London Victoria enjoys an enviable position in the heart of the United Kingdom’s glorious capital. It’s a gateway to the city for many, as they hop off the Gatwick Express at Victoria station. This area, nestled in a curve of the Thames, has some of the most popular sights in London, like the elegant verdant expanses of St James’s, Green and Hyde parks. Here are some of the most unique sights.
Addresses on the doorstep of London Victoria are among the world’s foremost upmarket names: The Goring Hotel, The Serpentine Gallery, Sloane Square and Harrods. Also close by are Royal Palaces and, east towards the river, the key sights of Westminster Cathedral, Downing Street, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. If you’ve already ticked those better-known attractions off your ‘to see’ list, then it’s time to seek out some of the unique things to do around London Victoria.
Explore the gardens and State Rooms of a Queen in summer
Bordered by the lovely St James’s and Green parks, the Mall runs all the way to Britain’s most important home: Buckingham Palace. The stunning building was first lived in by Queen Victoria, but much has changed since that era, and parts of the current Queen’s home are open to visitors for a small part of the year; although access is restricted to just two months between dates in July and September. Here, you can visit a slice of inner city greenery that isn’t freely open to the general public: Buckingham Palace Gardens. The State Rooms are also available to tour at the same time.
Summer tours can be booked on Viator by clicking here, along with year-round tours of the public parks and to see the Changing of the Guard, which takes place in front of Buckingham Palace on select days only.
Look out over the city from Westminster Cathedral Tower
Not to be confused with Westminster Abbey, which is a mile away beside the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Cathedral is a beautiful neo-Byzantine building with red and white striped brickwork. The cathedral’s Tower dominates the skyline, and is the feature that best represents the Byzantine architectural influence. From the top, which is 64 metres (210ft) high, there are fantastic views across the entire city. Inside the cathedral, look out for the mosaics which were added after the death of architect John Bentley, based on his sketched ideas.
43 Francis Street; Mon-Fri 9.30am-5pm, Sat-Sun until 6pm
Check the time at Little Ben clock tower
Although unlikely to dupe visitors into believing it’s the original, thanks to its alternate colour and smaller stature, this cast iron miniature clock tower is an imitation of its iconic counterpart, Big Ben, which looms large over the Palace of Westminster some 1.5 miles away. First erected in 1892, it has undergone a number of refurbishments down the years, but remains one of Victoria’s most distinctive landmarks. While Big Ben is out of action due to necessary restoration work, Little Ben makes for a good replacement for a photogenic London clock tower selfie.
Intersection of Vauxhall Bridge Road and Victoria Street
Try to make a Royal guard laugh
Well actually, only if you wish to see somebody lose their job, or so the theory goes. Having your photo taken next to members of the Royal foot guards is a classic activity when in London. Trained not to show any emotion, the stoic guards stand sentry in their scarlet jackets and furry bearskin caps at various points around the London Victoria area, especially close to Buckingham Palace, Downing Street and the Horse Guards Parade area. And how tourists love to put their poker-faces to the test. It is allowed to take photos beside them, but please be reminded that touching a guard, even a seemingly innocuous hand on the shoulder, is not tolerated in the slightest.
170 Victoria Street Lower; Mon-Fri 10am-8pm
Watch a show at Victoria Palace Theatre
Designed by prolific theatre architect Frank Matcham in the early 20th century and built on the site of Moy’s Music Hall, directly opposite Victoria Station, this is one of the area’s most distinguished cultural venues. Once a small concert room, today Victoria Palace Theatre puts on a diverse programme of shows and performances within its domed auditorium and in front of audiences of anywhere up to 1,500 people. The venue also boasts the honour of providing the setting for iconic actress Elizabeth Taylor’s London stage debut in 1982 in a production of The Little Foxes.
The Nova Building, Victoria Street
Look up at the walls in Victoria Station
Located on the eastern wall of the passageway that leads out from the concourse to Terminus Place at Victoria Station, these historic ceramic tiles are well worth stopping off to admire, especially for those with an interest in cartography. Adorned in striking green and gold mosaic, the tiles feature a very early map drawing of London’s suburban rail network, along with an abbreviation of “London, Brighton & South Coast Railway”, the company that installed the map. Similarly decorated tiles can be found dotted throughout the station, though most have been lost to renovation work down the years.
View a ruling monarch’s art collection
The Queen’s Gallery is run by the Royal Collection Trust, a department of the Royal Household employed to take care of the official collection of artworks owned by the Royal Family. And a fascinating collection it is too, with artefacts given as gifts by other world leaders from Ecuador to China, paintings by world renowned artists like Rembrandt and Leonardo da Vinci, and a whole host of curios and items from around the world including weaponry, a golden stage coach and delicate porcelain works. Although occasionally closed for various reasons, this gallery is otherwise open throughout the year.
Buckingham Palace Road; daily 10am-5.30pm (last admission at 4.15pm)
PLAN YOUR TRIP
When it comes to accommodation around Victoria, visitors are spoilt for choice. Close to the station are a huge number of basic but affordable guest houses and venture into the area’s outer reaches and you’ll find everything from youth hostels all the way through to grand 5-star hotels. If you’re looking for a room around Victoria, close to the area’s main attractions and places of interest, check out our editor’s selection, which you can read here.