The capital of England is a historic city with a metropolitan and cosmopolitan flavour. Home to 8 million, London is a melting pot of culture, shopping and entertainment to suit all ages.
It’s certainly worth a little bit of pre-trip research as there is so much to see and do in this historic capitol that it can get overwhelming.
London is known for shopping that caters for a variety of tastes with many famous shopping areas; Brick Lane market is a haven for the bargain hunter, with clothes, antiques, bric a brac and all sorts of crazy stuff every Sunday from 8am to 2pm. Best of all, you can get a great curry afterwards. Another market is at Portobello Road, running Fridays and Saturdays. For retro fashion try Beyond Retro, a converted warehouse in Shoreditch that houses more than 10,000 items from the 1940s up to the present day. Camden Market is world-famous for second-hand stalls and everything from gowns to disco wear – and dodgy punk rock T-shirts. Smart shoppers these days head to Oxfam Boutiques in Chelsea, Chiswick and Notting Hill – all hotbeds of classy clobber.
Oxfam also run a great bookshop, which brings us nicely to Bernard J Shapero Rare Books, London’s leading antiquarian store that specialises in travel, natural history and English literature. They also do valuations. Brilliantly, too, the South Bank Book Market under Waterloo Bridge is open every day.
Famous shopping streets include Oxford Street – home to Selfridges – Regent Street, Mayfair and for a great suit, Savile Row. Carnaby Street may not be what it was as a cultural centre of the 1960s, but these 12 streets combine street clothing, designer boutiques and cafes and restaurants. Just right for teenagers, mums and grandmas to find their own slice of chic.
London’s world-famous sights are numerous and range from Buckingham Palace – one of many humongous and lushly-decorated homes owned by the Royal Family, in the news at the moment because one of them is getting married, or something else equally earth-shattering. Still, the pomp and circumstance is admittedly impressive and the world-famous changing of the guard is a great example of that. Other historical sights include Tower Bridge, Tower of London, Picadilly Circus and the Houses of Parliament.
Something a little more funky, for those with a head for heights, is the London Eye, a giant wheel that provides magnificent views of the city with 4D effects to call on, too. Or you could try a speedboat tour down the River Thames if you’re feeling particularly speedy.
Entertainment for all ages is close to hand in various areas of London. Simply put, if you can’t find something you enjoy in this city you’re better off staying in with a pizza. Keep an eye out for the local guides like Time Out, which have up to date listings, and will be able to tell you the latest theatre plays up the West End, the best theatres to catch the hottest comedy and burlesque shows and exactly what is happening down in the theatres of Covent Garden. Live music is also absolutely booming in London, with venues ranging from tiny back rooms of pubs in traditionally alternative area Camden to mega-arenas where you can catch the biggest artists touring today, from Kylie to Take That. Then there are the clubs including Pacha, Egg and Fabric. One of the most well-attended clubs include G-A-Y, Heaven and Neo, all of which cater predominately to the gay scene and are renowned for their hospitality to clubbers without prejudice for preference.
Free is the best price
Best of all, perhaps, are the things that you can do in London for free. Be that wandering Greenwich Park or the 142 hectare Hyde Park or chilling in Regent’s Park (home to a zoo) and Kensington Gardens, it’s easy to get back in touch with nature after the craziness of the streets.
Free museums include the Bank of England Museum on Bartholomew Lane, the Imperial War Museum, the British Postal Museum in Bloomsbury, the world-renowned National History Museum and the magnificent British Museum.
This awesome place shows the works of man from prehistoric to modern times, collecting artefacts from the whole world. You can see the Rosetta Stone, Parthenon sculptures and treasures from all places and all times. A bit – ok, a lot – more funky is Centre of the Cell, an interactive science centre that is located within a biomedical research lab. It’s free outside term time for the public but advance booking is recommended.
The National Gallery in Trafalgar Square houses works by da Vinci, Rembrandt, Turner, Renoir, Van Goch, Cezanne and many more.
Or you could simply head down to Abbey Road and do what millions of people have done before you and get your picture taken on the famous zebra crossing captured on the Beatles’ album cover.
London is a city with many colours and shades and as befits a city of its stature there are options aplenty for visitors of all ages.