LONDON DOUBLE ACTS
With so much to see in the British capital, it’s best to do things in twos
V&A MUSEUM AND KENSINGTON GARDENS Not as widely known as the British or Natural History museums, the Victoria and Albert Museum is a favourite among Londoners, focusing on human creativity through art and design, and staging regular exhibitions on a diverse range of subjects, from plywood to Pink Floyd.
A short walk north on Exhibition Road brings you to Kensington Gardens, one of London’s royal parks, whose peaceful green spaces contain statues ranging from the grand Albert Memorial to the cutesy Peter Pan beside the Long Water. Other popular stopping points are The Orangery Restaurant in Kensington Palace, and the princess Diana Memorial Fountain. Access via South Kensington station on the London Underground. TOWER OF LONDON AND ST PAUL’S CATHEDRAL Few cities have a castle as historic as this right at their heart. The UNESCO World Heritage site is replete with fascinating sights and stories – home to the Crown Jewels (valued at more than £20 billion/US$25.8 billion), site of Britain’s last execution in 1941 (a German spy)… and so forth.
A ten-minute walk down Eastcheap – through the UK’s banking nexus – will reveal the city’s most iconic church: St Paul’s Cathedral. The world’s second-largest dome (after St Peter’s in Rome) is impressive, but the interior is even more so. Make time to climb up to the Whispering Gallery and descend into the crypts. Access via Tower Hill station. OXFORD STREET TO PICCADILLY The city’s most popular retail thoroughfares (whether you’re buying or just window shopping) surround and crisscross the West End district of Mayfair. In general, more affordable outlets can be found on Oxford Street and Regent Street, while Piccadilly, and the narrower boulevards of New and Old Bond streets, Saville Row and Burlington Arcade offer rarefied acquisitions out of the financial reach of the majority. Access via Oxford Street or Piccadilly stations.
CAMDEN MARKET AND REGENT’S PARK Probably London’s most famous market (sorry Portobello Road), the stalls around Camden Lock and Regent’s Canal offer a cornucopia of arts and crafts, collectibles, fashion items and musical treasures.
A short walk up Parkway from Camden High Street brings you to the northeast corner of Regent’s Park, which harbours London Zoo, an open-air theatre, a boating lake and central London’s largest outdoor sports area. Access via Camden Town station. GREENWICH ROYAL OBSERVATORY AND CUTTY SARK Over in Greenwich in London’s southeast, the magnificent Cutty Sark is the last remaining tea clipper, a sailing ship that in its day was the fastest in the world. You can walk around, inside and under it now that it’s been restored and raised three metres above the ground. Fifteen minutes’ walk south through Greenwich Park is the Royal Observatory, location of the Prime Meridian Line (from which all time zones are calculated), the UK’s largest refracting telescope, a planetarium and a museum explaining how the early scientists mapped the stars and seas. Access via Cutty Sark for Maritime Greenwich station on the Docklands Light Rail line. SHAKESPEARE’S GLOBE AND TATE MODERN The South Bank of the Thames is lined with enjoyable attractions of every type, from the London Eye to the National Theatre. A casual walk east of these along the riverfront promenade reveals two major London destinations that offer vastly different experiences. The Tate Modern is a globally recognised institution presenting contemporary art and film to inspire and propagate artistic discussion. Next door, the meticulously reconstructed, thatchroofed Shakespeare’s Globe allows audiences to experience the Bard’s classic plays exactly as 16th-century crowds would have. Access via St Paul’s station and the pedestrianised Millennium Bridge. RONNIE SCOTT’S AND AMUSED MOOSE SOHO For sublime music and irrepressible laughter, these two hotspots take some beating. Since opening in 1959, Ronnie Scott’s in Frith Street has been the venue to listen to great jazz, soul and blues music, its cool setting playing host to greats such as Sonny Rollins and Chick Corea, as well as contemporary stars both domestic and international.
The Sanctum Soho Hotel on Warwick Street (near the bottom of Carnaby St) is home to the award-winning Amused Moose Soho comedy club, which provides a stage for many of the nation’s top comedians – such as Jimmy Carr, Eddie Izzard and Bill Bailey – to test new material. Access via Piccadilly station.