London

Come to London and you'll find a city where old and new amiably clash, high culture rubs shoulders with pearly queens – with its streets paved with regal glory.

London is a city crackling with the energy of a centre of world finance; filled with the magic of a town ruled by the on-going twists of a millennium of monarchy; charmingly cluttered by centuries of piece-by-piece hoisting skywards of grand palaces, historic monuments and quirky skyscrapers; a city bustling with English good-natured humour – and a buzzing international community of unparalleled diversity.

There's so much to do and see, it's difficult to know where to start. Head to Trafalgar Square, where all the roads lead outwards to one of London's many star attractions. Then under the shadow of Nelson's Column, simply pick a road at random.

Head west, and you pass through the leafy glades of St. James’s Park, bringing you straight into the heart of London's pomp and ceremony – the Mall, Horse Guards Parade and Buckingham Palace. For a dose of culture, head to the British Museum. Then on to the centre of Great Britain's ancient democracy – Westminster, with the Houses of Parliament and the towering charm of Big Ben. Here is where London's oldest abbey quietly sits in an elegant repose – Westminster Abbey – a church where royals get married and the great and good of the kingdom are buried.

Cross Westminster Bridge to the London Eye, where you can see the city from a different perspective. Head north from Trafalgar Square and you're quickly in the entertainment capital of the eastern hemisphere, the West End. Here you can shop-til-you-drop along Oxford Street, pick up a souvenir at Covent Garden's charming markets, and then give the town 'a spin', at one of its many theatres and playhouses. And if you decide instead to take the route eastwards, you're in for a cultural treat. At the Southbank Centre, Royal Festival Hall and the Royal National Theatre, the capital's finest art, dance, drama and music is performed by national companies of repute.

And this is also here where the industrial monolith of the Tate Modern pokes the banner of modern art into the sky. Keep heading east and you'll come to a reminder of medieval London, the Tower of London, which lies back north across the river, over Tower Bridge. This is where the kings and queens of England kept their enemies. It now houses splendid collections of armour and swords, as well as many cruel devices of torture and torment.

The story of London doesn't stop there – further east towards the sea are the old docklands of the East End, now split between crowded London squares, towering towers of finance and trendy lanes of alternative art. As is the case across all of London, the beauty of this city lies in its apparent casual chaos, its wonderful contradictions – and its timeless stories.

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Guide to Exploring London


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