Enjoy the urban chic of London, sprinkled with the magic of royalty, art and gardens. See a West End theatre play, ride on the London Eye, tour the Tower of London, the British Museum, and take the Thames River cruise. Then venture to the picture perfect Cotswolds, discover the hidden Oxford, look for Jane Austen's heritage in Bath and visit the prehistoric Stonehenge.
London has great museums, royal pageantry, best city gardens, narrow streets and houses steeped in history. It's an ancient city whose history greets you at every turn. London largely reflects its medieval layout, a willfully difficult tangle of streets. The great globe of St. Paul's Cathedral glows golden in the fading sunlight as it has since the 17th century. The neo-gothic Westminster is home to the parliament, which has met here since the 1250s, and it still looks majestic amid the modern towers of glass and steel that surround it. Past them flows the swift, dark Thames, following the same course as when it flowed past the Roman settlement of Londinium nearly 2,000 years ago.
London - The City of Art
In the heart of the Trafalgar Square stands the National Gallery in its full glory of marble and fountains. Inside, the gallery houses some of the world's most important paintings from as far back as the 13th century: you can gaze upon the works of Botticelli, Titian, da Vinci, Rembrandt, Raphael, Monet, Renoir, Cezanne or Van Gogh, and this is a highly abbreviated list. The National Gallery was built in 1833 in an attempt to outshine Paris's Louvre and it makes art more accessible to all with free admission, a central location and extended hours. The collection is so big that it is easy to miss many of the greatest works of European art here.
Theatre in London
London's first playhouse was built at Shoreditch in 1576 and had the appropriate name of The Theatre. Prior to this, plays had been performed in ad hoc venues such as courtyards, inn-yards or spacious private homes. When the lease on The Theatre ran out in 1597, its industrious owner Richard Burbage transported its timber across the Thames and used it to build the first (of three) Globe theatre on the South Bank. The Globe opened in 1599 with a company led by Burbage, who established himself as the first of London's great actor/impresarios. Burbage was the first man to play Hamlet, King Lear and Othello.
The Cotswolds is a place that more than one writer has called the very soul of England. The rolling uplands of the Cotswolds Hills rise gently from the Upper Thames Valley, north of Bath, and they are considered the quintessence of rural England, as immortalized in countless books, paintings and films. With its pretty-as-a-picture villages, perfectly clipped hedges, and the mellow, centuries-old, stone-built cottages festooned with honeysuckle, this idyllic place has been thriving on the wool trade since medieval times, and it remains a concentrated vision of rural England.
Stonehenge is the most important prehistoric monument in Britain. It is a powerful national icon symbolizing mystery and endurance. While the construction of Stonehenge started about 5,000 years ago, the structure that we know today is the final of three building stages, completed about 3,500 years ago. It is most likely that Stonehenge was built as a temple dedicated to worship of sun, moon and earth deities, but it was also used it as an astronomical observatory for marking significant events on the prehistoric calendar. It is believed that Stonehenge was a burial site for high-ranking members of the prehistoric societies who lived here.
Jane Austen's Bath
In the 18th century, the city of Bath, originally built by the Romans around its hot spring, was transformed into a fashionable spa town, and Jane Austen is perhaps the best loved of Bath's many famous residents and visitors. She paid two long visits here at the end of the 18th century, and from 1801 to 1806 Bath was her home. The writer's intimate knowledge of the city is reflected in two of her novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, which are largely set in Bath. The city is still very much as Jane Austen knew it, preserving in its streets, public buildings and elegant city houses, the orderly world that she portrays so brilliantly in her novels.
Gourmand's London: Ale, Shepherds' Pie and Tea
Food is very important to the travel experience, and everyone should sample Britain's diverse food culture while on a trip to London. There is nothing quite like a Bakewell Pudding, a Cornish Pasty, or a fry-up breakfast with Cumberland sausage, especially when you eat it in the region that invented them. London restaurants serve food from every corner of the world, Tudor-beamed pubs feature menus from Dickens' day, sophisticated eateries offer cutting edge Modern British Cuisine - London has them all. Glittering windows piled with edible delights, the enticing doors of Fortnum and Mason lead to the finest, English-made chocolates...