When it comes to important locations around the world, you cannot go wrong with following guidance from UNESCO, THE United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation. The organisation has listed a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, which are places that are deemed to be of particular cultural or physical importance.
In 2014, there are more than 1000 sites listed around the world with 779 locations being deemed to be of cultural importance, 197 deemed to be of natural importance and 31 having mixed importance. Italy is the country with the most World Heritage Sites, 50, but you will not be shocked to learn that there are a number of great destinations in the United Kingdom. You will also not be shocked to learn that there are 4 prominent UNESCO World Heritage Sites in London, all of which are worthy of a tour with a Blue Badge Tourist Guide. The four sites in London are:
- The Tower of London
- The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
- The Palace of Westminster
- Maritime Greenwich
The Tower of London
The Tower of London was built by William The Conqueror on the Thames to provide protection to London and to state his power at the time. The Tower has played a central role in some of the biggest moments in British history. The Norman Conquest saw the building at the heart of the action and there was also the imprisonment of Edward V and his brother. In the 16th Century, four English Queens were held, three of them eventually being executed on Tower Green and Elizabeth I escaped. The Tower also helped to shape the Reformation in England with the tales of the Catholic and Protestant people who were held captive in the Tower helped to define the Tower as a place of execution and torture.
Tourists queuing to enter the Tower of London on a busy summers day. Photo: ©London & Partners/Pawel Libera.
The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
While the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew offer a range of stunning sights to enjoy, the importance of the site is down to the fact that there is a historical landscape garden. This garden provides a number of key elements which illustrate the art of gardens between the 18th and the 20th century. There are a number of botanic collections that have helped to enrich society over the years and centuries. The gardens were established back in 1759 and their work in contributing to the study of plants is unrivalled.
The Palm House at Kew Gardens in Autumn. Photo: ©London & Partners/Pawel Libera.
The Palace of Westminster
Although the initial Westminster Palace was destroyed by a fire in 1834, the rebuilt building on the site of medieval remains is a great example of neo-Gothic architecture and holds huge importance in British history. The site of the Palace also hosts the Church of Saint Margaret and Westminster Abbey. Westminster Abbey is the location where all the Kings of England have been crowned dating back to 1066, making it a hugely important destination with respect to the history of the country. The close proximity to the House of Lords, the House of Commons and Big Ben ensures that tourists are able to see so many of the most important venues in England within very easy reach. While the historical importance of the building is notable, it is fair to say that the current Westminster Palace is also a stunning looking building, with tremendous interiors. There is also the fact that the Victoria Tower contains more than 3 million documents, making it a massive archive, and containing all of the Acts of Parliament that have been issued since 1947.
View of the Houses of Parliament across the River Thames in London. Photo: ©London & Partners.
There is a collection of venues in Greenwich, and the massive park which houses them all, and this is a World Heritage site because of the impact the area had on scientific and artistic endeavour in the country in the 17th and 18th century. The Queen’s House is perhaps the focus for many people, certainly of an artistic nature, but the National Maritime Museum is also a popular destination in the park.
Greenwich Park view of the National Maritime Museum. Photo: ©London & Partners/Pawel Libera.