Buckingham Palace illuminated for Christmas Eve 2003
St James's is the region of Central London that encompasses Buckingham Palace, and the Palace of Westminster. It's a very affluent area of the city, and has a great deal to offer visitors. The entire district is of interest to travellers. Although no one area can claim it is the center of the district, a good place to start is Parliament Square.
- St James's Park (Circle and District line).
- Westminster (Circle, District and Jubilee line) for Parliament Square.
- Westminster Millennium Pier . You can take a circular cruise.
- Westminster Abbey, Parliament Square (nearest tube: Westminster), ☎ +44 (0)20 72225152 ([email protected]), . M-F 9:30am-3:45pm, W 9:30pm-7pm, Sa 9:30am-1:45pm, Su closed except for worship. The site of the coronation of every British monarch since William I in 1066, and the site of numerous significant events in British history - the funeral services of Princess Diana (wedding of Diana and Charles was at St Paul's Cathedral) took place here. Well worth the admission fee for the stunning architecture and incredible sense of history. Adult £10, concession £7.
- Whitehall, (nearest tube: Westminster, Charing Cross). This street runs between Parliament Square and Trafalgar Square, and is the site of several British government buildings. Horseguards Parade, and the heavily guarded entrance to Downing Street (see below) are on the west side. Banqueting House is on the east side. In the centre of the street sits the Cenotaph - a war memorial erected following the World War I, which is the centre of the annual Remembrance Day ceremony on 11 Nov.
- Downing Street, (nearest tube: Westminster), . Closed to the public. The official London residence of the Prime Minister Gordon Brown (number 10) and the Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling (number 11). In recent years many Britons have visited the website to sign e-petitions, some of which have over 250 000 signatures.
- St James' Park, . It is possible to go for a long walk via Green Park and Hyde Park to Kensington Gardens in West central London.
- Green Park, . 16 hectares of landscaped beauty.
- Cabinet War Rooms, King Charles Street (nearest tube: Westminster), ☎ +44 (0)20 79306961 ([email protected]), . Daily 9.30am-5pm. A branch of the Imperial War Museum, the Cabinet War Rooms preserves the underground corridors and rooms from which Churchill and his cabinet directed the war against Hitler and Nazi Germany, maintained almost exactly as they were left in 1945. Adult £12, concession £9.50, child under 16 free.
- Falkland Islands Government Office, 14 Broadway (tube: Westminster), ☎ +44 (0)20 72222542 ([email protected]). M-F 9AM-5:30PM. Sometimes exhibits interesting Falkland Islands related art and photography. Free.
- Tate Britain, Millbank (nearest tube: Pimlico), ☎ +44 (0)20 78878888 ([email protected]), . Daily 10am-5:50pm. This gallery houses the Tate collection of British art from 1500 through to contemporary art. A side wing collects together the gallery's collection of paintings by Turner, including some stunning seascapes. Temporary exhibitions are exceedingly varied - recent examples include exhibitions of Turner's paintings of Venice and the work of photographer Wolfgang Tillmans. The best known exhibition is the Turner Prize, consists of works by four artists shortlisted for the annual contemporary art prize, which runs from October to January each year. Also see: Tate Modern. Free.
- Westminster Cathedral, 42 Francis Street (tube: Victoria), ☎ +44 (0)20 77989055, . An impressive early Byzantine style Catholic church, comprising of an interior of over a hundred dfferent types of marbles.
The main residence of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (reigned since 1952, coronated 1953). Other residences are Sandringham House and Balmoral Castle.
- Changing of the Guard. May-Jul 2008 daily 11:30AM, other times see website. Each morning between May and July at 11:30am the guard changes outside Buckingham Palace. The rest of the year, the guard changes on alternate days, weather permitting. A board is placed outside the palace in the morning to say whether the Changing of the Guard ceremony will take place or not. There is no charge to view the Changing of the Guard - simply turn up and stand at the fence in front of the Palace - but it's worth getting there early to ensure a good view, particularly when the weather is fine. Free.
- Summer Opening. 31 Jul-29 Sep 2008 9:45AM-3:45PM. 19 State Rooms open to the public, while the Queen is staying at her Scottish palace at Balmoral. Places are strictly limited, and it might not be possible to just turn up and get a ticket for a specific entry time - visitors should really book in advance to ensure admission. £8.75-£15.50.
Palace of Westminster
Parliament Square (tube: Westminster), .
On the UNESCO World Heritage List, the Palace of Westminster (more widely known as the Houses of Parliament) is the seat of Parliament in the United Kingdom. The House of Commons (elected Members of Parliament or MPs) is located to the north of the building and is decorated with green leather upholstery, and the House of Lords (unelected Lords) is located to the south and decorated with red leather upholstery.
- Visiting while the Houses are in session. While the house is sitting (most of the year), visitors can sit in the Strangers' Gallery of the Commons and Lords. There is no charge to do this. You should queue at St Stephen's Entrance (opposite Westminster Abbey). Depending on the popularity of debates happening in the Houses, queueing for admission can take 30min or more. If you do not wish to visit the Commons, then tell one of the police officers standing guard outside that you only wish to see the House of Lords, and you should be able to enter immediately. Upon entry, you pass through a metal detector, and are very thoroughly searched. You then proceed into St Stephen's Hall, where you are seated to wait for admission. A representative of the Serjeant-at-Arms gives you a slip of paper to write your name and address on.
- House of Commons Strangers' Gallery. When called, you proceed from St Stephen's Hall to the Central Hall, and then upstairs. You must leave all items (bags, cameras, mobile phones, writing and written material) outside and then proceed through to the Strangers' Gallery. Upon entry, you can pick up a copy of the proceedings being discussed in the House that day. You should be quiet - anything above a whisper may lead to you being asked to leave. After leaving the Commons, you head back down to the Central Hall.
- House of Lords Strangers' Gallery. If you head away from the Commons, you pass along a corridor towards the Lords. If you ask to visit the Strangers' Gallery, a representative of Black Rod asks you to complete another slip of paper with your name and address. You then proceed up a staircase to the Lords Strangers' Gallery. Again, all items need to be left outside. Of the two chambers, the Lords is by far the most impressive, featuring the stunning throne (opposite the Strangers' Gallery) upon which the Queen delivers a speech outlining the Government's plans for the year ahead at the State Opening each year. Also, the queue for the Lords is always very short.
- Westminster Hall. After visiting the two Houses, visitors pass back through St Stephen's Hall, and through Westminster Hall. Westminster Hall is one of the few areas of Parliament in which photography is permitted - and it is a very impressive place, dating back to the 9th century. Plaques on the floor mark where the bodies of deceased members of the royal family lay in state (most recently the Queen Mother in 2002), and significant events which took place in the hall (such as the trial of King Charles I).
- Summer Opening, ☎ 0870 9063773, . 28 Jul-27 Sep 2008 M-Sa. While the Houses are in recess, the Palace of Westminster is generally closed - apart from the long Summer recess, during which tours are run through the building, led by Parliamentary employees. Popularity of these tours means you're best advised to book in advance - a stall erected on the green opposite the Palace of Westminster on Millbank sells tickets in the Summer. £7.
- Clock Tower (Big Ben), . Strictly limited numbers of tickets are available to climb the Clock Tower (containing Big Ben). British visitors should write to their Member of Parliament to request tickets. Unfortunately there are no tours for overseas visitors. Free.
Victoria Street has high-street shops.
- Cardinal Place, Victoria Street (tube: Victoria, St James's Park), . High-street shops for example Marks & Spencer and a selection of chain restaurants.
- National Map Centre, 22-24 Caxton Street (tube: Westminster), ☎ +44 (0)20 7222246 ([email protected]). M-F 9AM-5PM. Fantastic for maps and guide books.
- Circus, 1 Upper James St, ☎ 7534 4000. A popular haunt for theatre goers, this French bistro serves food as authenic as you would find on the other side of the Channel.
- Inn the Park, St James's Park (nearest tube: St James's Park), ☎ +44 (0)20 74519999 ([email protected]), .
- Quaglinos, 16 Bury St, ☎ 7930 6767. Owned by famed desiger Terence Conrad, it serves standard food with a men that changes frequently. It features live jazz every night and on Sunday lunch.
There are a large number of excellent pubs in the St James's area of Westminster.
- The Albert, Victoria Street. A nice (but often crowded) traditional pub, dating back to the 1860s, named in honour of Queen Victoria's husband. Portraits of British prime ministers (many of them signed) hang on the stairwell, and Chelsea pensioners (British war veterans) can often be seen propping up the bar.
- The Elusive Camel Victoria (The Camel), 27 Gillingham Street, ☎ 0871 984 1229; 020 7233 9004 ([email protected]), . Popular with a young and sporty crowd, with a game always on screen, it's a great place to have a drink and cheer your favorite team..
- The Red Lion, Whitehall (half way between Parliament Square and 10 Downing Street). A good place to see politicians and political commentators. The pub television shows (muted) debates from the House of Commons, and division bell rings here to summon Members of Parliament to vote on important issues in Parliament.
- Cardinal Place, Victoria Street (tube: Victoria, St James's Park), . A selection of chain restaurants.
Lots of small B&Bs around the back of Victoria railway station, in the Pimlico area.
- The Wellington, (tube: Victoria), . Quiet area. £30 single room shared toilet and shower.
- The Grosvenor, Buckingham Palace Road (tube: Victoria), ☎ 0871 3769038 ([email protected]), . Handily located next door to Victoria railway and tube station.
- Luna & Simone Hotel, 47/49 Belgrave Road (tube: Pimlico, Victoria), ☎ +44 (0)20 78345897 ([email protected]), . Small yet comfortable hotel with friendly staff. Double en-suite £70-90, single basic £35-45.
The following are nearer the Palace of Westminster:
- Jolly Hotel St Ermin's, Caxton Street (tube: Westminster, Victoria), ☎ +44 (0)20 72227888 ([email protected]), . With Edwardian style architecture, the Jolly Hotel stands out from its modern competitors. With small but charmingly decorated rooms, the Jolly is also in a convenient location near Westminister Abbey.
- Sanctuary House Hotel, 33 Tothill Street (tube: Westminster), ☎ +44 (0)20 77994044 ([email protected]), . Greeting guests with fresh pots of coffee, service is granted with a smile at this historic hotel. Located metres away from Westminister Abbey.
- The Ritz, 150 Picadilly, London, ☎ 748 9536. Synonymous with decadence, after a recent renovation, the Ritz is far more grander and luxurious than it ever was. Many rooms have marble fireplaces, original brass beds and a decor of soft hues. Well worth the splurge.
- The Welington, . Located in quiet area. Rate includes simple breakfast. Internet access available. 10 minutes from Victoria Station. £30 single room.
- The Wellington, . Rate includes breakfast £30 single room.
- St. James’s Hotel & Club, 7-8 Park Place, St James’s SW1A 1LP, ☎ 44 (0) / 207 316 - 1600, . checkout: 12. A luxury Townhouse hotel in London aims to provide the highest standards of hospitality and service in central London. Located just off St. James’s Street in London, near Mayfair (51.506765,-0.140590)
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