Our cruise with the Azamara Journey ends on a Sunday in September 2018 in the London borough of Greenwich. Before we fly back to Germany from Stansted in the evening, we spend the day in London. There is enough time in London to discover new things and refresh what is already known.
A classic London taxi takes us from Greenwich to Liverpool Street Station. From there we will drive to Stansted Airport in the late afternoon. We hand over the luggage to the luggage storage and start our individual tour through the City of London.
Liverpool Street Station
Combine new and traditional architecture
It's no more than ten minutes' walk from the train station to our first destination, the 180-meter-high office tower of the reinsurance company Swiss Re. The British star architect Norman Foster was responsible for the design of the building. In terms of shape, the building is reminiscent of the Torre Agbar in Barcelona. The Londoners call it Gherkin because of its shape. The tower is unusual because of its diamond-shaped glass facade. Unfortunately, The Gherkin does not have a viewing platform for interested visitors.
The "Sky Garden London", less than 360 meters from The Gherkin, offers a (free) viewing platform along with a 500° panoramic view. He can be found on the 35th floor of the Walkie Talkie Tower at 20 Fenchurch Street. Plant lovers can enjoy the lush greenery of the covered planting for a panoramic view from several levels. We also take care of your physical well-being.
Soon afterwards we reach Leadenhall Market, which is located between the Gherkin and the Tower of London. It stands up to the comparison to Covent Garden Market. Unlike the latter, it is not very well developed for tourism. The construction from 1881 consists mainly of cast iron and glass. The market supplies wealthy buyers from the London financial world with delicacies and wine. There are also restaurants, bars and small shops. Leadenhall Market even served as the backdrop for a Harry Potter film.
Our next destination is the Tower of London, which we reach after another ten minutes. The construction of the White Tower began around 940 years ago, in 1078. The tower was a royal palace, fortress, prison and place of execution. It later served as a mint, arsenal and, since 1995, as a repository for the crown jewels. In the Jewel House, visitors slide past the treasures on a treadmill. Yeoman Warders, popularly known as Beefeater, guide the curious through the building. The tower is surrounded by a double fortress ring. In the old days boats went straight to the tower from the Thames. They used the traitors gate for this.
Tower of London
Another famous landmark in London is Tower Bridge. There are only a few steps between the tower and the legendary bascule bridge. The Thames Overpass, built in neo-Gothic style, was built more than 100 years ago. The two towers are 65 meters high. If larger ships pass the Tower Bridge, the flaps are opened. Pedestrians pass the bridge when it is open on footbridges 43 meters above the water. These walkways offer great views of London. The old machine house with the steam engines that have since been decommissioned is open to inspection.
Discoveries on the Bankside Bank
The Bankside runs parallel to the south bank of the Thames. Just behind Tower Bridge is City Hall, a bulbous, 45-meter-high building. Norman Foster designed it. He probably didn't expect his work to be disrespectfully compared to Darth Vader's helmet or a pumpkin once it was completed. City Hall is the administrative seat of the Greater London Authority and the seat of the Mayor of London.
London city hall
We don't have time for The Shard. It would be delightful to see London from one of the viewing platforms on the 68, 69 and 72 floors from a height of up to 232 meters. The building is 310 meters high, making it the tallest structure in Western Europe. The well-known architect Renzo Piano designed it.
Opening times: 10:00 am to 22:00 pm with a fixed entry time. - Ticket price: £ 24 if booked in advance.
On the way to Boroughs Market we pass Hay's Galleria. The passage is a good example of how a modern, multifunctional building ensemble was developed from an old, decrepit tea warehouse. Hay's Galleria includes offices, restaurants, shops and open spaces. It is named after the first owner, the merchant Alexander Hay, who bought a previous building in 1651.
We like Borough Market too; it is London's oldest food market. It is mainly supplied by producers. There is also a large, varied street food area that offers delicious dishes from all over the world. The origins of Borough Market go back 1000 years.
Next to Borough Market is Southwark Cathedral, an Anglican episcopal church. The Gothic building dates mainly from the period between 1220 and 1420. The church has been the episcopal church since 1905.
London - Southwark Cathedral
London - Galleon Golden Hinde
Next we see the sailing ship Golden Hinde. In the St Mary Overie's dry dock, which extends from the Thames, work is being carried out on the reconstruction of a 37-meter-long galleon. Sir Francis Drake was the first Englishman to circumnavigate the world with such a ship between 1577 and 1580. The original Golden Hinde was to be preserved for posterity in his honor. Fate meant it differently with the ship. It fell into disrepair, and the remains were cleared away in 1662. A second replica of the ship is in the south-west of England in Brixham / Devon.
Afterwards we pass Winchester Palace. All that remains of the old splendor is a high wall of rubble stones with a rose window and a few flower beds. In the early 13th century, Winchester Palace was the residence of the Bishop of Winchester. The palace was one of the most magnificent buildings of that time. Old pictures show a huge building complex consisting of several parts.
Another contemporary witness is the Golden Globe Theater. By the end of the 16th century, Bankside was London's entertainment hub. There were already several theaters when it was decided to add the Golden Globe Theater. The construction of the large, round and open theater was completed in 1599. The three-story rotunda held more than 3.000 people, and the Golden Globe only performed works by Shakespeare. The playwright and poet had a 12,5 percent share in the theater. Since the security of the theater was not guaranteed in the long run, it was later demolished. The current theater building was rebuilt in 1997 with 1.500 seats.
Shakespeare's Globe Theater
The 325 meter long Millennium Bridge is within sight of the Globe Theater. The footbridge spans the Thames and connects Southwark, on the south bank of the Thames, with the City of London. The Londoners also owe the extremely elegant structure to Sir Norman Foster. Initially there were problems with uncontrolled vibrations. They have now been fixed.
Icons of the north bank of the Thames
From the Millennium Bridge the direct route leads past the Firefighters Memorial up to St Paul's Cathedral, the episcopal church of the Church of England. At 158 meters in length, the nave is one of the longest in the world. The cathedral, dedicated to the patron saint of London, is the fifth church in a row at this location. The magnificent building has often hosted royal weddings and funeral ceremonies. Important personalities of the country found their final resting place in the cathedral. Tourists are recommended to visit the church and the crypt. There is a buffet restaurant, a cafeteria and a souvenir shop.
Paternoster Row ran where the clergy of Old St Paul's prayed the Lord's Prayer in the Middle Ages. Paternoster Square next to the cathedral was named after her. In the middle of the square is the Paternoster Square Column, a 23 meter high Corinthian column. At the top there is a gold-leaf, flaming urn. The Temple Bar archway stands between the square and St Paul's Cathedral. The old city gate dates from 1672. Originally, it stood at the point where Fleet Street merges into Strand Street. Fleetstreet has been the traditional UK media location since the 18th century.
Temple Bar archway
At the level of the Royal Courts of Justice, Fleetstreet turns into Strand. A griffin standing on a stone pedestal marks the transition. It is also the westernmost point of the City of London.
Royal Courts of Justice
Covent Garden Market is one of the main attractions on our London visit program for us. Covent Garden was used as a permanent market until the 1960s. The market has been a tourist attraction since the 1980s. In front of the halls is the cobblestone Covent Garden Piazza. It has a variety of dining options. In the halls, visitors will find further gastronomic offers and a number of interesting shops.
Covent Garden - seen from Russell Street
Covent Garden - interior
A ten minute walk is between Covent Garden and Trafalgar Square, the largest public square in London. It was designed as it is today between 1840 and 1845.
The main features of the square are two large fountains and the Nelson's column. It honors Admiral Horatio Nelson, who lost his life in the Battle of Trafalgar. The Nelson's column, with the admiral on top, measures 51 meters. This value corresponds to the total height of the HMS Victory. It was Nelson's flagship and measured 51 meters from the keel to the top of the mast. Four huge bronze lions lie around the column. The two fountains are also dedicated to two distinguished British admirals.
The National Gallery limits the space to the north. It is one of the most important collections of paintings in the world. The gallery, founded in 1824, counted six million visitors in 2019.
London - Trafalgar Square - Nelson's Column
Trafalgar Square - National Gallery
The church of St Martin-in-the-Fields borders Trafalgar Square. It was built at the beginning of the 18th century. The tower integrated into the portico is unusual. At the time, this was an architectural innovation. American churches built in later years often have this style element. The annals of the church indicate that the first church was built on this site in 1222. At that time it lay in the fields between Westminster and London.
Trafalgar Square - St Martin in the Fields
Because the nearby Buckingham Palace is part of the parish of St Martin, it is the official church of the royal family and it is also the church of the Admiralty. It was only after 1900 that it opened up to the poor and the homeless. The church is also used as a concert hall where the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields performs regularly.
After a few minutes we reach Piccadilly Circus, one of London's most important public places. It has linked Regent Street with Piccadilly since 1819. Not to be overlooked is the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain, a fountain complex crowned by a winged figure. It represents the angel of Christian charity, which did not prevent the prudish Victorians from calling the naked figure "Eros". The striking fountain has long served as a meeting point for everyone.
Our tour ends in Piccadilly Circus
Our hour-long walking tour of London ends at Piccadilly Circus. It's time to take a taxi back to Liverpool Street Station. The Stansted Express takes us to London Stansted Airport, where our plane to Germany departs on time.
Looking back, we see that the weather gods were kind to us and we met friendly people. We saw quite a lot in a few hours. We knew a lot, but the new impressions are overwhelming. London is well worth exploring on foot.