Things to Do in London - page 5
A spiraling red steel tower looming 114 meters over the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, the ArcelorMittal Orbit’s bold design has polarized opinions since its conception. There’s no denying, however, that it’s an impressive feat of structural engineering and well on its way to becoming one of London’s most iconic landmarks. Erected in honor of the 2012 Olympic Games, the unique creation was a collaborative effort between artist Anish Kapoor, designer Cecil Balmond and steel-and-mining company ArcelorMittal, built using about 2,000 tons of steel, more than half of which was recycled.
So infamous is the East London Street of Brick Lane that there was even an award winning novel and movie penned with the same name. The street, running from Bethnal Green to Whitechapel via the equally famous Spitalfields, has a rich multicultural history, first as home to a sizable Jewish population and more recently, as a settlement for many of London’s Bangladeshi immigrants. These days, Brick Lane and its surroundings are renowned for showcasing the eclectic and retro arts and fashions of the East End, as well as the being the destination of choice for curry lovers.
Brick Lane has earned itself a reputation as the go-to destination for sourcing vintage threads, with its annual Alternative Fashion Week cementing its status as an innovative and fashion-forward region of up and coming designers. Vintage stores and retro boutiques are dotted along the street, alongside a growing population of young, local designers, but the real draw cards are the weekly markets.
The St Katharine Docks are located in the London district of Tower Hamlets. These docks were once the commercial docks serving the north side of the River Thames east of the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge. Today the docks serve as a yachting marina, and the area has been turned into an urban living and leisure area. There are public and private housing options, office buildings, a large hotel, retail shops, restaurants, pubs, and other recreational facilities.
Several commuter river boats, river ferries, and scenic river cruises pass St Katharine Docks and stop at St Katharine Pier. The area also hosts special events throughout the year. There is a food market every Friday from 11am to 3pm featuring local and international food options. Occasionally there is a cinema at sea event. The docks also host clipper races and boating festivals.
The Banqueting House is nothing short of one of London’s finest establishments; it is, in fact, the only remaining component of the Palace of Whitehall –the main residence of London-based English monarchs between 1530 and 1698, including prominent members of the Tudor and the Stuart families like Bloody Mary and Henry VIII. At 1500 rooms and 23 acres in surface, it had grown to be the largest royal palace in Europe before it was destroyed by fire.
The Banqueting House actually played a significant role in English history: it is where King Charles I’s was executed and where the Declaration of Rights was read to new King and Queen William and Mary, before it was granted to the Royal United Service Institute for use as a museum by the philanthropic Queen Victoria in the late 1800s.
Portobello market is world renowned for its antiques market with over 2,000 specialist dealers and vast crowds of bargain hunters, but the two-mile long sprawl includes a plethora of other goods. Vintage clothing, local designers and handcrafted accessories make up the fashion section of the market, with an array of unique and trend-setting pieces on offer, and plenty of incognito celebrities scouring the clothing racks. Hoards of eccentric retro memorabilia, one-of-a-kind furniture and second-hand household items, a wide range of bootlegged music and vinyl and a sprawling fruit and vegetable market, make up the rest of the stalls.
The street market is open six days a week but the Saturday market (which includes the main antiques market) is the most popular and crammed with vendors. There’s plenty to keep you occupied when you’ve finished shopping too – a number of independent art galleries, vintage clothing boutiques, bars and chic cafés.
Today one of the largest wholesale meat markets in all of Europe, Smithfield Market has been buying and selling meat and poultry for over 800 years. Also known as London Central Markets, this is the largest historic market still standing in the City of London.
Early risers can still witness some of Britain’s finest meats being hand-picked by London restaurateurs, or purchase their own meats, poultry, olive oils and cheese. The structure itself is known for its bright colors and Victorian architecture, and many visitors combine their visit to the market with a stop at one of the trendy Farringdon-area restaurants.
Blackfriars Bridge is the busiest of the four bridges located in central London. It crosses the River Thames bringing both road and foot traffic from one side to the other. The bridge has been updated several times, but the current bridge is 923 feet long, 105 feet wide, and has five wrought iron arches. Stone carvings decorate the piers of the bridge. On the east side the carvings show marine life and seabirds, and on the west side the carvings depict freshwater birds. This reflects the tidal turning point in the river. Most river boat tours along the River Thames will sail underneath the Blackfriars Bridge along with Millennium Bridge, Southwark Bridge, and London Bridge.
In 1982 the bridge gained international notoriety when the body of Roberto Calvi, a former chairman of Italy's largest private bank, was found hanging from one of the arches of the bridge. Five bricks were attached to his body, and around $14,000 in three different currencies was found in his pockets.
More Things to Do in London
The most exclusive shopping street in London, Bond Street is where you’ll find flagship stores for brands like Burberry and Bvlgari, Dior and Louis Vuitton. Officially split up into two streets that run between Oxford Street and Piccadilly in London’s West End, the southern section, known as Old Bond Street, was built in the 1680s under the command of Sir Thomas Bond, while the longer northern section, New Bond Street, was built 40 years later.
Since its inception, Bond Street has been the playground of London society’s most stylish and influential people, and former residents include Admiral Horatio Nelson and Lady Emma Hamilton. Today, Bond Street continues to be one of the most expensive strips of real estate in the world, and the Georgian and Victorian townhouses are famously home to Aspreys of London — jewelers to the royal family — and the capital’s most upscale art galleries and high-end antique stores.
The world's largest maritime museum, this site offers an impressive gallery displaying 500 years of Britain's history with the sea. In total the collection has nearly 2.5 million items, some of which are on loan to other museums across Britain. Visitors can spend hours viewing the maritime art, cartography, ship models and plans, manuscripts and navigational instruments on display, not to mention the ship simulator and interactive exhibits located on the second floor.
One of the most unique offerings of the museum is the Sammy Ofer wing, which houses special exhibitions, a permanent gallery, an extensive library and a cafe with views of Greenwich Park. All together, the National Maritime Museum, the Queen’s House and the Royal Observatory form the Maritime Greenwich UNESCO World Heritage site. Along with the Cutty Sark, a British clipper ship on display in the area, this collection of historical sites is now known as Royal Museums Greenwich.
Commissioned by King James I in 1616, the magnificent Queen’s House was originally a gift for his Queen, Anne of Denmark, but remained unfinished at the time of her death, completed instead by King Charles I in 1638. Designed in an innovative Palladian style by architect Inigo Jones, the grand garden villa remains one of the principal landmarks of Greenwich, now standing proud at the entrance to the vast Greenwich Park.
The Queen’s House is now owned by the National Maritime Museum and houses part of the museum’s art collection as well as an impressive array of Royal portraits. The lavish interiors are also open to the public, including highlights like the ‘Tulip Staircase’, the Great Hall, with its striking black and white marble floor, and a range of 17th-century furnishings.
Home to the largest collection of British Art in the World, the Tate Britain has a legacy dating back to 1897 and is part of a series of four Tate Museums around England, sharing between them a collection of almost 70,000 works.
Devoted solely to British artists, the permanent exhibitions feature works from the turn of the 16th century until the 20th century, with works by artists like Hogarth, Gainsborough, Whistler and Barbara Hepworth. Most notable are the sizable galleries dedicated to romanticists Constable and William Blake, and the biggest collection of paintings by J.M.Turner in the world. With the Tate playing host to the notoriously controversial annual Turner Prize, contemporary artists also feature considerably and the acclaimed 20th-century galleries present works by Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon and Tracey Emin. The Tate Britain is the oldest of the four Tate Museums founded by Sir Henry Tate and is housed in a Grade II listed building on Millbank.
As the official London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury for almost 800 years, Lambeth Palace has a long and significant history, but for most visitors, it’s the building itself that garners the most attention. The palace’s 15th-century monumental gateway, known as Morton's Tower, is an imposing sight, but the oldest parts of the building, including Langton's Chapel and the Crypt date back to the early 13th-century.
Today, Lambeth Palace is open to the public by guided tour only, which grant visitors’ access to the Archbishop of Canterbury's lavishly decorated State Rooms, the Chapel, Atrium and Crypt, the 10-acre gardens and the magnificent, recently renovated Great Hall.
It might be the grand centerpiece of the Southbank Centre, Central London’s renowned cultural hub, and among the capital’s most famous classical music venues, but the Royal Festival Hall is also an impressive landmark in its own right. Located in a Grade-I listing building on the banks of the River Thames, the concert hall first opened its doors in 1951 during the Festival of Britain and now boasts a newly restored 2,500-seat auditorium and the lavish Clore Ballroom.
The Royal Festival Hall is best known as the home of the prestigious London Philharmonic orchestra, and the venue is used throughout the year for a host of classical music recitals, pop concerts, operas and ballets, including a number of annual music and cultural festivals.
Marylebone Village is an affluent area within central London and has been a fashionable neighborhood since the 17th century. Many famous people have lived in this area, and today it is a popular shopping district. Several hotels are located here so visitors interested in shopping in this area can stay nearby. Dozens of trendy retail shops can be found in Marylebone Village including both big brands and independent stores. Come here to shop for clothing, shoes, accessories, and more. Home stores located here are a great place to find items to decorate and furnish your home.
Many beauty and cosmetics shops are also located here, as well as spas and wellness centers for a little extra pampering and relaxation. For entertainment, there are movie theaters, a few museums, art and music galleries, and book stores. Two cooking schools are also located here. When you get hungry, you can find plenty of options for restaurants, cafes, and pubs.
Today, the Old Truman Brewery is a revolutionary arts and media quarter in East London, but centuries ago it was one of the largest breweries in the world. Founded in 1666 as the Black Eagle Brewery, it grew to be the world’s largest in 1873 before closing altogether a century later. Now, the ten acres of buildings that once formed the brewery are home to more than 200 businesses, including a variety of creative businesses and independent shops, galleries, markets and bars. Shoppers can visit Europe’s largest record store, Rough Trade, and clothing stores such as Absolute Vintage, Number Six, YMC and Traffic People. For eats, stop at the Boiler House Food Hall, featuring 30 stalls of international cuisine.
Definitely worth a visit is the Backyard Market, which was the first market in the area to open on Saturdays. There, you’ll find a mix of kitsch goods, arts and crafts and works by young designers and artists.
Both an iconic landmark and a prestigious performance venue, the National Theatre is one of England’s most renowned performing arts centers and a mainstay of London’s theater scene since it opened back in 1963. Even from the outside, it’s an imposing sight, looming over the waterfront of London’s Southbank, and its unmistakable yet rather unattractive concrete façade has long divided public opinion. The National Theatre boasts four purpose-built auditoriums (the Olivier, Lyttelton, Dorfman and Temporary theatres), as well as an open-air performance space in the forecourt, a bookshop and a collection of bars, restaurants and cafés open to the public. The theatre’s ever-changing roster of shows includes over 20 new productions each year, with past hits including West End favorites like 'War Horse' and 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time'; classic plays like Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and The Tempest; and contemporary musicals like Wonder.land.
As England’s third-largest football stadium after Wembley and Old Trafford, and home to Arsenal Football Club, one of the capital’s most renowned football teams, Emirates Stadium is a top choice for those looking to soak up the atmosphere of a British football match. Opening its doors in 2006, the state-of-the-art stadium was designed by HOK Sport and cost an impressive £390 million to build, with seats for up to 60,365 fans.
Touring the landmark stadium is also a popular choice for fans, offering the chance to explore the changing rooms, complete with luxury hydrotherapy spas, walk through the players’ tunnel onto the pitch and stand in Arsenal Manager Arsène Wenger's spot in the dug-out. The on-site Arsenal Museum is another must-see, crammed with iconic photos and memorabilia from Arsenal’s long history, and fans can also shop for sports gear or print a bespoke Arsenal shirt at The Armoury, the official Arsenal shop.
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