Things to Do in London
The Cenotaph is a war memorial that stands on Whitehall Street in central London. It began as a temporary structure built for a peace parade at the end of World War I and in 1920 was replaced by a permanent structure made of Portland stone. It is now considered the United Kingdom’s primary war memorial, also commemorating those killed in World War II and other wars in which Britons fought and died. King George VI unveiled the memorial for the second time in November 1946 following the end of World War II. The design of the Cenotaph has been replicated elsewhere in the U.K., as well as in Australia, Canada, Bermuda, Hong Kong and New Zealand.
Standing 35 feet high and weighing 120 tons, the memorial has the words “The Glorious Dead” inscribed on it twice. It is the site of the annual National Service of Remembrance, held on Remembrance Sunday, the Sunday closest to November 11.
Casting off its reputation as one of London’s most notorious neighborhoods, Brixton has grabbed the spotlight in recent years, transforming itself into one of South London’s coolest postcodes. Brixton’s youthful vibe and multi-cultural mix of residents are its strongest assets and its high population of African and Caribbean residents has given rise to an excellent selection of African, Indian and Asian restaurants.
Stroll down Electric Avenue, Brixton’s main shopping street (and famously immortalized in Eddy Grant’s 1980’s hit single of the same name) and you’ll find an eclectic mix of independent boutiques, hip bars, contemporary art galleries and pop-up restaurants. Alternatively, Brixton Village arcade is crammed with ethnic restaurants; the lively Brixton Market is held daily; and a number of farmer’s markets, flea markets and handicrafts markets are held throughout the year.
So infamous is the East London Street of Brick Lane that there was even an award winning novel and movie penned with the same name. The street, running from Bethnal Green to Whitechapel via the equally famous Spitalfields, has a rich multicultural history, first as home to a sizable Jewish population and more recently, as a settlement for many of London’s Bangladeshi immigrants. These days, Brick Lane and its surroundings are renowned for showcasing the eclectic and retro arts and fashions of the East End, as well as the being the destination of choice for curry lovers.
Brick Lane has earned itself a reputation as the go-to destination for sourcing vintage threads, with its annual Alternative Fashion Week cementing its status as an innovative and fashion-forward region of up and coming designers. Vintage stores and retro boutiques are dotted along the street, alongside a growing population of young, local designers, but the real draw cards are the weekly markets.
Blackfriars Bridge is the busiest of the four bridges located in central London. It crosses the River Thames bringing both road and foot traffic from one side to the other. The bridge has been updated several times, but the current bridge is 923 feet long, 105 feet wide, and has five wrought iron arches. Stone carvings decorate the piers of the bridge. On the east side the carvings show marine life and seabirds, and on the west side the carvings depict freshwater birds. This reflects the tidal turning point in the river. Most river boat tours along the River Thames will sail underneath the Blackfriars Bridge along with Millennium Bridge, Southwark Bridge, and London Bridge.
In 1982 the bridge gained international notoriety when the body of Roberto Calvi, a former chairman of Italy's largest private bank, was found hanging from one of the arches of the bridge. Five bricks were attached to his body, and around $14,000 in three different currencies was found in his pockets.
With its abundance of oriental restaurants, striking Paifangs (monumental archways) and colorful lanterns swaying in the wind, it’s easy to know when you’ve stumbled into London’s Chinatown. Located at the heart of Soho and a short stroll from Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus, it serves as a popular route for walking tours, as well as being one of the top destinations for eating out in the city. London’s Chinatown dates back from the 20th century, but was originally based in Limehouse in the East End, only moving to its current location in the 1970s. Today, the main thoroughfare is Gerrard Street, on and around which dozens of Asian restaurants can be found, including Japanese sushi bars, Korean eateries and traditional teahouses, as well as a number of Chinese supermarkets, reflexology and massage parlors, and Chinese medicine practitioners. The lively district is most atmospheric after dark, but the best time to visit is during the annual Chinese New Year celebrations.
Lord’s Cricket Ground is often described as the sport’s spiritual headquarters, hosting national competitions and international test matches. Although legendary, the stadium doesn’t have any royal relations as its name may suggest — it’s named after Thomas Lord, a professional cricketer and the venue’s founder.
Of course the best way to experience this site is by attending on of the regular matches as one of the 28,000 spectators the stadium can hold. But even without a live game underway, the Lord’s Cricket Ground is worth a visit. The eight stands and media center circling the pitch all have distinctive features, the most notable being the Victorian Pavilion with its famous Long Room. It’s so long, in fact, that cricket player David Steele supposedly once got lost on his walk from the dressing room to the cricket field and ended up in the basement toilets.
More Things to Do in London
As England’s third-largest football stadium after Wembley and Old Trafford, and home to Arsenal Football Club, one of the capital’s most renowned football teams, Emirates Stadium is a top choice for those looking to soak up the atmosphere of a British football match. Opening its doors in 2006, the state-of-the-art stadium was designed by HOK Sport and cost an impressive £390 million to build, with seats for up to 60,365 fans.
Touring the landmark stadium is also a popular choice for fans, offering the chance to explore the changing rooms, complete with luxury hydrotherapy spas, walk through the players’ tunnel onto the pitch and stand in Arsenal Manager Arsène Wenger's spot in the dug-out. The on-site Arsenal Museum is another must-see, crammed with iconic photos and memorabilia from Arsenal’s long history, and fans can also shop for sports gear or print a bespoke Arsenal shirt at The Armoury, the official Arsenal shop.
Few addresses hold the majesty of ‘Number One London’, the official address for the central London abode of Apsley House, located at Hyde Park Corner. Once home to the Duke of Wellington, the Georgian manor was built between 1771-1778 and remains remarkably preserved with much of its interior design and furnishings dating back to the start of the Duke’s residency in 1817. The stunning house, a popular attraction in itself, became an English Heritage site in 1947 and is now home to the Wellington Museum where the Duke’s personal collection of art and artifacts – many gifted to him in thanks for his military successes – are on display.
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