“Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping, and the waterside pollution of a great (and dirty) city. Fog on the Essex marshes, fog on the Kentish heights. (…) Fog in the eyes and throats of ancient Greenwich pensioners, wheezing by the firesides of their wards; fog in the stem and bowl of the afternoon pipe of the wrathful skipper (…). Chance people on the bridges peeping over the parapets into a nether sky of fog, with fog all around them (…).
~”Bleak House”, Charles Dickens
So surrounded by that special London weather; weather so symbolic, that you can find in every book, in every movie, you read or watch; surrounded by rain and fog I stand on the Millenium Bridge, with St. Paul’s Cathedral, looking over the buildings on my left and the great Tower Bridge in front of me, trying to set my camera on that special “London mode”, to catch the atmosphere, that amazing feeling inside of me.
When you’re in London, you are part of the book, Victorian story. You see people in Victorian clothes around you, getting in or out the Hansom Cab, you see prostitutes in every little street, travellers on horses entering the city gate, you hear news about a new victim of Jack the Ripper. London is a place where your imagination gives you new pictures over and over. (That’s not only my idea, I actually heard people say the same thing)
And no matter what time of year you’ll go, if it will be early or late winter, spring or summer, fog and rain we’ll find you, maybe it will be one day, maybe two, maybe the whole stay. But you can’t tell you visited London if you’ve never experienced its fog. Some may say it’s a little depressing, or that destroys their vacation, but this is part of London’s atmosphere and my advice- if rain and fog make you angry, better don’t go to England.
Speaking of typical things for London, yes, red double-deckers and telephones are real.
But if you’ll decide to visit my personal favourite Europe capitol, maybe some of my experience will be useful for you.
In this part I want to take a closer look at THAMES ATTRACTIONS
One of the great British actors- Martin Freeman said: “You absorb 2,000 years of history just by being near the Thames”.
What you should know is that until World War II, the river was the border between rich and poor London, with Strand, newspaper district and Court on the north bank, and the smoky factories on the south.
[If you like walking I propose you to walk along the river, checking the most famous monuments. It’s a great way to get to know the river]
And this is my plan- I’m gonna take you for a walk from west to east, looking at the most important part of Thames river.
Starting in Westminster, one of the oldest neighbourhoods in London, walking next to, I think, the most famous symbol of London- Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. If you didn’t know that, you may be surprised (like me) that famous Big Ben isn’t a name of the tower that rises over the Parliament, but it’s a name of the 14-ton bell. Wait for the full hour to listen to its beautiful sound.
[update: 2017 is a sad year for Londoners and London visitors- in August they could hear the last bong of the bell, before it fell silent for next four years, due to expensive restoration of Elisabeth Tower]
The tower itself is called Elisabeth Tower and was built in the 19th century..
Leaving Big Ben behind us, we cross huge, wide Westminster Bridge, which gives us an amazing view for our next famous attraction, the London Eye, (built in 2000) which is shining with great colours during the night. What I’ve heard is the ride takes around 1,5 hour, so if you’re an anxious person, like myself, maybe it’s not an attraction for you.
But right next to the London Eye there are two other places that may interest you. London Aquarium and my personal favourite The London Dungeon (some may have heard about The Amsterdam Dungeon or The Berlin Dungeon too, but considering London’s dark history I think the London’s version is much more recommended).
The place takes you years to the past, to the stories of kings and queens; to the dark dungeons of Tower of London; to the times of most famous legends of London, like Jack the Ripper or Sweeney Todd, all of it accompanied by great actors and amazing decorations.
But shh, I don’t want to destroy a surprise.
TIP: if you’ll decide to visit any of those bigger attractions like the London Eye, Aquarium, Dungeon, Madame Tussauds etc. better buy tickets on the internet in advance. It’s usually cheaper and it cuts, at least a little, the time you will spend in the line.
Then let’s cross the river with the Waterloo Bridge and follow nice sidewalk along the river, checking on our way places like Cleopatra’s Needle, made in ancient Egypt, brought to London from Alexandria by Sir Wilson in 19th Century (I had a whole lecture about it, but I promise I’ll try to not bore you with those little archaeological facts!), Savoy Hotel, which is situated on the site of medieval palace, or if the weather is nice enough eat a lunch in the gardens of the Temple and the Inns of Court.
Walk, until you’ll see a bridge that you cannot ignore, much different than others, much newer Millenium Bridge, surrounded by two special buildings- with St. Paul’s Cathedral on north and Tate Modern on the south. Tate Modern is really easy to recognize because of its look that reminds me fist with “f**k you” gesture. But it’s only my conclusion, Tate Modern is a perfect place for modern art enthusiasts.
After crossing the bridge to the South Bank, you’ll find yourself at the beginning of my favourite parts of London. To be honest, I take everybody for the walk there, whenever I have a chance, my family and BF were forced to do that walk with me too. It starts usually with a nice music playing by some street musicians, putting you ina mood.
The walk is easy, although it leaves the river boulevard for a little bit, it gets back giving you some of the most spectacular sights (especially if you go there at dawn or by dark), but hey, let’s cross that bridge, he he, when we get there.
So the South Bank walk starts with something that even “silly” Americans can recognise- The Globe, world-famous Shakspeare theatre, with its thatched roof.
Later you’ll get to some interesting archaeological excavation and weird looking (since it’s standing in a dry dock, between the buildings) modern replica of the Golden Hind, English Gallon, Sir Francis Drake’s ship, voyaging on the oceans in 16th Century.
Then you’ll pass some attractions for thrill seekers- The London Bridge Experience and the Prison Museum (which gives a wonderful dark scenery, located under the bridge, especially when it’s dark). I’ve never been to the Prison Museum, but I tried both The London Dungeon and The London Bridge Experience, and I have to see, if you have money only for one, definitely go to the London Dungeon.
Eat some roasted peanuts! They’re part of the atmosphere too.
Here’s the point where we sadly leave the Thame for couple minutes, but when we get back first we’ll see a beautiful Hay’s Galleria, with a high glass roof and a weird sculpture in the middle, then a scary looking WWII destroyer HMS Belfast and then to our one of the most stunning views will appear in front of us- The Tower Bridge, with rushing cars and Double Deckers, making it the most recognisable English icon.
So we enter the bridge, passing The City Hall on our right, get to the middle of it and we have London in front of us, the bridges, old and new buildings, churches and cathedrals. That’s the place where London finds its way to your heart, with its individual vibe and its unique atmosphere.
The last thing we’re gonna pass on our walk, famous Tower of London, with Royal Jewels hidden in its walls. If you’re not planning to go inside, at least see it from the outside. Especially check out the Traitors’ Gate, that was used to bring in many famous prisoners, among them Thomas More and maybe even Anne Boleyn.
*when you buy a week travelcard you can travel by every bus in the city, that’s why to save some money buy ticket for underground in zones 2-4 and travel by buses in the city centre, it takes a little longer, but travelling with red double-deckers is almost like a sight-seeing trip; it’s also worth getting an Oyster card, because of the capping that happens when you travel a lot (e.g. for buses the daily cap is 4,50 pound)
*be aware of last underground train, if there’s no bus in your area (or at least you don’t know about any)- you don’t want to spend money on cab, especially it can be hard you don’t know your address 😉
*bring an umbrella; I think that doesn’t need an explanation
*if you’re a traveller from outside of UK (and that’s not only for London but also other parts of the country)- because of the weird tax rules take away food is very often twice cheaper than sit in in the restaurant; that’s why if you want to save money (and don’t want to cook) take food away, or I recommend checking out Pret-a-Manger, they have really good and pretty healthy food and you’ll fit in less than 5 pounds per person.
*watch people; again I heard a lot of people saying London is a collection of different people, with different cultures and languages, and they are a part of what makes London what it is; make sure you get some time to see it
*and the last important tip: don’t kill yourself with all the attractions, give it time, leave something for the next time, because London is huge and has really a looot to offer- hell yeah, I even divided the post about it into 3 parts, that’s a proof….
P.S.: I tried to write that post for almost a year, but this year visit to London finally pushed me to finish it. And it’s amazing sometimes to go back to some places and look back. Well, a lot has changed since then.
Thanks for getting to the end, I hope information a gave will be useful!
If you have any questions or feedback, shoot me a message below.