Did you know? A 2,000 year-old Roman gladiator ring was buried under the streets of London for centuries. Once a venue for wild animal fights, public executions and gladiatorial combats, London’s only Roman amphitheater was discovered in 1988 by group of archeologists from the Museum of London during a dig in preparation for the new Art Gallery building at Guildhall Yard. Today, the surviving remains are open to the public and displayed in a protected and controlled environment within the new Art Gallery. Visitors to the site can step into a 2,000 year-old gladiator ring and view a stretch of the stone entrance tunnel, east gate, and arena walls. The original extent of the outer wall is marked by a circle of black paving stones located outside the building in Guildhall Yard.
London’s Roman Amphitheatre
Guildhall Art Gallery EC2V 5AE
Situated in the heart of London’s West End between Soho and Covent Garden, Seven Dials was originally laid out in the early 1690s by Thomas Neale as a seven-road junction around a central monument topped with six sundial faces. At the time, the monument was regarded as one of London’s ‘great public ornaments’, and Neale aimed to establish Seven Dials as one of the most fashionable addresses in London. Despite Neale’s best laid plans, however, the area failed to establish itself, and it deteriorated rapidly becoming notorious for squalor and crime. It was not until the latter part of the 20th Century that Seven Dials began to be restored. In 1974, it was declared a Conservation Area due to its unique street layout and historical buildings, and in 1989, the sundial pillar was resurrected and grandly unveiled by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands. Today, Seven Dials is a thriving community, and home to around 200 business including unique independent shops, theatres, restaurants, and pubs.
Hidden down an alley behind Covent Garden, Neal’s Yard is a unique and colorful shopping area lined with ‘slow food’ and ‘raw-centric’ cafes and unique independent shops. Hot pink, bright purple, and neon green painted storefronts include Slam City Skates for the skateboard enthusiast, the Hair by Fairy beauty salon, and the popular Neal’s Yard Remedies filled with organic beauty products, homeopathic medicines, and its own in-house therapy rooms. Neal’s Yard owes its name to Thomas Neale, who received a piece of land in 1690 from King William III, however, the area did not become a destination until the mid 1970s when entrepreneur Nicholas Saunders put Neal’s Yard on the map when he opened his Whole Food Warehouse in 1976. Saunders gradually bought up other buildings in the alley and helped to finance a co-operative bakery, dairy, flour mill, apothecary and cafe. He planted trees in tubs, filled window boxes with flowers and imported white doves that fluttered overhead. Today, Neal’s Yard has become a popular gathering place filled with office workers, tourists and regulars who gather in its colorful courtyard.
Standing along Bishopsgate Churchyard among towering modern office buildings, this unusual and decorative building was once a Turkish Bath built in 1895 by Nevill’s Turkish Baths Limited. The ornate building served as the entrance to the actual baths that were located underground. The bather (gentlemen only) would enter and continue down a winding staircase where he would buy his ticket and enter the cooling-room which was decorated in the style of the Alhambra in Spain. From the cooling-room, the bather would enter one of three hot-rooms, each decorated with marble mosaic floors, tiled walls and ceilings, and stained-glass windows. The adjacent rooms included a ‘shampooing-room’ and a cold plunge pool. The baths closed in 1954, and the building was used as storage until converting into a restaurant in the 1970s. (www.victorianturkishbath.org)
7-8 Bishopsgate Churchyard, London EC2M 3TJ
Underground: Liverpool Street
Once a haunt of William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens, The George Inn is London’s only remaining galleried coaching inn. The galleries which front the building were once common features found on inns in London, and most other surviving examples were destroyed during World War II. Records of the inn date back to 1542, and the current building dates back to 1676 when the original inn was rebuilt following a devastating fire. The George once had galleries surrounding three sides of the existing courtyard where plays were staged for its customers during the 17th century. Shakespeare would have been a customer of the inn while living in Southwark and working at the nearby Globe Theatre, and Dickens mentions The George in his satirical serial novel ‘Little Dorrit’. Today, the George Inn is owned by the National Trust and serves traditional pub fare and fine ales.
The George Inn
77 Borough High Street, Southwark, London SE1 1NH
Underground: London Bridge
Standing on the site of London’s first coffee house, The Jamaica Wine House can be found tucked away at the end of medieval St. Michael’s Alley in the City of London. The original coffee house that opened in 1652 was named Pasque Rosee’s Head, and it was the first of dozens of coffee houses that would soon be opened in the narrow alleyways around Cornhill. London’s coffee-houses became popular meeting places where people would gather to share news, conduct business, discuss politics, write, create and exchange ideas, and many of London’s great institutions such as Lloyd’s of London and the London Stock Exchange originated in the local coffee-houses. Between 1674 and 1680, the site became the Jamaica Coffee House and those with interests in Jamaica and the British West Indies became the primary clientele. The current red stone building dates back to 1869, and the original 19th century ovens used to roast coffee beans can be found in the cellar bar. Today, The Jamaica Wine House is owned by Shepherd Neame and serves traditional English pub fare.
The Jamaica Wine House
St. Michael’s Alley, London EC3
Underground: Bank and Monument
A bronze cast of one of Auguste Rodin’s most famous and acclaimed sculptures stands prominently in Victoria Tower Gardens with the Houses of Parliament as its back-drop. Rodin’s sculpture, The Burghers of Calais, was created to commemorate the siege of the French coastal town of Calais in 1347 during the Hundred-Years War with England. It represents the six distinguished citizens of Calais who volunteered to be taken into captivity by King Edward III in order to spare their city from extermination. Rodin’s emotional sculpture portrays the men as they came forward prepared to die, bareheaded and barefooted with nooses around their necks, carrying the keys to the city. The Burghers of Calais were eventually spared execution by the King’s pregnant and sympathetic Queen. Rodin won the commission for the monument by the town of Calais in January 1885, and the original sculpture was installed ten years later in 1895. Apparently, under French law, no more than twelve casts of Rodin’s memorial were permitted and the London sculpture was cast in 1908.
The Burghers of Calais, by Auguste Rodin (1840 – 1917)
Victoria Tower Gardens, London
Follow The Diana, Princess of Wales, Memorial Walk, and stroll past famous London landmarks and special locations associated with the Princess during her lifetime. Ninety memorial plaques mark a seven-mile walk through some of London’s most beautiful parks: St. James’s Park, Green Park, Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. The walk passes by Kensington Palace, the Princess’s home for fifteen years, as well as Buckingham Palace, St. James’s Palace, and Clarence House. The memorial plaques were designed by sculptor Alec Peever, and each plaque contains a heraldic rose emblem that symbolizes both the Princess’s enduring image and Britain’s traditions and heritage. The Memorial Walk was dedicated to the memory of Diana, Princess of Wales on 30 June 2000, the day before the Princess’s 39th birthday. The world mourned Princess Diana’s death after she was fatally injured in a car crash in Paris on 31 August 1997.
The great dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral is an iconic feature of London’s skyline. The present cathedral is the fifth to stand on this site in the City
of London since 604, and it was built after the previous cathedral was destroyed during the 1666 Great Fire of London. The current cathedral was designed by architect Sir Christopher Wren and was completed between 1675 and 1710. From royal occasions to state funerals, some of the most memorable events in history have taken place at St. Paul’s. Among these events are Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee celebration in 1897, Sir Winston Churchill’s funeral in 1965, and the globally broadcast wedding of HRH the Prince of Wales to Lady Diana Spencer in 1981. A visit to St. Paul’s includes breathtaking architecture and fascinating details from history. Explore the cathedral’s crypt and visit the modest tomb of the cathedral’s architect Sir Christopher Wren as well as the ornate tombs of Admiral Lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington. Climb up the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral and discover the unique acoustics of the Whispering Gallery where a whisper on one side of the Gallery can be heard clearly 100 feet away. Then, climb 271 more steps and reach the very top of the dome where you can take-in panoramic views across London.