Home to iconic sights like St Paul’s Cathedral, Big Ben and Buckingham Palace, London abounds with familiar landmarks. But while famous worldwide, each of these monuments, palaces and historic structures has a lesser-known story behind it. These surprising facts about London and the city’s greatest landmarks will make a visit to the capital even more rewarding.
The bridge that’s become so instantly recognisable opens around 1,000 times each year to allow river traffic to pass by. Occasionally, this hasn’t gone entirely smoothly, though. In 1952, one of London’s red double decker buses was on the bridge when it opened; the driver accelerated to jump the gap and was awarded £10 for his heroic effort.
The Queen’s official London residence, Buckingham Palace, has a staggering 775 rooms. Of these, 19 are State Rooms, which can be visited during the palace’s annual Summer Opening, giving visitors a glimpse into the lives of the British Monarchy.
While many people associate Big Ben with the iconic clock tower that’s now such a familiar sight, this tower is actually named St Stephen’s; Big Ben is in fact the bell within the famous structure.
Nowadays, London Bridge is in fine form and a monument the capital takes great pride in, but back in the year 1014, during the Saxon occupation, this bridge was torn down using boats and ropes.
The London Underground
While it may not be classed as a landmark, the London underground is undoubtedly a part of most visitors’ experience. Each station and tube line within the network has its own charm and characteristics, largely owing to the fact it’s the world’s oldest underground train system, having been constructed in 1863.
The Tower of London
The Tower of London draws visitors in each day to see the Crown Jewels, meet the Beefeaters, and catch sight of the Tower’s ravens. But what makes this monument so unique is its history; in the 13th century the Tower was home to a white bear who would be led to the Thames to wash and catch fish.
What was once the world’s fastest ship is now the world’s only surviving tea clipper. Docked on the harbourside in Greenwich, the combined ship and museum now introduces visitors to this fascinating side of British history.
The statue of Nelson was erected on the column in Trafalgar Square in 1842. But before the statue was put in place, 14 members of the committee who’d commissioned the statue had a dinner party on top of the 170-foot column.
St Paul’s Cathedral
In the cathedral’s Whispering Gallery, a whisper can be heard all the way over the other side of the dome as one person whispers into the wall while another listens on the other side. Within this spectacular structure, it’s this curious feature that’s a highlight for many visitors.
Houses of Parliament
Also known as the Palace of Westminster, the Houses of Parliament has around five kilometres of corridors. And, according to British law, it’s illegal to enter the Houses of Parliament wearing a suit of armour.
See the capital’s most famous sights in one day by joining a day trip around London with Evan Evans, see inside Cutty Sark in Greenwich, or cruise along the Thames taking in the city’s riverside sights along the way.
Image credits: Cover photo of Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square © iStock / ferrantraite. Tower Bridge © iStock / sborisov. Tower of London © iStock / Leonid Andronov. Nelson’s Column © iStock / Roberto A Sanchez. St Paul’s Cathedral © iStock / Poohz.