London – This city of 8.3 million is the quintessential global city, complete with a hugely influential financial centre, endless dining options and a thriving nightlife scene. On top of that, London’s rich history makes it an especially inviting city, with residents who are proud to wear their distinct Londoner identities. It is a town of working-class roots, a hub of aristocratic glory and, on the other end of the spectrum, the birthplace of the punk movement of the late 20th century.
If you’re visiting for the first time, it can be tricky to know where to go in London. The many neighbourhoods of London have evolved organically over time in response to the city’s ever-burgeoning population and need for space. Though it may seem daunting at first, rely on London’s excellent public transport and you’ll soon find it’s fairly easy to explore the historic city of narrow streets.
Before setting off on your London adventure, here’s a little help to get to know the town’s most noteworthy neighbourhoods and some of the top things to do in London.
Areas of London
London’s West End is home to some of the city’s most well-loved areas. Boasting some of London’s most popular tourist attractions and fashionable districts, the West End is the place to go if you’re looking for the quintessential London experience.
West End, London, is most famously known for its theatre scene. With an abundance of performance venues, the West End lights up at night, showcasing the names of some of the world’s most famous theatre actors and actresses.
Piccadilly Circus is famous for its bright neon advertising and bustling central location. Sure, it is busy and full of tourists peering through viewfinders, but between the entertainers and provocative advertising, there’s an energy here that is pretty fun.
Take your selfie with the statue of Eros, shop for your London souvenirs, settle in for a bite at the London eateries at Picadilly and you’ve got it covered.
Head to Covent Garden to catch a live street performance, shop at the marketplace, or simply enjoy the beauty of the neighbourhood’s central square. Covent Garden is peppered with artisan shops, taverns and pubs, interesting lowkey museums and performance venues.
At Trafalgar Square, wander about the vibrant open spaces flanked by numerous beautiful fountains. Fans of civic scenery will appreciate the architectural design elements, and art lovers won’t want to miss the National Gallery.
Keep your eyes peeled for bold contemporary public art pieces on display in Trafalgar Square, home to the Fourth Plint – a controversial art prize. The current winning art piece on display is a striking 4.72m high bright blue cockerel towering in the middle of Trafalgar Square, boldly constrasting the otherwise traditional landscape. The area also plays host to some lively events throughout the year, including St Paddy’s Day and Chinese New Year.
Soho will win the hearts of any creative types and bohemians that pass through its streets. Though edging toward the touristy side these days, its colourful history and abundance of record shops, boutiques, creative centres and trendy public houses give it a healthy dose of character. And if that’s not enough, you’ll be interested to know the neighbourhood has roots as a red-light district, adding a little curious character.
Photo: Courtesy of Visit London
Though technically located in the West End, Westminster deserves its own distinction, especially considering the sheer number of landmarks located here. It is home to Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament — only some of the very top places to see in London!
Westminster is centrally located along the River Thames and easily accessible by public transport.
Just across the bridge from Westminster sits the London Eye, the city’s unmissable modern tourist attraction. Take a ride on the London eye to experience expansive views of London unfurling beneath you. Visiting The Shard is another new shining addition to the top things to do and see in London.
For a posh take on London life, head to Kensington. This high-value, meticulously maintained neighbourhood is home to many of London’s wealthiest. Both Kensington Gardens and Kensington Palace are located here.
Additionally, the area boasts a variety of museums. The Science Museum of London and the Victoria and Albert Museum are two of the most notable.
To escape the tourist crowds in London, head to Islington. You know the one, the light blue square on the Monopoly board?
This is the spot for a few quieter things to do in London. Islington is loved by Londoners and has transformed into one of the town’s most fashionable neighbourhoods in recent years. While you’re here, you’ll want to check out the area’s many gastropubs, wine bars, boutique shopping centres and authentic residential streets.
City of London
It is home to the Tower of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower Bridge. All three are extensively important in the unfolding of British history, holding within its walls everything from royal coronations, exotic pets, prisoners and ghosts. That’s right, ghosts.
The Tower of London is famously known as one of the most haunted places in the world. Take a tour led by the Beefeaters, guardians of the Tower since the Tudor period, and explore the site of Anne Boleyn’s beheading, Traitor’s Gate and the Bloody Tower.
Photos: Courtesy of Visit London
Learn about the rise of kings from the Medieval period onward, wars, revolts, England’s religious identity and the rather dramatic happenings during the reign of King Henry VIII.
For a taste of the suburban London lifestyle, take a jaunt to Wimbledon. You’ll gain some insight on how some of the city’s fringe neighbourhoods cater to families and locals. Plus of course, the chance to check out the site of one of the world’s most well-known tennis tournaments. There’s nothing quite like watching the back-and-forth between tennis greats battling on the prestigious lush green Wimbledon courts.
But even if you are in Wimbledon during the off-season, you can still appreciate the neighbourhood’s pubs, theatres and restaurants in the area.
Walking through beautiful Hyde Park is like taking a journey into the life of a well-to-do Londoner. This little piece of country within the city offers boating and horse riding, and sits within one of London’s wealthiest locales.Photo: Courtesy of Visit London
Take a stroll through the park and listen to Londoners preach their ideas during Speaker’s Corner on Sundays.
And with that guide, you are ready to have a saunter around London town and return to tell your travel tales in a posh accent over a cuppa tea and scones.
Feature Image: Courtesy of London on View