London

View-of-The-City-from-Tower-Bridge-optimized

Getting to Know London

Although I can’t claim to know the city inside out like a native Londoner, I’ve been here often, and wandered around places that many visitors have yet to see and many Londoners take for granted.

One of the reasons I like wandering around London so much is because it’s so different to where I live. That said, each borough has its own identity too, and I think it’s worth knowing how London developed in order to make sense of it all.

Ever since the Roman Emperor Claudius established the port of Londinium in AD 43 the city’s reputation for being England’s powerhouse has never been in doubt.

The original Roman city’s boundary is still basically the same today, and there are still remnants of the old Roman Wall – but that’s where the similarity ends. Today, the City of London, also known as the ’Square Mile’, is home to very few people, but home to one of the world’s most important financial centres.

London has another city within its boundaries – Westminster.This city within a city has been the nerve centre of Royalty, Religion, and British politics for a thousand years, but it’s also much more than that.

The West End is the entertainment district of Westminster with many of the famous theatres situated around Leicester Sq. This area also includes Chinatown and Soho, which used to have a reputation for sleazy nightclubs and strip joints, but not so much these days. On the other hand, Oxford St and Piccadilly, and the area in between, is a shopper’s delight.

Apart from the two cities, there are another 31 boroughs in London which have developed over the centuries with their own identities, and there are a fair number that deserve a visit for different reasons.

North of the Thames is generally more tourist orientated, but that doesn’t mean that south of the river is uninteresting, as a walk along the South Bank of the Thames will reveal.

Both sides of the river east of the centre was the home of London Docks, which in the heyday of the British Empire was the largest docks in the world, but now a place where people live – if they can afford it – in converted warehouses and new ‘apartments’.

The East End proper is traditionally the part of London where working class Londoners lived, as many of them worked in the docks. These days however, many of them have moved out to the suburbs such as the dormitory towns of Essex, leaving the ‘East End’ to many immigrants from around the globe. There are over 50 ethnic communities speaking over 300 languages in London which makes it one of the most multicultural cities in the world.

The transition from a small Roman crossing of the Thames to today’s vibrant metropolis has taken, like the river itself, many twists and turns along the way – far too many to mention here – but I’m hoping that I can unravel some of London’s important moments in history in order to make sense of what can be a difficult city to get to grips with. It may be difficult, but never boring.

  • All
  • Camden
  • City of London
  • Greenwich
  • Lambeth
  • Newham
  • Richmond-upon-Thames
  • River Thames
  • Southwark
  • Tower Hamlets
  • Westminster

Boat Trip from Westminster to Greenwich

  Whether it’s because I love going on boat trips or not I don’t know, but I always urge people not to leave London without seeing the city from the river. Plenty of boats from different companies run regular trips down to Greenwich, which is not only a fantastic trip, but also a great destination. […]

Tower Bridge

Some bridges have a great design and some are just practical, but what captures my imagination about Tower Bridge is its ability to achieve both. 40,000 people a day still use the bridge in one way or another, but ships passing underneath still have priority, and that’s around a thousand times a year: Even President […]

The Hungerford Bridges

  The first Hungerford Bridge was opened in 1845. It was a suspension footbridge designed by the famous engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel and named after the market which stood where the present day Charing Cross station is. Competition from nearby Covent Garden saw the demise of the Hungerford market but the name has remained ever […]

Westminster Bridge

  Until the first Westminster Bridge was built, there were only two bridges crossing the Thames in London – the old London Bridge and the new Putney Bridge, and to cross the river from Westminster to Lambeth you had to either pay the ferryman to take you across, or wait for low tide when it […]

Christmas at Kew

I intimated in my Introduction to Kew Gardens that I was intending to follow it up with some more detailed posts about other aspects of the park, and as Christmas is on the horizon, I thought it would be a good time to show people what Christmas at Kew is like. 2018 will be the […]

Kew Gardens – An Introduction

Just as it’s impossible to see the whole of Kew Gardens in one visit, the same thing applies to writing about it, and so I’ve decided to begin with an overview of how the gardens evolved and the main areas of interest. To give you an indication of the magnitude of the place, it boasts […]

The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

I can still remember seeing the joy on Ken Livingstone’s face when London won the selection to host the 2012 Olympic Games, so why wasn’t I jumping up and down for joy with him? Call me an old cynic if you like, but the legacy of the 2004 Athens Games is a stark reminder of […]

Newham

With the formation of Greater London in 1965, the former Essex county boroughs of West Ham and East Ham were joined together to create the London Borough of Newham. Joining them was North Woolwich which used to be inconveniently lumped together with Woolwich on the opposite side of the river. The Thameside areas of North […]

The Greenwich Foot Tunnel

I’ve always said that any visitor to London should take a Boat trip from Westminster to Greenwich as it gives a fantastic view of the city from the river and ends up at one of my favourite areas of London. That said, there is an alternative way to get to Greenwich, and that is by […]

The Cutty Sark

Located in dry dock next to Greenwich Pier is the last surviving British tea clipper. This famous ship was built at Dumbarton on the Clyde in 1869 purely for the purpose of importing tea from China, a trade which became extremely lucrative after the British found a taste for it. Her first voyage started out […]

A Hospital Fit For Heroes

Taking a Boat trip down to Greenwich has to be one of the best days out in London, but unless you know exactly what you want to do when you get there, it’s worth dropping into the excellent Discover Greenwich Visitor Centre first before dashing off like a headless chicken. If you’re anything like me, […]

Canary Wharf

London is undeniably one of the world’s most important financial centres, and although the City of London has traditionally been at the heart of London’s finance industry, Canary Wharf has today joined it as a place to come where fortunes can be made or lost at the press of a button. It hasn’t always been […]

The Tower of London Pt 5 – Blood Swept Land and Seas of Red

To commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of World War I the Tower of London created an art installation called ‘Blood Swept Land and Seas of Red’. From July to November 2014, the moat around the tower was covered with 888,246 ceramic poppies, one for each of the British and Commonwealth personnel who were killed […]

The Tower of London Pt 4 – The Crown Jewels, Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula and The Scaffold

The Crown Jewels were originally kept in Westminster Abbey, but after they were stolen in 1303 they were moved to the Tower of London. Although they were recovered, most of them didn’t survive Oliver Cromwell’s Commonwealth. After Charles I’s execution, Cromwell ordered all the treasure to be “totally broken, and that they melt down all […]

The Tower of London Pt 3 – The Medieval Palace and the Bloody Tower

When King Stephen died in 1154, King Henry II became the first of the Plantagenet Kings that were to reign until 1485. During this medieval period, moats, curtain walls and towers were added to bolster up the defences – not to keep out invading foreign armies – but to thwart any attack from the King’s […]

The Tower of London Pt 2 – The White Tower

The Keep, known as the White Tower, is the oldest part of the Tower of London and therefore seems as good a starting point as any, both for this review, and for a tour of the Tower. After William the Conqueror’s successful invasion of England in 1066 he needed to secure its most powerful city, […]

The Tower of London Pt 1 – Planning a Visit

With some 2.8 million visitors in 2017, the Tower of London is the most visited paid for attraction in the UK. It goes without saying therefore that a bit of planning before going there will help the visit go more smoothly. Timing is always important of course, but with a steep entry price of £26.80 […]

The British Library

The British Library is home to some of the most famous written and printed works in the English-speaking world. From two of the four original Magna Cartas, the Lindisfarne Gospels and Shakespeare’s First Folio to works by Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte and Lewis Carroll. Then there are manuscripts of Handel’s Messiah, Elgar’s Enigma Variations and […]

Camden Market

Camden Market is the collective name given to several markets that operate in Camden Town, and is reported to be the fourth most popular attraction in London with around 250,000 visitors each week. There are supposed to be six markets here altogether: The first one started out around 1900 in Inverness Street selling fruit and […]

Camden Town

Not to be confused with the Borough of Camden, Camden Town is known for its markets, music venues and alternative cultures, it’s a place that attracts younger people with a zest for a more unorthodox style of living. If you’re into Punk, Goth. or Emo, then you’ve come to the right place. Camden is named […]

A Slice of Alternative London

As I explained in my previous post on Covent Garden,it has no set boundary as such, but most people head for the piazza at the former fruit and veg market, which is where most of the action is. Just north of the piazza on the other side of Long Acre at Shelton Street, Covent Garden […]

The Borough of Camden

The Borough of Camden takes its name from Camden Town, which lies roughly half-way between Holborn in the south and Hampstead Heath in the north. Places of interest within its boundaries include Camden Town, parts of Covent Garden, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, the British Museum, the British Library, and Hampstead. The southern part of the borough […]

County Hall and the London Eye

Next to the London Eye on the Lambeth side of Westminster Bridge is the former County Hall, which in my view, is the best-looking building along the South Bank section of the Queen’s Walk. Work started on the colonnaded building in 1910 to house the offices of the London County Council (LCC) which was formed […]

The Southbank

The Southbank is not a defined area, but for this review it refers to the riverside area south of the river between Westminster Bridge and Lambeth’s border with Southwark at Bankside. It may be difficult to imagine now, but this area known as Lambeth Marsh, was virtually undeveloped before the 19th century. The wet terrain […]

Lambeth

There are so many things to write about on London that it can be difficult to know how to categorise them all, and for me I find putting articles under the borough they belong to seems to make the most sense, so before I expand on some of the things to see and do in […]

London Bridge City and The Shard

London Bridge City didn’t exist forty years ago. Actually, that not’s strictly true – it’s just that it wasn’t called that. It was probably the marketing men that came up with the name for this riverside location on the south bank of the river between London Bridge and Tower Bridge. This must have been a […]

Underneath the Arches

Underneath the arches of the railway viaducts and in the shadow of Southwark Cathedral is Borough Market, one of London’s best loved food markets. It’s both a wholesale and retail market and has in recent times become synonymous with speciality foods, both from the UK and continental Europe. Southwark was the first of London’s 32 […]

Southwark Cathedral

I’d be the first to admit that Southwark Cathedral doesn’t have the immediate appeal of Westminster Abbey or St Paul’s Cathedral, but there’s something likeable about this church on the south bank of the Thames. Ok, maybe there’s not the same amount of architectural or historical interest as the other two, but what it does […]

Bankside

The Bankside area of Southwark roughly equates with the riverside between Blackfriars Bridge and London Bridge. The distance between the two bridges is about a mile and there are not only plenty of things to see, but also a fair number of pubs to hold you up along the way, and if you stop at […]

Southwark

London’s metropolitan boroughs as we know them today weren’t formed until 1965, but historically speaking, Southwark was a borough on the south bank of the Thames back in Roman times. Londinium was built where the river was narrow enough to be bridged yet still tidal, allowing trading vessels to sail right into the heart of […]

Paddington Basin and Little Venice

Paddington is well-known for its railway station, but perhaps not so well known for its canal, but things are changing. The easiest access to the canal basin is from the far end of the station next to the Hammersmith & City (H&C) underground, but until the Waterside Regeneration project got under way there would have […]

Paddington Station

Travelling by train from Devon to London invariably means arriving at Paddington, and so I thought it was about time I put on my anorak and take a closer look at the history and working operations of this iconic station. It was originally designed by the great engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel as the London terminus […]

Marble Arch and the Tyburn Tree

Marble Arch lies at the junction of Oxford St, Bayswater Rd, Park Lane, and the Edgware Road, and it wouldn’t be difficult to imagine that the landmark once stood on an island in the middle of traffic mayhem. Thankfully, somebody had the sense to landscape the area around the monument to give it a bit […]

Temple Church, The Knights Templar and the Da Vinci Code

Temple Church attracts visitors from all over the world, many of whom have read Dan Brown’s “Da Vinci Code”, hoping to add another piece of the jigsaw to the quest for their own Holy Grail. For those who haven’t read the book it does a good job of blurring the lines between fact and fiction, […]

Temple

I’m going to have to tread carefully writing this article because Temple is at the heart of the UK’s legal system, and as I know next to nothing about how it works, I don’t want to end up with a solicitor’s letter on the doormat. I think I’m on safe ground though by saying that […]

St Clement Danes Church

  I’ve often been past this church but it’s never been open, and so when I heard the bells chiming out one Sunday morning I thought that I’d take the opportunity to have a quick look around before the service started. The bells were ringing out “Oranges and Lemons say the bells of St Clements” […]

The Strand

Originally part of the Roman road to Silchester, the Strand has always been one of London’s most important roads as it connects the City of Westminster with the City of London, and as its name suggests, originally ran alongside the Thames, but nowadays runs slightly inland for about ¾ mile between Charing Cross and Temple […]

A Wander through Victoria Embankment’s Main Garden

  Following the completion of Sir Joseph Bazalgette’s Victoria Embankment in 1870, a series of gardens were designed to enhance the appearance of this stretch of the riverside between Westminster and Blackfriars Bridges. There are in fact four separate gardens, the main one being imaginatively called the ‘Main Garden’. As you enter the Villiers St […]

Cleopatra’s Needle

One of the most prominent features along the Victoria Embankment is Cleopatra’s Needle. This Ancient Egyptian obelisk is one of three that were re-erected during the 19th century. One can be found in Central Park, New York City, and the other in the Place de la Concorde, Paris. The London and New York obelisks are […]

A Stroll along the Embankment

  If you’ve read my article about how the Victoria Embankment came about, you may like to know a bit more about some of the points of interest that can be seen along here. The Embankment runs for about a mile and a half between Westminster Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge on the north side of […]

The Victoria Embankment

  It’s strange isn’t it, that although London’s practice of discharging raw sewage into the Thames caused cholera epidemics which cost thousands of lives, it was only when MPs kicked up a stink about the smell that something was actually done about it. The job of sorting the whole problem out was given to a […]

St James’s Park

  Situated on a roughly triangular piece of land between Horse Guards Parade, Buckingham Palace, The Mall and Birdcage Walk, St. James’s Park is the oldest of London’s eight Royal Parks. With so much pomp and pageantry associated with this area you could be forgiven for thinking that it was named after King James I […]

St Paul’s Covent Garden

  With so many other things to keep you occupied in Covent Garden it would be easy to overlook the simple church of St. Paul’s, but it’s worth a look inside even if only to take a look at the actors’ memorials that are scattered around the church. Situated opposite the market, St. Paul’s was […]

Covent Garden

  Lying on the eastern side of the West End, Covent Garden is a popular destination for tourists and includes the former fruit and vegetable Market, the Opera House, and the area around Seven Dials and Neal’s Yard. There are no official boundaries to Covent Garden but a map I picked up at the market […]

Chinatown

  London’s Chinatown is located right in the heart of the West End, and as you might expect, it’s a bustling area of restaurants, food stores, and Chinese culture. Centred on Gerrard St, the area is quite compact, hemmed in between Charing Cross Road, Shaftesbury Avenue, Wardour St, and Leicester Square. It wasn’t until after […]

Soho

  Soho’s chequered history has been at the cutting edge of film, theatre, music and other forms of entertainment including the sex industry for as long as I can remember, but gentrification in recent times has seen it become less edgy and more mainstream. Instead of sleazy clip joints and prostitutes you’re more likely to […]

Leicester Square

  Located slap bang in the middle of Theatreland, Leicester Square is often associated with the stage, but it’s the big screen that’s had the most influence. Apart from being one of the venues for hosting the London Film Festival, it’s also the place to come if you want to see a film premiere. There […]

Theatreland

  Theatregoers are totally spoilt for choice in London with around 40 theatres in the West End alone, most of them concentrated in what is now called ‘Theatreland’. Theatreland covers a large part of the West End, and some people might argue that it is the West End. Wikipedia defines the area it covers as […]

Piccadilly Circus

  “It’s like Piccadilly Circus round here” is a phrase often used when somewhere is chaotically busy, just like the road junction was until the layout was changed in the 1980s. Up until that point the famous Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain was the central point of the Circus (circle or roundabout) where Regent St, Piccadilly, Coventry […]

London’s Christmas Lights

You might have noticed that I haven’t called this post ‘Christmas Shopping in London’ and that’s because Easymalc don’t do shopping in London at Christmastime, in fact I don’t do Christmas shopping anywhere – and come to think of it, I don’t do shopping anywhere at any time. Now that I’ve got that off my […]

The West End

  “The West End” or “Up West” are phrases that are commonly heard around London, but there are no official geographical boundaries to determine exactly where it is, and so there will be many different interpretations as to what actually constitutes the area known as the West End – and this is mine. Historically speaking, […]

Edith Cavell Memorial

  I doubt that it was intentional, but the location of the Memorial to Edith Cavell seems appropriate somehow, standing just yards away from St Martin-in-the-Fields. At the same time as Dick Sheppard was keeping the doors open for troops returning from the WWI battlefields, Nurse Edith Cavell was helping Allied troops escape from occupied […]

St Martin-in-the-Fields

  A visit to the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields will be especially rewarding for people with a social conscience. Centrally located next to Trafalgar Square, records show that there was a church ‘in the fields’ between Westminster and the City of London from Norman times, but the present structure was built by James Gibbs and […]

The National Portrait Gallery

  I read somewhere that London has somewhere in the region of 1,500 permanent art galleries, and I wouldn’t have a clue as to whether that’s a true number or not, but however many it is, it’s definitely a large number. Some are big and some are small, some are good, and some no doubt […]

The National Gallery

  Looking at works of art is very subjective, and so it’s probably a good idea to have an understanding on what type of art is on display at the National Gallery and where you can find what you’re looking for. Overlooking Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery has over 2,300 paintings that belong to UK […]

Trafalgar Square

  London’s foremost meeting point for social and political gatherings, Trafalgar Square takes its name from Horatio Nelson’s famous victory over Napoleon’s French and Spanish fleets at Cape Trafalgar in 1805. The battle cost Nelson his life and he’s remembered here with a 170ft column, at the base of which are four lions cast out […]

Charing Cross

  I wouldn’t mind betting that the majority of visitors who walk up Whitehall are so focused on getting across the road to Trafalgar Square that they are completely oblivious to the fact that they are walking across the point that is regarded as the exact centre of London. It could be argued that it’s […]

Horse Guards and Horse Guards Parade

  I tend to regard the southern part of Whitehall as the political end, and the northern part as the military end. I’m not sure if it was meant to be that way, but that’s the way I see it. From a tourist’s perspective the one thing that shouldn’t be overlooked at the northern end […]

The Banqueting House

  There are so many tourist attractions in Westminster that it’s inevitable that some worthy places to visit often get overlooked, and I reckon that the Banqueting House is one of them. I’ve read that some people are somewhat underwhelmed when they come here, which is a bit of a shame really because there’s more […]

The Churchill War Rooms

  Not as conspicuous as the nearby Houses of Parliament or Westminster Abbey, Churchill’s War Rooms is a must see for anyone interested in where Britain’s top brass and politicians directed the Second World War from. Even before the outbreak of war, it was decided that these decision makers wouldn’t abandon London and its people, […]

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO)

  Don’t ask me why, but I’ve always been intrigued by what goes on in the ‘corridors of power‘. What do those ‘Mandarins of Whitehall’ actually do?, and is our destiny really at the mercy of those men in grey suits? A few years ago I was looking down on those bastions of government control […]

Whitehall

  The Houses of Parliament may be the most obvious landmark of British politics, but the real corridors of power are trudged by the grey mandarins of Whitehall. This is where the Treasury, Foreign Office, and the Cabinet Office, amongst others, make some of the country’s most important political decisions. Sandwiched between these large buildings […]

The Supreme Court

  Being of an inquisitive disposition (some might prefer to call it nosey), I couldn’t resist the temptation to enter the doors of The Supreme Court in Parliament Square to see what goes on in there. One of the good things about living in a free and democratic country is that any member of the […]

Westminster Abbey

  If somebody was to ask me to stick my neck out and choose one landmark that should not be missed on a visit to London, I think I would have to say Westminster Abbey. Although I’m not a religious person, I do enjoy visiting some of our magnificent ecclesiastical buildings, and they don’t come […]

Victoria Tower Gardens

  London is blessed with so many well known parks and gardens that it’s easy to overlook some of the less obvious ones, even in the centre of the city. In Westminster, next to the Houses of Parliament, are the Victoria Tower Gardens, and as the name suggests, are located at the Victoria Tower end […]

Visiting the Houses of Parliament

  There are any number of ways of visiting the Houses of Parliament and it‘s best to visit the website to find out the latest times and prices, but if you’re a UK citizen you can arrange a tour through your local MP. http://www.parliament.uk/visiting/visiting-and-tours/tours-of-parliament Entry is through the Cromwell Green visitor entrance where you will […]

A Palace and a Parliament

  When King Canute started to build a home for himself in Westminster back in 1016 I don’t suppose for one minute that he thought it would become a place known throughout the world a thousand years later, and in a way he would be right because there’s nothing left of what he, or his […]

Around Parliament Square

  There are any number of places where a visitor can start a tour of Westminster, but I’ve chosen Parliament Square, not least because of its proximity to two of London’s most famous landmarks – the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. To visit both landmarks will involve some planning and a considerable amount of […]

City and Borough of Westminster

  London has 31 Boroughs, 1 City (The City of London), and Westminster, which is both a Borough and a City. Whereas the City of London became the legal and financial powerhouse of London, Westminster became the religious, royal and political centre. This is the home of Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, and the Houses of […]

Liverpool St Station

  I’m sure somebody out there may well tell me that I’m wrong, but I reckon there are thirteen stations in London that can be regarded as a main line terminus. London’s railway network has evolved over many years and is more complicated than you might think – but I’m sticking to thirteen. Four of […]

Blackfriars

To most people these days, the name Blackfriars probably means the railway and underground station, but the history of this small area in the south-west corner of the City of London has a history that goes back much further.  As far as I’m aware, there are no official boundaries to define the area that we […]

St Paul’s Cathedral

  I would hazard a guess that the majority of first time visitors to the City of London want to see St Paul’s Cathedral more than anything else, and it’s not hard to see why. This magnificent structure built by Sir Christopher Wren, is more than just another church. It’s an architectural delight with a […]

Leadenhall Market

Metaphorically speaking, Leadenhall Market links Roman London with the Modern City of London, and the reason, is that its location on the site of the old Roman Forum and Basilica is slap bang in the middle of the modern Financial District. It’s also appropriate that there’s a market here because in Roman times the Forum was […]

The City of London’s Modern Skyline

The City of London may be steeped in history, but that doesn’t mean to say that it’s set in aspic. The city’s Financial District is leaving its stuffy image behind and charging into the 21st century without, it seems, pausing for breath. Nearly all the financial institutions (The Bank of England being a notable exception) […]

The Bank of England Museum

There are many powerful institutions in the City of London’s Financial District, but none more so than the Bank of England. Now before you skip this article thinking that it’s going to be another one of those boring Easymalc ramblings, I promise I won’t go on about Fiscal Policies or Quantitative Easing. For a start […]

The Origins of London’s Financial District

Following on from my article about the City of London Corporation, it’s not difficult to see how London became an important trading and financial centre. As British explorers opened up new trade routes, then most of the important trading and commerce ended up on the streets of London, the hub of which was centred around […]

Guildhall

London’s Guildhall is the administrative and ceremonial centre for the City of London, and amongst other things, is where the Corporation and Liverymen elect and swear in the City of London’s new Lord Mayor. Guildhall (and not The Guildhall by the way), comprises a number of buildings, but for the purposes of this review I […]

The City of London Corporation

The City of London is run totally differently from any other part of London and I never really understood why, so to try and make some sense of it I’ve decided to unravel some of its history and workings and find out more. It’s not my intentions for this article to appeal mainly to those […]

The London Mithraeum

  If you catch the Tube to Bank and walk down Walbrook towards Bloomberg’s Mithraeum it might be worth casting your mind back almost 2,000 years to when the Romans arrived. Under your feet is the River Walbrook, which was the limit of the first Roman settlement, but as the swampy land around it was […]

Londinium

  As I explained in my introduction to the City of London, it was the Romans who first laid the foundation stones for the metropolis that we call London today. After the failed attempts by Julius Caesar to conquer Britain in 55 and 54 BC, Emperor Claudius brought a larger army and made a successful […]

The City of London

  London was born almost 2,000 years ago, when the Romans set up a trading post on the banks of the River Thames in 47 AD. They called it Londinium, and the wall that they built around their town corresponds roughly with the boundary of the City of London today. It borders Westminster to the […]