Give a city two thousand years and there are bound to be a few historical monuments around town; London is no exception. The UK’s capital is prime territory for museum goers and fact hunters everywhere. From Roman origins to the Tudors, from street culture to the poshest palace, here are five stops that’ll tour you through the ages before you can say “gosh, that’s really very old.”
The Guildhall Amphitheatre
Way back – when London was Londinium to the locals – an amphitheatre was constructed to host games for public entertainment. Nearly every Roman city at the time had a theatre like this, with folks coming from miles around to witness the fun: gladiator combat, exotic animals, dangerous chariot races. London’s was uncovered in 1988, and can now be visited at the gallery in guildhall hassle free.
The Tower of London
In the borough of Tower Hamlets sits a millennia-old castle, named for its single white parapet. The Tower of London has been a prison, a royal residence and a combination of the two in its long history, originally constructed by William the Conqueror in the 11th century. It is now one of the most popular tourist attractions in the UK, maintaining old traditions and showing off royal heritage to any who happen to be interested. The prime attraction of note, beyond the Tower itself, is the set of crown jewels, which have been on display since 1669.
The Chelsea Psychic Garden
The Chelsea Psychic garden has sat upon the edge of the Thames for over three hundred years; first established by apothecarists of the time, the now teaching center and cafe is a remnant of medicine and occultry long past. Family-friendly learning is on offer all year round down amongst the plant life, with activity days, community projects and workshops about the history of the centre itself available. London – and Britain as a whole – has a long history with magic and mysticism, from tarot readings to powdered incense to crystal balls. These days, there are hundreds of practitioners available online and off serving the publics’ needs (in the case of Chelsea Psychic Garden, the needs of tea, cake and curiosity). With lists, reviews and ratings to help you find the right match, almost anyone can dip their toe into occult mysteries. Cross a palm with silver and you may know your future while learning about London’s interesting past to boot!
Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
The original Shakespeare’s Globe burned down a long time ago. Luckily for all of us today, however, a faithful reconstruction exists! This open air playhouse was home to England’s greatest playwright in ages past, with everything from Midsummer Night’s Dream to Hamlet making its debut in the open air London theatre. Watch a play or simply book an exhibition tour to learn about this key location in British history.
The British Museum
No time for monument hopping? If you’re in a rush but still want to experience a slice of London culture, the British Museum is your number one bet. Home to Classical, Egyptian, Asian and African exhibits (among countless others) this maze of history has something for everybody. Pertinent to London in particular is the exhibit on Roman Britain, detailing the initial landings by Caesar all the way through to occupation in later years.
You won’t find a richer, more interesting city in the UK. London’s two thousand year history is everywhere; in the statues, in the parliament buildings, in the castles and rivers and museums. Take your pick of the bits you find most interesting, then get culture hunting!