I was very surprised to hear that many of the other students I’m traveling with have no intention of visiting any of the tourist-y attractions like Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace or The Tower of London, and I have an issue with that.
These “tourist-y” attractions are go-to places because they are part of English culture and history to the point that, just as most New Yorkers have gone to see the Statue of Liberty or Washington D.C., most Londoners have visited these sights! They are important and well known attractions for a reason — and preferring to spend the admission fee on drinks is not an excuse. You can drink back in the States for less money. You can’t see the Tower of London.
Rant complete, I spent my first weekend sculling around the main tourist area of London. What’s very nice is that many of the most well-known tourist attractions are located in a very central area so my fellow Intern, Moriah, and I made a day of it. We took a bus to the London Eye, snapped some photos, traversed across the Thames past Big Ben and Parliament, explored Westminster Abbey and ended the day outside of Buckingham Palace. Then we treated ourselves to our first round of fish n’ chips. These ones from a chippy (fish ‘n chippy?) and they were both incredibly delicious and incredibly greasy.
I’m not ashamed to say that Moriah and I went to the Coca Cola London Eye for the Insta. Neither of us were interested in actually riding the wheel. Also unashamed to announce that I tracked down the spot where Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper filmed the London Eye scene in “Doctor Who” S1E1 “Rose.”
Parliament and Big Ben. Fun fact: Big Ben is the name of the bell, not the tower. However, the tower is under construction and all boarded up, so I wasn’t seeing either. The closest I’m getting to Big Ben this trip is this Piccadilly Circus Lego replica!
Westminster Abbey is entirely worth the admission, though you can get in for free if you attend a mass or evening song. Westminster has something for everyone and the admission includes an audio tour that gives information on the awe-inspiring architecture, beautiful stained glass, past and current history of both the Abbey and the royal family (hello all of those recent royal weddings), and the famed writers and scientists who are buried under the Abbey’s floor.
Personally, I was most excited to see those of recently interned Stephen Hawking, the Bronte sisters, Newton… As a literary geek who kind of wishes she was a scientist and LOVES history- I basically just had a continuous fangirl attack the entire tour. It was wonderful.
Buckingham Palace is another one of those Instagram spots as, when we went, the palace was not open for tours. However, when the tours did open, they booked very quickly so, if this is something you’re interested in, make sure to keep an eye out and book those tickets as early as possible!