Arts & Culture

The history of London architectural styles

London has been either ‘a’ or ‘the’ major player on the world stage for centuries. If you want to journey through time to see how the Capital blossomed, you can simply explore the streets admiring the wide range of architectural styles that defined eras.

Every style represents a major turning point in London’s history. Here’s what you need to know about the most prominent periods in the Capital’s relatively recent past (and where to find the best architectural gems).

Baroque: 1600 – 1750

Most of the oldest structures that remain standing in London were built during the 16th century. The Great Fire of London in 1666 wept out most buildings in the City. And the architect tasked with rebuilding the Capital was Cristopher Wren, one of the UK’s most influential 17th-century architects.

Some of Sir Wren’s most notable buildings include Kensington Palace, Hampton Court and St Paul’s Cathedral. Take a look at this marvel, and you’ll understand why it’s regarded as one of the finest examples of baroque architecture in London.

Georgian: 1714 – 1830

You’ll find Georgian architecture throughout the British Capital when the city experienced mass expansion after the Great Fire. For the first time, homes were constructed for profit, and tall terraces containing multiple properties spread throughout the City. These great estates dominate many areas of Central London. Some of the best examples include the Bedford Estate and Grosvenor Estate.

Regency: 1811 – 1820

The regency era lasted for around nine or ten years. But during those years, many of London’s now high-end residential buildings were constructed, defined by their white stucco façade and grand appearance. Leading architect John Nash designed the famous Regent Street and the nearby Regent’s Park. You could easily spend hours admiring the architectural gems that line the streets around the park.

Victorian: 1837 – 1901

During the reign of Queen Victoria, the Industrial Revolution resulted in a population boom and an expansion of the middle class. With new prosperity and the need for housing with proper sanitation for workers came mass construction projects that swept the Capital.

The Victorian era saw a revival of elaborate architectural styles. You’ll find examples of Victorian architecture on just about every street. But some of the most notable attractions include St Pancras Station and the Houses of Parliament, both designed in the Gothic style. Victorian grandeur doesn’t get much better.

Edwardian: 1901 – 1910

Like the Regency era, the Edwardian era was relatively short-lived, but the city’s appearance transformed again while it lasted. Terraces were built throughout London to accommodate the ever-increasing workforce and middle classes, though homes were typically larger than their Victorian counterparts.

We recommend taking a walk around Dulwich and Hampstead Garden Suburb to see some of the best examples of residential Edwardian architecture. For something a tad more fabulous, check out County Hall, a riverfront palace that’s right by Westminster Bridge.

Present day

Due to the destruction of WWII, a lot of residential buildings in London needed to be rebuilt quickly. This saw the introduction of high-rises in the Capital. And if we’re being honest, the ones constructed during the 50s and 60s aren’t the prettiest, but they’re certainly interesting (Trellick Tower might be the best example).

Since the 70s, the trend of building upward seems to have remained alive and well. Just head to Canary Wharf and the City of London, and you’ll see that looming luxurious towers dominate the skyline. Don’t forget to check out The Shard and The Gherkin during your trip.