London is the capital and largest urban area of both England and the United Kingdom. It is the largest city in the European Union. An important settlement for two millennia, London's history goes back to its founding by theRomans. Since its foundation, London has been part of many movements and phenomena throughout history, including the English Renaissance, the Industrial Revolution, and the Gothic Revival. The city's core, the ancient City of London, still retains its limited medieval boundaries; but since at least the 19th century, the name "London" has also referred to the whole metropolis that has developed around it. London is one of the world's business, financial and cultural centres and its influence in politics, education, entertainment, media,fashion and the arts contribute to its status as a major global city. The city is a major tourist destination both for domestic and overseas visitors, with annual expenditure by tourists of around GBP15 billion. Greater London contains four World Heritage Sites: the Tower of London; the historic settlement of Greenwich; the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; and the site comprising the Palace of Westminster, Westminster Abbey and St. Margaret's Church. Manmade Attractions The London Dungeon. In the bowels of London Bridge Station this famous waxwork museum of torture focuses on the dark side of life. As such it can paint an artificially grim portrait of London: Jack the Ripper is small fry by today's serial killer standards. Stocks, executions, torture machines, rats, plague are the main crowd attractions. The queues stretch right up Duke St Hill for at least 100 metres, unemployed actors in 'period' costume and ghoulish make-up keep them amused while they're waiting. Life in London was undoubtedly hard for the poor or those who for some reason were ostracised by society, worth remembering as you go round, for example, Hampton Court which paints an equally biased view of a rosy Olde England. Their younger, Paris branch for some reason claims it's the original - we suspect branches will be spring up everywhere, even in your suburb. There a restaurant inside and sometimes nightclubs are held there. Their very atmospheric website gives you a flavour of the place. Madame Tussaud's. Most large towns have waxworks museums, and this is just another one, albeit much bigger. It's a big crowd puller - the queues can be horrendous - but you can pre-book a ticket online and walk jauntily by the unfortunates if you wish. Has worked hard over the years to achieve a semi-official status, like the Guinness book of records. Have your photo taken next to Charles , the artist formally known as Prince (if the crowd will part for long enough), or the artist formerly known as Prince (or whatever he calls himself today). Also on the site is the planetarium, which is much like all other planetaria, only more so. We think there are much better things to do in London, especially considering the steep admission price - thousands disagree. It's on the Marylebone Road, 100 yards from Baker Street tube, and conveniently close to Sherlock Holmes' fictional residence which maintains a small 'Museum' - visit only if you're a diehard fan. Recently tourists have taken to having their photo taken by the horrible statue of Sherlock Holmes outside Baker Street tube. Please don't - you'll cringe later on. If you get that stuffy feeling after Tussaud's walk 400 yards north to Regent's Park - and beyond to Primrose Hill for a great view over London. On the weekend it's an easy walk right through to Camden Market. London Eye. A huge modern version of Vienna's Prater ferris wheel which dominates the river skyline opposite Parliament. Queues were horrendous, but the new ticketing system has improved things markedly. The capsules can get very hot in sunny weather - you can book a whole capsule if you wish (some famous uses include advertising cars, having sex, cocktail parties). Take a telephoto lens if you want to get good photos from the top - London is a big, big city. Our favourite natural vantage points are at the top of Greenwich Hill - near the Ranger's House or the Observatory there which are much more atmospheric as the sun slices, Bunuel fashion, down the city skyscrapers. Another good vantage point is Parliament Hill, on Hampstead Heath or Primrose Hill in Regent's Park. As far as the wheel goes make sure there's good weather before you go up as it's a really depressing ride when it's rainy and overcast London Aquarium. If it's just fish you're after then the aquarium in County Hall (vide infra) has great atmosphere and is quite beautiful, with its Easter Island statues immersed in a multi-story pool. Well designed and well put together, it's not very 'London' but more a refuge from the hustle and bustle of the city - that is if there are no school parties around. THE 02. The Milennium Dome, resurrected as a music venue, and exhibition centre, owned by a telecommunications company. The whole area is very like Paris' Parc de la Villette and equally far out. Decent Exhibition space, if a bit large and intrusive. Piped music for the Tutankhamon exhibition annoyed many. The main auditorium is like most, but the smaller 02 indigo is a great place, a bit like Paris' Trabendo where you can get closer to bands than you might want to. The Original Dome was set up as a temporary home/away tourist attraction and was the most visited tourist attraction in the UK, but even so, failed to meet its targets, attracting only half the visitors it needed to pay its way. Despite frequent government handouts it went bust several times and sat around empty for years. It's worth stopping at the Jubilee Line tube stations along the route - they took the coveted prize for the best architecture of 2000, which annoyed the Dome considerably. The Independent newspaper puts Westminster station in its list of the 50 best designed buildings in the country. We also like the art-deco St John's Wood tube station. Opposite Southwark Station is The Ring - one of London's last boxing pubs which until very recently maintained a boxing ring and training gym on the first floor. It's on the Cut, a fast-changing strip of restaurants (Tas, Livebait, Tapas bars and Gastropubs) A view of the dome can be had from the Waterfront at Greenwich or the river cruise that takes in the London Flood Barrier will give you good views - but do it on a clear and sunny day... The Chinese restaurant on the ground floor of the nearby Holiday Inn is the best place to eat locally - very very popular with the large local Chinese community. On Sundays be prepared to queue. The Royal Artillery Exhibition. Aimed at kids or big kids, and military enthusiasts it promises lots of big bangs and huge explosions. Artillery is a broad term: it was the British use of Artillery that decided the battles of Crecy and Agincourt (the longbow), as well as Trafalgar (sea cannon) and the Gulf War (howitzers and rocket based systems).
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