During the past 2,000 years, the people of London have built some of the most historic buildings in the world. These buildings, which were built centuries ago, have survived devastating fires and wars and were home to some of the most important people in British and even world history. Still standing today, they are some of the main tourist attractions in London. Here we list ten of the most iconic buildings in London and tell you about their history.
1. Queen’s House
Anne of Denmark – the wife of King James I, who reigned from 1603 to 1625 – commissioned the Queen’s House, which was an important residence for the early Stuarts as well as for the Tudors. Throughout history, there have been unexplained ghostly sightings in the Queen’s House: one of the first took place in 1966 when a retired couple from Canada was visiting the facilities. The couple took a photograph of the house staircase and upon returning to Canada, they realized there was a figure that had appeared on the stairs in the photograph.
Annual visitors: 147,181
Romney Road, Greenwich, London +44 20 8858 4422
2. Kensington Palace
King William III bought Kensington Palace, originally known as Nottingham House, in 1689. Christopher Wren, one of the most acclaimed architects in history, was hired to expand and improve the space. Until he died in 1760, Kensington Palace was George II’s favourite residence, and Queen Victoria was raised there. When she was crowned in 1837, she moved to Buckingham Palace.
Annual visitors: 401,353
Kensington Gardens, London +44 844 482 7777
3. Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace is the official residence of the Queen in London as well as the office of the Head of State. The palace has 775 rooms, and currently has a workforce of over 800 workers. It was originally commissioned by the Duke of Buckingham, who had it built for his own use. The architect John Nash transformed it into Buckingham Palace in the 1820s, but the first monarch to use the palace as an official residence was Queen Victoria, who moved there in 1837 .
Annual visitors: 558,000
Buckingham Palace, London +44 20 7766 7300
4. Hampton Court Palace
Hampton Court Palace was the most important palace in England in Tudor times. It was built for Thomas Wolsey in 1515, but was occupied by Henry VIII in 1529, when the process of rebuilding and remodeling began, lasting about ten years. Henry VIII transformed the palace into something entirely new. There are no drawings of the original palace and very few writings about its construction.
Annual visitors: 560,513
East Molesey, Surrey, London +44 844 482 7777
5. Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey is one of the most important Gothic buildings in the UK and has been the coronation church since 1066. It was the final resting place of 17 monarchs and some of the most important people in UK history. The abbey has been home to many royal celebrations: it hosted 16 royal weddings, including the wedding of Prince William to Catherine Middleton. In 1245, the current building was built by King Henry, who demolished part of the 11th century abbey founded by King Edward the Confessor.
Annual visitors: 1,190,737
Westminster, London +44 20 7222 5152
6. The Parliament
King William II built the Houses of Parliament between 1097 and 1099. Several royal residents remodeled the palace. Then in 1500, when Henry VIII decided to move, its role as a royal residence ended. Although it officially remained a royal palace, it was used by both Houses of Parliament and the various royal courts. The original palace did not include the two chambers and it was subject significant alterations in the 18th century, due to Parliament’s struggle to conduct business in the available spaces.
Annual visitors: 1,253,326
Westminster, London +44 20 7219 3000
7. The Old Royal Naval College
The Old Royal Naval College was built in a place originally occupied by the mansion of the Duke of Gloucester, erected in the 1420s. This was later acquired by Queen Margaret of Anjou, who expanded it to create the Palace of Placentia,. After being rebuilt by Henry VII as Greenwich Palace in the 1490s, it became the Tudors’ favorite royal residence. During the English Civil War, the building fell into disrepair, and most of the structure was demolished. Currently, only the palace’s foundations remain, under the Grand Square.
Annual visitors: 1,749,708
King William Walk, Londres +44 20 8269 4747
8. St. Paul’s Cathedral
St Paul’s Cathedral was the first cathedral to be built after the English Reformation in the 16th century, when Henry VIII removed the Church of England from the jurisdiction of the Pope. Built between 1675 and 1710, after its predecessor was destroyed in the Great Fire of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral is a masterpiece by Britain’s most famous architect, Christopher Wren, and is at least the fourth cathedral to be built on that site.
Annual visitors: 1,782,741
St. Paul’s Churchyard, London +44 20 7246 8350
9. Somerset House
Somerset House was built on the site of a Tudor castle that was demolished in 1775. The old building was torn down in order to build a new space which would house many government offices and societies. During the reign of King James I, the building became the London residence of his wife, Anne of Denmark, and was renamed the Denmark House. James also built a chapel where Henrietta Maria of France, wife of King Charles I, could practice Catholicism.
Annual visitors: 2,463,201
Strand, Londres +44 20 7845 4600
10. The Tower of London
Before the Victorian era, the Tower of London served as a royal residence and a notorious prison. More than 27 meters high, it was designed to invoke fear. The tower was originally built in 1070, but was extended by Henry III and Edward I during the medieval period. During the Tudor era, the Tower entered a bloody period, with cells and torture chambers full of political and religious prisoners, as a result of the rupture between Henry VIII and the Pope of Rome.
Annual visitors: 3,075,950
St Katharine Wapping, Londres +44 844 482 7777
Have you visited all of them?