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London
Apsley House, The Wellington Museum 149 Piccadilly, W1 An unpretentious 18th century mansion by Robert Adam, later extended and covered in Bath stone, Apsley House was the London home of the 1st Duke of Wellington. The house is often known as 'No 1, London', because a tollgate a little to the west once separated Piccadilly from the suburb of Knightsbridge. Within, the Plate and China Room contains an ornate shield presented by grateful City bankers to the victor of Waterloo. At the foot of the Grand Staircase is a colossal nude statue of Napoleon, while on the first floor are the splendid reception rooms - three drawing rooms, the Dining Room and the Waterloo Gallery, covered from floor to ceiling with paintings.
Banqueting House Horseguards Avenue, Whitehall, SW1 Designed in 1619 by Inigo Jones for James I, the Banqueting House was the first building in London to be constructed in the classical Italian style. Though the great hall has been used for many purposes it stands dramatically empty now, apart from four great chandeliers and a crimson throne on a dais at one end. The most startling feature is the ceiling, which is divided by gilded ribs into nine panels, each panel filled by a huge painting.
HMS Belfast Vine Lane, Tooley Street, SE1 The last of the Royal Navy's big ships, HMS Belfast is a survivor of the days when cruisers were the backbone of the fleet. Visitors to this veteran of the Second World War and the Korean War follow a marked route to see every aspect of how a fighting ship operated, from the massive turbine engines to the gun turrets. The bridge has an array of instruments, the Operations Room and fire control equipment are all as they were when Belfast last saw action.
British Museum Great Russell Street, WC1 To capture the general flavour of the place and see its best-loved treasures en route, go first to the Manuscript Rooms where you can see such treasures as Magna Carta, the Lindisfarne Gospels, the Beatles' Yesterday, the first draft of Alice in Wonderland and also the wondrous procession of stone horsemen and mythical battles known collectively as the Elgin Marbles. Essential viewing on the upper floor includes Coins and Medals, Clocks and Watches, the Egyptian Galleries and the Prehistoric and Romano-British Galleries. Round the tour off with a visit to the Early Medieval Room and relics from the Sutton Hoo Ship Burial, the grave goods of an Anglo-Saxon king.
Cabinet War Rooms Kings Charles Street, SW1 A flight of basement steps tucked away behind a mighty buttress in Great George Street leads to an underground complex of nearly 70 rooms, built in 1938-9 as a bomb-proof base from which the Cabinet and the Chiefs of Staff could continue conducting the war against Germany whatever the storms overhead. Today, some 15 of the War Rooms are presented as a time capsule in which nothing has changed since 1945. The simple furniture of the Cabinet Room is baize-covered metal, apart from Winston Churchill's wooden chair, and the tables are dotted with tin ashtrays.
Chelsea Physic Garden 66 Royal Hospital Road, SW3 Chelsea sent the seeds that launched the cotton industry in the southern states of the USA, and Dr Ward, Master of the Apothecaries in the 1850s, invented a special case in which to dispatch the first tea plants from China to India and the first rubber plants from Brazil to Malaya. The garden remains a serious botanical laboratory to this day, but casual visitors are more likely to be entranced by the magnificent old trees.
Chessington World Of Adventures On A243, at Chessington There are several worlds to be enjoyed at Chessington: the world of America's wild west, the eastern world of Buddhas and pagodas, the charm of an English village, the unknown world beyond the computer screen and the world of the animals. All these attractions are set among the enclosures of the zoological gardens. Wild animals, birds and reptiles from all over the world can be seen by wandering among the gardens, or viewed from the height of the Safari Skyway, a monorail that gives panoramic views of the animals.
Chislehurst Caves Off A222, near Chislehurst Station A guided tour of part of Chislehurst's 22 mile system of man-made caverns casts some light on the caves' inhabitants over the centuries. The caverns and passages have been hewn out of the chalk over 8000 years, but they contain rare traces of even earlier times: fossils found in the caves include the thighbone of a prehistoric ichthyosaurus. Altars allegedly used for human sacrifices by Druids remain. The guided tour shows where, during the Civil War, Royalists used to hide themselves and their valuables. The labyrinth became Britain's biggest air-raid shelter during the Second World War.
Commonwealth Institute Kensington High Street, W8 The polyglot collection of races and peoples called the Commonwealth accounts for a quarter of the world's population. Colourful samples of the varied cultures of more than 40 Commonwealth countries and dependencies are displayed on three floors of the Institute. Behind the Commonwealth Institute lie the lawns and shaded walks of Holland Park, and in nearby Holland Park Road stands Leighton House, the home of the 19th century classical painter Lord Leighton.
Covent Garden Central London, WC2 Covent Garden began as the convent garden that supplied vegetables to Westminster Abbey, and for centuries it was London's principal market for farm produce. In 1980 it reopened as a combined shopping precinct and pleasure garden. In the old covered market there are rows of little shops: boutiques, confectioners, bookshops, art galleries, food shops, a toy theatre shop, an old-fashioned tobacconist's. Buskers provide entertainment.
Dr Johnson's House 17 Gough Square, EC4 In the garret of this re-brick early 18th century house the scholar and lexicographer Dr Samuel Johnson compiled his Dictionary. With revisions it remained the standard English dictionary for some 100 years. In the other rooms are relics and mementos of Johnson, including the first edition of the Dictionary. All around the house there are paintings of his many friends, among them his biographer James Boswell.
Dulwich Picture Gallery College Road, SE21 A display of some 320 British and European pictures is housed in a building that was the first in England to be designed specifically as an art gallery; its foundations were laid in 1811. One of the most famous pictures in the gallery is The Linley Sisters, painted by Thomas Gainsborough around 1772. There is a wide range of works by continental masters, particularly of the 17th century. Opposite the gallery gates is Dulwich Park.
Guildhall Gresham Street, EC2 The City's seat of municipal government was built in the second decade of the 15th century, but suffered considerably in the Great Fire of London and again in the Blitz. The 152ft long Great Hall is decorated with the arms and banners of the livery companies and has a gravity that befits the venue for the City's great ceremonies. In the Guildhall's modern library is the museum of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers, which illustrates the development of clockmaking from the 15th century.
Hampton Court Palace East Molesey Hampton Court Palace remains every bit as impressive as its builder, Cardinal Wolsey, intended it to be. Upon completion of the building in 1520, it was handed over to Henry VIII. From the colonnade in the Court, the King's Staircase climbs to the first floor. An allegorical painting of breathtaking size swarms up the walls and over the ceiling, accompanying visitors to William and Mary's State Apartments. Here is a collection of more than 3000 muskets, pistols and bayonets in the King's Guard Chamber. Towering tapestries and paintings flank visitors as they move through the intersecting rooms. Hampton Court's immaculately tended gardens are a delight to stroll in and there is also a maze.
Highgate Cemetery Swains Lane, N6 The Old (Western) Cemetery in Highgate was opened as a private business venture in 1839. Between 1839 and the early 1970s some 166,000 people were buried there. Then the company that owned the cemetery began to run out of money. Maintenance was neglected and wild animals found haven there. Unfortunately, it also attracted vandals, and in 1975 it was decided to close it permanently. Soon, however, the Friends of Highgate Cemetery repaired the worst of the damage without spoiling the cemetery's forlorn and overgrown charm of its appeal as a wildlife sanctuary. On the other side of Swains Lane is the New (Eastern) Cemetery, opened in 1854.
Imperial War Museum Lambeth Road Two gigantic naval guns stand before the Georgian portico of the building which once housed the Bethlem, or 'Bedlam', hospital for the insane. Visitors walk through a trench system under camouflage nets, wherein are displayed uniforms, trench furniture, periscopes, grenades, mortars, clubs, daggers, artillery and machine guns. Life in wartime Britain is represented by displays on the Blitz, air-raid shelters, ration books and gas masks. There are also displays on Korea, Suez, Malaya, Aden, Cyprus and the Falklands. The museum's art galleries house paintings by famous artists, who have seized upon moments in battle with far more immediacy than any photograph.
Kathleen and May Schooner St Mary Overy Dock, Cathedral Street For some 60 years the Kathleen and May sailed the coastal waters of Britain, working mostly out of Appledore in Devon where she was built in 1900. She is the last of hundreds of wooden-built, three-masted schooners that plied between the coastal ports carrying coal, iron, wheat, pitprops, bags of cement and fertiliser. In the 1930s the ship had an auxiliary engine fitted and the topsails removed because of the shortage of crews with sailing experience. Now, however, she has been restored to her original condition, and gives an insight into how the six-man crew existed.
Kensington Palace Kensington Gardens, W8 Kensington Palace, bought by William and Mary as a royal residence in 1689, is where the Duchess of Kent gave birth to her daughter Victoria in 1819. It was here that in the small hours of June 20, 1837, Victoria learned that William IV had died, and that she was now Queen. Her room is filled with memorabilia of her favourite paintings and souvenirs, and the cot occupied by each of her nine children in succession. The State Apartments, filled with glorious paintings, were built to impress. At various points on the tour of the palace there is an exhibition of Court Dress from about 1750 onwards.
Kenwood House Hampstead Lane, NW3 Kenwood is a lovely Georgian wedding cake of a house, all tall white pillars and pediments; within, it is cream, pale grey and gold and filled with light. The loveliest room is the Adam library, a confection in pink, blue and gold, set off by crimson and gold furniture. The tall gilt mirrors designed by Robert Adam are still in place, reflecting the view of the surrounding park and lake seen through the windows. The principal treasures are the paintings.
National Maritime Museum Greenwich Among the treasures of Britain's naval heritage on show at the National Maritime Museum is the coat that Nelson wore at Trafalgar; the hole on the shoulder made by the musket shot that killed him can be clearly seen. Another is the chronometer made by John Harrison in 1736. Much more accurate than existing timepieces, the chronometer revolutionised navigation, by enabling longitude to be calculated accurately from the difference in time around the world.
Old Royal Observatory Greenwich Charles II founded the observatory at Greenwich in 1675, and Sir Christopher Wren designed living quarters for the first Astronomer Royal, John Flamsteed. Now topped by a time ball which drops at 1pm every day, Flamsteed House is dwarfed by the telescope domes of the Altazimuth Pavilion and the Great Equatorial Building. Displays about astronomy and timekeeping in Flamsteed House include an hour glass, a Nautical Almanac and a nocturnal - used for measuring time by observation of stars.
Ranger's House Greenwich The Dolmetsch Collection of early musical instruments is housed in a late 17th century red-brick villa in Greenwich Park. The house, once the official residence of the park's Ranger, is also home to the magnificent Suffolk Collection with royal portraits by Sir Peter Lely (1616-80).
Royal Naval College Greenwich A superb chapel, rebuilt after a fire in 1779, is part of a complex of baroque buildings which began as the King's House, built for Charles II. William and Mary commissioned Wren to enlarge it as a hospital for naval pensioners. It became home to the college in 1873.
Thames Flood Barrier Woolwich Giant roofs covered with stainless steel house the mighty machinery needed to raise the ten massive gates from the riverbed. London's flood protection - necessary because the sea level off south-east England is rising - is 580 yds long, cost 535 million and was first used in 1983.
Cutty Sark and Gipsy Moth Greenwich A grand old lady of the tea-clipper era, Cutty Sark still has the power to stir the blood as she stands high and dry in dock, restored in appearance to her 19th century glory. Her mainmast towers 145ft, and 10 miles of rigging and huge crosstrees once carried nearly an acre of sail, to give speeds of more than 17 knots. Yet her graceful hull is only 212ft long and her beam 36ft. Cutty Sark was built in Dumbarton in 1869.
London Dungeon 28-34 Tooley Street, SE1 The London Dungeon is the historic horror experience, which dispenses fun and fear in equal doses. Visitors can journey back to 1666 to relive the terrifying events of the 'Great Fire of London' or take a barge trip down the River Thames towards traitors gate on the 'Judgement Day' ride... to face a firing squad, after getting sentenced to death. There is also a torture chamber and a chance to solve the murder-mystery of 'Jack the Ripper'. The Dungeons are patrolled by over a dozen scary costume characters who suddenly come to life.
Madame Tussaud's and London Planetarium Marylebone Road, NW1 Madame Tussaud's is a national institution. From the late 18th century on, the figures become more and more convincing.The 'Super Stars' Gallery features giants of pop and sport, and in the Grand Hall members of the Cabinet gaze enviously upon the crowd-pulling Royal Family. The Chamber of Horrors has been enlivened by the addition of audiovisual effects. The London Planetarium, part of the Madame Tussaud's complex, offers half-hourly star shows in which the audience gazes up to the dome which is transformed into the night sky. In the evening, the Planetarium turns itself into a Laserium, in which beams of light dance and form patterns to current rock and pop music.
Museum of London London Wall, EC2 The galleries of the London Museum are presented as layers of London time. The story begins with the prehistoric exhibits. The Roman gallery has reconstructed rooms furnished with articles imported from other parts of the Roman Empire, or made by a local craftsman. Medieval London is represented by, among other exhibits, a model of William the Conqueror's Tower, a 15th century London interior and lead crosses buried with victims of the Black Death. Businesss and craftsmanship flourished in Tudor London, as can be seen from a collection of jewels found in Cheapside, while the troubled days of the Stuarts are recalled by Cromwell's death mask, a plague bell and a realistic diorama of the Great Fire, with a commentary from Samuel Pepys' Diaries. So the galleries continue, presenting the changing ages of London.
National Army Museum Royal Hospital Road, SW3 The blockhouse accommodating the National Army Museum is defended by a Centurion tank, a pair of 5.5 guns and some armoured cars. Inside are two galleries. The first tells the story of the British and Imperial armies from Henry VII's raising of the Yeomen of the Guard in 1485 to the eve of war in 1914. The second is concerned with the citizen, Commonwealth and professional soldiers who have fought our battles ever since, from Flanders to the Falklands. A contrasting military presence in Royal Hospital Road is the Royal Hospital, home of the Chelsea Pensioners.
National Gallery Trafalgar Square, WC2 The National Gallery was opened in 1838 to house the nation's growing collection of art masterpieces. Today it contains more than 2000 outstanding European paintings, dating from the 13th to the early 20th centuries. Just around the corner, in Charing Cross Road, stands the National Portrait Gallery, which contains some 10,000 likenesses of famous British men and women - any 1000 of which are on show at any given time.
Osterley Park Off A4, 2 miles north of Hounslow Osterley was originally built in the late 16th century by the merchant Sir Thomas Gresham, founder of the Royal Exchange; what stands today is largely the creation of Robert Adam between 1761 and 1780 for the banker Robert Child. The interior today is remarkable for the richness of its 18th century decorations, statues and wall paintings, and for its grand Georgian furnishings. The antechamber of the state apartment is one of the few rooms anywhere to have remained entirely as it was in the 18th century.
Royal Air Force Museum Grahame Park Way, Hendon, NW9 For more than 70 years Hendon has been indentified with the Royal Air Force, so it is fitting that the RAF Museum should stand in what was a corner of the aerodrome that saw the development of Britain's military air power. The main building is as historic as many of the aircraft it contains, being made up of two hangars dating back to 1915. Exhibits range from the tiny Bleriot XI, one of the first aircraft used by the Royal Flying Corps in the First World War, to the mighty English Electric Lightning which, with its powerful jet engines, could fly at twice the speed of sound. A separate building contains the Battle of Britain Museum.
The Tower of London London, EC3N The Tower of London has in its time been a palace, a zoo, an arsenal, a treasury and a mint: but it is as a state prison for awkward subjects that it is most famous. Prisoners were brought in secretly by river and then through Traitors' Gate. The building that dominates the whole fortress is the massive, square White Tower - the original Tower of London begun by William the Conqueror, and more or less completed by 1097. It contains the Royal Armouries, a collection of arms and armour from Saxon times to the near-present. Beside Tower Green is the chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula where executioners' victims, including Sir Thomas More and Henry VIII's wives, lie buried. The Crown Jewels are kept beneath the Waterloo Block next door.
Royal Mews Buckingham Palace Road, SW1 Some of the Queen's horses and most of her state carriages can be seen in the Royal Mews, with pride of place going to the Gold State Coach which has been used at every coronation since that of George IV. Also on show are the Irish State Coach, which the Queen uses for the State Opening of Parliament, and the Glass Coach used for royal weddings. Adjoining the coach house are the stables. A little way along the road from the Royal Mews is the Queen's Gallery, a changing exhibition of works from the royal collection.
St Margaret's Church Parliament Square, SW1 While Westminster Abbey belongs to the world, St Margaret's belongs to London, and most especially to the City of Westminster. It is the parish church of the House of Commons, and since before the Civil War has had a strongly Protestant bias. The poet John Milton was married there and William Caxton, the first English printer, is buried in the churchyard; Samuel Pepys was married in the church and so too, in 1908, was Winston Churchill. Beneath the altar lie the headless remains of Sir Walter Raleigh. He was executed in Old Palace Yard outside, and buried on the same day, October 29, 1618.
St Paul's Cathedral Ludgate Hill, EC4 Built on the site of Old St Paul's - destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666 - the building was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and took 25 years to complete. Wren is buried in the Crypt. Entering the cathedral, which is 515ft long and 365ft high to the top of the cross, visitors move along the Nave past a massive memorial to the Duke of Wellington and Holman Hunt's full-length portrait of Christ. Overhead at the heart of the building is Wren's great Dome. Straight ahead lies the Ambulatory which opens onto three small chapels.
Southwark Cathedral London Bridge, SE1 A cathedral only since 1905, the Church of St Saviour and St Mary Overie has some 2.5 million people in its diocese. The building, like so many others in this ancient gateway to London, has had its ups and downs, as is apparent in the variety of its stonework, ranging from 12th century fragments to the mostly late-Victorian nave. Public subscriptions in 1911 paid for an alabaster reclining monument to William Shakespeare, actor and playwright at the nearby Globe Theatre.
Tate Gallery Millbank, SW1 In 1892 the old Millbank Prison was demolished to make way for a new art gallery given to the nation by the sugar tycoon Sir Henry Tate and opened in 1897. It houses two main collections: the Historic British Collection, ranging from the 16th century to about 1900, and the Twentieth Century Collection. On the east flank of the Tate is the Clore Gallery. It was opened in 1987 and contains some 300 oil paintings and about 19,000 watercolours and drawings by J.M.W. Turner.
Theatre Museum Russell Street, WC2 With the Royal Opera House and the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, just over the way, and half a dozen other theatres within easy reach, no better site could have been chosen for the Theatre Museum than Covent Garden. The exhibits are frequently rotated, though the theme remains constant. It is the story of the performing arts - theatre, opera, ballet, variety, circus, pop - from about Shakespeare's day to our own.
Wallace Collection Manchester Square, W1 the 18th century town house bought by the 2nd Marquess of Hertford houses a collection of paintings and furniture collected by the Hertford family over several generations. It was brought to England in the 19th century from Paris by Richard Wallace, natural son of the 4th marquess, and given to the nation in 1897. There is a large collection of Sevres porcelain, and fine gilt-bronzes, clocks and snuffboxes.
Westminster Abbey Parliament Square, SW1 Two emotions draw the crowds to Westminster Abbey; love for a medieval church of great beauty and majesty, and admiration of a building that embodies the history and spirit of the nation in a way no other building does. The last but one of the Saxon Kings of England is buried in it, and the first of the Norman kings was crowned in it; so has been every monarch of England since, except Edward V and Edward VIII. Early Parliaments shared the Chapter House with the Benedictine monks who served the abbey, and the first royal treasury was established in the Pyx Chapel. Nearly everyone who was anyone was buried in the abbey, generally grouped by profession or occupation: monarchs, statesmen, musicians, scientists, poets, soldiers, sailors, lords and ladies.
Westminster Cathdral Ashley Place, SW1 Completed only in 1903, its roofs are a succession of domes, its walls are of banded stone and red brick, and its slender campanile soars 284ft to its domed lantern. The interior is Byzantine rather than Italian in feeling, 342ft long, 149ft wide and 117ft to the tops of the domes. The ceiling is dim, and from the dome above the altar hangs a huge Crucificx, its base almost touching the pillared roof of the Sanctuary canopy. A lift takes visitors to the top of the campanile, from which there are views over or around the surrounding buildings to Greenwich on one side and Hampstead and Highgate on the other, with the Houses of Parliament seemingly close enough to touch.
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