The Wembley Stadium arch
Robert Harding World Imagery/Alamy
When the monarchy throws a big party, its members usually gather on a well-known Buckingham Palace balcony and do the royal wave for a throng of assembled commoners. The road just outside the gates that stretches all the way to Trafalgar Square is the Mall, and it’s where the Olympic marathon, racewalking and cycling competitions will be held. If you’re in town during a state visit, expect to see the queen ride by in a fancy carriage while British flags flutter everywhere.
Football (soccer) is a religion in England, and the faithful will gather at new Wembley Stadium for the men’s and women’s Olympic gold-medal matches. You may not be able to take the field with Abby Wambach, Hope Solo and the rest of the U.S. women’s team, but you can take an unforgettable tour of this magnificent sports cathedral.
A regiment of mounted soldiers has been guarding the monarchy since 1660, and the soldiers put on a changing-of-the-guards show for tourists at the Horse Guards Parade. But for the Olympics, the parade grounds turn into the beach-volleyball venue. Either way, it’s a great starting point to begin a tour of London’s Whitehall area, the heart of British government.
A minute’s walk away is where Winston Churchill directed Britain’s effort in World War II. Descend into the warren that is the Churchill War Rooms museum for a slightly claustrophobic glimpse into history, and imagine what it must be like to work while bombs are falling on the streets above you. The War Cabinet Room is exactly as Churchill left it on V-E Day.
Their Royal Highnesses Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, following their marriage at Westminster Abbey on April 29, 2011.
Big Ben and Parliament cast a long shadow (literally and figuratively) nearby, and the bobbies are so friendly that they willingly oblige when an American teenager asks to pose with one for a photo. Nice chaps, indeed.
Royal-wedding fever has cooled now that Kate Middleton and Prince William have been married for more than a year, but you can walk down the same aisle that they did when they tied the royal knot at Westminster Abbey. Stay outside and marvel at the church’s beautifully Gothic western facade, or head inside and see where Oliver Cromwell, Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin are buried.
Not every hotel can boast an 80-foot-long bar, but not every hotel is the Sanderson. Walk into the lobby and be greeted by an eye-popping sofa designed to look like a pair of ruby-red lips. Then enjoy the hotel’s airy, chic ambience, which extends to the very appropriately named Long Bar. You’ll want to try the whimsical Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea in the Courtyard Garden, if only so you can legitimately use that phrase in a sentence afterward.