Taking a walk in the City of Westminster

London is a place where you can spend quite a lot of time, and still, you will not see all that is worth to see. So you have to compromise. This time we decided to take a slow walk in the City of Westminster, which is the very heart of London. It is the location of the Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and the Westminster Palace (the seat of the UK Parliament) but also of famous Soho and China Town.

We started in China Town and Soho, we went through the Piccadilly circus and further along Regent Street and Waterloo Place. To get to the governmental area, we had to cross the Mall, which is the road leading directly to the Buckingham Palace plastered with red-tinted asphalt. The next stop was St. James Park, where we enjoyed the greenery and very picturesque spots planted with flowers and some exotic trees. To get to the Whitehall (the street with governmental buildings including the famous gate to 10 Downing street), we crossed the premises of the Horse Guard. Finally walking along the Whitehall, we got to the Parliament Square and neighboring Parliament buildings and across the street the Westminster Abbey.

Below, some photo impressions.

One of the symbolic entrances to the London Chinatown (located at the Q-Park). The gate structure is called the paifang. Unlike its Indian or Japanese equivalent (>>>) it does not mark a sacred place. In many parts of the world outside China, a paifang is just a symbol of a Chinatown.

The history of London Chinatown dates back to the late 19th century, when Chinese immigrants began settling in the area around Limehouse in East London. Over time, the community grew and moved westward, eventually settling in its current location in the late 1950s. Today, London Chinatown is a thriving district that features a wide variety of Chinese restaurants, shops, and cultural attractions. Visitors can explore the neighborhood’s colorful streets, which are adorned with red lanterns and traditional Chinese architecture.

The Queens Theater showing the Les Miserables spectacle. At this place, we just left the Chinatown. We crossed the street (Shaftesbury Avenue) to visit Soho. If we went left, we would have reached the Piccadilly circus. It was built in 1907 as a twin to the neighbouring Gielgud Theatre (formerly known as the Globe Theatre). Over the years, the Queens Theatre has hosted a wide variety of productions, including plays, musicals, and operas. It has been the home of many popular shows, including Les Misérables, which ran at the theatre for over 30 years.

Soho. The very place in London where people come the spend enjoyable evenings and nights.

The area that is now Soho was originally a hunting ground for the royal family in the 16th century. In the following centuries, the area became a fashionable place to live, attracting artists, writers, and other creative types. In the 19th century, Soho became a hub for the entertainment industry, with theaters, music halls, and other performance venues opening up in the area. It also became home to a large number of immigrants, including French Huguenots, Italians, and Eastern European Jews.

In the early 20th century, Soho became known for its association with the sex industry, with a number of brothels and strip clubs opening up in the area. This led to a crackdown on vice in the neighborhood, with many of the businesses being shut down. During the 1960s and 1970s, Soho became a center of the counterculture movement, with many artists, musicians, and bohemians making the area their home. The neighborhood also became associated with the gay community, with a number of bars and clubs catering to LGBTQ+ clientele.

Today, Soho is a diverse and dynamic neighborhood, with a wide range of shops, restaurants, and cultural attractions. It continues to be a hub for the entertainment industry, with many theaters, music venues, and film studios located in the area. Its rich history and vibrant atmosphere make it a popular destination for locals and tourists alike.

Still of Soho. In London, but also in other parts of the UK you may easily recognize a pub looking for flower decorations. On the left, just taking a corner, a London cab. Not necessarily black (>>>).

The Piccadilly Circus. I did this picture crossing the Shaftesbury Avenue at the circus. The same at which the Queens Theater is located. Shaftesbury Avenue is the mark-line between Soho (to the left) and the Chinatown (to the right).  After getting on the other side, I turned around and made the following one showing ‘the very view’ onto the Piccadilly.

The illuminated advertisements at the Piccadilly circus. The first ones appeared at this place in the early XXth century.

The area where Piccadilly Circus is located was originally a hub for the textile industry in the 17th century. It was known for its fashion shops and tailors, who sold “piccadills” or stiff collars that were popular at the time. The area gradually became more commercial, with shops and restaurants catering to the growing number of visitors. In 1819, a famous statue called the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain was erected in the center of the circus. The statue, which features the Greek god Anteros, quickly became a popular meeting place for Londoners and a symbol of the city’s prosperity.

Waterloo Place and Regent Street. In front, at the end of the street, it is the Piccadilly circus. Seen from the other perspective.

The street was first laid out in the early 19th century by the architect John Nash, who was commissioned by the Prince Regent (later King George IV) to design a grand boulevard connecting Regent’s Park with St. James’s Palace. The street was designed to be a showcase of elegant Regency architecture, and it featured sweeping curves, grand facades, and ornate details. Over the years, Regent Street became a hub for high-end shopping, with many of the world’s most famous brands opening stores in the area. It also became a center of culture and entertainment, with theaters, art galleries, and other cultural institutions located along the street. During the 20th century, Regent Street underwent several periods of renovation and redevelopment, including a major overhaul in the 1990s that restored many of the street’s historic buildings and improved pedestrian access.

The Regent street, among others, is a sit of some famous (gentlemen’) clubs, the very serious and poshy ones. One of them is the Institute of Directors (the address is, however, Pall Mall) that among others gathers board members of the most influential companies in the UK. Its website states, however, that it is not necessary to be a registered director to be a member.

The Mall. The royal route. Plastered with red-tinted asphalt. Far in front, the Buckingham Palace. If however, I took the opposite direction, I would have reached the Trafalgar square.

The road was originally created in the early 18th century as a grand entrance to St James’s Palace, the primary residence of the monarch at the time. It was originally known as the “Grand Avenue,” but it was later renamed to “The Mall” in the 19th century. Over the years, The Mall has been the site of many historic events and celebrations, including royal weddings, coronations, and state funerals. It is also the location of the famous Changing of the Guard ceremony, where members of the Queen’s Guard march from St James’s Palace to Buckingham Palace.

St. James Park. To get to this place we had to leave the Waterloo Place (taking the stairs down) and cross the Mall. As I did this picture, the Mall and the Waterloo Place were exactly behind my back. The towers in front are those of the Westminster Abbey. The famous Downing street is somewhere in between.

The park covers an area of over 57 acres and features a large lake, several ornamental gardens, and a variety of wildlife. It is a popular destination for picnics, jogging, and leisurely walks, as well as a venue for outdoor events and concerts. The history of St. James’s Park dates back to the 16th century, when it was created as a deer park for King Henry VIII. Over the years, the park has been redesigned and landscaped several times, with the current layout dating back to the 19th century. Today, the park is maintained by The Royal Parks, a government agency responsible for managing several of London’s most famous parks and gardens. One of the most notable features of St. James’s Park is its resident population of waterfowl, including swans, geese, ducks, and pelicans. The park is also home to a variety of other wildlife, including squirrels, hedgehogs, and even bats.

If I did not tell, you would have thought this was some exotic place? No, it is indeed the greenery in St. James Park, in the middle of London.

The Horse Guards. A shot made a couple of hours earlier from a bus in quite heavy rain. The St. James Park is behind the gate you see in front. To get to the Downing street and further to the Westminster Palace and Abbey, we had to pass the horse guard. On the picture, it is to the left.

The Horse Guards is a historic building located in the heart of London, adjacent to St. James’s Park and Whitehall. It is home to the Household Cavalry, the regiment of the British Army responsible for providing ceremonial and security duties for the monarch. The building itself was originally constructed in the mid-18th century as part of a wider project to beautify the area around St. James’s Park. It was designed by the architect William Kent and features an elegant Baroque facade with a central clock tower and two large, ornate gates.

Today, the Horse Guards is best known for its role in the Changing of the Guard ceremony, which takes place every day in the courtyard of the building. The ceremony is a popular tourist attraction, with visitors flocking to see the guards in their distinctive red and blue uniforms and high black boots, riding on horseback or marching in formation. In addition to its ceremonial duties, the Horse Guards is also an active military barracks, housing both the mounted and dismounted troops of the Household Cavalry.

The obligatory shot at the gate to 10 Downing street, the seat of the British Prime Minister. My second time. The first was more than a decade ago. The primary difference is the security precautions. On a photo made that time I was standing next to the policeman inside the gate. This time the gate was closed. The notion of safety changed in the meantime … One thing did not change, however. The patience of the policemen (nicely called ‘Bobbies’) dealing with tourists keen to take a photo.

The building itself dates back to the 17th century, and has been the official residence of the Prime Minister since the 1730s. Today, 10 Downing Street is not only the home of the Prime Minister and their family, but also the headquarters of the British government. It is where the Prime Minister holds meetings with other politicians, foreign dignitaries, and heads of state, and where they make important decisions about the future of the country.

The Whitehall, the street that is the location of many UK (or only English) governmental buildings. Behind my back, as I did this picture, was the 10 Downing street. In front, behind the double-decker on the right the Parliament Square (surrounded by the House of Parliament and the Westminster Abbey.) The locations are so close that it is quite easy to believe that a secret tunnel is connecting them. Is the Buckingham Palace connected, too?

The Whitehall is running from Trafalgar Square to Parliament Square. The name “Whitehall” comes from the former Palace of Whitehall, which was located on the site of the present-day Houses of Parliament. The palace was once the main residence of the British monarch, but was destroyed by fire in the late 17th century. Other notable attractions in Whitehall include the Banqueting House, a historic building that once formed part of the Palace of Whitehall and is famous for its ornate ceiling painted by Sir Peter Paul Rubens; Horse Guards Parade, an open space used for military ceremonies and events; and the Churchill War Rooms, a museum dedicated to the life and legacy of Sir Winston Churchill.

The Westminster station of the famous London tube. Just at the end of the Whitehall. In front of the Parliament building. On the right, what you cannot see at this picture the Westminster Abbey.

The London Underground, commonly known as the “Tube”, is a rapid transit system that serves Greater London and parts of the surrounding counties. It is the oldest underground railway system in the world, with its first section opening in 1863. The Tube network consists of 11 lines, covering over 400 kilometers of track and serving 270 stations. Westminster station was first opened in 1868 as part of the Metropolitan District Railway, and has undergone many changes and renovations over the years to accommodate the growing number of passengers and changing transportation needs.

The next two shots were done from precisely across the street:

Parliament square. In front of the Westminster Abbey and to the right flags of the Commonwealth countries. Behind my back:

Big Ben and the House of Parliament. The building is officially called the Palace of Westminster. It is the seat of the two houses of the UK Parliament – the House of Lords and the House of Commons. Many years ago, I wondered why the MPs in such an excellent place sit so close to each other. Till somebody explained to me that the poor conditions make them solve issues quicker. If you have a chance, watch a debate on TV. The style is one of a kind.

The Houses of Parliament, also known as the Palace of Westminster, is the seat of the UK government and one of the most iconic buildings in London. It is located on the north bank of the River Thames in the Westminster district of central London. The Houses of Parliament have a rich history that dates back over 900 years. The original Palace of Westminster was built in the 11th century and was home to the English monarchs until a fire destroyed much of the building in 1834. The current buildings were designed by architect Charles Barry and were completed in 1870. One of the most iconic features of the Houses of Parliament is the clock tower, commonly known as Big Ben. The tower houses the famous bell that chimes the hours and is one of the most recognizable landmarks in London.


Taking a walk in the City of Westminster