London is not only the political, financial and manufacturing centre of Great Britain. It is the main tourist attraction of the country, too. London's many places of interest attract thousands of tourists every year. Tourists usually want to see Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, St. Paul's Cathedral, the Tower of London.
Westminster is now the political centre of London. In the 11th century king Edward the Confessor decided to build a great abbey church there. Now there are royal tombs in the Abbey, as well as memorials to Britain's famous people, including memorials to writers, poets and musicians in the Poets' Corner. William the Conqueror was crowned there, and since then all the coronations have been held in the Abbey. The Palace of Westminster was built, too, during the reign of Edward the Confessor. It was the royal residence and the country's main court. The Parliament met there since the 16th till the 19th century. The present Houses of Parliament were built after the fire in the Palace of Westminster in 1834. St. Stephen's Tower of the Houses of Parliament contains the famous Big Ben.
Buckingham palace is the Queen's official London residence. Londoners usually watch the Changing of the Guards in the forefront of the Palace, lasting about 30 minutes. St. Paul's Cathedral is Sir Christopher Wren's masterpiece built from 1675 to 1709. It is crowned with a huge dome; inside the dome there is the famous Whispering Gallery. Inside the cathedral there are many memorials, including memorials to Wellington and Nelson. The Tower of London is associated with many important events in British history. It used to be a fortress, a palace, a mint and a prison famous for its prisoners (like Sir Thomas More and Guy Fawkes). The Tower is guarded by 'Beefeaters', the Yeomen guards.
Bond and Regent streets and Covent Garden are noted for their shops. London's most famous parks include Hyde Park with its Speaker's Corner, Kensington Gardens, Regent's Park with the London Zoo, and St. James's Park.
London is noted for its museums and art galleries which include the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the National Gallery, the Tate Gallery, the Wallace Collection, the Institute of Contemporary Art, the Museum of the Moving Image, Madame Tusseaud's Museum and many others. London also has numerous commercial art galleries and plays a major role in the international art market. The British Library, one of the world's great libraries, is located in London.
The city is rich in other artistic and cultural activities. Its approximately 100 theatre companies reflect the importance of drama, and it has several world-class orchestras, a well-known opera house, performance halls, and clubs.