Images of London: New and Old Icons

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Images of London - pedestrian Millennium Bridge with dome of St. Paul's Cathedral in the background
Photo Essay: Traditional and modern iconic images of London, England

London, England, is a fascinating city, full of history and modern activity. Its many historical landmarks are well-known around the world. Yet, the bustling city is also very modern, with the modern sometimes obscuring and dominating the historical. Indeed many landmarks and images now associated with London are relatively new, but history still exists amidst the new.

Old and new London icons appear in the feature photo at the front of this post. The photo shows the pedestrian London Millennium Footbridge, a steel suspension pedestrian bridge that opened in 2000 across the Thames River and links Bankside to the City of London, with a view of the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral in the background. The photos that follow are ones I’ve taken over several visits to the city. They represent some of what I view as quintessential London, both the old and the new.

Big Ben clock and tower in London, England
Big Ben is the nickname for the bell in the Clock Tower at the Palace of Westminster, the meeting place for the Houses of Parliament. The Clock Tower was renamed the Elizabeth Tower in 2012. It dominated the London skyline for over 300 years.
London Eye observation wheel
The London Eye observation wheel, which opened on the South Bank of the Thames in 2000, is now one of London’s most popular tourist attractions.
The Shard, a 95-story glass pyramid-shaped skyscraper in London, England
The Shard, a 95-story skyscraper in Southwark, London, was designed by architect Renzo Piano and inaugurated in 2012. You can purchase tickets to View from the Shard, which gives you 360-degree views of the city from the 72nd floor.
Nelson' Column towering in Trafalgar Square in London, England
Trafalgar Square is a public square in the city of Westminster that commemorates the Battle of Traflagar. Nelson’s Column in the square commemorates Admiral Horatio Nelson, who died in the 1805 battle in which British ships defeated French and Spanish ships.
Three twenty-first century buildings in London's skyline: buildings nicknamed the Cheesgrater, the Gherkin, and the Walkie-Talkie.
Three uniquely-shaped twenty-first century London buildings

Modern construction monopolizes London’s current skyline. Londoners coined nicknames for the three skyscrapers in the above photo because of their unique shapes. The Leadenhall Building at 122 Leadenahll Street, nicknamed the “Cheesegrater,” was designed by Roger Stirk Harbour + Partners and opened in 2014. The bullet-shaped office building at 30 St. Mary Axe, designed by architect Norman Foster, opened in 2004 and was nicknamed the “Gherkin.” The building at 20 Fernchurch designed by architect Rafael Viñoly has been nicknamed the “Walkie-Talkie.” I was in London in the summer of 2013 when the building was under construction and an issue with solar flare arose. During a couple of hours during the day, if sun shone directly on it, the building acted as a concave mirror and focused light onto streets on the south side. Stories about the damage done to parked vehicles made the news. In 2014, permanent awning was installed on the south side and the building opened in 2015.

Cranes are also a significant part of London’s current skyline. The above photo was taken in fall of 2015. Other skyscrapers have been built since then and more are currently under construction or planned.

View of the side of St Paul's Cathedral from the top of a double-decker bus.
View of the side of St. Paul’s Cathedral from the top of a double-decker bus. Other modern versions of the traditional double-decker bus can be seen on the street. St. Paul’s Cathedral was designed by Sir Christopher Wren to replace the old cathedral destroyed in the 1666 Great Fire of London. It was officially opened in 1711.
Black taxi cabs in London
Black taxi cabs

Traffic in central London continues to be hectic, although possibly not as frantic as it could be. Since 2003, London has charged a daily fee for vehicles operating within the Congestion Charge Zone of central London on Monday to Friday between 7:00 am and 6:00 pm. As buses and cabs convert to low-emission vehicles, the diesel smell I used to associate with downtown London is lessening.

Electric car charging station in London
Electric car charging station
Bicycles at a Cycle For Hire stand in London England
A number of companies offer cycles for hire with pick-up and drop-off stations in various locations, Despite the addition of several bike lanes in recent years, I think cycling in central London would be a harrowing and dangerous experience.
Underground sign
The subway, known as the Tube or the Underground, remains a quick way to get around London. “Mind the gap” is the famous phrase broadcast as subway doors open and close to warn people about the space between the train door and the platform.
Look left and look right signs on curb in London street
The “look Right” and “Look Left” signs on curbs are good reminders as I cross a street that traffic flows in the opposite direction to what it does in North America.
CCTV sign in London
Closed Caption TV seems to be watching everywhere
Classic red phone booths in London
You can still find a few classic red phone booths
Red phone booth used as an ATM station in Borough Market
Sometimes the phone booth has been re-purposed, since as the ATM station in Borough Market
WiFi station in London
These days you may need a WiFi station more than a phone booth
Iconic Royal Mail post box
The iconic Royal Mail post box
London pedestrian street
Pedestrian street in London’s West End
Inside an historic pub in London
Although pubs are changing and disappearing, you can still find traditional and historic pubs. This is inside The George, a 17th century coaching inn in Southwark.

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Images of London: Old and New Icons #London #England

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  1. In spite of those look left, look right signs, if I’m waiting to cross a street, it still catches me by surprise when a car comes whizzing by me for the left.

    1. Ken, I hear you. Even when I think I am being very aware of traffic direction, it surprises me too. It makes me realize how ingrained looking in a particular direction for traffic has become.