With Lonely Planet’s announcement that London is the best city in the world to visit in 2012 (didn’t we already know that!), check out the Portfolio team’s very own top 10 things to do next time you’re in town…
Heading to Greenwich for the Olympics? Don’t forget to check out the Cutty Sark whilst you are there – the only remaining original Clipper ship from the 1800s almost destroyed by fire but relaunched in April this year.
Keen to try something new? For those with a head for heights (60m / 196ft above the ground at its highest point), the rooftop walkway above Greenwich O2 is expected in time for the Olympics. The walkway will be suspended from two of the former Millennium Dome’s yellow masts and lead to an observation platform capable of holding up to 90people at one time. The views over south-east London will be wonderful… on a clear day J. The O2 is also an official venue for the 2012 Olympics, hosting basketball and gymnastics, so handy for those visitors. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-14337973
Heading back in to Central London, check out the South Bank of the Thames and stroll along the Embankment from Waterloo towards the City. There is often something going on around the Royal Festival Hall, British Film Institute and Queen Elizabeth Hall – perhaps street theatre and one-off entertainment. You’ll not only get some good exercise but the opportunity to pop into a waterfront pub, cafe or restaurant to replenish your calorific intake as well.
If you’ve enjoyed one of the best views in London by walking over Waterloo Bridge, take a detour into the criss-cross of streets just to the east of the station. The terraced houses are preserved almost as if they were in the 1950s and consequently often used as a film set. As a bonus, there’s a proper cake shop on the corner of Cornwall Road and Roupell Street, Konditor & Cook, making some of the most blissful cakes in London as well as excellent take-away food. They now have more branches, but this one really feels like a step back in time.
Ready for a really good glass of Sauvignon Blanc? Pop into popular wine bar, Gordons, which you will find secreted away close to Embankment Tube. The atmosphere is undoubtedly one of the liveliest in London, and the decor and staff really add to the character of the place. Best of all, you can get a really decent bottle of wine that won’t break the bank, which can be enjoyed in one of their indoor nooks and crannies, or out on the terrace. Be warned though, you won’t get a table if you show up past 6pm!
Feeling peckish? If you have time Thursday-Saturday, head down to London’s oldest food market, Borough Market for some really top notch nosh. Grab lunch from one of the many stalls, do your weekly shop (if your weekly shop consists of many different cheeses, meats and exotic veggies), or just wander round and take in the sights and smells. If you’re braving it over the weekend, definitely aim to be there early – the market is always heaving by 11am!
And if it’s raining and the kids are in tow, check out the British Museum in Bloomsbury. With thousands of stunning objects, together with explanatory videos and audio, as well as themed exhibitions, you’ll find plenty to keep you interested. And it is free!
Still in need of a bit of culture? Visit The Wallace Collection in Manchester Square, a stunning collection of 18th and 19th Century paintings, furniture and armoury. Housed in a beautiful London townhouse that feels more like a home than a museum, it includes paintings from Rembrandt, Rubens, Gainsborough, Canaletto as well as Hals’ The Laughing Cavalier. Best of all, it’s tucked in a square just behind Selfridges, so you’ll still have plenty of time to hit the shops…
Or, hiding away in leafy Ladbroke Grove, is The Museum of Brands, provides an insight into the history of packaging, branding and character merchandise. An essential destination for anyone who loves design, and a real nostalgia feast for everyone else. Notting Hill is the nearest tube station, but take a map!
And last but not least, make some time for Covent Garden. Working where we do, we have to mention all its little side streets and alleyways that are a haven for independent shops and cafes. One favourite is Neal’s Yard, just off Shorts Gardens, with its choice of wholefood restaurants and the original natural remedies store. There’s also the Walk in Backrub centre, for a quick and respectable back massage – great for escaping the world for 10 minutes during a busy day’s work or shopping.