A Brief London Guide No.2
Our London guide Something Old, Something New was all about celebrating the fascinating contradictions and opposites in our favourite capital city. Visit London with us and you will see how this town is defined by the ancient and modern, the shiny and time-worn, the charmingly old school and the daringly new. Here in Part 2 of this London guide we hope you will be inspired, once again, by the call of the past and the lure of the present on the streets of London.
A REBUILT CATHEDRAL AND A SKYSCRAPER IN THE CITY
St Paul’s Cathedral has survived many a disaster and has quite a history. This beautiful, breathtaking Anglican Church sits at the highest point in the City and has been wowing locals and visitors for hundreds of years. The first ever church on this site was built around 600 AD and was dedicated to St Paul. The magnificent, working cathedral we see and visit today was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and rebuilt after the Great Fire destroyed most of London in 1666.
The Gherkin is modern architecture in the City of London at it’s most stunning and impressive. It stands tall not far from the ancient City walls. 30 St Mary Axe is an iconic, commercial skyscraper, completed in 2004. It is located inside The Square Mile, which is the very heart of London with it’s own laws and police force. The old and the new live and breathe and go about their business here more for than anywhere else in town. Read all about The City and it’s fascinating history in our special London guide dedicated to this city within a city.
Not many people realise just how old London Underground is. It was the world’s first underground train system and the very first trains started running in 1863. The first Central Line train to run had Mark Twain as a passenger! Baker Street is one of the oldest and nicest tube stations and Oxford Circus is the busiest station, by far. During the Blitz of WW2 when London saw heavy bombing, people would shelter from the air raids in the tube stations.
The famous red double decker bus is one of London’s most recognised icons, even though many of the newer buses are not red or double decker. Recently, the most beloved bus of all was revamped and reintroduced, by public demand and it’s name is The Routemaster. These buses had conductors and were open at the back, as do some of the shiny new, eco-friendly versions. Enjoy the views from the top deck, and take care when getting on and off, watching out for cyclists.
TRADITIONAL PUB OR NEW GIN BAR?
The Pub – a public house licensed to sell alcohol. These are the modern equivalents of the taverns and inns of old and they play an important part in English culture. The pub is an important focal point in the community, and this is where people go to relax and socialise, sometimes playing darts or enjoying a pub quiz. Popping into your local or a favourite pub for a quick drink or a good meal with friends is still a very popular London pass time.
The Spaniard’s Inn in Hampstead is one of the oldest pubs in London and it is mentioned in the Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens. It is said that John Keats wrote his famous poem Ode to a Nightingale here, close to the famous Heath.
London’s love affair with gin goes way back and continues to flourish. In the bad old days of the 1700’s, gin was cheaper than bread and it was the ruin of the working classes who spent most of their time in the sordid gin palaces all over old London. Fabulous and decidedly un-sordid modern gin bars are all the rage now, attracting those looking for that perfect G&T and it’s many variations.
The Gin Bar in Holborn Dining Room has a beautiful copper topped bar and they have London’s largest selection of gin. Pick from over 400 gins and dozens of tonics and enjoy a good selection of fine wine, beers and other spirits on offer.
A CHIPPIE OR FANCY FISH RESTAURANT?
The Chippie is your local fish & chip shop and happily, this well loved traditional place to pop in for some take away dinner is alive and well. It was Spanish Jews settling in London in the 17th Century that first introduced fish fried this way and the first shops that sold fish and fried chipped potatoes together, opened in London in around 1860. The old custom of wrapping the food in old newspaper doesn’t really happen much anymore, more’s the pity!
Visit The Golden Hind if you are in Marylebone, voted one of the best chippies in town. They have been serving excellent fish ‘n chips in this pleasant part of central London for more than 100 years here. Mushy peas are optional!
If something elegant and more refined is required in the way of dining, then London will certainly not let you down. Take your pick from some of the best restaurants in the world here, whether it be modern British or international. Fancy a fancy fish supper? Then try The Angler Restaurant in The South Place Hotel, close to Liverpool Street Station. This Michelin starred restaurant is one of the best places to eat seafood anywhere in London. Often described as “a jewel box in the sky”, because of it’s wonderful views out over the City, this lovely spot will treat you to some excellent food in beautiful surroundings. They also boast a roof terrace.
ROYAL ALBERT HALL OR A MUSICAL CHAPEL
Sitting magnificently right by Kensington Gardens, the beautiful building that is The Royal Albert Hall was opened by Queen Victoria in 1871 as a memorial to her late husband, Prince Albert. It is one of London’s most treasured concert halls and it attracts thousands of visitors each year, both young and old. This where the famous “Proms” classical music festival is held, and the Hall plays host to many pop and rock concerts throughout the year. The Albert Hall manages to be old, solid and dependable whilst keeping up with the very latest trends and fashions within London’s always happening live music scene.
If you prefer something a little more intimate, London has some of the best small live music venues anywhere in the world. Whether it is a pub, a club or a building that was once something else, there are quite a few unique and interesting music venues to choose from when you visit London. Union Chapel is a modern, live music club housed in an old church. This grade II listed building in Islington has been used as a musical venue for some years now. It’s gothic interior and excellent acoustics make it a firm favourite amongst live music fans. It is a working church and apparently the organ here is something very special.