Although the City of London is well known as a business and financial district, the streets and alleyways of this ancient ‘square mile’, still have a lot to entice visitors. From religious buildings to monuments and historic attractions, there is plenty to see here. There are guided walks available which will take you past a lot of the main sites in the City, but if you really want to explore, there’s plenty you can see independently.
Why not start off in the Fleet Street area, a place that used to be populated with some of London’s foremost media companies. While newspaper production has moved elsewhere, the tourists remain, drawn in by the legend of Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street. From an urban legend, to a famous author, this area was also home to Doctor Johnson, who published the first full English dictionary in 1755. His house is open to the public, and after a visit there, you may want to check out his favourite drinking den. It was said that Johnson, along with Charles Dickens, and other literary figures populated ‘Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese’, one of the oldest pubs in London, located just off Fleet Street.
While one of the oldest pubs in the UK, is an example of traditional architecture, it’s not the only interesting building or structure you will find in the city. ‘The Monument’, a lasting reminder of the Great Fire of London in 1666 is open to the public, as are many of the public rooms in Mansion House, the longstanding residence of the Lord Mayor of the City of London. Other interesting buildings include The Royal Exchange, once a centre for commerce, and now a luxury shopping mall, the Old Bailey, and The Bank of England, which also has an interesting museum.
Also worth searching out is the St Mary Le Bow Church in Cheapside. Religion has played its part on this site for over a thousand years, with the bells of the Church becoming world famous. They have been mentioned in nursery rhymes and local folklore, and the Bow Bells would also signal a curfew in the City, or mark a special occasion. St Lawrence Jewry, the official Church of the City of London, is also well worth a visit, along with the world famous St Pauls Cathedral.
While visiting the ‘square mile’, you can also take in Spitalfields Market, the Barbican Arts Centre, Borough Market, and if you want to find out more about the area, The Museum of London. Although it’s just outside the City Boundaries, the Tower of London is also a must-see. The former site of a prison, and many executions, and past home of many captive exotic beasts, the Tower has a fascinating history, and today houses many exhibitions and events, the crown jewels, and some well maintained examples of medieval architecture and furnishings.
Whether you walk down by the river, through quiet alleyways, or out on the tourist trail, you can’t help but be caught up in the sights, sounds, and stories of the City of London.