There are few places in the world that generate more iconic imagery than London!
London, the Capital of the United Kingdom, is a city of eight million people covering 601 square miles of southeast England. It is Europe’s biggest city and its most important financial centre. London, once the largest city on earth, continually enthrals visitors with its historic sites, royal palaces and parks.
It is home to museums and galleries filled with an astonishing diversity of treasures from all over the world whose exhibits cater to most interests – the product, in part, of centuries at the hub of world-wide trade and a far-flung Empire. Where else on earth can you see a modern, environmentally-friendly skyscraper next to a Roman wall that was partly obscured by a medieval church?
London has one of the world’s greenest city centres, full of tree-lined squares, grassy parks and open spaces. Some of these, such as Hampstead Heath, were originally common land, where smallholders could graze their animals. Others, such as Richmond Park and Holland Park, were royal hunting grounds or the gardens of large houses. Today you can walk across much of central London by walking from St James’s Park in the east to Kensington Gardens in the west.
Springtime in London carries an almost tangible air of a city waking up to longer days and outdoor pursuits as the cheerful yellow of daffodils studs the parks. As spring turns to summer, the royal parks reach their full glory and, in Kensington Gardens, nannies gather to chat under venerable chestnut trees. As autumn takes hold, those same trees are ablaze with red and gold and Londoners’ thoughts turn to afternoons in museums and art galleries, followed by tea in a café. The year draws to a close with Guy Fawkes parties and shopping in the West End.
Much of London’s rich inheritance of tradition and ceremony centres on royalty. Faithfully enacted today, some of these ceremonies date back to the Middle Ages when the ruling monarch had absolute power and had to be protected from opponents. Although the Queen’s role is now largely symbolic, the Guard at Buckingham Palace still actively patrols the grounds. The impressive ceremony of Changing the Guard features dazzling uniforms, shouted commands and martial music. The Guard is also changed at Horse Guards, on Tower Green at the Tower of London and at Windsor Castle.
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