This probably doesn’t sound like too much fun, but with a political history like England’s, it’s actually downright fascinating. Last week, my virtual walking tour took you through some major sites along the Thames; today, we’ll start out at the same spot (Westminster) and remain just north of the river.
Starting at Westminster Tube station, you have another chance to take in Big Ben and Parliament upon exiting. To spend more time here, you can schedule a tour through Parliament (during the summer only for overseas visitors, but anytime for UK residents and visitors, including climbing the clock tower!) or attend Parlimentary debates or committee meetings.
And if my previously recommended Thames Circuit does not allow you enough time to tour the inside of Westminster Abbey, definitely do so this time round. My personal favorite is the “Poet’s Corner” area of the cathedral, where renowned writers such as Geoffrey Chaucer, Charles Dickens, and Robert Browning are buried and several other greats like Jane Austen, Keats, and Shelley are given memorial. But since I’ve dubbed this the “Government Grouping,” allow me to usher in the relevance by merging Church and State: the Abbey is the site of all coronations (so make sure you see the 13th-century Coronation Chair), and many monarchs are buried here (including Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots, and St. Edward the Confessor). And make sure not to miss former Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s memorial on your way out, near the poppy-lined Tomb of the Unknown Warrior.
Speaking of whom, just a couple blocks toward St. James’s Park delivers you to my favorite museum in London, the Churchill War Rooms. Here you will experience the actual bunker setting in which Winston Churchill and his cabinet strategized during WWII, down to the actual maps charting military movement and sugar cube rations! The adjoining Churchill Museum is a relatively new installment that provides engagingly interactive ways of perusing the immense wealth of information stored there.
From here, you can let the greenery of St. James’s Park tempt you across the road and into acres of pleasant walking paths, duck ponds, and ice cream vendors. OR, you can postpone this delightful stroll a bit longer and walk up Whitehall toward Trafalgar Square. Along the way, you’ll pass the Treasury, Downing Street (with its new resident down at #10), and Horse Guards (a perfect photo-op of uniformed guards) before coming into the square. Standing tall at its center is Nelson’s Column commemorating Admiral Nelson’s 1805 victory at the Battle of Trafalgar, and as its backdrop is the expansive National Gallery Museum if you’re looking to wile away a rainy day inside amidst works of art.
If you didn’t pop over into St. James’s Park before, do so now from Trafalgar Square by walking through the Admiralty Arch and down the Mall toward Buckingham Palace. You can tour the State Rooms and gardens during August and September when the Queen is away on holiday at her Scotland retreat.
From here, I leave it entirely up to you. You can cut through the park to catch the Tube at St. James’s Park Tube station, walk through the adjacent Green Park for the, that’s right, Green Park station, or perhaps wander further west to Hyde Park Corner to catch the Tube, walk into the extensive gardens, or cut over into Knightsbridge for some expensive shopping. But that’s getting into a whole other London Bundle for another day…