Spoilt for choice: tradition meets modern in London. Centuries old landmarks or rather a go on the big wheel?
Art & culture
The capital of the United Kingdom offers an overwhelming amount of sightseeing attractions that you could fill months with. So anyone, who is just there on holiday, has to make the choice between cultural jewels such as the National Gallery with works by Michelangelo, Monet and van Gogh, the British Museum, the Tate Gallery of Modern Art in a converted power station and Madame Tussauds. The waxworks with its famous reproductions of celebrities attracts tourists from around the world.
The Tower of London bears more history, having been used in its 900 year history as a prison and armoury and now housing the British Crown Jewels. You can admire the Tower of London and many other attractions on a boat trip along the Thames.
British maritime history was very dramatic and marked by war for very long periods of time. You can find out all about it in the National Maritime Museum and then visit the National History Museum to see its electronic dinosaurs and gigantic skeletons and then check out the Darwin Centre. A museum of a somewhat different kind is Ripley’s Believe It or Not! You find all sorts of crazy things here such as a hall of mirrors, a replica torture chamber, a life-size crocheted Ferrari and an upside down living room.
If you are brave enough you could dare to visit the London Dungeon, where the most gruesome part of London’s history, the serial killer Jack the Ripper, as well as the Black Death and other catastrophes are presented. Too scary? The Sherlock Holmes Museum is a very interesting and less frightening alternative.
Buckingham Palace, where British kings and queens have lived since 1837, the mighty Big Ben clock tower, the medieval Westminster Abbey, where Prince William and Kate said ‘I do’ in 2011 and St. Paul’s Cathedral are some of the greatest attractions in the city.
You can get a great view of it all if you do not mind queuing. The London Eye, the third largest big wheel in the world, takes you on a 30 minute ride in a glass capsule to up to 135 m above the roofs of all of these attractions.
Just like in many other big cities, London also has numerous flea markets and food markets that you can wander around for hours. Borough Market, Columbia Road Flower Market and the markets on Portobello Road and on Petticoat and Brick Lane are just a few examples. Maybe a nice Londoner will even tell you where their personal favourite market is!
For many people, London is the epitome of multicultural life due to the countless different nationalities living there. Nevertheless, England has its very own cuisine with classics such as fish & chips or the famous full English breakfast with eggs, baked beans, bacon, toast and sausages known far beyond their own shores.
If that is too much for you early in the morning you can try an afternoon tea. Traditionally this afternoon speciality consists of black tea with milk, sandwiches, biscuits and delicious scones. These sweet buns are served with “clotted cream” and fresh strawberry jam.
Fitness & fun
The numerous parks in London form a counterweight to the hustle and bustle of the city life. The most famous is the extensive Hyde Park that you can even discover on horseback. The Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew offer a particularly exotic patch of green space. Numerous greenhouses, interesting buildings and plants that are not to be found anywhere else in Europe are waiting for you to discover them. There is also a “canopy walk”, a suspended walkway that leads right through the treetops!
By the way: London is a very sporty city! The Olympic Park is home to the Olympic Stadium, a watersports centre, a velodrome and much more. The football clubs Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham are just as much a part of the city as the rugby clubs, rowing teams and of course Wimbledon, the world’s oldest tennis tournament.
A few little facts
To many of the over 8 million population of London, the pubs that can be found all over are like a second living room, where you go for a drink with good friends after work. But also alternative events such as Friday Night Skate or iPod Dance Festivals, where everyone dances to their own music on their headphones can of course be found in this modern city. Even carnival finds its way to London every year in August! At Notting Hill Carnival great hoards of people fill the streets and celebrate a vibrant street party with music, cultural events and tasty food.
Good to know
London doesn’t only have old treasures on offer. On the contrary, the city has spawned many new international trends, especially where music and fashion are concerned. Did you know that Adele, Lily Allen, The xx, Mumford & Sons and Florence & The Machine are just some of the successful musicians from London? Even Harry Potter takes the train to school from London’s King’s Cross Station. The famous “Platform 9¾“ is still there today.
Peak season in London is summer. If you want to avoid the masses it is advisable to travel in spring or autumn, but then it can get quite chilly! As a general rule: book everything possible before you travel! That doesn’t just mean hotels, but also any tourist attractions. That way you can avoid the very long queues and some tickets are actually cheaper on the internet. You can explore the city using the underground, the typical double decker buses or also take one of the public rental bikes.