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3 Most Iconic Sites to Visit in London with Maps

When you come to London, don’t forget to pay a visit to these three most iconic sites in London.

Tower of London

Tower of London is an ancient fortress occupying nearly 13 acres (5 hectares) on the north side of the Thames River in southeast London. The fortress dates from about 1078, when William the Conqueror began erecting the central building, or keep. Because the keep became known as the White Tower, the name "Tower" was applied to the whole fortress that grew up around it. The White Tower was planned for William by Gundulf, a Norman who became bishop of Rochester.

Most of the fortress's walls and fortifications were built in the 13th century. The inner wall, with its 13 towers, was completed in Henry III's reign (1216–1272), and the outer wall in the reign (1272–1307) of Edward I. The modern entrance, completed in 1966, is over a stone causeway crossing the outer moat built by Edward I in 1278.

The Tower was occasionally used as a royal residence until the reign (1603–1625) of James I. It has been used both as a fortress and as a state prison. The first prisoner was Ranulf Flambard, bishop of Durham, one of the original builders of the White Tower. The latest was Rudolf Hess, a Nazi leader, who landed in Britain on an unauthorized mission in 1941.

There are two chapels within the Tower walls: the Norman St. John's Chapel, the oldest church in London, in the White Tower, and St. Peter ad Vincula, which was burned and rebuilt in 1512. Immediately south of the latter is Tower Green, the place of private execution, last used in 1601 for the execution of the Earl of Essex. Public execution took place on Tower Hill, outside the Tower walls.

The Tower of London has long been one of the primary tourist attractions of the city. Of particular interest to visitors are the Crown Jewels, which are housed in the Waterloo Barracks and are highlighted by the Scepter with Cross, which includes the largest cut diamond in the world, the 530-carat First Star of Africa. The Imperial State Crown is also on display, containing 2,868 diamonds (including the 317-carat Second Star of Africa), 273 pearls, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, and 5 rubies.

From 1967 the jewels were housed in the cramped vaults, but in March 1994, to meet the needs of the crowds, a new Jewel House was opened. Occupying the entire first floor of the Waterloo Block, the new quarters can accommodate 20,000 visitors per day, which is four times the capacity of the previous exhibition area.

Map of Tower of London

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace is the London residence of Britain's sovereigns, is situated at the west end of St. James's Park at the terminus of Pall Mall. Queen Victoria was the first British monarch to live there (1837).

The palace was originally built by Sir George Goring (later the earl of Norwich) during the reign (1603–25) of King James I. It was rebuilt (1674, 1703) by John Sheffield, duke of Buckingham and of Normanby, and called Buckingham House. George III bought the building in 1761, and his eldest son and successor, George IV (r. 1820–30), commissioned the architect John Nash to remodel it in 1825, when it was renamed Buckingham Palace.

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George IV's successor, King William IV (r. 1830–37), disliked the palace, however, and refused to live there. He was succeeded by Queen Victoria, who moved into the palace immediately after her accession. The east wing was added in 1847; the south wing and grand ballroom were added in 1853–55.

The garden front remains as designed by Nash. The front facing the Mall, however, which is the facade visible to the public, is set back from a large paved courtyard and was refaced by Sir Aston Webb in 1913, during the reign of King George V. Among the nearly 600 rooms are the Marble Hall and Sculpture Gallery, the throne room, the Blue and the White drawing rooms, and the library. The grounds cover 16 ha (40 acres).

When the sovereign is in residence the Royal Standard is flown and the ceremonial changing of the guard takes place daily. Most of the palace is not open to the public, but tourists may visit the Queen's Gallery, in which works from the Royal Collections are displayed, and the Royal Mews, which houses the state coaches and horses. Since 1993 certain State Rooms, used for official and State entertaining, have also been open to the public from August 6 to October 4.

Map of Buckingham Palace

The British Museum

The British Museum in London houses outstanding collections of antiquities and ethnographic art from around the world. The British Museum was the first public institution of its kind. It was founded in 1753 with the government's acquisition of a famous collection of books, manuscripts, and objects of natural history amassed by the physician and naturalist Sir Hans Sloane (1660–1753).

The Sloane collection was joined with two earlier bequests, the important manuscript library of Edward and Robert Harley, earls of Oxford, and the so-called Cottonian manuscripts, coins, and antiquities donated by Sir Robert Bruce Cotton (1571–1631). George II presented the Royal Library of the Kings of England to the museum in 1757. Two years later the museum was opened to the public at Montagu House in Bloomsbury, its present site.

Interest in archaeology burgeoned during the 19th century. The British Museum acquired treasures of antiquity by gift or purchase. These included (in 1816) the famous Elgin Marbles, classical Greek sculptures from the Acropolis in Athens. With the acquisition of George III's library in 1823, more space was needed to house the expanding collection.

The present building was designed by Sir Robert Smirke; it replaced Montagu House in 1847. Ten years later the immense domed library was completed according to plans drawn up by Sir Anthony Panizzi, the museum's chief librarian. In 1883 the museum's natural-history collection was moved to South Kensington and renamed the Natural History Museum.

The British Library was formed in 1973 from the collections of manuscripts and printed books in the British Museum and other libraries. The Great Court project was designed by Norman Foster and completed in 2000. It reinstates the original 1852 court and includes a new gallery, two theaters, an education center, a restaurant, and a high-tech glass enclosure around the circular Reading Room.

The World Conservation and Exhibitions Centre (completed in 2014) was built 20 m (65 ft) beneath the street, with four modular pavilions above ground. It provides a state-of-the-art facility for the museum's scientific research.

The British Museum collections have four main areas: the antiquities department, the coins and medals department, the prints and drawings department, and the ethnographic department, now located in a separate building and known as the Museum of Mankind. The antiquities department comprises specialized collections of Egyptian, western Asiatic, Greek and Roman, prehistoric British, medieval, and Oriental antiquities.

Prized holdings include the Rosetta Stone, which provided the key to deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphics; Assyrian reliefs from Ashurbanipal's palace at Nineveh; sculptured friezes from the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus; treasures from the Sutton Hoo ship burial; and fine African bronzes and carved ivories.

Map of The British of Museum

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