London, What to Do & See ?
I have lived in London for 7 years, and want to help you decide what to do,
in your short or Long stay in London.
In London there is so much to do, some say if you are tired of London You are Tired of Life...
So as you probably know Dirty, noisy and unbelievably expensive, London is a vast cosmopolitan melting pot of people, ideas and energy. There's not so much a buzz about the place as a deafening roar, and somewhere behind the incessant bustle is 2,000 years of history struggling to be heard.
London is a hodge podge of architectural styles.
It's a clich? to describe London as a collection of villages, but historically that's exactly what it is. From its origins in the area today known as "the City", the capital expanded over the centuries to include the surrounding areas, each of which maintain their own distinctive character.
There's genteel Notting Hill with its caf?s and boutiques; the trendy media enclave of Soho, all restaurants and bars; the village-like charm of Highgate; the old money of Kensington and Knightsbridge; and the arts-scene cool of Hoxton and Shoreditch.
And there's much more besides; from the East End of mythical chirpy cockneys to the leafy suburbs south of the river, the sheer size of the city can be overwhelming.
Architecturally, the city is a hodge-podge of styles, the consequence of the city's evolution over millennia and its being razed twice, first by the Great Fire of 1666, which destroyed some 80 percent of the capital, and then by the bombs of World War II, which left as much as a third of the City and the East End in ruins.
Now Christopher Wren's seventeenth-century landmarks share space with 1960s brutalist statements like the Hayward Gallery and contemporary showstoppers such as the sparkling Swiss
Re tower, known to Londoners as "The Gherkin."
But more than simply being a city of buildings and neighborhoods, London is fueled by an ideas economy: it's often described as the financial capital of the world; is at the cutting edge of new media; and is a major exporter of art, literature and fashion. Then there's Londoners' compulsive desire to invent and re-invent musical genres, with the city giving birth to the urban sounds of drum n' bass, garage, grime and dubstep.
Above all, it's a city of movement. People from all over Britain, and indeed, all over the world, move to London to pursue their dreams, while many Londoners grumble about leaving in search of a quiet life. Despite its long history, it can seem a transient place, with no fixed identity. But that transience is its greatest strength. It is the constant influx of new ideas and fresh energy that makes London such an endlessly fascinating city.
So What Can You Do in London ?
As a new traveler to London, it will be hard for you to know where to begin in a city of this size?
How about at the lively South Bank of the Thames, near Waterloo Station? Start with a spin on the London Eye, a colossal Ferris that will take you up 130 meters for an unmatched view of the city.
When you've made it back to terra firma stroll east along the river, past the Royal Festival Hall and the uncompromisingly brutalist National Theatre, navigating the crowds that cluster around the street entertainers.
Following the Thames Path will lead you to the Tate Modern. This gallery is housed in a converted power station, a space that is as stunning and modern as its collection of art works. Don't miss Mark Rothko's nine haunting "Seagram Murals", collected in one atmospherically lit room.
Just beyond the Tate Modern is Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, a 1997 reconstruction of the open-air playhouse where Shakespeare once worked. You can watch an authentic performance from April to October or visit the year-round exhibition on the bard's life and times.
If your legs are up to it, continue up the river past the Golden Hinde and Southwark Cathedral to the iconic Tower Bridge. Cross the bridge, pausing to admire the view, and climb Tower Hill to the Tower Of London.
This magnificent collection of buildings, dates back to the 11th century. As well as providing a fortress for generations of royalty it has a darker, bloodier history as a prison for the likes of Walter Raleigh and Thomas Moore, and the place where Henry VIII had two of his wives executed.
Heading west along the river you'll arrive at St Paul's Cathedral. Topped with a spectacular lead dome, its crypt is the resting place of Lord Nelson and The Duke of Wellington, among others.
A tube ride west will take you to Westminster, where you'll see the striking gothic bulk of the Houses of Parliament and their imposing clock tower, known as Big Ben, for its 13-ton bell. In the shadow of Parliament is Westminster Abbey, used for the coronation and burial of British monarchs.
Strolling through nearby St James's Park is the most pleasant way to reach Buckingham Palace, the Queen's London crash pad. If you buy a ticket you can snoop around inside, although only a tiny portion of the palace is open to the public.
The Mall leads from the palace to Trafalgar Square, where the towering Nelson's Column is flanked by huge bronze lions. On the north side of the square is the ornate National Gallery, with a huge collection that includes works by Leonardo, Botticelli and Monet, as well as Van Gogh's iridescent Sunflowers.
Next door is the National Portrait Gallery and just across the road is the attractive church of St Martin in the Fields, where you can enjoy free classical music recitals at 1pm on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays.
From here, Charing Cross Road will take you into the bustling West End -- the perfect spot for an evening of revelry. Try to make time to visit Leicester Square, Soho and Covent Garden, with its lively piazza .
After you've recovered from the night before you'll want to visit some of London's fantastic museums, most of which offer free admission. Best of all is the British Museum (Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury), a sparkling trove of treasures plundered from all over the world. Highlights of its vast collection are the ancient Egyptian mummies, its Roman and Greek antiquities, the Rosetta Stone and the Anglo-Saxon treasures of Sutton Hoo.
Tired of London Center, What Can You Do Around ?
Yes I Know, Sometimes the bustle and stress of city life is getting too much ...
But do not worry there are some fantastic places away from central London where you can unwind. The London Wetland Centre in Barnes is a 43-acre wetland reserve and an oasis for all manner of rare birds and wild flowers.
The Royal Botanic Gardens, usually known as Kew Gardens, spreads out over 300 acres between Kew and Richmond in south-west London. Elegant botanical glasshouses are filled with exotic fauna and a new treetop walkway lets you roam among the canopy of a woodland glade. Look out for the curious follies scattered about the grounds, including a 10-story pagoda.
he largest of London's royal parks is Richmond Park, famous for its population of more than 600 free-roaming red and fallow deer. The park is perfect for a summer's stroll or picnic -- although visitors should be warned that some of the deer have acquired a taste for sandwiches ....
BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir
One of the city's more unusual and better hidden treasures is the biggest Hindu temple outside India. Incongruously tucked away in Neasden, the Mandir is a stunning white edifice built from 3,000 tonnes of Bulgarian limestone and 2,000 tonnes of Italian marble, meticulously carved in India by a team of 1,500 sculptors. The result is an exquisitely detailed and beautiful piece of India -- in north-west London.
Going Underground ?
Be warned: a single-stop tube journey in central London costs $8 (?4). You can save money by buying an Oyster card, which can be used on London's underground, buses, trams and some overland rail services.
It's available from most Tube ticket offices and for a ?3 returnable deposit you'll get a pre-payment card that you can top up using cash or a credit card. Using an Oyster card you can travel in central London for ?1.50 per journey, with various reduced rates for other journeys.
Alternatively, you'll see more of the city, and avoid the rush-hour crush, by traveling on foot. For short journeys you may even save time by avoiding the Tube, and you'll find out just how close together many underground stations are.
Changing of the Guard
If you're not in London for June's Trooping the Colour, you can still get a taste of traditional royal pomp by watching the Changing of the Guard. Each day at 11 a.m. the Queen's Guard marches along the Mall from St James's Palace to Buckingham Palace, accompanied by a full military band.
To hear first rate classical music on the cheap, head to the Royal Albert Hall during the Proms. A feature of this summer season of classical concerts is "Promming tickets" -- standing tickets that cost just $10 (?5). You don't even need to book ahead as 500 of these tickets can be bought only at the Royal Albert Hall on the day of the performance -- just be sure to get there early.
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