April 25, 2013

Some stories behind London’s iconic attractions

They are famous tourist attractions and icons of all things British… but have you ever wondered about the story behind some of London’s most iconic symbols? We share some of the stories, and perhaps not well-known facts, behind some of this famous city’s most loved sights…

Big Ben
The House of Parliament's clock tower, Big Ben, has rarely stopped. Even after a bomb destroyed the Commons chamber during the Second World War, the clock tower survived and Big Ben continued to strike. Technically, Big Ben is actually the name given to the massive bell inside the clock tower, which weighs more than 13 tons. 

London Eye
Did you know? The London Eye is the tallest Ferris wheel in Europe and the most popular paid tourist attraction in the UK.

The red post box
In 1853 the first pillar post box was installed. The earliest boxes were green so as not to stand out too much against its surroundings but this turned out to be so effective that people complained they couldn’t find them. The Post Office then settled on the bright red colour, known today as pillar box red.  

The Tube
Did you know the famous London Tube is the world’s first underground railway? It opened in January 1863 between Paddington and Farringdon stations and used gas-lit wooden carriages hauled by steam locomotives.

Popularly known as the Beefeaters, the Yeoman Warders or ceremonial guardians of the Tower of London are in principle responsible for looking after any prisoners in the Tower and safeguarding the British crown jewels. In practise though, today they act as tour guides and are a tourist attraction in their own right. It is not exactly clear where  the name ‘Beefeaters’ originated but one explanation put forward is that the Warders were allowed to eat as much beef as they wanted from the King's table. One visiting diplomat, on visiting the Tower in 1669, commented "A very large ration of beef is given to them daily at court...that they might be called Beef-eaters".

Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace
The Changing of the Guard ceremony that takes place in the forecourt of Buckingham Palace at around 11am is one of the must-sees when visiting London. What some tourists don’t realise is that the men you see on guard at Buckingham Palace, (and other locations), are not just ceremonial guards but actual professional infantry soldiers.

Telephone booth
Despite a reduction in their numbers in recent years, the traditional red telephone box can still be seen in many places throughout the UK, and in current or former British colonies such as Malta, Bermuda and Gibraltor. One of the first designs (from 1924) is still a working telephone box and is situated in the left entrance arch to the Royal Academy of Arts, London. 

Red London Bus
The old red Routemaster buses are one of London's iconic symbols. The Routemaster buses have now been phased out of service with only two heritage routes still using the vehicles. The two routes cover the most 'touristy’ areas of London taking in many of the major sights.
The majority of buses in London are still red though and the red double-decker buses are still widely seen in the city. 

Tower Bridge
Built in the 1880s, Tower Bridge over the river Thames is today crossed by over 40,000 people (motorists, cyclists and pedestrians) every day. Although river traffic is now much reduced from when the bridge was first built, it still takes priority over road traffic. Today, 24 hours' notice is required before opening the bridge. There is no charge for vessels.

The rain and grey skies
One of London’s non man-made icons – the rain! The city and country is famous for having lots of rain. In fact, many countries have a lot more rain than the UK, but it is still thought of as being a rainy and wet place. We love the rainy day photos and think that they can really capture the atmosphere of this wonderful city... as long as we are not caught in it without an umbrella!

Want to visit London? Visit the Sure Travel website for holiday packages, flights and accommodation to London. 

Photo credits: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10


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