The Best of Times
11 Things You Must Do In London
British Museum (Russell Square)
The godfather of them all. The grandest, most controversial museum in the land. The British Museum boasts a huge range of ancient artifacts from Egypt to Mexico, Easter Island to Rome. Only a genius, a fool, or a liar could claim to have done it in a day. So take a packed lunch, write off a couple of days, and soak in the bloody glory of history.
Thames Boat (go to the Thames and you’ll find one)
The only way to really see London. The Thames has been the city’s lifeblood for two thousand years and boasts some stunning vistas. Some come with an accompanying tour so choose wisely as my luck with these has been wretched (“wharf” does not stand for “warehouse at river front”. Idiot). Catch it in the morning or evening to see London at its most beautiful.
Camden Market (Camden Town)
“It’s busy, expensive, and full of crap.” That may be true, but I think Camden Market is still a glorious celebration of life. I’ve had some of the best times I’ve ever had by the keys, in good company, on a sunny afternoon, with the night ahead of me. Now the dust has settled on the issue of its renovation, can we agree that the horse motif is fantastic? Good.
V & A (South Kensington)
Recently voted the best museum in the country, and quite right too! The V&A is, unapologetically, a collection of stuff – none of it unique, anything really special is a cast or a copy, but the V&A is far greater than the sum of its parts. Always reliable for a barn-burning exhibition (a la David Bowie, Alexander McQueen, Botticelli), book well in advance because this is common knowledge.
St. Paul’s (St. Paul’s)
In 1666, Old St. Paul’s church succumbed to the Great Fire of London and the city said goodbye to its medieval past… and replaced it with the most magnificent site of worship in the Protestant world. The sheer splendour of the place leaves you feeling drunk. You’ll find the famous whispering gallery, an impressive list of interments, and that the steps to the top of the dome are the scariest anyone’s ever ascended.
Borough Market (Borough)
Like most beautiful things in London, Borough Market gets busy. Very busy. But somehow, this doesn’t take away from the amazing wares on offer. Food from around the world is served up at reasonable prices and all in the shadow of Southwark Cathedral. If your culinary tastes are niche, nil desperandum, there’s more than likely some vendor who’s happened to make their specialty Estonian duck juice.
The Globe (London Bridge)
The Globe is my favourite theatre in the world. Incredible stories told by astonishing actors, beautifully. There’s a deep, down, and dirty aspect to the performances that break the fourth wall and even (heaven forfend!) change the original text. Good on ’em, I say. Yes, you’re stood up for three hours and subject to the elements, but that’s the fun! And all for a fiver too. It’s inexcusable to visit London and not at least try.
Highgate Cemetery (Archway)
North of central London sits one of the most incredible necropoles in the world. Steeped in a sombre Victorian splendour, the humbly-named Highgate cemetery showcases the best of the living and the dead. The list of graves is impressive (Karl Marx, Douglas Adams, Michael Faraday, George Eliot, Jeremy Beadle, etc), but it’s the cemetery itself that stands out as a significant spot of reflection.
Old St. Pancras’ Church (King’s Cross St. Pancras)
My personal favourite space in all of London Town, Old St. Pancras’ Church is an unassuming site of worship caught between the post-industrial howl of King’s Cross Station, and Camden’s bacchanalia. Sporting a wall from Norman times, yet rebuilt so much it details London’s history like tree rings. A tree surrounded by graves devised by Thomas Hardy himself, the grave of Mary Woolstonecraft around which the Shelleys courted, and an interior so quaint and unique it could make your heart burst; Old St. Pancras’ Church is a London gem worth going out of your way for.
The Barbican Centre (Barbican)
Ever wondered what would have happened to the world if 1960s developers had got their own way? Maybe not, but I have. The Barbican Centre is a brutalist valhalla that boasts a multitude of bars, cinemas, theatres, and art spaces. The place isn’t beautiful, but resoundingly impressive. The quality of output is incorrigibly good and I met Terry Gilliam there, so that’s brilliant.
The Courtauld Gallery (Temple Station)
My favourite gallery in London. It isn’t the biggest, nor the most impressive. What the Courtauld brings to the table is balance. A perfect blend of rococo, baroque, impressionism, modernism, expressionism and a heap of other “isms”. Its modest size and handsomely appointed rooms compliment the art perfectly, but it’s no slouch. There are some pieces that are not only fantastic but internationally recognised, such as Manet’s Bar at the Folies-Bergère. And all set in the magnificent Somerset House. For £5. Well? Why aren’t you going there immediately?