben from anywhere accessible by the public. That’s because this is the name of the bell that rings the hours. The tower that houses the clock and Big Ben is called prosaically the Clock Tower of the Palace of Westminster.

    • August 1, 2010 at 7:36 am #

      According to the Parliament’s own site: “The name Big Ben is often used to describe the tower, the clock and the bell but the name was first given to the Great Bell.”

      I have adopted the generally accepted usage of using the name to refer to the entire building, since that is how it will be most easily referred to by readers. But yes, Big Ben started out as the name of the bell, and since then has colloquially been extended to the tower and building as well.

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