westminster abbey henry vii lady chapel
Westminster Abbey - Since 1066, English sovereigns have been crowned in London's Westminster Abbey, and the Abbey is great to visit because many different famous people - kings and queens, poets and scientists - are buried there. Tip: Skip waiting in ticket lines with the London Pass.
Coronation Chair - This is the chair used in coronations since 1308. It was originally made to hold the Stone of Destiny, coronation rock of Scottish kings, captured and brought here to England (the Stone of Destiny is now returned to Edinburgh Castle). If the chair looks a bit worn, it has withstood a lot, including graffiti carved by boys from the Westminster School.
Edward the Confessor's Chapel - In the center is the shrine of St. Edward, founder of Westminster Abbey, who died in 1066 and is buried here. In the chapel are also tombs of other kings and queens, including the lovely effigy of Queen Eleanor of Castile.
The tomb of Queen Elizabeth I is just magnificent in white marble, and she's richly dressed with jewels galore. Adjoining Elizabeth is Mary Queen of Scots. The kids wanted to know why Mary's still had her head (on the statue above her tomb).
Henry VII's Lady Chapel - Kids will particularly like this chapel, filled with banners decorated with coats of arms and carved crests of the knights of the Order of Bath.
Poet's Corner -Kids will recognize names of familiar writers - William Shakespeare (looking pretty dashing), Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling, Lewis Carroll.
Tip: Many tombs are decorated with cherubs, some with angelic expressions, some not so much (like real kids). On Sir Isaac Newton's splashy monument, two winged cherubs hold up a scroll, two others use a telescope and prism. We counted 40+ cherubs - see how many you can find.
Westminster Abbey Museum - Check out the wax effigies, such as Queen Elizabeth I, King Charles II, Lord Nelson, dressed in period clothing.
Jewel Tower- After visiting the Abbey, pop around the corner to the Jewel Tower, all that's left of the medieval Palace of Westminster. The Jewel Tower was built by Edward III in 1365 to store his private treasures, such as gold and silver plates, cups, goblets, fine wall hangings.
The medieval tower is beautifully preserved, climb up the narrow steps to each floor, which has exhibits, a model of the royal Palace of Westminster (where the English kings lived until the early 16th century), and re-creation of the treasury storeroom.
Ben Ben and Houses of Parliament - Big Ben is the bell that peals out every hour and the clock in St. Stephen's Tower in the Houses of Parliament. For the politically minded, you can take tours of the Parliament Houses.
Churchill War Rooms - Kitty corner from the Houses of Parliament, across Parliament Square are the Churchill War Rooms. From these rooms, the British government directed all the operations of WWII. The rooms have been kept exactly as they were when the war ended. For one family, this was the highlight of their trip to London.
St. James's Park - Feeling fatigued from too many museums and palaces, take a walk in St. James's Park. It's just a lovely shady oasis, with lots of green trees, grass, benches, a small lake with lots of ducks, and a playground with sand play area and swings. Bring your picnic lunch and relax.
Buckingham Palace - If anyone in your family is a royals watcher, visit Buckingham Palace (in the summer). Buckingham Palace is palatial, with red carpets in all the rooms, glittery chandeliers and sweeping staircases for grand entrances. Here's Buckingham Palace family activities.
And of course, there's the Changing of the Guard in front of Buckingham Palace, where you can watch sentries in colorful traditional uniforms "hand-over," accompanied by a military marching band (daily at 11:30am in summer and spring (and alternate days in fall and winter). If your kids love horses, watch the ceremony with mounted horse guards at the Horse Guards Parade at the end of St. James's Park.
Tate Britain - In the Tate Britain there are so many fine paintings by British artists Hogarth, Reynolds, Gainsborough, Turner, Whistler, William Blake, scenes of English landscapes and real people from all walks of life. Don't miss George Stubbs horse portraits or Turner's amazing landscapes. The museum is free.
London Eye (across from Westminster Pier) - Take a ride on this gigantic "observation" ferris wheel, located on the south side of the Thames. You ride in glass capsules, for the ultimate "bird's eye" view of London. On a clear day you say see all the way to Windsor. The 30 minute ride is perfect for kids of all ages, but in summer it gets crowded so reserve your tickets early.
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