Unveiled in 2000 as part of London’s millennium celebrations, The London Eye stands on the banks of the Thames by the historic Waterloo Station. The largest ‘ferris wheel’ in Europe, it offers panoramic views over this global city that are, quite simply, breathtaking. Wrapped up in a capsule that offers a 360-degree vantage point, you can truly appreciate this iconic city’s breadth, scale and beauty. To the south is the soon-to-be finished The Shard, northwards the extension of the city past The Mall,
St Paul’s and beyond, and just over the river there’s the Houses of Parliament. Each ‘flight’ takes 45 minutes, book for dusk and watch as the city lights up before your very eyes.
The Thames is the birthplace of London. Jump on a boat tour and take in the scenery and a host of history-drenched landmarks from a vantage point of leisure, from the city centre out to Richmond in the leafy ‘burbs. Or opt for the Thames cycle path instead from Putney to Henry VIII’s stomping ground of Hampton Court – not only does it offer some of London’s finest walking and cycling trails, but there’s plenty of pubs too to stop at to quench your thirst.
tfl.gov.uk and walklondon.org.uk
West End Show
With unrivalled breadth and depth on offer, the West End is the one true rival to Broadway. Whether it be a musical or a comedy, a traditional classic or a contemporary upstart, there is no end to your choice. With Chinatown on hand to offer an equally diverse platter of delights for a pre-show dine, and the trendy hipster bars of nearby Soho providing the perfect watering hole for post-show discussions, the West End is a must-visit London locale.
Book discounted tix at tntmagazine.eolts.co.uk
Doused in London’s artistic and creative juices, the South Bank pulls together shopping, eating and cultural activities into a popular venue of some repute. Visit Shakespeare’s Globe, take a tour underground in the Old Vic Tunnels beneath Waterloo station, take to the water with the London Duck Tours on an aquatic-vehicle used in the D-Day landings, indulge your artistic side at the Tate Modern or just soak up all the art, film and music that the Southbank Centre – the largest single-run arts centre in the world – has to offer.
Sheathed in a neck-straining glass canopy, the British Museum is widely regarded as one of the world’s finest museums of human history and culture. Comprised of a single visit-defying eight million works from around the world, many of these are from other countries, which has led to continued controversy with several demanding the return of their national artefacts. Controversy be damned though – this is one epic haul.
British food is something of a laughing stock in global culinary circles – it comes as little surprise that the Poms’ takeaway of choice is an Indian. But the traditional Sunday roast is the one time they knocked it out of the park. Chicken, beef or lamb, it matters not when its served up with roast potatoes, a garden of veg and waistline-bothering Yorkshire puddings and gravy. Accompanied by the odd bevvie to wash it down – and banish the after-effects still lingering from the night before – this is one British tradition that is worth its weight in salt. Not to be missed.
An iconic London district, so much so, it even spawned a movie set in the midst of its culturally-diverse surrounds, Brick Lane is a must for curry fans with its Bangladeshi history making for a diverse experience for the tastebuds. Trendy Shoreditch types have added to the area’s gentrification, with all manner of vintage shops and boundless exhibition spaces, and the Sunday Up Market housed within the Old Truman Brewery specialises in vintage clothes, jewellery and art. The vibrant character and energy is infectious.
London Sporting Venues
London houses a smorgasbord of world class and iconic sports grounds. Arsenal’s 60,000 capacity home at the Emirates dominates north London with the recently developed Wembley out west, home to international fixtures (and the odd superstar concert too). Take a stadium tour of Chelsea’s west London Stamford Bridge residence in the plush surrounds of Fulham and visit England’s Twickenham home to see the turf on which the boys ‘underperform’ on a regular basis. Lord’s holds fort as one of the country’s most prestigious cricketing venues and the postal code of SW17 is synonymous with Wimbledon, the birthplace of lawn tennis and one of four annual grand slam competitions. They’re still searching for their first Brit champ since 1936.
Arguably the most famous landmark in the whole city, Big Ben stands proud at the north end of the Palace of Westminster – Ben being the name given to the bell inside the tower that chimes every hour. Famous from any film with a scene set in London, take a walk around the tower’s environs and take in the history.
A tourist attraction that is as cheesy as it is essential, Tussauds has waxworks of folk from pop, fashion, sports and, of course, the royal family. So pop by and check out the likenesses of Prince Charles, Lady Gaga, David Beckham, Wolverine (aka Hugh Jackman), Rihanna and Sachin Tendulkar.
The world’s oldest scientific zoo – it opened its doors for the first time in 1828 – London Zoo houses a cornucopia of animals and reptiles, all set against the backdrop of the stunning Regent’s Park. There’s London’s only living rainforest, ‘Penguin Beach’, a reptile house, and Asian big cats. There’s a walk-through monkey enclosure too allowing a little face-to-face time where – with no barrier between man and simian – if you’re not careful some cheeky critter might make off with your sunnies.
Thames Boat Cruise
One of the best ways to take in the sights is a guided tour, of which there are many to choose, so take to the water for a Thames-based view of the city, plus you also get a taste of the famously-dry British sense of humour too from your stiff-upper-lipped (maybe) tour guide. Giving those feet a rest, you’ll pick up a wealth of historical facts and anecdotes about the city’s early days, its grisly beginnings and its development through the ages. A stop off at the Tower of London is a must too for Beafeater-spotting and details of that grisly history to boot.
It’s not all concrete and grey in London, the city has an impressive array of parks and green spaces to kick back in with a beer and catch some rays – when the sun does decide to shine. Hyde Park, at one end of Oxford Street, boasts a year-round roster of star-studded events too, including the Olympics closing ceremony concert. It also offers boating on its famous Serpentine lake, which is home to the Solar Shuttle, a sun-only-powered vessel that glides across the water. Battersea Park on the south of the river offers boating and walks past its eye-catching Pagoda and Regent’s Park serves up green-space escape in the north. Clapham Common is the home of numerous summertime concerts and events, with nearby Richmond Park famed for its cycling routes and viewing platform.
Covent Garden is a wonderful example of where tradition meets commerce. Steeped in history and olde English pubs, it’s a fine place to catch a pint and lap up a rare moment of bustling city atmosphere. Buskers and street performers galore line the streets risking life and limb through all manner of performances for your attention and money. It’s also a shopping dream, with a dazzling array of boutiques and designer label stores to sate even the most fashion-hungry diva out there.
London has a diverse selection of markets – one for all occasions and needs. Spitalfields, replete with a luxurious glass canopy, houses stalls catering for fashion, interiors, jewellery and art, and you can relax with a glass of wine in Old Spitalfields Market’s Victorian setting and browse the designer couture and antiques. Borough is London’s most renowned food market, with delights from all over the world, and Brixton, in south London, even boasts its own food market, with recipe suggestions and a cornucopia of street food.
Strecthing from Queens Park in the north to Notting Hill in the south, Portobello Road is one of London’s most de rigeur shopping destinations. Its famed Saturday market is a lesson in organised chaos as antiques, vintage clothing and assorted odds and ends make a play for your purse. With street food from around the world to keep you hunting, Portobello has a rugged charm to keep it grounded.
The London Bridge Experience
Teasing that it is the ‘scariest day out’ the London Bridge Experience takes you through a potted history of the city’s grotty and ghastly past, including the Great Fire of London, as well as a tour through the tombs that lie underneath the world famous bridge landmark.
With more than 500 species on show and some two million litres of water, the SeaLife centre on London’s South Bank is a dazzling demonstration of what lies beneath. With 14 themed zones including 14 sharks from 12 different species, it’s not just fish and plantlife from the British Isles and surrounds on show but from all over the world’s oceans.
An iconic setting seen in a thousand movies, Piccadilly Circus will disappoint those looking for some big top-themed entertainment, but them alone. With its glaring, futuristic wall of neon signs for TDK, Sanyo and Fosters, to the statue of Eros in its centre, a popular meeting place for those in town, it’s a London locale you can’t afford to miss. Take in the sights and watch in wonder as life, in all its guises, races past before your very eyes.
Trafalgar Square was built in honour of the British victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in the Napoleonic Wars. Nelson’s Column, constructed in 1843, keeps solemn watch over the city with four lions on plinths keeping guard at the base. Famous for its pigeons – which once numbered 35,000 – the square is now free of its feathery population since bird seed was banned in the early Noughties.
The most visited modern art gallery in the world, that’s what Tate Modern is. But it wasn’t always that way. A brave decision to turn the previously disused Bankside Power station in to an art gallery is one that was met with suspicion and pessimism on its announcement, but it’s a move that has paid off in spades. Housing modern and contemporary art from 1900 onwards, artists such as Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol are displayed here. The Tate Modern’s turbine hall, which previously housed the electricity generators of the power station, is a behemoth to behold. With expansion work developing several unused sections, including underground oil tanks, slated for completion by the 2012 Games, this British success story is set to continue and no trip to the city would be complete without a visit.
Jump on a open-topped bus – weather-permitting – for a spin around the capital’s streets to take in the sights and sounds and get your bearings. For the more energetic, there are oodles of themed-walking tours to take in, including a Jack The Ripper tour along the east London streets which this vicious serial killer stalked in the 1800s.
East End & Shoreditch
Gentrification is leading the charge in this up-and-coming area of London. A hipster scene predominates, taking in art,
music and fashion. Stop in at any one of the area’s trendy bars or ultra-cool nightspots to soak up the vibes.
Why go there? Camden Town is London’s hub of counter-culture cool with clubs, pubs, shopping and more spilling across its lock and surrounds. Out-there styles and attitude run the streets.
Where to go? Camden’s various markets are a frenetic but unmissable shopping experience. For drinks the World’s End provides a snapshot of Camden characters and club Koko is a must-stop for instant indie-cool credibility.
The House of Commons makes for a fascinating delve into British traditions, the public gallery an eye-opening experience. Harvey Nichols and Regent Street’s Liberty take shopping experiences to the next level. Hampstead is the hang out of London’s rich and famous, and the soon-to-be completed cable car over the Thames is a smash tourist success in waiting.
London has a host of weird and wonderful charms. Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park is an outlet for opinion and debate – an opportunity that is much needed in these politically-inclined times. Afternoon Tea at The Ritz takes a very proper English tradition and gives it a luxurious spin, and Fish and Chips at Harrods is a must for those wanting to sample Britain’s other culinary export.