The world knows the district of Westminster as the home of the London Eye, Westminster Abbey, and the Houses of Parliament. Every day, thousands of tourists mingle with weary locals rushing off to work in this famous area- and it’s that busy for a reason! Many large companies such as Marks & Spencer, BAE Systems, and Korean Air are headquartered in Westminster; and that business-like atmosphere is contrasted with the history and popularity of tourist attractions like Buckingham Palace and Big Ben. Westminster is the site of big, modern business as well as many historic symbols of London.
But the area is so rich with fascinating sights that visitors shouldn’t limit themselves to the most popular attractions- take time, if you can, to explore the vicinity around Buckingham and St. James’s Palace. It is tranquil, stately, and beautiful, and will give you a better idea of London’s charms than if you simply visit all the crowded tourist sites.
A gorgeous Georgian structure- very indicative of the architecture around St. James’s Palace
Westminster has a history of close to a thousand years, and this great history is reflected in the quality of its architecture
The City of Westminster (in which the district of the same name is located) encompasses such affluent areas as Belgravia, Knightsbridge, and Mayfair; yet there’s no shortage of money in Westminster itself! Westminster has been home to royalty for hundreds of years- first at St. James’s Palace, which today is still the official Royal Court, and now at both Buckingham Palace and Clarence House. That royal association is perhaps the best demonstration of Westminster’s enduring wealth and prestige.
A Rolls-Royce down a side street near Clarence House
The brown brick facade of St. James’s Palace
St. James’s Palace was built between 1531 and 1536 by Henry VIII- he wished to have a second palace to visit when he was tired of Whitehall’s demands and formality
Even apart from prominent attractions like the royal residences, Westminster has an abundance of wonderful things. When I walked around the district several years ago, I took the time to simply marvel at its many ancient shops and pubs and wonderful architecture.
A gun and riflemaker’s shop- just the place to go before a weekend of hunting in Yorkshire, I would expect!
A very picturesque pub
A wander through Westminster can be satisfactorily completed with a stroll past Charing Cross Station, and then through Trafalgar Square. Charing Cross Station (in addition to being one of London’s most famous rail stations) has a gorgeous replica of an Eleanor Cross out front, which beautifully complements the building’s French Renaissance style. And Trafalgar Square is always an unmissable destination. One of my favourite times to visit Trafalgar Square is at dusk- the Square slowly empties of people and takes on such a quiet and serene atmosphere. It’s really a lovely place to be, and it’s a world away from the usual daytime bustle.
Twelve Eleanor Crosses were erected by the grieving King Edward I in the 13th century, to mark where his wife Eleanor’s funeral procession rested on its way back to London
The church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields (which faces Trafalgar Square) silhouetted at sundown
As with any area of London, there’s so much more to Westminster than the famous things that everybody flocks to. With a little time, it’s incredibly rewarding to just wander around and discover London bit by bit!