Westminster

WESTMINSTER ABBEY Map pp96-7

@ 7222 5152; www.westminster-abbey.org; Dean's Yard SW1; adult/child/concession £10/free/6; S 9.30am-3.45pm Mon-Fri, to 6pm Wed, to 1.45pm Sat, last entry 1hr before dosing; -e- Westminster; ®

Westminster Abbey is such an important commemoration site for both the British royalty and the nation's political and artistic idols, it's difficult to overstress its symbolic value or imagine its equivalent anywhere else in the world. With the exception of Edward V and Edward VIII, every sovereign has been crowned here since William the Conqueror in 1066, and most of the mon-archs from Henry III (died 1272) to George II (died 1760) were also buried here.

There is an extraordinary amount to see here but, unless you enjoy feeling like part of a herd, come very early or very late.

The abbey is a magnificent sight. Though a mixture of architectural styles, it is considered the finest example of Early English Gothic (1180-1280). The original church was built in the 11th century by King (later St) Edward the Confessor, who is buried in the chapel behind the main altar. Henry III (r 1216-72) began work on the new building but didn't complete it; the French Gothic nave was finished in 1388. Henry Vll's huge and magnificent chapel was added in 1519. Unlike St Paul's, Westminster Abbey has never been a cathedral - it is what is called a 'royal peculiar' and is administered directly by the Crown.

It is perhaps more impressive from outside than within. The interior is chock-a-block with small chapels, elaborate tombs

THE WEST END: MAYFAIR & MARYLEBONE

See North London Map p166

Euston'

Baker St

Matylebone La

See West London Map

Mayfair of monarchy, and monuments to various luminaries down through the ages. And, as you might expect for one of the most visited churches in Christendom, it can get intolerably busy.

Immediately past the barrier through the north door is what's known as Statesmen's Aisle, where politicians and eminent public figures are commemorated mostly by staggeringly large marble statues. The

Whig and Tory prime ministers who dominated late Victorian politics, Gladstone (who is buried here) and Disraeli (who is not), have their monuments uncomfortably close to one another. Nearby is a monument to Robert Peel, who, as home secretary in 1829, created the Metropolitan Police force. Robert's policemen became known as 'Bobby's boys' and later, simply, 'bobbies'.

INFORMATION

American Embassy 1 C4

Canadian Consulate 2 C4

easyEverything 3 B2

easyEverything 4 C3

SIGHTS (pp99,105-107)

All Souls Church 5 D2

Broadcasting House 6 D2

Handel House Museum 7 D4

Madame Tussauds S B1

Sherlock Holmes Museum 9 B1

Wallace Collection 10 C3

SHOPPING Q (pp215-34)

Burberry 11 D4

Butler & Wilson 12 D4

Cath Kidston 13 C2

Conran Shop 14 C1

Daunt Books 15 C2

Debenhams 16 D3

French Connection UK 17 C3

Garrard 18 D4

Ginger Pig 19 C2

Jigsaw 20 D4

John Lewis 21 D3

Kurt Geiger 22 D4

Marks & Spencer 23 C3

Marylebone Farmers' Market..(see 39) Miss Selfridge 24 D3

Mulberry 25 D4

Paul Smith Sale Shop 26 D4

Poste 27 D4

Pringle 28 D4

Selfridges 29 C3

Shoon 30 C2

Skandium 31 C2

Stella McCartney 32 D4

Wright & Teague 33 D5

EATING ffl (pp235-75)

Golden Hind (see 50)

Gordon Ramsay at Claridge's..(see 59)

Greenhouse 35 D5

La Fromagerie 36 C2

Le Pain Quotidien 37 C2

Locanda Locatelli 38 B3

Marylebone Farmers' Market 39 C2

Ping Pong 40 C2

Providores & Tapa Room 41 C2

Quiet Revolution 42 C2

Reubens 43 B2

Seashell of Lisson Grove 44 A1

Six 13 45 D3

Stara Polska 46 C2

Taman Gang 47 B4

Villandry 48 D2

Wagamama 49 C3

Wallace (see 10)

Woodlands 50 C2

DRINKING OQ (pp277-96)

Guinea 51 D4

Moose Bar 52 C3

Salt Whisky Bar 53 A3

ARTS[3 (pp311-21)

Curzon Mayfair 54 D5

Wigmore Hall 55 D3

SPORTS & ACTIVITIES (pp323-29)

Elemis Day Spa 56 D4

Seymour Leisure Centre 57 A2

Chesterfield 58 D5

Claridge's 59 D4

Cumberland Hotel 60 B4

Dorchester 61 C5

Dorset Square Hotel 62 B1

Durrants Hotel 63 C2

Edward Lear Hotel 64 B3

Glynne Court Hotel 65 B3

Hotel La Place 66 C2

International Students House 67 D1

Leonard Hotel 68 B3

Mandeville 69 C3

Parkwood Hotel 70 A4

Sumner Hotel 71 A3

At the eastern end of the sanctuary, opposite the entrance to the Henry VII Chapel, is the rather ordinary-looking Coronation Chair, upon which almost every monarch since the late 13th century is said to have been crowned. Up the steps in front of you and to your left is the narrow Queen Elizabeth Chapel, where Elizabeth I and her half-sister 'Bloody Mary' share an elaborate tomb.

The Henry VII Chapel, in the easternmost part of the abbey, has spectacular circular vaulting on the ceiling. Behind the chapel's altar is the elaborate sarcophagus of Henry VII and his queen, Elizabeth of York.

Beyond the chapel's altar is the Royal Air Force (RAF) Chapel, with a stained-glass window commemorating the force's finest hour, the Battle of Britain. Next to it, a plaque marks the spot where Oliver Cromwell's body lay for two years until the Restoration, when it was disinterred, hanged and beheaded. The bodies believed to be those of the two child princes (allegedly) murdered in the Tower of London in 1483 are buried here. The chapel's southern aisle contains the tomb of Mary Queen of Scots, beheaded on the orders of her cousin Elizabeth and with the acquiescence of her son, the future James I.

The Chapel of St Edward the Confessor, the most sacred spot in the abbey, lies just east of the sanctuary and behind the high altar; ac cess may be restricted to protect the 13th-century floor. St Edward was the founder of the abbey and the original building was consecrated a few weeks before his death. His tomb was slightly altered after the original was destroyed during the Reformation.

The south transept contains Poets'Corner, where many of England's finest writers are buried and/or commemorated; a memorial here is the highest honour the Queen can bestow. Just north is the Lantern, the heart of the abbey, where coronations take place. If you face eastwards while standing in the centre, the sanctuary is in front of you. George Gilbert Scott designed the ornate high altar in 1897. Behind you, Edward Blore's chancel, dating from the mid-19th century, is a breathtaking structure of gold, blue and red Victorian Gothic. Where monks once worshipped, boys from the Choir School and lay vicars now sing the daily services.

The entrance to the Cloister is 13th century, while the cloister itself dates from the 14th. Eastwards down a passageway off the Cloister are three museums run by English Heritage. The octagonal Chapter House (S 9.30a m-5pm Apr-Sep, 10am-5pm Oct, 10am-4pm Nov-Mar) has one of Europe's best-preserved medieval tile floors and retains traces of religious murals. It was used as a meeting place by the House of Commons in the second half of the 14th century. To the right of the entrance to Chapel House is what is claimed to be the oldest door in the UK -it's been there 950 years. The adjacent Pyx Chamber (S 10am-4.30pm) is one of the few remaining relics of the original abbey and contains the abbey's treasures and liturgical objects. The Abbey Museum (S 10.30am-4pm) exhibits the death masks of generations of royalty, wax effigies representing Charles II and William III (who is on a stool to make him as tall as his wife Mary), as well as armour and stained glass.

To reach the 900-year-old College Garden (S 10am-6pm Tue-Thu Apr-Sep, to 4pm Tue-Thu Oct-Mar), enter Dean's Yard and the Little Cloisters off Great College St.

On the western side of the cloister is Scientists' Corner, where you will find Sir Isaac Newton's tomb; a nearby section of the northern aisle of the nave is known as Musicians' Aisle.

The two towers above the west door are the ones through which you exit. These were designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor and completed in 1745. Just above the door, perched in 15th-century niches, are the latest sacred additions to the abbey: 10 stone statues of international 20th-century martyrs. These were unveiled in 1998 and they include the likes of Martin Luther King and the Polish priest St Maximilian Kolbe, who was murdered by the Nazis at Auschwitz.

To the right as you exit is a memorial to innocent victims of oppression, violence and war around the world. 'All you who pass by, is it nothing to you?' it asks poignantly.

There are 90-minute guided tours (§§ 7222 7110; £5) that leave several times during the day (Monday to Saturday) and limited audi-oguide tours (£4). One of the best ways to visit the abbey is to attend a service, particularly evensong (5pm weekdays, 3pm at weekends). Sunday Eucharist is at 11am.

HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT Map PP96-7

@ 7219 4272; www.parliament.uk; St Stephen's Entrance, St Margaret St SW1; admission free; S during Parliamentary sessions 2.30-10.30pm Mon, 11.30am-7pm Tue & Wed, 11.30am-6.30pm Thu,9.30am-3pm Fri; -e- Westminster; ® The House of Commons and House of Lords are housed here in the sumptuous Palace of Westminster. Charles Barry, assisted by interior designer Augustus Pugin, built it between 1840 and 1860, when the extravagant neo-Gothic style was all the rage. The most famous feature outside the palace is the Clock Tower, commonly known as Big Ben. Ben is the bell hanging inside and is named after Benjamin Hall, the commissioner of works when the tower was completed in 1858. If you're very keen (and a UK resident) you can apply in writing for a free tour of the Clock Tower (see the website). Thirteen-tonne Ben has rung in the New Year since 1924, and the clock gets its hands and face washed by abseiling cleaners once every five years. The best view of the whole complex is from the eastern side of Lambeth Bridge. At the opposite end of the building is Victoria Tower, completed in 1860.

The House of Commons is where Members of Parliament (MPs) meet to propose and discuss new legislation, to grill the prime minister and other ministers, and to get their mugs on TV to show their constituents they are actually working. Watching a debate is not terribly exciting unless it's Prime Minister's Question Time, for which you will have to book advance tickets through your MP or local British embassy.

The layout of the Commons Chamber is based on that of St Stephen's Chapel in the original Palace of Westminster. The current chamber, designed by Giles Gilbert Scott, replaced the earlier one destroyed by a 1941 bomb. Although the Commons is a national assembly of 646 MPs, the chamber has seating for only 437. Government members sit to the right of the Speaker and Opposition members to the left. The Speaker presides over business from a chair given by Australia, while ministers speak from a despatch box donated by New Zealand.

When Parliament is in session, visitors are admitted to the House of Commons Visitors'Gallery via St Stephen's Entrance. Expect to queue for an hour or two if you haven't already organised a ticket. Parliamentary recesses (ie holidays) last for three months over the summer and a couple of weeks over Easter and Christmas, so it's best to ring in advance. To find out what's being debated on a particular day, check the notice board posted beside the entrance, or look in the Daily Telegraph or the freebie Metro newspaper under 'Today in Parliament', though it has to be said that the debates leave a lot to be desired both in terms of attendance and enthusiasm. Bags and cameras must be checked at a cloakroom before you enter the gallery and no large suitcases or backpacks are allowed through the airport-style security gate.

After campaign group 'Fathers 4 Justice' lobbed a condom full of purple powder at Tony Blair in May 2004 and prohunt campaigners broke into the Commons that September, security was further tightened, and a bulletproof screen now sits between members of the public and the debating chamber.

As you're waiting for your bags to go through the X-ray machines, look left at the stunning roof of Westminster Hall, originally built in 1099 and today the oldest surviving part of the Palace of Westminster, the seat of the English monarchy from the 11 th to the early 16th centuries. Added between 1394 and 1401, it is the earliest known example of a hammer-beam roof and has been described as 'the greatest surviving achievement of medieval English carpentry'. Westminster Hall was used for coronation banquets in medieval times, and also served as a courthouse until the 19th century. The trials of William Wallace (1305), Thomas More (1535), Guy Fawkes (1606) and Charles I (1649) all took place here. In the 20th century, monarchs and Winston Churchill lay in state here.

The House of Lords Visitors' Gallery (@ 7219 3107; admission free; S 2.30-10pm Mon-Wed, 11am-1.30pm &3-7.30pmThu, 11am-3pm Fri) is also open for visits. Against a backdrop of peers' gentle snoring, you can view the intricate Gothic interior that led poor Pugin (1812-52) to an early death from overwork and nervous strain.

When Parliament is in recess, there are 75-minute guided summer tours (§§ 0870 906 3773; St Stephen's Entrance, St Margaret St; adult/child/ concession £12/5/8) of both chambers and other historic buildings. Times change, so telephone or check www.parliament.uk for latest details.

TATE BRITAIN Map pp96-7

@ 7887 8000,7887 8888; www.tate.org.uk; Mill-bank SW1; admission free, prices vary for temporary exhibitions; S 10am-5.50pm; -e-Pimlico; ®

You'd think that Tate Britain may have suffered since its lavish, sexy sibling, Tate Modern (pi29), took half its collection and all of the limelight up river when it opened in 2000, but on the contrary, things have worked out perfectly for both galleries. The venerable Tate Britain, built in 1897, stretched out splendidly into all its increased space, filling it with its definitive collection of British art from the 16th to the late 20th centuries, while the Modern sister devoted its space to, well, modern art.

The permanent galleries are broadly chronological in order, and you can expect to see some of the most important works by artists such as Constable and Gainsborough - who have entire galleries devoted to them - and Hogarth, Reynolds, Stubbs, Blake and Moore, among others. Adjoining the main building is the Clore Gallery, which houses the superb JMW Turner, including the two recovered classics Shade and Darkness and Light and Colour which were nicked in 1994 and found nine years later.

Just before you thought that all the moderns and contemporaries were up at the Modern, Tate Britain's got work by Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, David Hockney and Howard Hodgkin, as well as Anthony Gorm-ley and bad-girl Tracey Emin. Tate Britain also hosts the prestigious and often controversial Turner Prize of contemporary art from October to early December every year.

There are several free one-hour thematic tours each day, mostly on the hour (last tour at 3pm), along with free 15-minute talks on paintings, painters and styles at 1.15pm Tuesday to Thursday in the Rotunda. Audi-oguide tours for the collection cost £3.50/3 (adult/concession). The best way to see both Tates and have a fabulous art day is to get the boat that connects the two galleries; see p387. A good time to visit the Tate is for its Late at Tate nights on the first Friday of every month, when the gallery stays open until 10pm.

HORSE GUARDS PARADE Map pp96-7

SS 0906 866 3344; S Changing of the Guard 11am Mon-Sat, 10amSun; ■©■Westminster

In a more accessible version of Buckingham Palace's Changing of the Guard, the mounted troopers of the Household Cavalry change guard here daily, at the official entrance to the royal palaces (opposite the Banqueting House). A lite-pomp version takes place at 4pm when the dismounted guards are changed. On the Queen's official birthday in June, the Trooping of the Colour is also staged here.

Fittingly, as the parade ground and its buildings were built in 1745 to house the Queen's so-called 'Life Guards', this will be the pitch for the beach volleyball during the London 2012 Olympics (see www .Iondon2012.org). When this choice of venue was first announced, it had Tony Blair gloating about what a good view of the bikini-clad players he would have from his Downing St back window, though he may have to go around to Gordon Brown's now to get a glimpse (if Brown will let him in, that is).

ST JOHN'S, SMITH SQUARE Map pp96-7

@ 7222 1061; www.sjss.org.uk; Smith Sq, Westminster SW1; ■©■ Westminster

In the heart of Westminster, this eyecatching church was built by Thomas Archer in 1728 under the Fifty New Churches Act (1711), which aimed to build 50 new churches for London's rapidly growing metropolitan area. Though they never did build all 50 churches, St John's, along with a dozen others, saw the light of day. Unfortunately, with its four corner towers and monumental façades, the structure was much maligned for the first century of its existence thanks to rumours that Queen Anne likened it to a footstool, though it's also said that she actually requested a church built in the shape of a footstool. Whatever the case, it's generally agreed now that the church is a masterpiece of English baroque, although it no longer serves as a church. After receiving a direct hit during WWII, it was rebuilt in the 1960s as a classical music venue (p309), and is renowned for its crisp acoustics.

The brick-vaulted restaurant in the crypt is called, predictably, the Footstool, and is open for lunch Monday to Friday, as well as for pre- and postconcert dinner.

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