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article imageSo much to see, so little time — A stroll through central London Special

By Igor I. Solar     Sep 13, 2013 in Travel
London - London is a big city with a lot of history and many interesting places to see. If your time in the city is limited, focusing the visit to the City of Westminster in central London, where some of the main attractions are located, may be the best option.
It was nothing comparable to the Great Smog of 1952, but what I experienced during my brief 8-hour stay in the British capital confirmed my apprehensions about typical weather conditions in London at almost any time of year. I believe it's something that most Londoners could confirm: London is a beautiful city, a great place to live, and very interesting to visit, but better not expect a lot of sunshine.
This can also serve as a justification for the gloomy appearance of the photographs included in this report. I captured many more, but they are even darker than these! Anyway, a brief description of each shot can contribute to a better idea of what each picture shows.
Big Ben
The buildings that serve as the meeting place of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, and the clock tower, are among London's best known landmarks and one of the world's most famous tourist attractions. The clock tower, generally known as Big Ben, was recently renamed “Elizabeth Tower” in honour of Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee. Actually Big Ben is the nickname of the largest of the five bells inside the clock tower. Big Ben weighs more than 13 tonnes. The smaller four bells, known as the “quarter bells”, play a different tune on each passing quarter of the hour.
The clock tower  generally known as Big Ben  was recently renamed “Elizabeth Tower” in honour of...
The clock tower, generally known as Big Ben, was recently renamed “Elizabeth Tower” in honour of Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee. A section of the London Eye appears at the left of the picture.
The British Library
The British Library, established in 1973, is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the largest in the world. Much of the collection came from the Library of the British Museum dating from 1753. It holds approximately 150 million items to which about three million new items are added each year. There are about 625 km of shelves and the library can accommodate at the same time at least 1,200 readers. Outside the Library there is a large bronze statue of Isaac Newton by Scottish sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi from a painting by William Blake.
Sculpture of Isaac Newton in the courtyard of the British Library.
Sculpture of Isaac Newton in the courtyard of the British Library.
London County Hall
Although it no longer serves as the headquarters of London’s local government, the elegant Edwardian Baroque-style building by the River Thames is still known as County Hall (LCH). The construction of LCH started in 1911, but the last block on the south side of Westminster Bridge was not completed until 1974. Located next to the famous London Eye, LCH is currently the site of various businesses and attractions, including the London Sea Life Aquarium, an amusement arcade and the London Eye’s visitor centre. Two hotels and several restaurants are also in the building.
London County Hall is no longer the headquarters of London’s local government  but the name stuck....
London County Hall is no longer the headquarters of London’s local government, but the name stuck. Part of the London Eye can be seen at the left of the picture.
Double-decker buses
When visiting many cities around the world the typical “Hop-on hop-off City Tour” is usually done on a red double decker bus; however for Londoners, double-decker buses, along with “The Tube”, London’s underground rapid transit system, are simply a way to get from one place to another. Still, for visitors riding a double-decker bus, particularly sitting on the top deck, is a great way to see the city. The ubiquitous rear-entrance red double-deckers are widely recognised as a symbol of the city.
Riding the red double-decker buses (on the top deck!) is a good way to see central London.
Riding the red double-decker buses (on the top deck!) is a good way to see central London.
Empire Theatre
Things have changed; however the old Empire Theatre remains part of London’s history. The Empire, located on the north side of Leicester Square, was built in 1884. Until 1927 it operated as a 2000-seat theatre, featuring musical acts, opera and ballet performances. Starting in 1928 the Empire became a cinema. Over time, the Empire has added the most recent technology including digital projection, Dolby 3D, and more recently it was announced that it will switch to IMAX's next-generation laser digital projection system. The Empire also includes a casino on the premises.
The historic Empire Theatre is now a high-tech cinema and Casino.
The historic Empire Theatre is now a high-tech cinema and Casino.
Millennium Bridge
The Millennium Bridge is a pedestrian suspension bridge crossing the River Thames. The steel structure is 325 m long. The bridge was designed to hold 2,000 tons, equivalent to 5,000 people at a time. It was inaugurated on June 10, 2000, but two days later it was closed due to structural failure causing unexpected vibrations which were aggravated by pedestrians trying to compensate for the swaying motion. The bridge was nicknamed “the Wobbly Bridge". After the necessary modifications, the bridge was re-opened in 2002. On the north side of the bridge can be seen the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral.
“Wobbly Bridge .  The pedestrian bridge opened June 10  2000. It was closed two days later for mod...
“Wobbly Bridge". The pedestrian bridge opened June 10, 2000. It was closed two days later for modifications. The bridge was re-opened in 2002. On the north side of the bridge can be seen the dome of St. Paul´s Cathedral.
Paddington Station
The historic Paddington Railway Station, also known as Paddington Underground Station, started operations in 1838. It’s the London terminus for the Great Western Railway, and since 1863 was also a stop for the old Metropolitan Railway, the world's first public underground passenger service which initially operated with gas-lit wooden carriages hauled by steam locomotives. The Met was in operation until 1933 when it was integrated with other underground railways and bus operations. The Heathrow Express links directly central London's Paddington Station with Heathrow Airport.
Busy time at Paddington Railway Station.
Busy time at Paddington Railway Station.
Tower Bridge
London's Tower Bridge is another iconic symbol of the city and one of the most recognizable bridges in the world. The construction of the 265-meter-long bridge across the Thames took eight years (1886–1894). The two steel and stone towers, and the 61-meter bridge span, are supported by two huge piers made with 70,000 tons of concrete sunk into the riverbed. The Victorian Gothic style structure was designed to harmonize with the nearby Tower of London.
The Tower Bridge is one of the most iconic structures in London.
The Tower Bridge is one of the most iconic structures in London.
Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square is also a must see in central London. There are several statues and sculptures in the square, but the best known is Nelson's Column located right at its centre. Nelson’s Column is almost 52 meters tall and has 4 sculpted lions at its base. It commemorates the Battle of Trafalgar, the momentous British naval victory of 1805 over the combined fleets of the French Navy and Spanish Navy. Trafalgar Square is often used by Londoners for public meetings and political demonstration. One such demonstration was actually taking place at the time I took the picture.
A visit to Trafalgar Square may be combined with a stop to see the amazing collection of masterpieces from the beginning of the Renaissance to Post-Impressionism of the National Gallery. Since its founding in 1824, the National Gallery has been internationally recognized as one of the best art galleries in the world. Entrance to the permanent collection is free of charge.
A rally at Trafalgar Square. Demonstrators gather around Nelson s Column on a very cloudy day.
A rally at Trafalgar Square. Demonstrators gather around Nelson's Column on a very cloudy day.
Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey, a cathedral-sized Gothic-style Anglican church, is the traditional place for coronations, weddings and burials of British monarchs. It is located next to the Palace of Westminster. The Abbey was founded in the year 960, but construction of the present church started in 1245. Besides royalty, in Westminster Abbey are also buried many of the great historic personalities of the UK including physicist Isaac Newton, composer Georg Friedrich Händel, novelist Charles Dickens and Biologist Charles Darwin. The Abbey is one of London’s main tourist attractions and, as the picture shows, there are always long lines to enter the church.
North facade of Westminster Abbey. Tourists line up to visit the historic Abbey.
North facade of Westminster Abbey. Tourists line up to visit the historic Abbey.
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