I could have subtitled this 26 places to see in London before you die, OK it’s a bit dramatic but for tourists and Londoners alike the City should be explored but with so much choice can be a little bewildering. Covering an area of over 610 sq miiles and a population of over 7 million there’s an awful lot to choose from. It’s tempting to go for the most famous tourist hot spots, many of which will be both crowded and expensive. So what criteria should be applied to the top 26? The common denominator is a simple one; each place must impress the visitor or Londoner – and I hope you dear reader – it should give some sense of the City’s magic, integrity, wonder or legacy and offer value for money.
So here it is – Your Handy Cut Out and Keep Guide to London:
A walk along the South Bank of the Thames is one of the best ways to see the City. Christopher Wren rented a house here to watch his St. Paul’s rising from the ashes after the Great Fire, and you can too. London’s skyline is continually changing and from this vantage point many landmarks are visible. Visit the Anchor Inn for refreshment.
British Museum is one of the largest collections of human artefacts in the world. So many exhibits are on display pick the best: the Rosetta stone; Elgin Marbles; and the Egyptian Gallery. Richard Rogers covered the courtyard with a dramatic roof; enjoy your coffee break there.
Claridges for partaking in the English tradition of taking afternoon tea. Elegant, with its green crockery, delicious and efficient. The clientele tend to be regulars and more refined than the Ritz which has at times has the nouvelle rich being a little brash.
Drive a London cab. Alright a little self promotion here, but take a taxi tour and have yourself photographed “driving” a London cab with Big Ben in the background.
Eros in the heart of the West End. The statute is in fact a memorial to the 7th Earl of Shaftsbury, and is intended to represent the angel of Christian charity. OK it’s not Times Square but the illuminated adverts are worth watching.
Fly the London Eye. This elegant modern piece of engineering was built by David Marks and Julia Barfield for the Millennium; it’s Europe’s tallest observational wheel. Buy advanced tickets and enjoy the 40 minute flight soaring 412 feet into the sky, worth every penny for the unparalled views – and surprisingly no vertigo.
Globe Theatre. The original was built in 1598, and saw many of Shakespeare’s plays performed there. Cannon fire during a performance in 1613 of Henry VIII set the thatch alight, rebuilt it eventually closed in 1642. It took an American, Sam Wanamaker, whose inspiration and drive got this perfect replica built, a perfect except that is for the fire sprinklers, where’re taking no chances this time. Visit in summer and watch theatre like you have never experienced before. Simply brilliant. Good interactive museum next door.
Houses of Parliament. Tours are possible during summer months or if you are a UK resident contact your MP to be booked into a conducted tour, be warned though; you might have to endure your MP’s waffle afterwards. Alternatively it is best seen at night from the Albert Embankment on the south bank of the Thames. Stunning.
Ivy Restaurant. Book a table at London’s best-known celebrity restaurant, just don’t stare if you see a celeb, it’s not done. Described as “modern eclectic” the Welsh rarebit is to be recommended. Failing to get a table try Rules Restaurant London’s oldest eatery, serving traditional fare in its present location since 1798.
Jack the Ripper tours most evenings in East London during summer. He murdered at least five prostitutes at the end of the 19th century. The case remains unsolved, but a small industry has built up catering for the less squeamish.
Kew Gardens are worth a trip into West London. The gardens are a convergence of three 17th century projects. The Palm House is worth the trip alone. Pop into The Maids of Honour Tea Room opposite for a delicious tea before you go home.
Librarians in the British Library try to keep a copy of every book that has been published in the United Kingdom and the building contains over 14 million books. Forget the academia head for the museum with its exhibitions on how early printing was done. Also early editions of English classics are on show.
Music played in St. Martin’s in the Fields church by Trafalgar Square. Performed in 18th century costume and illuminated by candlelight. Romantic and ethereal.