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HISTORY

 

The Celts settled the territory of today's London as early as 800 B. C., but even earlier the site had been inhabited in the Stone Age. Although the place had been occupied by the Romans about 55 B. C., only later, about 43 A.D. they establish Roman Londonium (the name probably comes from the old Celtic word Llyndum which means "a walled place situated high". They built the first, wooden bridge and in A.D. 120 they started the construction of the defensive walls.

When the Romans left the island in the fifth century, it remained the capital of the Britons. It kept its importance during the Anglo-Saxon times and later during the reign of the Danish kings in the 10th and 11th centuries. In the 8th century it was a busy trading centre and in the 11th century it became the capital of England. Edward the Confessor built a palace and abbey at Westminster and created two centres which still exist today. The government is based at Westminster, while the City is the commercial and financial centre.

During the 12th century reign of Norman kings (William the Conqueror was the first to come in 1066) the royal court moved from Winchester, from former capital, to London forever. The Tower, old St. Paul's Cathedral, many churches and monasteries as well as the first stone bridge over the Thames River were built during the Norman period. Medieval London was an important trading centre, its citizens won the right to elect their own leader - Lord Mayor.

The city continued to grow and flourish and gradually extended beyond its walls and absorbed the originally separate Westminster. The 16th century establishment of the trading companies and the Royal Exchange (1565) started the rapid economic rise of London.

The 17th century brought much suffering to London. In 1665 more than 75,000 people died from a plague epidemic and a year later, in 1666, the Great Fire of London destroyed four fifths of the city. During the following decades hectic building activity rebuilt the whole town. The old timbered houses were replaced by buildings of bricks in order to reduce any future fire risk. Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723) was appointed the main architect and he constructed about 50 churches and some other public buildings, including his masterpiece St. Paul's Cathedral. In the latter half of the 17th century, Lloyd's Insurance Company was established, in 1694 the Bank of England and later, in 1773, the Stock Exchange.

The port had always been important for the existence of Britain, but during the first three decades of the 19th century it became the biggest in Britain. During the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901) London acquired its present architectural appearance. Many public buildings sprang up, including the larger part of the Houses of Parliament, the Covent Garden Opera House and the Crystal Palace. The laying of the network of railways (first line 1836) and underground lines (first line 1863) resulted in the construction of a wide belt of suburbs, many of which were built in the typical Victorian style of red brick.

German bombing during World War II caused serious damage especially in the City, though this cannot be noticed nowadays. Since 1982 the most risky and criticized project in recent times has been rescue and new development of the Docklands east of the City.

 

 

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INDUSTRY, COMMERCE AND TRANSPORT

 

From Saxon times the port of London dominated the Thames, therefore London's traditional industries i.e. woodworking, furniture-making, the chemical and food industries (breweries, sugar refineries) were developed in close connection with the port. Other industries include clothing, printing and diamond cutting. From the late 1960s some engineering industries, e. g. electrical engineering and engineering, moved to the outskirts and other plants were also built which represent new industries, such as paper-making, production of cement, oil refineries, the chemical and car industries.

The prime economic importance of modern London is a financial and commercial centre. Twenty-two per cent of the world's financial transactions take place in London (New York 18%, Tokyo 10%). The London Stock Exchange (founded in 1773) is the world's biggest. London is also important centre of the gold, silver and platinum trade, and with its 20 per cent is the world centre of postal services. More than 50 per cent of cargo shipping and air transport is also centred in London.

After World War II Sotheby's and Christie's Auction Halls made this town famous as a centre of the art trade. There are also recording, broadcasting, television and film studios, publishing houses, and national press services. Tourism is of great importance as well.

The river Thames has been used continuously as a highway since prehistoric times. The Port of London is considered to be one of the best in the world, accessible to large cargo ships, but its importance as a reloading and transfer place has been falling. Docks, once flourishing and busy, have decayed. Redevelopment is now breathing new life into those dock areas changing them into "The Metropolitan Water City" - offices, shopping and sports facilities, homes, factories, a light railway, and even an airport (London City Airport).

At present the port has moved about 30 kilometres downstream where the Tilbury container and passenger terminals have been built. Still further down the river there are docks for oil reloading (e.g. Shellhaven, Thameshaven). The main exports are cars, machinery, chemical and electrical engineering products and the main import items are oil, wood and grain. The latest means of London transport are riverbuses which run on the Thames between Chelsea and Gatwick, situated in the south.

There are five airports in the London area, the largest of them being Heathrow, west of the city and Gatwick, situated in the south.

London is also the most significant highway and railway junction in the British Isles. There is a rail connection to all parts of the island from 15 central stations. Trains for the continent depart from Victoria ad Liverpool Street stations. The Channel Tunnel trains arrive at Waterloo Station. Since 1987 the Docklands Light Railway has provided a spectacular ride from Tower Bridge to the Isle of Dogs. The trains are controlled by computers. There are two lines on twelve-kilometre routes.

The quickest and cheapest way to get around central London is by underground, often called the "tube". The London underground is thought to be the world's oldest (from 1863 steam locomotives, since 1890 electric ones), its network is 420 km long and it operates 273 stations on ten lines. It transports over 760 million passengers a year.

Around 267 million passengers a year use 5,500 buses on 6,500 km bus routes. The busiest place for bus traffic is Trafalgar Square.  There are three types of buses: the red double-deckers, quick single deck Red Arrows buses, and Green Line buses which connect the City with many places in the London area. In addition there are the familiar black taxis and long-distance buses called coaches which depart from Victoria Coach Station.

 

 

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LONDONíS SIGHTS

 

The Thames bisects the capital, a great number of popular tourist attractions can be found in its northern part.

Central London is where most of the famous sights are. On the Underground map it is surrounded by the Circle Line. The City is the oldest part of London in the East, and now is the home to the financial district. The East End, to the East of the city, is where many new immigrants groups live and many working people. The West End has everything from chic shops, theatres, beautiful residential areas, great parks and the famous Trafalgar Square which many Londoners think as a centre of their city. Near the West End, just to the South, is Westminster, where Buckingham Palace, Parliament and the Government of England are located. Nearby are Kensington and Belgravia, Knightsbridge and Chelsea, the most stylish parts of London in which to live.

There is much to see in London and still is true, what an English writer Samuel Johnson said two hundred years ago: "When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life."

 

THE CITY OF LONDON

The City of London has been a self-governing enclave from the 12th century and it is headed by the Lord Mayor. He enters his office with a ceremonial procession in November called the Lord Mayor's Show. The ceremony dates back to the 14th century. The Lord Mayor's official residence is the Mansion House. The City is the largest financial and commercial centre of Europe. It is known as the "square mile" (area of 274 hectares).

 

THE MANSION HOUSE

The Mansion House is the residence of the Lord Mayor of London. It was completed in 1753 to the design of George Dance the Elder. The building is Palladian in style with a fine Corinthian colonnade. The staterooms are examples of eighteenth century decor. The 27 metre long Egyptian Hall, which accommodates 320 people, is the main banqueting room. The Lord Mayor's private apartment is at the top of the building.

A number of ancient traditions surround the office of Lord Mayor, who in the City is second in rank only to the sovereign. Some traditions date from the 12th century when King John recognised certain rights of the City. After the ceremonial election of the Lord Mayor, who serves for one year, comes the spectacular Lord Mayor's Show. This procession, to the Law Courts in the Strand, takes place on the second Saturday in November.

 

THE TOWER BRIDGE

Next to the Tower stands Tower Bridge, the most famous and distinctive bridge of London which can open in the middle and let large ships go through. It was inspired by Sir Horace Jones, the City architect. The Bridge consists of its twin Gothic towers and the drawbridge. The bridge is divided into two parts, each weighing 1,000 tons. They are operated by hydraulics and can be opened in under 90 seconds and have never failed since the bridge was opened. The design incorporated a footbridge, 34 metres above the river, reached by lifts. This was closed because of its appeal to potential suicides, but has since been glassed in and re-opened.


THE TOWER OF LONDON

Tales of torture, treasure and treason make the Tower of London the capital's top tourist attraction. William the Conqueror began to build the massive fortress - the White Tower (28 metres high) - to impress and dominate the people of London in 1066 (completed in 1078). Successive kings extended it and added to the fortifications. The inner wall, with its thirteen towers, dates from the 13th century while the outer wall, two thirds of a mile in extend, was added by Edward I.

The Tower served till the 16th century as a royal home, a prison, an execution site, a royal mint and an observatory. There also used to be a royal menagerie. Now it is a museum where tourists go to see an arsenal of weapons, the Crown Jewels in the Jewel House, the prison where many famous prisoners were kept (they include the seaman and explorer Sir Walter Raleigh, Guy Fawkes who planned to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605, as well as Rudolf Hess, Hitler's deputy), the execution block where Henry VIII's wives, Ann Boleyn and Catherine Howard, and philosopher Thomas More were beheaded. The uncrowned Edward V and his brother are believed to have been murdered in the Tower in 1483. The last beheading was in 1747 but eleven spies were shot within its walls during the First World War.

The Tower is guarded by the Yeomen Warders (incorrectly called Beefeaters) who still wear the uniform of Tudor times. Six ravens are kept in the Tower to protect the whole Kingdom. The legend says that the Kingdom will cease to exist when the ravens leave the Tower. A solemn, 700 year - old ceremony of the Keys is still performed nightly when the main gate is locked at 21.40 and no one can enter the Tower without the password.

 

THE DOCKLANDS

For almost two centuries, up till the 1960s, London was one of Britain's main ports. The East End, where the docks were, prided itself on being "the real London" where true Cockneys came from. But when the docks closed, the whole area went into a steep decline. In the 1980s the London Docklands Development Corporation was set up to try to stop this and the whole area underwent massive redevelopment.

The Docklands used to be a strongly working-class area. Now they are full of the offices of national and international firms and housing for the wealthy, who are attracted by the closeness of the area to the city centre and its good transport links, which include a modern light railway and even a brand new airport right in the middle of the city.

For the visitor, it is a fascinating place. Much of the old housing has gone, but a lot of old dock buildings still exist, now converted. The old Tobacco Dock and St. Katherine's Docks are now malls with shops and restaurants, for example. What gives the area its real appeal, though, is the fact that side by side with these reminders of the past there are some of the most incredible new developments in the country.

The futuristic Thames Barrier can be found here, as can the Millennium Dome, a huge construction built to celebrate the year 2000. It is opposite the Isle of Dogs, named so because Henry VIII kept his hunting pack there. Canary Wharf is now the home of the tallest building in the UK, a tower over 250 metres high.

Close to the heart of the city but with its own distinct atmosphere, packed with all sorts of interesting things to see, Docklands represents the meeting of the past, the present, and the future. No wonder, then, that when Tony Blair, shortly after becoming Prime Minister, wanted to meet President Chirac of France, he invited him not to Downing Street but Canary Wharf.


 

ST. KATHERINEíS DOCKS

The Hospital of St. Katharine by the Tower was a religious foundation, established by Queen Matilda in 1148. Foreigners were not allowed to live within the walls of the City of London so St. Katharine, just outside, developed over the years as a separate community with its own wharfs.

In 1588, the English who fled from Calais came here, soon to be followed by other refugees from Europe, including the Flemish and Huguenots. This community of displaced people flourished until the site was sold in 1825 for development by Thomas Telford.

The river Thames played a vital part in establishing Britain as the world's mightiest trading nation. Docks were developed along the riverbanks to the East including St. Katherine's Dock (built in 1828) close to the Tower of London. The 25 acres of warehouses were close to central London and prospered for over a century. The big post-war ships moved downstream at Tilbury and the dock declined in importance. In 1968 it closed. Since then, the basins have been converted into yachting marinas, the warehouses have been converted into apartments and shops, and the district has become highly fashionable.

 

ST. PAULíS CATHEDRAL

The largest and best-known church of the city is St. Paul's Cathedral. Sir Christopher Wren's masterpiece was completed after 35 years in 1711. It stands on the site of the previous cathedral which was damaged by the Great Fire of London in 1666. St. Paul's is built in the Baroque style, the main nave is 170 metres long and it is crowned by a central dome which rises 111 metres. It is the largest church in the world after St. Peter's in Rome. Inside the dome along the cupola runs the Whispering Gallery whose name refers to the remarkable acoustics which make it possible to hear words on one side whispered against the wall on the opposite side. St. Paul's has seen many important occasions: Sir Winston Churchill's funeral service or the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana in 1981. Britain's heroes are buried there - Admiral Nelson, the Duke of Wellington and Sir Christopher Wren himself. The cathedral is the seat of the Bishop of London.

 

THE MONUMENT

Not far from St. Paul's Cathedral rises the Monument commemorating the place in Pudding Lane where the Great Fire of London started. Although the fire destroyed much of the centre of London, it helped to clean the city of the Black Death - the plague. It is about a 60 metre-high column whose 311 steps lead to the terrace from which they can admire a beautiful view of the City.

 

BANK OF ENGLAND

The Bank was founded in 1694 by William Paterson. One objective is to raise finance to help William III in his war against France. It was a private company with capital of  £1,200,000. Its nickname "The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street" is attributed to Sheridan, commenting on the Bank's financial crisis at the time of the Napoleonic Wars. The Bank remained the privately owned Government's banker until 1946, when the Labour Government nationalised it. It supervises the National Debt, controls the issue of government stocks and paper money and holds the nation's gold reserve. The original building was greatly extended by Sir John Sloane in 1808 but this was mostly demolished to make way for the larger building of 1939. The entrance hall, which is open to the public, contains the remains of a second century pavement which was discovered in the foundations. The Guards had guarded the Bank every night since 1780 till 1973.

 

THE ROYAL EXCHANGE

Sir Thomas Gresham was a powerful merchant who represented successive English sovereigns in Holland, handling business on their behalf. Gresham was impressed with the bourse in Antwerp and offered to build a similar exchange in London if the government would provide a site (merchant then met at St. Paul's). About eighty houses were removed (but reconstructed elsewhere). The building took the form of a quadrangle, with merchants at ground level and retailers on a second floor. In 1568, Elizabeth I visited the new development. She declared it the Royal Exchange. It was destroyed in the Great Fire in 1666 and Edward Jarman designed a replacement; Charles II laid the foundation stone. In 1838, this building was also destroyed by fire.  A larger building with two floors around the central courtyard was opened by Queen Victoria in 1844. Today only insurance is transacted here, while the glassed-over courtyard is used for exhibitions.

 

LLOYDS OF LONDON

During the second half of the 17th century, there was a great boom in coffee houses in the city, with the aim to provide comfortable places where the rapidly expanding community of businessmen could exchange news and transact business. Edward Lloyd opened his establishment in 1688 in Tower Street.  Lloyds Coffee House quickly gained a reputation as a very sound source of shipping news and soon became the establish venue for marine insurance transactions. Lloyds continued to operate. In 1986 they moved into a remarkable ultra modern building designed by Richard Rogers.

 

FLEET STREET

Fleet Street has been important through the ages as the main route between the ancient cities of London and Westminster. It takes its name from the river Fleet which, for over two hundred years, has been routed underground. Temple Bar, at the western end, marked the boundary of the City. The sovereign, by the tradition, pauses here to obtain ceremonial permission from the Lord Mayor before proceeding.

The street has been associated with printing since around 1500 when Wynkyn de Worde, an assistant of William Caxton, established his own press here. In this century, nearly every newspaper and magazine has had offices in the area, although recently many of them have moved to the area around St. Katherine's Dock.

 

THE BARBICAN CENTRE

The Barbican Centre was opened in 1982 and built on a site damaged by bombing in 1940 where London's Roman and medieval fortifications used to stand. The Barbican Centre is a residential area for 6,000 inhabitants which is dominated by three 44-storey towers 120 m high named after Cornwall, Shakespeare and Archbishop Lauderdale.

It is also a centre for arts and conferences, currently the largest in Europe. It comprises a concert and conference hall called the Barbican Hall (2,026 seats), home of the London Symphony Orchestra, the Barbican Arts Theatre (1,166 seats), home of the Royal Shakespeare Company, the studio The Pit (200 seats), the art gallery, the New Guildhall School of Music and Drama, the City of London School for girls, the City Library, conference halls, three cinemas, two large exhibition halls, a restaurant and the City University Business School. Also fountains, park areas, a lake, terraces and a yard with sculptural exhibitions make the centre really attractive.


 

THE CITY OF WESTMINSTER

It took several centuries before the City was linked with the originally separated Westminster. Its Royal Palaces, Abbey and Government offices represent to many the familiar face of London. Parliament Square is the area where the site of the Benedictine Abbey, known as the "West Monastery", used to stand, from which the name of Westminster sprung. It is a lawn with statues of renowned statesmen - Sir Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln and Benjamin Disraeli.

 

THE HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT

The Houses of Parliament are the political centre of the United Kingdom, the home of the British Parliament. Great Britain, with its House of Commons and House of Lords, is the oldest democracy in the world today. The parliamentary system as we know it today comes back to the British Magna Carta, an agreement between a British king and his nobles to share power in 1215.

The first Palace of Westminster was built by Edward the Confessor, William the Conqueror rebuilt it, and until Henry VIII moved to Whitehall in 1529, it was the sovereign's main residence. Since 1529 Westminster has been used by the state. In 1834 the palace was destroyed by fire. Almost the only remaining part of the old building, dating from 1097, is Westminster Hall. The Houses of Parliament were re-built in the Neo-Gothic style in 1840 on the site of the Old Palace of Westminster. It is the 286 metres long Gothic complex with the 99 metres Victoria Tower and the 97 metres Clock Tower.

The House of Lords is a gothic hall richly decorated in red, with the throne of the Sovereign. In front of the throne there is the Woolsack, the seat of the Lord Chancellor who presides over the House. The House of Commons consists of parallel rows of green leather benches which face the table where the mace (a symbol of authority) is placed. The House of Commons is presided over by the Speaker.

97.5 metres above the Parliament rises the clock tower called Big Ben, one of the best known London's landmarks. Big Ben is not really the name of the clock, it is the name of the bell (named after Sir Benjamin Hall who was responsible for hanging it in 1859). The bell is over 2 m high, 2.75 metres in diameter and weights 13.5 tons. On a calm day it can be heard nearly all over London. The strike of Big Ben is known world-wide because it is used by the BBC as a time signal (first broadcast on New Year's Eve 1923). The clock has four faces each 7 metres in diameter; the minute hands are 4.25 metres in length and the hour hands extend to 2.75 metres. The clock is usually accurate to within one second per annum. In the clock tower there is also a prison cell for MPs who violate Parliamentary privilege Ė it was last used in 1880 for this reason.

The Union Jack flies from the Victoria Tower and a light shines from the Clock Tower at night when Parliament is in session.

 

WESTMINSTER ABBEY

It is the place of coronations, royal weddings and burials. In later Saxon times there was a Benedictine monastery. Then in 1065, Edward the Confessor completed a large church on the site, dedicated to St. Peter. The King was buried in it in the same year. Harold was crowned here soon after, setting a precedent followed by every sovereign to this day (except Edward V and Edward VII).

Henry III rebuilt the Abbey in 1269 and was buried in it in 1272. There has been much reconstruction over the centuries. Most of the exterior dates from the nineteenth century. The 69 m Western Towers were added in 1745 but the central tower which Wren designed was never built. The Abbey was heavily damaged during WWII, but it was restored soon after the war.

There are many hundreds of monuments to see. You can see the Coronation Chair, made in 1300. It contained the historic Stone of Scone, a symbol of Scottish Royalty, which was carried off to Westminster by Edward I, until 1999.  Many British kings and queens are buried in the Abbey (Elizabeth I, Scottish Queen Mary Stuart, Henry VII, Charles II, and of course Edward the Confessor, the founder of the cathedral). In the Poet's Corner there are the tombstones and monuments to some famous poets (John Milton, Walter Scott, Lord Byron, William Wordsworth, William Shakespeare), but only a few of them are really buried there (Geoffrey Chaucer, Robert Browning). Worth seeing are also the Chapel of the Pyx, the Chapel of Edward the Confessor, The Chapel of Henry VII, the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior.

 

BUCKINGHAM PALACE

James I planted a mulberry garden on this site in an attempt to found a British silk industry. The Palace is named after the Duke of Buckingham who built a mansion here in 1703 while he was the keeper of the garden. George III acquired the property in 1762. His son, George IV, commissioned Nash to remodel it as a palace. Queen Victoria chose the new palace as her London home in 1837 and every monarch has resided here since. The royal apartments are in the north wing (the Royal Standard is flown when the Queen is in residence).

The Palace was extended in 1847 to form a quadrangle, while the facade was remodelled in Portland stone in 1913. The State Ballroom is the scene of investitures and state banquets. The west wing, 110 m in length, faces forty acres of beautiful grounds which form the setting for royal garden parties. The Queen's Gallery and the Royal Mews may be visited at limited times during the week. The Changing of the Guards may be seen daily during the summer at 11.30 am.

 

QUEEN VICTORIA MONUMENT

This 25m high memorial, situated in front of Buckingham Palace, was completed in 1910 as a tribute to the achievements of Victoria's long and glorious reign.

The seated figure of Victoria is at the base 4 metres high and was carved from a single block of marble. The statues around the main figure represent motherhood (west), truth (south), and justice (north). The group of bronze statues surrounding the memorial represents science and art (north), peace and progress (east), naval and military power (south) and industry and agriculture (west). The 4m bronze figure at the top of the monument represents victory.

 

ST. JAMESíS PALACE

Until the age of Henry VIII, there was a leper hospital here, dedicated to St. James the Less. Construction of the palace started in 1532 but it did not become the official royal residence until 1698, when Whitehall was destroyed by fire.

St. James's, also, was badly damaged by fire in 1809. The Tudor Gatehouse, with the initials of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn over the door, remains, but much of today's palace is by Wren and Nash.

Several sovereigns were born here, while the Royal Chapel has seen many royal marriages. In 1837, Queen Victoria chose the new Buckingham Palace as her residence but St. James's remains the official seat of the sovereigns. Elizabeth II, continuing with tradition, took the oath here on accession. Ambassadors are still accredited to the Court of St. James, while the balcony overlooking Friary Court remains the setting for the famous proclamation: "The King is dead! Long live the King!" The Palace is now the headquarters of the Yeomen of the Guard and the Lord Chamberlain.

 

THE MALL

It is one of the most exclusive streets with best-known gentlemen's clubs and expensive shops. It will take you from Buckingham Palace through the Admiralty Arch to Trafalgar Square.

 

TRAFALGAR SQUARE

The Charring Cross erected by Edward I in 1291 was the last of the crosses marking the places where Queen Eleanor's funeral procession rested on the way to Westminster Abbey. It was destroyed in 1647 by Cromwell's men. The statue of Charles I (cast in 1633 but hidden during Cromwell's rule) was erected on the same spot in 1675. This is the official centre of London. All distances are measured from here (against the north wall of the square). A replica of the cross can be seen in the courtyard of Charring Cross railway station. Royal mews occupied most of the area until around 1820, when the square was laid out by Nash.

Trafalgar square is said to be the largest in London and is a place of political demonstrations and busy traffic. Its name commemorates the naval victory of Admiral Lord Nelson over the French and Spanish fleet at Spanish Cape Trafalgar in 1805. In the middle of the square there is Nelson's Column (about 50 metres high) with a five-metre tall statue of Horatio Nelson at the top. The reliefs at the base are made from captured French gunmetal. Four lions were added in 1867. The Column is surrounded by two fountains, several other monuments to famous people, and usually lots of pigeons.

 

THE NATIONAL GALLERY

In 1824, the government purchased 38 masterpieces collected by John Julius Angerstein and exhibited them at his former town house, 100 Pall Mall. The original exhibition was soon supplemented by a number of bequests.

In order to display the exhibits properly, it was decided to build a National Gallery on the northern side of the new Trafalgar Square (it forms the whole side of the square). The classical building is of unusual proportions - very long and low. It was completed in 1838. The pictures of the Royal Academy were also kept here at the first but they were moved to Burlington House in 1869. Most of the British painters were moved to the Tate in 1896. The building, which has been extended five times, has been almost entirely reconstructed in recent years.

The National Gallery houses one of the greatest collections of Western painting from the 13th to the 20th centuries. It exhibits over 2,000 paintings by Italian (Leonardo da Vinci, Giorgione, Tizian, Tintoretto, Veronese), Flemish and Dutch (Rubens, Rembrandt, van Gogh), German (DŁrer, Holbein), French (Wattau, Monet, Manet, Degas, Cťzanne, Renoir), British (Hogarth, Reynolds, Constable, Turner) and Spanish masters (El Greco, Velasquez, Goya). Next to the National Gallery there is the National Portrait Gallery which houses portraits and photographs of famous people.

 

WHITEHALL

Whitehall is the street joining Parliament Square and Trafalgar Square. It is the synonym for Government because it is lined with 18th and 19th century Government offices along both sides. Originally Whitehall was a 13th century palace owned by the Church - the seat of the Archbishop. In 1514 Cardinal Wolsey expropriated it and enlarged it. In 1529 Henry VIII took it from Wolsey and it became a royal residence until it was destroyed by fire in 1689. The only remaining part is the Banqueting House. It is a huge hall with beautiful allegorical paintings by Peter Paul Rubens on the ceiling.

 

DOWNING STREET No. 10

Downing Street is the site of a Roman settlement, a Saxon hall and a part of Henry VIII's place of Whitehall. The street was named after Sir George Downing, a Treasury secretary, who built some houses here around 1680.

In 1732, George II offered No.10 to Sir Robert Walpole, Britain's first Prime Minister, as his official residence and it has retained this status ever since.

In spite of its modest facade, dating from 1774, the house is extensive. Accommodation includes the Cabinet Room (also used as the Prime Minister's private office), the Secretary's room and the Prime Ministerís private apartment. It was rebuilt in 1960-64 but many historic features have been retained, notably the 250 year old staircase which displays portraits of former Prime Ministers.

No.11 Downing Street is reserved for the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

 

THE CENOTAPH

It is the memorial located in the middle of Whitehall, which commemorates those who died in both World Wars: the Remembrance Day Service is on the Sunday nearest to 11th November.

 

ROYAL HORSE GUARD

On the left side of Whitehall there is the Headquarters of the Royal Horse Guards where the tourists can see the Changing of the Guard at 11.30 a.m.

 

PICCADILLY CIRCUS

A short way from Trafalgar Square along the Haymarket there is Piccadilly Circus. It takes its name from a 17th century tailor who sold lace collars called piccadils. It was created by Nash as part of his plan to link the Prince Regent's mansion, Carlton House, with Regent's Park via Regent Street. At present Regent Street, Piccadilly, the Haymarket and Shaftsbury Avenue join here and three underground lines cross under this circular square. This makes it the busiest and noisiest place in London (50,000 vehicles daily, 30,000,000 passengers annually).

It also became famous as the centre of entertainment in the West End with its night clubs, theatres, cinemas and restaurants. The most beautiful view of the square is at night when it is lit by many colourful advertisements. In the centre of the Circus at the top of the Fountain stands a statue universally known as Eros, the Greek God of love. In reality, the statue represents the Angel of Christian Charity. It was designed in 1892 as a memorial to the Seventh Earl of Shaftsbury, a famous Victorian philanthropist and reformer.

Plans to re-develop the area in ultra modern style are universally unpopular. Virtually everyone likes Piccadilly Circus as it is.

 

REGENT STREET

In 1811, when his father was pronounced insane, the Prince of Wales was invested with the authority of Prince Regent. He had, from an early age, been highly extravagant and had shown a great interest in architecture (the startling Brighton Pavilion was his inspiration). The Regency period is remembered for some of Britain's finest buildings.

George's new status enabled him to embark on a wildly grandiose plan. He lived at Carlton House (Waterloo Place at present) which was about three miles from Primrose Hill, where he planned a villa in the country. The villa was never built, but Regent Street is part of the magnificent road he wanted to link the two residences.

John Nash designed the original buildings flanking the road, and these were completed in the years 1813-1820. The Broad Walk through Regent's Park was a continuation of the route. At the beginning of the 20th century all this fine architecture was lost in a large-scale redevelopment programme supervised by Sir Reginald Bloomfield. However, the result was one of the most elegant and best known shopping streets in the world.

 

 

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CULTURE

 

THE ROYAL ALBERT HALL

The foundation stone was laid by Queen Victoria in 1867 and when the building was opened in 1871 it was dedicated to the memory of her husband, Prince Albert.

The nearly circular red brick hall is approximately 400 m circumference, while its roof is a huge glass and iron dome. It is richly ornamented with terracotta. The interior comprises: the Arena, the Amphitheatre stalls, three tiers of boxes, the balcony and the Gallery Promenade. The organ, built by Willis, is one of the world's largest, containing about 10,000 pipes.

Accommodating over 8,000 people, the hall is a place for conferences, indoor sports, balls, pop concerts and classical concerts. The best known events are the Sir Henry Wood Promenade Concerts, better known as "The Proms" which have been held in London every summer since 1895, now by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). This eight-week series is the largest and most ambitious music festival in the world.

 

THE BRITISH MUSEUM

London is rich in museums and galleries whose exhibitions are usually free of charge. The most famous and renowned of them is the British Museum which was founded in 1753. Its present building was completed a hundred years later. It includes the Museum and the British Library with more than 11 million volumes of printed books and manuscripts. British Library is closed to the public and its notable exhibits include the Magna Carta which limited the king's powers in 1215, William Shakespeare's folio published in 1623, a Gutenberg Bible, authors' original manuscripts (Charles Dickens, John Lennon, Alexander Fleming, Leonardo da Vinci), Nelson's Plan of the battle of Trafalgar, the Elgin Marbles and the Rosetta Stone (which led to the deciphering of Egyptian hieroglyphics) etc. The Museum contains outstanding displays of antiquities from Egypt, South and South-East Asia, China, Greece, Rome and the East, the Parthenon sculptures, Egyptian mummies, Anglo-Saxon treasure from the village of Sutton Hoo, collections of prints, drawings, coins and medals.

 

THE VICTORIA AND ALBERT MUSEUM

The Victoria and Albert Museum, known to all as the V & A, is the largest decorative arts museum in the world. It can be found in the South Kensington cultural centre, at the end of Exhibition Road, close to the Natural History Museum, Geological Museum and Science Museum.

The original idea of the museum, whose aim would be practical instruction for students preparing to work in commerce and industry, is attributed to Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria. The museum opened in 1857 and objects and works of art from the Great Exhibition of 1851 formed its nucleus. However, as the objects accumulated, a very big building was needed to contain this fast-expanding collection. And so a competition was announced. Aston Webb won the competition and the foundation stone of the new building, which was opened in 1909 by King Edward VII, was laid by Victoria.

The 145 galleries of the museum are grouped into 10 departments: Sculpture, Ceramics, Furniture and Interior Design, Indian, Library, Metalwork, Far Eastern, Print Drawings, Photograph and Paintings, Textiles and Dress and Theatre.

 

SOUTH BANK ART CENTRE

During the Middle Ages there was no crossing on this part of the Thames so the south bank remained relatively undeveloped. However, when Westminster Bridge was built in the mid 18th century, the area was opened up. Soon there were a large number of small factories, together with high density terraces of houses for workers. The district was devastated during the Blitz and a 27 acre site was cleared for the Festival of Britain in 1951.

Only one of the Festival buildings was intended to be permanent. This was the Royal Festival Hall. The stage is clearly visible from all 3,000 seats, and the hall has a high reputation for its superb acoustics.

The National Film Theatre was built between 1951 and 1970. In 1967 came the Queen Elizabeth Hall (1,100 seats) and the Purcell Room (370 seats). The Hayward Gallery opened in 1968 and the National Theatre in 1976. The National Theatre is located on the south bank of the river Thames and actually the complex consists of three theatres. The Olivier Theatre (1,160 seats) is the largest of them. It was named after the famous actor, director and the first principal of the National Theatre, Sir Lawrence Olivier. The second largest is the Lyttelton Theatre (895 seats) and then the Cottesloe (about 400 seats) which is an experimental theatre with the stage in the centre and the auditorium around it. The whole complex is known as the South Bank Arts Centre.

 

MADAME TUSSAUDíS

Madame Tussaud first showed her collection of waxworks in Paris in 1770. She later took death masks from victims of the guillotine: Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette can now be seen in the Chamber of Horrors. She came to England in 1802, opening her permanent exhibition in London in 1835.

The museum is divided into various sections, for example, there is a section devoted to prominent characters from British and world history, e.g. Henry VIII and his six wives, Elizabeth I, Churchill, Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher and others including the Sleeping Beauty - a likeness of Madame du Barry, 1765. Another is full of entertainers, where you can see (and have your photograph taken with) stars like Elvis Presley, The Beatles and Michael Jackson. A number of rooms are devoted to world leaders, culminating in the Royal Family. To appear in Madame Tussaud's is a sign that you have really achieved fame.

One of the most popular parts is to be found in the basement. This is the Chamber of Horrors. There are models of various well-known murderers, including an East London street from the time of the legendary multiple killer Jack the Ripper and a tableau of the Battle of Trafalgar.

A fairly recent addition to the museum is a ride through history of London in a little train that is designed to resemble a London taxi. In this way you can experience some of the most famous events of London, such as the Plague of 1665, the Great Fire of 1666, and the Blitz of 1940. And, on the way out, there is a chance to meet Albert Einstein. Where else could you meet him, Bill Clinton, Madonna and King Henry VIII under the same roof?

Madame Tussaud's self-portrait is at the entrance: this was her last work before she died, aged 89. The adjoining planetarium provides a thrilling experience: realistic representations of the night sky projected on the inside of the domed roof are now supplemented by laser light shows.

 

THE NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM

It is to be found in Kensington. The Natural History Museum includes fossils and examples of living animals and plants, minerals, gems, rocks and meteorites.

 

THE SCIENCE MUSEUM

In the Science Museum we can see exhibitions outlining the history and development of science and industry - veteran cars, trains and aeroplanes, exploration of space, development of computers etc.

 

221b, BAKER STREET

The opening of the Sherlock Holmes Museum to the public on 27 March 1990 was an event which should have happened several decades ago. Why? Well, 221 b Baker Street is the world's most famous address because of its long association with the great detective invented by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Thousands of people all over the world write to Sherlock Holmes, they form clubs and societies in his honour, they celebrate his anniversaries. He is probably the only character from literature whose biography has ever been written. The name of Sherlock Holmes has even appeared in the list of famous people "Who is Who". Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson lived at 221 b Baker Street from about 1881 - 1904. 221 b was on the 1st floor of a lodging house, the landlady of which was a Mrs. Hudson. There were 17 steps from the ground floor hallway to the 1st floor study which Holmes and Watson shared. Holmes's bedroom was at the back, next to the study.

Visitors - especially the experts on Sherlockiana familiar with the novels The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Sign of Four or A Study in Scarlet and at least some of about 60 detective stories by Doyle - will recognise a lot of details they have read about while walking around the house.

Doctor Watson's bedroom was on the 2nd floor next to Mrs. Hudson's room. These rooms are used today as exhibit rooms with a number of books, paintings, photographs and newspapers of the period and a magnificent bronze bust of Mr. Holmes. People have been writing to Sherlock Holmes and to his friend Doctor Watson for the last 100 years, but now it is possible to see where and how they were supposed to have lived in Victorian times!

 

THE TATE GALLERY

The 19th century sculptor, Sit Francis Chantry, made a bequest to the Royal Academy in 1841, in order to found a national collection of British art. The Turner Bequest of 1865 included 282 oil paintings and 19,000 water colours and the Academy's ever increasing collection was housed as a number of locations.

Then, in 1891, Henry Tate, the sugar magnate, donated his private collection. He also offered to build a gallery if the state would provide a suitable site. The government donated the old Millbank Penitentiary and the Tate Gallery of Modern British Art was opened in 1897. It displays collections of British painting (Gainsborough, Reynolds, Constable), 20th-century painting and sculpture (Auguste Rodin, Henry Moore, French Impressionists and Post-impressionists), and the Turner Collection.

 

THE GLOBE THEATRE

William Shakespeare is by far the most performed playwright in Britain and must certainly be one of the best known in the whole world. Over fifty of his plays are known to us and most are performed on a regular basis. Some are the most famous works of literature in the English language and most people are at least partly familiar with his work. Repeat performances demand more and more interpretations and more and more innovation visually and a lot of effort is often put into costumes, scenery and stage technology but have you ever wondered what a performance of one of these plays would have looked like in Shakespeare's own time? That is exactly what many people were thinking when the decision was taken to rebuild the famous Globe Theatre on the bank of the river Thames.

The theatre was well known as a place in which Shakespeare's theatre company performed many times. Originally it was built from timber of the Shoreditch Theatre on the other side of the river. The building began when the theatre company was forced to move. The original building was destroyed by the Puritans during their rule in the seventeenth century when many forms of entertainment were prohibited, but the fame of the theatre lived on. Much, much later, Canadian filmmaker Sam Wannamaker came to London and was hugely disappointed that the Globe Theatre was no longer standing. He, in fact, initiated the campaign to have it rebuilt.

Today, it stands near to the spot of the original building and a lot of effort has been made to re-create all the details of what is known of its predecessor. The building has a thatched roof and round stage which uses only a minimum of scenery. The audience surround the stage, both in the stalls below and in the balconies above. The theatre uses only natural light so plays are only performed in summer. Next door to the theatre is the Shakespeare exhibition centre with an obligatory gift shop. The whole complex was opened in June 1997.

 

 

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PARKS IN LONDON

 

London is renowned for its wide expanses of parkland and gardens and with 174 square kilometres it has an unusually high proportion of greenery. All major parks were once royal gardens.

 

ST. JAMESíS PARK

St. James's Park is the oldest of them, one of architect John Nash's masterpieces. In the 19th century he created a lake with small islands which are the home of many water-birds. The exclusive street The Mall separates the park from St. Jamesís Palace which became a royal residence in 1699 after the fire had damaged White Hall. Henry VIII had the palace built in the site of a former hospital. It is a typical example of Tudor red-brick architecture.

 

HYDE PARK

The Manor of Hyde used to belong to Westminster Abbey. Henry VIII took it over in 1536 and created a deerpark. The Stuart kings turned it over to horse-racing and, in 1637, it was opened to the public. Cromwell sold the park but it was repossessed by Charles II and re-opened. Hyde Park became a popular area for walking and riding (Rotten Raw is still reserved for this activity). Many duels were fought here. The park was used by the army, too.

While St. James's park is the oldest, Hyde Park is probably the most popular among tourists. It consists of trees and grass intersected by paths, with boating and swimming on the Serpentine lake and horse-riding in Rotten Row. The Serpentine was inspired by George II's Queen Caroline. In 1851, the enormous Crystal Palace, venue of the Great Exhibition, appeared here. After the exhibition it was moved to Sydenham Hill but it was destroyed by fire in 1936. There are also a number of interesting monuments and statues here.

The main entrance to Hyde Park is at Hyde Park Corner in the South-East, the busiest London's crossroads. It the North-East corner of Hyde Park stands the Marble Arch, on the site, formerly called Tyburn, an execution place from the 12th to 18th centuries. Only the Royal Family and the Royal Horse Artillery may go through it.  But this corner in Hyde Park is best known for its Speaker's Corner, the place where everybody can speak publicly without fear of being arrested for his or her opinions.

 

KENSINGTON GARDENS

In the west Hyde Park continues with Kensington Gardens. Here stands the Albert Memorial which Queen Victoria built in memory of her husband, and Kensington Palace. This was completed in 1605 and later it was redesigned by Christopher Wren. Now it is still a home of the royal family but the State Apartments are open to the public. You can see the former private rooms of Queen Victoria and some other kings and queens. The Palace also houses a collection of uniforms and court dresses, including Princess Diana's wedding dress.

Facing the Albert Memorial in the South is the Albert Hall, a round concert hall. It was designed by Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's husband and opened in 1871. The famous Promenade concerts (Proms) are held here.

 

REGENTíS PARK

Henry VIII enclosed Marylebone Fields for use as a royal hunting ground. During Cromwell's rule, the trees were cut down and, later, Charles II turned it into farmland. In 1811 Prince Regent commissioned Nash to design a neoclassical garden city, but he soon changed his mind and so Regent's Park was created as a royal pleasure garden. It was first open to the public in 1838.

Regent's Park is perhaps London's most elegant park with its attractive gardens, lakes and zoo. The zoo was founded in 1826 and with its 6,000 species it belongs to the most comprehensive collections of animals in the world. The lake is filled by the Tyburn River, which runs underground. At the heart of the park, the Inner Circle encloses the very beautiful Queen Mary's Gardens, formerly the Royal Botanical Gardens: the Rose Garden and the open air theatre are amongst its attractions.

There are also many other parks in and outside the centre (Green Park, Richmond, Holland).

 

 

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SCHOOLS IN LONDON

 

London is also the seat of London University, founded in 1836, which has more than 45 thousand students. It has nine faculties and a number of independent Colleges and Schools. London University was the first to confer academic degrees on women (since 1878). The main residence of the University is in Russell Square.

City University (3,000 students) and Brunel University (2,000 students) were both founded in the 1960s, and in 1970 the London Polytechnic School (18,000 students) was established. London is also a home to London Business School, the Chelsea School of Arts, the Royal College of Art, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, the Royal Naval College and the Inns in Court which have been the training school for lawyers since the 13th century.

  

 

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SPORTS FACILITIES IN LONDON

 

Many exciting sports events take place in London. Association Football is a very popular sport which draws crowds into the stadium such as Wembley in the North of London on Saturday afternoons during the soccer season. London has 13 football clubs Ė Arsenal, Barnet, Brentford, Charlton Athletic, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Fulham, Millway, Orient, Queenís Park Rangers, Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United and Wimbledon.

Wimbledon (South-West) is the scene of the famous Wimbledon Tennis Championships. There are several race courses for horse racing within easy reach of London, including Ascot near Windsor, or Epsom. There are also nearly 1,000 cricket clubs in London.

 

 

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SHOPPING IN LONDON

 

The West End (Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea) is the place where you can find most of the busiest streets and shopping centres. For centuries it has been known for its royal palaces, parklands, government offices, mansions and exclusive shops. It is a contrast to the East End Ė the industrial part of London. Oxford Street is probably London's most well-known shopping street renowned for large department stores such as Selfridges, John Lewis and Marks and Spencer.

Selfridges in Oxford Street is London's biggest and most welcoming department store. Everything that's best and British is here, from high fashion designer clothes to cashmere and every type of tartan. Traditional china and glass, jewellery that will take your breath away, and London's most exciting selection of wrist watches. You'll find romantic perfumes. And you'll also find, in Selfridges Menswear Department, the place where city gents shop for their pin stripes and bowlers. It's also the place for cotton suits in pale pink and bright yellow.

This palace of trade was set up by the American, Gordon Selfridge, in 1909, when the west end of Oxford Street was still of little importance. It was in Selfridges's that Baird gave the first public demonstration of television.

In Regent Street two particularly famous shops are Liberty's (fine fabrics) and Hamley's, one of the best known toy shops in the world.

Bond Street is famous for its art galleries, antiques and jewellery shops as well as Sotheby's, the famous auction house.

Piccadilly running from Piccadilly Circus to Hyde Park Corner is the place where you can buy sportswear at Lilywhites or elegant ladies' and menswear at Simpson's.

Fashionable shops continue in Kensington, Chelsea (especially young fashions) and Knightsbridge, the home of Harrods, London's most famous department store.

Covent Garden, once the famous fruit and vegetable market and the place where the opening scene of G. B. Shaw's play Pygmalion takes place, has been restored as an elegant covered shopping area.

Another shopping area is London Bridge City by the Thames, containing shops, a craft market, a leisure centre, snack bars and strolling players.

Tobacco Dock in the Docklands is a vast complex of shops and restaurants set into effective old warehouses.

In Petticoat Lane, east of the City, you will find one of London's most famous street markets, crowded and full of character, as well as in Portobello Road (antiques, clothes and bric-a-brac).

Nestling in the heart of London's West End, Soho, for many people, has a rather bad reputation. A popular image of it is as an area of strip clubs, sex shops, peepshows and porno cinemas. But there is much more to Soho than that. Berwick Street is home to a fine market and a lot of great music shops as well as the Raymond Revuebar.

The narrow streets of Soho are a place where the worlds of fashion, business and the arts meet. This makes it one of the most lively and cosmopolitan parts of the city. It's also a foodlovers' paradise.

It has long been famous as a centre for eating out. Some cuisines have a long history here. There are old-established Italian, Greek, and French restaurants, and Gerrard Street, with its Chinese restaurants and shops, is also nearby. Newcomers in recent years include places selling Japanese, Korean, and Thai food.

Soho is littered with specialist shops. Besides a lot of delicatessens and wine and spirit merchants, you can find the Italian Cheese Shop, the Algerian Coffee Shop and Simply Sausages (who sell nothing but sausages).

 

 

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LONDONíS ENVIRONS

 

GREENWICH

Greenwich is very popular with tourists. It stretches eastwards from the Tower Bridge on the south bank of the Thames. If you reach Greenwich through the Foot Tunnel under the river, you come out just in front of the Cutty Sark, a Victorian sailing clipper which carried tea from China. It was the fastest merchant ship on the sea. Next to it there is the tiny Gipsy Moth IV in which Sir Francis Chichester sailed single-handed round the world in 1966-7.

Then you can visit the Old Royal Observatory, Flamsteed House, the original home of Greenwich Mean Time. It stands in Greenwich Park overlooking the National Maritime Museum and the River Thames. You can stand with one foot East and one West astride the Greenwich Prime Meridian of zero longitude and set your watch every day at 1 p. m. precisely by the falling time-ball. The red time-ball on the roof of the observatory was used as a time signal for the ships anchored on the Thames.

The National Maritime Museum below the observatory is the museum for ships and the sea and is based in the elegant Queen's House. The Queen's House was designed by Inigo Jones in 1616 as a palace for King James I's Queen and it is one of the earliest and finest Renaissance buildings in the country.

Facing the Queen's House is the Royal Naval College on the bank of the Thames, again one of Wren's masterpieces. Originally in the 15th century a royal palace, in 1692 it was established as a hospital for sailors and in 1872 it became the Royal Naval College. Inside you can see the famous Painted Hall and the beautiful Chapel where concerts are frequently held.

From the pier next to the Royal Naval College you can go by boat to the Thames Flood Barrier at Woolwich. It consists of 10 separate steel gates across the river which, when not in use, lie horizontally on the river bed, allowing ships to travel normally up and down the river. When storm and tide warnings are issued, the barrier can be raised within 30 minutes to prevent the threatening water from surging up the Thames. It was opened in 1984.

 

HAMPTON COURT PALACE

Further to the West there is Hampton Court Palace, the grandest of all houses built in Britain in the 16th century. Cardinal Wolsey, one of the most powerful men in English politics, had it built for himself. The magnificence and extravagance of the palace was just one of the many irritations that king Henry VIII felt concerning Wolsey. Wolsey decided to present his home to the King but it was too late - soon he was imprisoned for treason. Then Henry VIII moved there with his court and spent much time there. He extended it, partly rebuilt it and decorated its interior. A closed tennis court was constructed, together with three bowling alleys. Later Sir Christopher Wren helped modernize it. For many British Kings and Queens it became their "honeymoon home". The palace boasts more than 1,000 rooms and its treasures range from priceless paintings, furniture and tapestries to kitchen equipment. Hampton Court is also renowned for its gardens with formal flower beds, fountains and statues.

 

KEW GARDENS

Kew Gardens, in south-west London, also known as the Royal Botanic Gardens, are among the finest gardens of their type not only in Britain but also in the whole world. The collection, originated by Lord Capel, started over three hundred years ago. They were given to the nation in 1841.

As a large and beautiful green area in the middle of a huge city, it is not surprising that the gardens are very popular with visitors. They are open all the year round and, of course, some of the attractions vary from season to season. But there is always plenty of interest, even in the depth of winter.

There are some very lovely buildings there, including a Georgian orangery, several wonderful glasshouses, including the Victorian palm house and an interesting corner with an Oriental theme. Here you can see a Japanese garden and the famous pagoda, which is almost fifty metres high. Another important landmark is the Marianne North Gallery, with its fine collection of art by this Victorian painter.

The real stars of the show are, of course, the plants. There are tens of thousands of species (druhý) from all over the world, ranging from giant redwoods (sekvoje), the biggest trees in existence, to tiny flowers, and from plants that spend their whole lives in water to cacti that are happy to see water once in five years. There is also an "Evolution House", where visitors are taken aback through 3.500 million years to the beginnings of life on our planet.

But the Gardens are not only there to entertain the public. They have a vital role in scientific research and conversation - the Herbarium has a collection of over 7 million preserved specimens, the world's biggest - and are actively involved in finding all manner of uses for plants. After all, as the visitor's guise says, all life depends on plants. If they weren't here, neither would we be.

Within the gardens there is Kew Palace, known originally as the Dutch House, the smallest of the royal palaces. It was the favourite residence of King George III and Queen Charlotte.

 

WINDSOR CASTLE

Still further on to the West on a chalk hill above the Thames rises Windsor Castle, the largest inhabited castle in the world. William the Conqueror built the original castle in the 11th century to protect his newly acquired kingdom. But nothing of his castle was left because it was made of wood. The successive kings built the castle of stone and during the centuries they turned it into a more comfortable residence.

Treasures of the castle include arms, armour, furniture, tapestries and paintings by Rubens, Holbein, DŁrer, Rembrandt and others. St. George's Chapel, dedicated to the patron Saint of England, is the chapel of the Knights of the Garter. It is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture. Henry VIII and his third Queen Jane Seymour, Charles I and many others are buried here. In Home Park Queen Victoria is buried in the Mausoleum. There is also Great Park connected to the castle by a straight drive of three miles known as a Long Walk.

 

ETON COLLEGE

Not far from Windsor, the small town of Eton has become famous the world over as the home of the largest of Britain's "public" (=private) schools. Eton College is probably the most prestigious English Public School.

 

  

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