With the arrival the new millennium London's face has changed. From now on, the UK's capital is going to be an even more exciting place to visit.
The observation wheel erected on the bank of the River Thames is more than double the height of Big Ben! It's called the London Eye and on a clear day you'll be able to see 7 countries from its top! The Wheel doesn't stop for passengers — instead they just walk into the large egg-shaped glass capsules while it is in motion. A full trip takes 30 minutes.
The Millennium Dome is probably the most ambitious of all millennium projects.
It's the largest building of its kind in the world. It's over 50 metres high and over 300 metres in diameter. It's as high as Nelson's Column, could swallow 2 Wembley Stadiums, 3300 double-decker buses and still have some spare room!
The Dome was designed by the architect Richard Rogers, who created the Pompidou Centre in Paris. There are 14 exhibition zones in the Dome, and each of them has something to amaze and educate everyone who visits it. In Home Planet zone, for example, you'll be able to go on a virtual trip through space.
The Millennium Bridge is a thin blade of steel with wooden decking, connecting the Tate Gallery of Modern Art on Bankside with the steps of St Paul's Cathedral. It's the first pedestrian-only bridge to be built across the Thames for more than 100 years.
THE TOWER OF LONDON
"Halt! Who goes there?"
"Queen Elizabeth's Keys."
"God preserve Queen
These words can be heard every night just before 10 o'clock. They mean that the Tower's been locked up for the night. The Ceremony of the Keys is at least 700 years old.
What is the Tower?
The Tower has been many things: a palace, a fortress, a prison, a place of execution, a Zoo. Today, it is best known as a historical museum. About 150 people and six ravens live here.
Kings sometimes get strange presents. About 700 years ago King Henry III got 3 leopards, 1 elephant and a polar bear. He kept them in the Tower. The elephant died after two years but the polar bear was happy as it went swimming and fishing in the Thames with a strong rope round its neck. That was the start of the London Zoo. In 1835 all animals left the Tower and were sent to the Zoo in Regent's Park. Only the ravens stayed on.
There are always at least 6 ravens at the Tower. The first ones probably built their nests here because they liked the old stone houses and walls. There is a story that they bring good luck to Britain, if they stay at the Tower. That's why they get "paid" meat and biscuits every day. But their wings are cut so that they can't fly away. They are not very friendly. Once one of them bit a German minister.
The Beefeaters used to guard the Tower and its prisoners. Today they work mostly as guides. They show people around and tell stories about all the terrible things that have happened here. They still wear the high ruffs and scarlet tunics assigned to them during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.
The Tower was a royal palace long ago. Then it became a prison. Kings, queens and noblemen were locked up here. Many, like Lady Jane Grey, lost their heads on Tower Green inside the walls or nearby on Tower Hill. The last time it was used as a prison was during the Second World War when German spies were kept and sometimes shot there.
The Crown Jewels
The Crown Jewels are shown in the Jewel House. They are well looked after. Once they were stolen by a man called Colonel Blood. But he was caught just as he was leaving the Tower. Thomas Blood didn't have to go to prison. The king gave him a pension instead. It was in 1671.
(from Speak Out, abridged
ST PAUL'S CATHEDRAL
St Paul's Cathedral is one of the most famous buildings in the world, and it is also one of the greatest survivors!
There was once a Roman temple on the site, dedicated to the goddess Diana. Since then there have been four different Christian buildings. The first Christian church was built by the Saxon King, Ethelbert of Kent. Being made of wood it didn't stand a chance and was eventually burnt down. It was rebuilt in stone but that didn't work either as it was destroyed in a Viking invasion. When the Saxons used wood again on the third church, it was doomed to be destroyed by fire again!
When old St Paul's was built in the time of William the Conqueror, stone from Northern France was used and it was much taller and wider than it is today. During the reign of King Henry VIII, financial problems meant there wasn't enough money for the cathedral's upkeep. Parts of it were destroyed and a market place was set up inside selling, bread, meat, fish and beer!
The first public lottery was held at St Paul's by the West Door. But instead of the profits going to the cathedral they went to the country's harbours. Elizabeth I granted money to the cathedral for repairs and an architect was appointed. Inigo Jones cleared out the shops and market place ready for repairs. However it fell in to decay again when soldiers used it as barracks during the Civil War.
Christopher Wren, the cathedral's final architect, was asked to restore it. Before he could make much progress, parts of it were destroyed by the Great Fire of London, which started in a baker's shop in Pudding Lane and raged for five days, destroying many of the buildings in the City.
Christopher Wren started once more with a magnificent vision of St Paul's and the rest of the City. All this in spite of the fact that he was more of a scientist and hadn't actually built or designed anything until he was 30 years old. He laid the foundation stone for the cathedral in 1675. 35 years later he set the final stone in place. When he died he was buried in his own magnificent building.
The clock tower on the West Side houses the bell known as Great Paul. At three metres in diameter, it is the heaviest swinging bell in the country. Of course there is the famous dome and the cross on top is 365 feet from the ground. It is the second largest cathedral dome in the world. Only St Paul's in Rome is bigger.
Why not pay St Paul's a visit? One feature you will find interesting is the Whispering Gallery, where you can whisper at one wall, and then hear what you whispered on the opposite wall 107 feet away!
(from BBC English)
LONDON'S EAST END
Samuel Johnson said two centuries ago, "He who is tired of London, is tied of life."
London has everything you could possibly want out of life ... if you plan it well.
Which means exploring further than the square kilometre that most tourists see.
London is one of Europe's largest capitals, and the further you get away from Buckingham Palace, the better. Remember, not all of London's history revolves around the Royal family soap operas. The priceless jewels of London are the people, not those trinkets locked in the Tower.
One of London's most interesting and undiscovered areas is the East End. In the 1880s, Jack the Ripper stalked these tiny backstreets — at the same time William Booth, "the East End Saint" set up the Salvation Army. America's Libery Bell was made in the still-existing 16th-century bell foundry. It's also where London's "East End Mafia" operated in the 1960s.
The East End is a slice of "real" London and represents our culture as it is, today.
I'm a born-and-bred Londoner and yet still get a thrill every time I see Big Ben.
Wonderful though it is, it's no comparison to sitting in a pub in the East End, listening to someone tell you incredible stories which will inform your heart.
(from London's East End by J. Payne)
Madam Tussaud's is the most popular and talked about wax museum in the world. There are wax models of the famous and infamous, both living and dead, from every walk of life.
Elvis Presley, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Marilyn Monro, Michael Jackson, Alfred Hitchcock, Charlie Chaplin, the British Royal family, Bill Clinton, Jack the Ripper ... There is no other place where you can see all the celebrities at once, even if they are only wax figures.
So if you want to rub shoulders with kings and queens or the latest pop stars, or probably with notorious criminals, this is the place to go.
The museum is situated in Marylebone Road, not far from the street which is famous as the home of the first great detective in fiction, Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes.
There's usually a long queue in front of the museum. No wonder! Many tourists would consider their trip to London worthless if they didn't visit the famous Madam Tussaud's.
There are several halls at Madam Tussaud's. Highlights include the Grand Hall, the Chamber of Horrors and "The Spirit of London" exhibition.
The wax figures are standing and sitting, and sometimes even moving and talking.
They are extremely realistic and when they look at you, their eyes sparkling, you often feel uncomfortable in their company. Computer controlled figures (they are called audioanimatronics) are especially popular with the visitors.
New models are being produced all the time while the old ones are quietly removed from display.
Over the years hundreds of celebrities have made their way to Madame Tussaud's studio. Most people agree to be portrayed, but some refuse. Mother Teresa was one of the few who declined, saying her work was important, not her person.
THE WHITE HOUSE
In Washington, DC, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is a very special address. It's the address of the White House, the home of the President of the United States.
Originally the White House was grey and was called the Presidential Palace. It was built from 1792 to 1800. At this time, the city of Washington itself was being built. It was to be the nation's new capital city. George Washington, the first president, and Pierre Charles L'Enfant, a French engineer, chose the place for the new city. L'Enfant then planned the city and the President's home was an important part of the plan.
A contest was held to pick a design for the president's home. An architect named James Hoban won. He designed a large three-story house of grey stone.
President Washington never lived in the Presidential Palace. The first president to live there was John Adams, the second president of the United States, and his wife.
Mrs Adams did not really like her new house. In her letters, she often complained about the cold. Fifty fireplaces were not enough to keep the house warm!
In 1812 the United States and Britain went to war. In 1814 the British invaded Washington. They burned many buildings, including the Presidential Palace.
After the war James Hoban, the original architect, partially rebuilt the president's home. To cover the marks of the fire, the building was painted white. Before long it became known as the White House.
The White House is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the United States. Every year more than 1.5 million visitors go through the five rooms that are open to the public.
(from All about the USA)
Although New York is not the capital of the United States (and not even of New York State), it is the biggest and most important city of the country. Situated at the mouth of the deep Hudson River, it has always been the gateway to the USA. But it is more than just a door: it is also a window through which the life of the whole nation may be observed.
New York is many things to many people. It's the financial and media capital of the world. It's the headquarters of the United Nations. It's the centre of American cultural life. It's the national leader in fashion and entertainment.
The "Big Apple', as New York City is nicknamed, is a city unlike any other. It has everything for everyone. It offers the best, the biggest and the brightest of everything.
It is a place of excitement, beauty ... and contradictions. There is, for example, no canal on Canal Street, Battery Park is not a power station, and Times Square is a triangle. As they say, only in New York!
New York is known as a "melting pot", because people of different races and nationalities make up its population of more than 7 million. About 13 of every 100 people in New York were bom in another country. More than 80 languages are spoken throughout the neighbourhoods and streets of the city. There are places where the English language is hardly ever heard.
When people say "New York City" they usually mean Manhattan. It is the real centre of the city. The Empire State Building, Rockefeller Centre, the United Nations building, tremendous traffic, dazzling advertisements, Central Park, Times Square, Broadway, Harlem, Chinatown, the most famous avenues and streets — all these are to be found in Manhattan.
The map of Manhattan seems unusual to a European eye. It is crossed from north to south by avenues and from east to west by streets. Only one avenue, Broadway, runs east to west. Each avenue has either a name or a number. The streets are numbered from one to over a hundred. Only a few of them have names.
Wall Street in Manhattan is the financial heart of the USA and the most important banking centre in the world.
Broadway is the symbol of American theatre, as Hollywood is of American cinema.
The intersection of Broadway and Seventh Avenue forms world-famous Times Square, the heart of the New York Theatre District. It is one of many New York City "squares" that are actually triangles. New Year's Eve celebrations always start here and at midnight a large red ball is lowered down to show that the New Year has begun.
Park Avenue represents luxury and fashion because of its large expensive apartment houses.
Madison Avenue is known as the centre of advertising industry.
Fifth Avenue is the most famous shopping centre.
If you want to have a good view of New York City you can do it from the top of the World Trade Center (110 stories) or from the Empire State Building (102 stories).
The Empire State Building is no longer the world's tallest building, but it is certainly one of the world's best-loved skyscrapers. Today more than 16,000 people work in the building, and more than 2,500 000 people a year visit the 86th and 102dfloor observatories. At night the top 30 stories are illuminated with colours appropriate to the season: red and green for Christmas, orange and brown for Halloween.
Not far from the Empire State Building there is an interesting architectural complex — Rockefeller Centre. It is a city-within-a-city. It was begun during the Great Depression of the 1930s by John Rockefeller and was built according to one general plan. Rockefeller Centre consists of 19 skyscrapers. It houses all kinds of offices, enterprises, banks, theatres, music halls, restaurants, shops, etc. All parts of the complex are linked by underground passageways.
New York is often called the cultural capital of the USA. There are more than 800 museums in New York. One of the best known is the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It is the largest art museum in the United States. Its magnificent collection of European and American paintings contains works of many of the greatest masters of art world.
The second best known is the Museum of Modern Art. The reputation of the "Moma", as the museum is nicknamed, rests on its wonderful collections of modern art and photography. The Guggenheim Museum of Modern Art contains an impressive collection of modern artists ranging from impressionists to abstractionists. The unusual circular building of the museum was designed by F.L. Wright.
No other city in the world offers as much theatre as New York where there is a daily choice of almost two hundred productions. You can see the newest plays and shows on Broadway. But away from the bright lights of Broadway are many smaller theatres. Their plays are called "off-Broadway" and "off-off-Broadway" and they are often more unusual than the Broadway shows.
The Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Centre (the Met) is known throughout the music world. International stars sing here from September until April. The Carnegie Hall is the city's most popular concert hall. It was opened in 1891 with a concert conducted by P.I. Tchaikovsky.
New York is famous for its festivals and special events: summer jazz, one-act play marathons, international film series, and musical celebrations from the classical to the avant-garde.
There are a lot of colleges and universities in New York, among them such giants as Columbia University, the State University of New York, the City University of New York, New York University and others.
The New York Public Library is the largest library of the city. You can see a lot of interesting things here: Gilbert Stuart's portrait of George Washington, Charles Dickens's desk, and Thomas Jefferson's own handwritten copy of the Declaration of Independence.