Common Confusions in London
There are lots of common confusions a visitor to London may make without realizing. Have a look through at these common mix-ups so you don't make the same mistakes.
Tower Bridge Is Not London Bridge
While you would expect London Bridge to be something special (there's a nursery rhyme about it, and it has "London" in the name), sadly, London Bridge is very ordinary indeed. There have been others at roughly the same location before the current 1970s concrete bridge that connects London Bridge station in Southwark, near to Borough Market, to the City of London, near to The Monument.
While previous incarnations of London Bridge would have been impressive to see—in particular, the Medieval version with shops and houses along the bridge—what we have now has little to offer apart from function.
Although, it is a great place to look across to Tower Bridge—the one that many get confused with London Bridge. Tower Bridge is near to the Tower of London and connects across the River Thames to near City Hall.
Opened in 1894, Tower Bridge is impressive with its two bridge towers, high walkway that you can visit (there's a glass floor section) and the opening bascules that lift to let tall river ships pass. Tower Bridge is iconic and worth seeing.
If you walk across Tower Bridge, look out for the love locks and stand over the join in the pavement as you can see the river below through the small gap. Try to stand there when a large vehicle goes over the bridge as it makes the bridge wobble.
If you don't want to stand on London Bridge to look at the right bridge, there's a secret viewing platform nearby where you can get a great view.
British Museum Is Not the Museum of London
The British Museum is an outstanding free museum in London with millions of objects on display. While it covers world history well, if you want to know more about London you need to go to the Museum of London.
The Museum of London is one of the world's largest urban history museums and holds the largest archaeological archive in Europe. This is the place to find out more about the greatest city in the world.
Big Ben Is Not the Clock Tower
A pedant's favorite, the clock tower at the House of Parliament is not called Big Ben. That's the name for the great bell inside that chimes the hour. The clock tower was called the Clock Tower but was renamed in 2012 to the Elizabeth Tower—after Queen Elizabeth II during her Diamond Jubilee year.
Many ask, why is the bell called Big Ben? While no one is actually sure, the most likely explanation is it was named after Sir Benjamin Hall, First Commissioner for Works, whose name is inscribed on the bell. Another theory is it was named after Ben Caunt, a champion heavyweight boxer.
The company that made Big Ben is still in business, and you can visit the Whitechapel Bell Foundry.
Westminster Abbey Is Not Westminster Cathedral
Both are a place of worship, but Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral are not the same place.
Westminster Abbey is on a World Heritage Site at Parliament Square. It was founded in A.D. 960 as a Benedictine monastery. This is the nation's Coronation Church and the burial and memorial place for historical figures from the last thousand years of British history. Westminster Abbey is one of the most important Gothic buildings in the country.
Westminster Cathedral is the largest Catholic church in England and Wales. It has a tower viewing gallery 210 feet above street level.
Kennington Is Not Kensington
Kennington in south London is not the same place as Kensington in west London. It seems a bit obvious this one, but tourists to the area might need help pointing that out.
London Is Not the City of London
The City of London is not the same as London. The City of London is a London neighborhood that's roughly a square mile near the center of Greater London—a collection of boroughs and neighborhoods. Yes, the City of London is a small area inside London, the capital of England.
The City of London dates back 2,000 years ago when the Romans invaded and named the area Londinium.
Union Flag Flying Over Buckingham Palace Does Not Mean the Queen Is Home
When you see the Union Flag flying above Buckingham Palace, it actually means the opposite of what you would have thought. It means the Queen is not there.
When the Queen is at Buckingham Palace the flag you will see is called the Royal Standard.
It used to be that when the Queen was away there was no flag but there was a public outcry when Princess Diana died in 1997 and there was no flag at half-mast above Buckingham Palace. But the Queen wasn't there, and as this had never been the way things were done, the Palace didn't realize that was what the public would expect. But, since then, there have been the two flags used so there is always a flag above the Palace.
Unlike the Union flag, the Royal Standard is never flown at half-mast, even after the death of a monarch, as there is always a sovereign on the throne.