Over a history of more than 2,000 years, England’s capital city has survived Viking attacks, fire, civil war and plague, becoming one of the world’s most influential financial and cultural hubs.
The Romans established the town of Londinium on the River Thames after their invasion in A.D. 43. You still can see fragments of the Roman beginnings here -- the early settlement’s walls, the Temple of Mithras and an amphitheater discovered in the late 1980s remain.
From the mid-fifth century, Anglo-Saxons began to take over the area, parceling out kingdoms and building the foundations for kings and queens for years to come. View the glittering Crown Jewels at the Tower of London, a fortress founded by William the Conqueror; stroll the majestic grounds of Hampton Court Palace, former residence of King Henry VIII; and watch the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace to get a taste of London’s royal traditions. For artists, there’s the Royal Academy of Arts, Britain’s oldest fine arts institution.
But London’s historic treasures go beyond the gems built for royalty. There are spiritual beacons, such as St. Paul’s Cathedral, built between 1675 and 1710, the fourth to be built on this site since A.D. 604. Victorian-era attractions include the Tower Bridge, an engineering icon, and the famous Parliament clock tower, Big Ben. Visitors interested in the capital’s commerce can learn about the United Kingdom’s central bank at the Bank of England Museum.
With exhibits ranging from prehistoric to modern times, the Museum of London -- where guests can delve into the world of a medieval pilgrim or view artifacts from the time of the Great Plague -- offers an overall history lesson.