Big Ben And Westminster Walk
Some of London’s most popular sights.
2.5 miles / 4km
Fast Walk 55 minutes.
Allow a day to visit most of the sights.
Start: Westminster – Central Line (Red on the tube Map)
End: St. James Park, District & Circle Line (Green & Yellow)
Highlights Include: Big Ben, Parliament Square, The Churchill War Rooms, The Cenotaph, Downing Street, Horse Guards’ Parade and The Cavalry Museum. The Changing of The Guard, St James Park, The House of Commons & The Palace of Westminster. Victoria Tower Gardens, Westminster Abbey.
This Big Ben and Westminster Walk takes you to some of London’s most popular sights.
A) Westminster Station
Take Exit 4 and you will see Big Ben across the road.
B: Big Ben
Officially, Big Ben is the name of the clock’s Great Bell, which chimes on the hour; the Elizabeth Tower houses the clock and bells. However, Londoners have always called the whole structure Big Ben. The tower has 11 floors. It is 96 metres (315 feet) high and has 334 steps to the belfry. Then there are 65 more steps to the lantern at the top of the tower. The tower was completed in 1859. Big Ben is currently closed until 2020 for a major refurbishment. The parliament website is very informative and there is an excellent video with a Clock Tower Guide. Both are listed below.
UK Parliament http://www.parliament.uk/bigben
Tower Guide https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkDU7SBBPA0
Head east into Parliament Square. This Big Ben Westminster walk takes in some of the UK’s most famous monuments and public art. Parliament Square contains 8 magnificent statues of Prime Ministers and world leaders including Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. Not many people get to choose where their monument will be placed after their death, but Winston Churchill did! He wanted a spot where he could look over, and perhaps continue to dominate, the Houses of Parliament. Ivor Roberts-Jones’ magnificent statue of Winston Churchill was unveiled in 1973. It is considered a national treasure. From Parliament Square continue east on Great George Street and turn left on Horse Guards Road. Go to the huge statue of Clive Of India. Clive was a very successful soldier of fortune, amassing vast wealth for himself and for the British Crown. This statue was unveiled in 1912. As you face Clive, the Churchill War Rooms are on the right. On his left is a poignant memorial to the 202 people who died in the 2002 terrorist bombing incident in Kuta, Bali.
C: The Churchill War Rooms
The war rooms are deservedly very popular and it’s worth booking in advance. The self-guided audio tour is excellent and there are interactive displays that will appeal to children.
From the War Rooms head west on King Charles St. Go through the arch and turn left onto Whitehall. The Cenotaph is in front of you.
D: The Cenotaph
The Armistice Day commemoration service is held here every year to commemorate British and Commonwealth servicemen and women who lost their lives in the two World Wars and more recent conflicts. The service ends with a march-past of veterans as a sign of respect for their fallen comrades. The Cenotaph was designed by Edwin Lutyens in 1919. It’s constructed from Portland Stone. The inscription is simple: “The Glorious Dead”.
E: Downing Street
With security, such a high priority, don’t expect to get closer than the gate. Continue north to see the Horse Guards guarding the gate, and turn left through the arch.
F: Horse Guards’ Parade and The Cavalry Museum.
The Household Calvary Museum is on your right. This museum is a must-see for lovers of horses and history. The audio tour is excellent. There are interactive ‘dressing up’ features, which are very popular with children of all ages. The stables are glass-sided so the public can see the soldiers preparing for their displays. It’s worth arriving early before the Changing of the Guard.
The Changing of The Guard takes place outside in Horse Guards’ Parade, at 11.00am Monday to Saturday and 10.00am Sunday. The mounted sentries change place every hour. The Dismounting Ceremony is at 4.00pm. Check the websites for changes in the schedule.
G: St James Park
A beautiful park with lots of wildlife. Look out for the pelicans. Feeding is between 2.30pm and 3.00 pm at Duck Island Cottage. This is a great place to unwind and relax. The views from the bridge are excellent.
The House of Commons & The Palace of Westminster.
The tours are recommended - book in advance to avoid disappointment. Learn where Guy Fawkes hid before he tried to blow up parliament, and find out why the Queen is banned from the House of Commons. Tours are available on Saturdays and when parliament is in recess. The audio tours have a family option, aimed at younger children. Also, there is a ‘Blue Badge’ guided tour for teenagers. Look out for the Richard I, Coeur De Lion sculpture by Baron Marchetti 1851, in the courtyard.
H: Victoria Tower Gardens
I love this park! As you walk in, there is a memorial dedicated to Emmeline Pankhurst. She was the leader of the suffragette movement, which campaigned for women’s right to vote. Next, you come to Rodin’s amazing Burghers of Calais monument. The sculpture tells the moving story of the suffering endured by the people of Calais during a siege in the Hundred Years War in 1347. It has been described by one critic, as Britain’s best work of public art. Buxton Memorial Fountain The elaborate Victorian Gothic Buxton Memorial celebrates the abolition of slavery in 1833 and commemorates the work of the MP Thomas Fowell Buxton. The Gardens have good views of the Thames and there is a small children’s playground. The Gardens are an excellent place to have a picnic. Exit the Gardens and cross the road
Henry Moore’s stunning Knife Edge sculpture is on permanent display. The edges catch the afternoon sun.
The Tower dates back almost 650 years and it is all that remains of the Medieval Palace of Westminster. If you have a London Pass it’s free.
I: St Margaret’s Church and Westminster Abbey
St Margaret’s Church Often called the parish church of the House of Commons. Don’t miss the stained glass windows commemorating the engagement of Catherine of Aragon and Henry VIII. Other windows celebrate the inventor of the printing press, William Caxton, the explorer Sir Walter Raleigh, the poet John Milton and Admiral Robert Blake.
Book in advance to avoid a long wait. Westminster Abbey has an international reputation, not just as one of London’s most popular visitor attractions, but also as a functioning church. The building is around 700 years old. The entry price includes a good audio tour. The evensong choir concerts are free (not ticketed) and are very popular. Arrive early at the West Gate entrance for a good seat.
Don’t miss the statues of 20th century martyrs above the west door. The tall marble and stone column depicting St George slaying a dragon, was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott and erected in 1861.
Head east on Tothill Street and then turn left onto the Broadway to Arrive at
J: St. James’s Park Tube Station.
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