A city with over two thousand years of existence, a capital housing several cultures and populated with historical milestones. One life is not enough to truly get to know London, but there are places that should be visited at least one time in your life. Here you can find some suggestions to enjoy to the fullest your stay in the capital of England.
London, the old “Londinium” from the Roman Empire. The capital of England is inseparably linked to its river, Thames, and it is said that the name comes from the sentence “following the river”. It is estimated that, already in 140 AD, there were approximately 60 thousand people living in Londinium and around 200 AD the Romans built a three km wall limiting the old city for 1,600 years.
Where Covent Garden is located presently, one kilometre away, there was once another city called Lundenwic and, today, London is the result of the extension of the latter with the old Roman city, where Aldwych can be found now, sounding precisely as “old city”. It will be after the Battle of Hastings, 14 October 1066, when the Normand defeated the Anglo-Saxons – a mix of German tribes and indigenous groups such as Breton – that the English royal dynasty begins, with William I as the first King to be crowned at Westminster Abbey, on 25 December 1066.
Today London is a cosmopolitan city attracting people from all races and religions but maintaining its ancient history in all of its stones. The Westminster Abbey – it should not be confused with the Westminster Cathedral – the construction of which started in 960 (being rebuilt in 1517) was always the coronation location of the English Kings and Queens, being a milestone of permanent stability. There we can find the tombs of the great English monarchs, but is also worth a visit to contemplate the last addresses of distinguished history names responsible for the birth of this Nation, who shaped the modern world, such as the scientists Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin. Royal weddings are also celebrated here. It was where Queen Elizabeth II, still a Princess, got married in 1947. In 1960, Princess Margaret wedded Antony Armstrong-Jones and, in 1973, Queen Elizabeth’s only child, Princess Anne, wedded Captain Mark Phillips. Prince Charles, however, chose St. Paul’s Cathedral for his media spectacle wedding with Diana, in 1981. Ultimately, Charles chose the place where, still in the 7th century, the first church of England was constructed (still made of wood) before the construction of the actual structure, which began in 1677. His brother, Andrew, chose the Westminster Abbey to wed Sarah Ferguson, in 1986. And, in 2011, it was the son of Charles and Diana, Prince William, that got married in Westminster to Kate Middleton, becoming the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Among these stones that make London one of the everlasting cities of the world, there is also the Tower of London, the castle where the Kings and Queens of England lived until, little by little, its main role, between the 16th and the 17th centuries, ended up being a prison. Today, it is one of the most visited locations of the city, with around three million annual visits. But, this is not a really high number, since the Tower of London is well behind locations such as the National Gallery, the British Museum and the Natural History Museum, all having an average of 5 million annual visitors.
Please bear in mind that, every year, London is visited by around 20 million tourists. That is, to take an extreme view, as if the entire Portugal population decided to visit London twice a year.
The city has a broad metropolitan network, the oldest in the world, having been inaugurated in January 1863, during the “Victorian Age”. Something that for many may be overrated is the attention that Londoners pay to the risk of fire. But that is due to a big part of London having been destructed because of a fire known as “The Great Fire of London”, in 1666, between September 2 and 5. More than 13 thousand houses and hundreds of churches – including St. Paul’s Cathedral – were destructed by the fire. A fire which started at a bakery, in Pudding Lane, and that quickly spread throughout a medieval city.
London is also house of notorious sports events, such as the Wimbledon Tennis Tournament, existing since 1877 and being also the oldest in the world. The 2019 edition is scheduled to July 1 to 14. Other London facilities that should be mentioned are the football fields. After all, it is the home of football – where Portugal, in 1966, conquered the third place in the World Championship in its first participation in a final stage of the competition and losing only to the home team (in a controversial manner) – having teams like Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham and West Ham, only to mention some of the most internationally recognized names.
London needs more than one simple visit, or even more than a life time, to exhaust all the cultural, gastronomic and historical possibilities which can be enjoyed. However, a basic guide of what to do and what to see would not be complete without mentioning a visit to the London Bridge, which can be contemplated from the “London Eye”, or the Piccadilly lights and shopping at Oxford Street.
Enjoy London at least one time in your life or do your best to return more times.
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