London: Fascinating Place to Visit

By: Paul McIndoe

Excluding Moscow, London is Europe's largest city with a population of about seven million, although this figure very much depends on where you stop counting. This statistic helps to account for London's infinite variety; such a huge and diverse population means the city is very experienced at catering for every taste - yet still manages to surprise.

Although it's typical to talk about London in terms of geography - the city, the east, the north and so on - Londoners often talk about their 'village', meaning the distinct area where they live. This is a good way to approach London, namely in 'bite size' chunks. Trying to master the entire city, or even understand it, is simply too complex, even for a Londoner. If you visit on a city break then just relax and pursue your own interests. Whether you enjoy world-class museums, shopping or just lazing around in historic pubs then London will be able to cater for your tastes.

Beneath the modern dynamism and fashionable buzz, you'll find an old-fashioned, elegant city that harks back to the days of the Empire and beyond. National confidence is evident in the grandeur of the buildings; wealth obvious from their scope and magnificence. Even a short list serves to impress: Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament and the Albert Memorial. Beautiful Greenwich contains superb architecture, the Cutty Sark (sadly a victim of arson and undergoing repair) and the Prime Meridian. Superb and historic museums and art galleries are scattered around the city, including the enormous British Museum in Bloomsbury, stuffed to the gills with treasures from around the world, and the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square.

If entertainment rather than history is your prime aim then London boasts superb shops and theatres. Department stores sit cheek by jowl in Oxford Street, up-market designer shops can be found in Regent and Bond Street, whilst King's Road is great for sourcing small designers or pillaging the second hand market. London's famous theatre district, the West End, is the place to catch any kind of dramatic performance, from Waiting for Godot to Starlight Express.

But if you would like to discover what is up-to-the-minute and trendy in terms of art, architecture and performance, then lesser-known districts like Shoreditch and Hackney have become Meccas for modern artists and the cool crowd. Notting Hill used to be the edgy place to go, but no longer. Modern architectural icons are more spread out, but easier to spot. The 'gherkin' is an obvious building to admire or to laugh at; another major icon is the hugely successful Tate Modern to the south. London city breaks can be as modern or nostalgic as you wish.

All these attractions are only the beginning of what London has to offer - and with the 2012 Olympics on the horizon, its famous ability to change and develop looks set to continue.

UK Destinations
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 

» More on UK Destinations