This April will you be one of the 40,000 thousand eager participants or could you be cheering on your loved ones on the side-lines of the world-famous Virgin Money London Marathon? Either way you’ll be in for a great day in England’s beloved capital city! The London Marathon first took place on 29th March 1981 with 26.2 miles of historic scenery, there are many prominent landmarks that have featured in all previous 39 races that have contributed to the fulfilment of both the runners and spectators alike. Let’s have a look at just some of the famous highlights along the prestigious London Marathon route!
Cutty Sark, Royal Museums Greenwich
After breaking out of the initial starting blocks in Blackheath, through the Woolwich Dockyard; also known as The King’s Yard and deep into the Royal Borough of Greenwich you will marvel at the iconic Cutty Sark, a 19th century British tea-clipper ship – famous for being one of the fastest and most efficient ships which visited every major port in the world when it was in operation! This ship is now firmly moored on the south shore of the River Thames at Greenwich Pier. Conveniently located opposite the Cutty Sark in the Queens House art gallery and the National Maritime Museum, all situated within the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
On to The Shard, a magnificent 95-storey skyscraper affectionately also referred to as ‘The shard of glass building’ positioned at the rear of London Bridge Train Station. The glass-clad pyramidal tower was designed by no-other than Italian-born Renzo Piano and is a real visual gem! The sixth-tallest building in Europe boasts 360-degree panoramic views of London from its observatory viewing platform, it is also home to the 5* Shangri-La Hotel, fine-dining restaurants, luxury residences and office spaces alike.
Placed between mile 12 and 13 on the London Marathon route and close to the Tower of London, Tower Bridge is one of London’s most loved and photographed Bridge’s, famous for its combined drawbridge-suspension. The Tower Bridge ‘opens’ on average twice a day to allow large river vessels to pass though, which is great for spectators to see the mechanics of Bridge in action! The Bridge also houses its very own Glass-Walkway allowing visitors to walk across the platform taking in the spectacular birds-eye view from 42 metres above the River Thames. Tower Bridge is often mistaken (by name) for London Bridge – which lies just half a mile up the River.
Home to a collection of sky-scrapper buildings and a stunning skyline Canary Wharf is dubbed one of the busiest business districts in London. Often filled with business commuters Monday – Friday and used to be some-what redundant on weekends. However, this district has had a major over-haul in recent years and is now filled with many exciting sights including Roof Top Gardens, swanky Restaurants and displays of Public Art to keep all entertained. This 97-acre district even has two marina’s West India Quays and Poplar Dock -both used as moorings for various types of crafts! Canary Wharf’s skyline will dazzle the marathon-runners with its spectacular scenery especially on a sunny spring day!
St. Paul’s Cathedral
St. Paul’s Cathedral is a beloved landmark in the heart of the City of London famously recognised with its renaissance style Architecture and perfectly sphere Dome, designed by the late Sir Christopher Wren in June 1675. Crowds lined the streets outside the Cathedral as the iconic wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana took place, with the Royal family in attendance during the summer of 1981. Guests today can enjoy the Crypt, Cathedral floor, and the three elevated galleries; starting with the Whispering Gallery 257 steps from the Cathedral Floor, Stone Gallery 376 steps and the Golden Gallery located a staggering 528 steps above Cathedral floor widely known for its association to the Harry Potter series in particular; Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
Another attraction along the London Marathon route is the Millennium Bridge a much-admired suspension bridge constructed in 1996 for pedestrians to cross the River Thames. Sometimes now referred to as the “wobbly Bridge” as on its first day of opening some felt an overwhelming state of motion and with this the footbridge was temporarily closed for a further six years whilst they made alterations to prevent the swaying motion! On Marathon Day the runners will not need to cross Millennium Bridge, instead they will continue their journey by the River Thames towards the West of London.
The London Eye
Originally designed to celebrate the new millennium, the London Eye has been a firm favourite for both locals and tourists! Opened on the South Bank of the River Thames by former Prime-Minister Tony Blair on 31st December 1999, the giant observation wheel welcomes over 3.5 million visitors a year making one of the most, (if not the most) popular paid attraction in the UK! The London Eye has hosted many famous faces over the years, and even more wedding proposals in its 32 capsules – one capsule for each of London’s 32 boroughs. On the Marathon day runners will be able to pick up their final water refreshment opposite the London Eye as they approach their final Marathon mile!
Palace of Westminster
The Palace of Westminster, or more commonly known as the “Houses of Parliament” is the main hub for the UK government. Made up of the House of Commons and the House of Lords – many discussions, debates and law-making occurs within these historic chambers. Known for its distinctive-gothic architectural design used to symbolise the Victorian era, the Grade I listed building is home to a collection of art, archives and of course ‘Big Ben’ – officially named Elizabeth Tower, located at the north of the Palace. Recognised on a global scale, the Elizabeth tower is a true British cultural symbol associated with the parliamentary democracy of the United Kingdom.
Arguably the most famous Palace of them all and official home of Queen Elizabeth II, Buckingham Palace is the last sight the Marathon runners will race by as they take their final strides of the 26.2-mile course before crossing the finish line on The Mall. Buckingham Palace has a whopping 775 rooms including 19 State Rooms, 52 Royal and guests’ bedrooms and even a private swimming pool for the Royals and their staff to use. In the summer month Buckingham Palace opens its door to the public for all to explore the magnificent State Apartments and walk around the prestigious garden, the largest private in London!
These major sights are just some of the popular attractions along the London Marathon route and with the cheering crowds give most runners inspiration as they power through the race. Many marathon visitors later reward themselves with a tour of the city which can be enhanced by one of our experienced Blue Badge Guides with a private Guided Tour. If this is of interest, be sure to get in touch!