London for beginners
Going to London and not seeing the Queen is not something to be ashamed of – to have an audience with Her Majesty, you need to be really somebody and to schedule yourself in months in advance. But being in the British capital and not going on a walk round “The Royal Triangle” (Trafalgar Square – whitehall, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey – Buckingham Palace) is unforgivable. Trafalgar Square is not even a fiveminute walk from Charing Cross Station, and there’s no way you can miss it.
On the north side of the Trafalgar square is the National Gallery, home to one of the finest collections of West European paintings in the world, including masterpieces by Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Vincent van Gogh and Claude Monet. At the southern exit to Trafalgar Square is Whitehall, the street synonymous with Government.
If you reach King Charles Street, you’ll soon reach one of London’s greenest areas, St James’s Park. The park was a marsh until King Henry VIII drained it and used it for hunting. It is modest in size, but offers an almost out-of town atmosphere of peace and quiet, plus elect company – many civil servants from the nearby Government offices come here during their lunch break.
Crossing Westminster Bridge (behind Buckingham Palace and Big Ben), you’ll find yourself on the South Bank of the Thames. The London Eye. Towering at 135 m (443 ft), Europe’s tallest observation wheel offers fabulous panoramic views across the whole of London and beyond.
New York has the Statue of Liberty, Paris the Eiffel Tower, and London – Tower Bridge. Built in 1894, Tower Bridge has become an iconic symbol of London. Every self-respecting global brand has done its best to open a shop in Oxford Street or Regent Street. Elegant ladies and impeccably dressed gentlemen climb out of black cabs and head straight for the upmarket Selfridges or John Lewis. Meanwhile, shopping crusaders storm Primark and TopShop.
In Regent Street you’ll find Mango, Zara and Next, but the street is worth visiting foremost because of Hamleys, London’s largest and most famous toy shop, where children and their parents can spend hours playing with construction sets, trying out magical gadgets or choosing a teddy bear. There is plenty of entertainment on Regent Street too.