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London, the capital of the United Kingdom, is one of the biggest cities in the world. It is not really a single city but a conurbation of towns and suburbs. It includes the City of London and 32 boroughs. London is the seat of the Monarch, the Parliament, the Government and the Supreme Court. It also contains many important institutions, museums, galleries, theatres, historical buildings and parks. The Prime Meridian of the World runs across Greenwich in the east of London.

The historical and the oldest part of the capital is the City. It is also the centre of commerce and banking. The West End is the centre for shopping. We can find there the best shops, a lot of theatres, cinemas, great parks and beautiful residential areas for those who can afford to live there. To the east of the City, in the East End, there are a lot of factories, and the docks. The houses are cheaper, so this is the residential area for working people. Many immigrant groups from all the world live there. London is situated on the river Thames which divides the city into two parts. There are 15 bridges over the river - the best-known ones are Tower Bridge, London Bridge and West Bridge.

London has a very ancient history and there are many sights and places of historical interest, especially in the centre of London. One of the top tourist attractions is the Tower, the former royal palace. The Tower is the oldest building in London. It was built nine hundred years ago. The name of the oldest part of the Tower is the White Tower and it was constructed by William the Conqueror in the 11th century. It is an example of a medieval castle. The Tower served till the 16th century as a royal home (now the royal residence is in Buckingham Palace), a prison, an execution site and an observatory. There also used to be a royal menagerie. Now it is a museum where tourists go to see collections of weapons, coronation jewels, and they commemorate the former prison where many famous prisoners were kept (Sir Walter Raleigh, Rudolf Hess - Hitler’s deputy) and a lot of personages of English history were executed there (Henry VIII’s wives - Ann Boleyn and Catherine Howard, and the philosopher Sir Thomas More). Six ravens are kept in the Tower to protect the whole Kingdom. The legend says that the Kingdom will cease to exist when the ravens leave the Tower.

Although the Tower ranks among the symbols of English history, Tower Bridge, which is near the Tower, dates from the last century. It opens in the middle so as to allow the large ships go through.

The Houses of Parliament are on the left bank of the river Thames. They are the political centre of the United Kingdom, the home of the British Parliament. The buildings are in Neo-Gothic style and were built in the 19th century on the ruins of the Old Palace of Westminster which was destroyed by the fire in 1834. During the Second World War one part of the Parliament was almost destroyed by bombs. It was rebuilt after the war. The oldest part of building, the former medieval building, is called Westminster Hall and it is as old as the Tower (11th century). The Houses of Parliament have two towers - the Clock Tower and the Victoria Tower. The clock with the bell has the name of Big Ben. There is a very curious history of its name. After it had been built there was great disagreement how to call the clock. This thing was discussed in the Parliament and one member proposed the name of a tall and stout minister, Sir Benjamin Hall, whom people called „Big Ben“.

Not far from the Houses of Parliament there is Buckingham Palace, the London home of the kings and queens of Great Britain. It was built by the Duke of Buckingham in 1703 and it was bought by George III six years later. Outside Buckingham Palace the Changing of the Guards takes place. When visitors come to London, they usually go to see St. Paul’s and St. James’ Cathedrals. St. Paul’s Cathedral is one of the largest cathedrals in the world (second after St.Peter’s in Rome). This Baroque church is the masterpiece of Sir Christopher Wren who built it on the ruins of the former cathedral which was destroyed by the Great Fire in 1666. During World War II the cathedral was badly damaged by German bombs. Fortunately the church was not destroyed although a lot of buildings in the neighbourhood were destroyed during the air raids. That is why there are many modern office blocks, built after the war, close to the ancient cathedral.

Westminster Abbey with Poet’s Corner attracts many tourists, too. Westminster Abbey is a famous monument, a creation of many generations of builders in the period from the 11th to the 18th century. It represents the fine Gothic architecture. It is the place where English queens and kings are crowned. Almost all coronations since William the Conqueror have been held there. Most of the kings and queens are buried there. England’s great poets, artists, statesmen and other outstanding personalities are buried in the Poet’s Corner.

Most foreigners who are interested in art do not forget to visit the National Gallery on Trafalgar Square. London has many art galleries but the National Gallery is the best known. It houses paintings by nearly all great artists of the past. (Other art galleries in London are: the National Portrait Gallery with portraits of famous people and the Tate Gallery with collections of paintings and sculptures.)

Trafalgar Square with Nelson’s Column is one of the best known London squares. It was named after Nelson’s victory over the French. Nelson’s statue stands high up on a column. Owing to its size and situation the square became and continues to be a popular centre for public meetings and demonstrations. At Christmas time a big Christmas tree stands in the square and people gather around it, singing carols.(The tree is a gift from the Norwegian people to Londoners). Another London square is Piccadilly Circus which is a short way from Trafalgar Square. It does not look like a circus any longer because the new houses are square instead of curved. It is the noisiest and busiest place in London. It also became notable as the centre of entertainment in the West End with its nightclubs, cinemas and restaurants. The most beautiful view of the square is at night when it is lit by many colourful advertisements. In the centre of the Circus at the top of the Fountain stands Eros, the Greek God of Love.

From Piccadilly Circus you can get to Oxford Street, busy shopping centre. It is renowned for large department stores such as Selfridges, John Lewis and Marks and Spencer. Near Oxford Street there is Baker Street, which is connected with the famous hero of Conan Doyle’s detective stories, Sherlock Holmes. At 221b Baker Street is the Sherlock Holmes Museum. Another street, which offers a great attraction to tourists, is Whitehall. It is the street with government offices. Lots of people come to Whitehall to see the Changing of the Guard. The Guards are on horseback and stand at the entrance of the building called the Horse Guard. In this street we can also find Great Scotland Yard. In fact the street is a continuous chain of Government buildings. No.10 Downing Street is the residence of the Prime Minister.

If you choose Piccadilly Circus as the starting point, you can get easily to many sights. Not far from here there are the British Museum and the University of London. The British museum is internationally famous both for its large art collections and the large British Library (with more than 11 million volumes of printed books and manuscripts). The museum houses collections of Egyptian, Greek and Roman sculptures and a lot of interesting antiquities. There is also a collection of drawings and engravings by the Czech artist Václav Hollar who lived in England for a long time and died in London (in 1677).

Within a mile of Piccadilly Circus there are more than 40 theatres and cinemas. Most of them are in the West End, in the neighbourhood of Piccadilly Circus. The National Theatre is a modern theatre completed in 1976. It is a complex of three theatres standing on the south bank of the Thames. The largest of them is the Olivier Theatre, named after the famous actor and director of the National Theatre, Sir Lawrence Olivier. A great number of theatres are grouped in the West End while the Barbican Theatre was built in the heart of the City. The Barbican Centre (opened in 1982) is built on a site damaged by bombing in 1940. It is a large residential area dominated by three towers (120 m high). It is also a centre for arts, comprising a conference and concert hall called the Barbican Hall, the Barbican Theatre and the studio called The Pit (200 seats), art gallery and three cinemas. The Royal Opera House is on the other hand a very ancient building, it is known under the name Covent Garden. It is home to the Royal Opera and the Royal Ballet. Only the best British and foreign opera singers and ballet dancers can perform at Covent Garden. Shakespeare’s plays are performed at the Old Vic (Old Victorian) which is the oldest theatre in London. In the Regent’s Park there is a popular open-air theatre.

London is known for its great number of concert halls, for example the Royal Festival Hall, the Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Royal Albert Hall and the Barbican Hall.

The capital has several gardens and parks. All major parks were once royal gardens. St. James’s Park is the oldest of them while Hyde Park is probably the most popular among tourists. It consists of trees and lawns intersected by paths, people can relax boating or swimming on the Serpentine lake and horse riding in Rotten Row. You can find there the famous Marble Arch and the renowned Speaker’s Corner. The Speaker’s Corner is a place where everybody can speak about anything he likes except the royal family without fear of being arrested for his opinion. Other parks are Kensington Gardens and Regent’s Park which is the most elegant park with attractive gardens, lakes and a ZOO. The ZOO was founded in 1826 and belongs to the most comprehensive collections of animals in the world.

The capital has many monuments, which commemorate important historical events. The Cenotaph commemorates the fallen soldiers in the First World War. Another monument was built to the memory of the Great Fire of London in 1666. At that time the town was almost completely destroyed by the fire, including St. Paul’s Cathedral. London was not destroyed only by the fire in 1666 but almost three hundred years later it suffered for the second time when a large part of the capital was in ruins again after air-raids.

London is not only the capital of the United Kingdom but also the biggest British port situated on the Thames. There are five airports in London area, the largest of them being Heathrow, and Gatwick. London is the most significant highway and railway junction in Great Britain. The main railway station is Victoria station.

The quickest and cheapest way to get around central London is by underground, often called the „tube“. London underground is considered to be the world’s oldest.

Many exciting sports events take place in London. Football is played in the Wembley stadium, Wimbledon is renowned for Wimbledon Tennis Championships, Ascot is one of several places famous for horseracing. 


Sights and interesting places in London:

Historical buildings: The Tower, The Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, St.Paul’s and St. James’s Cathedrals, Buckingham Palace

Squares: Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus

Streets: Oxford Street, Baker Street, Downing Street, Whitehall,

Galleries and museums: the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery, the Tate Gallery, the British Museum with the British Library, Madame Tussaud’s Museum, Sherlock Holmes Museum

Theatres, opera houses, concert halls: the Old Vic, the National Theatre, the Barbican Theatre, the Barbican Hall, the Royal Opera House (Covent Garden), the Royal Festival Hall, the Royal Albert Hall, the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Wembley Arena

Parks and gardens: St.James’s Park, Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Regent’s Park

Sports: Wembley, Wimbledon, and Ascot





From London we can get by train to the industrial heart of England - to Birmingham. Owing to industry the country does not look very nice. So this landscape is called „Black Country“. Birmingham is known for metal-using industry.


Another manufacturing area is around Coventry, specialising especially in car and bicycle production. The name of Coventry is known for its tragedy during World War II when it was destroyed in an air-raid in 1940. Coventry which was almost completely destroyed is now a new and modern city. The sights include the Cathedral which was built on the ruins of the former one in 1960s. Renowned statue of Lady Godiva whose legend is very popular there is standing in the square. She was the wife of the Earl of Mercia (11th century). The legend says that her husband promised to reduce the heavy taxes on the people of Coventry if she rode naked through the streets at noon. The grateful citizens remained indoors when she did so.


Liverpool is one of the largest cities in England. It is an important port and the city of the Beatles and a well-known Steeplechase for horse racing.


Stratford is probably the second most visited town in England. It is situated in the heart of England. It is famous as the birthplace of William Shakespeare. The top attraction is the house in Henley Street where Shakespeare was born. The house where Shakespeare later lived with his family does not exist any more, as it was pulled down by its new owner who did not want so many people to go to see it. Only foundations of the house are preserved in gardens.  In the Church of Holy Trinity tourists can see the grave of Shakespeare, his wife and other members of his family. Then there is an old Grammar School where Shakespeare probably received his education. A lot of tourists stay in Stratford for a few days because the landscape around the town is beautiful and they also want to see the performance at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and the Swan Theatre. The Shakespeare’s Festival lasts from April to October, and the poet’s birthday is celebrated on 23rd April by the unfurling of the flags of all nations, a public luncheon and a procession to the poet’s grave. The centre of the town is full of medieval half-timbered houses, which also include Harvard House, the home of John Harvard, the founder of Harvard University in the USA.

About two miles away in nearby SHOTTERY you can see Ann Hathaway’s Cottage, the house of Shakespeare’s wife.


are two oldest universities in England. They were founded in the 12th and 13th century. Other universities were founded much later and they differ from the oldest ones. Oxford and Cambridge have their own characters. (see  the topic Education)


is a seaside resort on the east coast. It became famous for the battle where William the Conqueror defeated the Anglo-Saxons in 1066.


are both on Salisbury Plain. They are megalithic monuments dating from about 3,000 years B.C. The purpose of these megalithic constructions is unknown, it may have been ritual.

Questions on the text: 

1.     What do know about the Tower?

2.     Name some parts of London. What are their characters?

3.     Which buildings are the symbols of British Parliamentary system? What do you know about them?

4.     Where is the residence of the royal family?

5.     Why do so many tourists visit Westminster Abbey?

6.     Which London squares are the busiest centres of the capital? What do you know about   them?

7.     Can you name the best known London cathedrals?

8.     Which streets of London are attractive for tourists and what are they famous for?

9.     Enumerate some galleries and museums.

10. Which theatres represent cultural life of the capital?

11. Where can tourists go when they want to see some opera, ballet or hear classical music?

12. Which parks and gardens are there in London? What attractions do they offer to Londoners?

13. London is an important junction of transport. What do you know about the local transport? Where do passengers have to go when they want to travel by train, by air?

14. What is Greenwich world famous for?

15. Which places in London are renowned for special sports events?

16. Which other places of interest do you know in England? Where would you have to travel to see :

·       some places of historical importance?

·       museum of the Beatles?

·       some seaside resorts?

·       Shakespeare’s birthplace?

·       industrial conurbations?


Other topics for discussion:

1.    What would you like to see in London?  Why is this place so attractive for you?



You are employed in a travel agency as a guide.  Give some information about London to a group of tourists.


PREPARE A PRESENTATION  (you can use the clues in the Questions on the text)



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