Next week I will be publishing my annual Top Ten Stories in the World of D&O for 2018. For now, over the holidays, I am posting some alternative top ten lists. Last week, I published the list of the Top Ten Places That You Might Not Think of to Visit and the Top Ten Top Travel Destinations. In putting together both of my prior travel lists, I omitted a number of cities that are at the top of everyone’s own travel destination lists. In today’s post, I am going to focus on one of those particular destination cities, one of my favorite places on the planet, the great city of London.
I am fortunate that business takes me to London pretty regularly. I have been able to explore the city pretty extensively, including a quite a number of places not on the usual tourist itineraries. As a result, my list of top places to visit in London, set out below, is admittedly quirky. Also, there are some big obvious omissions from my list. Nobody needs me to tell them that they should visit the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, the British Museum, St. Paul’s, or the National Gallery. First time visitors should be sure to visit all of those places. By leaving these obvious sites off the list, I have left a little bit of room for some other suggestions. My list is set out below. Please note the bonus top ten list below the London list.
10. Chelsea Physic Garden: The Chelsea Physic Garden, located on the Thames River opposite Battersea Park, is a botanical garden, full of medicinal, healthful, or useful plants. The interesting displays explain how the various plants have traditionally been used to treat a variety of ailments. In late spring, the fruit trees are full of blossoms. The Garden is compact and interesting. Be sure to take a guided tour or to hire the recorded tour.
9. Regent’s Park/Primrose Hill: Regent’s Park is a huge green space in the center of London; just to the North, opposite the zoo, is Primrose Hill. On a sunny day these are great areas for exploring. From the top of Primrose Hill, you can see the skyline in the City and pick out many of the landmark buildings, including the old familiar sites like St. Paul’s Cathedral, and newer places, like the Shard, the Walkie-Talkie, and the Gherkin.
8. Church of St. Martin in the Fields: St. Martin’s is located on the northeast corner of Trafalgar Square. The church, built in the early 18th century, is an interesting attractive structure, but for passersby the more interesting thing to know is that there frequently are lunchtime concerts at the church, oftentimes free of charge. In addition, many evenings during the week there are candlelight concerts in the church as well. (The concern schedule is available on the church’s website.) Attending a concert at the church is one of the great civilized pleasures available right in the middle of the city.
7. Piccadilly: Fortnam & Mason/Hatchard’s: One of the great things to do in London is to walk along Piccadilly from Green Park to Piccadilly Circus. There are a lot of interesting stores, shops, cafés, and restaurants along the way, but the high points for me are Fortnam & Mason, the royal grocery emporium, and Hatchard’s, reportedly the oldest book store in London. Browse the terrific historical book section at Hatchard’s, and then go next door to Fortnam & Mason to have tea in the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon. Afterwards, enjoy a stroll in Green Park, just down the street.
6. Notting Hill/ Portobello Road: Notting Hill is a great residential to the west of the city center. The main commercial thoroughfare in the neighborhood is Portobello Road. Portobello Road is lined with interesting shops, but even better than the shops themselves is the Portobello Road Market, which is held on Saturday mornings. At the market, vendors sell seemingly endless supplies of such indispensable items as buttons, boxing gloves, pocket watches, antique sewing machines, gas masks, and vintage computers. In addition there is also some other stuff that is kind of junky. The whole thing is great fun.
5. Camden Town: Camden Town is distinctive neighborhood and shopping district. Camden also has a famous street market. At Camden Lock, on the Regent’s Canal (see below), there are a number of other markets, including in particular, Camden Lock Village and the Camden Stables Market. The market areas are full of small shops, stalls, and restaurants selling a wide variety of foods. The lively and colorful street scene in Camden is particularly interesting. Buy a cup of coffee at one of the many cafés and watch the amazing array of people walking by.
4. Regent’s Canal: The Regent’s Canal runs through London north of the central city. The most interesting stretch is the section between Primrose Hill (described above), and Camden Lock. On a sunny day, it is a quiet pleasant place to stroll. Walking along the quiet canal, it is very hard to believe you are in the middle of a gigantic city like London. The best way to enjoy the canal is to start in Regent’s Park and Primrose Hill and to pick up the canal after enjoying the view from the top of Primrose Hill, and then to stroll along the canal to Camden. A terrific way to spend a sunny morning.
3. Greenwich: Downriver from central London is the historic and atmospheric area of Greenwich. A visit to the Royal Observatory to see and to straddle the Greenwich Meridian is of course obligatory. From the top of the Observatory Hill there are great views back to Canary Wharf and up river to The City itself. The National Maritime Musuem is particularly interesting and then back along the river is the fantastically well preserved and interesting Cutty Sark. The best way to travel to Greenwich, if you are fortunate enough to be in London during one of the warmer months, is via the Thames River Service from Embankment piers.
2. Hampton Court: Upriver from London is the interesting and historical Hampton Court Palace. The palace was originally built by Cardinal Thomas Woollsey, a protégé of King Henry VIII. As Woolsey’s fortunes changed, he gave to palace to Henry to try to curry favor. (It didn’t work.) Henry transformed it into his principal royal residence. Many of the key events during Henry’s reign took place at the palace, making the palace tour particularly interesting. The palace gardens are fantastic (especially the rose garden). By far the best way to visit Hampton Court (at least during warm months) is to take the Thames River Service from Embankment Pier – traveling to Hampton Court via the river is one of the more enjoyable things to do in London during the summer months, well worth doing even apart from the added pleasure of visiting the palace.
1. Green Park/St. James’s Park: In an earlier post, I named Green Park and St. James’s Park together in my list of top ten urban parks. The gardens in St. James’s park are beautiful and afford great views of Buckingham Palace and of the Horse Guards’ barracks. Green Park is crossed by numerous wide, shady walkways leading to Piccadilly and Hyde Park. A great place to walk anytime, but particularly on a sunny afternoon.
A Picture Gallery: I travel with my camera at the ready. I know from long experience that getting a good picture is as much of a matter of luck as anything else. But because I keep my camera ready, I chance on some great pictures — or at least pictures that I like. Here is a gallery of some great pictures that I have been fortunate enough to take of animals. One more way to celebrate the joys of travel.