London a city of culture, cafés and quirky street names
Personally, I think London is one of the finest cities in the world. Perhaps I may be biased as I was born in London and worked there for 27 years.
However, London is so culturally rich and such a diverse city, with centuries of history flowing within every alleyway and mews.
With so much to see and do in London, you’ll be returning time and time again for an unforgettable city break. Even now that we live in Kent, Gary and I still plan a weekend in London every year.
Our 12 reasons
Ok, so I’m going to narrow down the choice of London’s markets to my favourites, as there are so many.
Although I must say that just strolling around the streets of London and stumbling upon an unexpected market is great fun.
Spitalfields Market has most definitely risen to the top of my picks as it has been transformed in recent years. Spitalfields is full of an eclectic assortment of collectables, gifts, clothing and some tasty food stalls.
It also has a curious mix of clientele; you’ll see many walks of life here from your bohemian to your local from the east-end of London.
Camden Market for its diversity is wonderful. Alleyways and winding tunnels brimming with crazy hats, graffiti sprayed clothing, stylish footwear and flamboyant frocks. What more could you want?
Ohh yes, I know, Italian gelato in the middle of January, Camden Market truly has something for everyone.
If it’s some nourishment you’re after, then Borough Market will undoubtedly be on your list.
Word of warning, it gets pretty hectic on a Saturday although the energetic atmosphere is second to none. You’ll be spoilt for choice at Borough Market, grab your chosen delicacy find a spot on a wall and enjoy.
After lunch take a wander around some of the surrounding shops as they have some incredible bites, you can take home for later.
Last but by certainly no means least is Smithfield Market. This is London’s meat market which has centuries of history and covers almost 10 acres of floor space.
I love it all around this district of London as there are some fascinating and quirky stories to be told.
London has millenniums of history, even as recent as 2010 timber structures were found on the south of the River Thames dating back to 4500 BC.
I find it incredibly fascinating to think of the ancient footsteps that have passed by before us.
If you venture to Tower Hill keep a lookout for the ruins from the historic 3rd-century Roman Wall which once surrounded the City of London.
And of course, we have the mixed and varied history of the Royal Family.
Even though London is England’s vibrant capital city, it most certainly has its fair share of beautiful parks and hidden gardens dotted around.
A few of the integral parks in London are The Regent’s Park which houses London Zoo, Hyde Park, Richmond Park, Primrose Hill and St James’s Park.
We have a little book on our shelves that we sometimes delve into when we're about to hit an area of London.
Packed full of historical facts, and broken down into the different regions of London, it's a great resource to help you see what's hidden in plain sight.
Available in Kindle & Hardback editions, it's an excellent addition to anyone's collection who loves London.
Now each time we head back to London, we pick a new region find out as much information about it as we can and go and explore.
The neighbourhoods that we’ve recently visited and found out some really fascinating facts are; Clerkenwell, Smithfield, Westminster, and one of my favourites Temple.
Temple is just on the border of the City of London and the City of Westminster and also home to London’s legal district.
Like a phoenix from the ashes, London has picked itself up and dusted itself off and come back stronger and more resilient.
Sir Christopher Wren’s masterpiece of St Paul’s Cathedral is such an emblem and a torchbearer for the city, it stands proud dominating the skyline.
Where to stay in London
If you've yet to discover London and its ancient history, then let's start planning. I find these DK Eyewitness Travel Guides invaluable. They're extremely informative, easy to follow, and the pictures and maps tempt you into discovering more of those fascinating sites.
You can now grab a recently revised copy of this guidebook, so you won't miss a thing.
Ahh yes, the River Thames, the slice of London that is dear to my heart. As this where my father and grandfather worked for years as lightermen up and down the once-bustling River Thames.
Also, every day on my way to work, my train would pass over Southwark Bridge, and I’d be greeted with the magnificent view of Tower Bridge commanding the waterway below.
I’m always drawn to water, so it is a pleasure strolling the banks of the Thames. Whether it is along the Southbank passing Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, the Tate Modern or Gabriel’s Wharf.
Or on the north bank of the Thames taking in the Victoria Embankment Gardens and the Palace of Westminster, it is all delightful.
Tube Station Walks
London wouldn’t be London without its beautiful museums and theatres. They are always such a pleasure to visit.
If I had my way, I’d visit a London gallery every time we headed up to the capital.
With so many of the museums and galleries free of charge, there is no excuse to top up your culture levels, oh and make sure you wear comfy shoes.
Some of my favourite museums are The British Museum, The Natural History Museum, The Victoria and Albert Museum and of course the National Gallery. Gary loves the Science Museum too, now, why doesn't that surprise me?
However, if you are treating yourself to a mini-break in London, I’m sure you’ll be taking in show or two. Strolling along Shaftesbury Avenue and around Covent Garden, you’ll be spoilt for choice, with some of the old classic performances still treading the boards.
I personally think the names of the lanes and alleyways in the City of London are so quirky, and not one of them has the word ‘Road’ in them.
There’s a Poultry, an Austin Friars Passage, a Little Britain and a Huggin Hill to name just a few.
Explore London on foot
The elegant arcades around St James’s transport you to a happy place, where money is no object. Take a strong along Burlington Arcade, Piccadilly Arcade and The Royal Arcade, they are exquisite.
Then meander down New Bond Street, Cartier’s display is incredible. They have their shop front wrapped up in a striking red bow, just like a tempting Christmas present.
It’s specifically, the “Magnificent Seven”, London’s Victorian cemeteries that intrigue me. Established between 1833 and 1841 to alleviate the overcrowding in inner London’s churchyards. These huge resting places and catacombs were inspired by the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, yes, I’ve been there too.
So far, I’ve dragged Gary around Kensal Green, West Norwood, Brompton and Nunhead cemeteries. Only three more to go, Highgate, Abney Park and Tower Hamlets.
With London being such a diverse city, its restaurant and café scene is so varied. I think you could probably eat your way around the world in London.
I love some of the old traditional restaurants, one for a special treat if you like British food is Rules Restaurant.
Your perfect accommodation
Back onto history again, and it’s the lovely Blue Plaques you see dotted around London on the homes or buildings of someone of significance that had lived there.
Often these are for historians, artists, authors, heroines and heroes of our time. I find the stories behind some of these interesting people extraordinary.
London’s blue plaque scheme has been in existence since 1866 and was the initiative of William Ewart MP. It is now run by English Heritage, and there are strict criteria before you can nominate someone.
The scheme is now only run within Greater London, although for a few years it was extended further in England. Although now the plaques are blue and round, they never used to be, you may also come across a few that are brown and possibly square.
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