Language Dossier

London Sights

Seven "must-see" sights to visit in the cool capital of England!

Buckingham Palace

This is the Windsor family's London home. (The royal flag flies above it when when the queen or king is there). But royalty didn't always live there. Buckingham House was built by the Duke of Buckingham, bought by the king George III, and rebuilt as a palace by George IV. In 1837, Queen Victoria was the first British ruler to live in the revamped residence. Since 1993, paying visitors can look round the residence during the summer, when the Royal Family is away.  

Nelson's Column

This 51-metre solid stone column in Trafalgar Square has got a statue of Admiral Horatio Nelson -Britain's most successful sea captain- on the top. Nelson died in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Tourists love taking photos of the pigeons there, but there isn't a statue of a pigeon in the square! However, there are four awesome bronze lions which guard the base of Nelson's column.

Downing Street

Downing Street was built by George Downing, a 17th century property developer and MP. King George II gave number 10 -a fairly small house- to his Prime Minister Robert Walpole, and it's been the British PM's official London home since then. The Chancellor of the Exchequer (the British finance minister) usually lives in number 11, which is bigger. King George II had eight children himself, but he clearly didn't imagine a Prime Minister having teenage kids who need lots of space. In the 1990's, PM Tony Blair and his family swapped with the Chancellor, and moved into number 11. For security reasons, the street is closed to the public.

Big Ben

The clock tower is the most famous bit of the British Houses of Parliament. A light shines from the top when the House of Commons meets at night. The tower is known as Big Ben, but that's really the name of the bell inside it. Some believe it got its name from Sir Benjamin Hall; others that the bell may have been named after a contemporary heavyweight boxer called Benjamin Caunt. Big Ben isn't open to the public, but the bell is so loud no one would want to go in anyway!

St Paul's Cathedral

This cathedral -with its huge domed roof- was designed by Christopher Wren, probably Britain's most famous architect. There are 535 steps leading to the 85-metre-high Golden Gallery at the top of the dome, and some fab views of London can be seen after climbing them all.

The Monument

This column has got a sculpture of flames on the top. It was paid for by the British Parliament and designed by Sir Christopher Wren to commemorate the Great Fire of London, which burnt most of the city to the ground in 1666. The Monument is 61 metres high. Why? Because 61 metres is the distance from the base of the column to the bakery in Pudding Lane where the Great Fire began! The Monument is the tallest free-standing stone column in the world and it can be climbed too. Making one's way up all the 311 steps inside it means getting good views from the top.

The Tower of London

This medieval castle has 2,500,000 visitors every year. King William I started building it, and different English rulers have added to it over the years. The Tower Guards, in their brightly-coloured Tudor uniforms, are called Beefeaters. The British Crown jewels are on display there.