Surprising Facts about 10 Famous London Landmarks

Black cab drivers are well known for their unrivalled knowledge of London’s roads. To successfully pass “The Knowledge”, amongst other things, black cab drivers are required to remember over 20,000 landmarks and points of interest.  

Our favourite London Landmarks

1. Big Ben

Big Ben's Big Clockface

One of the most popular London attractions is Big Ben. The image of what is commonly thought of as “Big Ben” is printed onto thousands of London souvenirs for tourists to take home and remind them of their London excursion. However, did you know that the name Big Ben only refers to the bell inside the tower? The tower itself that is featured on countless postcards is not technically classed as Big Ben.

2.  Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge

In 1952 a double decker bus was crossing the bridge when it started to open. The bus driver, Albert Gunton had to accelerate and jumped a 3 foot gap. Afterwards he was awarded £10 for his bravery but we can’t imagine how terrifying it would have been at the time.

3. The London Eye

Waterloo

This London landmark is the focal point for London’s New Year’s firework display and stands at 135m, making it one of the tallest buildings in London and giving individuals views of London of up to 25 miles. Receiving more visitors than the Taj Mahal and the Great Pyramids of Giza, the London Eye has much to boast about, yet remains unusually cautious. For example, each pod is numbered from 1 – 33, despite there being only 32 carriages. Number 13 is omitted due to the superstition of it being an unlucky number.

4. The Tower of London

Tower of London

The Tower of London dates back to 1066 and wasn’t intended to be a place of imprisonment. It was originally purposed as a Royal Palace and defence fortress but from 1100 it was used as a prison until around 1952 with The Kray twins being the last official prisoners.  In 1101 Bishop Ranulf Flambard successfully orchestrated a flamboyant escape plan that involved getting the guards so drunk they fell asleep before escaping out of a window using a rope he had smuggled into the Tower in a bottle of wine. At the bottom waited some friends with horses in tow.  Amazingly, the escape was a complete success.

5. The Gherkin

30 St Mary Axe, more widely known as “The Gherkin” is located in the City of London and made from 7,429 panes of glass.  It’s an impressive building which dominates the skyline of the City of London and stands at 180m, three times the height of Niagara Falls.

6. Buckingham Palace

London - Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace was built in 1705 for the Duke of Buckingham, and since then it has been the official London residence for the British Monarchs. Contrary to popular opinion, the Union Flag is flown over the palace when the Queen is out, not when she is in. When the Queen is either returning or leaving the palace, the right flag is lowered.

7. St Paul’s Cathedral

St Paul's Cathedral

The current St Paul’s Cathedral was built between 1675 and 1710 and is one of the largest of its kind in the world.  It is at least the fourth to have been built at the site. The Norman cathedral that stood on the site before it was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666 was even larger than the one that stands today.

8. Palace of Westminster

Houses of Parliament

The Palace of Westminster is often referred to as the Houses of Parliament and is situated along the River Thames in Westminster, London.  Until 1512 it was home to the Monarchs of England and the only original part of the building that still stands is Westminster Hall. The other parts of the palace have been rebuilt over the years either because they have been destroyed in a fire, bombed or could not withstand the effects of London’s pollution. Some remnants from old tradition still remain within the palace though.  For example, hooks intended for people to hang their swords on are still installed in the lifts.

9. The Shard

Shard At Night. Stitched Image. Nikon D3200. DSC_0049-0051

Also referred to as the Shard of Glass, The Shard measuring over 300m in height and it’s the tallest building in the European Union.  The Shard is made from 11,000 glass panels and a team of 6 abseiling window cleaners ensure that they are kept clean, starting on one side until they reach the fourth side, and then starting over again.  

10. Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey - London, United Kingdom

Built between 1245 and 1272, Westminster Abbey is a Gothic style church situated in Westminster, central London. Every Monarch since William the Conqueror has been crowned in the Abbey and it’s also the resting place of over 3000 notable figures. Westminster Abbey is home to the oldest and only surviving Anglo-Saxon door in England which has recently been dated back to between 1032 AD and 1064 AD.   

We hope that you enjoyed our random facts about some notable London landmarks, and that you’ve found at least one or two surprising. A black cab driver would have to memorise many more so when you’re next in a black cab, be sure you ask about your surroundings.

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