The swinging city
London is crammed full of historical, cultural and modern visitor attractions, making it an popular destination for school groups of all ages. In fact, many of us forget just how much there is to see and do in our very own capital city. On a Voyager London school tour you can visit the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace, take a trip on the London Eye or take in a West End show. The range of educational and exciting visits is arguably unsurpassed by any other city and many attractions also have educational packs which can be downloaded from their websites.
On Voyager school trips, the accommodation options range from staying centrally in South Kensington or opting for an outer London location. Our central London accommodation does book up quickly, so if you must be central, we would advise making a provisional booking for your London school trip as soon as possible. We have also carefully selected a range of restaurants geared up for school groups, including high profile chains such as The Rainforest Cafe and Hard Rock Cafe. Telephone us on 01273 560449 for ideas on a tailored itinerary to suit the needs of your group.
Tower of London
The Tower of London is a must for all those wishing to understand the life and soul of British history over the last 1000 years. Kings and Queens of England lived, died and made their legacies at the Tower. London's most historic landmark oversaw imprisonment, torture, execution and murder most foul. See the site where the Princes of the Tower were supposedly murdered by their own uncle, Richard III, visit the torture chambers and look over into Traitor's Gate, where many passed through for the last time before losing their heads in front of crowds of jeering people. The Tower currently houses the Crown Jewels but in the past it housed a prison, zoo and royal palace. Make sure you check and see if there are any exhibitions taking place at the time you plan to go, so as not to miss out. Whilst you are at the Tower, take a stroll down to Tower Bridge, which offers excellent views over the river. www.tower-of-london.com
Houses of Parliament
The Houses of Parliament are must for anyone interested in politics or how this country is run. If this is something you would be interested in doing, then write a letter to your local MP, who should be able to help you gain admission. But remember not to sit on the seats in the House of Commons! Your MP should be able to organise a tour for you that takes you round the chambers and up into Big Ben's clock tower. When the houses are sitting, visitors can sit in the galleries to observe committee meeting debates. www.parliament.uk/visiting/
Buckingham Palace has served as the official Royal London Residence for the British monarchy since 1837 and it is still the administrative headquarters for the Queen. Buckingham Palace has 775 rooms in total, 19 of which are state rooms, 52 of which are royal and guest bedrooms and 188 of which are staff bedrooms. Although the queen's bedroom is obviously out-of-bounds, there are some times during the year, when visitors have the opportunity to see some of the state rooms. A very popular excursion is going to see the Changing of the Guard. Visit the Royal Collection website to find out exactly when the state rooms open (it is usually during the July and August period). www.royalcollection.org.uk
Other historical attractions
There are many other historical and cultural sites to see including Westminster Abbey, where the Kings and Queens of Britain are christened, get married, are crowned and are eventually buried alongside other British dignitaries.
The British Museum is a stunning building with a beautifully designed central atrium. There are artefacts from around the world and through the ages. You can trace the path of humankind's development in one of London's most impressive buildings.
St Paul’s Cathedral was designed by the mathematician-scientist-architect, Christopher Wren. It is London's principal religious house and is the seat of the Bishop of London. Go and see the spectacular exterior and move into the intricately designed interiors before climbing the dome and heading into the whispering gallery. This gallery gets its name from a quirk in its construction; when you whisper on one side of the dome it can be heard on the opposite side.
Trafalgar Square is one of London's most vibrant open spaces. It is a wonderful place to soak up London's buzzing atmosphere and from there you can easily access the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery and the West End theatres. The square is also home to Nelson's Column, which commemorates his triumph at the Battle of Trafalgar (though the battle claimed his life, he was victorious).
Hampton Court & Windsor Palace, are not too far from the centre of London and are definitely worth exploring. Hampton Court Palace was originally built by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey in the 16th century, but when Henry VIII saw it, he was so jealous of the cardinal's home that Wolsey felt compelled to give it to the king as a present. There are all sorts of myths surrounding the palace, including stories of hauntings, which is always a popular way to gain a student's interest.
The Imperial War Museum, located in Southwark, used to be where London's infamous mental asylum, Bedlam, was, but it is now surrounded by a pretty green area where groups can relax, eat their packed-lunches and have a run around. The museum itself is fascinating and is always likely to have an exhibition going on. Its permanent exhibition on the World War I trenches is fantastic and gives pupils an idea of what everyday life was like for soldiers on the French battlefields. There is also an extremely moving and informative Holocaust exhibition.
Although Greenwich is not centrally located, you can easily spend a whole day there visiting the museums and enjoying the river views!
At the National Maritime Museum discover the history of British sea adventure that dates back 500 years. Hear the personal stories of Britain's past voyagers in the 'Voyager Gallery', steer a ship into port and fire a cannon just like naval men from centuries past.
The Cutty Sark is the most famous tea clipper and is the only one to survivie. In 2007 a fire broke out damaging much of the ship, but after undergoing restoration work it reopened in 2012.
The Royal Observatory of Greenwch is the home of Greenwich Mean Time and Prime Meridian of the World, making it the official starting point for each new year, decade and millennia. It's also home to London's only planetarium and the UK's largest refracting telescope.
Cross Curriculum Excursions
The London Eye is a fantastic way to fully appreciate London's beauty and geographical lay out. At the top you will have the advantage of 135m high 360 degree views. One turn on the wheel lasts half-an-hour - don't forget your cameras! www.ba-londoneye.com
Thames boat trip
Another way of seeing the city is on an unforgettable boat cruise. You will not only pass some of London's most important and impressive buildings but a London expert will be on-board to give you interesting facts about them as you pass: Go from Westminster Pier to Greenwich and get the full low-down on Somerset House, the Oxo building, the Savoy hotel and much, much more.
Other excursions include Madame Tussauds (full of waxworks of famous people), the London Dungeons, a BBC Experience, the London Aquarium (easy to combine with a trip to the London Eye), London Zoo (Regent's Park), the FA Premier League Hall of Fame, Oxford Street (for some of England's most serious shoppers) and Covent Garden (street-performing, shopping and opera house).
London is full of art galleries that will get your students talking about art and architecture!
The Tate Modern is the obvious example to draw on; as a former power station it has a structure that is entirely unique to art galleries in London. It receives around 4.7 million visitors each year, and as such is the most visited modern art gallery in the world. Yet it rarely feels crowded because of the large open spaces that give the Tate Modern its character. Entrance is free, but the exhibitions are not. It is located in the Bankside area of Central London, and could be easily combined with a trip to St. Paul's Cathedral. www.tate.org.uk/modern/
For a more traditional feel, go to Trafalgar Square to visit the National Gallery, which houses one of the greatest collections of European paintings dating from 1250 to 1900. Once again, the building is impressive and to really get a feel for it, you need to spend some time in Trafalgar Square before going in. If you're short of time, and don't think you will be able to make it around the 2,300 paintings that the gallery has to offer, then visit the website to find out what the thirty 'must-see' paintings are. www.nationalgallery.org.uk
For a taste of some more British-centric art, visit the Tate Britain, which documents artistic development in the UK from 1500 until the present day. Once again, entrance is free except for the major exhibitions. Tate Britain runs very well supported schools programmes, which may help to add further depth to your students' experience. Visit the website if you think this is something you would be interested in and/ or subscribe to the monthly 'Schools and Teachers' email bulletin. If you would like to see both Tate museums in one day, then why not try the Tate boat which takes you from one Tate museum to the other in a matter of minutes (Tate Britain is located around the Milbank area). www.tate.org.uk/britain/
Museums and Exhibitions
Other must-see museums include the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum. Conveniently, these are all located in the South Kensington area and are connected by a tunnel, which runs from the South Kensington tube station. This means that at least two of the museums can be seen in one day. The V&A museum is the world's greatest museum of art and design. For those of you who are interested in the development of fashion across the world and across time, the V&A would be an excellent choice. See everything from Mongolian dress to the wedding dresses of previous queens of England. www.vam.ac.uk
The Science Museum has everything from space technology to how a toilet works. Much of what the museum has to offer is interactive, from simulated earthquakes and 3D cinemas to using a computer to see what you will look like at 60. www.sciencemuseum.org.uk
The Natural History Museum is one of the most impressive buildings in London. It was built to be a Natural History Museum, which means that the architects were able to reflect its purpose in every edifice. Stone birds perch on the roofs and other animals look down at you as you go into the building through its magnificent arched entrance way. The dinosaurs are always a popular place to start and don't miss the magnificent cross-section of a sequoia tree on the top floor, which dates back to around 400 AD. www.nhm.ac.uk
For those of you who don't want to miss out on London's most famous playwright, then take a trip down to the river banks and see Shakespeare’s Globe Exhibition. The museum explores the life of the man, the London he lived in and the theatre for which he wrote. A guided tour will tell you all about the fascinating reconstruction of the Globe and will attempt to explain why it works as such a dynamic theatre space. www.shakespearesglobe.com