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April 22nd 2014

If It’s Your First Visit To London Or 50th, Don’t Forget To See Trafalgar Square

If It’s Your First Visit To London Or 50th, Don’t Forget To See Trafalgar Square

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The beating heart of London, Trafalgar Square keeps you coming back time and time again! You can never get enough of this city hotspot as there will be something different going on every time you visit. Even if you don’t visit on a special occasion, simply sitting by the fountains or Nelson’s Column and watching the world go by is a top London experience. The National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery and St Martin-in-the-Fields are all a stone’s throw away too!

From celebrations to demonstrations and filming to photography, Trafalgar Square has a buzzing atmosphere 365 days of the year.

Trafalgar Square: From the beginning

Trafalgar Square has been a well-loved meeting place for Londoners as far back as the Middle Ages! Originally called Charing, it later became known as Charing Cross (the nearby Tube station is still called Charing Cross) and was later named Trafalgar Square in honour of Lord Nelson’s victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

From the 14th to the late 17th century, a great deal of the Square was the courtyard of the Great Mews stabling. Development by the architect John Nash began in 1812 – he wanted Trafalgar Square to be a cultural space enjoyed by the public. The Square has changed considerably since its beginnings 200 years ago and 2003 saw the end of an 18 month construction project to remove traffic from the north side of the square and improve the wider area.

Unmissable attractions around Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square is overlooked by a number of fantastic sights and attractions – some are easier to find than others!

National Gallery

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On the north side of Trafalgar Square is the glorious National Gallery. Home to one of the greatest collections of paintings in the world, the National Gallery dominates Trafalgar Square and undoubtedly adds to its historical beauty. It’s free to visit too! From Van Gogh’s famous ‘Sunflowers’ painting to ‘The Entombment’ by Michelangelo, this treasure trove of artwork is a must-visit.

 

 

St Martin-in-the-Fields

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At the north-east corner of Trafalgar Square is St Martin-in-the-Fields. This parish church dates back to 1222 and stood in the fields between the City and Westminster! The fields are long gone but the church still retains its original name. St Martin-in-the-Fields has an illustrious history; it was the location of the first religious broadcast and its musical tradition includes performances by Handel and Mozart. There are daily church services and free music every weekday, plus ticketed evening concerts from Thursday- Saturday.

 

 

Trafalgar Square’s statues and monuments

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A simple walk around Trafalgar Square will get you up close and personal to a number of famous statues and monuments. Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson towers over the Square from his perch atop Nelson’s Column, guarded by four huge lions. You’ll also find a statue of King George IV riding his horse, a statue of Charles Napier and a statue of Henry Havelock on three separate plinths. The fourth plinth is used as a temporary display of modern culture, merging the old and the new. You’ll find more famous figures dotted around the area too.

Trafalgar Square also has two beautiful fountains at its centre with up-to-date LED lights that can change colour and illuminate the dancing water after dark.

 

Soak up fantastic Trafalgar Square during an London open top bus tour – you’ll get an amazing perspective from the top deck! For information on upcoming Trafalgar Square events, check out the Greater London Authority website. 

 
April 17th 2014

Short On Time? Out Of London Attractions Only An Hour Away

Short On Time? Out Of London Attractions Only An Hour Away

With so much to do in the city of London itself, it can be easy to overlook fantastic attractions outside of the capital. From Buckingham Palace to the Tower of London, many visitors often don’t venture outside of London, especially if they’ve only got a limited amount of time to see the sights! However, we recommend sacrificing some of that precious sightseeing schedule to visit these attractions – it only takes an hour or less to reach them from central London so you won’t spend hours travelling.

 

1.       Hampton Court PalaceHampton Court Palace

One of the only two surviving palaces owned by the infamous King Henry VIII (the other is St. James’s Palace), Hampton Court Palace is seriously impressive. Located in the leafy county of Surrey, the sprawling Palace features both Tudor and Baroque architecture plus beautiful gardens and even the UK’s oldest hedge maze! If you’re fascinated by history and tales of the monarchy, exploring this amazing Palace is something you should try and fit in during your stay in England.

 

 

2.       Warner Bros. Studio Tour LondonDiagon Alley

Located just north of London in Watford, Hertfordshire, Warner Bros. Studio Tour London is a must for all Harry Potter fans. You can’t come all the way here without visiting the studios where Harry, Ron and Hermione got up to their magical tricks! You’ll see the authentic sets from the film series and you can even buy some Butterbeer! Easily reachable from central London, you can buy your Warner Bros. Studio Tour London tickets with return transportation included for one convenient package.

 

 

3.       Windsor CastleWindsor Castle

A visit to the Queen’s Windsor Castle doesn’t take much time at all – you can spend a few hours exploring this working castle during a Simply Windsor Castle Afternoon Tour. It takes about 45 minutes to reach Windsor Castle from central London, so follow in the footsteps of the Royals and escape the city for this gorgeous castle for a few short hours. You can explore the State Apartments and nearby St. George’s Chapel (the resting place of Henry VIII) during your visit.

 

 

4.       LEGOLAND WindsorLEGOLAND

Windsor’s got it going on! A top family favourite, LEGOLAND Windsor gives kids the opportunity to let off some steam and lose themselves in the exciting LEGO world. The park has over 55 rides and attractions, including the Pirate Falls log Flume, Knights Kingdom roller coaster and Atlantis Submarine Voyage. You’ll even get a bird’s eye view of London at Miniland – it’s the city’s top attractions all made out of LEGO bricks! Check out the LEGOLAND Windsor with Return Transportation package – the coaches depart the park at different times so you can spend as little or as long as you wish there.

London’s great but these popular attractions show that the rest of the country is worth exploring too. If you want to go a little further afield, check out some Out of London Coach Tours that go to places including Stonehenge, Bath and Blenheim Palace.

 
April 10th 2014

Discover England’s Heritage In London This St George’s Day

Discover England’s Heritage In London This St George’s Day

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Whether you’ve got English heritage or not, St George’s Day is a cause for celebration! The patron saint of England, St George and his legacy have survived almost 1,700 years. Join in on 23 April and celebrate St George’s Day in London with a mix of nationalities paying homage to England’s number one man.

Who was St George?

Born A.D. 270 in Turkey to Christian parents, you might be surprised to learn that George was an immigrant to England. He became a Roman soldier and rose to a high rank but later resigned and protested against his pagan leader who was responsible for Rome’s persecution of Christians. George was imprisoned but stayed true to his faith and was gruesomely beheaded in 303 AD! In 1222, the Council of Oxford named April 23 to be St George’s Day and it has been recognised as such ever since.

Another popular story, though understandably less reliable, is the legend of St George and the dragon. This fantastical story involves a town terrorised by a dragon and a young stranded princess. Fearless George rode into the village, killed the dragon and rescued the princess in style! It’s most likely just a fairy tale, but who knows!

St George’s Day in LondonSt George's Day kids

There are loads of free events taking place in the capital in honour of St George. A true celebration of English culture; you can get involved and enjoy live music, parades and lots of fun activities. This year we also have a new famous English George in this world – the young prince!

Trafalgar Square is the place to be on 21 April (Easter Monday) for St George festivities! As it isn’t a national holiday, all the good stuff takes place on the nearest weekend or public holiday to 23 April so that everyone can join in.

Some people want St George’s Day to be made a national bank holiday, staging campaigns and petitions in an effort to convince the Government, but unfortunately for 2014 we’ll have to celebrate it outside working hours!

The Feast of St George

St George's DayInspired by St George’s Day 13th century origins as a national day of feasting, you’ll be able to find a huge variety of traditional English fare available in Trafalgar Square during the Feast of St George. An English farmers market will be selling tasty snacks including hog roast, homemade pies, cakes and freshly squeezed lemonade! You can enjoy your food in the fantastic banqueting area, located between Trafalgar Square’s beautiful fountains. There will also be live demonstrations from London chefs as they whip up both traditional and modern English dishes and music at the English garden bandstand.

 

Want to discover some more great English history? The Historic and Modern London tour visits top capital attractions including St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London! Or if you want to see London at your leisure, check out a hop-on hop-off open top bus tour.

Images used courtesy of Flickr users: Guy Evans & Garry Knight

 
April 8th 2014

You’re Invited To Step Inside Buckingham Palace This Summer

You’re Invited To Step Inside Buckingham Palace This Summer

Buckingham Palace

It’s nearly time for Buckingham Palace to open its doors to the public as the summer visitor season kicks off in London! For eight weeks only, anyone can pay a visit to the State Rooms at the Palace (providing they purchase a ticket, of course) and see what living like a Royal is like in the 21st century! Queen Elizabeth II is in Scotland on her annual holiday from 26 July to 28 September 2014 and is kindly letting us have a nose around her home. If you’re in London during this period, we highly recommend buying a ticket to Buckingham Palace and having a peek at the interior of this world-famous mansion. Who knows – maybe you’ll bump into Prince Harry or Camilla in the gardens! (We know who we’d prefer seeing).

A visit inside Buckingham Palace this summer should definitely be top of your London to-do list. Take a look at some of the highlights of the Queen’s London residence:

8530000The State Rooms

A grand total of 19 State Rooms can be found in Buckingham Palace, each one unique and serving a different purpose. They are where monarchs receive and entertain guests – be it important dignitaries or selfless humanitarians! They are decorated with gorgeous furnishings and artwork that has to be seen to be believed. In the 19th century, George IV transformed the mansion into the grand palace we know today with the help of a talented architect. Many of the pieces of furniture, chandeliers and works of art were bought or made for Carlton House, George’s London home.

The Picture Gallery

One of the 19 State Rooms is called The Picture Gallery – you can probably guess why! This spectacular room houses some of the greatest paintings in the Royal Collection. At 47 metres long, there’s plenty of room in this area of Buckingham Palace to pause for a while and take in the artworks. The Picture Gallery is one of the rooms used by the Queen for official entertaining and when recognising people who have accomplished notable successes.

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Buckingham Palace’s garden has over 350 different species of wild flowers and The Garden Café is a surreal place to stop for a bite to eat. You can walk along the south side of the garden while soaking up the views of the west front of the Palace and the beautiful lake! The gardens really are something of an oasis in the middle of London and a lovely escape from the busy city.

 

If you want to visit Buckingham Palace and combine it with some other top attractions, check out the Buckingham Palace combination tours on offer! You can visit Buckingham Palace and add on Stonehenge, Windsor Castle or afternoon tea for one fantastic day out in London.