It’s an hour train ride from Cambridge to Londons Kings Cross and it’s like arriving in a new world when you get our of the train. Over 300 languages are spoken in the capital and largest city of the UK. They say that London is one of the world’s most important, most powerful, most desirable, most influential, most visited, most expensive, innovative, sustainable, investment friendly, popular for work and the most vegetarian friendly city in the world. And for me one of the most multifaceted cities, on the one hand there are all the must see sights like Buckingham Palace, Big Ben (under construction at the moment), Tower of London and Tower Bridge, Hyde Park, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tate Modern, Piccalilli Circus and many more. For that alone you need at least a week if not more time but what I love most about London is strolling through the diverse neighborhoods, from colorful houses, lovely little shops, delicious small restaurants to historic details, there’s always something new to find, like an unbounded treasure chest. The city holds 48 different neighborhoods, each with their own unique qualities and diverse attractions.
Westminster: there’s a lot going on beside the main sights like Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palast (god save the queen), Big Ben and the United Kingdom’s House of Parlament. It’s worth to turn away from all this historic landmarks and step into the side streets and hidden courtyards, you get rewarded with beautiful buildings and unexpected views of the main sights. And there’s Tate Britain, one of London’s most famous art museum, that alone is worth to visit this part of the town. Beautiful situated on the Thames it showcases the best of British art from the past to the present and free entry means you can stay as short or long you want or as long as your companions allowed you to stay…
Hampstead a village right out of a story book where every street charms. The perfect place to drift around, discover small galleries and shops and to achieve additionally the daily steps goal. Just four miles from Trafalgar Square, Hampstead Heath is one of London’s best loved green spaces. From the panoramic views of the city centre from Parliament Hill to the idyllic trails through trees and woods, it’s the perfect Place to take a break from the the bustling streets of Central London.
Chelsea is not only flowers, Russian obligachs, football and reality TV it’s a shopping heaven with shops from Zara to Prada, Rococo to Bourbon Hanby and from Tiffany’s to John Sandoe books. And it’s also home to some of London’s best restaurants. Have your camera ready while walking down Coulson street with pretty houses and tucked-away shops, Baywater street with lovely pastel houses and Godfrey street with its rainbow colored houses. In Chelsea you can find colorful houses everywhere and lovely brick houses and cobblestones. Keep your eyes open and enjoy!
Notting Hill is the neighborhood per se for colorful townhouses and I think the most famous one from London. Some of the celebrities that live (or lived) in Notting Hill are Blur frontman Damon Albarn, author Georg Orwell, former British Prime Minister David Cameron, designers Bella Freud and Stella McCartney, singer Bjork, Robbie Williams, supermodel Claudia Schiffer as well as others. And no, Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts aren’t habitants from Notting Hill but I would be a house owner if I would have the wherewithal. It’s a vibrant area with dreamily boutiques, unique vintage shops, welcoming coffee shops and charming pubs. Order a glass of wine, sit down at a window table and enjoy the “see and be seen”.
Highgate: village allure, woodland and pretty architecture combined, that’s characteristic for this neighborhood in the north of London, right next to Hampstead. Highgate has a typical British High Street where tea rooms, book shops, pubs and gift shops rub shoulders with red phone boxes, flower stands and historic chapels. The most fascinating part though is the Highgate cemetery, London’s answer to Paris’ Pere Lachaise. Creepy and beautiful together: great victorian funerary architecture in a 15 hectares park, last home of approximately 170,000 people buried in around 53,000 graves. Some of the notables: Karl Marx, George Eliot, Malcolm McLaren, Anna Mahler and since three years George Michael too. The cemetery was scenery for numerous British horror films, was mentioned in several novels, is level background of a computer game and rumor has it that it was once the site of dueling magicians and mobs of stake-carrying vampire hunters. Only for the braves between us.
Mayfair = luxury pure: hotels, shops, tailors, restaurant, houses all immaculate, a class apart. But this neighborhood is not only for the “crème de la crème”, it’s a living part from the city and worth to stroll around. Take an apple and search for the wild parakeets at Hyde Park. Nobody really knows how this non-native bird first came over, my favorite myth: Jimi Hendrix released a breeding pair during a 1960s Carnaby Street show. Unfortunately there’s no record thereof but keep on rockin’ birds!! Sip a drink in the Mayfair home of the famed adventurer, Phileas J. Fogg or go for a G&T at the Punch Ball, formerly owned by Madonna’s ex, Guy Ritchie. However, a little bit shopping has to be from time to time: Bond Street is known for its luxury goods shops, South Molton Street is a pedestrianized shopping heaven, Saville Row is known the world over for men’s tailoring, and Mount Street is mouth-watering.
I’ll be back beloved London, again and again to uncover something new, no matter if it’s rain or shine.