The East End is on the cusp of the City but the districts
of Shoreditch, Hoxton, Spitalfields, Bethnal Green and
Whitechapel have a resolutely different feel about them.
This was the working class area of London and has been the
destination of waves of immigrants, giving it an interesting
blend of heritage that becomes apparent as you walk around
- cultural vestiges include Irish, French Huguenot, Bangladeshi
and Jewish. It's also been undergoing a renaissance over the
last decade as a trendy area of London and it's now a premier
136 Kingsland Road, E2
This delightful little museum is contained within 14 almshouses
originally built to house the poor in the late sixteenth century.
Now they're a showcase for English middle class interiors
from the Elizabethan times to the present day. Its original
chapel also remains.
Columbia and Spitalfields Markets
Columbia Road's Sunday flower market is a great way to ease
into the last day of the weekend with its bountiful array
of cut flowers and bedded plants. Also along the road you'll
find a couple of gift shops, the best of which are the Pot
Luck and The Pot Centre. Spitalfields Market used
to be one of London's biggest wholesale fruit and vegetables
markets until it moved to a modern site in Hackney Wick in
the early 1990s. Nowadays the huge Victorian building is home
to arguably the best Sunday market in the area, superseding
the nearby Brick Lane and Petticoat Lane markets with its
high quality arts and crafts, furniture and interesting music
Columbia Road Market: along Columbia Road, east of Ravenscroft
Street to Barnet Grove. Spitalfields Market: West side of
Commercial Street between Folgate and Bushfield Street
West London sprawls off into some dilapidated suburbs in
the same way as the rest of London does - and there are few
places in the world as depressing as wilting London suburbs
on a typically English grey day. However, there are plenty
of things to see here - probably more than in the east so
don't miss West London off your itinerary. Hammersmith offers
warm pubs by the Thames in the company of hearty rowers, Fulham
has its seventeenth century bishops' palace, Kew Gardens makes
for a wonderful afternoon of wandering while Richmond is replete
with cool Georgian architecture and a wonderfully wild park.
Do go to Neasden for the Hindu temple but, you have been warned,
get out of the area again soon - it may sap your soul!
Botanical Gardens at Kew
Recently designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kew Gardens
has the flora of the world in one place. The Palmhouse is
particularly popular, and is housed in a spectacular setting.
Events are held all year round.
Mandir (Neasden Hindu Temple)
One of the most unexpected sites in the city, this beautiful
Hindu temple is well worth a visit. Visitors should be respectfully
dressed and shoes must be removed before entering.
Top Sights Outside the City
Court Palace East Molesy, Surrey
Known as the 'playboy mansion of Henry VIII' Hampton Court
lies in the south-western outskirts of London next to the
semi-wild Bushy Park, home to grads of red and fallow deer.
The palace was actually built in the sixteenth century by
Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, the Lord Chancellor of England,
to reaffirm to the nation his self-importance but later presented
to his king, Henry VIII to placate him after he failed to
persuade the pope to grant the monarch's divorce from Catherine
of Aragon. As soon as Henry acquired it he set about expanding
it and by 1540 it was one of Europe's grandest palaces. Nowadays,
it's England's biggest, most impressive Tudor building, brimming
with history and capped by beautiful gardens and a famous
300 year-old maze. Set aside lots of time for your visit;
the costumed guides are full of interesting facts, the maze
is lots of fun and you can take a look at the world's second
oldest vine - which still produces 300kg of grapes per year.
Hampton Court can be reached by riverboat from Central London.
The world famous Cambridge University was founded
in the thirteenth century, several decades after its equally
famous rival, Oxford. Both towns are extremely popular tourist
attractions and the debate over which is more beautiful is
one subject that neither of their debating societies is ever
likely to settle. The best advice is to visit both cities
to make up your own mind but if time is short choose Cambridge;
it's an architectural treasure-trove and unlike Oxford, many
of the university's colleges are open to the public. Wander
round the various colleges, making sure you take in the amazing
King's College and its chapel, started by in 1446 by
Henry VI and finished around 1516. It was subsequently elaborated
on by several monarchs including Henry VIII who installed
the intricate fan vaulting. Punting (navigating a boat
using a long pole that reaches the bottom of the river) is
a well-famed past time along the River Cam but beware, it's
not as easy as it looks!
Cambridge is two hours from London by road and an hour by
train from London's King's Cross and Liverpool Street stations.
Canterbury is a history-laden city south east of London in
Kent that's home to one of Europe's most magnificent cathedrals
whose original remnants date back to the eleventh century.
After the murder and martyrdom of Thomas á Becket in
1170 the cathedral became a focus for one of medieval Europe's
most important pilgrimages. Geoffrey Chaucer, still one of
Britain's most revered writers immortalised the practice in
his book the Canterbury Tales, a story of the tales
29 pilgrims told as they wound their way to the renowned shrine.
Brighton's reputation as a swinging town dates back to the
mid-1780s when the fun-loving Prince Regent (later George
IV) began throwing lavish parties here by the sea. His obsession
for India informed the construction of the Royal Pavilion,
an incongruous Mogul-inspired building in the centre of the
town. Over the last couple of decades the town has been under-going
a renaissance as weary Londoners jump ship and move to the
coast - sending property prices sky high. Despite this Brighton
also remains a bastion of counter culture with a vibrant student
population, hot clubs, a strong arts scene and exuberant gay
Listings from Globe Trekker: London
Places to Stay
34-36 Sussex Gardens
Hyde Park, W2
Tel: 0044 (0)20 7262 0905
For such a cosmopolitan city, London has a shortage of quirky
affordable accommodation. The Pavilion is the exception. Each
room is themed - our personal favourite is the Cosmic Girl
room where you can sleep on a bed of illuminated glass bricks.
Prices start at just $100 per room.
69 Elizabeth Street, SW1
0044 (0)20 7259 9605
Philip Treacy is simply THE best hat designer in the UK and
one of the best in the world. His boutique is in the exclusive
area of Belgravia and his designs range from the simple and
funky to the totally outlandish and outrageous.
Where to eat
61 Junction Road
Archway N19 (tube: Archway)
Tel: 0044 (0)20 7561 0991
Megan tucks into an authentic English breakfast at the Junction
Café - if you fancy tightening up those arteries a
little, this is the place to come. Famed as the hangout of
Morrissey and Johnny Marr from the 1980s band The Smiths.
139 -141 Stoke Newington Church Street
The best jazz bands in the UK and beyond come to play here.
So if you need a break from Soho to hear some real music,
head for Stoke Newington.
This is London's biggest street party and often turns out
to be Europe's largest too. Held annually on the Bank Holiday
weekend in August, this party is dedicated to all things Afro-Caribbean
- most notably, letting your hair down! Spanning two days,
there's a massive parade of colourful floats and dancers and
dozens of sound systems set up around the area to shake your
booty to. If you're in London at this time you really can't
Absolutely hilarious. Take the hour and a half train trip
to Bognor Regis on England's south coast in August
and see the 'bird men' jump off Bognor Pier for a large cash
prize to the winner who can fly (no one has won it so far!).
Jack the Ripper Tour
One of the most notorious inhabitants of Victorian London,
Jack the Ripper, the infamous 19th century prositute murderer,
comes to life with a tour. Richard Jones has been taking people
round the Ripper's murder-scenes for over 20 years. Immensely
passionate about the subject, he has many interesting theories
of his own.
- London can be a daunting city when you realise just how
big it is! You may find it easier to think of it in terms
of many smaller towns / areas instead (Notting Hill, Brixton
etc). The first thing to do is invest in a London A-Z.
- As one of the most cosmopolitan cities on Earth, London
has every cuisine imaginable. Most street food (hamburger/
hot dog stalls) is perfectly safe to eat, if not at all appetising!
Like everywhere in the world, just exercise a bit of common
sense - if something looks bad then it probably is. Indian
restaurants are especially good value for money in a notoriously
expensive city. The golden rule is to eat (and drink) away
from the main tourist streets, such as Oxford Street. Unfortunately,
the sheer volume of tourists in certain areas means a steady
supply of new customers without actually having to maintain
any standards. Just moving down a side-road can mean a huge
difference in the price and quality of a meal.
- The licensing laws in London are the bane of many
British lives - last orders are at 11pm every night of the
week (except Sundays when it is 10.30pm). However this only
applies to pubs; many bars and all nightclubs can serve alcohol
until the small hours (except on Sundays) but you will often
be asked for an entrance fee' and, once inside, the drinks
- For reasonable clothes shopping, head to Camden Market
(tube: Camden Town) or Portobello market (tube: Ladbroke
Grove), both on Saturdays and Sundays, and both as popular
as ever. High street shops such as New Look and Top Shop (both
on Oxford Street) can also be good value. On and around Oxford
Street, US Dollars and Euros are widely accepted in the shops.
For more exclusive shops, Bond Street is a favourite
as are Covent Garden, Carnaby Street (tube: Oxford
Circus), the Kings Road (tube: Sloane Square), Upper
Street (tube: Angel), Hoxton Square area (tube:
Old Street) and of course Harrods (tube: Knightsbridge).
- London has kinder weather than most of the UK - spring,
summer and autumn can see blue-skied days with plenty of sunshine.
But it's always worth bringing a waterproof jacket and a warm
jumper - just in case!
- If you are travelling outside of London, Britain has a
massive rail network, although, since privatisation, its efficiency
and safety has been a subject of debate for some years now.
The trains are expensive - there is no debate about this -
unless you book well in advance (weeks, not days). For example,
the approx. 3-hour journey from London to Edinburgh would
cost the equivalent of $200 bought at the station, but maybe
as little as $80 bought two weeks in advance. National
Express runs a reliable and inexpensive network of frequent
coaches to major cities.
London is a fascinating city with an incredible history and
so much to see and do that chances are you will never fit
everything into one trip. Do some reading before you arrive
and see what aspects interest you the most.