Thursday, 3 December 2015

10 Places you HAVE to visit in London

First time visiting London? Here is my definitive list of places you should visit on your first trip to England's capital and trust me, once you go, you'll want to go back. You can't see it all in one trip so here are some important highlights.

10. Any National Museum
Visit a National Museum
Horniman Museum

There are oh so very many museums in London. Just pick one and tour the hell out of it. Slowly stroll through the exhibitions, find an empty bench in a gallery and take in the things around you, rest in the museum cafe with a hot drink and a biscuit, make sure to explore the gift shop. You can't see them all and depending on how much time you have in the city, museum fatigue sets in and you just can't take in any more culture.

9. A Royal Palace
Visit Hampton Court Palace
Hampton Court Palace

Buckingham Palace is an obvious one. In the summer they open their doors to the public with a special exhibition. Kensington Palace was a favourite of mine along with Hampton Court Palace which is further out of the city centre.

8. A Park
Visit a Park
Hyde Park Afternoon

There are lots of parks and green spaces scattered throughout the city centre; 8 Royal Parks and numerous garden squares. Each one of them slightly different, influenced by their neighbourhoods and patrons. The many parks of London were one of my favourite things about the city.

7. Gordon's Wine Bar
Visit Gordon Wine Bar
Inside Gordon Wine Bar

The pub culture in London is one that can't be rivalled in North America. There are many places one can go to get a cheeky pint, but for sharing my *ahem* bottle of wine I prefer a charming setting and Gordon's Wine Bar is a particular favourite.

6. Liberty Department Store
Visit Liberty Store
Liberty Store

Of all the department stores in London, this one I found to be the most unique with its dark wood spiral staircases and antiques department to say the least. It's not really a place I can afford to actually buy anything from, but I do love a haberdashery. I even just love saying the word haberdashery.

5. Tower Bridge
Visit Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge

Every major city has that one landmark thing that is conjured up in everyone's mind when that city is mentioned. For me Tower Bridge is that thing for London. It caught my breath every time I saw it. And not to be melodramatic, but I would get goose bumps walking over it. Every. Single. Time.

4. Southbank
Visit Southbank

Start at the Tower of London and travel in a westerly direction long the river until you come to the London Eye and then stop. You will have passed many landmarks, London City Hall, National Theatre, and the Globe Theatre; touristy places to stop and enjoy, Tate Modern, Borough Market, and Southbank Centre; and incredible views across the river.

3. Greenwich Market
Visit Greenwich
View from Greenwich Park

My favourite market was the Greenwich Market. It had the best of both worlds: food stalls and crafts. And once you finish with the market you are surround by so much history, culture, pubs, green space and water front. Explore the neighbourhood. Buy a museum pass to visit The Royal Observatory, and the Cutty Sark or visit for free the National Maritime Museum and the Painted Hall in the Old Naval College. Walk up The Avenue in Greenwich Park to the General Wolfe Monument and admire the panorama of the city. And then head back to the riverside and park yourself down at a pub for a pint, I recommend the Trafalgar Tavern.

2. Oxford Street
Visit Oxford Circus
Fortnum and Mason on Piccadilly

It's going to be busy. Some people might suggest avoiding Oxford Street altogether, but really I think it's something you have to experience just once. And it's a perfect spot to find that dime-a-dozen London souvenir. Also found along this lovely, retail street is the Topshop flagship, John Lewis, and Selfridges. Oxford Circus leads to Regent's Street and more amazing stores. This easily leads to Carnaby Street, Piccadilly Circus and with a little bit of walking Fortnum and Mason. If you're into high end shopping/browsing this is a must see route.

1. Primark
Visit Primark
Onesie purchased from Primark

You want to shop the trends but can't afford the high street? Primark is your answer. And if you're from North America, like me, you will be seeing fashion trends that haven't hit our markets just yet. Buy something great and wear it when you return home and people will keep asking where you got it and how great it is. And you can feel smug in your cheap, trend setting ways. Be warned though, it will be a zoo to visit no matter the day, no matter the time. I suggest Tuesdays at 10 am.

And there you have it. It's not an extensive list of all the very many things there are to see and do in London, but it's certainly a start. London will leave you wanting more.

What would you add to my list of must-sees in London for a first time visitor?

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