The world over knows of a handful of towns, those cities that no matter where you go people nod in recognition of the city you speak of. Places like New York, Shanghai, Berlin, and Moscow are all in this boat, and so is London, England. Dare I mention that they also hosted the 2012 Summer Olympics?
As European’s largest urban zone, London has a lot of people, about 8,174,100 people in the city itself, and 13,709,000 in the metro. London is an ancient city. Founded by the Romans around 43 AD, it was named Londinium, there is still evidence of this today in the eldest part of the city, Westminster, and on the other side of the river in the Borough where some amazing markets are held on the weekends.
A beautiful reason to visit London is all of the museums that are free. Some of them will have special exhibits that will charge a small fee, but typically the rest of the museum will be completely free to walk around.
Some of the museums to go see are:
- British Museum
- Tate Britain
- Tate Modern
- Science Museum
- Victoria and Albert Museum
- Natural History Museum
- Museum of London
- Imperial War Museum
- Design Museum
- National Maritime Museum
- London Transport Museum
The list could really go on. For more, head to the wikipedia page on Museums of London. I highly suggest the two Tates, Natural History Museum, and the… ok, really, they’re all good. Go to all of them.
However, London, with so many people walking around the streets, is somewhat beautiful to just wander and enjoy the faces you see. There are many districts of London which are must see places, the kind of must see places that everybody will ask you about if you saw when you tell them you were in London.
A great starting point is right in Westminster, mere steps from the stairs leading into Westminster Cathedral at Victoria Underground station. It is a busy station, it is also convenient, and it is also very big. One must start the tourist thing off right after all!
Do not miss the opportunity to step inside Westminster Cathedral, taking time to gaze at the ancient stained glass windows that holds so much historical mysteries. From here, wander the streets NE towards Big Ben, located along the banks of the Thames, in a very crowded but beautiful area. One finds themselves staring with wide eyes at the massive buildings in this area, so do not forget your camera on this tour. From here, it would be ideal to head North towards Trafalgar Square, a very popular square that also births the National Portrait Gallery, a massive building and artistic feat in itself that one can stare at for quite some time in amazement.
From here, the gates of Buckingham Palace, a nice walk down The Mall, beckon one to come closer. This is a beautiful walk along a very wide street with trees that create a very elegant atmosphere, one where the walker can practically see the horse-drawn carriage and old Victorian dresses as they come and go. Perhaps packing a lunch to sit in Buckingham Gardens with something to eat after so much walking is an ideal treat for the weary traveler! Hyde Park, just NW of Buckingham Gardens is much bigger as well if there are no empty benches to sit on at Hyde!
After this, head to Piccadilly, just on the North side of the gardens, and walk NE towards Piccadilly Circus. I can promise you that when you reach Piccadilly Circus you will not want to hop on the underground to your next destination, instead you will want to continue walking down the extremely crowded street filled with elegant shops and massive buildings. A very cool experience indeed.
Another area of town to explore is Camden Town. Here you can experience one of the wildest markets around, at the Stables. Mind your wallets though, as it’s a bit more busy, and a bit less kept than Piccadilly is.
King’s Rd in Chelsea, around Sloane Square and SW from there is also a beautiful region filled with hip clubs, pubs, top fashion labels, and creative art stores to explore.
Notting Hill has a pretty big market with loads of booths of second-hand clothing sellers that invite the dreamer to dream.
Knightsbridge is a cool area because it has Royal Albert Hall, the Museum of Natural History, and Hyde Park all around it.
A beautiful fact of London is that no matter where you walk, you’ll wander into an area that throws majesty at you. 100 year old historic buildings, posh new store fronts, massive government buildings and hotels, or markets that overwhelm even the thriftiest of travelers all give way to this experience hardly felt elsewhere. It becomes clear that London is the capital of one of the most powerful Countries throughout history.
I suggest wearing good shoes, getting yourself an Oyster Card for the underground when you go into your first train station, and putting a smile on your face because you know most people in a hurry to get somewhere.
Have you ever been to London and have a favorite spot to visit?