The capital of the UK is home to many iconic buildings, both historic and modern. Some of the finest examples include:
- Palace of Westminster
The meeting place of the UK Parliament was mostly built in the mid-19th century after a major fire destroyed much of the palace. Westminster’s history, however, dates back to as early as 11th century when it was built as a royal palace. It served as home of the Kings of England until the early 16th century when it was heavily damaged by a fire. It was rebuilt shortly thereafter but the King of England left it over to the Parliament that has been meeting on the site since the 13th century. Not much survived of the 16th century building with the exception of a few structures such as the Jewel Tower, Westminster Hall and the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft. As mentioned earlier, most of the palace burned down in a fire in 1834.
In addition to housing the UK Parliament, the Palace of Westminster is today also one of London’s most recognisable landmarks and a major tourist attraction, especially the Big Ben. Since 2012, it is officially called the Elizabeth Tower in honour of Elizabeth II who celebrated a diamond jubilee in the same year.
- The Gherkin (30 St Mary Axe)
The 41-storey skyscraper was built only in 2003 but it immediately became one of London’s most famous buildings and one of the finest example of modern architecture in the city. The skyscraper which was designed by Norman Foster and the Arup Group Limited is located in the city’s financial district, on the site of the Baltic Exchange building that was heavily damaged in a bomb explosion in 1992. Initially, 1,266 feet tall Millennium Tower was planned to replace the Baltic Exchange building but the project was never carried out.
- The Tower of London
The Tower of London is one of the most beautiful and most impressive London’s historic buildings. Though originally built as a royal residence, the Tower was most of its history used as a prison and came to be associated with death. But while many prisoners never came out of the Tower alive, only 7 individuals were executed within the structure until the First World War. Most executions actually took place on the Tower Hill. After the end of the Second World War, the Tower of London was converted in a museum and opened to public.
- The Shard
The 87-storey skyscraper that was completed in 2012 is the tallest building in both London and the UK. The 1,004 feel tall pyramidal skyscraper was designed by Renzo Piano and is topped by an observation deck which was opened to public in February 2013. The Shard is seen as a symbol of London’s forward-looking urban development which, however, safeguards historical buildings that remain the city’s greatest treasure.