London Visitor Guide

London Attractions, Activities and Things To Do!

Other Great London Attractions


Shakespeare’s Globe

Founded by American actor and director Sam Wanamaker, Shakespeare’s Globe comprises three elements that together contribute to the overall aim of exploration of Shakespeare’s work and the playhouse for which he wrote.
The Globe Theatre has a professional theatre company that includes international artists and puts on a summer season of plays. Globe Education works with students of all ages to explore Shakespeare’s scripts in relation to the stage. The third element, Shakespeare’s Globe Exhibition, is the most extensive exhibition in the world devoted to Shakespeare and his contemporaries in performance. Together, the three activities attract more than 750,000 people each year to the world-class facility sited on the south bank of the River Thames, opposite St Paul’s Cathedral.
A visit to Shakespeare’s Globe Exhibition includes a fascinating guided tour of the Globe Theatre, with tours running every 15-30 minutes. No individual bookings are needed although groups should book in advance at reduced rates for fifteen or more. During matinee performances, tours are of the nearby site of Bankside’s first theatre, the Rose, rather than the Globe.
The exhibition features many interactive displays and live demonstrations, while live events include performances by musicians, sword-fighting demonstrations and costume dressings. Various public events and activities are also staged.
Visitors can purchase merchandise at the Globe shop and obtain refreshments at the Bar/Brasserie. The unique venue is also available for hospitality events.
Exhibition opening hours: From 23 April to 5 October, Daily 9.00-12.30 and 13.00-17.00, Sunday 9.00-11.30 and 12.00-17.00
Shakespeare’s Globe, 21 New Globe Walk, Bankside, SE1 9DT
Phone: 020 7902 1400 Fax: 020 7902 1401
Email: info@shakespearesglobe.com Web: www.shakespeares-globe.org


Southbank Centre

Built in 1951 as part of the Festival of Britain, the Southbank Centre became an independent arts organisation in 1988. It is located on the Thames riverside, next to the London Eye, and is at the centre of an arts quarter that stretches from the Royal National Theatre and National Film Theatre to Tate Modern and Shakespeare’s Globe.
The Southbank Centre offers a wide-ranging programme that includes classical and world music, rock and pop, jazz, dance, literature and the visual arts, and attracts the most diverse audience of any UK venue. In fact, the centre comprises a number of venues that offer varying events, with many being available for hire with capacities ranging from 30 up to 2,500.
The Royal Festival Hall is at the heart of the Southbank Centre and is one of the world’s leading performance venues. In addition to the auditorium, the building includes the Clore Ballroom, the Southbank Centre shop, several places to eat and drink, and the Saison Poetry Library. The latter houses the Arts Council poetry collection, the most comprehensive and accessible collection of modern poetry in Britain.
The Queen Elizabeth Hall hosts chamber orchestras, quartets, choirs, dance performances and opera. It also contains two smaller venues — the Purcell Room that provides an intimate concert hall venue and the Front Room that is situated in the foyer. The Hayward is one of London’s most important spaces for displaying contemporary art.
Visitors can view work inside and outside the centre’s iconic buildings, shop, eat, drink and enjoy the river and skyline. Various events are staged each month.
Opening hours vary depending on venue and performances but generally from 10.00 daily.
Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, SE1 8XX
Phone: 0871 663 2501
Web: www.southbankcentre.co.uk


Tower Bridge

Completed in 1894, Tower Bridge was designed to allow vehicle and pedestrian access across the Thames downstream of London Bridge without disrupting river traffic. The hydraulically operated bridge, which lifts around 1000 times each year to allow ships to pass through, was originally steam powered but is now driven by oil and electricity.
A full visit to the Tower Bridge Exhibition takes around 1 hour 30 minutes and is unaccompanied, although an introductory talk can be booked and guides are on hand to provide assistance. The history of the bridge is shown, with interactive displays in the towers and high-level walkways. The latter, 42 metres above the river, offer fantastic views and have special viewing windows for photographs. The historical Victorian Engine Rooms house the original engines and the tour ends in the bridge’s gift shop.
A pre-bookable behind-the-scenes tour is led by a technical guide and additionally goes to the bridge control rooms and the immense bascule chambers below the riverbed. A private evening tour, which must be pre-booked no more than two weeks in advance, provides exclusive access for a single group with a minimum of ten members. All the bridge’s main areas are covered and an exhibition guide gives detailed information about the bridge.
Specialist talks are provided for tourism and marketing students while various events and activities are held throughout the year. The high-level walkways and engine rooms are available for private use after normal closure while the Bridge Master’s Dining Room and North Tower Lounge are also available for hire during the day.
Opening hours: Daily 10.00-18.30 from 1 April until 30 September and 9.30-18.00 from 1 October until 31 March
Closed 24-26 December
Tower Bridge Exhibition, Tower Bridge, SE1 2UP
Phone: 020 7403 3761 Fax: 020 7357 7935
Email: enquiries@towerbridge.org.uk Web: www.towerbridge.org.uk


Trafalgar Square

Constructed in the early 1800s, Trafalgar Square is one of London’s most vibrant open spaces. It has been the centre of national democracy and protest, and can be booked in advance for rallies and protests, filming and photography, and promotional events.
Trafalgar Square’s most well known feature is Nelson’s Column, which was erected to honour Admiral Nelson following his 1805 victory in the Battle of Trafalgar. The five-metre high granite statue stands on a bronze platform made from old guns from the Woolwich Arsenal Foundry. Nelson’s Column is Grade 1 listed and its most recent restoration was completed in July 2006.
The fountains operate on most days and are surrounded by mermaids, dolphins and tritons (male figures with tails like fish). The square has statues of General Sir Charles James Napier, Major General Sir Henry Havelock and King George IV. The fourth plinth is part of a rotating programme of modern art with the sculpture changed at intervals.
Trafalgar Square underwent a major transformation in 2003 with the pedestrianisation of the north side and the building of a central staircase to form a large terrace. It is surrounded by several historic buildings and has other features and facilities, including the Café on the Square, which is available for hire. Heritage Wardens are on duty to help and advise visitors.
The square hosts a variety of events and activities, including the traditional carol-singing programme at Christmas. The Christmas tree has been given by the people of Norway since 1947 in gratitude for Britain’s support in World War II.
Web: www.london.gov.uk/trafalgarsquare


Thames Barrier

Surge tides coupled with northerly winds put a quarter of a million people at risk from flooding in the London area. After a disastrous flood in 1953 killed over 300 people and covered 160,000 acres on Canvey Island in seawater, a number of schemes were put forward to overcome the problem. The result was the Thames Barrier, which was finally opened in 1984.
The barrier comprises nine reinforced concrete piers and ten movable gates that are positioned end-to-end across the river, measuring 520 metres from bank to bank. When a dangerously high tidal surge threatens, the gates are raised to seal off the upper part of the Thames from the sea.
New walkways and amenity areas have been formed near the barrier. The Thames Barrier Information Centre features a working model of the barrier and a video that shows its construction, operation and how it protects London from flooding. Displays explain the wildlife and environment of the River Thames while a café plus picnic and play area are available.
The Thames Barrier Learning Centre is an educational centre for school groups that also has a range of activities with an environmental theme during school holidays.
Opening hours: Daily 10.30-16.30 from April until September and 11.00-15.30 from October until March
Closed 25 December and 1 January
Thames Barrier Information and Learning Centre, 1 Unity Way, Woolwich, SE18 5NJ
Phone: 020 8305 4188 Fax: 020 8855 2146
Email: learningcentre@environment-agency.gov.uk/regions/thames Web: www.environment-agency.gov.uk/regions/thames
Nearby is the Thames Barrier Park, with 22 acres of lawns, trees and hedges, plus a play area, 5-a-side court, picnic area and fountains.
Opening hours: Daily 7.00-16.45 in January through to 21.45 in June
Thames Barrier Park, North Woolwich Road, E16 2HP
Web: www.thamesbarrierpark.org.uk


Whipsnade Zoo

Run by the Zoological Society of London, a charity devoted to the worldwide conservation of animals, Whipsnade Zoo has over 150 species of wild animals in acres of stunning parkland surrounded by the Chiltern Hills.
Relatively new attractions include the 5,000 square metre Cheetah Rock enclosure and the Rhinos of Nepal exhibit. Other attractions include the Lions of the Serengeti exhibit with its pride of African lions and the Chimpanasium that provides an extensive indoor gymnasium where the chimps can swing. In with the Lemurs offers visitors the chance to go onto the lemurs’ island.
Numerous other species are available in natural surroundings and daily events are staged at the Discovery Centre, the Children’s Farm and other locations. A programme of other events is held throughout the year.
Gift tickets are available and valid for twelve months while discounts are offered to groups. The zoo has numerous refreshments points, including the Lookout Café, the Café on the Lake and several kiosks.
The Cloisters function suites can accommodate 10 to 600 guests and are available to hire for various events such as parties, dinner dances and conferences. Whipsnade Zoo is also licensed for weddings and is a venue for civil partnerships.
Opening hours: 10.00-19.00 from late Spring until early Autumn and on Sundays and Bank Holidays; closes 17.00 or 18.00 at other times
Closed 25 December
ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, Dunstable, Bedfordshire, LU6 2LF
Phone: 01582 872171
Web: www.zsl.org/zsl-whipsnade-zoo