National Museum of Science and Industry…

London’s impressive Science Museum illustrates the history of science and technology from around 1700 to today. The museum covers a wide variety of subjects, from engines and space travel to computers and medicine.
Science Museum, London

Science Museum

Interior of the Science Museum in London

Museum interior
Even the most science-averse people will find something of interest here, be it the massive steam engines, the space rockets, thermal cameras, mechanical computers or curiosities such as a rolling-ball clock or the first automatic tea-making machine. The museum also has many hands-on experiences; you can try one of the oldest computer games, experiment with light or take control of a real flight simulator.


The Science Museum was created in 1909 when the scientific collection of the V&A Museum was made independent. In 1913 the new museum moved to its own building, a large neoclassical structure designed by Richard Allison. The architect modeled the interior on department stores and created large open spaces ideal for the display of the museum’s massive machines.Over the years the museum’s collections kept growing, in particular in the 1980s, when the collection of the Wellcome Museum of the History of Medicine was acquired. In 2000 the museum expanded with the opening of the new Wellcome Wing, which added 10,000 square meters (100,000 sq ft) of exhibition space and houses among others an IMAX 3D movie theater.

The Museum’s Collections

The World's oldest steam locomotive in the Science Museum, London

Puffing Billy

Burnley mill engine, Science Museum, London

Mill engine
Thanks to its clear and open layout the museum is easy to navigate. The main building has seven floors; each floor contains several galleries covering different scientific topics. Due to the museum’s size it is difficult to see everything in one go, and it might be a good idea to get a map of the museum at the entrance hall and make a selection of galleries you want to visit.


The basement of the museum explains the basic fundamentals of science. The ‘Garden’ introduces children from three to six years to science in a hands-on environment where they can pull levers and experiment with water, light and sound. The basement is also home to a gallery that reveals the technology behind common household items.

Ground Floor

The ground floor is usually the most crowded and houses some of the museum’s largest objects, including a giant red mill engine in the Engine Hall that, from 1903 until 1970, used to power 1700 looms at once. One of the most popular galleries in the museum is the Exploration of Space, where you can see real rockets and space suits. Another gallery, ‘Making the Modern World’, highlights key breakthroughs in technology, from the ‘Puffing Billy’ – the world’s oldest steam locomotive – and the Ford T – the first affordable car – to supercomputers and personal computers.

First Floor

Old tractor at the Science Museum in London

Old Tractor

Difference engine no 2, Science Museum, London

Difference Engine no 2

Airplanes in the Science Museum, London


17th and 18th century chemistry books in the Science Museum, London

Science books from the
17th and 18th century
On the first floor you can discover all sorts of materials, from ceramic tiles to fiber, and learn about their properties and how they are used. Another gallery on this floor explores the world of telecommunications – showing the progress made over the last one hundred years, from letters over telegraphs to mobile phones. Other galleries on the first floor show the history of agriculture, the study of the cosmos, and the measurement of time through the ages – with a pretty impressive collection of sundials and clocks.

Second Floor

The second floor tackles the world’s energy problems and its dependence on fossil fuel. Other galleries revolve around our digital world and its history: mathematics, electronic music and the evolution of computers are covered here. You can see old synthesizers, the oldest working electronic computer and the Difference Engine no. 2, a huge mechanical computing device conceived in the nineteenth century.

Third Floor

A large part of the third floor is occupied by the museum’s collection of airplanes, which includes an exact replica of the Wright brothers’ first airplane. On the same floor is the Launchpad, an interactive experience geared towards children, and an overview of science in the Age of Enlightenment during the eighteenth century.

Fourth & Fifth Floor

On the fourth and fifth floors you find the collection of Henry Wellcome, which shows the history of medicine from the Neolithic Period to today. Here you can see how they performed surgery thousands of years ago, see the microscope of Louis Pasteur and president George Washington’s false teeth. There are also some displays focused on veterinary history.

Wellcome Wing

The galleries in the Wellcome Wing, which is connected to the main building on the ground floor, are focused on contemporary science and today’s rapidly changing technologies. Children will love the hands-on experience in the Pattern Pod, while adults will be intrigued by ‘Who am I’, an interactive experience on the first floor which investigates what traits make us who we are. The second floor covers the hotly debated climate changes and the top floor explores the technology of the future.

Monument to the Great Fire of London…

Known simply as “The Monument”, this London landmark plays homage to those who died in the Great Fire of 1666. The monument was built near the site where the disastrous fire broke out.

The Great Fire

Painting of the Great Fire in the Museum of London

Painting of the
Great Fire
On Sunday, September 2, 1666, a fire began at a bakery on Pudding Lane in London and wasn’t fully extinguished until three days later. During that time, much of the city burned and several individuals lost their lives. Property loss was great and all activity in the city pretty much came to a halt. The only properties that survived in tact were the ones fashioned mostly from stone.

The Monument


The Monument, London

The Monument
In response to the fire, in 1671 the city commissioned the building of a memorial to commemorate this tragic event. Famed architect Sir Christopher Wren was chosen to design the monument. Wren was, at that time, General Surveyor to King Charles II and was in charge of the rebuilding of the St. Paul’s Cathedral. Wren was assisted by Dr. Robert Hooke.


The men decided a single Doric column would be best and the structure was completed in 1677. A gilded urn with a sphere in flames, symbolizing the Great Fire, sits at the top of the 62-meter-tall (202 ft) monument. The Monument was built at the site of the church of St. Margaret New Fish Street, one of eighty-seven churches that burned down during the Great Fire. The height of The Monument is the same as the distance from the site on which it stands to the baker’s home where the fire began.Inside the column, which is fashioned from Portland stone, is a spiral staircase of 345 stairs, the first 311 bringing visitors to a balcony where they can enjoy an unmatched view of the city, particularly the Port of London neighborhood.


Relief on The Monument in London

Relief sculpture
Other architects and sculptors were involved in the building of The Monument as well. The four dragons that sit at the corners of the base were sculpted by Edward Pierce Jr. and Caius Gabriel Cibber crafted the relief sculpture on the west panel on the pedestal.The relief shows the allegorical figure of the City of London slumped to the ground. She is supported by an angel and a figure that protects her against evil. In the background you can see the city in flames and in a corner a devil is depicted holding a torch.

Inscriptions on the base inform visitors as to specifics about the fire and monument.

Another Monument

A counterpart of The Monument stands on the spot where the Great Fire was finally extinguished. This monument is called Temple Column and is situated close to the Temple Church in a historic area known simply as Temple.


Admiralty Arch…

The Admiralty Arch was commissioned by King Edward VII who dedicated the structure to his mother Queen Victoria. The five arches of the majestic Admiralty Arch lead from Trafalgar Square to the Mall and further towards Buckingham Palace.
Admiralty Arch, London
The Admiralty Arch, which takes its name from the nearby Royal Navy Headquarters, was designed by Sir Aston Webb, a noted English architect who is also credited with working on such landmarks as Buckingham Palace and the Victoria and Albert Museum. The structure was completed around 1911, shortly after King Edward VII had passed away.The Admiralty Arch was part of a master plan created by Aston Webb to turn the Mall into a stately royal boulevard. The arch was a majestic barrier between the crowded Trafalgar Square and the more distinguished area around the royal palace.

The Design

Admiralty Arch, London

Admiralty Arch
The design of Admiralty Arch consists of a wide six-sided building in Portland stone of which the facades on two opposite sides have a concave shape. As a result the structure is very narrow in the middle. This middle section is designed as if it were a triumphal gate with five arches.The center arch can accommodate auto or horse traffic but is only used for ceremonial occasions. The large arches on either side of the central arch are used for automobiles and the two smaller arches next to those are for pedestrian traffic.A Latin inscription on the attic of the arch pays tribute to the famous queen; it says “ANNO DECIMO EDWARDI SEPTIMI REGIS VICTORIÆ REGINÆ CIVES GRATISSIMI MDCCCCX”, which can be translated as “In the tenth year of the reign of King Edward VII, to Queen Victoria from a grateful nation, 1910”.

From Office Space to Hotel

The original use of the Admiralty Arch was as the offices and residences for the Sea Lords, leaders of the Royal Navy. It was also used as a hostel for the homeless. Later it was home to several British government offices.In 2013 the UK government gave approval to restore the iconic Admiralty Arch and redevelop the office space into residences and a five-star hotel. The restoration will bring the landmark building back to its former glory, following Aston Webb’s original design. The hotel is expected to open in 2016.

The ‘Nose’

The nose of Napoleon, Admiralty Arch

The nose
One particular peculiarity of the Admiralty Arch is its “nose”. The nose-shaped protrusion can be found in the arch to the left of the central arch (when facing Trafalgar Square) and is about two meters (7 feet) off the ground. It is the size of a human nose and legends differ as to the reason for its presence.Some say it is in homage to Edward VII, who had a rather large nose. Other stories state that it is Napoleon’s nose and that it would be rubbed by anyone riding through the arch on their horse as a snub to the general, who was small in stature.


Leicester Square…

Named for the 2nd Earl of Leicester, London’s Leicester Square is at the heart of the city’s prime entertainment district. The square is embellished with several monuments including a fountain dedicated to Shakespeare.

History of the Square

Leicester Square, London

Leicester Square
Situated in an area that was once part of a 1.6 hectare (4 acres) tract owned by Robert Sidney, the 2nd Earl of Leicester, Leicester Square was open to the public around 1640 after locals protested the privatization of the land that was once common ground.Development of the area began around 1670 and it quickly became a fashionable place to live as homes sprung up around the original Leicester House which, for some time during the very early 1700s, was the home of Frederick, Prince of Wales.

Leicester Square, London

By the late eighteenth century, however, the character of the square changed and it soon became an area known for its entertainment venues, one of the first of which was a “museum of natural curiosities” known as the Holophusikon.

By the nineteenth century, more entertainment facilities sprung up around Leicester Square, including Wyld’s Globe, which was built for the International Exposition and housed a giant scale map of the world; and the 1854-built Alhambra, a theatre and concert hall which for many years dominated the square. It was joined thirty years later by the Empire Theatre of Varieties. All would help to establish Leicester Square as the heart of the West End entertainment district.


Leicester Square, London
The square is car-free and can be very crowded, especially on weekend evenings. It is often the starting point for people who want to visit one of the many cinemas, theaters, snack bars and restaurants that are in the neighborhood.Several major cinemas line the square, giving it its nickname “Theatreland”. Visitors will also find a “TKTS” half-price ticket booth here, where discount tickets can be purchased for popular West End shows and musicals. A handful of TV and radio stations also have their headquarters at Leicester Square.


Shakespeare Fountain

Shakespeare Memorial Fountain, Leicester Square, London

Memorial Fountain
But the square itself has some interesting sights as well. In the center of the square, for instance, visitors will find a garden. In the middle of the garden is a marble fountain with a statue of William Shakespeare surrounded by dolphins. The fountain, created by Giovanni Fontana in 1874 is known as the Shakespeare Memorial Fountain.


At each corner of the park is a statue of another famous Londoner, including Sir Isaac Newton, Sir Joshua Reynolds, John Hunter, and William Hogarth. Another likeness, that of Charlie Chaplin, was created by John Doubleday and added in 1981.

Statue of Charlie Chaplin, Leicester Square, London

Charlie Chaplin

In addition, the square is surrounded with floor plaques that include the names and handprints of famous actors, similar to those found at the Walk of Fame in Hollywood, California.


The most peculiar sight at Leicester Square is probably the rather strangely-looking Swiss Glockenspiel, a ten meter tall steel structure with a carillon. The carillon has twenty-seven bells. Below the bells are eleven wooden figures of animals and people in historical attire. On the hour during the afternoon the figures walk in a procession accompanied by the chiming of carillon bells. Below the figures is a glass drum decorated with the flags of the cantons of Switzerland. The whole structure is crowned with a Swiss clock.The Glockenspiel was a gift from Switzerland and Liechtenstein. It adorned the facade of the Swiss Centre, a tourist and trade center that promoted Switzerland. The Swiss Center was demolished in 2008 but the carillon was restored and since November 2011 stands as a free-standing structure on Leicester Square.


Marble Arch…

Once given a place of honor in front of Buckingham Palace but later relegated toHyde Park, London’s Marble Arch is modeled after one of Rome‘s most famous monuments.

John Nash

Marble Arch, London

Marble Arch
Marble Arch was designed in 1827 by John Nash as the triumphal gateway toBuckingham Palace. At the time John Nash was an accomplished architect who was largely responsible for changing the architectural face of the city during the early nineteenth century thanks to his work on Regent Street, Buckingham Palace, Cumberland Terrace and his master plan for the Marylebone area, now the area around Regent’s Park.


In 1851 the arch was moved to its current site at the northeast corner of Hyde Park. Some stories say it was moved because its center arch was too narrow for coaches to pass through, others claim that when the palace was expanded in 1851, Queen Victoria requested more personal space for her family.


Relief on the Marble Arch in London

Relief on the arch
Nash modeled Marble Arch on Rome’s famous Arch of Constantine, built in the fourth century. Both structures feature Corinthian columns and three arches: one large central arch and another on either side. The top of the arch is adorned with sculpted relief panels. They represent England, Scotland, and Ireland. The arch was also decorated with a number of fine sculptures, all of which no longer remain with the arch but have been moved elsewhere.In 1829 King George IV commissioned an equestrian statue of himself that was to be placed on top of the central arch. It never ended up there though, and was instead installed on a plinth atTrafalgar Square, where it can still be found.

Passing through

Marble Arch, London

The north side of the arch
Though the gate once served as the main entrance to the palace, today – to many Londoner’s distress – it is found at some kind of no man’s land, serving as a gateway between the neighborhoods of Bayswater and Marylebone. Back when it was located near Buckingham Palace, only senior members of the Royal Family as well as the Royal Horse Artillery and King’s Troop could pass through the Marble Arch. Today however you can freely walk through the arches.


Albert Memorial….

The Albert Memorial was commissioned by Queen Victoria as a tribute to her late consort, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. The High Gothic monument was completed in 1876, fifteen years after prince Albert died at the age of forty-two.
Albert Memorial, London

Albert Memorial

Prince Albert statue at the Albert Memorial in London

Prince Albert

Prince Albert

Prince Albert was born in Germany as the second son of the Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. In 1840 he married his cousin Victoria, who had just inherited the throne of Great Britain.
Prince Albert is best known for his support of the Great Exhibition of the World of Industry of All Nations which was held in 1851 in Hyde Park and became a tremendous success. Six million Britons, or one third of the population, visited the exhibition.


After the closure of the exhibition prince Albert put all his energy on an even larger project. He wanted to provide free cultural education by creating a permanent national exhibition promoting science and culture. Along a broad boulevard near Hyde Park, museums, concert halls and academies would be built.The grand project, dubbed ‘Albertopolis’, was unfinished by the time prince Albert died of typhoid in 1861, but by the end of the nineteenth century a whole cluster of cultural institutions had settled in South Kensington; they include the Royal Albert Hall, the Royal College of Art, the Natural History Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum.

The Monument

Albert’s memorial was appropriately erected opposite the Royal Albert Hall, near the location of the Exhibition of 1851. The memorial

Albert Memorial

was commissioned by Queen Victoria as a tribute to her late consort.

The monument, standing 175ft/53m tall, was built from 1864 to 1876 after a neo-Gothic design by Sir George Gilbert Scott. A 14ft/4m high gilded statue shows Albert seated under a pinnacle, holding a catalogue of the 1851 Great Exhibition. The pinnacle is set on a base with a large frieze. It is adorned with marble reliefs of 178 people, mostly artists.

At each corner are four statues depicting some of prince Albert’s interests: engineering, agriculture, commerce and

Asia Sculpture at the Albert Memorial, London


manufacturing. At the bottom of the steps leading to prince Albert’s statue are four more sculpture groups, symbolizing Europe, Africa, America and Asia.


Since 1914 the monument had been blackened, supposedly to avoid becoming a target of German zeppelin bombing raids. Between 1994 and 1998 the decaying monument was restored and Albert’s statue was re-gilded.

City Hall…

One of London’s most modern buildings, City Hall houses the Greater London Authority (GLA) including the mayor of London and the London Assembly. The GLA is responsible for the administration of Greater London.

A Startling New Design

London City Hall

City Hall

More London

More London
Completed in July 2002 and situated on the south bank of the Thames River near the Tower Bridge, City Hall was designed by the firm of the well-known British architect Norman Foster, who also designed the Gherkin and the Millennium Bridge in London. He was also responsible for the renovation of Berlin’s famed Reichstag.The subject of some controversy among those who dislike modern architecture, the bulbous-shaped building has been compared to a misshapen egg, a motorcycle helmet, and an onion. Designers say they chose this particular shape for the glass and steel structure because it reduces surface area and makes the building more energy efficient.

The forty-five meter-tall building is part of a complex known as More London, which includes shops, offices, and a sunken amphitheatre (The Scoop) that is the site of many summer open-air concerts and other arts performances.


Assembly Chamber of the City Hall in London

Assembly Chamber
Enter City Hall in London and the first thing you’ll notice is the long helical walkway, which measures about five hundred meters (1,640 feet) and ascends from the bottom all the way to the top of the building, which stands ten stories tall.The walkway provides excellent views of the interior and the river, and at the top of the ramp is a spacious room known as “London’s Living Room”, a reception hall on the ninth floor with room for up to 250 guests. The Living Room gives access to a balcony with unobstructed views over the Tower Bridge and theCity of London. Initially the room was open to the public but unfortunately the mayor of London gradually restricted access to the point that it is no longer publicly accessible.

The building includes an assembly chamber with amphitheatre-style seating for an audience of 250 people. There’s a total of about 17,000 square meter (185,000 sq ft) of floor space

London City Hall

View from across the Thames

inside the egg-shaped building and the office space inside is flexible – able to be subdivided, when necessary, with solid or transparent partitions.


Windows can be opened for natural ventilation and the building leans back towards the south to avoid the most intense direct daytime sunlight. Cold ground water air conditions the building and there are no “chillers” (air conditioners) inside. In addition, solar panels were installed on the roof to reduce electrical consumption, making City Hall one of London’s “greenest” buildings.


Imperial War Museum…

Originally established to pay homage to the British contribution to World War I, the Imperial War Museum now covers all major twentieth-century conflicts involving Great Britain.

Museum History

London’s Imperial War Museum was founded in 1917 “to record the story of the

Sherman Tank at the Imperial War Museum in London

M4 Sherman Tank

Great War (WWI) and the contributions made to it by the peoples of the Empire”.

The museum was officially opened by act of Parliament in 1920 and its first location was in the city’s magnificent Crystal Palace, an astounding glass building in Hyde Park. Four years later, it was relocated to two small galleries adjoining the Imperial Institute, and in 1936, it was reopened in the central portion of the former Bethlem Royal Hospital for the insane in the Southwark area of the city.

In 1939, the trustees of the museum decided that it would be pertinent to also include World War II artifacts at the Imperial War Museum. Today the museum covers all major military

The Large exhibits gallery in the Imperial War Museum in London

Large Exhibits Gallery

events of the 20th century in which Great Britain was involved.


After entering the museum, you are welcomed by an array of tanks, warplanes, artillery and other war machinery in the museum’s large exhibits gallery. But the museum shows more than just killing machines. There are many galleries focusing on the effects of war on both the military and civilians.The largest exhibits focus on World War I and II, but other major conflicts involving Britain since 1945 are also covered including the Cold War, Korean War,

P51-D Mustang, Imperial War Museum, London

P51-D Mustang

Falklands and the Gulf War. One of the highlights is a walk-through recreation of a front-line trench in 1916. Another highlight is the Secret War exhibition, which focuses on Britain’s secret agencies MI5 and MI6.

A large part of the museum’s collection is not on display but can be accessed for study. It features approximately 150,000 works of art, including 14,000 paintings, 30,000 international war posters, a large video and photo archive and more than 10,000 private documents of people involved in warfare.

Museum Building

The museum is housed in a building originally erected for the Bethlem Royal Hospital (Bedlam), a hospital specialized in the care of the insane. The first stone of the building – designed by architect James Lewis – was laid in 1812.

Imperial War Museum, London

Imperial War Museum

Three years later the building opened as the new site of the hospital, previously located at Moorfield. The central dome was added later, in 1845, by Sidney Smirke.

In 1930 the hospital moved to a new building near Beckenham. The building’s large wings were demolished to make way for a park. The central part of the former hospital building remained and was transferred into a museum, which opened in 1936 as the Imperial War Museum.


Sea Life London Aquarium….

The London Aquarium, housed in the historic County Hall along the river Thames, is one of Europe’s largest aquariums. Thousands of sea creatures from around the world can be admired here.

County Hall

Aquarium entrance at County Hall, London

Aquarium Entrance
The London Aquarium is housed in theCounty Hall, an early twentieth century building that served as the seat of the London Greater Council until it was abandoned in 1986. The aquarium opened in 1997 and occupies several stories at the center of the building.

The Aquarium

Zebra Shark, London Aquarium

Zebra Shark
The aquarium is spread over three floors. More than three thousand species of sea animals and plants can be found here in about fifty water tanks containing an amazing two million liters of water, making it one of the largest aquariums in Europe.


Piranha, London Aquarium

The aquarium is divided in a number of zones. Each of these zones represent a different biotope such as pools, oceans and rivers. There is a large water tank which simulates the biotope of the river Thames. Other biotopes have water tanks with a diverse array of fish and other animals such as octopuses, squid and jellyfish.

Moray Eel, London Aquarium

Moray eel

The biggest attraction is a huge water tank with a large number of sharks and sting-rays. Another large tank, in the Indian Ocean zone, has sting-rays, firefish, sea anemones and frilled sharks.

Sharks are the most popular animals in the aquarium although piranhas, rays, crocodiles and seahorses also attract plenty of onlookers. The rays are especially popular with children since they can caress the rays in a special open tank.


Cleopatra’s Needle….

Cleopatra’s Needle is an authentic Egyptian obelisk in London. In the early nineteenth century the more than three thousand-year-old obelisk was transported to London from its original site in Egypt.

One of Three

Cleopatra's Needle, London

Cleopatra’s Needle
There are three obelisks known as ‘Cleopatra’s Needle’: the first one was installed in Paris at the center of the Place de la Concorde. The other two are located in New York – in Central Park – and London, on the Embankment near the Victoria Embankment Gardens. The ones that were presented to the cities of London and New York are from the same site in Heliopolis, Egypt.

From Egypt to London

London’s obelisk was presented to the city in 1819 but remained in Alexandria for nearly sixty years until the British government could afford to move it. The United Kingdom received the gift from Mehemet Ali, the then-viceroy of Egypt.
It cost £10,000 to eventually bring Cleopatra’s Needle to London and the bill was footed by local anatomist and philanthropist Sir William James Erasmus Wilson. The obelisk capsized in a storm in the Bay of Biscay on the way to London, killing six crew members,

Cleopatra's Needle, London

The obelisk

who are commemorated on a plaque at the obelisk. However, it was rescued and taken to Spain for repair, eventually arriving in London in January 1878.

About the Obelisk

The structure is made of red granite and stands about 68 feet (21 meters) high. The 180-ton needle originally came from the ancient city of Heliopolis and was believed to have been erected by order of Pharaoh Thutmose III around 1443 BC.Egyptian hieroglyphs cover the structure and experts note that these were added about two hundred years later by Ramesses II in honor of his military victories. In about 12 BC – when Egypt was part of the Roman Empire, the London and New York obelisks were moved to the city of Alexandria and placed in the Caesareum, a temple built to

Sphinx at Cleopatra's Needle, London

One of the Sphinxes

honor Caesar and Marc Antony – a Roman General and supporter of Caesar – by Cleopatra (who had a relationship with Caesar and later with Marc Antony). They were later toppled and covered with sand, which actually aided in their preservation.

Two bronze replicas of Egyptian sphinxes sit on either side of Cleopatra’s Needle and bear the inscription “the good god, Thuthmosis III given life”, written in hieroglyphics. The sphinxes face the wrong way. They look in the direction of the obelisk, while they are meant to look away from the monument in order to protect it against enemies.

Though Cleopatra’s Needle was restored in 2005, visitors can still view damage to one of the sphinxes’ pedestal, caused when a German bomb landed near it during a World War I air raid.