London is an exciting city with lots of history, artwork, and an English culture that is important to many Americans. Some small cruise ships sail up the Thames and dock right in the heart of the city. Other cruise ships embark or disembark from Harwich, Dover, or Southampton, which are on the coast a couple of hours from the city. London also makes a perfect cruise extension since there are frequent flights between London and the United States.
Let's look at some of the tourist sights in London you can see in just a couple of days.
Buckingham Palace in London
Buckingham Palace is the home of Queen Elizabeth. It is open to tourists in August and September. Don't miss the famous changing of the guard!
If you happen to be in London the second Saturday in June, be sure to attend the Trooping the Colour ceremony, parade, and flyover by RAF planes held at Buckingham Palace.
Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain in Hyde Park, London
The Princess Diana Memorial Fountain is a series of gurgling brooks in Hyde Park.
Hyde Park in London
London has numerous parks such as Hyde Park. All are very green and filled with people on summer weekend days.
London Stoop in Knightsbridge
Walking the narrow streets of the Knightsbridge area south of Hyde Park, we saw many pretty little stoops like this one.
London Eye Capsule
These capsules move very slowly, and there is no sense of motion. The London Eye never stops; you just hop into the capsule.
London County Hall from the London Eye
London's former County Hall now contains the London Aquarium and the Saatchi Gallery.
London Eye - British Airways London Eye
The London Eye provides a bird's eye view of London from its egg-shaped capsules.
Tower Bridge in London near the Tower of London
The Tower of London and nearby Tower Bridge are must sees for most who visit London.
Gherkin Building in London
The "Gherkin" Building got its nickname from its pickle-shape. The Gherkin is more properly known as the 30 St. Mary Axe.
St. Paul's Cathedral in London
St. Paul's was designed by Christopher Wren and was completed in 1710. St. Paul's survived the WW II blitz of London and was significantly refurbished in 2005.
Cleopatra's Needle on the Thames River in London
City Hall, Office of the Mayor of London
This modern City Hall was designed by Foster and Partners for the Mayor of London and his administration.
London Theater "tkts" Booth at Leicester Square
The London theater is exceptional, and the "tkts" booth in Leicester Square has good discounts on same day seats.
The London theater challenges Broadway for excellence in theater. Going to a play in London is one of the few good values found in the city. Like many tourists (and locals) I head to the "tkts" booth on the edge of the park in Leicester Square, which sells discounted same-day seats. The booth opens at 10 am, but the line queues up before then, with patrons checking the board for which tickets are available that day. While standing in line, you will see people from all over the world looking for a good deal on a great play.
National Gallery on Trafalgar Square in London
The National Gallery has one of Britain's top collection of European paintings. It's a must see if you love European art history, and it's free.
The National Gallery is located in Central London on Trafalgar Square, just a short walk from the Charing Cross or Leicester Square Tube station. Anyone interested in European art will enjoy the quiet National Gallery, but no photos are allowed inside.
St. Martin in the Fields Church in London
St. Martin in the Fields Church is located on Trafalgar Square, and was built in the 1720s.
The first church located on this spot dates back to the 13th century, and was literally "in the fields". St. Martin in the Fields is famous for its concerts, and the noontime concerts are free.
Lion Statues in Trafalgar Square, London
The four lions surrounding Admiral Nelson's column in Trafalgar Square are a popular photo spot or meeting point in London.
The sculptor of the four lions on Trafalgar Square had never even seen a lion when he cast the statues. He used his dog and a cat as the models. That is why the lion has his tongue out, much like a dog!
Admiral Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square, London
Admiral Nelson's 170-foot tall column, which celebrates Nelson's sea victory over the French at the battle of Trafalgar, is the centerpiece of the square.
Admiral Lord Nelson tops the column that shares his name in London's central Trafalgar Square. Lord Nelson led his ships in the fight with Napoleon's French fleet off the coast of Spain at Trafalgar in 1805. The British fleet won the battle, but Nelson was killed. Many believe that this victory over the French prevented Napoleon from invading Britain and contributed to his loss at Waterloo.
London Double Decker Bus - Red Routemaster Bus
The familiar red Routemaster buses were retired from regular bus service in London in December 2005, after serving the city for over 50 years.
London Traditonal Red Telephone Booth
These wonderful old red telephone booths in London always remind me of the British television show, "Dr. Who." Do you remember it?
A visit to London is not complete without a visit to a London pub for fish and chips (and a pint).
The London Eye Watches Over Historic London
The very modern London Eye wheel contrasts with the historical buildings of the city.
Inspection of the Guard at the Horse Guard Barracks in London
The Inspection of the Guard Ceremony at the Horse Guard Barracks in London takes place each day at 11:00 am.
The Inspection of the Guard at the Horse Guard Barracks in London is a smaller ceremony than the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, but it is just as impressive, and there are no crowds. The guards on horseback and the inspection process was very fascinating. The Horse Guard Barracks are just down the street from Buckingham Palace on Birdcage Walk next to St. James Park.
Those who love to see the pomp and circumstance of London should plan to visit on the Trooping the Colour day in June.
Horse Guards at the Horse Guard Barracks in London
After the inspection and changing of the guard at the Horse Guard Barracks, the retired guards and their horses walk back to the stables.
Cabinet War Room in London from World War II
Churchill's underground headquarters in World War II are well-preserved and worth the tour.
Winston Churchill's World War II underground Cabinet War Rooms are a fascinating look at how Britain's senior leaders lived and worked during World War II. The 27 rooms were used by Churchill and his men from 1939 to 1945. A 60-minute audioguide is provided for the tour, and the War Rooms are open from about 9:30 or 10:00 (depending on the time of year) to 6:00 each day. My mother and I felt like we had walked back in time to the early 1940s when we toured the War Rooms.
Reinforced Bunker Walls of the Cabinet War Rooms in London
The underground Cabinet War Rooms were reinforced to protect Britain's senior leaders from the Nazi bombs during the battle of Britain.
London's World War II Cabinet War Rooms
The Cabinet War Rooms are preserved just as they were in 1945. Note the old telephones and maps used to track troop movements.
London's Marble Arch
The Marble Arch was built in 1827 and stood at Buckingham Palace until it was moved in 1851.
The marble arch is built of white Italian Carrara marble, and the design was taken from Rome's triumphal arch of Constantine. The marble arch once stood at the entrance to Buckingham Palace, but when Queen Victoria enlarged the palace in 1851, she moved the Marble Arch to the entrance to Hyde Park.
Madame Tussaud's Museum in London
Yes, that's spiderman high atop Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum in London
Guards at Buckingham Palace in London
The changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace is a must see event for tourists.
The changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace is crowded and difficult to see the whole event unless you get there early. However, it's one thing that your friends back home will ask if you attended when visiting London! The changing of the guards happens at 11:30 every day in the summer and about every other day the rest of the year. The band does not march if it is raining. The best views are from the Victoria Monument just outside the gates.
Although it looks like one of the guards in this photo is going the wrong way, he just had not yet turned around.
Victoria Monument Outside Buckingham Palace in London
The Victoria Monument give the best view of the changing of the guard parade at Buckingham Palace, but you will need to get there early for a good spot.
Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace
Even with a front row viewing point, you have to observe the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace through the iron fence.
These band members at the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace do not seem quite as focused and serious as the guards. I love those beaver hats, but I am sure they are difficult to keep balanced.
Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace in London
Not all the guards at Buckingham Palace wear red coats and beaver hats.
Princess Diana and Dodi al Fayed Memorial in Harrods Department Store in London
Memorial to Princess Di and Dodi at Harrod's in London is found in a quiet escalator lobby.
Harrod's Department Store in the Knightsbridge district of London is a shopper's wonderland. The owner of Harrod's is Mohammed al Fayed, Dodi Al Fayed's father, and he has a quiet memorial to Princess Di and Dodi in one of the escalator lobbies. The memorial in this photo was replaced in September 2005 with a permanent statue of Diana and Dodi.
Dale Chihuly Glass Chandelier at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London
The main entrance of the Victoria & Albert Museum features the 30 foot V&A Chandelier designed by glass artist Dale Chihuly and completed in 2000.
Tower of London with Poppies
The Tower of London displayed 888,246 porcelain poppies in 2014--one for each British soldier who died in World War I, which started in 1914.
Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace
Sometimes the Changing the Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace is so packed with visitors that you can get a better look a the soldiers by watching the parade rather than the ceremony.