London city guide

There is no place like London” sang Johnny Depp at the very beginning of the Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. The movie might not portray UK’s capital in the best of ways, namely a dirty, vermin-infested “cesspool”. But it was about London in the 18th century, and much has changed since those times. Even in that slightly unpleasant image, one thing that particularly stood out was the endless variety! The first scene in this peculiar movie shows what London all about: massive numbers of people pouring in from every corner of the world. Different shapes, sizes and races are what strikes you the most when visiting this lovely city. Even after the Brexit, London will remain a massive, crowded and busy metropolis. Actually it is one of the few cities in the world that can compete with New York in this league. In addition to its iconic landmarks such as the St. Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster, the London Tower and Tower Bridge it is also home to an increasing number of skyscrapers and modern and futuristic architecture. Gherkin is an intriguing building designed by Norman Foster in 2003, now famous worldwide. And what to think of the Heron Tower, the London City's tallest skyscraper, and the impressive Tower 42 which are becoming the new eye-catchers of the English capital.

Tower Bridge in London overspanning the Thames during sunset

The Tower Bridge, designed in Gothic Victorian style: one of London's iconic landmarks and one of the world's most famous bridges

Apart from famous landmarks, London is a great place for shopping and partying. The most sought-after and exclusive shops are located on Kensington and Knightsbridge streets. Great restaurants, posh clubs and laid-back bars with great music you can find everywhere you go. London is also a perfect town to visit if you’re a fan of music and art festivals, which usually take place during spring/summer season. But the end of the year when the shops and streets are beautifully illuminated and decorated is a great time as well to visit London. You cannot afford to return home from London without presents. So after you are done with the mandatory Christmas shopping visit one of the cozy pubs to warm yourself. I usually end up in Camden Town and after a few pints or something stronger, I completely forget about time. London is typically a city where an outsider can safely explore on his own. You will have no troubles at all to mingle with the friendly locals and many expats who are also often alone and looking for company. In this regard I think London is very different from Paris where you can easily feel lost as a foreigner, especially when you don’t speak French. In London making new acquaintances or even friends for lifetime is as easy as a walk in the park.

Mashed peas, fish and chips, black pudding, London has never had the best reputation when it comes to food. Is it laziness? Maybe lack of knowledge? Britain has always had an abundance of great ingredients, from game meats to amazing, fresh seafood and produce; chefs just couldn’t utilize all that. But there’s a new generation of English chefs. Or rather: chefs that live now in England, but who originate from France and other countries. Legend says that it was Marco Pierre White that started it all. He is the man who was at the forefront of that whole rock star chef revolution and also one of the first to achieve 3 Michelin stars in England. He’s retired now but still owns a few restaurants in London that are definitely worth visiting, like London Steakhouse Co (https://www.londonsteakhousecompany.com/) at 386 King's Road.

30 St Mary Axe aka The Gherkin in the City of London City with historical buildings at the forefront

Old and new blend well together in London: the skyscraper in London's financial district goes officially under the name 30 St Mary Axe but informally and due to its shape it's better known as The Gherkin

There are so many interesting things to do in London, you could visit the Brixton market and stuff your face with some delicious street food. You could hop on a bus for a classic London sightseeing tour. It’s maybe not very original but a very efficient way to see all the famous tour staples in a short period of time. You could visit the Churchill War Rooms, also know as the Cabinet War Rooms; the secret underground headquarters where Prime Minister Winston Churchill and his staff members lived and worked during the Second World War. The basement offices in Whitehall play an important role in the movie Darkest Hour, that was released in 2017. Check it out on Netflix in case you have not seen it. Gary Oldman got an Oscar for his mind-blowing performance as Churchill. You could also book one of the many Harry Potter tours, if you’re a fan. Walk around the city and visit venues such as the Millennium Bridge, the Reptile House of London Zoo, Leadenhall Market (the entrance to Diagon Alley), Kings Cross Station (home of platform 9 ¾) and other iconic HP filming locations. What I would do? I’d go on pub crawl of an epic proportion. Some of those spots are over 500 years old, so if anyone asks if you’ve seen any historic landmarks in London, you can nod in agreement with a cheeky grin on your face. Try the Guinea (https://www.theguinea.co.uk/) at 30 Bruton Pl, Mayfair, there was an inn at the exact same spot in 1423. Or my personal favourites: The Lamb & Flag (https://www.lambandflagcoventgarden.co.uk/) at 33 Rose Street. It’s a traditional Georgian pub and former haunt of Charles Dickens. Its nickname is “Bucket of Blood” because in former times it was a famous arena of bare-knuckle fights.

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