British Museum…

The British Museum is the largest museum in the United Kingdom with a collection of more than seven million objects. Its collection encompasses artifacts from many civilizations and spans a period of more than two thousand years.
Great Court, British Museum, London

British Museum
The museum was founded in 1753 with the donation of 71,000 objects from the collection of Sir Hans Sloane. The British Museum quickly established itself as one of London’s top attractions.

The Museum Building

Since 1754, the museum’s home has sat at the site of the Montague House in Bloomsbury. It wasn’t long before this facility became too small to display and store the museum’s large collection and plans were made for additions to the museum. The Townley Gallery for classical sculpture was added first, but was later torn down to make way for the Smirke Building, which is the core of the building visitors see today when they visit the museum.

The Smirke Building

The idea for the Smirke Building, designed by Sir Robert Smirke in Greek revival style, was conceived in 1823 but the addition was not completed until nearly thirty years later.

British Museum, London

Smirke Building

It was originally built to house the personal library of King George III. This new building was a quadrangle situated north of the Montague House. The south wing of the Smirke Building eventually replaced the old house.

A domed, circular reading room was added in 1857, and the White Wing, designed by architect John Taylor, was added thirty years later. King Edward VII’s Galleries, a Beaux Arts style addition, became part of the British Museum in 1914.

Parthenon Galleries

The Parthenon Galleries, by American John Russell Pope, was built to house the Parthenon sculptures and opened in 1939. However, because of extensive damage suffered during World War II, the

Great Court, British Museum, London

Great Court

structure had to be rebuilt and was reopened in 1962. Another new wing, opened in 1980, housed public facilities like a restaurant and gift shop.

The Great Court

Finally, the Queen Elizabeth II Great Court opened in 2000. This two-acre square (8000 sq m), enclosed by a glass roof, creates an indoor courtyard with the museum’s famed circular reading room in the center. This design made by Norman Foster and Partners makes it easier for visitors to find their way in the museum thanks to the large open space, very similar to the way the

Ancestral Figure from Easter Island, British Museum, London

Easter Island sculpture

entrance area below the Louvre Pyramid in Paris works.

The Museum’s Collection

The collection found at the British Museum is enjoyed by millions each year. Because the museum is so large, many visitors take more than one day to explore. Not all of the more than seven million artifacts are on display, but much of the collection constantly rotates so you’ll see something new with each visit.

Elgin Marbles

The Elgin Marbles, the collection of marble sculptures that were taken from the Parthenon in Athens, is one of the museum’s most famous attractions. They are located in the purpose-built Parthenon Galleries.

Parthenon Galleries, British Museum, London

Elgin Marbles

The sculptures, also known as the Parthenon Marbles, were obtained by Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin and diplomat in Constantinopal in the Ottoman Empire, which at that time included Greece.

Bust of Ramesses II, British Museum, London

Bust of Ramesses II

Rosetta Stone, British Museum, London

Rosetta Stone

Assyrian winged bull, British Museum, London

Assyrian winged bull

Earl Elgin obtained permission “to take away any pieces of stone with old inscriptions or figures thereon”, to prevent any more damage by the Turkish.
Lord Elgin’s collection was at first displayed at his own house, but in 1816 the House of Commons decided to purchase the collection and hand it over to the British Museum.

Egyptian Collection

Another highlight of the British Museum is the extensive Egyptian collection. Besides many sarcophagi and statues, including an enormous one of Pharaoh Ramesses II, the collection is home to the famous Rosetta stone, used by Jean-François Champollion to decipher the hieroglyphic writing.
The text on the stone, created in 196 BC after the end of the Egyptian dynasties, is written in three different writings: Greek, hieroglyphic and demotic (a symplified form of hieroglyphic).
The British Museum is also known for its very large and popular collection of Egyptian mummies and sarcophagi. You can even find animal mummies here.

Assyrian collection

The Assyrian collection features relief carvings from the palaces of the Assyrian kings at Nimrud, Khorsabad and Nineveh. The enormous winged bulls from the palace of Sargon II are especially impressive.

Other departments

The many other departments in the museum include Africa, Oceania, and the Americas; Sudan; Asia; Coins and Medals; Conservation, Documentation and Science; Greek and Roman Antiquities; the Middle East; Portable Antiquities and Treasure; Prehistory and Europe; and Prints and Drawings.

 

Gherkin 30 St. Mary Axe….

30 St Mary Axe, better known by its nickname Gherkin, is one of the most eye-catching buildings in London and it stands out prominently in the city’s skyline. The Gherkin is one of several modern buildings that have been built over the years in a historic area of London.

Construction

Construction of the Gherkin was commissioned by Swiss Re, a reinsurance company. The 41-story skyscraper was built in 2004 after a modern glass and steel design by the architectural firm of Foster and Partners.

The Gherkin, London

The Gherkin

Originally known as the Swiss Re Building, it was later renamed to its street address 30 St. Mary Axe after Swiss Re sold the building in 2007. Even before its construction was complete Londoners dubbed the building the ‘Gherkin’ for its distinctive shape, and it is still known by that name.

 

High-rises in the City

The tower was built in the heart of London’s financial center at the site of the 1903 Baltic Exchange Building which had been damaged by a terrorist attack in 1992. The construction of a glittering high-tech building in the middle of a relatively low-rise area with plenty of historic buildings and narrow medieval streets set off a new debate about the need for tall buildings in the City of London. But even as many new skyscrapers are now built in Canary Wharf – well outside the city’s historic center – the Gherkin has acted as a catalyst for the growing cluster of high-rises in the City.

 

Architecture

The Gherkin at street level

Street level
The cigar-shaped structure has a steel frame with circular floor plans and a glass facade with diamond-shaped panels. The swirling striped pattern visible on the exterior is the result of the building’s energy-saving system which allows the air to flow up through spiraling wells.
On the street level, the Gherkin’s base is well integrated with an open public plaza. Huge white X braces create a dramatic entrance. The top of the tower, where visitors find an open hall covered by a glass conical dome is even more spectacular. From here you have great views over the city. Unfortunately the building is not open to the public.Its unique, bold and energy efficient design has won the Gherkin many awards including the Stirling Prize, the London Region Award, and the Emporis Skyscraper Award.

 

Harrods….

Harrods is London’s most famous department store. The luxurious store is on many tourists’ itineraries, who come to admire the magnificent interior and enormous selection. They often leave the store with a signature green bag; foreign visitors account for a significant part of the store’s sales.

History

Harrods, London

Harrods
The history of this famous luxury store goes back to 1849 when Charles Henry Harrod opened a grocery at Brompton Road in Knightsbridge, at the time a small village just outside London. Just two years later, the Great Exhibition of 1851, which took place at Crystal Palace in nearby Hyde Park, brought many visitors to the area. Knightsbridge and Harrod’s new store boomed.

Charles Harrod’s son (also named Charles) took over and quickly expanded the store, at the time known as ‘Harrods Stores’. The department store became well known for its high quality products and excellent personalized service.

In 1894 Harrods was taken over by Richard Burbridge who had the store completely rebuilt. He also installed London’s first escalator, in 1898. The current building was also commissioned by Burbridge. The impressive domed structure was built between 1901 and 1905 after a design by local architects C. W. Stephens and E. J. Munt.

 

The Department Store

Omna, Omnubus, Ubique on Harrods Department Store

Omna, Omnibus, Ubique
Harrods is one of the world’s most famous stores and one of London’s tourist attractions thanks to the wide assortment of luxury goods that are on display in a magnificently decorated building.

The enormous array of products is particularly impressive. The company’s motto – engraved on the building’s pediment – is Omnia, Omnibus, Ubique (Everything, for everyone, everywhere). Harrods used to be known as the store where anything you could think of was for sale. While this may not be the case any more, the assortment is still enormous. You can purchase anything from historic eighteenth-century dinner plates or exquisite caviar to giant teddy bears.

Egyptian decorations, Harrods

Egyptian Decorations

It is best to take your time for a visit to the large store, which covers an area of about 80,000 sq m spread out over seven floors. Floor plans are available near the entrances.
One of the most beautiful departments of the store is the magnificent Food Hall on the lower floor, decorated with tiles created by artist Williams James Neatby. Other impressive departments include the Egyptian Halls and the Crystal Rooms. Also of note is the central escalator, decorated with Egyptian motives. And don’t forget to visit the toy department – the city’s best – where you’ll find enormous stuffed animals.

 

Knightsbridge

The success of Harrods attracted a number of other entrepreneurs to Knightsbridge, resulting in an upscale shopping district. Nearby are luxury stores such as Harvey Nichols and Burberry. Sloane street, one of the most famous shopping streets in London, is just around the corner.

 

The City of London The Square Mile….

The City of London is the historic heart of London. This area was already a bustling trading post almost 2000 years ago, when it was part of the Roman Empire. Many of the irregular streets still follow the ancient Roman roads. The boundaries of the City also loosely follow the path of the Roman wall that was built here in the 2nd century AD.
The City of London seen from London Eye

The City of London seen from London Eye
Today the City is a mostly commercial district dominated by the stately buildings and skyscrapers that house offices for the finance industry. There are however plenty historical landmarks that were built in an era when the City was still densely populated. The star here is the majestic St. Paul’s Cathedral, but there are also noteworthy civil structures such as the Guildhall and the Leadenhall Market. And the Museum of London, which is appropriately located in the oldest part of London, documents the tumultuous history of the city.

 

Concise History

Model of the Forum, Museum of London

Model of Londinium’s Forum

Roman Wall near the Museum of London

Roman Wall

The Great Fire, Museum of London

The Great Fire
Shortly after the invasion of Britain by emperor Claudius in AD 43, the Romans founded the settlement Londinium at a strategic location near the river Thames, where the river could be crossed. Ships from the continent were able to reach the settlement, which quickly grew into the largest town in Britain. Very few remains of these early days are visible today, although traces of the forum from the first century AD, public baths and an arena as well as a third-century temple have been excavated. The most visible remain of Londinium is the city wall, which still roughly defines the boundaries of the City of London. The wall was built in the early 3rd century and reenforced in the ninth century during the reign of the Anglo-Saxon king Alfred the Great.London’s population grew quickly during the sixteenth century when it became the largest city in Western Europe. At the time most people still lived within the old city walls. Despite the dramatic Great Fire of 1666, which destroyed some 13200 houses, the population continued to grow by leaps and bounds. This started to change during the eighteenth century when the population of the City declined dramatically. Many people moved to the suburbs and their houses were rented out or sold to commercial firms.

St. Paul's Cathedral, City of London

St. Paul’s Cathedral

Guildhall, City of London

Guildhall

Since the 1970s the high finance dominates this historic part of London which led to the construction of a host of modern skyscrapers. Despite attempts to lure back residents to the City very few people actually still live here and the City is almost deserted during the weekends, but on weekdays it buzzes with activity.

 

Sights in the City of London

Plenty of historic landmarks attest to the City’s storied past. The most famous is the domed St. Paul’s Cathedral, built in the seventeenth century by Sir Christopher Wren after the Great Fire had destroyed the existing cathedral. Wren built many more churches in the City – fifty-one in total; the nearby St. Mary-le-Bow church (only those born within earshot of the church’s clock can be considered a true Cockney), the Gothic St. Mary Aldermary and the St. Margaret Pattens Church with its tall spire are just a small sample of the twenty-three surviving churches designed by Wren.Some buildings managed to survive the Great Fire of 1666, most notably the Guildhall, a beautiful early fifteenth-century edifice that was reconstructed in the seventeenth century in a neo-Gothic style.
One of the few Victorian structures that survived to this day is theLeadenhall Market, a glass-covered shopping arcade. Nearby is the Royal Exchange building, a stately 19th century building. Once a center of commerce,

Bank of England, City of London

Bank of England

Museum of London, City of London

Museum of London

Royal Exchange Building, City of London

Royal Exchange Building

it is now an upscale shopping center. Just north of the Royal Exchange is the equally imposing headquarters building of the Bank of England, which is also home to a museum dedicated to the bank’s three hundred year history. Opposite the bank stands the Mansion house – the official residence of the Mayor of the City of London – with a Palladian facade to match the neoclassical facades of the bank and exchange buildings.

There are also some visible remains of the very early origins of the City of London. The longest surviving remnant of this era is the London Wall, originally built in the second century, but later expanded at around 200 AD. The four-and-a-half kilometers long (almost 3 miles) and up to four meters high (14ft) wall ran in a more or less semi circular shape from the site of the current Blackfriars station to the site of theTower of London at Tower Hill. It was still mostly intact until the seventeenth century, after which it was gradually demolished as the city expanded.
Some sections of the wall can be seen along the route, including at Tower Hill – a statue of Trajan marks the site – and at the Museum of London, which is located at the site of a former bastion on the route of the Roman wall.
Another visible remnant of the Roman era is the ruin of the Temple of Mithras, excavated in 1954. Several sculptures discovered at the site are now on display at the Museum of London, which has an extensive exhibition on London’s Roman past.

The Monument, City of London

The Monument

30 St Mary Axe

30 St Mary Axe

Barbican

Barbican

Other displays in the museum cover the history of London until today, with exhibitions that focus on the different periods in the history of London – Saxon, medieval, Tudor, Stuart and other – and on important events such as the devastating fire of 1666.
To commemorate this ‘Great Fire’, a tall column – simply named ‘The Monument‘ – was erected in 1671 near the location of the start of the fire in Pudding Lane. A long staircase leads to a platform on top of the Monument, from where you have a great view over the City.

 

Modern Architecture

The City isn’t all about history or historic buildings. There has been plenty of construction activity in the past couple of decades, and today many of London’s tallest office towers can be found here, including the National Westminster Tower (or Natwest Tower), London’s tallest skyscraper when it was built in 1980.Another well-known modern building is the Lloyd’s of London, designed by Richard Rogers, the architect of the Centre Pompidou in Paris (and it shows).

A more recent, but equally remarkable tower in the City is 30 St. Mary Axe, commonly known as theGherkin. This modern glass tower with its unusual cigar-like shape was designed by Fosters and Partners. The 180 meter-tall tower, built in 2003, had a big impact on the City’s skyline.

Yet another eye-catching skyscraper in the City is 20 Fenchurch Street, a 34-story tower with a large sky-garden. The tower has a peculiar design with concave-shaped facades that widen towards the top, which earned it the nickname Walkie-Talkie Building.

Not all modern buildings are office towers. One of the largest postwar complexes built in the City is The Barbican Centre, a 14-hectare (35 acre) large, mainly residential complex that was conceived as a city inside a city: it is one large network of apartment buildings, gardens, garages, exhibitions halls and offices connected to each other by pedestrian bridges and walkways. Some of London’s most prominent cultural organizations including the London Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Shakespeare Company are located in this complex.

Madame Tussauds Wax Museum

Touted as “London’s favorite tourist attraction”, the statues at Madame Tussauds Wax Museum have been thrilling visitors since Tussaud opened her first permanent exhibit in 1835.

Madame Tussaud

Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, London

Madame Tussauds

The Beatles in the Wax Museum of Madame Tussauds in London

The Beatles
Marie Tussaud (1761-1850) was born in Strasbourg, France, under the name of Marie Grosholtz. After her father’s death in 1761 she moved with her mother toParis, where she learned the fine art of sculpting from her mother’s employer, a physician skilled in the art of wax modeling. The doctor, Philippe Curtius, was one of the first to display wax models, opening an exhibition in 1776 called ‘The Cavern of the Great Thieves’.Young Marie made her first sculpture at the tender age of sixteen, fashioning a likeness of French enlightenment writer, François Voltaire. Word of her talent spread and reached the royal family, who hired Marie as an art tutor.

Her relation with the royal family caused her to be thrown in jail when the monarchy was toppled during the French Revolution. To show her allegiance to the new regime, she was forced to search for severed heads in the piles of dead bodies so she could make death masks of those executed by the guillotine.

 

The Wax Museum

Tiger Woods, Madame Tussauds, London

Tiger Woods

Hitler, London's Wax Museum of Madame Tussaud

Hitler

Marylin Monroe, Madame Tussauds, London

Marylin Monroe
In 1795 Marie married François Tussaud, but she left him in 1802 so she could tour around Britain with her collection of death masks. The gruesome roadshow included the death masks of the French king Louis XVI and his wife Marie-Antoinette. Tussaud’s collection affirmed the disdain of the British audience for France’s bloodthirsty revolutionaries and was a big hit. Marie Tussaud never returned to France.In 1835, after more than thirty years touring the country, she created a permanent exhibit on Baker Street. There was a surcharge for the famous Chamber of Horrors, a separate chamber with the most horrifying displays of criminals and victims of the French Revolution. In the meantime, Marie Tussaud added many likenesses to her collection.

In 1884, several decades after her death, Madame Tussaud’s wax museum moved to its current location on London’s Marylebone Road, where millions have stood in queue for hours to get a glimpse at her work and that of her successors.

The current museum suffered a fire in 1925 and many statues were lost. However, the molds remained intact and several of the pieces were recreated. Unfortunately hundreds of molds were destroyed during the Blitz at the start of the Second World War. Ironically one of the surviving masks is that of Hitler, which was created in 1933.

Today the wax museum is one of London’s busiest attractions and during peak tourist season, it is common to encounter long lines that stretch for blocks. The museum started an overseas expansion in 1970, when it opened a branch location inAmsterdam. Today it has expanded to many more cities including Las Vegas, New York City, Hong Kong, Washington DC and Hollywood.

 

What You’ll See

King Henry VIII, Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, London

King Henry VIII
Tussaud and her successors have fashioned literally thousands of replicas of famous people. Visitors can view world leaders, actors/actresses, sports legends, famous writers and artists, religious figures, musicians, and a host of other characters. Besides those displays there are also several themed sections in the museum including the Chamber of Horrors and an taxi ride for a journey through history.While the London museum has a decidedly British slant, visitors from all over the world will recognize a majority of the characters.