As I was writing my latest post on London as a site of architectural experimentation, I thought of a place where you can check out cutting-edge structures in the making.
The Serpentine Galleries, with an unbeatable location in the heart of Kensington Gardens, commission every year a temporary summer pavilion by an internationally renowned architect. This project started in 2000 with Zaha Hadid (who also designed the newly opened Sackler Gallery on the opposite side of the Serpentine lake).
This year the Serpentine Pavilion is one of the weirdest ever. Designed by Chilean architect Smiljan Radić and open until the 19th of October, it is a donut-shaped structure resembling a shell – or maybe a prehistoric egg – or maybe a UFO – with a café inside.
The Serpentine Galleries are free and definitely worth a look if you find yourself in the area.
And while in Kensington Gardens, go and look for Peter Pan’s statue – less cutting-edge of course, but with the advantage of longevity: erected more than a century ago, it will outlive many more Serpentine Pavilions.
Nearest Tube: Knightsbridge
With the accumulation of different styles over the centuries, speaking of the variety of London’s architecture is somewhat of an understatement. To be honest, sometimes it feels like the whole city has been designed by a schizophrenic architect. This lack of unity, of course, reinforces its cultural wealth and dynamism.
Walking around London you may encounter architectural oddities just around the corner. In Pimlico for instance, a neighbourhood more renowned for its impressive regency style than for its eccentricity, stands a block of rather funny-looking buildings with striking checkerboard patterns.
Built between Page Street and Vincent Street, they are actually part of a social housing complex of around 600 dwellings called the Grosvenor Estate. It was designed in the 1930s by Sir Edwin Lutyens, who had never designed council houses before and was more famous for the grand houses he’d designed for wealthy client and is best remembered for his work in Delhi.
So who said social housing had to be bland and depressing?
Nearest tube station: Pimlico
All it takes to get to the best views on Saint Paul’s Cathedral is to take the glass elevator at the core of the shopping centre One New Change. The open-air public terrace offers a spectacular panorama on the iconic dome and on the city beyond. Icing on the cake, the place tends to be quieter in the weekends, when city boys desert the area.
Tube stations: Saint Paul’s, Mansion House
There is no wonder why broke Londoners love cream teas: for a moderate price, your cup of tea comes with dainty scones topped with lashings of strawberry jam and sweet clotted cream. For someone who keeps a tight hold on the purse strings, this means a dish as fulfilling as a proper meal, often served in a posh place.
Tate modern’s 6th floor restaurant is a fine place for such a treat. Two warm sultana scones with jam and cream cost less than £5, while the rude staff is compensated by the gorgeous view on the Thames, the millennium bridge and Saint Paul’s standing on the opposite bank. In wintertime, one can enjoy a remarkable nighttime panorama, with city lights glowing in the dark.
Tube station: Southwark
The water pool where Grand Union and Regent’s Canals meet, directly north of Paddington, is affectionately nicknamed Little Venice. If you actually know Italy, don’t expect to find it back there; you’d be disappointed. The small, quiet canals of Little Venice have nothing in common with the gorgeous ones of La Serenissima. Yet this peaceful area still seems exotic: walking along the canals, you can feel like you’re thousand miles away from London’s hubbub, although you’re only minutes away from busy Paddington.
Follow the canal downstream through the tranquil neighbourhood of Maida Vale and you’ll reach Regent’s Park in half an hour; if you’re brave enough, you can keep on walking all the way to Camden Town to admire Banksy’s graffiti.
Nearest Tube: Paddington station
A recent survey has showed that the residents of wealthy Richmond upon Thames were among the happiest – if not the happiest – of England. This is hardly surprising: only a few miles away from London’s bustle, Richmond is a haven of peace.
Located on a meander of the River Thames, Richmond boasts a large number of parks and open spaces including one of England’s most famous greens (Richmond green).
Richmond Hill rises a few hundred meters south of the city centre. Though only 165 ft (50m) high, the view from its top has inspired such artists as J.M.W. Turner and Sir Joshua Reynolds and is one of the best-known on the Thames. You may find that the landscape has changed little since its depiction by these masters two hundred years ago.
To the south of Richmond Hill lies Richmond Park. Three times the size of Central Park in New York, it was originally a hunting reserve of king Charles I and is famous for the hundreds of deers it still hosts.
On Sundays, a stroll along the river Thames is a popular activity for families and lovers alike. Even if as a broke londoner, you may not afford to live in Richmond (after all, the council prides itself on being “a favourite retreat of Royalty, the rich and the famous”…), you might still wish to check out why Richmond’s inhabitants are so happy with their lot.
Tube station: Richmond
Posted in London for free, London landscape, parks and nature, Romantic, Uncategorized
Tagged best place to live in London, deers, nature, Richmond green, Richmond Hill, Richmond park, thames, Turner, view, walk
Being a londoner can be exhausting at times – and that is why, from time to time, you may feel the need to have a break from the hustle and bustle of the big city.
What about a trip to Bristol? It’s easy to spend a day there: a return ticket may cost you only £10 with the company Megabus! From Victoria coach station, the journey takes some 2h30. And Bristol’s main interests can easily fit in a day.
In the city centre, don’t miss the harbour, Bristol’s historic district with its gothic cathedral and medieval street, and Cabot tower, set on Brandon Hill, which offers panoramic views of the city.
And Bristol is world renowned street artist Banksy’s hometown: look out for his earlier works, hidden in the city streets…
Waterstone Picadilly is Europe’s largest bookshop – with six floors of books and 150,000 titles in stock, you should be able to find just what you’re looking for. They also have comfy sofas to read their books – what more could we ask for ?
Nearest tube station: Picadilly Circus
Designed by Sir John Soane, the architect of the Bank of England, to house his collection of works of art, this intriguing museum is packed with quirky architectural experiments, antiquities and paintings. The house has been kept almost exactly as Soane left it when he died in 1837. No room looks like the next one and Soane even created a gothic room to host his parties. His eclectic collection includes an Egyptian sarcophagus, greek statues and paintings by Turner and Canaletto. A visit doesn’t take much time – around an hour, say, during which you’re bound to make some intriguing and fascinating discoveries.
Tube Station: Holborn
Cyberdog is one of the craziest shops of Camden Town – and this should give you a fairly good indication of how insane it is.
Cyberdog is located in Stables Market in Camden Town
First, let me get this straight: I have never bought anything from Cybergog, and most probably never will. But I intend to go there every time I go to Camden Town – when I have friends coming over who want to visit the standard London landmarks, that is.
Unfortunately, you’re not allowed to take pictures inside, but this photo of one of the two giant robots stationed outside can give you an idea of what you’re going to find inside. Only a faint idea, though, because going inside is a very special experience. Cyberdog is indeed specialising in ravers and cybergoths’ clothing. That apparently means fluorescent clothing with electronic accessories that you are very unlikely to wear outside a rave party – or outside of Camden Town, if you prefer. It’s quite expensive though, so it doesn’t make for a fulfilling shopping experience, but visiting the shop is clearly worth the trip. After all, where else can you find a neon-lit shop (and a DJ in the weekends) with blue-haired shop assistants selling futuristic clothing?
Nearest stations: Camden Town, Chalk Farm, Kentish Town