“No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford” – Samuel Johnson
Ah London, the big smoke, a city so full of history and life. One of my favourite places in the world. I remember the first time I visited the city, it was during a remarkable heat wave in March, the skies were deceivingly blue and the temperature felt warm and inviting. As I strolled past a glowing Big Ben in the setting sun I thought to myself “I could live here”. And a few months later, visa in hand I was making my way to the UK as a temporary resident. While I didn’t end up living in London itself, I did spent a lot of time there over the next few years.
Visiting London can be an overwhelming experience, there is so much to do that even after 2+ years, I still haven’t marked off all the things on my “must-see list”, mostly because London is an ever growing and changing city and that list grows and changes with it!
One of my favourite things about the city is that so much of the places to visit and things to see are completely free. From those classic views of Westminster, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square and St. Paul’s Cathedral to the vast collections of the British Library, British Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Natural History Museum (and more), there is no shortage of free experiences to be had in the city, and each one of them is of course picture perfect. I often spend hours walking along South Bank just admiring the almost never ending opportunity to witness the famed buildings and history.
But stepping outside of those tourist heavy locations brings with it a totally different view of the city. I was surprised to find myself lost in the beautiful parks in Richmond, Crystal Palace, Holland Park, Hampstead Heath and of course Hyde Park. It’s a city filled with buildings and people but also filled with natural spaces as well, often a peaceful break away from the hustle and bustle of the city. On a warm day the parks are alive with Londoners celebrating “British summer” usually with a Pimms or cider in hand. I love how on a warm spring evening the parks and streets come alive, pubs spilling out into the city.
London is a diverse city both in it’s population and also in it’s daily offerings of events. In the same day that you could be watching the sun set behind Big Ben, you could stumble across a movie premiere or see HRH Queen Elizabeth II, or catch a world class West End show. Going to London is never the same experience because the city offers so much.
It’s hard for me to choose a favourite spot in the city because it is so vast and each corner of it offers something different. I like the offbeat, creative side of Shoreditch, but also really love the beautiful classic looks of Notting Hill. Both incredibly different but equally beautiful and interesting. You can stand next to the Tower of London, the notorious former residence and prison famed for the execution of royalty, and look out across the Thames to the futuristic Shard and City Hall buildings. London, if anything, is a rich blend of it’s lengthy past and it’s push for the future. I love the contrast of the two and how it maintains both it’s history and it’s current identity while ever expanding and adding to its skyline.
My experiences in the city were different each time I went. I was fortunate to be able to attend red carpet events, see the Royal Family on the Queen’s Birthday, watch several incredible West End shows and see some of my favourite artists for free. I spent rainy days inside the museums and gallerys and enjoyed many an iced coffee on the sunsoaked banks of the Thames.
London is a city you can get lost in, it’s a city that will offer you something different just depending on the underground stop you choose to take. From overhead views via the London Eye to underground rides that go as deep as 190ft below surface, it’s a city that will let you experience it from literally every angle. You can book yourself a ride on the London Heli for a birds eye view, take a trip down the Thames on a boat tour or hop on a haunted double decker bus on a ghost tour of the city.
If shopping is your thing, Oxford Street or Portobello Market are prime spots to spend some pounds (check out Camden Market and the eclectic shops in Shoreditch as well). If food is what you’re after you’re in luck because London is a foodie heaven! The offerings at Borough Market and Camden are diverse and delicious and you can have a tasty curry followed by a warm donut mere steps from the Thames. And coffee, well, London is becoming a coffee lovers dream, the London Grind, Fleet Street Press and Nordic Bakery being my favourites. And of course, if you’re a history and arts buff then the British Museum and Natural Gallery will give you a few days worth of mummies, ancient artifacts, Michaelangelos, Van Goghs and Monets.
The quote at the start of this post is true, if you get tired of London you must be tired of life because London is an ever-changing city that I truly believe can never be boring.
Have you been to London, if so what is your favourite part of the city?