As we’ve mentioned in other articles if you are coming to London for a city break you don’t want to be out in the sticks and have to jump on a train to get into town to see the sights. Even a few stops on the Tube can rob you of valuable sightseeing and fun time; so take the advice of an exiled Londoner and book a central hotel.
An area that often goes under the radar for visitors is the City of London – the official name of what we call “The Square Mile”. Back in the day this was London – the old city within the medieval walls. Today it is the nation’s financial centre and skyscrapers tower over this tiny area which is responsible for generating 3% of the UK’s income. By night the City is deserted and an eerily appealing place to wander. Look for hotels near Liverpool Street Station and you’ll have an excellent base form which to explore.
The obvious sights near the City
Let’s start with the big ones – which are essential items on any visitor’s to-do list but so well-known that there’s no need for more detail here:
St Paul’s Cathedral is a stunning building in its own right and don’t miss climbing the dome to the whispering gallery.
Also within easy reach are the Museum of London, the Barbican Centre (enough to keep you busy all day) and of course Smithfield Market.
After those, try the lesser-known sights in the area:
Visit a London icon’s house
The Charles Dickens Museum is the world’s most important collection of material relating to the great novelist and social commentator who had plenty to say about the London of his day. The building is the only surviving London home of Dickens (where he lived from 1837 until 1839). The museum has been here since 1925 and is popular with visitors from all over the world.
Pick a card, any card at the International Magic Shop
We love people who are so passionate about something that they open a dedicated store – in this case that something is magic. Catering to everyone from the casual souvenir hunter to the professional magician, this family-run establishment is a friendly and fun place to visit. They even offer magic courses for beginners but you might be happy just to buy a few props with which to impress your friends and family.
Check out a different kind of market
Exmouth Market is as famous for its hip bars like Cafe Kick (table football + beer = fun) and restaurants like Moro (superb Spanish food) as its actual ‘market’. In fact the biggest pull here is arguably the Eagle down the road (more on which below) but there are also plenty of interesting shops after the market re-opeed in 2006.
Dine at the place than coined the term ‘gastropub’
The original and quite possible the best of London’s gastropubs, The Eagle in Farringdon serves gourmet food without the attitude or white tablecloths. Here the cuisine is Mediterranean with an Iberian influence and portions are enormous. It’s a proper pub too, with a rustic style and an excellent range of ales.