Cool Britannia – why Olympic city London is tops

LESS than month out from the spectical that will be the London Olympics and several weeks on from the pageantry of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee – the United Kingdom particularly its capital London are basking in the global spotlight.

So, it should come as no surprise London was this month named as the world’s top visitor destination by credit card company MasterCard.

It is a title the city also won last year in the MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index, which measures the number of international visitors alongside their anticipated spend.

Some 16.9 million people are expected to fly to the Olympic city and their expected spending will bring a windfall of $21 billion.

Second placed city Paris lagged behind by 1 million while New York only managed 13th on the list with an expected 7.6 million arrivals.

So what puts London ahead of the rest?

Here’s‘s top five best of London.

1. The London Eye.

At 135 meters high, the London is the Western Hemisphere’s tallest Ferris or observation wheels. Comprising 32 enclosed capsules, it carries about 10,000 passengers every day and most popular pay attraction in the United Kingdom. On a clear day it offers views of up to 40 kilometers in all directions meaning you can take in views of all of London’s most iconic structures.

2. The Tower of London.

Henry VIII dispatched of two of his wives on Tower Green giving this London landmark a somewhat macabre backstory. Despite being best known as a place of beheadings, torture and a prison, for inmates such as Elizabeth I and even notorious East End gangsters Ronnie and Reggie Kray, the Tower tells many tales. Built on the Thames by William the Conqueror in 1066 as symbol of his might, the fortress has been a royal palace, an armory and a zoo. It still houses the Crown Jewels.

3. Buckingham Palace.

Her Majesty the Queen’s official London residence, Buckingham Palace has been home to Britain’s sovereign for 175 years. Originally Buckingham House after it’s first owner the Duke of Buckingham, It was bought by George III in 1761 for his wife Queen Charlotte. In the 19th century it was enlarged and, in 1837, it became the official royal residence on the accession of Queen Victoria. The last major structural additions were made in the late 19th century when the East Front was built and in 1913 that frontage was remodeled to its present appearance – including the famous balconies.

4. Houses of Parliament.

Also known as The Palace of Westminster or Westminster Palace this massive Gothic structure houses both houses of the UK Parliament – the House of Lords and the House of Commons. The complex also houses Big Ben, although it is worth noting the name is actually attached to the bell in the clock tower (St. Stephen’s Tower), which chimes every 15 minutes.

5. Westminster Abbey.

Most recently hosting the wedding of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, the couple were continuing a centuries old tradition of Royal weddings in the Abbey. Since 1100, it has hosted at least 16 royal weddings, however it was a tradition that was suspended for 500 years between 1382 and 1919. One tradition that has been constant is coronations – the Abbey has been used at every coronation since 1308.

According to the Mastercard Global Destination Cities Index, here are the World’s top 20 destinations for 2012.

1. London

2. Paris

3. Bangkok

4. Singapore

5. Istanbul

6. Hong Kong

7. Madrid

8. Dubai

9. Frankfurt

10. Kuala Lumpur

11. Seoul

12. Rome

13. New York

14. Shanghai

15. Barcelona

16. Milan

17. Amsterdam

18. Vienna

19. Beijing

20. Taipei

  • Information about London Hotels here.

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