London Neighbourhoods: Things to Do in Westminster

By Megan Hills

From art to politics, here's some great things to do in Westminster

As the political beating heart of the English capital, it follows that Westminster is one of the most important neighbourhoods in the UK. With Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament standing proudly (and frequently visited by tourists), there's a few other fascinating things to do in Westminster that go beyond the quintessential shot of Big Ben.

Houses of Parliament

If you take the tube to Westminster tube, emerging from the underground station is nothing short of magical as the Houses of Parliament slowly come into focus. This grand, imposing structure is the heart and soul of British politics and every day massive decisions about the future of the country are made. While security has tightened up exponentially in recent months, you can join a guided tour if you book early enough. Don't forget to take the quintessential tourist shot in front of Big Ben, which stands over the main hub.

Westminster Abbey

This gigantic Gothic church is one that has dominated public imagination, with events such as Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding taking place here and capturing the hearts of people all over the world. Every year, more than a million people pass through its doors and pay homage to its long history and stunning architecture - out of place now in modern, metropolitan London. With over 700 years of service steeped in its halls, famous British figures such as Charles Dickens, Geoffrey Chaucer, Charles Darwin and Dr. Samuel Johnson are buried here. London Pass holders receive free entry to Westminster Abbey.

River Thames

Westminster borders the River Thames, the main artery of the English capital. There's no better way to see London than to hop onboard a Thames River Cruise as many of the city's landmarks line the riverbanks - starting off at Westminster Pier, you'll be able to see the Houses of Parliament, Tower of London, Shakespeare's Globe and more along the water. With four different hop on and hop off locations, you'll be able to take your time and really get to know London both by boat and on foot. London Pass holders are eligible for a free 24 hour hop on hop off boat tour pass.

Churchill War Rooms

Step into the past at the Churchill War Rooms, the basement headquarters for Prime Minister Winston Churchill and his war cabinet. Created in the wake of World War One, the lights were first turned on just a week before Britain declared war on Germany in World War Two. Over one hundred meetings were held here to decide the fate of Britain's military strategy and now it serves as an exhibition following Britain's involvement in the war as well as Churchill and his legacy. London Pass holders receive free entry to Churchill War Rooms.

Queens Gallery

While you might not be able to freely explore Buckingham Palace, the Queens Gallery will take you into its vicinity to see the royal collection of artwork. The Gallery isn't big enough to hold the wide collection of the royals' artworks and 450 pieces are rotated here, with special dedicated exhibitions to exceptional artists such as Canaletto.

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London's Month of The Dead Returns

To celebrate the season of spooky, London's Month of the Dead returns this October! Halloween is almost upon us and to celebrate all things ghoulish and ghastly the British capital will be hosting an entire month of macabre events to celebrate London's Month of the Dead. Throughout October, cemeteries, streets, mausoleums and museums will be buzzing with spooky activities, from taxidermy workshops and ghost walks to guided tours, talks and more. If you're a lover of the weird and wonderful, this is right up your street! And what's more, we've picked some of our favourite events happening around the city... via GIPHY Wonderful Workshops This year's London Month of the Dead are taking taxidermy to the next level with a range of workshops being held through the month. If you're into taking the macabre from the crafting table to the coffee table, you will definitely want to sign up to one of these. Learn the process and techniques of traditional taxidermy, go rogue and create your own Frankenstein-esque creature or make a beautiful butterfly display; it's all happening this October! Talks and Tours From moonlit tours through London's cemeteries to discussions about the undead and more, there's something for everyone at London's Month of the Dead. Discover the architecture of some of the city's most opulent mausoleums, learn about the art of gothic cinema, go underground and tour the crypts and charnel houses of the past, introduce yourself to London's ghosts and hear the stories from London's historic Brompton cemetery. Creepy Concerts In keeping with the weird and wonderful theme, you can expect musical performances with a difference at London's Month of the Dead celebrations. Immerse yourself and activate your senses at a candlelit concert in Brompton cemetery, be enchanted by a 19th century magic lantern performance and be transfixed by an eerie, ghost-like theremin concert by candlelight With so much going on, it's easy to get into the scary spirit in the lead up to Halloween. Thanks to the many events at London's Month of the Dead, you'll be well-versed in all things morbid and macabre by the end of October!
Vanessa Teo
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BODY WORLDS London: FAQs

What is BODY WORLDS London? It’s the London outpost of the world-famous BODY WORLDS exhibition, a display of real human bodies. Part anatomical adventure, part inspiring lesson on lifestyle, part shock and awe attraction. However you want to classify it, BODY WORLDS London is one of the most popular new attractions to set up shop in the capital for years. A display of real human bodies? Yes. The bodies and body parts have been treated using a process called plastination, which fills cells with polymers, preserving the body and allowing for its manipulation into different positions, revealing multiple aspects of what lies beneath our skin. Some exhibits show just one of the body’s systems or organs, others the whole thing. Some are manipulated into different poses to reveal how activities affect our interiors, others were selected to highlight how contrasting lifestyles leave their marks on our insides. By displaying the human body in such a way—in action, strikingly positioned and dissected in a way you won’t have seen before—BODY WORLDS London makes our anatomical structure and biological processes easy to understand. By seeing ourselves outside of ourselves, the exhibition makes discussions of biology, health and wellbeing more relatable and relevant, potent and real. Is it morbid? To some, possibly. But to the majority of visitors, BODY WORLDS London is an inspiring exhibition. It encourages you to get active, look after yourself, respect your body and consider your potential. It encourages you to think about your place in the world, your humanity, our shared humanity. BODY WORLDS London shows us the marvellousness in each of us, the complexities and the similarities and the differences that lie underneath our skin, encouraging visitors to respect each other a little more even. Yes, it can be shocking and yes the bodies on displays are bodies that have stopped working. But the educational motivation behind the exhibition soon becomes apparent and it’s clear that BODY WORLDS London aims to inspire a positive, constructive philosophical response, rather than simply giggles or gasps or walkouts. BODY WORLDS London conducted a survey to assess visitor responses to the exhibition. They found that 68% of visitors wanted to lead a healthier lifestyle after seeing the exhibition. 25% took up more sports and activities after leaving. 9% consumed less alcohol and smoked less. 33% started on a healthier diet. What will I see at BODY WORLDS London? Bodies dissected and displayed in extraordinary ways. You’ll see them posed as though playing sports, riding a horse, jumping, sitting, playing cards and having sex. Each has been plastinated to preserve different aspects of their insides, such as the bones, the brain, the nervous, digestive and circulatory systems. In total there are over 200 anatomical specimens at BODY WORLDS London. The exhibition comes divided into separate themed zones. One section shows the development of the human body, another what the insides of ill bodies look like, how they differ from healthy ones. Accompanying all of this is a wealth of information in video, audio and written form, as well as a number of interactive elements. You get a free full body scan which tells you the make up of your body, allowing you to make changes that will improve your health and fitness. There’s an audio guide included with the ticket price too. Does BODY WORLDS London host any special events? Yes, a number of special events are held at BODY WORLDS London. These include artist days for those who want to sketch or paint the plastinate bodies, kid tours with a medical professional and a number of themed late openings. Artist days are on the first Friday of the month, the Junior Doctor kids tours are every Sunday from 14.30 and lates are on the last Friday of the month. Is it suitable for kids? Yes it is. BODY WORLDS London comes recommended for kids aged six and over. However, this is just a guideline, the thinking being that those aged six and over will get the most from the exhibits. Kids under six are definitely welcome, but it’s up to the individual parent or guardian’s discretion. How much is entry? Adults (judged by these biologists to be those 16 and over...) get in for £25, kids (15 and down) for £18, students and the over 65s for £22.50, those aged five and under get in free. If you come as a group of ten or more, you get 10% off, and family discounts are also available. Of this is for on the day bookings. You can shave a couple of quid off if you book online in advance. However, entry to BODY WORLDS London comes included with The London Pass. When is BODY WORLDS London open? It’s open a whopping 365 days a year. You literally cannot be open any more days than that. And on those 365 days a year, it is open from 10.00 until 17.00. How do I get to there? It’s located at 1 Piccadilly Circus and is very hard to miss. It is big and is advertised with bright pink lettering. If you’re traveling by London Underground, head to Piccadilly Station, which is served by both the Piccadilly and Bakerloo lines. You’ll want to head out of Exit 4. By rail, go to Charing Cross Station, which is around a 12 minute walk from BODY WORLDS London. Is there a gift shop at BODY WORLDS London? Yes, there is a gift shop at BODY WORLDS London. You don’t need a ticket to enter the gift shop. Filled with a vast selection of toys, souvenirs, books, decorations and jewellery the gift shop is ready for a big old browse. What about a cafe? Yes, there’s a cafe too, ideal for the first meal of your brand new healthy eating regime. That's our guide to one of the best new attractions to arrive in London in recent years. Let us know what you think of it in the comments box below. Any other anatomically-obsessed attractions taken your fancy recently? Let us know those too. You will probably need a few facts before you head to an attraction as detailed and involved as this. So bone up here.
Matthew Pearson

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