Let’s not beat around the bush, most people come to the UK capital to see the uniquely British sights and sounds it offers. However, that maybe to dismiss the fact London’s a metropolis at the heart of the world at large, being one of the planet’s most historically important, thriving, bustling and cosmopolitan cities you’ll ever come across. There’s an incredible amount of cultural significance derived from all quarters packed into its few square miles – not least from its cousin-country across the pond, the United States. So, if you fancy checking out some American attractions in London, here are a few to make time for…
The US Embassy
(24 Grosvenor Square, London W1A 2LQ)
Granted, of all of London’s ‘American’ attractions, this one may not strike you as hugely enticing (especially if you’re an American tourist – usually you only end up at your nation’s embassy wherever you are abroad if you run into problems), but this representation of the US Government in the UK certainly is worth the visit. All right, mostly because of the building itself. Situated in one of London’s premier piazzas, where it’s surrounded by glorious Georgian architecture, this grey stone monolith has something of The Pentagon about it and evokes thoughts of a thousand Cold War-set movies, especially if you visit on a grey wintry day. Atmospheric is the word. A word to the wise: visit before the embassy up-sticks and heads south of the river for a newly built building in suburbia.
The American Bar at The Savoy
(Strand, London WC2R 0EU)
Why should you sup a drink in this specific bar to be found in one of the UK capital’s swankiest hotels? Because it’s famed for introducing the first cocktails to Europe – reason indeed to order a Manhattan, surely? Decorated in an irresistibly sumptuous Art Deco style, it was also the only place for US expats to quench their thirst in the first half of the 20th Century, not least during the Second World War. Give it a visit then and soak up the nostalgia and transatlantic ghosts that haunt its four walls.
(Parliament Square, SW1P 3JX)
Many American visitors often ask UK locals why there’s a statue of one of their most beloved Presidents smack bang in front of the latter’s Houses of Parliament. Given the USA’s acrimonious separation from the British Empire by way of the 19th Century’s War of Independence, their confusion’s surely understandable. The answer, though, is that in Parliament Square there’s a quartet of statues of democratically revered international figures, irrespective of their historical relationship to the UK – the other subjects being Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Ghandi and Jan Smuts. This particular statue of Lincoln is, in fact, a copy of Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ sculpture to be found in Chicago’s aptly named Lincoln Park. It was unveiled in 1920 to commemorate the first century of peace between Britain and the USA. There’s also a statue of Honest Abe in the northern English city of Manchester. Go figure.
The American Memorial Chapel
(St. Paul’s Cathedral, St. Paul’s Churchyard EC4M 8AD)
For those who might be in the mood of some spiritual inspiration among their American London attractions, you can’t go wrong with this chapel that commemorates US citizens based in the UK during the Second World War whom gave the ultimate sacrifice in the name of the Allies’ war effort – their lives. Also known as the Jesus Chapel, it’s a particularly beautiful and ornate space for peaceful reverence and contemplation in the always spectacular and historically resonant St. Paul’s Cathedral – which, incidentally, being located in The City itself, is very easy to reach should you be staying at The Montcalm at The Brewery London City hotel.
Benjamin Franklin House
(36 Craven Street WC2N 5NF)
To be found in an exquisite street of terraced Georgian townhouses, this building is a museum dedicated to the 16-year stay in London by the much revered founding father, during his time as the American Colonies’ representative to Britain then as the US Ambassador proper, following the War of Independence. Built in around 1730, the Grade I listed property now entertains guests via a medical history room, a discovery room and a demonstration room, each of which is dedicated to Franklin’s extra-curricular interests in applied science and collecting historical artefacts.
Churchill and Roosevelt statue-bench
(New Bond Street, W1S 2UQ)
So you’re all pooped out from relentless sightseeing during your trip to London, eh? Why not take a breather and sit down between two of the world’s greatest statesmen – and arguably the two biggest heroes of WWII – while they jovially converse? Thanks to artist Lawrence Holofcener’s 1995 double-statue erected on a bench in Mayfair (more or less at the point where Old and New Bond Street meet), you can squeeze yourself between bronze recreations of the great wartime British PM Winston Churchill and four-term-serving US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt; perfect for a photo – or, yes, even a selfie – capturing your moment of splendid historical whimsy.
(Manor Road, Sulgrave, Banbury OX17 2SD)
And, finally, what better way to round off a list of US-centric attractions than a Tudor manor house in the heart of the English countryside? Yes, fair dos; you may see a couple of issues with this suggestion. First, it’s outside London; very true, but rural Northamptonshire’s less than 80 miles from the capital. Second, it doesn’t sound very American. Well, given that it’s the ancestral seat of the United States’ original President, George Washington, you can make your own mind up about that one. Washington undoubtedly came from strong aristocratic English stock and this place is the proof in the pudding. Boasting the largest collection of memorabilia dedicated to the great man in all the UK, it does a great job in showing off the British contribution to America’s origins and, should your history be a little hazy, also contains a recommendable exhibition on Washington’s life and career. Plus, there are beautiful 16th Century furnishings inside and pristine formal gardens outside.