As you would expect from a major European city, walk anywhere around London and you see architecture to admire. Buildings old and new rise into the skyline creating a magical blend of the past with the present.
Many of today’s buildings are about geometric shapes, metal and glass. They have also been designed with a modern energy saving ethos in mind. The same cannot be said of the more ornate structures of the past. We certainly would not want to pay the heating bill for the Tower of London, for instance. Past, or present, there are several iconic buildings in London that make the city stand out. Here are ten of our favourites.
You cannot fail to notice The Shard; named for its resemblance to a shard of glass. The Renzo Piano designed structure is a modern masterpiece. Visitors to the building can get a superb view out across London, from the observation deck. The Shard is also home to a range of offices, restaurants and hotel rooms. This 95 storey sky-scraper is currently the tallest building in the UK and it has a beauty all of its own.
St Paul’s Cathedral
You could not wish to find a building more different to The Shard than St. Paul’s Cathedral. Completed in 1711 this Baroque style structure, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, is far more ornate than any of the modern additions to London’s architectural landscape. St. Paul’s has featured on the world stage on several occasions, not least as the venue for the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, in 1981.
The Tower of London
The Tower of London has not been the happiest place to visit for some people over the years. A famous venue for executions, it was here that Anne Boleyn met a gruesome end. Thankfully, people can admire the architecture of the Tower today, without losing their heads in the process. The fact that this grand building has remained intact for so many centuries is incredible.
You cannot fail to be impressed by the intricate Gothic design of Westminster Abbey. It’s truly awe-inspiring. The Abbey was originally founded by Benedictine monks, although not in it’s present form, but it soon became linked with royal events. Since 1066, every coronation has taken place in these stunning surroundings.
Houses of Parliament
Arguably the most instantly recognisable of all buildings in London, the Houses of Parliament’s official name is the Palace of Westminster. It’s most well-known feature is the Elizabeth Tower (previously the Clock Tower) that houses Big Ben, the 13.7 tonne bell which is the largest of five bells contained within the Tower. Things could have been very different for this iconic London building if those involved in the Gunpowder Plot had succeeded in blowing up the House of Lords.
The most incredible feature of this Greek Revivalist building is the glass roof of the Great Court. It’s truly spectacular. The architecture of the museum also features an array of imposing columns which visitors can admire as they walk between numerous exhibits. These exhibits themselves are impressive, with objects such as the Rosetta Stone and the Elgin Marbles on display.
The Gherkin definitely deserves its place in our list of the most iconic buildings in London, but is has not been without controversy. Not everyone is a fan of this structure, which gets its popular name from it’s similarity in shape to the popular vegetable. However, The Gherkin has been critically acclaimed by architects and is a unique feature of the London skyline.
Back to more traditional architecture with the official London residence of Queen Elizabeth II. Buckingham Palace probably does not have the same ornate grandeur of Versailles or the Winter Palace, but it still has its own magic. It’s here that the public can stand outside and cheer as the Royal Family appear on the balcony on notable Royal occasions. Visitors can also take organised tours of the palace during which they can view the ornate state rooms.
For the quirky factor, you cannot beat Tate Modern. Housed in what used to be Bankside Power Station, it’s certainly a talking point. Located close to St. Paul’s Cathedral, it’s a perfect example of how there is room for both historical and modern designs in the architectural landscape of London.
Designed by R Rogers Stirk Harbour and Partners, the Lloyd’s building is another modern building that is not to everyone’s taste, but it’s certainly different. The building, which resembles the pipes and circuits of a massive machine, has achieved critical acclaim. Designed in the 1980s, it’s currently the most modern building to have achieved Grade 1 listed status.
Some of the buildings in this list divide opinion when it comes to appreciation of their designs. However, we think the London skyline would be poorer for the loss of any of them.