Attractions to See During the Olympics
With just under three hundred days until the London Olympics (August 29 through September 9, 2012), consider including these London attractions in your itinerary, if you are lucky enough to attend the games. Otherwise watch for attraction views in TV coverage.
Anyone who visits the city should definitely ride the London Eye. On a clear day, this mega type Ferris wheel (443 feet tall with 32 capsules/pods), offers views as far away as twenty-five miles in every direction.
The wheel takes up to 25 people per air-conditioned pod on a 30 minute circular ride. It never stops. As the wheel descends, a pod slowly moves beside a ramp, a worker opens the door from outside, travelers carefully exit, and the pod continues to the queue waiting to enter. People scurry inside before the door closes.
On a good weather day expect long lines, first for tickets and then for the ride. You might consider purchasing a Fast Track ticket. The day we visited, we waited while the wheel underwent some repairs, then purchased tickets and zigzagged like the queue at airport security to the entrance ramp. Once in the air, the smooth, slow ride felt as if it were not moving. Below us, we viewed the Hungerford Bridge with its several train tracks and Golden Jubilee Pedestrian bridges attached to each side.
We even saw our hotel, The Park Plaza, just around the corner from the Eye and across the Westminster Bridge from the Palace of Westminster. If you stay at the Park Plaza, ask for a view room.
As the Eye descended, we watched cars and busses cross the bridge to the Palace of Westminster (also called the Houses of Parliament). The Collegiate Church of St. Peter, better known as Westminster Abbey, sits just west of the Palace. Although the clock tower is often referred to as Big Ben, the name actually applies to the bell within the tower. The four-faced clock tower holds the distinction of being the third largest in the world.
Take in another London highlight - the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace.
Crowds prevent a view of the actual changing for most people, so our guide suggested we observe the guards as they leave the barracks instead. We stood front and center.
About three miles down the north bank of the Thames from our hotel and the London Eye, sits the Tower of London where we witnessed, up close, the changing of guard.
A book by Edward Rutherford, describes the White Tower’s beginnings in 1066 located within the London fortress. Not finished until 1097, other buildings eventually surrounded the original tower – Barracks, Chapel, Tower Green with the Queen’s house and others. Tickets cost about $20. Plan a full day in order to enjoy all available activities and sights.
Another must-see, the National Gallery Art Museum, displays works from the 13th century to 19th century. Plan to visit this free museum located at Trafalgar Square several times. We were advised to view the Sainsbury Wing of Renaissance Art first. I highly recommend it. Unfortunately, that wing filled our allotted time. If you like modern art, consider the Tate with its British works from the 1500s to present and its international modern art.
The Thames River Ferries shuttle residents and visitors to attractions along the shore. We cruised from the Tower to the London Eye and passed beneath several bridges including the famous Tower Bridge. The ferry offered a snack bar and alcoholic beverages.
Consider a ride on a red double-decker bus and cross many of the other bridges.
Plan your itinerary to include a few tourist days either before or after the Olympics and enjoy these and other special attractions. Be prepared to encounter all cultures in London, an international city. Pack clothes you can layer, an umbrella, and a rain jacket.