London: A pocket guide
London has emerged over the past 20 years as Europe’s most exciting city. Whatever your interests in culture, your taste in cuisine, your preference in architecture, your musical taste, or your need for a certain type of school, London has the most incredible variety on offer. The history of the city is long, and many challenges have left their mark, from the plague to the Luftwaffe, but London has always emerged stronger from these setbacks and is now more diverse and fun than any other major city in Europe. Over the centuries, different architectural styles have emerged as the city has spread outward, and visitors can choose different areas to stay in, from Knightsbridge to Spitalfields, depending on the feel that they like. The grandeur of Kensington and Chelsea is in stark contrast to the more edgy areas north of Oxford Street, and as you venture into the East End and areas like Shoreditch, you get into a more trendy vibe.
Thirty years ago the continentals laughed at English cuisine and the ingredients on offer in London restaurants. Not anymore. No city has a more varied array of food on offer and award-winning restaurants for guests to choose from. Every possible taste is catered to, and London has become the dream city to try new and increasingly diverse fusions of different cuisines. New venues open daily, and the choice is limitless.
One particular delight is the London theater scene. With 50 theaters in central London and a host of smaller theaters beyond, along with the National on the South Bank, London is better placed to offer a great theatrical experience than any other city in the world. There is also of course the Royal Opera House and the ballet, both in Covent Garden, an area literally spilling over with history and culture. Many of London’s vast cultural offerings are free to the public, such as all national galleries and museums. Add to this fantastic shopping in the West End and vibrant nightlife and really what more could a guest need?
When talking about London it is important to also mention the royal family, whose palaces form the central focus point of the city and from which in the past all patronage issued. Around these royal homes, the key government buildings sprang up in Whitehall, and still today this is where visitors can enjoy much of the pomp and magnificence of this ancient city. This is the area where you can enjoy looking at a lot of magnificent statues, wander through elegant parks, visit the houses of Parliament, or sit quietly in cathedrals and abbeys. Central London is a very impressive place, and visitors can soak up a huge amount of history. Much was damaged during the war, but the restoration, which started in earnest in the 1980s, has produced an even more impressive city, the perfect fusion of new and old, classical and modern, looking to the past but also embracing the future.