The first part touched on some of may favourite things about London but there are so many more to write about. The challenge for this second part is – how to keep it short and snappy while remaining interesting and relevant. However, there is so much to do in London that this will be but a taste, a small taste at that.
The Grand City and its Parks
When we think of European cities we frequently think of the grandeur of the past and London certainly delivers in this expectation. The palaces, the grand houses, the impressive museums, they are all there. Yet, it is also an accessible and family friendly city.
If you have not been to London before the video below should give you a quick overview.
…and the following shows you some of the chaotic life of the city but also the slow life in London that we enjoy as a family.
Amongst all the grandness of the city we particularly enjoy the fact that it is a very green place with many large parks dotted all over the city. Some of our favourite places within the city that we would like to recommend for a Sunday walk or a romantic picnic are:
- Kew Gardens – for a grand festival of colour in the spring and summer, truly beautiful place to spend an entire day. Kids love the colourful flowers. One of the times we visited there was an exhibition by a famous glass maker – the glass sculptures were all over the park in-between the trees and flowers and in the lake – fantastic.
- Richmond Park – you can find two different types of dear running around free. Within the park there is Henry VIII’s Mound from where you can see St Paul’s Cathedral some 15 km away. You can see a corridor all across the city as there is a law that protects the view so no building can be built that will interfere with this ancient view. It is a small thing with a big impact on the development of the city, but at the same time it is small things like this that make cities special.
- Bushy Park – near Hampton Court Palace – great place to get close to the dear and the ducks – kids love it.
- Hyde Park – remember the roller skating around the city – it starts from here.
- Regents Park – beautiful rose gardens and it has a great outdoor theater operating in the summer where you can watch a play while having a barbecue and drinking your own wine.
- Hampstead Heath – in the north part of town with good views of the city. You can also swim on the ponds within the park – very popular in the summer and a few swim even in winter.
- Greenwich Park – a very pleasant place for a walk or for great views of the city or just to let the kids feed the squirrels. GMT sounds familiar? This observatory in the park is where it comes from.
There are many others, but the above are just some of our favourites.
There are many museums all over the city. All government museums are free and many offer great places to just hang around or good public places to meet friends. Like the Tate Modern with its cafeteria in one of the upper floors with great views of the river and St Paul’s Cathedral. Some of our favourite ones are:
- British Museum – a great museum but also a great city space. The concept is that museums are not just places where you display objects but also urban spaces for the the people of the city to congregate and interact.
- Victoria and Albert Museum – there is a nice coffee shop within the museum, a good place to meet friends. Ok, not the best coffee but a great venue none the less.
- Natural History Museum – this is definitely the favourite one for the whole family. The building is truly amazing and if you take the time to look at the detail you will see little animals carved that appear to be crawling up the columns – a beautiful design. It is a great place to take the kids on a rainy day as you can spend the whole day looking at the dinosaurs or at the activity centre in the basement floor. Our little boys love it. As all the other museums it is free and you can take your own food as there is an area in the basement where you can have a picnic with your kids so it is a very cheap and enjoyable day out, not to mention educational as well.
- Tate Modern – a fantastic urban space inside and out. It is a converted factory with a large atrium that is used for a variety of rotating displays. The art can be pretty weird, but regardless of your taste in art, the place is fantastic.
So, yes a grand city in a traditional way but also a nice place to live with many green areas and activities for the kids. Yes, a pleasant city to live.
A Centre for Design Excellence
When people think about great design they think of Milan or Paris but actually, today London is one of the major centres for design of all types – from fashion to motor cars and everything in-between. Some of the greatest brands of cars have design offices in the centre of London and today London is synonymous with great avant-garde design in most disciplines, be it advertising, jewellery design or architecture. The Royal Academy of Arts for fine arts or The Royal College of Arts for modern design such as automotive – if you like design, good places to visit. Even great American icons of the automotive world have been designed in London in some pretty obscure designs studios below the railway arches.
Some great modern architecture and great architects in London such as Norman Foster or Zaha Hadid – see below.
Pubs ad Wine Bars
Just like the list of clubs there is a great variety across London – so it depends what you like. We like pubs as most of them tend to be family friendly so you go and have a drink and take your kids along. Some of our favourite ones in London are:
- Gordon’s Wine Bar near Embankment – a basement wine bar since 1890 with a wide variety of wines. Has an outdoor terrace next to the park so it is nice in summer as well.
- The White Horse in Parsons Green – nice upmarket pub
- The Captain Kidd in Wapping – relaxed atmosphere right on the river with an outdoor area for summer barbecues.
- The Roebuck on Richmond Hill road – nothing special as a pub but you can buy your beer and take it outside across the road and sit in the park and have some of the best views of the river in London. If you are in Richmond, take a walk up the hill and cool down with a few nice beers. Some of the famous people like Elton John, Madonna, Mick Jagger, some of the Who members and many others live in the area and it is not unusual to see them around the neighbourhood. Like I said, not the greatest pub but they are relaxed about you taking your glass of beer across the street and sit anywhere in the park. Everyone just returns the glass by the steps leading up to the road.
Well, there are literally thousands of pubs and wine bars in London and the above are just but a taste. Make sure you explore in which ever area you happen to be and you are bound to find an old pub with lots of history and character. In the past few years there has been an explosion of Gastropubs that serve very good food along with good beer in a nice setting.
There is a pub in East London where the captain of the Mayflower used to sleep and from where the boat was said to have parted for America. It is in an ugly area of town so only worth visiting if you are passing by.
A note about Pubs. Many pubs are tied up to a brewery and serve a certain range of beers connected with that specific brewery. However, if you see the sign “Free House”, it means that there is no connection with a brewery and they will have a different range of more unique beers. There are hundreds of beers in England, some of them only sell regionally and many in London serve beer from their area of London. If you like Ales, I don’t buy my husband does, then you can enjoy trying the hundreds of beers across the city as different pubs will serve different beers. Ales are not like lager beers, the best ones tend to be made in an artisan manner in small batches and do not have preservatives or any type of additives to keep them for a long time. A good Ale will only last for about 2 weeks and if not consumed it gets thrown away – little chance of that happening as beer drinking is one of the national British sports. A Real Ale will always be pulled by hand.
Remember, when you go to a pub you can always ask to taste the beers before you buy one. So try 2 or 3 before you choose.
If you want to find out about Ale, visit sites The Real Ale Campaign site: www.camra.org.uk It has a long list of beer festivals around the country – but make sure you don’t order a lager or you’ll be ushered out… ;-)
Just Hanging Out
But best of all, London is a great city to just hang out and to stroll through the great parks or next to the river. On a Sunday you can walk on the outside of Hyde Park to see the different painters selling their work or go to one of the many markets to see some creative people selling their wares. Or maybe just go to your local pub and have a drink and maybe a nice meal if you pick the right gastropub. Even if it is cold and rainy outside, you are bound to find something to do, a coffee at the grand coffee shop in the V&A or maybe a brunch with live music at the National Gallery, or even a walk in the rain followed by a nice Ale by the fireplace at some old pub.
Oh, better stop……there is so much more to write about, the many unusual shops, the great deli’s across the city, the unusual spots to hide away for a break…..but I may write about these in the future.
Just to end….not in London but a short drive away. If you ever dreamt of a castle when you were a small kid, then go to Leeds Castle about 1.5 hrs drive away, as if you were driving to catch the ferry to France. The whole setting is out of a fairytale, if you do go, make a day out of it and soak up the atmosphere, take a picnic and just relax by the lake.
But that would be a whole new article, what to visit within easy reach of London.
See you soon !
Sobre a Autora: Meu nome é Luciana, sou professora de Inglês, leciono em São Paulo e recentemente criei o Inglês Interact. Morei e trabalhei por alguns anos na Inglaterra (Londres e Cambridge).