Wednesday, September 25, 2013

London – experience the many faces of the British Capital

London – experience the many faces of the British Capital

With its incredibly rich history and deep cultural diversity, London is one of Europe’s most buzzing and lively cities. The city has seen many ages, social settings and trends come and go: from the fasts of colonialism to the nihilism of punk rock in the late 70s, London has truly seen it all.

London is the most populous city in the European Union. Its inhabitants represent different nationalities, religions and cultures, making it one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world and one of the most linguistically differentiated (there are over 300 languages ​​spoken, a true melting pot).

The main focal point of London’s buzzing lifestyle is the City of Westminster (which also includes much of the West End). Westminster is the main cultural district, entertainment and shopping, as well as home to most of the major companies operating in the financial sector, not to mention, the political institution. If you want to get a taste of the old London spirit, you should definitely take a walk to Notting Hill, particularly on Portobello Road; home of one of the most authentic vintage and antique markets in Europe, where even just taking a look at all the relics from the late 1800s, records and fashion items from the 60s or 70s is a delight. If you are in for something more colorful, Camden town is the way to go. The entire area feels like a bazaar, with a unique contrast between a classic London vibe and the influence of numerous immigrants (particularly Asian) that brings their products and attitude to the area. In Camden, you can taste the most authentic fish and chip, or go around the corner for some of the best examples of Thai, Turkish, Chinese, African or Japanese cuisines available in Europe.

The London Underground network is the oldest in the world (it was grounded in 1863), the largest (407 km) and the most widely used (785 million trips per year). Unfortunately, it is also known for being the most unreliable: Faults, on average, occur every sixteen minutes. If you are not used to taking the subway, you might feel a little intimidated by this huge underground network, but taking the subway is a great way to move around, as it represents a very well connected network that is absolutely essential for tourists to move around the many areas of interests of the city, spread over relatively large distances that might not be walking-friendly for many.

London is a bustling tourist center all year long (although some attractions are closed or significantly reduce their opening hours during winter). The climate is obviously more favorable in summer, particularly in July and August, but as the sunshine lure more tourists in, prices soar up to the roof.

London is a great place for culture and entertainment. If you enjoy art, the Tate Modern Art Gallery is definitely worth a stop, as well as the British Museum. These institutions are free for tourists and locals (expect a few occasional, specific periodical installations that might request a smaller fee), making it a very accessible option. There are plenty of great music events almost every night in the city, from small Irish folk groups in pubs to major rock stars in arena settings. London is also famously home of many great musicals, including the popular We Will Rock You (based on songs from the band Queen) and Jailhouse Rock (taking inspiration from Elvis Presley), which went on to become crowd favorites. If you are looking for fun entertainment for the entire family, you should definitely pay a visit to Madame Tussaud’s wax museum, featuring wax sculptures of celebrities, fictional characters and more!

London is a city to explore and discover, and possibly, to visit more than once!