Friday, 27 August 2010

What to see

There are so many things to see in London, really one is spoilt for choice. What to see very much depends on the time you have available to you and on what your favourite things to do, when visiting a new place, are.

Nonetheless, whatever your tastes, there are a number of must-see places in London, places you can’t really miss to see.

Westminster Cathedral (nearest tube station: Westminster), Buckingham Palace (nearest tube station: Green Park), Tower Bridge (nearest tube station: Tower Hill), Tower of London (nearest tube station: Tower Hill), Saint Paul’s Cathedral (nearest tube station: Saint Paul’s) and the Millennium Bridge (nearest tube station: Saint Paul’s and Blackfriars), definitely are amongst them.

In particular the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace is a lovely “show” definitely worth to be seen. The protocol includes soldiers on parade according to meticulously crafted choreographies, whose rhythm of march is beaten out by drummers and trumpets.

You could also take a tour of the Tower of London (nearest tube station: Tower Hill), guided by a Yeoman Wanders, and discover its ancient history, accessing the Tower’s prison, the place of execution, the arsenal and the Crown jewels.

If you fancy exhibits and museums you should definitely visit the British Museum (nearest tube station: Tottenham Court Road and Holborn), where you could see impressive works made by man all over the history, from the ancient Egyptians to the ancient Romans. You could also marvel at some vestiges of the past, roman temples and even some impressive, massive statues. Amongst the most important things to see, need to be listed: the Rosetta Stone, the Parthenon sculptures, and the mummies in the Ancient Egypt collection.

Entry is totally free of charge; a £3 offer would, anyway, be appreciated by the museum management, which is really nothing compared to what you can see. Your contribution will allow the museum management to keep free of charge the entrance to the venue. Special exhibit, nonetheless, could require tickets.

The National Museums (nearest tube station: Charing Cross) towers the scenery of Trafalgar Square, where you could gaze up at paintings and works made by artists such as Van Gogh, da Vinci, Botticelli, Constable, Renoir, Titian and Stubbs. Also here entry is free of charge, but even in this case, a £3 offer would be appreciated, for the same reasons listed above. Once again, after all, it must be said that £3 is equal to a totally free entry; you could literally need hours to visit and enjoy the masterpieces these museums are exhibiting.

Another museum, worth to be visited and whose entry is free of charge, “sitting grandly on the banks of the Thames” is the Tate Modern (nearest tube station: Blackfriars). The site, which previously was a power station, offers exhibitions by contemporary artists such as Damien Hirst to Gauguin. Although entry is free, some exhibits can require tickets.

Staying in London’s Bankside, once home to derelict wharf building, it is worth say that in the area you also find the Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, Vinopolis, Clink Prison (London's oldest jail) and London Dungeon, which, without any question, is the most popular London’s horror attraction (nearest tube station: London Bridge).

If you like animals and, of course, if you’ll get the time, you could also pay a visit to the Natural History Museum (nearest tube station: South Kensington) in order to stare at dinosaurs exhibit, its collections of the tallest and biggest animals in the world, a Blue Whale and to pay a visit at the Darwin Centre. Even in this case, entry to this amazing museum is free, but, also in this case be ready to pay an entry ticket for special events.

Another worth-a-visit museum in London is the Science Museum (nearest tube station: South Kensington), where, amongst the other things, you could familiarise with the last three centuries’ major scientific technological development. Also in this case, entry is usually free, but some exhibits may require tickets.

The National Maritime Museum (nearest DLR station: Cutty Surk for Maritime Greenwich), acknowledged as one of the greatest museum of its genre, will allow you to discover and get acquainted with the traditions of maritime London. Usually free, some exhibits could require tickets.

If you are passionate about art and design, you can’t really miss to pay a visit to the Victoria & Albert Museum (nearest tube station: South Kensington), which boosts an amazing collection of artefacts, paintings, sculptures and furniture from around the world. Usually free, some exhibits could require tickets.

If you want to gain an in depth knowledge of prehistoric London, how it was managed during the Roman and medieval period, you can’t miss to see, then, the Museum of London (nearest tube station: Barbican and Saint Paul’s). Entry is free.

If you are, instead, interested on finding out more about the conflicts form the World War 1 to the present and to learn more about the espionage in The Secret War and the holocaust, then the Imperial War Museum (nearest tube station: Lambeth North) is what it takes. Entry is usually free, but some exhibits could require tickets.

For those who are passionate about contemporary design, architecture and industrial design the Design Museum (nearest tube station: Tower Hill and London Bridge) could represent a must see.

If you are curious to find out how public transport has been evolving through the years in London, a visit to the London Transport Museum (nearest tube station: Covent Garden) is suggested. You could look at a collection of approximately 80 vehicles which have helped Londoners and tourists to travel across the city over a period of 200 years.

If you are now considering that London can just offer you museums, you are pretty wrong, there are, in fact, many more places to visit and many more things to do.

A definitely lovely place to see is, for instance, Trafalgar Square. Closed to the vehicles circulation in 2003, Trafalgar Square is now one of the biggest pedestrian squares in London, where many major events are continually held throughout the year, under the constant scrutiny of Admiral Nelson, who towers the whole area from the top of his column.

In the immediate proximity to Trafalgar Square is the National Portrait Gallery and St. Martin in the Field Church (nearest tube station: Charing Cross) where you could enjoy a lunch or evening classical concert.

North of Trafalgar Square is Leicester Square (nearest tube station: Leicester Square and Piccadilly), where you could buy theatre tickets at discounted price in one the theatre booths located in the area. Theatre in London definitely is one of the main attractions of the night life, successes like Les Miserable, Mamma Mia, Billy Elliot, The Phantom of the Opera, just to name but a few, are masterpieces everybody knows.

One of the major, arguably the major, concert venues in London is the Royal Albert Hall (nearest tube station: South Kensington), located just opposite to the south side of Hyde Park. Coming into Hyde Park from there, you’d find The Serpentine Gallery (nearest tube station: Lancaster Gate) which hosts one the most visited contemporary art gallery in London.

The London Eye (nearest tube station: Westminster), brainchild of architects David Marks and Julia Bartfield, has its origins back in 1994, when a competition was launched by the London press in the form of “what sort of structure could be built in London to celebrate the millennium”. The project didn’t actually win the competition, but it attracted a lot of interest and support from many Londoners so that, lot of hurdles notwithstanding, it was finally realised. The project was then implemented by British Airways, that’s also why the London Eye experience is called and described as a flight.

For those with a head for heights, here are some other places where you could enjoy great views of the city.

The top-floor restaurant and bar of the above mentioned National Portrait Gallery, offers amazing views towards the Nelson Column in Trafalgar Square (nearest tube station: Leicester Square).

The Windows on the World restaurant and bar at the London Hilton offers lovely panoramic views of Hyde Park and Buckingham Palace (nearest tube station: Hyde Park Corner).

The “other” Hilton, i.e. the London Hilton Metropole, offers unbeatable panoramas from its 23rd floor restaurant (nearest tube station: Edgware Road).

Also the highest point of Saint Paul’s Cathedral outer Dome offers an impressive views of London, but take note, in order to enjoy it, you need first to climb 530 steps (nearest tube station: Saint’s Paul).

The Westminster Cathedral, provided with an elevator, offers lovely sights of London that, on a clear day, can allow you to see as far as Hampstead Heath (nearest tube station: Victoria Station).

You could also enjoy a lovely panoramic view from the Studio Lounge located on the 5th floor of Watestone’s, arguably the biggest bookshop in Europe (nearest tube station: Piccadilly).

If you like to have a panoramic view of the bank district, including the Bank of England, you could book a table for lunch at the Coq d’Argent, one of the trendiest lunch spots in London, located in the Oxo Tower (nearest tube station: Bank).

In the area located between Westminster and Waterloo Bridges, on the South Bank of River Thames, there are several cultural places worth to be mentioned (and to be seen): The Sea Life London Aquarium, the County Hall where the London Film Museum is located, the Hayward Gallery, the Queen Elisabeth Hall, the Purcell Room, the Royal Festival Hall, the Royal National Theatre, the Old and Young Vic, the BFI London Imax Cinema and the British Film Institute (nearest tube station: Waterloo).

Other places you shouldn’t eventually miss to see in London are Piccadilly Circus (nearest tube station: Piccadilly), Kensington (nearest tube station: High Street Kensington), Marylebone (nearest tube station: Marylebone and Bond Street) and Covent Garden (nearest tube station: Covent Garden), with its street artists who are constantly entertaining visitors with their shows and performances.

Notting Hill and Portobello’s Road and Market (nearest tube station: Notting Hill Gate), definitely are amongst the must-see places. Should you be there in August you could also enjoy and join the carnival parade.

Another lovely place to see is Soho where the London Chinatown is located. If you like Chinese cuisine this is the right place where to seek for a Chinese restaurant (nearest tube station: Piccadilly).

If you are curious to see the area where Jack the Ripper was carrying out his criminal activities in the past, than Brick Lane is a place you should definitely visit (nearest tube station: Aldgate East). You could also decide to join the “Jack the Ripper walking tour”.

It must also be said that the area has relatively recently been rejuvenated and it is now considered very posh, teeming with trendy restaurants and bar where especially young people are used to spend their night life.

If you are a Sherlock Holmes fan, you then have to visit Baker Street (nearest tube station: Baker Street), where you could find a shop entirely devoted to the most famous detective in the world.

Unless you are not planning to stay in London for months, it is really unlikely that you could ever be able to visit it in a matter of weeks, let alone of days. Discovering the whole of London is a real quest, and wherever you go, you’ll find something interesting and particular to see. The more you go around, the more you’ll realise there are still so many things to see. This is possibly why, no matter how many times you have already been there, you’ll always find worth and lovely to come back to London.