Westminster has long since been the heart of the city. For hundreds of years, the City of Westminster has acted as the political and cultural hub of London and brings with it a wealth of stories and attractions that attract guests at the Shaftesbury Hotels London week after week. In Westminster, business, culture and entertainment all interlink as tourists explore the beating heart of the UK itself.
The City of Westminster isn’t just a name that applies to the political area of Whitehall and the nearby Buckingham Palace, but to a whole area of London. Having been granted “city” status in 1965, when the area of Greater London was added to the outer boroughs and commuter belt of the city. This means that the City of Westminster is also a borough, and holds many of the best-known tourist attractions in the city and making it one of the most popular destinations for holidaymakers and business travellers.
What is the City of Westminster?
The City of Westminster is an area of central London that spans just over 8 square miles, bringing with it a range of easy to reach attractions. The City of Westminster includes Pimlico, Marylebone, Covent Garden, Bayswater, Paddington, Victoria and many other centrally located areas in the city.
History of Westminster
Dating back to before the Norman invasion of 1066, the area of Westminster has long since been centred around an abbey originally built by Edward the Confessor in the mid 11th century. The abbey was rebuilt in the medieval period and Westminster Palace lodged between it and the River Thames, establishing a central seat of governance and thus accumulating focus onto the newly designated Westminster district. As Westminster grew throughout the Medieval Ages, it took over the areas of Kensington and Chelsea and even after the Dissolution of the Monasteries of the 1530s’ closed the original abbey at Westminster, the area still maintained a strong central focus for power and governance over London.
It wasn’t until the end of the 19th century that the modern-day version of Westminster began to form. After the dissolving of the Court of Burgesses, which governed the Westminster area until 1900, the city became the Metropolitan Borough of Westminster before gaining city status in 1965.
Attractions of Westminster
That’s quite the history then, and with the long-spanning story of Westminster comes a unique array of amazing attractions. From the political to the entertaining, the below attractions are not only the best in the City of Westminster, but the whole of London combined.
Westminster Abbey is the historic royal burial ground and memorial site, the original of which was built by Edward the Confessor in the mid 11th century. When visiting this historic heart of Westminster, guests can see the Pyx chapel, one of the oldest in the city, as well as a range of burial sites for famous historic and contemporary figures. These include Edward the Confessor himself, Geoffrey Chaucer, Charles Dickens and even Stephen Hawkings.
Houses of Parliament
Just across the road from Westminster Abbey is the Houses of Parliament. These halls were built in 1840 but have a history dating back to the 11th century. As the meeting place for the House of Commons and the House of Lords, many of the most important decisions in the country are made within these halls. Paid tours of the Houses of Parliament can be booked during the summer recess of Parliament as well as on Saturdays, lasting around an hour and 25 minutes.
One of the most iconic sites on the banks of the River Thames, Big Ben is the 96 metre clocktower that resides in front fo the Houses of Parliament. The gothic styled structure was built in 1856, the tower has been dubbed Elizabeth Tower in memory of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Whilst tours aren’t available until 2021 due to the tower undergoing renovations, London tourists can still see the facade of the clock from the outside.
St James’s Park
The closest park to Buckingham Palace and Westminster, St James’s Park is a beautiful plot of green space and ponds that overlooks Whitehall. Dating back to 1603, the park was originally used by King James I as a menagerie and aviary, housing many exotic animals including camels, elephants and crocodiles. Nowadays, the most exotic animals you’ll see are the Egyptian Geese, whilst the beautiful grounds are still well worth a walk.
Another stop off in the chain of Royal Parks in the centre of London, Green Park is known for being the only of the Royal Parks that don’t have any buildings or lakes within its boundaries. The only plants aside from trees are the naturalised narcissus you can find among the fields. With this in mind, the 47-acre plot of land is incredibly serene, the ideal respite from the hustle and bustle of Westminster.
Soho is the historic entertainment district of the City of Westminster. As the home of the glamorous West End of London, Soho is home to a broad variety of striking theatres that show the best in musicals, comedy and drama. Furthermore, the showbiz glamour of Soho has led to it being one of the top nightlife districts in the city, with roads such as Frith Street and Argyll Street holding some of the most popular bars in the city.
With festivals such as Chinese New Years and London Pride annually centring themselves in Soho, there’s plenty of entertainment and excitement for guests staying centrally or in hotels near airport London.
For London art lovers in Westminster, the Wallace Collection combines aristocratic history with European masterworks from throughout the ages. Alongside many historic decorative arts and jewellery collections, this historic house once owned by the influential Seymour family is based in Manchester Square and completely free to visit.
Hyde Park is the most prominent of the Royal Parks in London and holds within and around its grounds some of the most popular attractions. With the Serpentine Gallery showcasing the best in contemporary art, the park itself houses many music festivals and even an open-air swimming lido. Summer in the City of Westminster would certainly not be the same without the addition of Hyde Park.