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The Westminster Area


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The Heart of London

Translated by Alison Isherwood — one year ago

Original text by Isabella Colombo

The Westminster area is probably the most famous in London. Many places of interest are concentrated here, and everything is accessible by foot. You can find this area along the River Thames. In this piece, I will describe only the most famous places because Westminster is quite a large area with many places and museums. In truth, Westminster contains all of the places to see that you absolutely have to see when you go to London.

How to get there?

London has developed an excellent public transport system, but watch out for rush hour because everything is crowded. If you’re in London, and you know that you’re going to use public transport a lot, it’s a great idea to get an Oyster Card, which costs five pounds, and you can return it and get the money back. My advice is to choose the Pay as You Go option, where you load the card with money, and after each trip the cost is then subtracted from the total. The cost of a journey varies depending on the time you travel, but when you hit a certain limit, you don’t have to pay any more for the rest of the day, regardless of how much you use the public transport. Usually, the maximum amount is over ten pounds.

The best way to get to Westminster is to use the underground. To get to Westminster, you have to take the Jubilee Line, marked with a grey colour. The Line is sometimes shut on the weekends, so you have to use alternatives, like the bus. When I was in London, it happened to me and I had to take the bus, and, for this route, the train takes only fifteen minutes, but the bus takes nearly two hours. But, in the end, I got on the double-decker bus, and the view was beautiful! But, it’s not good if you’re in a rush. It’s even easier to get lost if you travel by bus, because some buses don’t say the name of the stop so you don’t know where to get off. Although, maybe not in this case, because you will surely recognise Big Ben and the London Eye, and therefore you will know when to get off.

If you decide to use the train, you have to get off the train at Westminster Station and then follow the signs for the exit with Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. When you leave the underground, Big Ben should be behind you, and this is what you will see in front of you:

The Heart of London

And now this is the view of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament when you turn around.

The Heart of London

What I liked about London is that every single point of interest is well signposted, and is even marked on the train maps. In every single station there is a list of places of where the station leads to, and also, at the exits there are signs that will give you the right directions. But, when I was here, I knew where the majority of the places were from photos I had seen before, so I didn’t need to look at the directions.

What to do in Westminster – places:

Big Ben is probably the most recognised symbol of London. It’s a great clock tower, situated right next to the famous Houses of Parliament. If you aren’t looking to go to the top, the bridge is not too busy and you can take silly photos with Big Ben, similar to those taken with the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

The Heart of London

The Houses of Parliament is near to Westminster Bridge. It’s nothing special in itself, but, if you’re in London, you have to take a photo with it, otherwise people will take the mickey out of you. One thing I noticed was the dirtiness of the Thames (but they say that the Thames is one of the cleanest rivers compared to those of other cities), which is almost the same colour as the walls of the Houses of Parliament.

The Heart of London

The Heart of London

The Heart of London

Westminster Bridge is one of the main bridges used to cross the River Thames. Whilst crossing, you can take a beautiful photo of Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and the London Eye from far away. Generally, you will see many street artists that perform along the bridge. There are always lots of Scotsmen dressed in their traditional clothing, playing their music with typical instruments. You can also buy a hotdog or something else to eat along the bridge for not too much money.

The Heart of London

The London Dungeons is special both inside and outside. The first thing you will notice is the music. Then, there are the actors, dressed in medieval clothing that play different roles. I waited in the line for over an hour, but it was worth it. The only negative thing was that they don’t allow you to take photos whilst you’re inside.

The London Aquarium is situated near to the London Dungeons, if you’re hungry there is also a McDonald’s, but the queue is ridiculously long. The London Aquarium is considered to be one of the biggest aquariums in Europe, although I preferred the Lisbon Aquarium. A good idea is to buy your tickets in advance, because there is a long wait to buy tickets here. Once inside, there are lots of children that shout and run around, and you will need to take your time to be able to see everything in the aquarium. It takes around an hour to see it all.

The London Eye, another famous point of interest in London. My first thought, when I saw it from Westminster Bridge, was that it seemed a lot smaller than I had imagined. But, when you get closer, it truly is big. The same thing as for all places of interest in London: buying your tickets in advance is really recommended. Even with the ticket, or with the London Pass, expect to have to wait for around half an hour. But I have to say that the wait is worth it for the beautiful view. The wheel turn really compliments it and you always have a complete view. It takes around 30 minutes to do a complete turn.

The Heart of London

The Heart of London

Take a walk along the Thames. It doesn’t matter what direction you go in, there is always something of interest in every part. If you go up, which is my favourite part of the walk, you will reach the London Eye. If you continue on walking, you will finally arrive at the London Bridge, which is majestic, but a bit far away. You might have a better view of the city from a ferry-boat (you can take one that goes along the whole river, or one that goes to Greenwich). From the boat, you have a better view than from the shore. And it is impressive.

You will see some typical, traditional pubs with interesting names and beautiful decorations along the walls. When you’re walking in this direction, you will also see a tall building made of glass, called The Shard that they say has the best view in all of London due to its height. But it does cost a lot. Just admiring the view will set you back 24 pounds. There is also a restaurant at the top, which has very high prices. When you walk along the river, you will see some artists making sculptures.

The Heart of London

The Heart of London

The Heart of London

If you want to see absolutely all the places to see in London, it’s a good idea to buy the London Pass. It’s the most economical option compared to buying every ticket singularly, and you can skip the things that can get very busy at the weekend. For example, I was in Westminster and, on a sunny Sunday, the waiting time for the London Eye was two and a half hours. Some people want to see every one of the attractions just to be able to say that they were there, but I prefer to see them from the outside because the waiting time is too long, and I prefer to spend my time in other interesting places, rather than standing in line for such a long time.

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