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London 2012: tourist hotspots in the Olympic host city

travel Updated: Jul 02, 2012 13:54 IST
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The Olympics (July 27 to August 12) are a great opportunity to discover or rediscover the British capital and its various tourist draws. Here's a selection of the top places to visit while you're there.

Big Ben
Jutting out of the Thames' riverbank between Westminster Bridge and Westminster Abbey, Big Ben rings its bells every 15 minutes.

Tower of London
London's historical castle, named after its central tower, was built in the 11th century on the banks of the Thames, and hid an infamous dungeon.

Tower Bridge
Built in the late 19th century, this iconic symbol of London is a bascule and suspension bridge located between the districts of Southwark and Tower Hamlets, near the Tower of London.

Westminster Abbey
This mainly Gothic church was built under the reign of Henry III, and it has since played a prominent role in the lives and deaths of English royalty: it is the traditional venue for coronation ceremonies and doubles as the resting place for generations of Kings and Queens.

Buckingham Palace
Monarchs call it "home," and tourists flock to its forecourt several times a day to witness the Changing of the Guard.

London Eye
The largest Ferris wheel in Europe provides breathtaking views over the Thames and the sprawling British Capital. It takes about 30 minutes to complete the full rotation, and the standard tickets start at £15 (roughly 20 euros).

Trafalgar Square
London's most famous square was named after the Napoleonic Wars' battle of Trafalgar (1805). You'll find plenty of statues there. Trafalgar Square is also used by Londoners as a location for public celebrations such as New Year's Eve.

Piccadilly Circus
Located in the London's vibrant West End, Piccadilly Circus is chock-full of shops and entertainment venues.

Oxford Street
With roughly 300 shops lined up on its pavements, it's the busiest shopping street in Europe. It also ranks as one of the longest in the world (1.5 miles / 2.4 km).

London's poshest department store is located on Brompton Road, in Knightsbridge.

Camden Market

The fourth most popular tourist attraction in London is actually made up of several adjoining markets, selling all sorts of goods, such as crafts, food, clothes, and bric-a-brac. It's a great place to witness the cultural diversity of the British capital.

Saint Paul's Cathedral
Located in the heart of the City, Saint Paul's Cathedral was erected in the 17th and 18th centuries by English architect Christopher Wren.

Canary Wharf
London's other financial district (the first being the City) covers 7,900,000 square feet (730,000 m2) and is located in London's east side on the banks of the Thames. It contains three of the country's tallest skyscrapers: One Canada Square, 8 Canada Square and 25 Canada Square.