Things to Do in London - page 4
Interactive galleries, science demonstrations, and an IMAX 3D theater help make London’s Science Museum one of the city’s most engaging attractions for all ages. Use virtual reality to experience space travel, do experiments in the Wonder Lab, and see how math and science connect to everyday activities.
Opening its doors back in 2002, the glass-fronted, semi-spherical London City Hall marked a new dawn of London’s governance, providing a sleek, modernist façade for the London Assembly. The building alone is impressive, a geometrical masterpiece designed by architect Sir Norman Foster (who also designed the nearby Gherkin) and featuring eco-friendly natural ventilation, lighting movement sensors and solar panelling, as well as a dramatic transparent spiral stairwell that dominates the interior and climbs all ten stories.
The landmark building now not only serves as the official headquarters of the Mayor of London, but as a public exhibition and meeting space, including an open-air observation deck and free Wi-Fi to all visitors.
The Victoria and Albert Museum houses more than 2.3 million cultural artifacts from around the globe, spanning over 5,000 years. Explore the museum’s world-famous collections of Asian art and postclassical sculpture, attend a family-friendly drop-in session, or discover work by masters such as Raphael, John Constable, and William Morris.
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.
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.
Made up of Camden Lock Market, Camden Stables Market, and Camden Canal Market, the area known as Camden Market is the largest collection of street vendors in the United Kingdom. In continuous operation since the 1970s, the market draws crowds of visitors who come to explore the huge variety of unusual stalls and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere.
Forever synonymous with the lovable Paddington Bear—the star of Michael Bond’s iconic children’s books—Paddington Station is one of London’s most famous train stations. Located in west London, the busy station serves both National Rail and London Underground trains, and offers high-speed rail links to London Heathrow International Airport.
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 famous former residence of the infamous King Henry VIII, Hampton Court is one of the king’s two remaining palaces and one of the grandest castles in England, having once been planned to rival the Palace of Versailles in France. Today, visitors can explore the castle interior, which showcases two architectural styles (the Tudor palace of Henry VIII and the baroque palace of William III), stroll through its massive hedge maze, see the historic tennis court, and view the largest grape vine in the world. Don’t miss the State Apartments’ royal bedrooms and galleries, the Tudor kitchens, Chapel Royal, or the medieval Great Hall, which has been in continuous use for more than 450 years.
Fortnum & Mason is one of London’s most iconic and best-known department stores. Set on Piccadilly Street, it has been a key local shopping destination since 1707, but it’s also a must-see for visitors who want to peruse luxury goods, enjoy a traditional English afternoon tea, and purchase souvenirs.
More Things to Do in London
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.
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.
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.
Madame Tussauds may have branches around the globe, but its London wax museum is the birthplace of it all, with a history dating back almost 250 years. The ever-expanding collection of wax figures features everyone from Hollywood movie stars, pop icons, and record-breaking Olympians to politicians, historic figures, and members the British royal family. The museum’s fun, interactive exhibitions are sure to entertain the whole family.
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.
Though this rock ‘n’ roll-themed restaurant chain is in cities across the globe, the London Mayfair branch is where it all began. As well as a menu of American staples—think burgers, nachos, and baby-back ribs—it’s also got an exhibition space full of music memorabilia.
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.
The grand focal point of the Maritime Greenwich UNESCO World Heritage site, the Old Royal Naval College (ORNC) is an impressive architectural feat, stretching along the banks of the River Thames. Originally designed as a Royal Naval Hospital, the ORNC was the work of legendary architect Sir Christopher Wren (whose other masterpieces include St Paul’s Cathedral) and was built on the site of the Greenwich Palace, the birthplace of Henry VIII.
The magnificent classical buildings, with their twin domes, striking colonnaded façade and vast lawns now serve as the dramatic centerpiece of Greenwich and offer a fascinating introduction to the neighborhood for visitors. Highlights of a visit include the Discover Greenwich Visitor Centre, where exhibitions are devoted to the ORNC and Greenwich’s maritime heritage; Sir James Thornhill’s spectacular Painted Hall; and the neo-classical style Chapel of St Peter and St Paul. Throughout the year, the ORNC also hosts a number of music performances, exhibitions, workshops and special events.
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.
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.
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.
One of the largest wholesale meat markets in Europe, Smithfield Market—also known as London Central Markets—is frequented by chefs, butchers, and curious tourists. Located in the oldest part of London, the area has hosted livestock markets for close to a millennia and was also site of bloody public executions in the Middle Ages.
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.
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