On my second day in London, I headed back into the city, but this time focused on the East Side to see sites like the Tower of London and the Shard. The popular tourist sites on the East side of London are a little more spread out, so be prepared to do more walking. And as always, bring an umbrella in case you encounter an unexpected rain shower. Side note: I didn’t, and got caught in the rain!
I took the Tube down to the London Bridge stop, mainly because I wanted to catch a quick glimpse of the Shard. The Shard recently opened in 2013 and is the tallest building in the United Kingdom. It’s a glass enclosed, shard-like structure built to appear as though it were coming out of the Thames River, mimicking old church spires or masts of ships. Some people disagreed with the design because they thought it would mar the traditional skyline of London but I think it fits in quite well. From the London Bridge I walked along the Thames towards the Tower of London.
The Tower of London is an historic castle located along the River Thames. Once a royal residence, it was later used as a prison until 1952. Controlling the Tower was important to controlling the country, and at various times the castle was used as an armory, treasury, Royal Mint, and the home of the Crown Jewels. Now a World Heritage Site, it’s open to the public and one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. Just beyond the Tower of London is the Tower Bridge, a famous suspension bridge over the Thames and an iconic symbol of London. The bridge is open to vehicles and pedestrians, while the Towers charge an admission fee to visit the Tower Bridge Exhibition. I didn’t go into either one of these attractions but enjoyed sight seeing around the outside and getting some great photos.
From there I turned back west and walked to St Paul’s Cathedral. Again, I should note that this was about a 15-20 minute walk, not particularly long but in Westminster everything was only a 5-10 minute walk apart. St Paul’s Cathedral has a very nice garden area around the back side that is open to the public, so I got some photos from behind the cathedral and then walked around to the front. A guard directed me inside the cathedral where I got a glimpse of the gorgeous architecture, but photos weren’t allowed and you had to pay to get full access to the inside.
I only had a little time left before I had to go get ready for Part 2 of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, so I quickly headed over to the British Museum because they have free admission. I mainly wanted to see the Rosetta Stone and the Ancient Egyptian exhibit if possible. It was pretty busy, even for a weekday, and there was a large crowd around the Rosetta Stone. I could barely get a photo of it, must less get close to read the accompanying information and look at the stone. That was a disappointment, but the Ancient Egypt exhibit wasn’t. There were a lot of statues and tombs that were ornately carved and decorated and they had an exhibit upstairs that I wanted to see about Egyptian remains under the ocean, but I didn’t have enough time.
East London was a very cool area to explore and I was really glad to see the Tower Bridge because it’s so famous. I would love to have spent the entire afternoon in the British Museum, so it’s on my list for my next trip to England. I’m glad I got to spend time and see most of the sights in downtown London; there’s so much to do in this amazing city!