Short trip to London

I just came from a quick business trip to London. I learned several important things on that trip:

1. London cannot be seen in less than 3 days (and that if you are running through the sightseeings and not enter any museum). It just has a lot to offer! My personal favourite sightseeing places are:

  • Big Ben
Big Ben is the nickname for the Great Bell of the clock at the north end of the Palace of Westminster in London and is usually extended to refer to both the clock and the clock tower as well. The tower is officially known as Elizabeth Tower, renamed to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II in 2012; previously, it was known simply as the Clock Tower. When completed in 1859, it was, says clockmaker Ian Westworth, “the prince of timekeepers: the biggest, most accurate four-faced striking and chiming clock in the world.” The tower had its 150th anniversary on 31 May 2009, during which celebratory events took place. A British cultural icon, the tower is one of the most prominent symbols of the United Kingdom and is often in the establishing shot of films set in London. On 21 August 2017, the tower began a four-year period of renovation. With a few exceptions, the tower's renowned bells will be silent until the renovation is complete.
Admission: none - you can enjoy the tower from outside

  • Tower of London
The Tower of London, officially named Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London, is a historic castle located on the north bank of the River Thames in central London. It lies within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, separated from the eastern edge of the square mile of the City of London by the open space known as Tower Hill. It was founded towards the end of 1066 as part of the Norman Conquest of England. The White Tower, which gives the entire castle its name, was built by William the Conqueror in 1078 and was a resented symbol of oppression, inflicted upon London by the new ruling elite. The castle was used as a prison from 1100 until 1952, although that was not its primary purpose. A grand palace early in its history, it served as a royal residence. As a whole, the Tower is a complex of several buildings set within two concentric rings of defensive walls and a moat. There were several phases of expansion, mainly under Kings Richard the Lionheart, Henry III, and Edward I in the 12th and 13th centuries. The general layout established by the late 13th century remains despite later activity on the site. You can see the castle from outside, but it only reveals its treasures if you enter inside. It holds the biggest royal treasure. This breathtaking, world famous collection of 23,578 gemstones are still used in royal ceremonies today. See more here
Admission: Adult (16+ years old): £21.50; Child (5-15 years old): £9.70

  • Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge is a combined bascule and suspension bridge in London built between 1886 and 1894 (yes, it is that new, despite its old fashioned look). Actually there was a contest for its building. The most important condition was the bridge to be a good fit to the old Tower of London which is suited nearby. The bridge consists of two bridge towers tied together at the upper level by two horizontal walkways, designed to withstand the horizontal tension forces exerted by the suspended sections of the bridge on the landward sides of the towers. The vertical components of the forces in the suspended sections and the vertical reactions of the two walkways are carried by the two robust towers. The bascule pivots and operating machinery are housed in the base of each tower. Before its restoration in the 2010s, the bridge's colour scheme dated from 1977, when it was painted red, white and blue for Queen Elizabeth II's Silver Jubilee. Its colours were subsequently restored to blue and white. The bridge deck is freely accessible to both vehicles and pedestrians, whereas the bridge's twin towers, high-level walkways and Victorian engine rooms form part of the Tower Bridge Exhibition, for which an admission charge is made. It is a great pleasure to see how huge ships cross that bridge. For best views, go to the nearby London Bridge and enjoy the moving platforms of the Tower bridge while ships pass underneath. 
Admission: free if you want to walk on the bridge. If you want to see the exhibition and climb the towers: Adult £9.80; Child (aged 5-15) £4.20   

  • Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace is the London residence and administrative headquarters of the reigning monarch of the United Kingdom. Located in the City of Westminster, the palace is often at the centre of state occasions and royal hospitality. It has been a focal point for the British people at times of national rejoicing and mourning. If you are there before noon (usually between 10:30 and 12:00 am) you can enjoy the ceremony of Guard change. It lasts for 45 min so you do not have to stay for the whole... but the views of the guards marching and the parade horses is something that will stay for long in your mind. 
Admission: none - you watch it from outside. Some organized tours offer visit of several rooms in the palace, but I personally don't think it is worth it. 

  • St. Paul's 
This is the seat of the Bishop of London and the mother church of the Diocese of London. It sits on Ludgate Hill at the highest point of the City of London. Its dedication to Paul the Apostle dates back to the original church on this site, founded in AD 604. The present cathedral, dating from the late 17th century, was designed in the English Baroque style by Sir Christopher Wren. Its construction was part of a major rebuilding programme in the City after the Great Fire of London. The cathedral is one of the most famous and most recognisable sights of London. Its dome, framed by the spires of Wren's City churches, has dominated the skyline for over 300 years. At 365 feet (111 m) high, it was the tallest building in London from 1710 to 1967. The dome is among the highest in the world. St Paul's is the second-largest church building in area in the United Kingdom after Liverpool Cathedral.
Admission: Adult £18, children £8

  • British Museum
The British Museum, located in the Bloomsbury area of London, United Kingdom, is a public institution dedicated to human history, art and culture. Its permanent collection, numbering some 8 million works, is among the largest and most comprehensive in existence and originates from all continents, illustrating and documenting the story of human culture from its beginnings to the present. The British Museum was established in 1753, largely based on the collections of the physician and scientist Sir Hans Sloane. The museum first opened to the public on 15 January 1759, in Montagu House, on the site of the current building. Its expansion over the following two and a half centuries was largely a result of an expanding British colonial footprint and has resulted in the creation of several branch institutions.
It is quite a huge museum with something to offer for every taste. Plan at least half a day to see 10-15% of all its treasures. My favourite is the ancient Egyptian sector. If you are in London for less than 5 days, skip it... you will just not have enough time to see enough of it. 
Admission: free
  • Westminster Abbey
Formally titled the Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, is a large, mainly Gothic abbey church in the City of Westminster, London, just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is one of the United Kingdom's most notable religious buildings and the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English and, later, British monarchs. Between 1540 and 1556, the abbey had the status of a cathedral. Since 1560, the building is no longer an abbey nor a cathedral, having instead the status of a Church of England "Royal Peculiar"—a church responsible directly to the sovereign. The building itself is the original abbey church. The entrance fee is quite high, but it is worth seeing the beautiful architecture at least from outside. 
Admission: Adults online - £20; at the Abbey - £22; 
Children: 6 - 16 years - £9; 0 - 5 years - Free, if accompanied by an adult;
Family: 2 adults and 1 child - £40; 2 adults and 2 children - £45

  • Borough Market
This is a wholesale and retail food market in Southwark, London, England, near London Bridge. It is one of the largest and oldest food markets in London. It is full of great stores and surrounded by lots of pubs. The many food strollers offer great dishes to taste. It closes quite early, so make sure to visit during the day. 
Admission: free (beer consumed not included)
  • The pubs around Borough Market
My favourite place for a beer or two after the working hours. 
Admission: free (beer not included)
  • The beautiful Parks - St. James Park, Hyde Park, Green Park
Enjoy poetry at the Speaker's corner in Hyde Park, (do not) feed the squirrels in Green Park or just lay on the bright green meadows in any of these charming parks... it is up to you. Great place to relax after a day of exploring the London's wonders.
  • The all-year Christmas shop at Harrod's 

For people who love Christmas like me, there is no better place to be than in that store. It offers great (and expensive) Christmas decorations all year round and you can feel the magic of Christmas at any time. They also offer an online shopping, but take an in-person visit to fully feel the atmosphere!

2. London can be a great playground for playing treasure hunt games. This time we went for the amazing City Lights Evening Trail. It was for me the first time to play such a game in London and I really enjoyed it. It says that you require no local knowledge, which is a complete lie. Noone knows what birds keep the monarch safe, unless you are born in the UK (we had an Irish guy in the team and he did not know either). Nevertheless this is a great option to spend some time with your friends. The trail starts nearby Barbican center and takes 1-3 hours with two pub breaks (for us it took a bit more than 3 and we had to skip the breaks as we were running out of time). The beginning was a bit hard for all of us, but once you get into the mood and get the logic of the hints, the real fun begins. The trick to be successful in this game is to read the instructions line by line and do not continue reading unless you are at the right spot. Plus, you need to think out of the box. Good luck, if you want to try! Let me know how it was!

3. It (almost) always rains in London... and when it stops... 
a beautiful rainbow over London Bridge 


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