One of the world’s most visited cities, London has something for everyone: from history to culture, art to architecture.
London is immersed in history. Not so much that it’s precious, but there’s sufficient antiquity and historic splendour (Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Hampton Court) to blow you away. London’s buildings are eye-catching milestones in the city’s unique and compelling biography. There’s more than enough funky innovation (the Shard, the Aquatics Centre, the Gherkin) to put a crackle in the air, but it never drowns out London’s well-preserved, centuries-old narrative. Architectural grandeur rises up all around you in the West End, ancient remains dot the City and charming pubs punctuate the Thames riverside. Take your pick.
Art & Culture
A tireless innovator of art and culture, London’s a city of ideas and the imagination. British people are fiercely independent thinkers (and critics) so London’s creative milieu is naturally streaked with leftfield attitude, from theatrical innovation to contemporary art, pioneering music, writing and design. And that’s even truer in these testing recessionary times. The artistic bar has been nudged higher, the audience is more demanding and the Olympic Games are limbering up, so London is moving heaven and earth to entertain. Revel in the choice.
English may be the national tongue, but over 300 languages shape London’s linguistic soundscape. These languages also represent cultures that season the culinary aromas on London’s streets, the clothing you glimpse and the music you hear. It can seem like the whole world has come to town. Museums, such as the British Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum, have collections as diverse as they are magnificent, while flavours at markets such as Borough and Exmouth range across the gourmet spectrum. London’s diverse cultural dynamism makes it quite possibly the world’s most international city, while being somehow intrinsically British.
A Tale of Two Cities
London is as much about high-density, sight-packed exploration (the West End, South Bank, the City) and urban dynamism as it is about wide-open spaces and leafy escapes. Central London is where you will find all the major museums, galleries and most iconic sights, but escape to Hampstead Heath or Greenwich Park to flee the crowds and put the city’s greener hues into gorgeous perspective. Or venture even further out to Kew Gardens, Richmond or Hampton Court Palace for effortlessly good-looking panoramas of riverside London.
Why I love London
By Damian Harper
Growing up in Notting Hill was fantastic but what truly made me adore London was living all around it. Many Londoners are defiantly local, but to me it’s not all about one area. It’s the pumping vitality that animates one part of the city and the leafy tranquillity of others. Much of London’s a whole mosaic of local histories and teasing them apart linguistically is magic. Take any name and see what you unearth: Aldwych (Auld-Wych – meaning the ‘Old Settlement’) is slap-bang in the centre of town and unsurprisingly the innocuous Holywell Lane in Shoreditch once bubbled over with sacred waters, while Chiswick was the place to go for cheese.
Best places to stay in London
Ten of the world's best city hikes
Stretch your legs over hours or days, without leaving some of the world’s biggest cities. This article is adapted from Lonely Planet's 1000 Ultimate Adventures. Tijuca Forest, Rio de Janeiro Aerial shot of Rio de Janeiro surrounded by the Tijuca Forest. Image by Paddy Eckersley / Digital Vision / Getty Images.
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London's best pubs and bars
London destination guides
Tour de dessert: Europe’s most delicious pastries, cakes and tarts
American cafe culture has come a long way in the last two decades: corporate coffee has spawned near two generations of independent cafes that offer more than the old standby of roadside diner joe and pie.
Museums and galleries in London
Stonehenge, Windsor Castle and Bath Day Trip from London
Don't leave London without taking this best-selling tour to Windsor Castle, Stonehenge and Bath, England's most beautiful Georgian city. Your day trip includes entrance to Windsor Castle, Stonehenge and Bath's Roman Baths and Pump Rooms. Pop in your state-of-the-art Vox headphones as your tour starts and listen to your guide talking clearly about each site.
Christmas in Windsor, Stonehenge and Bath
Do something different on Christmas Day and spend some time exploring the ancient sites of England. Start at the royal residence of Windsor Castle before exploring the mysterious Stonehenge circle - now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After a traditional Christmas lunch, end your day discovering the beautiful Georgian City of Bath.
Revamped: 10 neighbourhoods that have had incredible makeovers
Some neighbourhoods are effortlessly charming while others bring new meaning to the phrase 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder'. From gritty to glossy, these 10 neighbourhoods around the world have been completely revamped into coveted places to live, work and play. Grünerløkka cafe.