Varied sights in London

Around the year 50 AD. London was founded by the Roman Emperor Claudius on the north bank of the Thames as Londinium. It has become the capital and largest city of the United Kingdom. The city, with a population of approximately 8.6 million (2015), is roughly bisected from west to east by the River Thames. The city has an area of 1572 square kilometers and is full of sights. The most famous attractions include the large Ferris wheel that is unmissable on the city skyline and the grand palace ‘Palace of Westminster’ also known as the ‘Houses of Parliament’. If you go to London for a day or weekend, make a selection of the highlights. If you want good weather, visit the city from June to August when the average temperature is 22°C.

London Eye

Into the heights

For those of us who are not afraid of heights, a ride on the gigantic Ferris wheel in the city is highly recommended. The London Eye is a Ferris wheel 135 meters high. The Ferris wheel was built in 1998 for the celebration of the turn of the millennium in 2000 and that is why it is also called the Millennium Wheel. At the time, the London Eye was the largest Ferris wheel in the world, but was surpassed in March 2014 by the 167.6 meter high High Roller in Las Vegas (America).

Nice piece of work

The steel rim and legs of the wheel are made by the Dutch company Mercon. The drive and control are also of Dutch origin and were developed by the Bosch Rexroth company. The 23 meter long center shaft comes from the Czech Republic and the bearings come from Germany. The Ferris wheel has 32 closed capsules built by a French company specialized in manufacturing ski lifts and by an Italian company that provided the glassware for the cabins. The wheel weighs a total of 1700 tons and rotates at 0.26 meters per second. The speed is so slow that the wheel is not stopped for passengers to board and disembark. The ride lasts thirty minutes and offers views over seven counties and no fewer than 36 bridges over the River Thames.

Visit

The wheel is open daily (except December 25) from 11am to 6pm in low season (January-May and September-December). In high season (late May-early September) the last boarding round ends at 8:30 PM. A ticket costs £32.45 (€37.80) in online pre-sale and £36.00 (€42.00) at the ticket counter.*

Natural History Museum

Charles Darwin

One of the most famous museums is the Natural History Museum, which is also the largest natural history museum in the United Kingdom. It has gained worldwide fame because some of the items were collected by Charles Darwin (1809 1882). The rooms in the museum are divided into five main collections: botany, entomology, mineralogy, paleontology and zoology. The museum contains eighty million items, including a 32-meter-long replica of the skeleton of a Diplodocus carnegii (dinosaur).

Relocation

The original collection of the museum was based on the collection of rarities by Hans Sloane (1660-1753) and was housed in the so-called British Museum. Due to lack of space, most of Sloane’s collection was sold in 1806-1813 by natural history department manager George Shaw. The 1833 annual report noted that of Sloane’s 5,500 insects, not one has been preserved. In 1856, biologist Richard Owen (1804-1892) became supervisor of the museum and stopped the sale of the collection by building an additional building that became known as the British Museum (Natural History). The British Museum (Natural History) was built between 1873 and 1880, but the move of the collection was not completed until 1883. In 1963 the natural history department separated from the British Museum and in 1992 it was renamed the Natural History Museum.

Visit

If you want to be one of the five million visitors who visit the museum every year, you can do so for free. The museum is open daily (except July 13 and December 24-26) from 10 a.m. to 5:50 p.m. A specific amount is charged for the temporary exhibitions.
Source: Misterzee, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-3.0)

Tower Bridge

Bridge

Are you an outdoor person? Then take a walk along the Thames and walk over Tower Bridge. The bridge was built to connect with the east side of London. A permanent bridge could not be built, because that would prevent ships from passing through. Architect Horace Jones (1819-1887) offered a solution for Londoners who longed for a connection between the two banks.

Construction

In 1886, construction of Tower Bridge started and 432 workers started work. More than 70,000 tons of concrete were placed in the riverbed to support the structure. The bridge was built from 11,000 tons of steel which was then clad with slabs of granite and stone to enhance the look and protect it from the elements. The bridge was completed in 1894.

Walking above the Thames

The bridge is 244 meters long and has two 65 meter high towers on either side. The bridge between the towers is a so-called bascule bridge where the bridge deck can open and close for shipping. The bridge deck is opened a thousand times every year for the passage of large ships, such as cruise ships. The towers and the banks are connected by two suspension bridges and the tops of the towers are connected by two walkways that hang 44 meters above the water. In November 2014, part of the floor of one of the suspension bridges was replaced with glass panels of 11 meters long and 7.5 centimeters thick. It may be scary to look down, but if you’ve already been on the London Eye it’s a piece of cake.

London Zoo

Zoo

If you have small children, you might enjoy visiting the zoo. London Zoo opened on April 27, 1828 and is the world’s oldest scientific zoo. The first animal enclosures were built in 1826 by the founders of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) Sir Stamford Raffles and Sir Humphry Davy. When the zoo opened it housed the orangutan, Arabian oryx (antelope) and a now extinct quagga (zebra) and Tasmanian tiger (marsupial). The zoo was also the first to open a reptile house, insect house and a public aquarium in the period 1849-1881.

20,000 animals

In the 1990s the zoo had grown to seven thousand animals, but due to lackluster interest the zoo almost had to close its doors. The reason for the decline in visitor numbers was the change in public attitudes towards the captivity of animals in zoos in general. In response, the zoo raised money and built bigger and better enclosures for the animals. Today the zoo houses more than 20,000 animals from more than seven hundred different species. This makes it one of the largest zoos (in terms of numbers) in the United Kingdom.

Visit

The zoo is open daily (except December 24-26) from 10am, but has varying closing times. From April 1 to September 3 they are open until 6 p.m. In the period January 1-February 20 and September 4-October 20, the doors are closed at 5:30 PM. They close at 5pm between October 21 and 29 and at 4pm between October 30 and December 31. A ticket at the box office costs £29.75 (34.70) and via online pre-sale you pay £24.30 (28.35).
Source: Skeeze, Pixabay

Palace of Westminster and Big Ben

No Ben

Anyone who goes to London should definitely take a look at the clock tower in which the most famous bell in the world, Big Ben, hangs. Big Ben was installed in 1858 and can be reached by climbing 334 steps. Unfortunately, tourists are not allowed to view the clock. This insight is only available to residents of the United Kingdom who must submit a written request to Parliament. The clock hangs in the Elizatbeth Tower of the Palace of Westminster. The Palace of Westminster is one of the most photographed buildings in London and its fame increased after the installation of Big Ben.

The palace

The Westminister Palace was the residence of the Royal family and the first stones were placed between 1016 and 1035. Over the centuries, the palace was damaged several times by major fires. The oldest surviving element of the original palace is Westminster Hall. The wooden ceiling is the largest medieval ceiling in England. Since the great fire in 1512, the building is no longer used by the Royal family but by parliament. The neo-Gothic appearance of the current palace dates from 1870.

Visit

The building can be viewed in two ways; via a guided tour or via an audio tour. A guided tour costs £25.50 (29.70) and runs every Saturday from Tuesday to Friday from September 14 to October 7 and from December 20 to 29. The audio tour costs £18.50 (21.55) and lasts 75 minutes, just like the guided tour, but is not available in Dutch. The building is open daily (except Sundays and December 24 and 31) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (weekdays) and 8.45 a.m. to 4.45 p.m. (Saturdays).
* The prices and opening hours mentioned apply to 2017