London is one of the world’s most alluring cities. It’s a major capital that blends continuity with tradition, centuries-old history with 21st-century know-how, British style with cosmopolitan pizzazz. Despite its huge size, London is actually a patchwork of “villages” of contrasting styles. It’s linked by the River Thames that snakes and meanders through the city, east to west—a waterway that was a trading route in Roman times. There’s a snapshot of history on its banks, with iconic landmarks like the Tower of London, St Paul’s Cathedral and futuristic silver skycrapers. London is a city with year-round appeal, with a constant stream of entertainment and festivals. Just bring a pair of comfortable walking shoes—and of course a waterproof jacket—to explore it.
The City’s Culture
With history at every turn, you can walk in the footsteps of Shakespeare, Dickens, Churchill and Dr. Samuel Johnson (who wrote the English dictionary). London has always been about its people and has always been a magnet for nationalities, styles and cultures from across the globe. Nowhere is that more obvious than its dining scene, where you can feast your way around the world—Ethiopian, Japanese fusion, Peruvian and French, for starters, with dozens more. To round off dinner, there are 18th-century snug pubs on cobbled strerets for a pint of English ale, or a designer cocktail at the top of The Shard. Essential Experiences For fans of the British royals, there’s regal history to delve into. Kensington Palace has long-term exhibitions, and Hampton Court Palace shows off Henry VIII’s treasured tapestries. Each summer, the Queen throws open the doors of Buckingham Palace for the public to explore its opulent State Rooms. History and art is on show at world-class museums and galleries, like the British Museum, V&A and Tate Modern. London has been a hotbed of fashion since the swinging 60s and you can get a taste of that in smart department store Selfridges, edgy markets in Camden Town and independent boutiques in Carnaby Street. The city’s breadth of theatres is a real draw, from sassy West End musicals to open-air Shakespeare plays at the Globe Theatre.
Where to Explore
The South Bank is home to the London Eye, giving you a fabulous overview of the city’s patchwork—it’s also near the Southbank Centre for a range of live music and drama. On the opposite side of the river is the Westminster and the Houses of Parliament, open for tours, and Westminster Abbey where monarchs are buried. Covent Garden, once centered on a 17th-century vegetable market, now hosts the more modern market, plus boutiques and the Royal Opera House. Nearby is Trafalgar Square, considered the centre of London, watched over by the immense Nelson’s Column and bordered by the National Gallery. Further east are the markets around Brick Lane and Spitalfields, and west is South Kensington—home to the Natural History Museum and the Royal Albert Hall.