For those wishing to discover historic sites in London, our city guide is designed to show you a great selection of historical places to visit in this popular tourist destination.
Founded by the Romans in 43AD, London became an important city in Roman Britain. Despite the destruction wrought by Boudicca in 61AD the city recovered and was a thriving centre of Roman life. Although little remains from this period, there are a few scattered Roman ruins, including parts of the Roman walls and the remains of a Roman theatre. After the Romans departed, the city’s influence waned until the site was refortified by Alfred the Great. The Norman conquest of 1066AD saw the city become increasingly important until it was established as the capital of England and the seat of power for the British monarchy – a fact reflected by the many royal palaces and homes which still exist today.
Over the centuries London has faced a multitude of threats - from plagues to the Great Fire of 1666 right through to the modern era and the German bombing of the city. Despite these challenges, London has continually grown, expanded and become a political, cultural and academic hub. Over the years many grand building projects have been undertaken, leading to a wealth of interesting and amazing historical places in London which can be explored today – making the city one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.
Once you’ve explored the historical sites of London you can use our itinerary planner tool to plan out your very own London history tour and then print off a free pocket guidebook. Our database of London's historic sites is growing all the time, but we may not cover them all. Remember, if you know of other historic sites in London, you can always add them to Trip Historic now by visiting our upload page.
10 Downing Street is the home of the Prime Minister of the UK and one of the most important political historic places in London
10 Downing Street in London has been the residence of every British Prime Minister since 1730, when it was presented to Sir Robert Walpole. Walpole, Britain's first Prime Minister, and architect William Kent converted the three existing buildings of 10 Downing Street into a single large one, known collectively by its now famous address, connected to each other by what is known as Treasury Passage.
Since that time, 10 Downing Street has been the location from which Prime Ministers have run the country and entertained heads of state and governments from around the world. 10 Downing Street's iconic black door hides a warren of offices and state rooms as well as numerous conference rooms, dining rooms, private apartments, kitchens and cellars.
Over the years, 10 Downing Street has undergone renovations and modernisations to bring it into the 21st Century. It is not possible to tour 10 Downing Street, except of course by invitation, although the official website does have a virtual tour. There are also several audio files available on the Downing Street website detailing the building's history and that of its residents.
Apsley House was the home of one of Britain’s most heroic figures, the Duke of Wellington.
Apsley House was the home of one of Britain’s most heroic figures, Arthur Wellesley better known as the Duke of Wellington. In fact, Wellington lived there following his most famous victory, that over Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.
Named after the Baron Apsley, who originally built it in the 1770s, Apsley House came to be owned by the Wellesley family in 1807. The Wellesleys extended and altered Apsley House, transforming it into the building we see today.
Now managed by the English Heritage, Apsley House has a range of worthwhile things to see, such as its remarkable regency interiors and exhibits relating to the Duke of Wellington. There are many things at Apsley House which belonged to the Duke, including his impressive art collection, much of which once formed part of the Spanish Royal Collection and which includes pieces by several famous artists such as Canova and Velazquez.
Apsley House is often known by the illustrious name of "Number One London".
The Banqueting House in Whitehall is famous as the site of the execution of King Charles I and one of the historic sites in London that saw crucial historical events.
The Banqueting House in Whitehall, near Horseguards Parade, is the only complete building of the Palace of Whitehall to remain standing. The original Palace of Whitehall was acquired from Cardinal Wolsey by Henry VIII and was a royal residence until James I came to the throne in 1603.
The Banqueting House was built for state occasions and, after the installation of grand ceiling panels, the Banqueting House became a reception area for greeting foreign dignitaries.
On 30 January 1649, many spectators gathered to watch the beheading of King Charles I on the balcony of the Banqueting House. A service is held at the Banqueting House every year in January to commemorate this event and visitors can still see the scaffold stage on which the monarch died.
From 1654 until 1658, the Palace of Whitehall was the home of the revolutionary and statesman, Oliver Cromwell. After the restoration of King Charles II to the throne in 1660, the Palace of Whitehall once again became the royal residence and the Banqueting House once again was used for its original purpose.
In 1698, a huge fire burned Whitehall Palace to the ground. Sir Christopher Wren was commissioned to convert the Banqueting House into a chapel to replace the one destroyed in the fire.
Visitors can tour Banqueting House and discover its history. An entry ticket includes an audio guide, available in a variety of languages.
One of the most decisive and bloody encounters of the Wars of the Roses.
The Battle of Barnet took place on the 14th of April 1471 and was one of the most decisive and bloody encounters of the Wars of the Roses.
In 1470 an alliance between Edward IV’s former ally, the Earl of Warwick, and his Lancastrian enemies had forced the Yorkist leader to flee the country. Having been in exile in Holland and Burgundy for six months, he landed back in Yorkshire, proclaiming that he only wished to reclaim his dukedom.
However, he promptly marched south and took London, where his queen showed him his newborn son, also named Edward. He then marched north to Barnet to confront Warwick who was now fighting alongside the Lancastrian Queen Margaret (and had married his second daughter to Margaret’s son, the Lancastrian Prince of Wales).
Warwick, marching south from the midlands, took up position about a mile north of Barnet. Edward, arriving at dusk, took up his position close by. Due to a thick mist, the two armies were not directly opposite each other, and they overlapped.
The earl of Oxford, commanding one wing of the Lancastrian army, won an early victory and his men made it all the way in to the town. He then turned and led his troops back to the battle, where Lancastrian troops, mistaking his emblem for that of Edward, engaged him in battle. With cries of ‘treason, treason’, Oxford fled the field, taking his troops with him. It was the decisive moment and the fear and confusion saw the Lancastrian forces disintegrate. Both Warwick and his brother lost their lives at Barnet, a huge blow to the Lancastrian cause. Edward was therefore the victor of the battle of Barnet, and thus regained the throne.
There is little left of the battlefield now, but there is a monument on the A1000 road, which gives as good a view as any of the battlefield, which is now agricultural land, with little in the way of public footpaths. Like many of these medieval battlefields, the actual site is disputed, and is always under review.
Big Ben is the name often attributed to the iconic clock tower of the Houses of Parliament. It is one of the most famous historic places in London.
Big Ben is often thought to be the name of the iconic clock tower of the Houses of Parliament.
In fact, “Big Ben” is the nickname of one of the bells of this clock tower, originally called the Great Bell. It is unclear exactly where the name Big Ben originated, although it is thought that it was probably named after Sir Benjamin Hall, the man in charge of commissioning the structure. Another popular, although less likely, theory is that it was named after Ben Caunt, a champion heavyweight boxer of the mid nineteenth century.
In any event, most people now think of the whole of the clock tower as Big Ben. The clock tower of Big Ben was begun in 1843 and completed in 1859, while the clock was completed later that year and first sounded its bells on 7 September.
The British Museum in London is a world-famous museum of history and culture. It is one of the most popular historic attractions in London.
The British Museum is one of the world’s foremost museums of history and anthropology. Based in London, the British Museum has some of the largest and most revered collections from around the globe ranging from Babylonian stonework and Samurai armour to pottery and glass from the Roman Empire.
The British Museum has several permanent collections, including its world-famous Egyptian collection which includes a large number of Egyptian mummies as well as temporary exhibits. One of the British Museum's most famous residents is the second century BC Rosetta Stone.
The British Museum divides its collections by themes and cultures, each of which is displayed in numbered rooms. One of its most popular exhibits is its collection of Parthenon Sculptures from Ancient Greece, which can be found in room 18. With such a wide collection, it’s difficult to summarise the work of the British Museum or to explore its myriad of galleries. However, the museum does offer a variety of itineraries, including a one hour tour which showcases, amongst other things, the Parthenon Sculptures, the Egyptian mummies, the Rosetta Stone and Assyrian lion hunt reliefs from 668 BC as well as several other famous objects like the Lewis Chess Set and 12th – 14th century Nigerian artwork.
Three hour and children’s’ itineraries are also available on the British Museum’s website and at the museum itself. Alternatively, free audio guides are available or visitors can book a highlights tour in advance for a fee, which take place at 10.30 am, 1.00pm and 3.00pm daily. You can book this online or by calling the museum. This site also features as one of our Top Ten Tourist Attractions in the UK.
One of the most famous historic sites in London, Buckingham Palace has been the royal residence of British monarchs since the reign of Queen Victoria.
Buckingham Palace has been the official residence of Britain's monarchs since 1837, at the start of the reign of Queen Victoria.
With its 775 rooms, Buckingham Palace was originally built for the Dukes of Buckingham at the beginning of the eighteenth century.
In 1761, Buckingham Palace, then known as Buckingham House, was acquired by George III who rechristened it “The Queen's Residence" and had it remodeled by Sir William Chambers. When the building passed to George IV, he continued the renovations, and, from 1826 under the remit of architect John Nash, began transforming Buckingham Palace into the building with which we are familiar today. These changes took around 75 years to implement. The first monarch to actually live there was Queen Victoria.
Today, Buckingham Palace is the official London residence of Queen Elizabeth II, although it is also an administrative centre and a place in which the monarch hosts official receptions and events. Buckingham Palace also houses the offices of the Queen's and the Duke of Edinburgh's staff.
In August and September, the nineteen State Rooms and some other sections of Buckingham Palace are open to the general public and to tourists. Here, visitors can see the Royal Collections, which include an incredible array of artwork as well as some of the finest English and French furniture. Audio guides are included in the ticket price and a visit usually lasts around two hours.
One of the major attractions at Buckingham Palace is the ceremony of Changing the Guard. This takes place on a daily basis during the summer at 11:30am on the forecourt of the palace and on alternate days in winter. This ceremony lasts for 45 minutes. This site features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in the United Kingdom.
A small museum dedicated to the local history of the village of Bushey in Hertfordshire, which also contains an art gallery.
Bushey Museum in Hertfordshire is dedicated to the history of the local area as well as containing works from notable local artists.
Bushey is a village which grew up on the coaching route from London to the North of England. It is mentioned in the Domesday book, which indicates just how old the village is. It is easy to miss, being squeezed between Stanmore and Watford.
On the ground floor, there is a wide selection of local historical artefacts, maps showing the development of the village, and a temporary exhibition room with exhibitions showing different aspects of local history.
On the first floor is the art gallery. This reflects the school of art set up by Sir Hubert von Herkomer RA in the 19th Century. The pictures on display regularly updated, as the museum cannot display them all at the same time. Also on view are the paintings of Lucy Kemp Welch another notable local artist.
The Cabinet War Rooms are part of the underground bunker complex in London where Winston Churchill and his government operated during World War Two. One of many military historic sites in London.
The Cabinet War Rooms are part of the underground bunker complex in London where Winston Churchill and his government operated during World War Two.
In the 1930’s, realising that there was likely to be a war, the government needed to build a bombproof shelter and cabinet war rooms from which to carry on business should there be damage to 10 Downing Street and Whitehall.
Beneath the Treasury building there was already an extensive basement, so this was expanded with a warren of tunnels and topped off with a thick concrete roof to withstand any enemy bombs.
It was from the Cabinet War Rooms that Churchill, his cabinet and some 500 civil servants worked, and sometimes slept, throughout the War.
The Cabinet War Rooms were left untouched from 1945, when they were no longer needed, until the 1980s when they were restored and opened to the public. Not all rooms are open to the public and the complex is believed to have around 200 rooms in total.
Those which are open include the cabinet war room, where Churchill’s war cabinet met, Churchill’s office and his bedroom. This underground office block even included a canteen and a hospital.
Visitors should allow at least 90 minutes to savour the atmosphere of this iconic Second World War site.
Clarence House has been the London residence of several members of the British royal family.
Clarence House has been the London residence of several members of the British royal family and is now the home of the Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall.
Built from 1825 to 1827 next to St James's Palace, the prime location of Clarence House has made it the perfect place for royals to call home. The first member of the monarchy to live there was King William IV.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother moved in in 1953 and resided there for almost fifty years. Meanwhile, a newlywed Queen Elizabeth II also lived at Clarence House with The Duke of Edinburgh for a time in 1947.
In the summer, there are public tours of much of the ground floor of Clarence House, which is not in a dissimilar state to that which it was in under Queen Elizabeth.
Eltham Palace is a spectacular Art Deco palace built in the 1930’s alongside a 15th century medieval hall.
Eltham Palace is a spectacular Art Deco palace built in the 1930's alongside a 15th Century medieval hall.
The medieval part of Eltham Palace is quite stunning for those who are interested in that era. The Great Hall of Eltham Palace is still extant and was originally built for the Yorkist king Edward IV in the 1470s and his grandson, Henry VIII, spent much of his childhood here. It is so atmospheric that you can almost see their ghosts walking its floors. This is the only part of medieval Eltham Palace which still exists.
However, the ‘new build’ at Eltham Palace, dating from the 1930s is a wonderful example of Art Deco. When Stephen and Virginia Courtauld built their 1930s Art Deco mansion beside the Great Hall of medieval Eltham Palace, they created a masterpiece of 20th century design.
When the 20th century building at Eltham Palace was completed in 1936, the red brick exterior of the house was built to mirror the older building without seeming to be out of place. The interior of the new Eltham Palace is a wonderful example of 1930s Art Deco and cutting-edge Swedish design. The dining room is most exotic, with pink leather, bird's-eye maple veneered walls, an aluminium-leaf ceiling, and black-and-silver doors.
The rest of the Eltham Palace is equally stylish, with gold plated bath taps, and central heating in the sleeping quarters (or cage?) of their pet lemur. Equipped with all the latest modern conveniences, the house featured underfloor heating, a centralised vacuum cleaning system and built-in audio. Upstairs is a display devoted to the Courtaulds, including original furniture and family photographs.
Visitors to Eltham Palace can also enjoy a restored original 10-minute Courtauld home movie, giving a glimpse of their family life.
Eltham Palace's 19 acres of beautiful gardens reflect both the medieval and 20th-century garden design. These include a rock garden, a moat, a medieval bridge, herbaceous borders, a rose garden and plenty of picnic areas. Always interesting and colourful, garden highlights at Eltham Palace include the Spring bulbs display and the wisteria cascading over the classical pergola in Summer.
The Epsom Downs Racecourse was the site of one of the most iconic moment in the women’s rights movement.
The Epsom Downs Racecourse was the site of one of the most iconic moment in the women’s rights movement. On 4 June 1913, on the day of the Epsom Derby race, militant suffragette Emily Davison jumped out in front of the King’s horse at the Epsom Downs Racecourse and was trampled. She died four days later.
In this dramatic moment, Davison is seen to have given her life for the cause of women’s rights, although there is some dispute on this point.
The incident occurred on the course at Tattenham Corner.
Fenton House is a well maintained seventeenth century house in Hampstead in North London.
Fenton House in Hampstead in North London was built in the seventeenth century and has since remained almost entirely unchanged. It is unclear who built Fenton House, but it has been continuously occupied over the period of three hundred years.
Today, Fenton House and its gardens are managed by the National Trust and the house includes exhibits of, amongst other things, porcelain and early keyboard instruments.
Hampton Court Palace is a medieval palace whch has served as everything from a royal residence to a prison.
Hampton Court Palace is a medieval palace once favoured by Henry VIII which has served as everything from a royal residence to a prison.
The first buildings at what is now Hampton Court Palace belonged to the Knights Hospitallers of St John of Jerusalem, a religious order founded in the 11th century. Giles Daubeney, later Lord Chamberlain, leased and then modernised the medieval manor of Hampton Court.
In 1514, Thomas Wolsey, soon to be made cardinal, leased Hampton Court for a period of 99 years. He began rebuilding on a grand scale, converting Hampton Court into a lavish palace.
Wolsey added new private chambers at Hampton Court Palace for his own use, as well as three suites for the new royal family: one each for King Henry VIII, Queen Katherine of Aragon and their daughter Princess Mary. He also built 40 guest lodgings, each with an outer room and an inner room - and all ensuite with a garderobe (lavatory). This makes Hampton Court Palace sound like the Tudor version of a 21st Century luxury hotel!
Upon the fall of Wolsey, Henry VIII took Hampton Court Palace for himself. Henry set about further renovation of Hampton Court Palace, rebuilding and extending the existing palace, at a cost of over £60,000, rather a lot at the time.
Hampton Court Palace was then the site where some major events in Henry’s life took place: the break with Rome, the birth of his heir, Edward (VI), divorce of Anne of Cleves, and the accusation of adultery and subsequent detention of Catherine Howard.
The palace was used as a country retreat by Edward VI and Mary I. Elizabeth I used it as a venue for diplomacy and Hampton Court Palace was also used by James I, but none of them altered the buildings to any great extent.
Today, Hampton Court Palace is a popular tourist attraction, with visitors able to tour Henry VIII's apartments and the Tudor kitchens as well as its famous maze. Hampton Court Palace's official site has some good suggestions for itineraries.
Amongst its many attractions, Hampton Court Palace is home to a set of medieval “tenys playe” or tennis courts. These courts, then often used by a young Henry VIII and now England’s oldest existing “real” courts can still be seen there today. In fact, they are still actively used.
Hatfield House is a Jacobean country house built on the site of what was Queen Elizabeth I’s childhood home.
Hatfield House is a Jacobean country house built on the site of what was Hatfield Palace. Built in approximately 1485, Hatfield Palace was bought by Henry VIII and became the home of his children, particularly that of a young Elizabeth I. In the gardens of Hatfield House, one can visit the oak tree where Elizabeth is said to have been informed of her ascension to the throne.
Today, little is left of the original Hatfield Palace, which was torn down in the seventeenth century to make way for a more modern structure - Hatfield House. Built by Robert Cecil, the 1st Earl of Salisbury, and completed in 1612, Hatfield House and has since been owned by the Cecil family.
Today, the stunning Hatfield House estate is open to the public as well as being a popular venue for weddings and events. Visitors can embark on a tour of the house and its stunning gardens.
Highgate Cemetery is a famous graveyard in North London where Karl Marx is buried. One of the more hidden historic sites in London.
Highgate Cemetery is a graveyard in London where the famous philosopher and political economist Karl Marx is buried. It is also the burial site of several other prominent people, including several novelists, artists, political activists and professionals. A list of famous internments can be found on Highgate Cemetery’s website.
Guided tours of the East Cemetery, where Marx is interned, take place on the first Saturday of each month starting at 2:15pm and last around an hour.
HMS Belfast is a Royal Navy light cruiser ship that played a role in both World War II and the Korean War. One of the most popular historic sites in London.
HMS Belfast is a Royal Navy light cruiser ship that played a role in both World War II and the Korean War. It is now open to the public in London under the remit of the Imperial War Museum.
Launched in March 1938, HMS Belfast was commissioned by the Royal Navy in 1939, not long before the outbreak of World War II.
World War II
During the war, HMS Belfast took part in the blockade on Germany, patrolling northern waters from the Scapa Flow naval base in Orkney. Having managed to intercept SS Cap Norte - a German liner - in 1939, HMS Belfast was then severely damaged by a mine later that same year.
For almost three years, HMS Belfast would not sail as part of the fleet again, yet during this time, the ship was overhauled and massively upgraded. In fact, when she returned to the action in 1943, HMS Belfast was one of the Navy’s most formidable vessels and certainly its largest. As such, she was designated the flagship of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron, which protected Arctic convoys travelling to the Soviet Union.
Some of the most important successes of HMS Belfast was its contribution to the sinking of the German battle cruiser Scharnhorst during the Battle of the North Cape in December 1943, its assistance in disabling the German’s last heavy surface unit, Tirpitz, in 1944 and its part in ‘Operation 'Neptune', the naval element of the Normandy Landings of D-Day, also in 1944.
End of World War II
At the end of and after the Second World War, HMS Belfast carried out several roles in the Far East, including helping to evacuate prisoners from internment camps and taking part in peace keeping missions.
Korean War And After
HMS Belfast’s next wartime role would occur in the 1950s, during the Korean War, where she was one of the first ships to go into action to support American and South Korean Troops. This gruelling undertaking would end on 27 September 1952, after which HMS Belfast was involved in a few peacetime missions before finally being taken to London in 1971.
The Houses of Parliament are the home of the UK Parliament and are amongst the most famous historical places in London.
The Houses of Parliament or 'Palace of Westminster' is where both houses of the UK Parliament are located.
Originally part of the great royal palace that had been home to English monarchs for over 500 years, Westminster Palace became the home of parliament in the 16th century after reign of King Henry VIII, when Henry moved the royal family out of the Palace of Westminster following a fire.
The monarch left the Palace of Westminster for the use of Parliament and some government offices. The House of Commons met in the choir stalls of St Stephens Chapel, the Speaker taking the place of the altar, and the government and opposition sitting on opposite sides in the choir stalls. Interestingly, there is still a line in front of the seats, being two sword lengths apart, thus keeping the two sides from killing each other in House...
The great hall of the Houses of Parliament was used for state trials including those of Sir Thomas More, William Wallace and King Charles I.
The original Westminster Palace burned down in 1834, and the building you see today is the result of the subsequent rebuilding by Sir Charles Barry and Augustus Pugin.
The iconic clock tower, housing Big Ben, is probably the most famous part of this building and the complex is a UNESCO World Heritage site. This site also features as one of our Top Ten UK Tourist Attractions.
The Imperial War Museum is a London-based museum dedicated to world conflict. A popular tourist attraction in London.
The Imperial War Museum is dedicated to exploring worldwide conflicts throughout history. The exhibitions in the London Imperial War Museum cover, amongst other things, different aspects of the First and Second World Wars including military history, the Holocaust, women’s roles in the conflicts, wartime artwork and the political issues of the time.
The Imperial War Museum is particularly child-friendly, with temporary exhibitions such as a reconstruction of a World War I trench.
The Jewel Tower is one of the last remnants of the medieval Westminster Palace and is amongst the lesser-known historic sites in London.
Originally part of the medieval Westminster Palace, the Jewel Tower was built in 1365 to hold the riches of Edward III, earning it the name of the 'King's Privy Wardrobe'. Following a fire in 1834, the Jewel Tower and Westminster Hall were the only buildings of the palace to survive.
Today, the Jewel Tower is open to the public under the remit of English Heritage. Visitors to the Jewel Tower can view its fourteenth century vault, an exhibition about Parliament’s history and view the remains of its medieval moat and quay. A visit usually lasts around half an hour.
The Kelvedon Hatch Nuclear Bunker is an enormous, three-storey, Cold War-era subterranean shelter and operations centre in Brentwood, Essex. It was constructed in 1952.
The Kelvedon Hatch Nuclear Bunker is an enormous Cold War-era subterranean shelter and former operations centre in Brentwood, Essex.
In 1952, the spectre of the Cold War loomed ever-more menacingly over Britain. With Europe already firmly divided into two hostile and ideologically opposed camps, and with the Korean War raging in East Asia, the nuclear arms race which had begun at the end of the Second World War became increasingly frenetic. In October 1952, Britain, strategically and ideologically aligned with the United States of America, became the third country to test successfully an independently developed nuclear bomb.
It was against this terrifying backdrop that construction work began on the Kelvedon Hatch secret nuclear bunker. The subterranean space, just 25 miles northeast of London, was first used as an RAF ROTOR station. ROTOR, a project initiated by the British Government in the early 1950s, was a complex air defence radar system which sought to repel potential attacks from Soviet bombers. The bunker then briefly became a Regional Seat of Government (RSG), before finally being turned into Essex’s Regional Government Headquarters (RGHQ).
The Kelvedon Hatch bunker was designed to house up to 600 civilian and military personal, including the prime minister and other high-ranking cabinet officials. In the event of a nuclear attack, the centre’s tasks would have consisted of supplying protection to nearby Ministry of Defence workers, coordinating the survival of the local population, and continuing the operations of the government.
The three-storey bunker measures 27,000 square feet and extends 100 metres below ground level. Its walls are made of ten-foot-thick concrete reinforced by tungsten rods. The structure contains roughly 80 tons of genuine Cold War-period equipment: original plotting boards, telecommunications apparatus and 1980s-era computer equipment. It is also replete with its own BBC studio, office space, living quarters, kitchen and medical room. It also contains a canteen, where refreshments are served to modern day visitors.
In 1992, following the collapse of the Soviet bloc and the geostrategic realignment of Europe, Kelvedon Hatch nuclear bunker was decommissioned. The local Parish family, whose land had been requisitioned by the state in the 1950s in order to construct the site, bought the fields back from the Government. It has now been converted into a fascinating, privately owned museum.
Contributed by Maria Thomas
Kensington Palace was the childhood home of Queen Victoria and the home of Diana, Princess of Wales, until her death.
Originally built for the Earl of Nottingham, Kensington Palace was acquired by King William III in 1689, after he and his wife, Mary II, had taken the throne from her father, James II. They employed Christopher Wren to rebuild and improve it.
Other monarchs enjoyed the atmosphere at Kensington Palace. These included Queen Anne, Mary’s sister, and her husband Prince George of Denmark. Her successor to the British throne, George I, had new state rooms built, and Queen Caroline, wife of George II, had the gardens laid out.
In the time of George III, Kensington Palace ceased to be the monarch’s residence, and it housed some of the more minor Royals. It was here that the Duke and Duchess of Kent (he was the son of George III) made their home and in 1819, their daughter, Victoria was born. She spent her childhood there, and in was at Kensington Palace that she was told that, on the death of her uncle, William IV, she had ascended the throne. Visitors to Kensington Palace can see Queen Victoria's bedroom, the location where she was informed of this.
Kensington Palace was still used as a residence for some of the more minor royals during their stays in London. Prince Albert (later Edward VII) famously dubbed it the ’Aunt Heap’ and, somewhat more cruelly, it was also called the Dowagers’ Dumping Ground.
Most recently, Kensington Palace has been the home of the late Princess Margaret, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, Prince and Princess of Kent, and the late Princess Diana.
Kenwood House is a picturesque historic stately home in North London and among the great summertime historic places in London to visit.
Kenwood House is a picturesque historic stately home in North London run by English Heritage. Initially built in the seventeenth century, Kenwood House subsequently underwent a renovation in the mid-eighteenth century.
Today, Kenwood House is famous for its summer concerts, held in its extensive gardens. It also houses an impressive art collection, including works by Vermeer, Constable and Rembrandt to name a few.
Kew Palace is a seventeenth century palace which once served as a royal residence.
Kew Palace was built around 1631 by merchant Samuel Fortrey. The 17th century palace is noted for its distinctive decorative brickwork and gables, and it is the oldest surviving building in the Kew botanical gardens.
Kew Palace was the home of various members of the royal family between 1728 and 1898. Queen Caroline, wife of George II leased several parcels of land and buildings in Kew. These included Kew Palace. Frederick, Prince of Wales (son of George II, and father of George III) and his wife, Augusta, lived in Kew Palace. After Frederick's untimely death in 1751 (he was hit on the head by a cricket ball), Augusta remained there. It was first Frederick, and then Augusta, who effectively established the botanic gardens at Kew.
George III bought Kew Palace in 1781 to accommodate his growing family. He had 15 children and Kew Palace became their family home, but his favourite residence, however, was Windsor. When George III became ill, he was sent to Kew Palace for treatment, closely followed by Queen Charlotte and their daughters. Queen Charlotte died at Kew Palace in 1818, and Kew Palace was closed until it was acquired by Kew Gardens in 1896.
Queen Victoria, who had agreed to the sale, stipulated the room in which Queen Charlotte died should remain untouched. The Palace was opened to the public in 1898. It has recently been closed for ten years for restoration, but has now reopened to the public.
The ground and first floor rooms at Kew Palace have been restored to reflect the Georgian era, while the second floor has remained untouched.
The London Roman Amphitheatre was built in the first century AD and is the only one of its kind in the city. Amongst the lesser-known historical sites in London.
The London Roman Amphitheatre was discovered in 1988 and remains the only known Roman amphitheatre in the city. Believed to have first been built in 74 AD, the London Roman Amphitheatre was probably extensively renovated in the second century, in around 120 AD.
At its peak, the London Roman Amphitheatre would have been able to seat up to 6,000 spectators and would probably have hosted brutal gladiatorial matches. At this time, London - then Londinium - had a population of some 20,000 to 30,000 people.
Today, visitors can see the remains of some of the walls of London Roman Amphitheatre, some original wooden drains and two small chambers which might have functioned as the waiting rooms for the gladiators or even the wild beasts that performed in the arena.
Once a month, the curator of the London Roman Amphitheatre hosts a guided tour of the site. Otherwise, it is part of the Guildhall Art Gallery and entry to the site is included in the gallery ticket.
The London Roman Fort was a second century fort which housed Roman Londinium’s soldiers. Amongst the lesser-known historical sites in London.
The London Roman Fort was built in around 120 AD - around the same time as Hadrian’s Wall - to house the soldiers of Roman Britain’s most important town of the time, Londinium.
Covering around 12 acres in its heyday, the London Roman Fort would have been a square complex similar in architecture - but around three times the size of - forts such as those of Housesteads and Chester. It was probably home to around 1,000 soldiers.
The pin on the map shows the section of the London Roman Fort found on Noble Street, which would have been its southwest corner. Other parts of the fort are contained underground, notably in an underground car park nearby.
For information, ask the Museum of London, which also hosts tours of this site.
The London Roman Wall was built in around the third century AD and parts of it can be seen today. Amongst the ancient historical sites in London.
The London Roman Wall was built between around 190 and 220 AD and stretched for about three miles from Blackfriars to Tower Hill. This defensive wall protected what was then the important Roman city of Londinium.
Prior to the building of the London Roman Wall, Londinium already had a fort, parts of which were now incorporated into the new wall.
Over the centuries, most of the London Roman Wall has been obscured by medieval additions and other development. However, there are some well-preserved parts which can still be seen today. The map highlights one of the more prominent remaining sections of the London Roman Wall, that at Tower Hill.
The Museum of London has more information on the London Roman Wall.
Lullingstone Roman Villa is a fine example of a 1st Century Roman villa. Built roughly 50 years after the Roman conquest of Britain, it was home to the wealthier elements of Romano-British society.
Lullingstone Roman Villa is a fine example of a 1st Century Roman villa. Built roughly 50 years after the Roman conquest of Britain, Lullingstone Roman Villa was home to the wealthier elements of Romano-British society.
A villa stood on the site for over 300 years before its eventual destruction and abandonment. Today Lullingstone Roman Villa is operated by English Heritage and boasts a number of impressive mosaics and even evidence of early Christian worship in Britain, with the remains of an ancient Christian chapel.
Other features at Lullingstone Roman Villa include Roman artefacts, video recreations and interactive attractions for children such as Roman board games and costumes.
A listed Palladian mansion now used as a golf clubhouse
Moor Park Mansion in Rickmansworth is a listed grade I Palladian mansion. It is largely the work of Benjamin Styles who owned the mansion in the 18th century, but its roots go back much further.
The original building was a palace, built for the abbots of St Albans. Henry VIII gave this palace, a short distance from the current house, to Cardinal Wolsey. Henry was royally entertained there by the Cardinal during his tenure. It was also the first place to which Henry's first wife, Katherine of Aragon, was exiled to when Henry decided to replace her with Anne Boleyn. This was because the air at The Moor (which was how it was known at the time) was not conducive to living a long life.
In 1670, Moor Park became the property of the Duke of Monmouth, who began to build the house in it's current position. The Duke was the illegitimate son of Charles II, through his liaison with Lucy Walters, while he was in exile after the execution of his father. Although he could not inherit the throne, it did not stop him from rebelling against his uncle James II. Monmouth's widow sold Moor Park to Benjamin Styles in 1720 who re-built the property.
Moor Park Mansion changed hands through several families until Lord Leverhulme, who made his fortune in soap and cleaning products, bought it in 1918. He had the famous golf course built in the grounds and financed this by selling off some of the land for the building of the Moor Park estate, a rather exclusive, gated development.
Moor Park Mansion now belongs to the club members and is their clubhouse. However, it is possible to tour Moor Park Mansion between April and October on Thursdays.
The Museum of London explores the history of the UK’s capital city. One of many historic sites in London that is good for children.
The Museum of London explores the history of UK’s capital city through a series of exhibitions.
The contents of some galleries at the Museum of London are constantly changing, although there are nine permanent collections. These look at the development of the city since prehistoric times, through to Roman London, the medieval period, the Great Fire of London in 1666 and onwards, right up to present day.
Ranging from archaeological finds such as Roman ceramics to historic objects such as Oliver Cromwell’s death mask, the artefacts at the Museum of London offer an interesting and comprehensive insight into the city’s past.
There are also recreations of rooms and streets from different periods plus the chance to see an authentic medieval dungeon.
Nelson’s Column is a monument dedicated to Admiral Lord Nelson in London’s Trafalgar Square.
Nelson’s Column is a tribute to one of the great men in British history: Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson, victor of many naval battles, including the Battle of Trafalgar (hence the name of the square).
Despite the fact that this battle was one of the most decisive victories in British naval history, it was also at this famous clash that Admiral Lord Nelson lost his life in 1805. Constructed in the nineteenth century, Nelson’s Column commemorates the death of this iconic figure.
He looks down at the square from the top of his 52m (170 foot) column, decorated at its foot by reliefs of Nelson’s victories and guarded by four lions, designed by Landseer. Admiral Nelson himself is 5m (17 feet) high.
Nelson’s Column is the best known of the statues in Trafalgar Square. One plinth still awaits a permanent tenant, and is currently used for a series of exhibits by British artists.
Trafalgar Square, where Nelson’s Column stands, is well known for a variety of uses: the Christmas tree donated each year by the Norwegians in thanks for their liberation at the end of World War II; political rallies of all descriptions; pigeons (once fed, now evicted); and, of course, New Year’s Eve celebrations.
On a more cultural note, on the north side of the square stands the National Gallery, home to some of the world’s most famous art.
St Albans is a wonderful market town and the site of the execution of Britain’s first Christian martyr (209AD).
The town of St Albans has something for everyone. Originally a Celtic British settlement known as Verlamion, the town was conquered by the Romans and re-named Verulamium. Despite suffering great destruction during the revolt of Boudicca in 60-61AD, the town was re-built and became a thriving settlement.
St Albans has been witness to many key moments of English history, including part of the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. The city was also the site of two battles in the Wars of the Roses. A short history of the city can be found here.
There are historic Roman remains in St Albans, including those of an impressive Roman theatre. Excavations which took place in the 1930s revealed a wealth of additional evidence from the Roman town including a hypocaust, mosaic flooring and roman walls which can all be seen in Verulamium Park. Many Roman artifacts can be seen in Verulamium Museum. The park also boasts what is said to be one of England’s oldest pubs, Ye Olde Fighting Cocks.
The impressive site of St Albans Cathedral contains the shrine of St Alban - a Roman convert to Christianity who became Britain’s first martyr after he was executed for sheltering a Christian priest. The historic site has seen several incarnations - a Norman building replaced a Saxon monastery and even incorporated some Roman bricks which can still be seen in the building today. Significant restoration work was carried out in the nineteenth century by Gilbert Scott and Lord Grimthorpe.
There are a number of other attractions to see in the city and around the area, including a medieval clock tower and the de Havilland Aircraft Heritage Centre and Mosquito Museum. The Museum of St Albans on Hatfield Road tells the story of the medieval and Victorian history of the city and the social history of the area.
St James’s Palace has been the official residence of the British Sovereign since the reign of King Henry VIII.
St James’s Palace has been the official residence of the British Sovereign since the reign of King Henry VIII.
In fact, it was under Henry VIII that the redbrick Tudor structure of St James’s Palace was begun in 1531 on the former site of a hospital. It was mostly completed by 1536. Much of this original work remains today, including a gatehouse, parts of the state rooms and the Chapel Royal.
With its status of royal residence, St James’s Palace has played host to many an important event. Amongst these was the death of Henry VIII’s illegitimate son Henry Fitzroy in 1536, the signing of the treaty of the surrender of Calais by Mary Tudor in 1558 and the births and baptisms of numerous future monarchs such as Charles II, James II, Mary II and James Francis Edward Stuart.
Today, St James’s Palace is still a working palace, although it has not served as a de facto royal residence since the reign of Queen Victoria, when this role was taken over by Buckingham Palace. Instead, St James’s Palace houses the offices of several members of the royal family including Princes William and Harry and is used for official functions. As such, it is not open to the public.
St Paul’s Cathedral is an iconic historic building in central London and the seat of the Diocese of London.
Carved into London’s skyline, St Paul’s Cathedral is the city’s central church and the seat of the Diocese of London. The current building of St Paul’s Cathedral was built between 1675 and 1710, however the site on which it sits has been home to cathedrals since 604 AD. In fact, the St Paul’s Cathedral seen today is the fourth of its kind.
The first St Paul’s was ransacked by Vikings and rebuilt in 962 and a fire destroyed the second. The third and penultimate incarnation of St Paul’s fared no better and was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666.
St Paul’s fascinating history is inextricably intertwined with that of the nation. It was at St Paul’s Cathedral that the marriage of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer. Many of important events from around the world have been marked at St Paul’s including the end of the First and Second World Wars, royal jubilees and birthdays and commemorations of events such Remembrance Day and 11 September 2001.
Visitors can see the magnificent architecture of St Paul’s Cathedral, originally designed by Sir Christopher Wren as well as the artwork and decorations which have been changed and added to over the centuries.
St Paul’s Cathedral is also a famous burial site. Its crypt houses many world famous icons, including Admiral Lord Nelson, the Duke of Wellington and Sir Christopher Wren, whose funerals were hosted at the cathedral. Though not buried at St Paul's, the state funeral of Sir Winston Churchill was also held here.
Guided tours are available in English and last approximately ninety minutes. Audio tours are available in English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Russian, Japanese and Chinese (Mandarin).
The Temple Church in London was established by the Knights Templar in the twelfth century.
The Temple Church in Central London is named after the Knights Templar, who founded it in the twelfth century.
Consecrated on 10 February 1185, probably in the presence of King Henry II, Temple Church became the British headquarters of this famous Christian charitable and military order who played an important role in the Crusades.
This first section of the Temple Church is now known as the Round Church, built in a circular form so as to echo the shape of Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Despite having once been favoured by the monarchy, in the fourteenth century, the Knights Templar were forcibly dissolved in accordance with orders from the Pope and Temple Church became the property of the Knights Hospitaller. The Knights Hospitaller then rented the Temple Church to two legal colleges. These two colleges, now known as the Middle and Inner Temples, have been located there ever since.
Today, Temple Church is a working church and is open to the public. Sadly, much of it was destroyed in a German air raid in World War II, but it has since been restored. One of the highlights of the visit is seeing the unique effigies of ten knights on its floor, each with individual characteristics.
As discussed in the Dan Brown novel, “The Davinci Code”, which sets a very powerful scene at the site, these effigies do not mark the locations of actual tombs.
The Great Fire of London Monument commemorates the major fire of 1666.
The Great Fire of London Monument, often known simply as “The Monument” is a Doric column designed by Sir Christopher Wren and built between 1671 and 1677 to commemorate the Great Fire of London. It is crowned with a vase of flames.
The Great Fire of London was a major fire which began on 2 September 1666 and was not extinguished until 5 September of the same year. What started as a blaze in a baker’s house in Pudding Lane soon engulfed much of the city, destroying thousands of buildings, from private homes to public monuments.
The height of the monument is 202 feet, a particularly significant figure which represent the distance between the Great Fire of London Monument and the place where the fire began.
Visitors can climb the 311 steps of the Great Fire of London Monument for views of the city.
The London Royal Air Force Museum offers a great overview of the history of aviation in combat as well as housing over 100 aircraft from around the world.
The Royal Air Force Museum (RAF Museum) in Hendon in North London has a series of exhibitions dedicated to the history of the RAF and aviation in general.
Housing a fantastic collection of over 100 aircraft, the RAF museum has an impressive selection of planes including some of the most famous to have ever graced the skies.
Also on show at the London Royal Air Force Museum are a series of objects and structures from throughout the history of aviation, such as two World War I hangars, a World War II Battle of Britain exhibition and a timeline of aviation history.
The Tower of London is a famous fortress and prison originally commissioned by the first Norman king, William the Conqueror.
The Tower of London, originally known as the White Tower, was commissioned by the first Norman king, William the Conqueror and work on it was underway by the 1070s. It was designed as a fortress-stronghold, a role that remained unchanged right up until the late 19th century.
The Tower of London was also used as a residence for monarchs of England, and it was traditionally used by monarchs in the run up to their coronation. However the Tower is most famous for its use as a prison.
The Tower of London held prisoners for over 850 years - from Ranulf Flambard, Bishop of Durham who was imprisoned for extortion in 1100 and who managed to escape to infamous East London gangsters Ronnie and Reggie Kray in 1952 for going AWOL from the army.
Anne’s daughter, Elizabeth I was imprisoned here by her half-sister Mary I. She sat on the steps by the watergate (known now as Traitor’s gate) and wept. She was later forgiven and released.
Only seven people were executed within the Tower’s walls - including Anne Boleyn - but the list of people who at one time or another were imprisoned in the Tower of London reads like a who’s who of 1,000 years of Britain’s history and includes:
William ‘Braveheart’ Wallace, Scottish knight in 1305
Richard II of England in 1399
James I of Scotland in 1406
Henry VI of England in 1471
Edward V of England & Richard of Shrewsbury – The Princes in the Tower in 1483
Saint Thomas More, Renaissance humanist in 1534
Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII in 1536
Thomas Cromwell, Reformation advocate in 1540
Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury in 1553
Lady Jane Grey, uncrowned Queen of England in 1553
Queen Elizabeth I in 1554
Sir Walter Raleigh, explorer, writer, poet and spy in 1603
Guy Fawkes for his part in the Gunpowder Plot in 1605
Samuel Pepys, diarist in 1679
Sir Robert Walpole, future Prime Minister in 1712
Rudolf Hess, deputy leader of the Nazi party in 1941
Also at the Tower are mysteries, for example, what did happen to the Princes in the Tower? It also supposedly boasts ghosts, notably Arbella Stuart, cousin of James I who was imprisoned and possibly murdered in the Queens’ house in 1615.
There is a great deal to see and do at the Tower: the beefeaters, ravens, site of the menagerie and just walking around it to soak up the history. Allow plenty of time for your visit. This site also features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions of the United Kingdom.
Tower Bridge is an iconic nineteenth century bridge over the Thames in London.
Tower Bridge is an iconic nineteenth century bridge which stands over the Thames in London.
The impetus to build Tower Bridge began gaining momentum in 1876, when it was decided that there was a need for a bridge to the east of London Bridge to accommodate the increasing commercial development in that part of the city. A competition was launched for the design of this new bridge, as a result of which city architect Horace Jones and engineer John Wolfe Barry were chosen to collaborate on the project.
The main concern was that the location of this new bridge meant that it could not be built in a traditional style as it had to allow access to ships to the port of London. Thus, Tower Bridge was designed as a drawbridge so that it would not obstruct the shipping passing up or downstream. The solution is what you see today, except that the once steam powered mechanisms are now electric.
Tower Bridge was opened in 1894 by the then Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII). The walkways, much used by the population, were closed to the public from 1910 to 1982 as many ‘undesirables' were using it. They were reopened in 1982 and now Tower Bridge offers a wonderful exhibition on its structure and engineering. It can even be hired for private functions.
Verulamium was a Roman settlement near modern day St Albans in England.
Verulamium was a prominent Roman settlement near modern day St Albans in England. Formerly the tribal capital of the native Catuvellauni tribe, Verulamium was conquered by the Romans during their invasion of the island in 43 AD.
By 50 AD, Verulamium had become a major Roman town, and as such was a prime target during the revolt of Boudica in 61 AD, when the town was burnt to the ground. However, never ones to be perturbed, the Romans crushed the revolt and re-built Verulamium, and it remained a central Roman town for the next four hundred years.
The Roman remains at Verulamium consist of a variety of buildings - a basilica, bathhouse and part of the city walls to be found in Verulamium Park, but the most impressive are the remains of the roman theatre which lie across the road from Verulamium Park.
As well as the site itself, Verulamium Museum stands on St Michael’s St, with displays of Roman everyday life. There are some impressive murals and mosaics and a variety of interactive displays.
The Victoria and Albert Museum displays millions of works of art from around the world and spans 3,000 years of history.
The Victoria and Albert Museum, better known as the V and A, in London is one of the world’s most prominent museums of design and decorative art.
Housing a vast array of items from around the world and throughout history, including Ancient Chinese art, Indian sculptures and medieval and renaissance masterpieces, the millions of artefacts and works displayed by the Victoria And Albert Museum span a period of over 3,000 years.
This museum is devoted to the history of the local area and that of the town of Watford itself.
Watford Museum covers the history of the local area and that of Watford itself, reflecting the diversity of life in this town located just outside London.
It has a number of permanent exhibitions including local history; particularly interesting are the exhibitions on the Earls of Essex and Cassiobury Park. The history and the growth of the town is also examined, including its transformation from a small market town to the bustling centre it is today.
Watford Museum also has exhibitions about Watford Football Club and has an impressive collection of footballing memorabilia. Also found within the museum is a collection of fine art, some donated by local residents, and some acquired by the museum. Particularly interesting are the portraits of the Earls of Essex (both the Devereux and the Capel families).
Westminster Abbey is an iconic medieval structure and the site of many historic royal events, from coronations and weddings to burials.
Westminster Abbey is an iconic medieval structure and the site of many historic royal and national events, from coronations and weddings to burials and even deaths. Centrally located in London, Westminster Abbey was first constructed in the eleventh century by King Edward the Confessor, a Saxon king who dedicated this new church to St Peter.
Before the Abbey
In fact, the site on which Westminster Abbey was built was already of religious importance prior to its construction. The earliest record of the site of Westminster Abbey being used for religious purposes dates to the mid 10th century, when St Dunstan arrived at what was then known as Thorny Island to establish a religious house for the Benedictine order. The king built his church near to the existing monastic buildings.
The First Burial, the First Coronation
Westminster Abbey was consecrated in December 1065, a few days before Edward died. Fittingly, the king was the first of a long line of monarchs to be buried there. In 1066, William the Conqueror added to the growing prestige of Westminster Abbey by choosing to be crowned there, becoming King William I on 25th December 1066. From that point onwards, Westminster Abbey would be the site of almost every royal coronation.
By the middle of the 12th century, Edward the Confessor had been canonised and his remains were moved to a magnificent shrine within the Abbey’s sanctuary, where pilgrims would flock to ask for his intercession. They also gave donations to the shrine, making Westminster Abbey rather wealthy. In the 13th century, King Henry III resolved to rebuild Westminster Abbey to make it rival the French Gothic cathedrals of the era. This construction project would eventually form the current incarnation of the Abbey. He also moved the remains of St Edward to an even more magnificent shrine, where he still remains.
Death of Henry IV
One of the most famous events recorded to have taken place in the Abbey was the death of Henry IV in the Jerusalem Chapel in 1413. It had been predicted that he would die in Jerusalem, so, when he collapsed in the Abbey, he knew he was dying when he was taken to the Jerusalem chamber. Shakespeare immortalised the scene with Henry V trying the crown on while his father lay dying.
The 16th century finds the Tudor monarchs influencing the history of the Abbey: Henry VII started to build the Lady Chapel, Henry VIII dissolved the monastery (but spared the Abbey) and Elizabeth I established the Abbey as the foremost cathedral in England (a position it only held briefly).
Over 3,000 people are buried at Westminster Abbey. There are 600 tombs and monuments to see, many of them Royal and open to visitors. Some of the most famous royals buried there are Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth I and Henry III. The tomb of the Unknown Soldier is in the Abbey and there is a service each Remembrance Sunday. Funeral services for important figures and royalty are also held in the Abbey and over time prominent funerals at the Abbey have included those of Winston Churchill, George VI, Princess Diana and Queen Elizabeth I.
Poets’ corner is one of the main attractions at the Abbey, it being the burial site of many prominent non-royal figures. The first poet to be buried here was Geoffrey Chaucer, and many others have joined him in the succeeding centuries.
The Coronation Chair
In addition to the numerous burial sites and architectural features, one of the most impressive sites at Westminster Abbey is the Coronation Chair, produced in 1300-1301 under the orders of King Edward I (Longshanks). Its purpose was to accommodate the Stone of Scone, which the king had brought from Scotland.
To have an informed visit and to see the most interesting parts of Westminster Abbey, take a tour, as just wandering around can be overwhelming.
Along with Westminster Palace and Saint Margaret's Church, Westminster Abbey is a UNESCO world heritage site.