Get your bearings
The River Thames is the flowing heart of London, snaking past the glittering skyscrapers of The City
, through the historic pomp and circumstance of central London, and out west to the leafy parks and gardens of Richmond
. The city’s famed theatres and first-class shops cluster around the West End
, and the East End
is home to an intoxicating mix of dynamic markets, inventive street art and Asian restaurants. A walk along the curve of the South Bank
takes in two miles of waterside galleries, theatres and arts cinemas.
London mornings are the time for markets; fashion fans stalk Portobello
for vintage outfits and quirky antiques while Borough Market
is crammed with hungry Londoners picking up fresh British cheeses and organic meat. Vast department stores like Harrods
and Selfridges are the city’s temples to big-name international designers - but the likes of Kate Moss shop at Oxford Street’s
street-fashion superstore, Top Shop. Lovers of luxury head to the exclusive streets of Mayfair
, where suits, shoes and even cigars can be hand-made to measure – at a price.
London serves up the world on a plate – if it’s cooked anywhere on the planet, someone is cooking it somewhere in London. Slurp spicy pho soup in Hackney’s great-value Vietnamese
cafés, tuck into modern versions of British classics in a laid-back gastropub
, or splash out on a Michelin-starred
masterpiece in an opulent London hotel restaurant. Every high street has its own version of those twin titans of British dining: the fish ‘n’ chip shop
and the curry house.
There’s a green spine that runs through the centre of London. It starts at Hyde Park
, where roller-bladers play on the steps of the ornate Albert Memorial and swans glide regally past the Serpentine Gallery. It heads south-east into Green Park
with views of Buckingham Palace
. And it ends in St James’s Park
– the genteel green gateway to Westminster Abbey. Further afield deer roam wild in the rolling royal grassland of Richmond Park
. The hills and valleys of Hampstead
Heath are where Londoners go when they want a taste of the countryside but with all the pleasures of the city just minutes away.
Walking London’s streets can feel like time travel. Head back to the era of Henry VIII at the sprawling riverside palace of Hampton Court
or slip back into the 17th century as ages-old hymns ring out beneath the elegant dome of St Paul’s Cathedral
. World War Two buffs will find themselves transported at the subterranean Cabinet War Rooms in Westminster
where Churchill drew up his strategies safe from German bombers.