London is home to a wealth of sights and experiences that will delight any intrepid traveler. If you’re looking to visit the British capital soon and are unsure of where to start your cultural journey, here is our pick of five cultural landmarks that can tell you everything you need to know about The Big Smoke.
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1. Big Ben
The nickname ‘Big Ben’ has long been mistakenly used to refer to the Elizabeth Tower and Westminster Palace in which it is located. In truth, The Telegraph clarifies that ‘Big Ben’ refers only to the 13.5-ton bell the tower houses. As a whole, the architectural landmark is a British cultural icon and one of the most prominent symbols of the United Kingdom and its parliamentary democracy.
2. Globe Theatre
Follow in the footsteps of legendary actor and playwright William Shakespeare in the Globe Theatre on the South bank of the River Thames. The round amphitheater is actually a reconstruction of the original structure that The Chamberlain’s Men built in the 17th century. Today, the cultural landmark aims to educate the public on Shakespeare’s life and literary work, hosting plays, exhibits, and special talks on the iconic legacy.
If you’re going further afield in the country we recommend plotting out your travels and this is a great start to visit more cultural and historical landmarks in England.
3. Granada Cinema
Located in Southeast London in the district of Tooting, the Granada Cinema holds an important place in British Cinema history. Designed by Cecil Massey and Reginald Uren in the 1930s, the building is a huge and luxurious cinema built in the magnificent Art Deco style of that decade.
By the 1960s, the cinema began its decline and made way for bingo, one of Britain’s national pastimes. The magnificent halls play host to nightly games to this day and are some of the oldest and grandest of the country’s 600 bingo halls. In this regard, the building continues to serve the local community as a venue for entertainment, relaxation, and bonding.
This highly social nature of the massively popular game is evident through the level of engagement in venues like the Granada Cinema, and the camaraderie even extends to its more modern counterparts on digital platforms. The FoxyBingo Reviews provides an insight into how strong and reputable online communities of loyal and diverse bingo players have become in the UK. Such platforms provide convenience, accessibility, and social connections for enthusiasts of the iconic game, helping boost its popularity in both online and offline forms. The fascinating culture of London’s iconic bingo halls is a more than worthy reason for a visit, and the Granada Cinema essentially encapsulates these qualities.
4. BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir
More popularly known as the Neasden Hindu Temple, the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir is a stunning landmark that showcases the best of Indian design. Built in 1995, this Hindu temple in northwest London is one of the largest of its kind outside of India.
The building was created out of 2,828 tonnes of Bulgarian limestone and 2,000 tonnes of Italian marble, requiring the work of 1,526 sculptors and construction costs amounting to £12 million. Since then, the temple has received distinctions like the UK Pride of Palace Award, as a testament to London’s cultural diversity and wonder.
5. City Hall
Last but not least is the London City Hall, which opened in 2002. The unique, egg-like structure serves as the headquarters of the Greater London Authority and is designed to minimise direct sun exposure and maximise shade.
In a city known for Gothic and Brutalist architecture, buildings like the City Hall signify London’s modernity and openness to innovation. The Guardian reports that Norman Foster’s design of the new city hall has achieved the impossible by making municipal politics look fresh and exciting. As one of the most recognizable buildings in the city today, even at 10 stories high, the new city hall is well worth a visit.
Visiting in Spring? Check out our guide to Bluebells – with 20 facts about Bluebells you never knew. Once you’ve had your fill of London, we recommend a visit to Barnard Castle, some 400 kilometers north of the Capital. As explained in a previous post here on ASocialNomad, the castle offers a tranquil escape from the bustling city.
Travel Tips for Exploring England
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