Not many places can match the architectural variety of London. It is probably the best place in the world when it comes to the sheer number of many different buildings. Amid this city, impressive edifices with unusual names like the Gherkin and the Shard mix with medieval masterpieces like the Tower of London. Here are some of the architectural marvels that you must visit when on London guided tours.
Designer Renzo Piano’s creation is grand, momentous and daring, a spire-like tower that dominates the capital city as it stands at 1,016 feet tall. The Shard is a new addition to the city landscape, but it has become London’s emblem because of its transparency and accessibility, says the designer. During a meeting with property developer Irvine Stellar, Renzo Piano started sketching a design that looked a lot like the final skyscraper. The amazing thing is that he sketched it on a napkin. From the top of the Shard, you can look at 64 kilometers in all directions; beyond the River Thames and the stretch of rail tracks, you can somewhat see rolling hills.
Tower of London
The oldest existing building in London, nicknamed the Traitors’ Gate, has been in existence in various incarnations for almost 1,000 years. People built the first building named The White Tower, as per William I’s wish of having a formidable citadel as the final symbol of power. In its several incarnations, it has served as an official royal residence, zoo and prison. Today, it is home to the Crown Jewels. In the 1200’s, this tower was home to creatures, including an elephant, a lion and polar bear, gifted by European monarchs. Some ancient traditions still exist, including the ritual “Ceremony of the Keys” in which the tower is locked up for the night. Those who book 12 months beforehand can see this ritual if they are lucky.
This marvelous Greek Revival-style building is home to almost 8 million objects. Those on the museum of London guided tours can explore the ancient wonders of the world, including the Elgin Marbles, the Assyrian treasures, and the Rosetta Stone. The museum is worth visiting also for the Lindow Man, the preserved body of whom was found in a Cheshire peat bog. Also referred to as Pete Marsh, it dates back to circa 2 BC. Be sure to visit the Great Court, which houses the magnificent glass-covered Reading Room.
Saint Paul’s Cathedral
Architect Christopher Wren designed this Baroque-style London cathedral. It has been one of the national treasures ever since its completion in 1711. It hosted a speech of Martin Luther King Jr., the wedding of Diana Spencer and Prince Charles, and appeared in films Marry Poppins as well as Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
The Whispering Gallery is one of the highlights of St Paul’s Cathedral. Climb hundreds of steps in the St Paul’s dome to reach the Whispering Gallery, the best artificial tourist attraction in London. It is a walkway holding the dome structure’s base that offers a sight of the St Paul’s floor far beneath. For some, viewing the floor from up there can cause vertigo, or dizziness. In this walkway, you can hear whispers from the other side owing to an oddity in the construction of the cathedral.
After you reach the vertiginous heights, go down to the vault and look at the last resting places of the Duke of Wellington and Lord Nelson.
This building looks like the starship prototyped by SpaceX, an aerospace company founded by Elon Musk. It is like a rocket standing at the heart of this magnificent city. The credit for the curb appeal of this bullet-shaped tower goes to its designer, architect Norman Foster. The Gherkin is smaller than what Foster had envisioned, but it stands three times taller than Niagara Falls. Made of glittering glass, it is among the first great modern edifices to sculpt the skyline of London.
The Lloyd’s building
The architectural firm, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners designed this building. They are the same company behind the 3 World Trade Center and the Cheesegrater. Not too conceptually different from Centre Pompidou in Paris, it is also known as the ‘inside-out building’ because its services, including lifts, water pipes and staircases, are put on the outside. This makes the building exterior look like a futuristic machine, straight out of a sci-fi film. It will not be misplacement if you place it amid all the machine mayhem in one of Michael Bay’s Transformers franchise movies.
In 2011, Lloyd’s became a Grade I-listed building, the youngest one to get this status. The Architectural Review termed the Lloyd’s Building “one of the most astounding artistic achievements of our time.”