Riding the wave of Cool Britannia this year, Europe’s most fashionable city – and arguably one of the most prominent centres for cultural learning – is none other than our very own capital.
Offering hundreds of years of history, and serving as an epicentre of shopping, theatre, film and art, London has plenty for everyone, and it only involves a short plane, train or car journey, making it the ideal choice for a short-break or weekend away.
Whether you are exploring the Whispering Gallery in St. Paul’s cathedral, scouring Portobello Market for an antique bargain, wandering Bond Street for a designer special, or nosing around the weird world of Harrods, London cannot fail to amuse and entertain. Take a Beatles tour of some of places immortalised by the Fab Four, including Abbey Road Studios, and even the place where John Lennon is reputed to have first met Yoko Ono. Grab a quick refresher in one of London’s selection of world-famous pubs, before embarking upon more sight-seeing, including the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, as they sit grandly over the river Thames and the London Eye, with its panoramic views.
Don’t miss Westminster Abbey, the site of 14 Royal Weddings through the ages, as well as a total of 38 coronations, beginning with William the Conqueror’s in 1066. There’s also the National Gallery, repository of some of the world’s finest works of art, along with the National Portrait Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the brand new Tate Modern, in front of which lies the controversial, wobbly Millenium Bridge, spanning the Thames across to St. Paul’s. From the music and performance offerings of the South Bank Centre to the open-air Shakespeare plays at the carefully re-constructed Globe Theatre to the skyscraping glory of Canary Wharf and the Docklands, London’s waterfront has never been more alive, and development along the River Thames continues apace.
Any visit to London should include a visit to one of its many famous markets, such as the hip Portobello Market on Saturdays in Notting Hill, the Ridley Road Market in North London, the Berwick Street fruit and vegetable market in Soho, the glorious garden market of Columbia Road in the East End, and the colourful and trendy Camden Market every Thursday through to Sunday in Camden Town.
London also has some of Europe’s loveliest parks, from the wide expanse of Hyde Park, with its Serpentine River and delightful Serpentine Gallery showcasing a number of modern artists, to the manicured lawns, hedges and flower borders of Regent’s Park to the glorious views and pastoral, country-like acres of Hampstead Heath. Or take a short tube ride outside of the city to the famous Kew Gardens in Richmond (see our Gardens feature).
Visit vibrant Soho before or after taking in a night of theatre on Shaftsbury Avenue, and stroll along the tiny streets brimming with lively cafés, restaurants and bars. Shop along the major thoroughfares of Oxford Street, Regent Street, Kensington High Street or in the fashionable boutiques of Bond Street and Covent Garden. And then you can enjoy fantastic cuisine from all over the world in the city’s cornucopia of fine restaurants.
Whether it’s a weekend or a longer break, you’ll find no shortage of things to see and do. It’s time you got to know your capital.