(through a touristic track part two)
In the first part of the London Guide we visited places such as Trafalgar Square, The Mall, Buckingham Palace with neighbouring parks, as well as government buildings including the Prime Minister’s House, the House of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and the surrounding area. Finally, we reached the Thames, London Eye and Southbank. In this part of the guide, as if after a short break, we set off on our way along the Thames! Click here to see a map of key locations.
Whether it’s summer or winter, Southbank offers a variety of experiences. The cultural centre right next to the Jubilee Bridge offers so many attractions and opportunities that everyone can find something for themselves. There is also a lot going on next to the centre. In the winter you can find a Christmas market: mulled wine (about £5), German wurst (average £5-7) and much more from other parts of the world. Moreover, there is a small funfair that offers different rides. In spring and summer there is a festival town waiting for us. During the day you can cool off with a pint of cider (about £5) or Pimps – without it there would be no summer! This is what I call a British sangria – a strawberry (in its original version) alcoholic beverage, mixed with lemonade or tonic and fruit. It’s the best drink to sip and enjoy with friends during warmer days (the price per jug is on average £16-20). There is also a wide range of food stalls waiting for us here.
Walking by the river
This side of the Thames is very interesting and, above all, has an ideal trail that leads pedestrians through key areas. Starting from Southbank, we pass the National Theatre and head towards the observation point. This is a perfect spot from where you can see The City on the opposite side, and most of all the amazing St. Paul’s Cathedral. If you like taking pictures, this is a good observation point for you! Before we move on, it is worth noting the small street on the right – Gabriel’s Warf. It is a cosy square with shops and restaurants, all surrounded by pastel buildings and unusual sculptures.
Walking along the river, we pass Oxo Tower Warf and Blackfriars Bridge. On this route we will be accompanied by the smell of roasted nuts in caramel. This is an essential snack to grab during this walk (£2 per cup). Just behind the bridge we can find Tate Modern art gallery. The building itself draws attention to its austere appearance. It is worth knowing that the gallery was built on the site of the old power station. It is certainly worth to go inside and check the available exhibitions. However, if same as me, you don’t understand contemporary art, I encourage you to visit it quickly and return to the tour, because we have a long way to go!
Millennium Bridge and St Paul’s Cathedral
The link between the Tate Modern and St Paul’s Cathedral is the Millennium Bridge, which, as the name suggests, was opened in 2000. Although it was only opened for a few days before it was closed for another two years to improve and strengthen the structure. Despite this minor technical fault, the bridge is very elegant, made entirely of steel and, importantly, designed for pedestrians use only. In my previous post I promised to share which is my favourite bridge. And here it is! First of all, it gained my sympathy thanks to an interesting design. Secondly, it is in a good, central location, from which you can see key points.
Walking over the bridge you can see another magnificent building – the Anglican St. Paul’s Cathedral. The building was designed in the 17th century by Christopher Wren, but like many other buildings, it also suffered during the Great Fire of 1666. Visiting the cathedral unfortunately comes with a fee – entrance costs around £17, but the interiors are worth the price.
My secret observation point
I don’t know a person who wouldn’t be impressed with the architecture of the cathedral and its surroundings. Which makes me even more happy when I take people to my favourite viewing terrace, which is located in the One Stop Change shopping centre. You can enter the terrace during the day as well as in the evening – just use the elevator, choose the 6th floor and admire the cathedral. This is the perfect place to capture the cathedral from a different perspective, as well as the whole area. Good tip for those who go there in the evening. There is a Madison restaurant with a club on the sixth floor is, so the elevator queue can stretch for several meters. If you approach the security guard and say you are only entering the terrace, he will let in without a queue.
Usually I try to avoid using the same path, but attractions next to Tate Modern are worth walking back through the Millennium Bridge. From Tate Modern we continue our walk along the Thames, and after just a few minutes we find ourselves next to the famous Shakespeare’s Theatre – The Globe. It is a replica of his theatre, but it fully reflects the design of the original building from the late 16th century. Another bridge on our way is Southwark, behind which the other two key bridges of London are waiting for us. Along the way we pass Anchor Pub, which bursts on warm days, quenching thirst on hot days. The surroundings of this pub is eye-catchy, the walls of the nearby tunnel are decorated with very carefully made murals, including Shakespeare and an unknown boy. Behind the tunnel there are ruins of Winchester Palace and a replica of the ship of the famous Captain Drake.
I think many people associate the name of this market with the terrorist attack that took place here in 2017. It is worth knowing that this is one of the largest and oldest markets in London, which is open during office hours every day except Sunday. I recommend this place, even if you do not plan to buy anything. In addition to a wide range of food, there are also shops with handmade products, independent producers and many others. Did you know that Borough Market and its surroundings have appeared in films such as Bridget Jones and Harry Potter?
London Bridge and its neighbourhood
The unfortunate London Bridge, whose name so many people confuse and assign to Tower Bridge. This bridge is also associated with office buildings as it is a link between Southwark and The City. Right next to the bridge is Europe’s highest skyscraper, The Shard. Visitors can enter the 68th, 69th and 72nd floor, from where they can admire the panorama of London (the ticket price varies between £25-£40 depending on chosen variants). In the building there are also restaurants and a hotel in addition to office buildings and apartments.
City Hall and Tower Bridge
We’re moving away from the Thames for a while, but there’s a good reason for that. Going from the Shard we head towards the London Bridge Tube Station and from there towards More London Riverside. This is a passage between office buildings, which leads us to the City Hall and the most famous bridge in London – Tower Bridge. Why do I like this route? I love the moment when a miniature bridge emerges from between the glass and steel office buildings.
More Riverside is worth seeing during the day and in the evening. On warm days there’s plenty of children playing in the fountain, sculptures, cafes, restaurants and stunning buildings. During winter there is a Christmas market, which takes place along the Thames. The surroundings of Tower Bridge are exceptionally beautiful in the evening. I love to return there on summer evenings, when the sky turns dark navy and numerous office buildings and skyscrapers start to shine through street lights. The whole thing is complemented by the hustle of the city and the music coming from the nearby pubs and clubs on the boats sailing on the Thames.
Tower Bridge is definitely a “must see” in London. It is distinguished by its appearance, Victorian style and above all by the fact that it is a suspension bridge. It was built in the 19th century by the Tower of London (hence its name). And where does the colours come from? At the old times the bridge was simply beige, but it was repainted to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Elizabeth II’s reign. If you’re lucky, like my sister, you can see the rising bascules. I only managed to see it once! For those who don’t risk and leave it to fate, they can check the hours on the Internet or near the bridge.
Next to the Tower Bridge there are “St. Catherine’s Docks”, which are the home for snow-white yachts. Nowadays it is a housing estate, which also hosts a large number of restaurants and recreational facilities.
The Tower of London
The Tower of London was originally a prison, but also a palace. Those who know a little bit of history of this country probably associate this prison with Henry XVIII, who sentenced his wife Anna Boleyn (also mother of Elizabeth I) to death. Today the fortress is inhabited by its guards Yeomen Warders. Last year I decided to visit the Tower of London and I strongly encourage you to do so – the ticket price per adult is £25 (plus £4 for an audio guide which I can highly recommend). It’s worth planning a minimum of 3 hours to walk through every available corner of the fortress, including the mint and royal jewel collection – it’s impressive!
This was a busy and full of attractions walk. Therefore, my suggestion to finish it is Sky Garden. I recommend especially to those who did not go to Shard or London Eye. This is a skyscraper with its last floor open to public for free. There is only one condition – entrance must be booked online. Please note: the slots book out very quickly, especially on weekends during the season, so it is worth making a reservation in advance. For photography enthusiasts I recommend to go there just before sunset – the view of the Tower Bridge and the other bank of the Thames will be beautifully bathed in the sunlight.
If you’re going to London, this is a perfect plan for you, which includes key touristic points, spiced up with local tips. My advice for a good start in London is to let your imagination run wild and don’t be afraid to get lost. London offers more than two thousand places/things to see. I have found many of them by a mistake. Accidental discoveries, a wrong turn into an alley, exploring the area, not a particular place. I hope that this guide has encouraged you to visit London, whether you are a foreign tourist or a northerner who has never had a reason to visit the capital.