Friday, October 29, 2010


Photo: Buckingham Palace guards
Members of the Grenadier Guards march through the gates of Buckingham Palace.

The United Kingdom’s capital city—covering 610 square miles (1,580 square kilometers)—is huge. Founded in A.D. 43, it’s also old. And powerful. London is a hub of culture, business, and politics—and center of the once glorious British Empire that can still throw its weight around the globe. Served by a fabulous subway system, numerous tour buses, and the iconic black taxis, London is not difficult to find your way around in. And despite the city’s enormity, the center is small enough to make walking a good option—just mind the warnings painted on the curb to look right when crossing the street. Drivers come at you, unexpectedly, along the left side of the road

London Must-Dos

Photo: The London Eye

The British Museum
Built around the 1857 Round Reading Room, "Norman Foster's Great Court is a wonderful contrast of old London with new. Afterward, wander through the Egyptian rooms and look at the mummies."—Hannah Duguid, an arts writer atThe Independent. Great Russell Street; tel. 44 (0) 207 323
The Gagosian
Larry Gagosian's cavernous second London gallery is "an amazing space. They barely advertise but get big names (Giacometti, Twombly, Koons) you'd pay to see at the Tate, and it's free."—Mat Osman, musician and editor of le cool London. 6-24 Britannia St., Kings Cross; tel. 44 (0) 207 841
Hampstead Heath
"Wonderfully wild environment right in central London. Just wander and get lost."–Mark Sladen, director of exhibitions, Institute of Contemporary Arts. "No major sights, but a real sense of history. Pretty potters and dress designers in charming backstreets of Hampstead Village."—Henrietta Green, founder Hampstead Lane; tel. 44 (0) 208 348
The London Library
"Saunter in and take out a first-edition Shakespeare folio."—Stephen Bayley, design consultant and author. Over one million books and periodicals dating back to the 16th century, in fabulous period premises. 14 St James's Square, Mayfair; tel. 44 (0) 207 930 7705.
Sir John Soanes Museum
"The best place to get lost in London."—Stephen Bayley. Vast, varied collection of art and architecture crammed into three town houses. "A cabinet of curiosities, a very personal and eccentric product of its maker."—Mark Sladen. Candlelit tours 6-9 p.m. first Tuesday of each month. 13 Lincoln's Inn Fields; tel: 44 (0) 207 405 2107.
St. Paul's Cathedral
"As London's skyline evolves, with the prevailing climate of vertiginous architectural ambition, Wren's cupola remains the iconic feature of the city's landscape. Finest place to give into the airy seduction of a bird's-eye view of the city."—Jack Lohman, director, Museum of London. Be prepared to climb 530 steps to the top. Ludgate Hill; tel. 44 (0) 207 236 4128.
Victoria and Albert Museum
Founded in 1852, this treasure trove of fine art and design covers 3,000 years and every continent. Fabulous gift shop and art nouveau café overlooking serene courtyard with sculpture. Cromwell Rd, South Kensington; tel. 44 (0) 207 942 2000.
William Morris Gallery
"Wonderful testament to the polymath talents of one of England's finest designers. Unrivaled collection of Morris's work in fabrics, furniture, glass, and ceramics. Deserves much wider public recognition."—Jack Lohman. Worth a trek to Walthamstow. Lloyd Park, Forest Road; tel: 44 (0) 208 527 3782.
Cabinet War Rooms
A small door surrounded by sandbags leads to the underground bunkers from which Winston Churchill conducted military operations while air raids rocked London. Locked in 1945 and re-opened in 1984, everything is intact from the campaign maps to Churchill's encrypted hotline to FDR. A history lesson frozen in time. Clive Steps, King Charles St.; tel. 44 (0) 207 930 6961.

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