Must see attractions in The United Kingdom

  • Top ChoiceSights in Windsor & Eton

    Windsor Castle

    The world’s largest and oldest continuously occupied fortress, Windsor Castle is a majestic vision of battlements and towers. Used for state occasions, it’s one of the Queen’s principal residences; when she’s at home, the Royal Standard flies from the Round Tower. History The story of Windsor Castle began in 1071, when William the Conqueror ordered the construction of a hilltop, earth-and-timber fortress. A century later, his great-grandson Henry II replaced it with a stone round tower. Edward III added a Gothic palace; Elizabeth I, the sturdy North Terrace; and Charles II gave the State Apartments a baroque makeover, creating an ‘English Versailles’. George III stuck on turrets and battlements, to make it look more medieval, while George IV inserted a modern palace into the ancient ensemble. After a thousand years of rebuilding, the 951-room castle thus displays an amazing range of architectural styles, from half-timbered fired brick to Gothic stonework. Inside Windsor Castle The castle precincts are divided into the Lower, Middle and Upper Wards. A visit will take you through the lavish State Apartments and beautiful chapels; certain areas may be off limits if in use. Here are some of the highlights: Inner Hall Created by George IV in the 1820s as a welcoming area for heads of state and official guests, this hall was later closed by Queen Victoria in 1866 – its entry sealed by a stone wall – and used primarily for storage space for 150 years. Reopened to the public in 2019, restoration works included chipping off layers of paint to reveal the intricate Regency ceiling bosses created by stuccoist Francis Bernasconi, and linking the visitor entrance on the North Terrace with the State Entrance Hall on the south side, which offers an uninterrupted view of the Long Walk. Also on display are stone remnants believed to be part of the buildings constructed by Henry I around 1110. Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House Filling a side chamber as you approach the State Apartments from the North Terrace of the Upper Ward, this astonishing creation is not a toy but a masterpiece of artful miniaturization. Designed at 1:12 scale by Sir Edwin Lutyens for Queen Mary, and completed in 1924, it displays a phenomenal attention to detail. It's equipped with fully functional plumbing, including flushing toilets, plus electric lights, tiny Crown Jewels, a silver service and wine cellar, and even a fleet of six cars in the garage. State Apartments The State Apartments, in the castle’s Upper Ward, reverberate with history and style. Around two dozen rooms are usually open to the public, with the crossed swords, suits of armour and banners of the initial Grand Staircase setting the tone. A seated statue of Queen Victoria presides over the Grand Vestibule at the top, which displays tribute and trophies from the British Empire. Highlights include a life-sized tiger’s head of gold with crystal teeth, seized from Tipu, sultan of Mysore, and the musket ball that killed Lord Nelson. The Waterloo Chamber beyond, commemorating the 1815 battle, is festooned with portraits of triumphant generals and diplomats. Two self-guided routes – ceremonial and historic – take in the fabulous St George’s Hall, the headquarters of the 24-strong order of the Knights of the Garter, which is still used for state banquets. Its ornate ceiling, re-created following a devastating fire in 1992 – it began in the adjoining Lantern Lobby – holds the shields of Knights past and present. Blank shields record "degraded" knights expelled from the order; most are foreign royals who declared war on Britain. Beyond the Grand Reception Room, where the Queen hosts state visits, lie 10 chambers designated as the King’s Rooms and Queen’s Rooms. Largely created by Charles II, they’re bursting with opulent furniture, tapestries, frescoed ceilings and carved wall panels, as well as paintings by Hans Holbein, Bruegel, Rembrandt, Peter Paul Rubens, Van Dyck and Gainsborough. The Queen’s Guard Chamber, bristling with pistols and swords, holds statues and busts of military leaders including Sir Winston Churchill. St George’s Chapel This elegant chapel, commissioned for the Order of the Garter by Edward IV in 1475, is a fine example of Perpendicular Gothic architecture. The nave and beautiful fan-vaulted roof were completed under Henry VII, and the final nail driven under Henry VIII in 1528. Along with Westminster Abbey, it serves as a royal mausoleum. Both Henry VIII and Charles I lie beneath the beautifully carved 15th-century Quire, while the Queen's father (George VI) and mother (Queen Elizabeth) rest in a side chapel. It’s also where Prince Harry married Meghan Markle in May 2018, and where Prince Philip's funeral took place in 2021. Albert Memorial Chapel Built in 1240 and dedicated to Edward the Confessor, the small Albert Memorial Chapel was the place of worship for the Order of the Garter until St George's Chapel, alongside, snatched away that honour. After Prince Albert died at Windsor Castle in 1861, Queen Victoria ordered the chapel to be restored as a monument to her husband, adding a magnificent vaulted roof that incorporates gold mosaic pieces from Venice. Although the chapel holds a monument to the prince, he’s actually buried, with Victoria, in the Royal Mausoleum at Frogmore House in Windsor Great Park. Their youngest son, Prince Leopold (Duke of Albany), is, however, buried here. Changing of the Guard A fabulous spectacle, with triumphant tunes from a military band and plenty of foot stamping from smartly attired troops in red uniforms and bearskin caps, the changing of the guard draws crowds to Windsor Castle each day. Although the Household Troops march through the streets of Windsor, the actual handover happens in the Lower Ward or, when the Queen is in official residence, the Quadrangle in the Upper Ward. Weather permitting, it usually takes place at 11am on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, but this is subject to change. Check the Household Division website for more information. Tickets Entry is timed and tickets must be booked in advance. The price includes a multimedia guide. If you wish to visit again, your ticket can be converted to a year-long pass – just ask a member of staff before you leave.

  • Top ChoiceSights in The West End

    Westminster Abbey

    A splendid mixture of architectural styles, Westminster Abbey is considered the finest example of Early English Gothic. It's not merely a beautiful place of worship – the Abbey is still a working church and the stage on which history unfolds. Never a cathedral (the seat of a bishop), Westminster Abbey is what is called a "royal peculiar", administered by the Crown. Inside Westminster Abbey At the heart of the Abbey is the beautifully tiled sanctuary, the stage for coronations, royal weddings and funerals. Architect George Gilbert Scott designed the ornate High Altar in 1873. In front of the altar is the Cosmati Pavement, dating to 1268. It has intricate designs of small pieces of stone and glass inlaid into plain marble, which symbolize the universe at the end of time (an inscription claims the world will end after 19,683 years). At the entrance to the lovely Chapel of St John the Baptist is a sublime translucent alabaster Virgin and Child, placed here in 1971. The most sacred spot in the Abbey is the shrine of St Edward the Confessor, which lies behind the High Altar; access is restricted to guided tours to protect the fragile 13th-century flooring. King Edward, long considered a saint before he was canonised, was the founder of the Abbey, and the original building was consecrated a few weeks before his death in 1066. Henry III added a new shrine with Cosmati mosaics in the mid-12th century where the sick prayed for healing – and also chipped off a few souvenirs to take home. The Quire (choir), a stunning space of gold, blue and red Victorian Gothic above a black-and-white chequerboard tiled floor, dates to the mid-19th century. It sits where the original choir for the monks' worship would have been but bears little resemblance to the original. Nowadays, the Quire is still used for singing, but its regular occupants are the Choir of Westminster Abbey – about 30 boys and 12 "lay vicars" (men) who sing the services and evensong. Henry VII's magnificent Perpendicular Gothic–style Lady Chapel, with an impressive fan-vaulted ceiling and tall stained-glass windows is at the eastern end of the church. Opened in 2018, the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Galleries are a museum and gallery space located in the medieval triforium, the arched gallery above the nave. Among its exhibits are the death masks and wax effigies of generations of royalty, armor and stained glass. Highlights are the graffiti-inscribed chair used for the coronation of Mary II, the beautifully illustrated manuscripts of the Litlyngton Missal from 1380 and the 13th-century Westminster Retable, England's oldest surviving altarpiece. At the western end of the nave near the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, killed in France during WWI and laid to rest here in 1920, is St George's Chapel, which contains the rather ordinary-looking Coronation Chair, upon which every monarch since the early 14th century has been crowned (apart from joint monarchs Mary II and William III, who had their own chairs fashioned for the event in 1689). Apart from the royal graves, keep an eye out for the many famous commoners interred here, especially in Poets' Corner, where you'll find the resting places of Geoffrey Chaucer, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Alfred Tennyson, Samuel Johnson and Rudyard Kipling, as well as memorials to the other greats (William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters etc). Another set of illustrious stones is in Scientists' Corner near the north aisle of the nave, including the final resting places of Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and the ashes of Stephen Hawking. The octagonal Chapter House dates from the 1250s and was where the monks would meet for daily prayer and their job assignments, before Henry VIII's suppression of the monasteries some three centuries later. To the right of the entrance to Chapter House is what's claimed to be the oldest door in Britain – it’s been there since the 1050s. Used as a treasury, the crypt-like Pyx Chamber dates from about 1070 and takes its name from boxes that held gold and silver to be tested for purity to make coins. History Much of the Abbey's architecture is from the 13th century, but it was founded much earlier, in AD 960. Henry III began work on the new Abbey building in 1245 but didn't complete it; the Gothic nave was finished under Richard II in 1388. The Lady Chapel was completed after 13 years of construction in 1516. For centuries, the country's greatest have been interred here, including 17 monarchs from King Henry III (1272) to King George II (1760). Every monarch since William the Conqueror has been crowned here, with the exception of a couple of Eds who were either murdered (Edward V) or abdicated (Edward VIII) before the magic moment. It has also hosted 16 royal weddings, the most recent being that of Prince William and Catherine Middleton in 2011. Tickets and other practicalities Sightseeing visitors must book their tickets in advance via the website. There is an additional charge for a multimedia guide. The Abbey is open for worship and individual prayer, and there are daily services. Check the website for the schedule. Evensong is 5pm on Tuesdays and 3pm on weekends. Photography is allowed inside the church, but beware that there are restrictions on what you can photograph and when.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Old Town

    Edinburgh Castle

    Edinburgh Castle has played a pivotal role in Scottish history, both as a royal residence – King Malcolm Canmore (r 1058–93) and Queen Margaret first made their home here in the 11th century – and as a military stronghold. The castle last saw military action in 1745; from then until the 1920s it served as the British army's main base in Scotland. Today it is one of Scotland's most atmospheric and popular tourist attractions. The brooding, black crags of Castle Rock, rising above the western end of Princes St, are the very reason for Edinburgh's existence. This rocky hill was the most easily defended hilltop on the invasion route between England and central Scotland, a route followed by countless armies from the Roman legions of the 1st and 2nd centuries AD to the Jacobite troops of Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745. The Esplanade The castle's Esplanade is a parade ground dating from 1820, with superb views south over the city towards the Pentland Hills. At its western end is the Entrance Gateway, dating from 1888 and flanked by statues of Robert the Bruce and William Wallace. Above the gate is the Royal Standard of Scotland – a red lion rampant on a gold field – and the Scottish royal motto in Latin, " Nemo me impune lacessit" ("no one provokes me with impunity"). The One O'Clock Gun Inside the entrance a cobbled lane leads up beneath the 16th-century Portcullis Gate, topped by the 19th-century Argyle Tower, and past the cannon of the Argyle and Mills Mount Batteries. The battlements here have great views over the New Town to the Firth of Forth. At the far end of Mills Mount Battery is the One O'Clock Gun, a gleaming WWII 25-pounder that fires an ear-splitting time signal at 1pm every day (except Sunday, Christmas Day and Good Friday). St Margaret's Chapel South of Mills Mount the road curls up leftward through Foog's Gate to the highest part of Castle Rock, crowned by the tiny St Margaret's Chapel, the oldest surviving building in Edinburgh. It's a simple Romanesque structure that was probably built by David I or Alexander I in memory of their mother, Queen Margaret, sometime around 1130 (she was canonized in 1250). Following Cromwell's capture of the castle in 1650 it was used to store ammunition until it was restored at the order of Queen Victoria; it was rededicated in 1934. The tiny stained-glass windows – depicting Margaret, St Andrew, St Columba, St Ninian and William Wallace – date from the 1920s. Mons Meg Immediately north of St Margaret's Chapel is Mons Meg, a giant 15th-century siege gun built at Mons in Belgium in 1449. The gun was last fired in 1681, as a birthday salute for the future James VII/II, when its barrel burst. Take a peek over the wall to the north of the chapel and you'll see a charming little garden that was used as a pet cemetery for officers' dogs. Great Hall The main group of buildings on the summit of Castle Rock are ranged around Crown Sq, dominated by the shrine of the Scottish National War Memorial. Opposite is the Great Hall, built for James IV (r 1488–1513) as a ceremonial hall and used as a meeting place for the Scottish Parliament until 1639. Its most remarkable feature is the original 16th-century hammer-beam roof. Prisons of War vaults The Castle Vaults beneath the Great Hall (entered on the west side of Crown Square) were used variously as storerooms, bakeries and prisons. The vaults have been restored to how they were in the 18th and early 19th centuries, when they were used as a prison for soldiers captured during the American War of Independence and the Napoleonic Wars. Original graffiti carved by French and American prisoners can be seen on the ancient wooden doors. Honours of Scotland The Royal Palace, built during the 15th and 16th centuries, houses a series of historical tableaux leading to the highlight of the castle: a strongroom housing the Honours of Scotland (the Scottish crown jewels), among the oldest surviving crown jewels in Europe. Locked away in a chest following the Act of Union in 1707, the crown (made in 1540 from the gold of Robert the Bruce's 14th-century coronet), sword and sceptre lay forgotten until they were unearthed at the instigation of novelist Sir Walter Scott in 1818. Also on display here is the Stone of Destiny. Among the neighboring Royal Apartments is the bedchamber where Mary, Queen of Scots, gave birth to her son James VI, who was to unite the crowns of Scotland and England in 1603. Tickets to Edinburgh Castle The castle operates a timed ticket system, and all visits must be booked online in advance. You can only enter the site within the timeframe outlined on your ticket, but you may stay as long as you like up to closing time. Children under 5 can visit for free.

  • Top ChoiceSights in South Bank

    Tate Modern

    One of London's most amazing attractions, Tate Modern is an outstanding modern- and contemporary-art gallery housed in the creatively revamped Bankside Power Station. A spellbinding synthesis of modern art and capacious industrial brick design, this gallery has been extraordinarily successful in bringing challenging work to the masses, both through its free permanent collection and fee-charged big-name temporary exhibitions. The original gallery lies inside what was once the boiler house for the power station, now called the Natalie Bell Building in recognition of a local community activist. The stunning Blavatnik Building, with a panoramic 10th-floor viewing terrace, opened in 2016, increasing the available exhibition space by 60%. The Turbine Hall The first space to greet you as you pour down from the side entrance at Holland Street into the Natalie Bell Building is the astounding 3300-sq-meter Turbine Hall. Originally housing the power station’s huge electricity generators, this vast area has become the commanding venue for large-scale installations and temporary exhibitions. The annual commission aims to make art more accessible and has led to popular and often interactive pieces, such as Kara Walker's Fons Americanus, a 13m-tall working fountain that highlights the history of the slave trade; a full-on playground of three-person swings installed by Danish art collective Superflex; and a maze of geometric gardens called Empty Lot by Abraham Cruzvillegas, which took soil from parks around London and watered it for six months to see if anything grew. Note that if you enter from the riverside doors, you’ll end up on the more muted level 1, but stairs lead down to the main floor of the Turbine Hall. Permanent collection More than 60,000 works of the permanent collection are on constant rotation, and the curators have at their disposal paintings by Georges Braque, Henri Matisse, Piet Mondrian, Andy Warhol, Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock. Installations have included works by Joseph Beuys, Magdalena Abakanowicz, and Ai Weiwei, along with films by Rebecca Horn and photography by Zanele Muholi. The collection is arranged by both theme and chronology on levels 2 and 4 of the riverside Natalie Bell Building and on levels 0, 3 and 4 of the Blavatnik Building. A great place to begin is the Start Display on level 2 of the Natalie Bell Building: this small, specially curated taster features some of the best-loved works in the collection and gives visitors useful pointers for understanding modern art. Architecture The 200m-long Natalie Bell Building, made of 4.2 million bricks, is an imposing sight, and was designed by Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuron, who scooped the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2001 for their transformation of the former power station. Significant achievements include leaving the building's central 99m-high chimney, adding a two-storey glass box onto the roof and turning the cavernous Turbine Hall into a dramatic exhibition space. Herzog and de Meuron also designed the new 10-story Blavatnik Building extension. Viewpoints Don't miss sublime city views from the 10th-floor Viewing Level of the Blavatnik Building and the view of the River Thames and St Paul's Cathedral from the 6th-floor cafe in the Natalie Bell Building. Head to the level 4 bridge connecting the two buildings to get a lofty view of Turbine Hall. Tickets and information Tate Modern’s permanent collection is free to visit, but timed tickets are required for all visitors, including Members. Tickets for special exhibitions start from £15. Book online in advance. Free guided tours of the permanent collection may be available – check at the information desk when you arrive. There are three stations located within five to 10 minutes' walk of the gallery: Blackfriars (rail, District and Circle Lines), Southwark (Jubilee Line) and London Bridge (rail, Jubilee and Northern Lines). To visit the sister museum Tate Britain, hop on the RB2 riverboat service from Bankside Pier.

  • Top ChoiceSights in City Centre

    Roman Baths

    Welcome to one of Northern Europe's most significant Roman sites. Today more than a million visitors a year come to see its historic finds, atmospheric pools and imaginative displays, making this one of Bath's top things to do. Best of all you can still sample the waters that drew the Romans here almost 2000 years ago. History The elaborate spa complex dates from around 70AD and was known then as Aquae Sulis. In typically ostentatious style, the Romans built a bathhouse complex above Bath's 115°F (46°C) hot springs. Set alongside a temple dedicated to the healing goddess Sulis-Minerva, the baths now form one of the world's best-preserved ancient Roman spas, and are encircled by 18th- and 19th-century buildings. Inside the Roman Baths The heart of the complex is the Great Bath, a lead-lined pool filled with steaming, geothermally heated water from the so-called "Sacred Spring" to a depth of 1.6m. Though now open-air, the bath would originally have been covered by a 45m-high barrel-vaulted roof. More bathing pools and changing rooms are to the east and west, with excavated sections revealing the hypocaust system that heated the bathing rooms. After luxuriating in the baths, Romans would have reinvigorated themselves with a dip in the circular cold-water pool. The King's Bath was added sometime during the 12th century around the site of the original Sacred Spring. Every day, 1.5 million liters of hot water still pour into the pool. Beneath the Pump Room are the remains of the Temple of Sulis-Minerva. Digital reconstructions pop up in some sections of the complex, especially in the Temple Courtyard, and the West and East Baths, which feature projections of bathers. There is also a fascinating museum displaying artefacts discovered on the site. Look out for the famous gilded bronze head of Minerva and a striking carved gorgon's head, as well as some of the 12,000-odd Roman coins thrown into the spring as votive offerings to the goddess. Surrounding buildings The complex of buildings around the baths was built in stages during the 18th and 19th centuries. John Wood the Elder and the Younger designed the buildings around the Sacred Spring, while the famous Pump Room was built by their contemporaries, Thomas Baldwin and John Palmer, in neoclassical style, complete with soaring Ionic and Corinthian columns. The building now houses a restaurant, which serves magnificent afternoon teas. You can also taste free samples of the spring waters, which were believed in Victorian times to have curative properties. If you're lucky, you might even have music provided by the Pump Room's string trio. Tickets and other practicalities To dodge the worst of the crowds avoid weekends, and July and August. Tickets and time slots should be booked online in advance. Admission to the Roman Baths includes an audio guide, featuring commentary in 12 languages – there's also one especially for children and a guide in sign language. The majority of the site is accessible to wheelchair users, but there are some steps. The water here is completely untreated and is not safe for swimming. However, you can sample the city's curative waters at the fantastic modern Thermae Spa complex, housed nearby in a shell of local stone and plate glass. The showpiece is the open-air rooftop pool, where you can bathe in naturally heated, mineral-rich waters with a backdrop of Bath's cityscape – a don't-miss experience, best enjoyed at dusk.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Canterbury

    Canterbury Cathedral

    A rich repository of more than 1400 years of Christian history, Canterbury Cathedral is the Church of England’s mother ship, and a truly extraordinary place with an absorbing history. This Gothic cathedral, the highlight of the city’s World Heritage Sites, is southeast England’s top tourist attraction as well as a place of worship. It is also the site of English history’s most famous murder: Archbishop Thomas Becket was killed here in 1170. The cathedral is an overwhelming edifice crammed with enthralling stories, arresting architecture and a very real and enduring sense of spirituality – although visitors can’t help but pick up on the ominous undertones of violence and bloodshed that whisper from its walls. History St Augustine, a missionary sent from Rome, built the first cathedral here sometime after his arrival in England in 597CE. He became the first Archbishop of Canterbury and formed a household here. A major fire damaged the building around 1070, leading to the cathedral being completely rebuilt by the Normans. Later, a community of Benedictine monks lived at the cathedral until Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1540. Even after 800 years, it's the story of Archbishop Thomas Becket that continues to draw many pilgrims to Canterbury Cathedral. The martyrdom of Thomas Becket Not one to shy away from cronyism, in 1162 King Henry II appointed his good friend Thomas Becket to the highest clerical office in the land, figuring it would be easier to force the increasingly vocal religious lobby to fall into line if he was pals with the archbishop. Unfortunately for Henry, he underestimated how seriously Thomas would take the job, and the archbishop soon began to disagree with almost everything the king said or did. By 1170, Henry had become exasperated with his former favorite and suggested to four of his knights that Thomas was too much to bear. Becket was murdered on December 29. Becket’s martyrdom – and canonization in double-quick time (1173) – catapulted Canterbury Cathedral to the top of the league of northern European pilgrimage sites. Mindful of the growing criticism of his role in Becket’s murder, Henry arrived in Canterbury in 1174 for a dramatic mea culpa and, after allowing himself to be whipped and scolded, was granted absolution. Canterbury Cathedral today This ancient structure is packed with monuments commemorating the nation’s battles. Also here are the grave and heraldic tunic of one of the nation’s most famous warmongers, Edward the Black Prince (1330–76). The spot in the northwest transept where Becket met his grisly end is marked by a flickering candle and a striking modern altar. The doorway to the crypt is beside the altar. This cavernous space is the cathedral’s highlight, the only survivor from another devastating fire in 1174, which destroyed the rest of the building. Look for the amazingly well-preserved carvings among the forest of pillars. The wealth of detail in the cathedral is immense and unrelenting, so allow at least two hours to do it justice. Tickets Entry to the cathedral is timed and tickets must be pre-booked online. Guided tours run with limited availability; call on the day (01227 762862) or ask at the desk on arrival.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Kensington & Hyde Park

    Natural History Museum

    Why you should go With its thunderous, animatronic dinosaur, riveting displays about planet earth, outstanding Darwin Centre and architecture straight from a Gothic fairy tale, the Natural History Museum is astonishing. Kids are the target audience, but adults will be equally mesmerized. Go on a journey through the times of dinosaurs with a visit to the Dinosaurs Gallery in the Blue Zone, an absolute must for those traveling with children. It's packed with specimens from tiny fossils to a colossal triceratops skull, but it's the animatronic T-rex that steals the show. Also in the Blue Zone you can learn all about Human Biology, and stroll the Mammals gallery, which is lined with life-size creatures from hippos to horses. A model of a blue whale is suspended dramatically from the ceiling. Adults will love the intriguing Treasures exhibition in the Cadogan Gallery (Green Zone), which displays a host of unrelated objects, each telling its own unique story, from a chunk of moon rock to a dodo skeleton. Also in the Green Zone, the Mineral Gallery is a breathtaking display of architectural perspective leading to the Vault, where you'll find the Aurora Collection of almost 300 colored diamonds. In the Orange Zone, the vast Darwin Centre focuses on taxonomy, showcasing 28 million insects and six million plants in a giant cocoon; glass windows allow you to watch scientists at work. Travel through a sculpture of Earth in the Red Zone, where you'll learn all about the natural forces that have helped shape our world. At the center of the museum is Hintze Hall, a huge room resembling a cathedral nave. The blue whale skeleton you see on entering the hall was unveiled in 2017, replacing the famous cast of a diplodocus skeleton (nicknamed Dippy), who has gone on a long tour of the UK. The transfer itself was a painstaking engineering project, disassembling and preparing the whale's 4.5 tonnes of bones for reconstruction in a dramatic diving posture that greets museum visitors. Seasonal treats at the NHM include the beautiful Wildlife Garden (April to November), next to the West Lawn, which encompasses a range of British lowland habitats, including a meadow with farm gates and a bee tree where a colony of honey bees fills the air. From Halloween to January, a section of the museum by the East Lawn is transformed into a glittering and highly popular ice rink, complete with a hot-drinks stall. Tickets and other practicalities It's free to enter the museum, although donations are welcome. There is a charge for special exhibits. Book well ahead for Wildlife Photographer of the Year and ice-skating. The best time to come to the museum on weekdays is after 2pm when school groups leave; at weekends arrive as soon as it opens. More than five million visitors come each year, so lines can often get long, especially during the school holidays. If the main Cromwell Road entrance is looking congested, head to the Exhibition Road entrance round the corner. Entrances at Queen's Gate and Exhibition Road are wheelchair-accessible.

  • Top ChoiceSights in City of London

    St Paul's Cathedral

    Why you should go Sir Christopher Wren’s 300-year-old architectural masterpiece is a London icon. Towering over diminutive Ludgate Hill in a superb position that's been a place of Christian worship for more than 1400 years (and pagan before that), St Paul’s Cathedral is one of London’s most magnificent buildings. For Londoners, the vast dome is a symbol of resilience and pride. Seeing this stunning structure from the inside and climbing to the top for sweeping views of the capital is a celestial experience. The dome Inside, rising more than 85m above the floor, is the dome, supported by eight huge columns. It actually consists of three parts: a plastered brick inner dome, a nonstructural lead outer dome visible on the skyline and a brick cone between them holding it all together. The walkway around its base, accessed via 257 steps from a staircase on the western side of the southern transept, is called the Whispering Gallery. A further 119 steps brings you to the exterior Stone Gallery, your first taste of the city vistas, and 152 iron steps more bring you to the Golden Gallery at the very top, with unforgettable views of London. The crypt The crypt has memorials to around 300 of Britain's great and the good, including the Duke of Wellington and Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson, whose body lies directly below the dome. But the most poignant is to Wren himself. On a simple tomb slab bearing his name, part of a Latin inscription translates as: "If you seek his monument, look around you". History Following the destructive Great Fire of London in 1666, which burned 80% of the city, Wren designed St Paul's to replace the old church, and it was built between 1675 and 1710. The site is ancient hallowed ground, with four other cathedrals preceding Wren's English baroque masterpiece, the first dating from 604 BCE. The cathedral dome, inspired by St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, is famed for surviving Luftwaffe incendiary bombs in the "Second Great Fire of London" of December 1940, becoming an icon of London resilience during the Blitz. North of the church is the simple People of London Memorial, honouring the 32,000 civilians killed. Tickets and other practicalities Book tickets online in advance for a slight discount and faster entry. Admission includes access to the cathedral floor, the crypt and the dome galleries, as well as multimedia guides. Free 1½-hour guided tours run daily; reserve a place at the tour desk, just past the entrance. For an additional charge, there are also tours to the geometric staircase, Great Model and library, offering impressive views down the nave from above the Great West Doors. Check at the tour desk for details. There's no charge to attend a service, but not all areas of the cathedral are accessible. To hear the cathedral choir, attend Sunday Eucharist or Evensong. Check the website in advance for timings and information on visiting choirs.

  • Top ChoiceSights in City of London

    Tower of London

    Why you should go Few parts of the UK are as steeped in history or as impregnated with legend and superstition as the titanic stonework of the Tower of London. Not only is this fabulous fortress an architectural odyssey, but also there are the world's largest diamond, free tours from magnificently attired Yeoman Warders (better known as "Beefeaters"), a dazzling array of armor and weaponry, and a palpable sense of ancient history at every turn. It has been a royal residence, a treasury, a mint, an armory and a zoo, but it's perhaps most remembered as the prison where a king, three queens and many nobles met their deaths. Most visitors head straight to the Waterloo Barracks, which contains the spectacular Crown Jewels, including the platinum crown of the late Queen Mother, set with the 106-carat Koh-i-Nûr (Persian for "Mountain of Light") diamond, and the Imperial State Crown, worn by the monarch at the State Opening of Parliament. Slow-moving walkways slide wide-eyed visitors past the collection. Look out for the Tower's famous ravens, which legend says could cause the Tower, and therefore the kingdom, to collapse should they leave (a spare bird is kept in the aviary, and their wing feathers are clipped in case they get any ideas). They are free to roam within the walls during the daytime. To fully appreciate all of the Tower's roles through its vast history – as well as gawp at the Crown Jewels and meet the famous ravens – you'll need to allow at least half a day here. History Started in the 1070s by William the Conquerer, the striking White Tower is London's oldest building, with its solid Norman architecture and four turrets. On the entrance floor is a collection from the Royal Armouries, including Henry VIII's commodious suit of armor. One floor up is the impressive but unadorned 11th-century Chapel of St John the Evangelist, which was once used as the national record office. Southwest of the White Tower is the Bloody Tower, where 12-year-old Edward V and his little brother Richard were held by their uncle, the future Richard III, and later thought to have been murdered to annul their claims to the throne. Sir Walter Raleigh did a 13-year stretch here too under James I, and wrote his Historie of the World. Near the Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula stood the Tower Green scaffold, where nobles such as Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard (Henry's second and fifth wives) were beheaded. Tickets and other practicalities Book online in advance for cheaper rates, and start your day early to make the most of your visit ahead of the crowds. Allow at least half a day for your visit. There are stairs and cobbled paths throughout the site, and wheelchair access is limited.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Titanic Quarter

    Titanic Belfast

    The stunning, star-shaped Titanic Belfast is the city's number-one tourist draw. Standing majestically at the head of the slipway where the Titanic was built, the museum is a state-of-the-art multimedia extravaganza that charts the history of Belfast and the creation of the world’s most famous ocean liner. Take a ride through the shipyard, walk the decks, get to know the passengers and learn about the wreck. Tickets and tours Titanic Experience The self-guided Titanic Experience tour lasts about an hour and extends over nine galleries. Cleverly designed exhibits enlivened by historical images, animated projections and soundtracks chart Belfast’s rise to turn-of-the-20th-century industrial superpower, followed by a high-tech ride through a noisy, smells-and-all recreation of the city’s shipyards. You can explore every detail of the Titanic’s construction, from a computer ‘fly-through’ from keel to bridge, to replicas of the passenger accommodation. Perhaps most poignant are the few flickering images that constitute the only film footage of the ship in existence, as well as family letters, the final messages sent to nearby ships and the stories of survivors. Tickets cost £19.50 per adult; £8.75 per child (aged 5 - 15); £15.50 per senior/student. Tickets include entry to the SS Nomadic. Saver tickets (adult/child £10/8) are available for speedy visits without the shipyard ride one hour before the museum closes. Titanic Discovery An add-on to the Titanic Experience, this award-winning, one-hour guided tour is an opportunity to learn about the Titanic Quarter. It takes visitors to the Harland & Wolff Drawing Offices, the Titanic Slipways and the Docker's Rest mural. Tickets cost £10 per adult and £5 per child (aged 5-15). Accessibility Titanic Belfast is fully accessible; though dimensional and weight restrictions on the Shipyard Ride may mean some wheelchairs and mobility scooters will not be accommodated in the accessible car. What's nearby? Titanic Belfast is located in the heart of Titanic Quarter, where you'll find other Titanic-related sites. Pause for a cup of coffee and a piece of cake at the Dock Cafe. For lunch, dinner or a cocktail in a historic setting, head to Drawing Office Two. For accommodation, try Titanic Hotel Belfas t - it's located in the building where the Titanic was designed. How to get there Bus: G2 bus from Donegall Square. Train Titanic Quarter station on the Belfast to Bangor line.

  • Top ChoiceSights in St Austell

    Eden Project

    Looking like a cross between a lunar landing station and a James Bond villain's lair, the gigantic hemispherical greenhouses of the Eden Project have become a symbol of Cornwall's renaissance. Dreamt up by ex-record producer Tim Smit, and built in an abandoned clay pit near St Austell, Eden's glass-domed "biomes" recreate major world climate systems in microcosm, from the lush jungles with stinky rafflesia flowers and banana trees of the Amazon rainforest to the olive trees, citrus groves and colorful flowers of the Mediterranean. The outside gardens include Cornish plants, local wildflowers as well as flora from South Africa and South Korea. Built to mark the start of the new millennium, and now considered one of Britain's modern architectural wonders, the Eden Project aims to explore issues of environment and conservation, and point the way to a cleaner, greener future for us all. Exhibits cover everything from global warming to rubber production and chocolate making. It's incredibly impressive as well as educational and inspiring. Eden Project biomes From the visitor center, paths lead down into the pit where the two biomes rise up like giant bubbled domes, surrounded by landscaped gardens. Each biome is stocked with fauna that would flourish in its native habitat, exploring the ways in which plants, climate, weather, insects and animals interact to create their unique ecosystems. The highlight is the steamy, tropical Rainforest Biome, where a gravity-defying treetop walkway winds its way through the jungle canopy. The zip wire and other adventures Eden is home to England's longest zip wire, a giant gravity swing, a 12m-high bungee drop, and a heart-stopping 25m "free fall" jump on to an airbag. There's an additional charge for each activity, but there are combo tickets available. In summer the biomes often provide a backdrop for live concerts during the Eden Sessions, and in winter host a full-size ice rink. Tickets and opening times Timed entry tickets must be booked online in advance (this includes members). Ticket prices for adults vary depending on the time of year, and are valid for return visits within a year. Children's tickets are £10 (free for under 5s). There are some variations to opening times through the year, but generally Eden Project opens 9:30am to 6pm daily (last entry around 4pm). Getting there The Eden site is at Bodelva, 3 miles northeast of St Austell. Buses run from St Austell train station.

  • Top ChoiceSights in South Bank

    Shakespeare's Globe

    Seeing a play at Shakespeare's Globe – ideally standing under the open-air "wooden O" – is experiencing the playwright's work at its best and most authentic. You can also join an informative guided tour, which takes you around the theater and gives access to an exhibition about Shakespeare, theater in the 17th century and life in Bankside. The original Globe Theatre The current Shakespeare's Globe is located just 160m from its original location on Park Street from 1599, its footprint marked on the ground but partially covered by apartment blocks and Southwark Bridge. In 1613, the thatched roof caught fire after a theatrical cannon explosion during a performance of Henry VIII, and the theater burnt to the ground. The Globe was quickly rebuilt, and it remained the home of Shakespeare's company until 1642 when all theaters were closed by the Puritans. It was demolished a couple of years later. The reconstructed Globe Theatre Despite Shakespeare's worldwide popularity, the original Globe Theatre was almost a distant memory when American actor Sam Wanamaker came searching for it in 1949. He began fundraising for a memorial theater, and work started in 1987. Sadly, Wanamaker died four years before the theater opened in 1997. Unlike other venues for Shakespearean plays, Shakespeare's Globe was designed to resemble the original Globe as closely as possible, from the materials used in construction to the open-air stage that exposes viewers to London's changeable skies. It's built with 600 oak pegs, specially fired Tudor-style bricks and thatch from Norfolk. The plaster contains goat hair, lime and sand, as it did in Shakespeare’s time. Shakespeare wrote for both outdoor and indoor theater, and outside the Globe's April to October season, the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse – an indoor candlelit Jacobean-style theater similar to what Shakespeare would have used in winter – puts on year-round performances. Tickets and tours Plays run in the Globe from April to October, and tickets can be bought for as little as £5 if you're willing to stand throughout. During the season there are fewer tours, especially during afternoons when matinees are showing, so make sure you visit in the morning. Tours are on foot (including steps) and last around 50 minutes. Plays and tours take place whatever the weather – be sure to dress appropriately.

  • Top ChoiceSights in The West End

    British Museum

    Why you should go With almost six million visitors trooping through its doors annually, the British Museum in Bloomsbury, one of the oldest and finest museums in the world, is Britain’s most visited attraction. Through the varied (and occasionally controversial) collection, you'll see some of the world's greatest treasures, and learn a little more about how England sees the world today. You could spend a lifetime navigating this vast and hallowed collection of artefacts, art and age-old antiquity and still make daily discoveries. If you're not sure where to start, join a tour or pick up a Highlights map, a self-guided hour-long tour, for a precis of the museum’s treasures. Whatever your approach, there are several blockbusters you don't want to miss: the Rosetta Stone, the key to deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphics (head upstairs for the Egyptian mummies); the controversial Parthenon sculptures , taken from Athens' Acropolis by Lord Elgin (British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire); and the vast Etruscan, Greek, Roman, European, Asian and Islamic galleries. Other must-see items include the Anglo-Saxon Sutton Hoo Ship Burial relics and the winged bulls from Khorsabad. History Begun in 1753 with a "cabinet of curiosities" sold to the nation by physician and collector Sir Hans Sloane, the collection mushroomed over the ensuing years through acquisitions, bequests and the indiscriminate plundering of the empire. The grand Enlightenment Gallery was the first section of the redesigned museum to be built in 1823. The light-filled Great Court, restored and augmented by architect Norman Foster in 2000, has a spectacular glass-and-steel roof. In the center is the Reading Room where Karl Marx researched and wrote Das Kapital; Virginia Woolf and Mahatma Gandhi were also cardholders. Tickets and other practicalities It's free to visit the permanent collections at the British Museum, but there are charges for special exhibitions. In order to control visitor numbers, you need to book a timed slot online ahead of arrival.

  • Top ChoiceSights in West & North Mainland

    Skara Brae

    Predating Stonehenge and the pyramids of Giza, extraordinary Skara Brae is one of the world's most evocative prehistoric sites, and northern Europe’s best-preserved Neolithic village. Even the stone furniture – beds, boxes and dressers – has survived the 5000 years since a community lived and breathed here, giving an incredible insight into everyday Stone Age life.Idyllically situated by a sandy bay 8 miles north of Stromness, the Unesco-listed settlement was hidden until 1850, when waves whipped up by a severe storm eroded the sand and grass above the beach, exposing the houses underneath. It can feel as though the inhabitants have just slipped out to go fishing and could return at any moment. What can you see there? There’s an excellent interactive exhibit and short video, arming visitors with facts and theory, which will enhance the impact of the site. You then enter a reconstructed house, giving the excavation (which you head to next) more meaning. Tour the ancient houses before admiring the area's important archaeological artefacts, including jewelry, tools and pottery,  in the visitor center. The official guidebook, available from the visitor center, includes a good self-guided tour. Tickets All visitor tickets have a timed entry slot and must be booked online in advance (this includes members of Historic Scotland). In April to October, your ticket also gets you into Skaill House, an important step-gabled Orcadian mansion built for the bishop in 1620. It may feel a bit anticlimactic catapulting straight from the Neolithic to the 1950s decor, but it's an interesting sight in its own right. You can see a smart hidden compartment in the library as well as the bishop's original 17th-century four-poster bed. How to get to Skara Brae It’s possible to walk along the coast from Stromness to Skara Brae (9 miles), or it's an easy taxi (£15) or cycle from Stromness. The 8S bus route runs to Skara Brae from Kirkwall and Stromness a few times weekly. Check Traveline Scotland for timetables.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Warwick

    Warwick Castle

    Founded in 1068 by William the Conqueror, stunningly preserved Warwick Castle is Warwick's main attraction. The ancestral home of the earls of Warwick remains impressively intact, and the Tussauds Group has filled the interior with flamboyant, family-friendly attractions that bring the castle's rich history to life. Waxworks populate the private apartments; there are also jousting tournaments, daily trebuchet firings, falconry displays, themed evenings and a dungeon. Sign up for history talks and tours at the entrance to the Great Hall. Tickets and accommodations Tickets must be pre-booked online. Great accommodations are available on-site including woodland lodges and glamping.

  • Top ChoiceSights in East End

    Glasgow Cathedral

    Glasgow Cathedral has a rare timelessness. The dark, imposing interior conjures up medieval might and can send a shiver down the spine. It's a shining example of Gothic architecture, and unlike nearly all of Scotland's cathedrals, it survived the turmoil of the Reformation mobs almost intact because the Protestants decided to repurpose it for their own worship. Most of the current building dates from the 15th century. Built on the supposed site of the tomb of St Kentigern (Mungo), Glasgow Cathedral has been closely entwined with the city's history. The necropolis behind it is one of Glasgow's best rambles. The exterior The fairly svelte 13th-century Gothic lines of the building are nicely offset by the elegant central tower. Fine tracery can be seen on the windows, particularly at the principal western entrance, used only on special occasions. The doorway is fairly unadorned, with just some blind arching above it. It's worth walking around to the cathedral's other end, where the protruding, heavily buttressed lower church gives the building a bulky asymmetry. The nave The nave makes an impact with its height – around 100 feet (30 meters) – and slender grace. There's some stunning stained glass, most of which is 20th century. Particularly fine is Francis Spear's The Creation (1958) above the western door, with Adam and Eve center stage. The aisles, separated by graceful arcades, are flanked with tombs and war memorials hung with regimental colors. Above the arcades are two further levels of elegant arching. The roof is 20th century but conserves some original timber. The eastern end The eastern end of the church is divided from the western nave by a harmonious late-15th-century stone choir screen, or pulpitum, with a central door topped by a balustrade. It's decorated with seven characterful pairs of figures that may represent the seven deadly sins. Going through it, you are confronted with a splendid vista of the choir stalls leading to the four narrow lancet windows of the eastern end. These are also evocative works by Francis Spear that depict the Apostles. In the northeastern corner of this area is the upper chapterhouse, a mostly 15th-century space used as a sacristy. The University of Glasgow was founded here in 1451; larger premises were soon built for it. The lower church This vaulted crypt is an atmospheric space with thick pillars. There's a modern altar over the supposed location of the tomb of St Kentigern/Mungo, a 6th-to-7th-century figure who is the city's patron. His legend grew in the 11th and 12th centuries and his tomb became a major medieval pilgrimage destination. This area was built in the mid-13th century to provide a more fitting setting for the saint's resting place. On display is some of the fine 19th-century stained glass from Munich that once adorned the windows but was removed in the 20th century, probably because it was fading. The sunken ambulatory at the eastern end has four square chapels separated by arches; this area featured as L'Hôpital des Anges in Paris in season two of Outlander. The tomb of Bishop Wishart, a key supporter of Robert the Bruce and an important figure in the cathedral's construction, is here. The southernmost chapel has a well that was likely venerated before the cathedral was even built and perhaps even before Christianity came to the area. There's also a lower chapterhouse here, usually closed off by a grille. The Blackadder Aisle After the gloomy gravitas of the rest of the cathedral, the whiteness in the Blackadder Aisle (also spelled Blacader) feels like a dose of light. Though originally this aisle was designed as a crypt for a chapel to be built above, this was never constructed. The tierceron vaulting is spectacular, with ornate ceiling bosses. This was the last part of the cathedral to be built, in the late 15th century. The necropolis The hill behind the cathedral was converted from a park to a cemetery in the 1830s. It is interdenominational; indeed, the first burial was a Jewish man in 1832. It's a spectacular spot for a stroll; there are 50-odd thousand burials here and 3500 monuments, including some designed by Alexander Thomson and Charles Rennie Mackintosh. You reach it via the "bridge of sighs" that separates the realms of the living and dead; just wander the paths and enjoy the city views and the ornateness of the tombs, built when Glasgow's wealthy captains of industry were at their apogee. At the very top is a monument to John Knox that predates the cemetery. Tickets and other practicalities Entry to Glasgow Cathedral is free but donations for upkeep are appreciated. To guarantee entry, book your timed tickets online in advance of your visit. There are helpful guides throughout the cathedral; don't hesitate to speak to them, as they can point out some interesting details. There's no toilet in the necropolis or the cathedral; pop into St Mungo's museum if you're caught short. Getting to Glasgow Cathedral It's a 15-minute uphill walk to the cathedral from George Square. Numerous buses pass by, including buses 38 and 57.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Kensington & Hyde Park

    Hyde Park

    One of London’s best parks, Hyde Park spreads itself over 142 hectares of neat gardens, wild expanses of overgrown grass and glorious trees. As well as being a fantastic green space in the middle of the city, it's home to a handful of fascinating sights, and hosts live concerts and events through the year. The eastern half of the park is covered with expansive lawns, which become one vast picnic-and-frolic area on sunny days. The western half is more untamed, with plenty of trees and areas of wild grass. If you're after somewhere more colorful (and some shade), head to the Rose Garden, a beautifully landscaped area with flowers year-round. A little further west, you'll find the Holocaust Memorial Garden, a simple stone marker in a grove of trees. You won't want to miss the Serpentine or the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain either. Once you've found the perfect spot in the park, hire a deck chair (one/four hours £1.80/4.80, all day £9). They are available throughout the park from March to October, weather permitting. The Serpentine Hyde Park is separated from Kensington Gardens by the L-shaped Serpentine, a small lake once fed by waters from the River Westbourne. Between June and September you can swim at the Serpentine Lido, where a swimming area within the lake is ring-fenced. There is also a paddling pool for children. If you'd rather stay dry, rent a paddle boat from the Serpentine Boathouse. Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain This memorial fountain is dedicated to the late Princess of Wales. Envisaged by the designer Kathryn Gustafson as a "moat without a castle" and draped "like a necklace" around the southwestern edge of Hyde Park near the Serpentine Bridge, the circular double stream is composed of 545 pieces of Cornish granite, its waters drawn from a chalk aquifer more than 100m below ground. Unusually, visitors are actively encouraged to splash about, to the delight of children. The Serpentine SolarShuttle Boat ferries passengers from the Serpentine Boathouse to the fountain on weekends from March to September (every day from mid-July to late August). Speakers' Corner Frequented by Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, George Orwell and William Morris, Speakers' Corner in the northeastern corner of Hyde Park is traditionally the spot for oratorical flourishes and soapbox ranting. If you’ve got something to get off your chest, do so on Sunday, although you’ll mainly have fringe dwellers, religious fanatics and hecklers for company. It’s the only place in Britain where demonstrators can assemble without police permission, a concession granted in 1872 after serious riots 17 years before when 150,000 people gathered to demonstrate against the Sunday Trading Bill before Parliament, only to be unexpectedly ambushed by police concealed within Marble Arch. Some historians also link Speakers' Corner with the nearby Tyburn gallows, where condemned criminals might speak to the crowd before being hanged. The Serpentine Galleries Constituting some of the most important contemporary-art spaces in town, these two galleries are a major draw. South of the Serpentine lake is the original Serpentine Gallery, in which Damien Hirst, Andreas Gursky, Louise Bourgeois, Gabriel Orozco, Tomoko Takahashi and Jeff Koons have all exhibited, set in a 1930s former tea pavilion in Kensington Gardens. Sister establishment the Serpentine Sackler Gallery can be found within the Magazine, a former gunpowder depot, across the Serpentine Bridge. Built in 1805, it was augmented with a daring, undulating extension designed by Pritzker Prize–winning architect Zaha Hadid. The galleries run a full program of exhibitions, readings and talks. A leading architect who has never previously built in the UK is annually commissioned to build a new "Summer Pavilion" nearby, open from June to October. History Henry VIII expropriated the park from the church in 1536. It then became a hunting ground for kings and aristocrats, and later a place for duels, executions and horse racing. The park was the site of the Great Exhibition in 1851, and during WWII became a vast potato bed. Hotels near Hyde Park To the northside of Hyde Park, around Lancaster Gate, Queensway and Bayswater Tubes, there are some decent budget accommodation choices. Kensington is packed with high-end hotels near the park. The best options there are: 37 Trevor Square Knightsbridge Hotel Lanesborough

  • Top ChoiceSights in Kensington & Hyde Park

    Science Museum

    The Science Museum will mesmerize with its interactive and educational exhibits covering everything from early technology to space travel. Take the family along to nurture a wide-eyed fascination for the complexities of the world and the cosmos. Here are the most popular galleries and displays at the Science Museum, along with all the practical information you need to plan your visit. The Garden The basement at the Science Museum is home to the Garden, an incredible sensory play zone, perfect for children under the age of six. Here they can play with water, light, sound, and work on their construction skills. Take a waterproof apron or a spare set of clothes for the water-play area, which is usually besieged by splashing tots. Making the Modern World Gallery The Making the Modern World Gallery on level 0 is a visual feast of locomotives, planes, cars and other revolutionary inventions. Objects on display here track progress from industrialization in the 1750s through to the present day. Exploring Space Also on level 0 and a perennial favorite is Exploring Space, a gallery featuring genuine rockets and satellites. There's a full-size replica of the Eagle, the lander that took Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon in 1969, and the real Soyuz module that transported astronauts Tim Peake, Yuri Malenchenko and Tim Kopra back from the International Space Station in 2016. Information Age Gallery The fantastic Information Age Gallery on level 2 showcases how information and communication technologies – from the telegraph to smartphones – have transformed our lives since the 19th century. Standout displays include wireless messages sent by a sinking Titanic, the first BBC radio broadcast and a Soviet BESM-6 supercomputer. Mathematics: the Winton Gallery Also on level 2 is Mathematics: the Winton Gallery, designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, is a riveting exploration of maths in the real world and how it can impact on all aspects of everyday life. Medicine: the Wellcome Galleries The Medicine Galleries, which opened on level 2 in 2019, look at the medical world using objects from both the museum's collections and those of Sir Henry Wellcome, pharmacist, entrepreneur, philanthropist and collector. See the world's first MRI machine, a prosthetic arm, and robotic surgery tools, alongside more recent developments such as vials from COVID-19 mass vaccination campaigns. Flight Gallery The Flight Gallery on level 3 is a favorite place for children, with its gliders, hot-air balloons and aircraft, including the De Havilland Gipsy Moth airplane Jason I, which Amy Johnson flew to Australia in 1930. There are also various flight-simulators to try out (additional charge): have a 3D flights with the Red Arrows; replicate a low-level mission aboard a Typhoon fighter jet; and take part in a virtual-reality experience with (a digital) Tim Peake, British astronaut, on Space Descent. Wonderlab Also on level 3, Wonderlab: The Equinor Gallery (adult/child £11/9) explores scientific phenomena in a fun and educational way. Kids will love the hands-on exhibits where they can recreate sound waves, sit by a model Earth as it orbits the sun, run test flights of their own paper plane creations over a giant fan, experiment with pulley systems, and challenge their engineering skills by building a bridge with curved blocks. Daily shows include live experiments with – occasional explosions – and knowledgeable "Explainers" are on hand to chat you through anything in the gallery that piques your curiosity. Tickets and other practicalities General admission to the Science Museum is free, but must be booked online in advance. Visitors wanting to go to a specific gallery should check if tickets need to be booked in advance, and beware that your visit may have strict time restrictions (for example, visits to the Garden are for 20-minute slots only). There are charges for tickets to the IMAX, virtual-reality experiences, flight simulators, Wonderlab, and special events. There is a cafe and snack bar within the museum. Lifts and toilets are accessible throughout, and it's possible to borrow a wheelchair.

  • Top ChoiceSights in The Lothians

    Rosslyn Chapel

    Many years may have passed since Dan Brown's novel The Da Vinci Code and the subsequent film came out, but floods of visitors still descend on Scotland's most beautiful and enigmatic church – Rosslyn Chapel. History Rosslyn Chapel was built in the mid-15th century for William St Clair, third prince of Orkney, and the ornately carved interior – at odds with the architectural fashion of its time – is a monument to the mason's art, rich in symbolic imagery and shrouded in mystery. The carved stones As well as flowers, vines, angels and biblical figures, the carved stones include many examples of the pagan Green Man; other figures are associated with Freemasonry and the Knights Templar. Intriguingly, there are also carvings of plants from the Americas that predate Columbus' voyage of discovery. The symbolism of these images has led some researchers to conclude that Rosslyn is some kind of secret Templar repository, and it has been claimed that hidden vaults beneath the chapel could conceal anything from the Holy Grail or the head of John the Baptist to the body of Christ himself. The Apprentice Pillar The beautiful Apprentice Pillar is at the Lady Chapel's entrance. Four vines spiral around the pillar, issuing from eight dragons' mouths. At the top is an image of Isaac, son of Abraham, upon the altar. Lucifer, the Fallen Angel At head height in the Lady Chapel, to the left of the second window from the left, is Lucifer, the Fallen Angel.  The bound, upside-down angel is a symbol associated with Freemasonry. The arch is decorated with the Dance of Death. The Green Man On the boss at the base of the arch between the second and third windows from the left in the Lady Chapel is the Green Man. It's the finest example of 100-plus carvings of this pagan symbol of spring, fertility and rebirth. Indian corn The frieze around the south wall's second window is said to represent Indian corn (maize), but it predates Columbus' voyage to the New World. Other carvings resemble aloe vera, found in Africa and Asia. The Apprentice High in the southwestern corner, beneath an empty statue niche, is the head of the stonemason's apprentice. Apparently the Apprentice Pillar he created was so exquisitely carved that the mason jealously murdered him. The worn head on the side wall to the left is his grieving mother. The ceiling The spectacular ceiling vault is decorated with engraved roses, lilies and stars; look for the sun and moon. Rosslyn Chapel and The Da Vinci Code When Dan Brown chose Rosslyn Chapel as the setting for the climax of his best-selling novel The Da Vinci Code, he was referencing its alleged links to the Knights Templar and the Freemasons. Templar and Masonic symbols can be found among the carvings, and a descendant of its founder, William St Clair, was a Grand Master Mason. Rosslyn is indeed a coded work, written in stone, but its meaning depends on your point of view. See The Rosslyn Hoax? by Robert LD Cooper for an alternative interpretation of the chapel’s symbolism. Visiting Rosslyn Chapel Visits are by 90-minute timeslot only and must be booked in advance online. The chapel is owned by the Scottish Episcopal Church and services are still held here on Sunday mornings. The chapel is on the eastern edge of the village of Roslin, 7 miles south of Edinburgh's center. Lothian Bus 37 to Penicuik Deanburn runs from Edinburgh's West End to Roslin.

  • Top ChoiceSights in The West End

    Buckingham Palace

    Built in 1703 for the Duke of Buckingham, Buckingham Palace replaced St James's Palace as the monarch's official London residence in 1837. Queen Elizabeth II divides her time between here, Windsor Castle and, in summer, Balmoral Castle in Scotland. If she’s in residence, the square yellow, red and blue Royal Standard is flown; if not, it's the Union Flag. The 19 lavishly furnished State Rooms are open to visitors when Her Majesty is on vacation from mid-July to September. The State Rooms inside Buckingham Palace The self-guided tour starts in the Grand Hall at the foot of the monumental Grand Staircase, commissioned by King George IV in 1828. It takes in architect John Nash's Italianate Green Drawing Room, the State Dining Room (all red damask and Regency furnishings), the Blue Drawing Room (which has a gorgeous fluted ceiling by Nash) and the White Drawing Room, where foreign ambassadors are received. Admission includes entry to a themed special exhibition (royal couture during the Queen's reign, growing up at the palace etc) in the enormous Ballroom, built between 1853 and 1855, and these displays are often the main reason for a visit. The Throne Room is rather anticlimactic, with his-and-her pink chairs monogrammed "ER" and "P". The Palace Garden Wandering the gardens is another highlight of a visit to Buckingham Palace – in addition to admiring some of the 350 or so species of flowers and plants and listening to the many birds, you’ll get beautiful views of the palace and a peek at its famous lake. Picnics are allowed, but with some restrictions. Tickets and other practicalities Buckingham Palace is open to visitors in the summer months when the Queen is on vacation. It can also sometimes be visited in winter (December to February), but only on select days. Entry is by timed ticket, which is best booked online in advance. The self-guided tour, using excellent audio-guide commentary, takes about two hours. Security is airport-style and unsurprisingly strict. Large bags are not permitted inside. Ask staff to stamp your ticket before you leave for free access for a year. The State Rooms are fully accessible, but it's a long tour involving lots of standing and with few places to sit down. Have a snack and use the toilet before you enter. There's a cafe and toilets but only at the end of the tour, and it's not easy to get there and then back to where you left off. The closest Underground stations to Buckingham Palace are Green Park on the Piccadilly, Victoria and Jubilee Lines and St James's Park on the District and Circle Lines. Changing of the Guard If you're not able to tour the Palace itself, you may want to see the pageantry of soldiers in red uniforms and bearskin hats parading down the Mall and into Buckingham Palace. The 45-minute Changing of the Guard ceremony swaps out the Old Guard (Foot Guards of the Household Regiment) with the New Guard on the forecourt, and ends with a full military band. The pomp and circumstance can feel far away when you're near the back trying to watch through a forest of selfie sticks, so get here at least 45 minutes before the main event. It's free to attend – check the calendar online as the ceremony is sometimes cancelled due to bad weather or road closures.