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London’s 4 UNESCO World Heritage sites

A guide to London’s UNESCO World Heritage sites

London’s UNESCO sites

Posted on

08 Oct 2020

As one of the world’s most visited cities, London has a lot to offer. Featuring on many British Isles cruises, the UK’s capital is steeped in history and one of the few cities to lay claim to having multiple UNESCO World Heritage sites. Find out what the sites are below:

  • Maritime Greenwich
  • Palace of Westminster
  • Royal Botanic Gardens 
  • Tower of London
Maritime Greenwich

Maritime Greenwich

Date of inscription: 1997

Home to the Royal Greenwich Observatory and National Maritime Museum, Maritime Greenwich is a fascinating place to visit. It’s a very popular hotspot for tourists with many visiting to stand astride the prime meridian - the Earth’s line of 0 degrees longitude. Where else can you say you have a foot in both the eastern and western hemispheres at the same time?

At the top of the Greenwich Observatory, you can witness the ball drop every day at 1pm, a tradition which has occurred every day since 1833. The observatory also houses a planetarium which contains Britain’s first digital planetarium projector and a museum, which contains John Harrison’s original timekeeping devices. These devices were used to establish the prime meridian, the basis of Greenwich Mean Time.

Palace of Westminster, London

Palace of Westminster, Westminster Abbey & Saint Margaret’s Church

Date of inscription: 1987

The Palace of Westminster, Westminster Abbey and Saint Margaret’s Church were inscripted as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987. The buildings showcase significant historical and cultural interest; telling the story of the kingdom’s transition from a feudal society to a modern parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy.

Originally the site of a royal palace, the Palace of Westminster is more commonly known as the Houses of Parliament. It was the primary residence of English monarchs from the 11th century but in 1512 a fire destroyed much of the complex. One of the most identifiable churches in the world, Westminster Abbey has been the location for royal coronations, burials and weddings for many, many years. Lastly, established as a separate place of worship to neighbouring Westminster Abbey, Saint Margaret’s Church has several notable people buried within it such as Sir Walter Raleigh.

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Royal Botanic Gardens

Date of inscription: 2003

The Royal Botanic Gardens house the world’s largest and most diverse collection of plants. Opened in 1759, the gardens serve an important role in the understanding of the plant kingdom which is why they were inscripted as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2003. Their aim is to fight “for a world where plants and fungi are understood, valued and protected.”

There are many attractions within the grounds but perhaps most recognisable is the Temperate House and the Palm House. The Temperate House is the garden’s largest glasshouse with many specimens including the world’s tallest indoor plant. If you’re a fan of heights, the Treetop Walkway offers a chance to get closer to Kew’s trees. 18 metres above ground, the walkway enables you to observe the complex ecosystem of the trees’ uppermost branches, a world teeming with birds and insects, lichen and fungi.

Tower of London

Tower of London

Date of inscription: 1988

Situated on the bank of the River Thames the Tower of London was built by William the Conqueror in the 11th century as a palace and royal residence. It has played a very important role in British history and has been redeveloped over the years with evolving building techniques.

The Tower of London gained a reputation for torture and imprisonment in its early years as it held important prisoners, soldiers and World War II pirsoners. Because of this, it is rumoured to be haunted by spirits. Most famously, the ghost of Anne Boleyn is said to wander around the White Tower holding her head under her arm. Today, it is the home of the Crown Jewels and the largest cut diamond in the world.

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