It might be the capital of England, but London is one of the best examples of diversity and multiculturalism in the UK, if not in Europe. The city’s many attractions, boroughs and districts all blend into a colourful collage of different experiences. It’s no wonder, then, that first time guests of the Montcalm London City Hotel might finish their trip feeling drained and exhausted!
So if it's your first time in London, what activities, areas and events should you tick off to get an introductory sense of what the English capital is all about? This blog will outline some of those key activities that everyone from day trippers to guests of 5 star hotels in London should lock down in their diaries. Whilst you might not get through all of them in one trip, even just one will offer a sense of the city’s true culture, history and character.
London’s long history has meant that it’s amassed a great many tourist attractions. Below are just some of the most prominent and historic that if you don’t get a chance to explore the interiors of, should at least have your hat tipped off to.
Unfortunately, the official home of the Royal Family is only open to visitors during the summer months. This doesn't mean that winter guests of London hotel special offers can’t get a sense of this Georgian townhouse’s majesty. Throughout the day, visitors flock to the gilded gates of Buckingham Palace and watch the royal guards on duty. If you wait around long enough, you might even get a glimpse of a royal family member leaving or entering the palace!
Elizabeth Tower And The Houses Of Parliament
Originally known as Big Ben, the neo-Gothic architecture of Westminster’s Thameside clocktower is possibly one of the most iconic symbols of London on this list. Chiming on the hour every hour, Elizabeth Tower was built in 1859 and stretches 96 metres above the London cityscape.
Trafalgar Square is located close to Charing Cross Station and is quite literally the heart of London. The square, bordered by the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery (both free of admission to visit), is home to the bronze cast lion guarded Nelson’s Column. This 51.6 metre column was built in the 1840s and symbolises the defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Trafalgar (from where the square gets its name) in 1805.
One of the motivations for many London tourists is shopping, and it doesn’t get any more legendary than Oxford Street. As Europe’s busiest shopping street, Oxford Street is teeming with flagship brand stores such as Nike and H&M, and is also home to some of the city’s most famous department stores. These include John Lewis and Selfridges, both important parts of England’s consumer heritage. Even if you’re not visiting to shop, the mile-long street is especially magical to see during the winter period, when festive lights sparkle overhead.
Soho is a perfect amalgamation of London’s nightlife, culture, commerce and business. The narrow alleys and streets make way for swanky media offices, West End Theatres, gay bars and pubs, all coming together as the heart of London. It’s this area where ChinaTown is also located. Consisting of a street and a courtyard, you can enjoy plenty of Asian food shops, restaurants and retail opportunities, all festooned with oriental decor and lanterns.
The South Bank
Easy to reach from Waterloo Station, the South Bank is the glamorous riviera of London. With 4 major cultural institutions, glittering views over the Thames and a wealth of bars, shops and tourist attractions, you can visit the South Bank at any time of day and have a completely different experience. Catering to all artistic mediums, the South Bank is home to the National Theatre, British Film Institute, Haywards Art Gallery, Southbank Centre and Royal Festival Hall. Each venue and cultural institution programmes a vast array of national and international entertainment offering guests of the
London’s Royal Parks
London has 8 royal parks, all of which were built and designed for use by royals and monarchs throughout history. In the 19th and 20th centuries, many of these were opened up to the public. For central London excursions, Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, bordering Bucking and Kensington Palace. Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens were once both the same park, but were separated during the 18th century by the Serpentine River, a manmade lake that now houses rentable pedalos and an open air swimming lido.
Beside the aforementioned Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, South Kensington houses the famous “Albertopolis'' district of museums and public attractions. First devised by Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert, the area is home to three of the most famous museums in London. These are the Natural HIstory and Science Museums and the Victoria & Albert Museum of Design. The latter is the largest design and decorative art museum in the world, but London breaks another record in the museum sector as well.
This is through the British Museum in Russell Square. Housed in a neoclassical complex dating back to the early Victorian era, the British Museum is considered one of the largest and most historically complete museums in the world, and explores 2 million years of human history. Originally built on collections of artefacts acquired by Sir Hans Sloane in the mid-18th century, the British Museum’s collection expanded and was eventually divided into the British Museum and the above mentioned South Kensington Museums. What’s more, all four of them are free to visit!
The Museum Of London
For guests of hotels near Old Street Station, this official museum is free to visit and just a short walk away in the Barbican area of the city. Spanning tens of thousands of years of history, the Museum of London charts the prehistory and evolution of the English capital. Get there quick though, at the end of 2022, the Museum of London is closing for roughly a year or two for its relocation to West Smithfield.