No visit to Central London’s complete without a stroll along the River Thames, but which of the London best attractions should you look out for – on both the north and south banks…?
Maybe the ultimate icon of the entire city, Tower Bridge is, of course, the crossing that’s just down the road from the medieval-era treasure trove that’s the Tower (from which it ‘borrows’ its battlement-like look) and is a combined bascule and suspension bridge, which ensures its roadway opens up and rises to allow river traffic to pass through. It’s also a fantastic attraction, enabling visitors to discover just how it works from the inside – and so its extraordinary, still fully functional Victorian engineering – as well as take in splendid views of the London skyline from its twin high-level walkways.
(21 New Globe Walk SE1 9DT)
Just a few minutes’ stroll down the South Bank from Tower Bridge is this truly wonderful home of fabulous theatre – being a built-from-scratch reconstruction of an open-air Elizabethan/ early Jacobean playhouse, exactly the sort that would have existed in the Bard’s day and would have put on his plays, which is exactly what it does. Yes, owing to the fact it’s open to the elements, it’s obviously a venue that’s best enjoyed when the weather’s good and the temperature warm, but a recent addition to the Globe complex is an oh-so atmospheric little late Jacobean-era indoor theatre space, which puts on suitable productions, lit fundamentally by candlelight alone. Yes, to say this it’s magical is putting it mildly.
(Bankside SE1 9TG)
Housed in the Bankside Power Station (and, again, just a quick stroll along the South Bank from this last list’s entry), the Tate Modern certainly chose the right bold statement-making, unforgettable home for itself. For this place is all about ‘modern’ and contemporary art – whether that be interpretive sculpture, challenging installations or fascinating fine art. In fact, so popular and well realised a venue is it, it’s recognised as one of the greatest (and definitely one of the most popular and best visited) modern art galleries in the world.
Often controversial for its headline-grabbing exhibitions it may be, but the punters love it – not least because the restaurant on the top floor affords truly spectacular views across the river come night-time and so the perfect spot to enjoy a fine meal of a lazy cocktail or two, especially if you’re making use of hotel rewards at either the Shaftesbury Hyde Park or London Executive Rooms.
Finally, no jaunt down the Thames in the very centre of London would be complete without crossing back over the river along Westminster Bridge and, once back on the north bank, taking in the UK’s centuries-old seat of power. Westminster – the small area that encompasses the Houses of Parliament (featuring the House of Commons, the House of Lords and Elizabeth Tower with the ‘Big Ben’ bell at the top) and 10 Downing Street (the home and primary workplace of the Prime Minister) – reeks of power, sure; but it’s also an area that’s open to the public to admire the fantastic Georgian and Victorian architecture and wallow in the fact that this is where modern democracy, in many ways, began.
And it very much feels like it began here too – should you inspect all the statues in Parliament Square or gaze on at the door of Number 10 from the police-patrolled entrance to Downing Street. Note: you’ll also find the fabulously ornate medieval Westminster Abbey and the history-packing, subterranean Churchill War Rooms here too.