Things to Do in London - page 4
Graffiti-lined Brick Lane has long been an immigrant neighborhood, having hosted French Huguenot, Irish, Jewish, and—most recently—Bangladeshi communities. The string of curry houses at its southern end specialize in Indian and South Asian cuisine, while farther north, retro clothing shops, cafés, and bars dominate the scene.
Packed with cultural hot spots and boasting a uniquely laid-back atmosphere, the South Bank district is a must for anyone curious about London life. Locals and visitors alike stroll the riverbank for striking views of Westminster and beyond, or pop into any of the museums, galleries, theaters, or pubs for which the area is famous.
Few British royals were as universally adored as Princess Diana, the affectionately nicknamed ‘People’s Princess’, and the Diana Memorial Fountain is just one of the many tributes and memorials erected in her name after her untimely death back in 1997.
Opened by Her Majesty The Queen in 2004, the unique water feature is the design of Kathryn Gustafson and represents Diana’s life, quality and openness, a continuous circle of flowing water, crafted from Cornish granite and crossed by three bridges. The memorial fountain lies on the route of the Princess Diana Memorial Walk, an 11km circular trail running through five of London’s royal parks and linking sights like Kensington Palace, Buckingham Palace and the Princess Diana Memorial Playground.
Step into the magical world of Harry Potter and journey behind the scenes of one of the most successful film series of all time at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter. Fans can step inside memorable sets such as Diagon Alley, Dumbledore's office, and the Great Hall; discover behind-the-scenes secrets and special effects used in the Harry Potter movies; and admire a huge collection of costumes, iconic props, and interactive exhibitions.
Kings Cross was named after a monument for King George IV but the area was settled much, much earlier. St Pancras old church originated in 4BC. These days it's most famous for its train station: Kings Cross/St Pancras. From here trains go all over England, including to Hogwarts if you can find Harry Potter's Platform 9 3/4. It's also home to Eurostar, which whisks you to Paris and Brussels.
The surrounding area is slowly edging its way out of being one of the seediest parts of London. The magnificent St Pancras building is coming back to life as a posh hotel, the British Library is just down the road, and of course, the station redevelopment is full of shops and restaurants.
An alternative-fashion mecca during the 1960s ‘Swinging London,’ Carnaby Street was once home to iconic boutiques like Mary Quant, frequented by The Who and the Rolling Stones and name-checked in pop hits like The Kinks’ “Dedicated Follower of Fashion.” Today, the famous street remains one of central London’s coolest shopping destinations.
The Cenotaph is a war memorial that stands on Whitehall Street in central London. It began as a temporary structure built for a peace parade at the end of World War I and in 1920 was replaced by a permanent structure made of Portland stone. It is now considered the United Kingdom’s primary war memorial, also commemorating those killed in World War II and other wars in which Britons fought and died. King George VI unveiled the memorial for the second time in November 1946 following the end of World War II. The design of the Cenotaph has been replicated elsewhere in the U.K., as well as in Australia, Canada, Bermuda, Hong Kong and New Zealand.
Standing 35 feet high and weighing 120 tons, the memorial has the words “The Glorious Dead” inscribed on it twice. It is the site of the annual National Service of Remembrance, held on Remembrance Sunday, the Sunday closest to November 11.
Established in the 1860s, Old Spitalfields Market is a historic market that is still bustling today. The covered marketplace is full of stalls offering a mix of chain restaurants and local street food as well as unique, locally designed goods, imported wares, vintage clothes, handmade jewelry, and all manner of quirky items.
The London Film Museum, tucked away in Covent Garden, focuses on the British film industry with a permanent collection of original props, costumes, and sets of all kinds. Past exhibitions have focused on Charlie Chaplin, and the long-running Bond in Motion car exhibition is now permanent.
St. Katharine Docks once made up one of London’s busiest ports, handling shipments of tea and spices from all over the world. Today the area is a working marina lined with homes, restaurants, offices, and stores. Take a walk along the docks (located near Tower Bridge) to admire the boats and enjoy the local pubs and restaurants.
More Things to Do in London
Immortalized in the 1999 romantic comedy of the same name, Notting Hill is a popular West London neighborhood and is at the top of many visitors’ wish lists. Today, the area is beloved for its rainbow-hued houses, for the lively market that takes place on Portobello Road, and for the Notting Hill Carnival: a London summer highlight.
The ArcelorMittal Orbit, built for the 2012 London Olympics, has the distinction of being the UK’s tallest sculpture. At 375 feet (114.5 meters) high, it is also possibly the world’s tallest—and longest—tube slide. The observation decks offer visitors stunning views with visibility of up to 20 miles (32 kilometers) on a clear day.
Few ships are as famous as the Golden Hind, which first set out from London to explore the globe in 1577, captained by Sir Francis Drake. A replica of this iconic ship, the Golden Hinde, is docked on the River Thames in central London. Visitors can go aboard and learn more about the ship’s place in British history.
With its abundance of restaurants, striking Paifangs (traditional gateways), colorful swaying lanterns, and bilingual street signs, London’s Chinatown showcases its unique identity. Located at the heart of the city, this area is a popular tourist attractions and one of London’s most interesting dining destinations.
London is one of the world’s great cities for lovers of the performing arts, and the bulk of its theaters and entertainment offerings are clustered in the city’s West End. A district that roughly comprises Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus, Covent Garden, Oxford Circus, and Regent Street, the West End is always lively and bustling.
Both an architectural marvel and a key transit hub, St. Pancras International is one of London’s most striking landmarks. Opened in 1868, the station is the hub for the Eurostar service that connects London to Continental Europe. The station also connects to King’s Cross station, where you can catch the mainline and Underground trains.
A striking example of Palladian architecture with its imposing Corinthian columns and regal façade, the Mansion House makes a fitting residence for the Lord Mayor of London. The official residence and head office of the Lord Mayor since 1752, the house remains an important political center, hosting numerous civic meetings, fundraising events, receptions and dinners throughout the year.
The Mansion House is open to the public for guided tours (weekly or by appointment), allowing visitors to admire the opulent drawing rooms, peek into the Old Ballroom and marvel over the Egyptian Hall, actually designed in a classical Roman style. Highlights of a visit include the 18th-century Hallkeeper's Chair; the glittering crystal chandeliers in the Salon; and the Harold Samuel art collection, which features notable paintings and sculptures by 17th-century Dutch and Flemish artists.
With its ornate spires, elaborate friezes and 53-meter-high central cross, the Albert Memorial surely ranks among London’s most impressive monuments, and it’s impossible to miss, standing proud over the south entrance to Kensington Gardens, opposite the equally grand Royal Albert Hall.
Inaugurated by Queen Victoria in 1872, the striking memorial is dedicated to her beloved husband, Prince Albert, whose untimely death of typhoid fever in 1861, at just 42 years old, had left her grief-stricken. Devoted not only to Prince Albert, but to all his passions and achievements, the masterful Gothic design is the work of Sir George Gilbert Scott and features a central gilded statue of Albert, holding the catalogue of the 1851 Great Exhibition. Surrounding statues represent the Prince’s main areas of interest - engineering, agriculture, commerce and art, while the intricate frieze at the base of the monument features images of 178 artists, poets and musicians, a further tribute to his love of the arts.
With 326 acres (121 hectares) of exotic plants, woodland trails, and lily ponds, plus 30,000-plus plant species, the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew offer an idyllic escape for Londoners. As well as being one of London’s most visited outdoor attractions, the gardens are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and house one of the oldest and most significant botanical collections in the world.
West London’s Portobello Road is home to one of London’s most famous street markets. It spans two miles (3 kilometers) and includes more than 2,000 dealers offering vintage clothes, handcrafted accessories, retro items and furniture, and many antiques that locals and visitors love to browse and buy.
The most exclusive shopping street in London, Bond Street is where you’ll find flagship stores for brands like Burberry, Chanel, Dior, and Louis Vuitton. Running through the heart of Mayfair, the famous street dates back to the 1680s and is split into two sections—Old Bond Street in the south and New Bond Street in the north.
The official home of Chelsea Football Club since 1905, Stamford Bridge has a long legacy. Watching a match at the iconic stadium is a popular choice for football (soccer) fans visiting London, and the on-site museum offers a look back at the team’s history.
Built in 1622, London’s Banqueting House was once part of the Palace of Whitehall, which was home to the English monarch for 168 years. The building is the last structure standing of the former complex. It exemplifies the beginnings of neoclassical architecture and boasts a tumultuous history, including the execution of Charles I in 1649.
Leave the bustling streets behind as you explore Kensington Gardens, one of the city’s most famous green spaces. Discover landmarks including the Albert Memorial, Kensington Palace, and Serpentine River; pick up practical gardening tips in the Allotment; or simply absorb the atmosphere at one of the park’s many cafés.
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