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
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…
Located in Victoria, Westminster Cathedral, the seat of the Roman Catholic Church in England, should not be confused with Westminster Abbey (part of the Church of England). Its Byzantine design, quite different from the traditional architecture of Great Britain’s cathedrals, contrasts with Victoria’s modern surroundings.
But what tends to be less known about Westminster Cathedral is that it is actually possible to take a lift up to the top of the bell tower.
Of course, the panorama of Westminster Cathedral’s Tower is clearly not worth that of other popular sites such as the London Eye; but going up the bell tower is only £5 (£2,5 for concessions) and the venue is far less crowded (we were actually alone in the tower when we visited it).
At 65 metres high, visitors are rewarded by views encompassing the Parliament, Buckingham Palace or the towers of Battersea power station – though, surprisingly, the Thames, only a few hundred metres away from the Cathedral, is nowhere to be found.
Tube Station: Victoria
Along the bank of the Long Water (the upper part of the Serpentine)), in the North East corner of Kensington Gardens, stands George Framton’s statue of Peter Pan, with Tinkerbell climbing its base.
Peter Pan’s author, J. M. Barrie, specifically chose this location as it figures in the first novel where Peter Pan appears, 1902’s Little White Bird. Though admittedly twee, it is one of the most popular statues of Kensington Gardens and definitely worth checking out if you’re in the park.
Nearest station: Lancaster Gate
Posted in arts and culture, London for free, monuments, parks and nature, Romantic, With children
Tagged Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Literature, park, Serpentine, statue
The Monument, which was built in the 17th century to commemorate the Great Fire of London that devastated the City in 1666, has just reopened after some 18-month renovation work.
OK, it does not seem that high – but only when you’re outside. When you get inside the Monument, and have to walk the 60 metres up to the top, in narrow spiral staircase where two people cannot walk next to each other, you come to realise that you really have to earn the Monument’s panorama.
When you finally get to the top, you are rewarded with a 360° view on the City, with the Thames, Tower Bridge, the town hall, Saint Paul, the Swiss Re building… and when you exit the column, by an official certificate! (is it too much? Yes!)
go to the Monument Website
Nearest Tube: Monument
It’s only 6 metres high and tends to be unnoticed, but outside Victoria station, at the intersection of Vauxhall Bridge Road and Victoria Street, you’ll find Little Ben, erected in 1892. Big Ben, its big brother, is to be found at the other end of Victoria Street, 15 minutes away.
Nearest Tube: Victoria Station
… by coming on a Sunday.
The entry to the city’s landmark cathedral is free every Sunday. Though there’s no access to the dome, which offers an overall view on the City’s skyline, that’s a nice and easy way to save a tenner.
Nearest Tube Station: St Paul’s
St Paul’s website