"London" London by NiceLife

London Travel Guide: 23,692 reviews and 50,460 photos

City of Contrasts

I've lived in London over fifty years and I no longer have the fresh "visitors eye". I don't think I could stomach a visit to Westminster Abbey and I used to jog through Hampton Court Palace every morning at 5.30am when I lived near by. So London is not my VT thing. The love of my life is my "new girlfriend" Nice, Cotes d'Azur, who has stolen my heart. So a tiny number of "insider tips" you probably won't find elsewhere is the best I can offer.

The river Thames gives London its focus. From the Tower of London to the Houses of Parliament, The London Eye, The South Bank, Tower Bridge, all linked by the Thames - the historical and the modern. Many of London's finest views are from its bridges. Follow it east to Greenwich and Canary Wharf, or west to Richmond.

People who live North of the river would not dream of living South. People who actually live South of the river know why they are right not to. At night many taxi drivers will decline a fare going South ( or "sarf", in cabbie-speak). Taxi drivers mostly live in Essex anyway, so its not on the way home.

Housing in London is so expensive only the very wealthy and the very poor in social housing can actually afford to live in London. Londoners divide loosely into the "have-lots", "have-nots", and "I'm going to take what youv'e gots". As a generalisation, West London is posh and wealthy full of media types, while the East London is poor and ethnically diverse. North London has Hampstead ("luvvies and celebs") and South London is home to many of the capital's drug dealers and criminal underclass. The surrounding suburbs are mostly terminally dull, though Richmond on Thames offers some brief quality of life beyond the centre.

Many tourists rarely venture beyond the central area and there is so much to see, so who can blame them. Everyone refers to London as "vibrant" - code for lots of overseas visitors and places to drink.

The City skyline

Viewed from Tower Bridge, the city's financial hub sports its newest landmark, the Swiss Re tower, fondly dubbed "The Gerkin" (though other more intimate anatomical names have been heard).

Some four miles east is its rival financial satellite, the breakaway Canary Wharf, This is best viewed from the Greenwich Observatory on the south side of the river. Charing Cross pier offers you a river cruise past regenerated docklands to Greenwich.

I once had a business meeting at the near-top floor of the NatWest Tower, and the view from the window did actually make you feel you were in the company of Masters of the Universe. However its been proven over and over again that random-number driven stock trades perform no worse than the feted city investment gurus.

Hyde Park

Central London has many beautiful parks, but the finest of these must be Hyde Park. Stretching from Hyde Park Corner, Picadilly through to Kensington Gardens and Notting Hill at the other side, the Serpentine lake with its varieties of ducks and geese is an eternally uplifting place. Walk the length of the Serpentine to the Italian fountains at Lancaster Gate.

On your way you will see moorhens, greebs, coots, herons, tufted duck, cormorants, Canadian geese and swans. In Spring there are plantings of bulbs that are a match for Keukenhof, Holland.

Sit and while away some time at the Serpentine Cafeteria. Visit the Serpentine Art Gallery for free exhibitions of contemporary art. Find the Albert Memorial - an extraordinary gothic folly. Avoid supposedly Princess Diana's favourite sculpture: Peter Pan.

One of my writing heroes Jeremy Clarkson wrote of Hyde Park: "if you've gone through Hyde Park and not been moved by the experience it's because at the time you were probably in an ambulance with a sheet over you"

It's Londons jewel, and most Londoners think "a park - somewhere you walk the dog"

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Shopping, shopping, and more shopping
  • Cons:It's dirty and the weather's often depressing
  • In a nutshell:A cool urban experience
  • Last visit to London: Jan 2008
  • Intro Updated Jul 30, 2011
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Reviews (5)

Comments (8)

  • hunterV's Profile Photo
    Mar 8, 2009 at 1:46 PM

    Thanks for your story, ANDREW!

  • MikeStarr5's Profile Photo
    Dec 2, 2007 at 5:07 PM

    Excellent London page and some 5 star tips - I must go to that flower market. - MikeStarr5 in "Barking Town", the forgotten London suburb.

  • Jan 26, 2007 at 11:50 PM

    I was wondering where to buy an arty-farty vase this morning - thanks for the tip! (I love the Horniman - vastly underrated amongst London museums in my opinion! :)) Good page. Well done that man.

  • hekate's Profile Photo
    Jan 5, 2006 at 5:48 AM

    It it always interesting to read the off the beaten path tips written by people who actually live in the respective location :)))

  • Dec 7, 2005 at 4:37 PM

    I love The City skyline view its amazing!

  • gilabrand's Profile Photo
    Sep 17, 2005 at 11:36 PM

    Never heard of these places - I knew there was more stuff to see in London...LOL

  • skywalkerbeth's Profile Photo
    Jun 15, 2005 at 12:43 PM

    thank you for your nice comment on my worldisround.com page!!

  • amapola66's Profile Photo
    Feb 27, 2005 at 6:49 AM

    Re your tip on Columbia Road Flowermarket , how true! Are you going to add any more London tips?

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