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Watching the Olympics 2012 Marathon reminds me of just how close some of the icons of London really are, many tourists navigate the city using the Underground system however a few hours walk can cover many of the sights of London as well as some of the side streets and smaller noticeable smaller things in the ancient city.
This is one of those Walks
A great location from a photography point of view with its wide open spaces and historical markets. There is always something going on in this area.
Behind the Church in the main Piazza is a very quiet garden which has plenty of spaces to it down and relax. The balcony upstairs of the Punch and Judy is busy however a great place to get some photos of the street performers.
Walking out of Covent Garden down to the Strand, Turn left on the strand and you will see an old Church in the Middle of the road, head towards this church and you will come to Waterloo Bridge on your left.
Waterloo Bridge is nothing special itself, concrete carbuncle really, however as you walk over the bridge (do so on the right side) and look to your left you will see some of Londons Icons covering hundreds of years. St Pauls cathedral leads to The city of London including the Gerkin and over the river to the Shard
This view is lit up at night and well worth a visti even of not part of this walk for a tripod view of historical London.
Looking to the right over the bridge shows Big Ben and the London eye which we will pass on the rest of this walk. However worth a photo or two with the Thames infront of the river.
Cross over the river, and straight infront of you you will see the Waterloo Imax theatre. However we want to take the stairs on the right hand side down to the Southbank.
While the building itself is a bit of an eyesore the whole area is worth wandering around. there are places to eat and as this is the centre of arts in London you’ve got the huge Tate Modern in view behind you and all around will be performers, and works of modern art.
There is a well graffitied skateboard park in this area always good for some action shots.
Behind the SouthBank Centre is a large modern area with food stalls and open spaces for a rest or a drink. Keep walking way from Waterloo Bridge and you’ll pass more street performers and some wonderful views. However you will see the London Eye infront of you.
The London Eye was put up to celebrate the turn of the Millenium in London and is usually busy so if you want to go round and see some of the most amazing views of London I’d suggest you buy a ticket before you get there.
The best time is either midday, as the sun goes down OR when the city is bathed in darkness and lights up to show its other colours.
If you don’t feel like braving the queues there are some great photos to be had in the area of Big Ben and the palace of Westminster over the river, the Eye from various angles or the various people street performing.
There is a large building behind the eye which is owned by Shell with a park in front and during the summer there are many sun worshipers getting the rays they can. Occasionally there is an inflated upside down purple cow in the area as well as TV channel C4 has its Udderbelly stages up and running for music and comedy.
Walking towards Westminster bridge and up to the top of the Bridge you’ll walk past the London aquarium, keep walking and save your money, Seaworld this is not.
Westminster Bridge is actually a quite nice bridge as they go, however the reason for being in this area is Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster.
If we are going to get technical Big Ben isn’t the tower its the bell in the tower, but lets face it no one cares. As you get over the Bridge you’ll see the photos of this iconic view you want to take, however look behind you and you will also see some interesting shots of the London Eye and Southbank area.
Crossing over the bridge you can see Westminster Abbey where Will and Kate got married and West Minster Cathedral. Just to put this in perspective the Abbey and the Tower of London have stood in the same space for nearly 1000 years.
There is a statue of Oliver Cromwell in the area as well if you know your UK History. the big grass area in the centre of Westminster is known as a place where you can use your right for protest and free speech and there will often be many tents put up with people protesting something.
Walking up Whitehall now will take you through central government and to our next destination.
As you walk up Whitehall you will walk past 10 Downing street the home of the UK Prime minister and can aslo see the back of horse-guards parade and if you time this right you will see the queens guard starting their ride off to Buckingham Palace.
At the Top of Whitehall is Trafalgar Square home of Nelson’s column. This square is a wide open space with the national portraid gallery to the back and hundreds of tourists clambering over the Lions at the bottom of Nelsons Column and fountains flanking either side.
Trafalgar Square is a meeting point when Londoners want to see an event on New Years eve it is packed and often has large screen TV’s in the area when national events are happening.
There are some nice shots of St Martin in the Fields church to the left and if you know where to look the worlds smalles police station is in the corner.
Facing Big Ben turn right and you will see the next leg of the journey..
Admiralty Arch is a large office building in London which incorporates an archway providing road and pedestrian access between The Mall, which extends to the South-West, and Trafalgar Square to the North-East. Admiralty Arch is a Grade I listed building.
Yes that’s right this is an office building…built in 1912
Another famous feature of Admiralty Arch is its “nose”. On the inside wall of the northernmost arch there is a small protrusion the size and shape of a human nose. It was placed there by artist Rick Buckley in 1997 as part of a campaign against the “Big Brother” society. The nose is at a height of about seven feet, and sits at waist height for anyone riding through the arch on a horse. Prior to Mr Buckley being unmasked by the London Evening Standard, one urban myth grew that the nose is there in honour of the Duke of Wellington, who was known for having a particularly large nose
This is the gateway to the Mall
The Mall is nothing to do with shopping, its all to do with the Royal family, its a long straight stip of road leading from Trafalgar Square to Buckingham Palace with St James Park on the left a beautiful gardens which at one point had giraffes and lions in it, sadly no more.
On the right is St James Palace which those who viewed the Royal Wedding of Will and Kate will have seen Will drive his car into.
There are many military buildings and royal academies down the Mall.
However it’s the British Gem at the end of the Mall which will be what most visitors to London will want to see.
Buckingham Palace is the official London residence and principal workplace of the British monarch
Originally known as Buckingham House, the building which forms the core of today’s palace was a large townhouse built for the Duke of Buckingham in 1705 on a site which had been in private ownership for at least 150 years. It was subsequently acquired by George III in 1761 as a private residence for Queen Charlotte, and known as “The Queen’s House”. During the 19th century it was enlarged, principally by architects John Nash and Edward Blore, forming three wings around a central courtyard. Buckingham Palace finally became the official royal palace of the British monarch on the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837.
Great from any angle and always a soldier on guard outside with a large bearskin hat great i’m sure if it is cold, not so much if it is a warm summers day. Timed right you can see the Queens guard leave and enter on horseback.
To the left of the palace is a road, Birdcage walk, a wander down here will take you to the next and final destination.
A memorial to the Duke of Wellington and originally providing a grand entrance to London. It was built as a northern gate to the grounds of Buckingham Palace. Originally the arch was topped with an equestrian statue of the Duke by Matthew Cotes Wyatt, but it was replaced with the current work, The Angel of Peace descending on the Quadriga of Victory (1912) by Adrian Jones.
As the location name suggests if you have enough energy left this is one of the many entrances to Hyde Park home of the Serpentine lake and very tame squirrels.
It is possible to go to the top of the arch and get some nice views of this area.
There are other memorials in this area however none stand out quite as much as this one.
If you do venture into Hyde park take a walk to the Lido Cafe or one of the bridges on either end of the Serpentine as the sun goes down. The park also holds a memorial to Peter Pan and a wonderful fountain, more like a small canal system which was designed as a memorial to Diana.
By no means every wonderful place to see in this city, however a good start. I’m happy to take anyone free of charge around this route to point out the stuff you might not see on your own. Just bring a camera and a smile.