In my hometown, the most beautiful building we have is probably the Wal-Mart, so my first few weeks in London can be aptly defined as a culture shock. London is an amazing city bursting with history and beauty on every street. My walk from my apartment in Southwark to the Strand campus at Kings College is no exception.
1. The Palace of Westminster
Also called the Houses of Parliament, this is the meeting place for the House of Lords and House of Commons. The buildings we see today are largely reconstructions built after the devastating Great Fire of 1834. Architect Charles Barry designed the new Gothic style construction that incorporated the surviving structures. It took more than 30 years and over £2 million, but the gorgeous result still stands regally over the Thames today.
Fun fact: “Big Ben” is actually the name of the bell inside the tower. It was officially dubbed The Elizabeth Tower at Queen Elizabeth II‘s Diamond Jubilee last year.
2. Blackfriar’s Bridge
If you’ve read Cassandra Clare’s The Infernal Devices series, you might understand why I’m a little crazy about this bridge. It was designed by Robert Mylne in the mid 18th century. After a series of extensive repairs between 1833 and 1840, it was deemed necessary to reconstruct the bridge entirely. The bridge we see today was presented to the public by Queen Victoria.
3. The London Eye
Perhaps the most unconventional and definitely the most modern member of this list, the Eye has no doubt become ingrained in British identity. Original named The Millennium Wheel, this massive ferris wheel was designed by architects David Marks and Julia Barfield to represent the constant turning of time into the new millennium. It has since become the highest grossing tourist attraction in London.
4. The Thames
Okay, so maybe mother nature doesn’t have a degree in architecture, but this famous river is just begging to be put on the list. It’s the longest river in England and second longest in the UK. There’s evidence that humans lived off the banks of this river dating back to the Neolithic era, and it has appeared innumerable times since then in historical and literary documents my favorite being T. S. Eliot’s The Wasteland:
The river’s tent is broken; the last fingers of leaf
Clutch and sink into the wet bank. The wind
Crosses the brown land, unheard. The nymphs are departed.
Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song.