The recent royal birth of Prince William and Kate’s first child has London buzzing. You could really feel the excitement surrounding the birth and pageantry that the royals are famous for providing. There is also a sense of relief now that the waiting is over. The news stations and media outlets surrounded St. Mary’s hospital for days providing unending coverage on the Duchess of Cambridge’s status. Tradition is everywhere when the royal family is involved, and history will not soon forget this birth.
One of my favorite aspects of living in London is experiencing the city’s storied history. It has been awesome to learn about the wealth of history in the city and a unique experience to witness British history in the making. I have witnessed two big events in my time here so far that I will never forget. Those two events have been the royal birth of Prince George and Andy Murray’s great Wimbledon championship win. As an avid tennis fan, watching Murray become the first British player to win the Wimbledon men’s singles title since Fred Perry in 1936 was extremely exciting. Watching the match at a crowded pub provided a fun atmosphere for viewing history.
One of the things I have found fascinating about London is the depth of history found throughout the city. There are very few buildings in the US that are 200 years old, and it is fascinating to see places such as the Tower of London that have been around for centuries. Many buildings are protected and cannot be demolished or significantly altered due to their architecture. There are certain areas of the city that were bombed out during WWII that contain much newer and taller modern glass or concrete buildings. Without any extensive knowledge of WWII history you can get a sense of what areas were bombed flat during the war by observing the buildings around you.
One of my favorite sights has been the Battle of Britain Memorial. The Battle of Britain Memorial provides a solemn reminder of all the events that occurred during the war. The memorial, located near Dover, is found on the cliffs overlooking the ocean. The memorial provides stunning views of the water, and consists of a large circular hillside with a statue of a pilot in the center and large propeller like features extending outward from the center.
Scattered throughout London are seemingly endless amounts of commemorative memorials, plaques, and statues. It’s hard to walk anywhere in central London without seeing a statue that was built in honor of some past King, Queen, or British war hero. There are projects that were very recently dedicated during Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee and much older memorials such as Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square, which commemorates Admiral Nelson who died in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. There is even a statue of President Abraham Lincoln near Westminster Abbey and Parliament. For tourists it can be difficult to walk around without stopping to take hundreds of pictures of the decorative and commemorative stonework.
Trips to the National Gallery or the British Museum can quickly turn into all day affairs. Both museums are free to the general public and both provide stunning collections of artwork and artifacts from around the globe. Many of the pieces are acquisitions by the British Elite dating back to the country’s colonial periods. Items like the Rosetta Stone, a giant Easter Island head, or paintings by Rembrandt provide you with varied glimpses into history.
History is all around you when visiting London. It would be impossible to miss the many notable landmarks. Given extra free time, the city is a wonderful place to explore without a map or agenda. Wandering through the streets can be as rewarding as visiting an historic landmark.