Equal parts regal and riotous, London is a dizzying whirl of magnificent buildings, elegant parks and city streets bustling with newcomers from every corner of the planet. Its icons may be world renowned (Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, London Bridge), but there's much more to discover in its fascinatingly diverse neighborhoods.
The West End is London's beating heart and home to buzzing Trafalgar Square, the staggering National Gallery and the buskers of Covent Garden. Just south, you can wander the Gothic corridors of Westminster Abbey and set your watch to looming Big Ben.
Witness the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, then stroll the manicured gardens of St James' Park. For stunning vistas, head to the riverside lanes of the Thames, where you can visit the Tate Modern, catch a play at Shakespeare's Globe and look for ghosts in the Tower of London. Then there are the historic pubs of Soho, Mayfair’s high-end shops and the curry houses of Brick Lane. This is just the beginning of London's endless possibilities.
London eludes definition. A place of extremes and contradictions, it has transformed from robustly English capital to truly multicultural city. Having experienced Renaissance, revolution, and revival, and survived fire, plague, and war, the city has a pretty interesting history, the best of which it holds on to. Visit its monuments and museums and you'll come across ancient and modern London, and learn about its wealth, poverty, ambitions, reality, and make-believe. From the Tower of London to Buckingham Palace, the major monuments pull in the crowds, but make sure you take some time to explore its back alleys, quiet squares, and colorful markets.
Art in the city
As red buses, black cabs, and pigeons encircle Trafalgar Square, there is no mistaking where you are. Stop by the National Gallery to look at some of the world's finest artworks, ranging from Leonardo's meticulous sketches to Turner's chromatic landscapes, or for a fix of modern art, visit the converted Bankside power station, the Tate Modern. The gallery covers art from 1900 to the present day, and its enormous Turbine Hall displays specially commissioned works.
Razzmatazz and all that jazz
Finding entertainment in London is as easy as finding books in a library. In the West End theater district, you can choose from musicals, theater, and comedy shows. Based on the songs of the band Queen, We Will Rock You is currently showing at the Dominion theater. From April to October, you can see some of Shakespeare's greatest plays in the faithfully reconstructed Globe theater. It's no surprise that London attracts influential artists from all musical genres; and you can listen in pubs, theaters, basements, arenas, churches, and parks.
Serious shopping and hearty meals
There's great shopping throughout the city. From high-end Harrods to cheap and cheerful Camden market, the city caters to every budget and taste. When it comes to food, the same rule applies, so whether you're after a comforting English breakfast, a reviving curry, or tea at the Ritz, you'll never run out of options.
The London Eye will give you a bird's-eye view of the river Thames looping through the capital, as well as the city's many parks. In a city of skyscrapers, buildings on top of buildings, and crowded public transport, London is thankfully protective of its beautiful green spaces. Find everything from rose garden to meadow and woodland in its eight Royal Parks, which offer free guided walks to explore the flora and fauna, and trace the city's royal, political, and literary associations. Hide