US Essentials: London’s Little Known American Attractions

People from all over the world – many of them from the US – flock to London for its mix of cosmopolitan vibrancy and old-school British style and tradition. But visitors from the US, especially, may be intrigued to learn it also features a number of Us-centric attractions…

Step inside Benjamin Franklin’s House

(36 Craven Street WC2N 5NF)

Yes, that’s right; the Founding Father and all-round renaissance man did actually live in London; for 18 years, in fact, while he was the United States’ Ambassador to the UK. Nowadays, this Grade I-listed townhouse is a museum dedicated to his time spent in the capital – and is suitably organised according to the interests and pursuits with which he filled his life: politics, diplomacy and science. Pop along on a Wednesday, Thursday, Friday or at the weekend for an ‘historical experience’ or for an architectural tour on a Monday, but be aware – pre-booking’s strongly recommended!

Take a load off with FDR and Churchill

(New Bond Street W1S 2UQ)

fdr memorial

An artistic impression of the close historical ties between Britain and the US – forged ever closer by the 20th Century’s two World Wars – this attraction’s also one you can, well, sit on. Which isn’t a bad idea if you’re tired out from a long morning/ afternoon of sightseeing in Central London. Or if you fancy a genuinely excellent selfie moment. That’s because this is a bench at either end of which sit bronze recreations of the WWII Allied premiers that were Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. The work of sculptor Lawrence Holofcener and erected in 1995, it’s ideally located for a visit if you’re staying right in the very centre of town at, say, one of the hotels near Piccadilly, like the Shaftesbury Hyde Park International.

Purchase a US stamp – and put it on that postcard

(117 Rotherhithe Street SE16 4NF)

Time to indulge in that age-old British pastime of a tipple in an old-fashioned pub… what’s so American about that, you may ask? Well, should you do so at the Mayflower Inn, located beside the River Thames in Rotherhithe, then not only can sip a tasty real ale but pick up a genuine US stamp (for that postcard you’ve been meaning to send home) – pretty much the only place in London where you can get hold of one. And yet there’s more to recommend this place; that’s because it was very near this spot from which, yes, The Mayflower ship set sale with the Pilgrim Fathers aboard. Indeed, it’s said that the forerunner of this pub was the favourite watering hole of the ship’s captain, Christopher Jones. Enjoying a drink in his local? Now that’s a boast to record on that postcard!

Visit the site where the Liberty Bell was cast

(32-34 Whitechapel Road E1 1DY)

Liberty Bell

Finally, if you scoot across town eastwards, you’ll come across another significant slice of American history. For it was at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry that Philadelphia’s legendary Liberty Bell was cast. Yes, it’s true; that iconic symbol of American self-destiny and independence from Britain was made by Cockneys in the heart of the East End. Ironic, eh? In fact, the bell’s notorious crack occurred because of damage it sustained on its stormy voyage across the Atlantic. The foundry itself is the stuff of legend too; bells were made in this Grade II-listed building (including the world-famous ‘Big Ben’ bell situated behind the clock-face of the Houses of Parliament’s Elizabeth Tower) for 250 years – and for some staggering 450 years on this site – until the business closed its doors in May of this year.

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