I’ll admit it. I’m a London fan
I guess you’d expect someone from Find a London Office to say that! Some cynics might say I only love London because I don’t live or work there anymore! And there may be something in that. But in truth I was born and brought up in London and even now I’m only 25 mins away by train, so I will always feel like a Londoner. During my lifetime, London has had a lot of brickbats thrown at it – the crime, the congestion, the expense, and you can’t deny that London does have its faults. As Brits, we often have a frustrating tendency to compare our worst with the best of other countries. However since the Olympics a year ago, I sense those habits and attitudes being replaced with a more confident celebration of what London has to offer. And there is much to celebrate in London: for one there are now considerably more expensive places in the world to live; London’s not even in the top ten!
I thought I’d share with you ten things I love most about our capital.
Lord’s Cricket Ground
Last weekend I had the great privilege of spending three days at Lord’s with my Dad, watching England thrash Aussies in the second Test Match of this year’s enthralling Ashes series.
Lord’s is one of my favourite places on the planet – let alone London. There’s an atmosphere to the place which almost defies definition. Located in St John’s Wood, to the north of Marylebone, it certainly does have a reputation for being a bit posh – but in reality it’s not at all stuffy. Leaving aside the pavilion, which does have strict rules, it’s actually a very relaxed and informal place to spend a few days. Even if you don’t like cricket, I think you’d enjoy being there, such is the atmosphere.
The River Thames
To anyone visiting London, a boat trip on the Thames is always top of my recommendations – specifically from Westminster to Greenwich. It gives you a different perspective on the place – away from the congestion, but still at the centre of the action. And it’s an excellent snapshot of London for the first time visitor: you get to see many of the major landmarks in the space of an hour – Big Ben, The London Eye, The Shard, The Globe, The Tower of London, Tower Bridge and Canary Wharf.
London has more parkland than any other capital city in the world. 8 Royal Parks, 110 square kilometres of parkland and gardens with over 6 million trees, London is one of the greenest capital cities in the world. My personal favourites would be Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. Again, the fact that you can easily escape London’s frenetic energy by stepping into one of the parks is something to be celebrated.
I love the juxtaposition between old and new. St Paul’s Cathedral and the Shard on opposite sides of the Thames are equally impressive. London has a rich architectural heritage, but that hasn’t stopped it taking risks with bold modern architecture in recent years. I like London’s organic approach to its architecture. After the Great Fire of London in 1666, Christopher Wren had a great plan for London based on a grid system. However, before it could be implemented, buildings were rebuilt on their existing plots. So much of London retains its medieval layout – which makes it a challenge for traffic planners, but contributes to much of London’s charm.
Twenty or Thirty Years ago, London (and the UK in general) had a somewhat laughable reputation for food. Today, however, that couldn’t be further from the truth. There’s been a food revolution over past couple of decades. You only have to watch Masterchef to witness the number and diversity of high class London restaurants. There is also a burgeoning street food culture which is ridiculously good, making great food available to all of us.
Much maligned, I’ve always loved the Tube – which goes back to my slightly geeky trainspotting youth! As a kid, I found the Tube incredibly exciting. I love the art deco architecture: the Tube logo is a design classic. Yes it can be very crowded during rush hour – not to mention desperately uncomfortable during a heatwave. But some of it is over 150 years old. It’s technological miracle – with 3.5 Million individual journeys every day! – and mostly it works very well. (and it didn’t let us down during the Olympics, as the doom mongers predicted!)
The History and The Future
London is a clearly a city with a past – dating back over 2000 years. There is a palpable sense that stuff has happened in London! The Tower of London is almost 1000 years old, and Westminster Abbey was built almost 800 years ago. There are countless other examples. And yet London isn’t a museum. It’s a living, breathing city – full of creativity, innovation. Despite it’s rich history, it’s a very forward looking place, and continues to attract some of the best talent from around the world.
The West End
I find the West End invigorating. The hustle and bustle of Oxford Street and Regent Street, The trendy streets of Soho, the street theatre in Covent Garden, the energy of Chinatown, the quality and quantity of Theatreland. And the iconic status of Piccadilly Circus. Magic.
The South Bank
And finally, my number one reason for loving London is its diversity. Over 300 languages are spoken in London, and with over 200 nationalities represented, it is without doubt one of the most diverse cities on the planet. And – without wishing to downplay some of complex social problems faced by parts of the inner city – by and large everyone rubs along just fine. It was key to winning the Olympics back in 2005 and key to the success of the games last year.
And that’s only really scratching the surface. London has so much to offer. What are your favourite things about London?