The 2012 Olympic Summer Games may have come and gone, but London remains one hot travel destination. Travelers from all over the world are continuing to flock to Great Britain to see where their favorite athletes performed their stunning feats of athleticism and made their home countries proud – and soak up some of the excitement that comes from being the center of worldwide attention for weeks on end.
While it’s not possible to catch any of the Olympic action (other than in highlight reels), you can catch some of the Olympic fever by revisiting some of the locations where the games were held,and some of the sites that the Olympians themselves looked forward to visiting while they were in London. If you want to travel like an Olympian, be sure you don’t miss any of these attractions on your London holiday this year (or any time, really):
The London home of the British monarchy – all 775 rooms of it – is one of the foremost tourist destinations in London. Almost everyone who comes to London sees the palace at one time or another, and many take the tour of the rooms that are open to the public or watch the impressive daily guard changing ceremony. And the Olympians in the 2012 Summer Games were no exception: swimmer Missy Franklin and basketball player Candace Walker both listed Buckingham Palace on their must-see lists while they were in town for the games.
The London Eye
Constructed in 1999 as part of the celebrations for the Millennium, The London Eye has become one of the most recognizable landmarks in London – and one of the most visited attractions in all of Great Britain. Many athletes, like gymnast Jonathan Horton, listed The Eye as a must while in London and with the stunning views afforded by the giant Ferris wheel it’s easy to see why.
Passengers ride in one of the 32 capsules on the wheel, each of which holds about 25 passengers. The wheel slowly rotates (the whole ride takes about 30 minutes) giving passengers the chance to the entire city from multiple vantage points.
Fans of Olympic equestrian events will recognize this picturesque park as the site of the horseback events during the Games. Greenwich Park is actually a landmark in London as well, with stunning views of the River Thames and the surrounding area. The park is also the site of the Royal Observatory and the Greenwich Meridian, a planetarium and a number of exhibits about both astronomy and navigation.
Hampton Court Palace
One of only two surviving palaces from the reign of Henry VII, Hampton Court Palace is a major tourist attraction and site of numerous events throughout the year. And while the palace is the home of the oldest surviving tennis courts in England – built in 1528 for King Henry himself – the palace was used in the 2012 Summer Games as the starting point for the road cycling races.
Visitors who want to explore manicured gardens and monuments to notable moments and people from British history – including Princess Diana and the 7/7 bombing of the London Underground – need to visit Hyde Park. The largest park in London, Hyde Park spans over 350 acres and includes Serpentine Lake, the site of several Olympic swimming events. If you have something that you just have to get off your chest, be sure to visit the Speaker’s Corner, where you can feel free to expound on just about any subject in an open forum. If you have nothing to say, it’s worth a visit just to hear what others are jabbering about, as the speakers tend to exhibit varying degrees of clarity and engagement with reality.
Because so many of London’s historic sites were used as locations for the games, it’s almost impossible to visit a major attraction now and not find some connection to the Olympics. The Lord’s Cricket Grounds, for example, served as the home of the archery competitions, while St. James Park, the oldest soccer field in England, served as the site of several Olympic soccer matches.
So even though the games of the thirtieth Olympiad have come to a close, it’s still possible to soak up some of the excitement and passion of the games. Add some of these sites to your London itinerary and you, too, can see London like an Olympian.
Cassandra Stapleton is a writer and photographer. Cassandra owns a home just outside of London where she spends much of her free time writing.