"Welcome to the party!" London by cheezecake_deli
London Travel Guide: 23,494 reviews and 49,593 photos
The Roman settlement of Londinium was founded in AD43 on the southern bank of the river Thames in the present-day borough of Southwark. By AD100, it had grown to become capital of the Roman province of Britannia, but was largely abandoned by the late 5th century due to decline of the Roman empire during the Dark Ages. It was then occupied by Anglo-Saxon settlers, eventually merging with an Anglo-Saxon trading settlement, called Lundenwic, which was established upstream from the original Roman town, at the mouth of the river Fleet near present-day Covent Garden. The merged town of Lundenburg was pillaged by the Vikings in 871, but was re-established 8 years later by Alfred the Great as Lvndonia. London was besieged once again in the early 11th century by Canute of Denmark, who was finally defeated by Aethelred the Unready, partly by toppling the original wooden London Bridge. The Danes, however, established a large community outside the city walls, and the step-son of Canute, Edward the Confessor, eventually rose to become King of England. Following the death of Edward, William the Conqueror invaded from Normandy. Although his army ravaged much of the English countryside, London was spared because its residents were quick to recognise him as King. William built the (in)famous Tower of London and conferred special status to London, helping it become the pre-eminent commercial centre in Britain. From this early time, the monarchy, politics and trade were inextricably linked, and the city continued to prosper under the Norman and Tudor monarchs. In 1666, the Great Fire destroyed four-fifths of the city, including the original St. Paul’s Cathedral, forever changing the character of London. Rebuilding work was overseen by Christopher Wren and John Evelyn, and public services were strengthened. London grew rapidly in the 19th century as the political, economic and cultural centre of the expanding British empire – it was the world’s largest city for much of this century. The world’s first underground train network was built, as were many of London’s current landmark buildings (e.g. Royal Albert Hall, the V&A Museum and the Natural History Museum). This was, however, also a time of a growing income gap, with the appearance of a large impoverished urban working class (providing inspiration for much of Charles Dickens’ work). The 20th century was a time of constant change – two World Wars, the Blitz, the Swinging Sixties, the recession of the early 1990s – and the fortunes of the city waxed and waned. The last 10 years or so have been largely prosperous ones for London – it remains a world financial and cultural capital, and is increasingly a destination of choice for international immigrants…
As a visitor, much of what you see (or may want to see) is imperial London – the stately buildings along Whitehall, the imposing Houses of Parliament, the splendid royal parks, and the grand museums with treasures acquired/pillaged from the Empire. Today’s London, however, offers much more than that. You might notice that London is not very English – indeed, it isn’t, and some 40% of Londoners were born abroad. London has significant and large communities of people from every corner of the world. Your waiter might be French, the person who pulled your pint in the pub might be Australian, the hotel receptionist South African, or the shopkeeper Pakistani. London is home to Russian billionaires, Italian footballers, American bankers, Japanese sushi chefs, Indian doctors and Filipino nurses (okay, I’m drawing stereotypes here). The end result is that London is a hotchpotch of cultures, foods, languages and attitudes. Here, you can eat the best Cantonese food west of Hong Kong, dance the night away at a bhangra club, attend mass in Polish, or watch the latest trendy Korean film. It is this diversity that makes London intoxicating, and you might find it simultaneously inviting and alienating. Whatever you like, whatever you want, you are likely to find it here, so enjoy…
Some quick tips:
1. London is one of the most expensive cities in the world, but with a little planning, you can minimise your expenses and still have a good time.
2. The Tube (underground train network) is the most convenient way to get around town – learn to use it with an Oyster card (stored value card) for best value. Check out its website at www.tfl.gov.uk.
3. The website of London’s tourist agency (www.visitlondon.com) is extremely informative.
Some places to visit (in random order):
1. British Museum
2. Houses of Parliament (Big Ben)
3. Westminster Abbey
4. London Eye (Millennium Wheel)
5. Tower of London
6. St. Paul's Cathedral
7. Tate Modern Museum
8. National Gallery
9. Victoria and Albert Museum
10. Natural History Museum
11. Kensington Palace and Gardens
12. Buckingham Palace
13. Tower Bridge
14. Somerset House
15. Hyde Park.
Some things to do (in random order):
1. Catch a play or musical in the West End
2. Eat out in Chinatown or Soho
3. Watch the tourists watching other tourists in Trafalgar Square (no feeding the pigeons!)
4. Have a stroll around Covent Garden and watch the street performers (if you like that sort of thing)
5. Go shopping along Regent and Oxford Streets, or Knightsbridge, or Kings Road.
I like Comptoir Libanais, a small reliable chain of Lebanese cafes serving good value food, desserts and coffee. They... more travel advice
This eatery inside the Sainsbury's wing of the National Gallery (at the corner of Trafalgar Square) is very much a... more travel advice
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