Astronomy, castles and gardens – The UNESCO sites of London

The capital of the United Kingdom (Great Britain) needs no introduction. Home to one of the world’s most celebrated monarchies, a bridge immortalized by a nursery rhyme, and the Big Ben, London is one of the world’s leading centers for finance, culture, trade, education and research.

London (Taken from Wikipedia)

This seemingly endless metropolis also contains four UNESCO World Heritage Sites: The Maritime Greenwich, the Kew Gardens, the Tower of London, and the site comprising of Westminster Palace, Abbey, and St Margaret’s Church. In this two part series, we’ve written a guide for visiting any of the four sites during your stay in England.

Maritime Greenwich

Royal Observatory, Greenwich (Taken from Wikipedia)

The term “Greenwich Mean Time” (GMT) is often heard and used all over the world to refer to a standardized time-zones relative to the position of the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. However, did you also know that the entire area of the Maritime Greenwich, including the Royal Park, the Royal Observatory, the National Maritime Museum, are part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site?

The historical and archaeological significance of the site goes back to the 1st-4th centuries, where large prehistoric burial mounds, and an ancient roman villa was discovered during the construction of some buildings on the site. From the 8th century onwards, the land has been the estate of various members of royalty including the Palace of Placentia, which was the birthplace of the Tudor monarchs, Henry VII, Mary I and Elizabeth.

Spiral staircase at the Queen’s House (Taken from Wikipedia)

If you’re here for on a day-trip, be sure to visit the Queen’s House, Greenwich Park, and the Royal Observatory. Queen’s House was completed in 1630 but turned into a biscuit factory during the outbreak of the Civil War. It was later converted into hospital for seamen, a naval college, before finally becoming the National Maritime Museum. The museum is open daily from 10.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. and admission is free.

Royal Observatory (Taken from Wikipedia)

The Royal Observatory was also England’s first building that was specially designed to serve a scientific purpose – to conduct research into astronomy, time-keeping and navigation. This led to Greenwich becoming the Prime Meridian of the world, i.e. Longitude 0⁰. Today, Royal Observatory is home to UK’s largest refracting telescope and London’s only planetarium.

Open daily from 10.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m.
Free admission.

Greenwich Park (Taken from Wikipedia)

The Royal Park, sometimes referred to as Greenwich Park, is a massive 183-acre park that is symmetrical in layout and landscaping. Designed by André Le Notre, King Louis XI of France’s gardener, the park is a sanctuary for foxes, hares, deer, and also weary travelers seeking respite from the bustle of London’s metropolis!

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Kew Gardens (Taken from Wikipedia)

Located in southwest London, the Kew Gardens consist of 121 hectares of lush gardens and glasshouses and currently contains the world’s largest collections of plants and herbs. Founded by Princess Augusta and Lord Bute in 1759, the park started off as a humble 4-hectare garden for medicinal plants. Over the years, it continued to grow in size and importance, accumulating more species of plants as botanists and researchers were able to bring back plants and seeds from various colonies of the British Empire. In the late 19th century, Kew’s already vast collection of plants and herbs spearheaded scientific inquiry into developing and improving horticultural practices for its colonies, and with it, the construction of elaborate glasshouses that continue to be used today.

Some of the attractions at Kew include glasshouses that cultivate plants from different climates, a museum, conservatories and even a treetop walkway that lets visitors walk along the canopy of a temperate forest. Attractions are open from 9.30 a.m. onwards and close between 4.15 p.m. to 6.30 p.m. depending on the season. Admission costs £14.50 and excludes the Kew Palace. If you’re spending an afternoon at the gardens, be sure to check out some of our recommendations:

Davies Alpine House (Taken from Wikipedia)

Davies Alpine House – This bizarre looking, a narrow semi-circular dome houses Alpine plants that grow up to 2000 metres above sea level in the Alps. This glasshouse keeps the temperature under 20 degrees Celsius using a series of underground pipes that cool the air inside.

Museum No. 1 (Taken from Wikipedia)

Museum No. 1 – The only museum in Kew, this building has a large collection of botany equipment on display, techniques, and history within its walls, highlighting the close relationship between humans and plants.

Inside the Temperate House (Taken from Wikipedia)

Temperate House – According to some, this greenhouse is the largest surviving Victorian Glass structure in the world! Taking nearly half a decade to construct in 1859, it now contains plants and trees from various temperate regions.

View of trees and the Temperate House from the treetop walkway (Taken from Wikipedia)

Treetop Walkway – One of Kew’s newer attractions, this little trail lets visitors walk along the treetops of a woodland glade. You can get fabulous panoramic views of the Botanic Gardens from various gaps in the canopy!

Another famous London World Heritage Site is  The Tower of London.

Tower of London

Tower of London (Taken from Wikipedia)

This historic landmark is a Norman keep that sits on the northern bank of the River Thames in central London. The compounds of the keep consists of two concentric circles of defense over 12 acres of land, the inner and the outer ward, making it one of the most complete and most heavily defended castles of its time. The Tower of London was a symbol of power that literally towered over London for a nearly thousand years – protecting and controlling the city.

Panoramic view from Tower of London (Taken from Wikipedia)

After the successful Norman conquest of England, Tower of London was built in 1078 by William the Conqueror. It served as the royal palace for many of the country’s monarchs, and also a political prison which got known for its celebrity prisoners, including Elizabeth I before she became the queen. During its time, the compounds of this castle were continually reinforced and expanded with innovative masonry techniques that were ahead of its time, and continued to influence the architecture of many other castles that spread across the Norman lands.

There are 21 different towers which form a major part of the London castle complex.The White Tower is the most important building in the Tower of London – it is the Keep of the castle. The word ‘Keep’ means “that which keeps or protects – the strongest and securest part of a castle, often used as a place of residence by the lord of the castle”.

Beyond that, the keep also housed key State institutions that would later go on to play an important role in the country’s defence, the national archives, the London Zoo, and the royal mint. Towards the 1800s, the inhabitants and institutions within the Tower of London began to move out and the keep was turned into tourist attraction, which by the end of the century was attracting half a million visitors each year! Today, the keep is one of London’s top attractions with over 2 million visitors passing through its gates to be dazzled by the Crown Jewels and fascinating medieval paraphernalia.

Imperial State Crown (Taken from Wikipedia)

Opening times: Tuesday – Saturday 09:00 – 17:30 and Sunday – Monday 10:00 – 17:30
Admission: Adult – £20.90, Child (under 16) – £10.45

Whether you’re in London for a business trip, relocating to a new city, on a training programme or simply on a family vacation, consider any one of our properties to complete your stay. Frasers Hospitality’s luxurious and tastefully furnished properties are all located within a stone’s throw from London’s subways and various places of interest.

Frasers Hospitality

Fraser Residence Monument

Fraser Residence Monument is the perfect extended stay solution for relocation, training or working on location in the heart of London. The Tower of London we mentioned earlier and the Tower Bridge are only a five minute stroll along the banks of the River Thames. World class shopping can be enjoyed at the exclusive Royal Exchange nearby.

Frasers Hospitality

Fraser Residence Prince of Wales Terrace

If you’re a nature-lover, Fraser Residence Prince of Wales Terrace would be ideal place to stay. With royal parks just across the street and the Royal Botanic Garden, Kew, a 15 minute drive away, this is the serviced apartment for you.

Frasers Hospitality

Fraser Place Canary Wharf

Fraser Place Canary Wharf is strategically located by the River Thames in fashionable Canary Wharf, London’s modern financial centre. It’s also a short walk away from the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) that provides fast connections from these London serviced apartments not only to central London but also to Greenwich!


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