Home DESTINATION SPOTLIGHT London, England: Revisiting Old Memories For Free
London, England: Revisiting Old Memories For Free PDF Print E-mail

Senior Scribe Frank L., Baltimore MD: In these days of rising travel costs, this historic city offers some of its most fascinating attractions, many absolutely free. I’ve visited London many times over nearly 75 years, and have actually found many of its free places to be the most interesting.

Some people go to London for its great theaters. Others enjoy the historic royal pomp. The city’s beautiful parks attract many. When I went to London recently, I revisited memories of my first time there in 1945 as a 17-year-old GI. 1. Buckingham Palace Gates, London SW1A 1AA, www.royal.gov.uk. When the Royal Family appears on the palace balcony these days, Queen Elizabeth II, now age 90, is only survivor of those who were there to celebrate the World War II victory in 1945. Husband Prince Phillip, now 95, was serving with the Royal Navy in the Pacific at the time.

The queen’s birthday in May each year includes many events. In the front courtyard of the palace are the famed Horse Guard parades and Changing of the Guard ceremonies. View it free if you can get close enough to the gates. If you want to tour inside, it costs about $30 per person for a three-hour visit to the palace and surrounding grounds.   

2. Trafalgar Square, Westminster, London WC2N 5DS, www.londontown.com. I always enjoy this busy gathering place for tourists, students and locals. In the center is a tall column with the statue of Admiral Nelson atop. He commanded the British Navy to victory in 1805, but was killed during the Battle of Trafalgar.

On the day WWII ended in 1945, I was at Trafalfgar Square with hundreds of other GIs to join in on the enormous celebration. On many London visits since, I return to the site to remember those historic moments.

3. Imperial War Museum, Lambeth Road, London SE1 6HZ, UK, www.iwm.org.uk. See familiar artifacts from Britain’s past. They include uniforms, weapons, captured enemy equipment, photos, city bomb shelters, period aircraft and many more interesting historic images. 

4. Old Royal Naval College, London  SE10 9NN, UK, www.ornc.org. Visiting the magnificent ORNC Painted Hall is a step back in history. It was designed by famed British architect Christopher Wren, and completed just in time for the state funeral of Admiral Nelson in 1805. The massive enclosure of soaring columns and rare woods is still the setting today for patriotic and festive occasions.

When there several years ago, the hall’s inside was blocked from visitors because of a military wedding. As we stood nearby, we watched the crossed swords ceremony as the bride and British Naval officer groom left on their honeymoon. 

5. St. Martin in the Fields, Trafalgar Square. London. WC2N 4JJ, www.smitf.org. The original church was built in the 13th Century over a burial site that dated back nearly 1,000 years. When I first saw the church in 1945, it had been heavy damaged by German bombers, and wasn’t rebuilt until five years later.

When visiting, go below to the Café in the Crypt. This is where early Christian Britons buried their dead. Now the space is a lively restaurant and music hall. There are free daily lunchtime concerts and many other free events in the crypt area and church above.

For continuously updated info, go to www.visitlondon.com/tag/free-attractions

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