Of all the cities in the world, London is certainly one of most unique. As the capital of England, London’s history stretches back to the Roman times and yet is still remains one of the most froward-thinking 21st century cities with a rich multicultural community, iconic landmarks and some of the best fashionable districts on the planet…
London Fashion Week is always one of the most exciting events for B Sunglasses; not just because its’ the closest to home but because we get to see brand new collections from some our favourite innovative British designers and awe at the quirky London street style that has become famed for its’ eclectic spirit; a true reflection of Britain’s biggest city. If Westminster Abbey or Buckingham Palace aren’t your thing, there’s plenty of urban delights to be found in every side-street; from chic cafe’s and pop-up art shops to markets selling hand-crafted clothing and street food stalls.
The best way to explore London is to get a map, an Oyster card and simply go wherever the day takes you. Summer is ideal for seeing the city on Boris bikes or a stroll through Hyde Park during winter presents the perfect opportunity to see Oxford street lit up for Christmas or fireworks next to Tower Bridge on New Year. London style is envied, coveted and imitated around the world, that’s for sure, but what else does this cosmopolitan hive of art, business and culture have to offer?
Things To See
Thanks to London being one of the oldest and largest cities in Europe, its’ historical landmarks vary broadly with architecture visible from throughout the Middle ages, Tudor times, Edwardian period, Victorian era, Art Deco movement and the recent contemporary revival of the 1960s onwards. The Tower Of London harks back to the 17th Century and is one of the few buildings that survived the Great Fire of London whilst the Houses of Parliament (Palace of Wesminster) and Big Ben have strong historical ties to the Middle Ages having been rebuilt for continued use right up until modern times. However, with Nelson’s Column and Kensington Palace not being for everyone; urban explorers can take a trip to Canary Wharf, The Shard or the Gherkin to see modern architecture at its’ finest and even dine at the Shard’s restaurants Oblix,Hutong and Aqua Shard.
Things To Do
London is one of the most cosmopolitan and culture rich cities in the world with over 300 languages spoken and more than 50 different ethnic communities including immigrants from the Carribean, Eastern Europe, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, Ghana, Turkey, Italy and Greece. As a result, the diversity of London’s cultural events is both exciting and unusual. Notting Hill Carnival in the summer is fronted by London’s British West Indian community and is a colourful celebration with music and dancing. London’s Chinatown is also one of the most popular areas thanks to its’ fine restaurants, traditional Chinese architecture and street celebrations during Chinese New Year.
The West End Theater district is also a fun place to head to if on a short stay as it is located in the central heart of London with plenty of restaurants, stores and attractions to keep you busy until curtain call. Currently showing at London’s beautiful old theaters is South Park creators’ musical comedy Book of Mormon, Billy Elliot – The Musical and Jersey Boys whilst the nearby Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum and Ripley’s Believe It Or Not provide an authentic tourist experience – complete with many London tourists and possible Union Jack hats.
A more cultural experience can be found with London’s many museums and art galleries which range from the historic to the contemporary. The National Portrait Gallery contains works of influential British people whilst the Tate and Tate Modern Gallery have hosted exhibitions by some of the worlds’ finest artists including several Turner Prize Winner’s. There is also Hauser and Wirth, Somerset House (which hosts London Fashion Week), the Saatchi Gallery and the Fashion and Textile Museum for budding designers and fashion obsessives to explore and also The National Gallery which displays masterworks documenting the development of European artistry as we know it. Another plus is that all the best museums are free admission; the British Museum, Natural History Museum and Science Museum being among the best! The British Museum in particular contains the largest collection of Ancient Egyptian artifacts in the world so is definitely worth a visit. A more poignant trip can be found with the Imperial War Museums which document both the First and Second world War in harrowing detail exhibiting genuine aircraft models, combat uniforms and photographs from events such as the Blitz.
The art community in London is huge with some of the country’s top art schools being located in the center. It comes as no surprise that designers such as Stella MCartney, Alexander McQueen, Sarah Burton and Zac Posen are included in the alumni of Central St. Martin’s and alongside Burberry and Vivienne Westwood, they have contributed to London’s individualistic and instantly recognizable style. Saville Row is the ultimate destination for those obsessed with all things luxurious. Many top name designers have their bespoke boutiques on Saville Row and it is the place where you are most likely to spot London’s creme-de-la-creme shopping for tailor-made items and designer pieces. The once central point of Swinging Sixties London, Carnaby Street and its’ nearby counterpart Covent Garden however are much more commercial and quirky. Here you will be greeted with plenty of super-cool custom-fitted stores such as Monki, Nike SB, Lazy Oaf, Barbour Heritage and Liberty being great locations to pick up unconventional pieces such as stylish sneakers, motif T-shirts and edgy street-wear. Camden, Spitalfields market and Brick Lane have also long since been the contemporary trendy districts for local hipsters who favour market finds, vintage treasures and one-off charity shop gems over labels any day. Host to pop up galleries, photography rooms, niche bars and clubs as well as artisan coffee shops, you can blend in with the youthful crowd whilst browsing on a budget.
London is filled with countless eateries of all types that its’ almost impossible to get through them all in one stay. On one hand you have Shoreditch, Bow and Hackney which are now host to rustic real ale bars and breweries which serve stone baked pizza’s, barbecued delights and bar snacks. On the other, you have Haute cuisine and Michelin star restaurants such as Duck and Waffle, Alain Ducasse and Hakkasan. The real beauty lies in the fact that London has a broad middle ground of reasonably priced venues serving up American style burgers, Gastro-Pub meals and everything from Asian to Mexican cuisine. Wahaca, Ping Pong and Byron Burger are popular chains that can be found throughout the city and offer top grub with quick turnover. Keep an eye out for Wahaca’s taco van at Canary Wharf for a speedy al fresco lunch! Fans of the current Americana food trend are spoiled for choice with Five Guys, Honest Burger, Shake Shack, Meat Liquor, Burger and Lobster, The Diner and Patty & Bun all being top meaty joints whilst those wanting to try something new can head to Bao which does the most delicious Asian style steamed buns; Rola Wala which puts a twist on Indian street food and Pizza Pilgrims who serve up little slices of heaven.
If that wasn’t enough, trendy cafe and gastro-brasserie Sketch in Mayfair is fast becoming one of London’s trendiest hang-outs with its’ off-the-wall offerings of Afternoon Tea, taster menu’s and bizarre decor (pod shaped toilet cubicles anyone?). For something a little more low-key or appropriate for home cooking, Borough market is the number one go-to for fresh meat and produce, fresh baked goods, home-made sweets and Tony Allan’s ‘Fish!’ restaurant – which of course sources its’ fresh seafood from the famous Billingsgate market.
The weird and wonderful bathrooms in London restaurant Sketch