Londoners often say they have a love/hate relationship with the city. It’s totally understandable for anyone living in a bustling city. Nonetheless, London offers the luxury of exploring one-of-a-kind, immersive places. I’ve compiled this brief list of stimulating and quite unique places to experience.
1. Sky Garden
You know the Walkie-Talkie building? Right, there’s a garden on the top floor, with incredible views. You’ll need to book the tickets in advance unless you come early in the morning for breakfast without the usual hordes. You’ll experience your typical London day from a bird’s eye. A perspective in which worldly worries aren’t that important. You’ll see some things you never saw before, and that’s how I discovered the next spot on the list.
2. Eltham Palace
If you’re into Art Deco like I am, you’ll love this sensory-rich place. It is built on Tudor palace grounds by rich industrials. That itself tells a lot. You’ll see a lavish entrance hall, a stunning dining room, a gilded bathroom, the map room, and more. You’ll wander into the Renaissance hall in awe and the Blitzkrieg bomb shelter with a touch of claustrophobia. The house reminds an ocean liner, luxury all the way.
3. Queen’s House
Come for architecture, art (Armada portrait), and beautiful views spanning across the river. Built in the 17th century, it was a pioneer of the classical English style. It’s the first to break with the traditional red-brick Tudor building style. Located within the Greenwich World Heritage Site near gems like Flamsteed House, Cutty Sark, and Painted Hall. You’ll see some beautiful interior moments like Wright’s airy abstract pattern on the ceiling in the Great Hall. I love the fact it’s built on an ancient road from London – it’s like Gate Tower in Japan, but a long time ago.
4. HMS Belfast
Although not conventionally beautiful, it’s an exceptionally interesting one. This warship is a massive, awe-inspiring, formidable machine. Exploring its nine decks, you’ll gain a profound respect for its engineering. It has a cool steering wheel, signaling equipment, and machine guns. A guy walked by and said, “I could hang a hammock on the deck and spend a week here.”
A concrete utopia with a water garden, massive sculptures in the walkway, and a postapocalyptic conservatory. There’s a tropical garden blended with concrete on the upper floor and a pool of colorful fish. The building is an excellent venue for chilling and reading, and you can also work here. You can even work the whole day when your cafes and libraries close at 5-ish PM.
6. Westminster Abbey
I don’t remember much of the interior; it was nice, but I do remember the heavenly music inside. Organs and the stained-glass lights melt in a divine atmosphere. Whether it’s Gregorian chants, polyphonic harmonies, or Hildegard… It’ll give you chicken skin, as I once heard this expression.
7. Leadenhall Market
Set in a financial district of the City of London, Leadenhall Market is over 700 years old. The very origins date back to Roman times when it was a forum, roughly the same thing. As you walk, your gaze transitions from romantic Victorian charm to modern steel glass structures. High above, it’ll stumble onto the inside-out Lloyd’s building, with elevators and ducts out. How world-colliding is that? It’s a true experience of some unreal, time-blending, cyberpunky, and steampunky vibes. I find that transition the most mind-blowing thing about it.
8. Fortnum & Mason Department Store
Established in the 18th century and located at 181 Piccadilly. Fortnum & Mason is a department store with whimsical décor and an array of beautiful products. You’ll find decadent chocolates, finest wines, biscuits, teas, and delis here in such lovely packaging you’ll never want to tear open. Also, soaps and perfumes, gifts, and home decorations. There’s also a restaurant to savor a cuppa and some nibbles.
9. Apsley House
You know the guy who beat the life out of the self-indulgent Napoleon’s ambitions? Yeah, that’s his crib. Once known as “Number I London,” it was home to the first Duke of Wellington. It’s filled with gifts from statesmen across Europe, honoring the Duke’s remarkable achievements at Waterloo. The Duke allegedly never doubted he’d get his way and can’t but respect such determination. A grand personality, one must admit.
10. Thames Clipper Ride
Take a Thames Clipper ride for a fun experience with a dynamic viewing of London’s best spots. There’s a speedy boat for a faster ride, although more expensive. As you cruise along the river, you’ll be treated to fantastic views and corners you wouldn’t see during a usual stroll. Tower Bridge, Canary Wharf, the London Eye, Battersea – they are all there. It’s better than the tube, also offering unobstructed views compared to a city drive.
Are You Ready?
This is just a handful of beautiful places, truly unique and characteristic of London. I have yet to go to many other amazing ones, and there are some I’m still waiting to hear about. That’s a great thing about London – there are so many foyers, bars, gardens, museums, and whatnot. It’s just a matter of perspective and sometimes your company, how enjoyable it will be.
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