3 Things in the City I Love: London
It’s no secret that I love London. The history and culture, the mix of ancient and modern architecture, the quirky shops and hip, cozy pubs, the lovely green parks, and don’t forget the accents! The list could go on and on. I have now been to this remarkable city several times over the years and each time I return I find something new and surprising.
London is steeped in history, something you can see on every street corner. Everyone is familiar with the iconic symbols of Big Ben, the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, and the royal guards (who hasn’t tried to make them smile?!), but there are hidden delights in the thick maze of streets as well. Put on your walking shoes and spend some time just wandering the city and you may come across Goodwin’s Court, a tiny alley lined with Georgian buildings still lit by gas lamps (and rumored to be the real Diagon Alley from Harry Potter!) or stumble upon one of the many hidden gardens scattered throughout the city (London is one of the top green cities in terms of parks). There is also a wonderful modern edge to the city, as one look at the London Eye or the Shard, the new skyscraper resembling a shard of glass, will tell you.
There is something in London for everyone. The diverse nature of sights and activities allows for a wonderful array of choices. Often my time in London is limited, so when forced to narrow down the spectrum, these are my three favorite things to see and do in the city I love:
- Borough Market
One of the largest sustainable food markets in London, Borough Market is a real feast for the senses. Home to a vast number of artisanal food stands, this market will tempt your inner foodie. Freshly baked bread, straight-from-the-farm cheeses, homemade English preserves, British pies, and even gluten-free desserts beckon from each table. Make sure to come on an empty stomach! The food is fresh, organic, local, and simply amazing. I still dream of the chorizo sandwich on ciabatta with red peppers and rocket (Brit speak for arugula). Buy a few different items from several of the purveyors and take them a few blocks north to have a quiet picnic along the Thames. My favorite way to spend a Saturday morning in London!
- An Afternoon in Kensington
London is made up of many diverse neighborhoods. From classic Notting Hill to trendy Shoreditch in East London, each neighborhood has its own vibe and atmosphere. One of my favorite areas is in West London, covering Knightsbridge and South Kensington, with its rich Edwardian architecture, fantastic museums, and rich assortment of shops.
Start the afternoon at two of London’s best museums, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Natural History Museum. The V&A is one of my favorite museums in the world and has great exhibits on art and design. From sculpture to textiles to jewelry to photography, the museum is a great blend of classic and modern art. One of my first visits here was to see a stunning exhibit on travel photography and I have been coming back in every visit since. Make sure to stop into the gift shop on your way out; you can find some unique gifts here.
The Natural History Museum is housed in one of London’s most stunning buildings. The dinosaur exhibits are always popular with kids, but, being the jewelry lover that I am, the mineral and fossil exhibits are my personal favorites. And while all the exhibits are a must see, make sure to take in the stunning architecture, especially in the main hall. One of London’s true hidden gems.
End the afternoon with a spot of shopping at iconic British stores Harrods and Harvey Nichols before taking a relaxing stroll through Kensington Gardens.
- Roman Ruins
Before Queen Elizabeth I & II, Queen Victoria, and the Tudors, the Romans occupied the land that is now London (they called it Londinium) and their footsteps can still be found beneath the city. Many of the Roman ruins have been buried beneath the city for centuries, lying undiscovered until the present day. The Museum of London, in collaboration with the History Channel, has a wonderful app (Streetmuseum Londinium) that you can download to trace the streets and buildings of ancient Londinium, overlaying it with modern-day London for easy navigation. Follow the markings to discover fragments of an old Roman wall and gain a new perspective on the history of this cosmopolitan city. After studying the history, take a trip to the Guildhall Art Gallery to see some of the ancient ruins firsthand—the basement houses the remains of a Roman amphitheater! Lights and lasers, giving you a feel for the original scale and design of the original amphitheater, accent the small ruins, only recently discovered in the late 1980s. A fun and unique exhibit!
Whenever I travel, I like to take in the sights, culture, food scene, and hidden gems along the way. I hope you can take in some of these experiences on your next trip to London and discover some favorites of your own!
This is Britta Duncan’s submission for the ‘3 Things in the City I Love’ contest by Velvet Escape, Traveldudes, and www.wimdu.co.uk.