An American in London

The Five Places in London that Everyone Needs to See

Allison MacLeod, Associate Editor

Travel is at the heart of understanding the diversity of past and present world cultures, and Abington High School has proven its commitment to this perspective through its Global Education trips.

In past years, AHS juniors and seniors have had the opportunity to visit European destinations like Spain, Italy and Iceland. After hearing tales of their adventures, it is no surprise that other students and members of the Abington community have caught the travel bug. In 2018, students will travel to Costa Rica and Greece.

Have you ever traveled abroad?

  • Yes, with a group other than AHS Global Education Tours (45%, 5 Votes)
  • Yes, with AHS Global Education Tours (27%, 3 Votes)
  • Not yet (18%, 2 Votes)
  • I will be traveling through AHS Global Education Tours this year (9%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 10

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For those who dream of experiencing the utter exhaustion and immense reward of a trip abroad, London should also be on your bucket list. Having recently returned from a family trip there, here are the top five places that should be staples of your London travels:

Westminster Abbey
London is home to many beautiful churches, but the one that everyone needs to visit is Westminster Abbey. The architecture leaves visitors in awe. Westminster is a piece of living history. Though 700 years old, it still holds daily worship services. There are so many tombs and memorials to look at that it can feel overwhelming at times, but reading through the names becomes a treasure hunt. The magnificent royal tombs are expected, but also look out for famous figures like Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Dickens. Others, like William Shakespeare and Martin Luther King Jr., though not buried at Westminster, are still recognized with commemorative statues for their work. One could stay for hours and get swept away in the fascinating history and details, but a shorter walkthrough is just as memorable.

London is a great starting point for Americans who wish to travel because of its shared language and endless list of attractions.

— Allison MacLeod

Tower of London
Though not everyone is a fan of history, everyone could be a fan of the Tower of London. William the Conqueror originally had the Tower built as a fortress in the 1070s, but in the hundreds of years since, it has served as a palace, prison, armory, vault for the Crown Jewels and even a zoo. There’s truly something for everyone. Furthermore, the extent of London’s history needs to be experienced because it is almost unimaginable; America feels so young in comparison. The Tower of London is a microcosm of the city’s history and should be in every traveler’s plan.

British Museum
Though it would be difficult to explore the whole British Museum in one visit, the most popular exhibits are nothing short of unforgettable. The museum houses the Rosetta Stone, other ancient Egyptian artifacts like mummies, an Easter Island statue, and sculptures from the Parthenon of ancient Athens. To see such old and influential pieces of history is surreal. Best of all, admission is free, but the quality of the museum certainly deserves a donation.

A Castle
A London itinerary typically includes a visit to Buckingham Palace, specifically to view the Changing of the Guard. Frankly, the formalities of the ceremony are slow, and with the exception of the ambitious travelers who arrive early, few tourists have a clear view of the ritual, so take some exterior pictures of the palace in between ceremonies and continue exploring London. Despite this, the royal castles are stunning and should be a part of any schedule, but the best choices depend on the time of year of the trip. For example, the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace are open for ten weeks during the summer; Windsor Castle, where The Queen often spends her weekends, is open November through February and March through October. For my trip in November, we took the train ride out to Windsor and were thoroughly delighted to tour the grandiose rooms, walk around the grounds and visit St. George’s Chapel. To tour Windsor Castle is to experience London’s past and present; while we admired apartments designed for 19th century kings, The Queen arrived to spend her Saturday in another section of the castle!

A West End Show
Apart from Broadway, the West End of London is home to the best professional theatre in the English-speaking world. London is known for its historical contributions to the arts, but the current arts scene is just as vibrant. I saw and loved Matilda The Musical at the Cambridge Theatre. Based on the novel by British writer Roald Dahl, Matilda is the story of a genius little girl who takes command of her own story with help from her kind teacher and her powerful mind, which is brought to life on stage through a script, songs and visual effects that are all youthfully energetic and captivating. Other theatre recommendations in the West End include The Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre and Les Miserables at the Queens Theatre, which is the West End’s longest running musical.

Bonus: Platform 9 ¾
In a city overflowing with history and culture, I could not justify listing it in place of a landmark; however, for the Harry Potter fan, it is simply magical to take a picture pushing the luggage trolley through the wall and onto the famous Platform 9 ¾ in Kings Cross Station where young wizards and witches board the Hogwarts Express in the famous series. First take some fun professional photographs, and then pick out some Harry Potter memorabilia in the gift shop.

Bursting at the seams with sights to see, London is a traveler’s dream. However, it is just one city in a bustling continent in an even larger world. London is a great starting point for Americans who wish to travel because of its shared language and endless list of attractions.