London can seem bafflingly big to tourists, who often fall into the most common traps of Piccadilly Circus and Covent Garden. Although these places are worth a visit, you rarely catch a Londoner fight for space amid the photo-snapping crowds. There are simply so many other things to see and do in the English capital. Today, our team shares their most treasured London locations.
Giulia's choice: The Shard
Coming to London? How would you feel about being on top of the world? Well, maybe not the whole world, but surely on top of one of the tallest buildings in Europe (Moscow’s Mercury City Tower beats it just by about 26 cm). The stunning view from The Shard will send shivers down your spine and leave you with hundreds of memorable pictures on your camera, especially if your experience is at sunset, on a clear summer day. The twinkling lights that gradually appear in the evening resemble a multitude of fireflies scattered around the city, signposting the streets and unveiling the magic of London at night.
The swift ascent can be quite daunting for whoever suffers from vertigo, but the final reward is definitely worth it, as the vastness of the city will leave you both speechless and mesmerised. So if you find yourself on the South Bank, spare some money for an ultimate thrill before you leave the capital.
Linnea's choice: Hampstead Heath
London is a forest. At least if you believe the Forestry Commission, which describes the UK capital as “the biggest urban forest in the world”. If you’re new to London, shuffling past the traffic congestion in Camden, it might seem like an utterly ridiculous thing to say. For Londoners, though, the many parks and nature reserves are a constant source of inspiration and quietude.
Hampstead Heath often reminds me of a jungle. There’s even a flock of runaway parakeets residing in the old, crooked trees. Climb up Kite Hill and watch the skyscrapers in Canary Wharf glow fiery red at sundown. Or take a dip in one of the ponds, drink wine beneath an oak and visit Kenwood House, a combined café and art gallery in the lesser known northern part of the park, where Count Dracula once roamed the hills - at least if you trust Bram Stoker’s legend. Pack your favourite book, leave the wallet at home and rest your weary feet on a pillow of grass.
Tommaso's choice: The Canalway Promenade
Even in this busy and chaotic city you can find peace and quiet without leaving the centre: that is Regent’s Canal. Like a capillary that eventually joins the Thames, it crosses the heart of London from west to east offering both a relaxing promenade and uncommon perspective on this expanding metropolis.
Particularly interesting and not too long are the 2.4 miles from Paddington to Camden Town. You can start your walk from Warwick Avenue station, where you will find the picturesque Little Venice. Come out on the street and cross on to the other access to the canal path. From there, on the first stretch, where the canal is wider you can see the traditional barges moored. In the old days they were used as a means of transportation for all sorts of goods throughout London. Now they’re mainly used as private accommodation with small vegetable gardens growing on the rooftops. The canal crosses London Zoo, where you can peek into the Snowdon aviary on one side and see the gluttonous Africa Warthogs on the other. From Regent’s park you can exit the path and walk up Primrose Hill to catch one of the best glimpses of London. Back along the canal, you will soon find yourself in the middle of Camden Town market, just in time for a snack at one of the many food stalls.
Not tired yet? Venture further along the canal through St. Pancras, alongside Saint Martins University of Arts, through Angel, and down to the Thames beside Canary Wharf.
Alexander's choice: Hampton Court Palace
One of London’s best kept secrets is Hampton Court Palace, a majestic structure tucked away on the outskirts of the capital. As much as it applies to a 1000-room palace, the Tudor building conveys a sense of stable elegance and falls somewhere in between an English countryside cottage and Versailles.
Unsurprisingly, Hampton Court has housed a string of spoilt Royals, from Henry VIII to Charles I. Expect oak-panelled rooms, painted ceilings and a meticulously maintained garden. But equally interesting is the network of kitchens and cellars. Just grab one of the free audio guides and learn how the Tudors and Stewards cooked their food, what you need for a 200-person feast, and how tastes differed at the time.
After a tour of the interiors, you can go for a walk around the spectacular premises. You might notice that each yard of the castle looks different. Hampton Court was built in stages and its architecture can be traced all the way back to medieval times.