London attractions: Unbelievable historical facts about the capital’s landmarks
Learn more about many of the capital’s beloved attractions with us, as we take you through some fast historical facts you’ll want to know before you visit these iconic landmarks.
Historical facts about London attractions
Tower of London
Filled with historical facts around every corner, the Tower of London allows visitors a chance to step back in over 900 years of history, but did you know that it has been used as a prison until as recently as 1952? 22 executions have also taken place at the Tower, with the most recent being Josef Jakobs, a German spy killed in World War Two. In the Crown Jewels exhibition, you’ll also be able to see the Imperial State Crown, glistening with 2,868 diamonds!
Did you know that over 170 species of plants were discovered by scientists at Kew Gardens in 2018? This includes 128 vascular plants and 44 species of fungi from around the world. Home to over 1.25 million types of fungi, Kew Gardens is home to the world’s largest fungarium, as well as the world’s oldest potted plant: an Encephalartos altensteinii (i) collected in the 1770s by Francis Masson with a four-metre wide trunk. Read more about Kew Gardens here!
ZSL London Zoo
Related to plants and animals, there are over 800 species of animals for visitors to see at ZSL London Zoo from lions and tigers to smaller critters typically found in the rainforest. ZSL London Zoo is the world’s oldest scientific zoo, having opened in 1828 and features many animals who have grown to a famous status including Guy the gorilla and Winnie the bear. See if you can spot them as you walk around the zoo!
Kensington Palace was originally called Nottingham House, a mansion that was built by Sir George Coppin, a wealthy businessman in the 16th century. However, when William III and Mary II were looking for a new place to live, they decided that Nottingham House was perfect and the new royal estate of Kensington Palace was born. The building was opened to the public from 1899, allowing visitors to peer into the State Apartments while Queen Victoria was on the throne. See what royal history you can find for yourself at the palace.
Built in 1869 to serve imports to and from China, the Cutty Sark carried tea, whisky and wool on voyages around the world. From 1870 to 1877, 653 men served on board to transport goods. In 1895, the boat’s name was changed to “Ferreira” and later “Maria do Amparo” in 1922, after being sold to a Portuguese firm.
One of the greatest parts of the London skyline, Tower Bridge took 8 years to build and was officially opened on 8th June 1894. Built with 11,000 tons of steel, Tower Bridge is 800 feet long and it is estimated that 40,000 people cross the bridge every day.
Did you know that the famous palace wasn’t always destined for this status? Originally built as the Buckingham House in 1703, Buckingham Palace was envisioned as a townhouse for the Duke of Buckingham. Complete with 775 rooms, there are over 45,000 light bulbs to keep the palace shining bright and can serve up to 8,000 people for one of the palace’s infamous garden parties. When members of the Royal Family stand on the balcony of Buckingham Palace to address the public, they will stand on the East Wing.
There have been 3 additional crossings in the capital called “London Bridge” since the original Roman crossing in 50 AD. Future bridges included a chapel in the 1209 London Bridge, yet the current London Bridge has stood in London from 17th March 1973. Did you know one of the older London Bridges still stands? Lake Havasu City in Arizona is home to one of the old London bridges, after spending just shy of $10 million dollars to transport the bridge piece by piece over 5,000 miles away from the original location.
St Paul’s Cathedral
A cathedral dedicated to St Paul has stood in the City of London since 604 AD, however the current cathedral that stands was officially opened on 25th December 1711 after the third reincarnation was destroyed in the Great Fire of London. With a dome standing at 111 metres high, St Paul’s Cathedral was the tallest building until 1967. However, it is now out of the top 50 rankings for the tallest building; the tallest building in London now is The Shard at 306 metres.
Want to find out more about attractions outside the capital? You’ll want to visit these famous British attractions that lie beyond London.