Over the past 11 years and my numerous visits to London I’ve seen and done more or less all the major touristy things. I’m a creature of habits when it comes to London so no trip to London is complete without seeing some of my old favourites such as Big Ben and the Tower of London or having a drink in my favourite pub in Bayswater. However, London always surprises me with something new, be it a new free attraction or a starry encounter.
So, here’s a list of my quirky London moments
-almost bumping into actors Emma Thompson and Rowan Atkinson in the same day whilst wandering through Hampstead
-pretending to be in a Harry Potter movie at 9 3/4 platform at King’s Cross Station
-trying to find the London stone in the City Of London
-having my photo taken with Peter Pan in the Hyde Park
-searching for film locations from the Notting Hill film (the bookstore and Kenwood House among others)
Whenever I visit London I like to see some of my old favourites and I like to experience new things. Luckily, there’s no shortage of new places and new experiences in London. When I saw everyone (by everyone I mean travel bloggers) raving about the new free views of London I knew I had to see it for myself on my next trip to London. Three years passed between my last two trips to London in the meantime. When I booked my flights for London four months ago I also investigated how to experience the best free views of London by visiting the Sky Garden.
About Sky Garden
The Sky Garden is located in one of the newest skyscrapers in City of London built in 2004. The address is 20 Fenchurch Street and the skyscraper has been lovingly nicknamed Walkie-Talkie. It’s 155 meters tall and the Sky Garden spans three storeys and offers 360° views of London. You can admire the views of London from several observation decks and from an open-air terrace where the use of a selfie-stick is prohibited. Sky Garden rightfully holds the claim of the highest public garden. If you get thirsty or hungry go to Sky Pod Bar or to City Garden Bar. There are also two restaurants: Fenchurch restaurant and Darwin Brasserie. If you want to have a meal at those restaurants then you should book in advance and you use a separate lift from the tourists who are just visiting the Sky Garden.
How to reach Sky Garden
The nearest tube station is the Monument. From there walk for a couple of minutes.
How to visit Sky Garden
Even though the visit is free you need to book it in advance. You can usually do it up to two-three weeks in advance of your planned visit and you need to print out your booking confirmation and bring it with you for your visit. Also, you need to have your ID or your passport with you for your visit. Arrive around 10 minutes before your scheduled visit and wait in queue. Then you’ll walk through airport-like security and be prepared to have your bag searched. After that you’ll enter the express lift with the rest of the people and be at the Sky Garden in a matter of seconds. When you leave the lift, you have all the time you need to admire the views of London and maybe have a drink or eat something. There are also toilets. There are several guards who control whether visitors obey the rules eg. no food or drinks at the open air terrace and no selfie-sticks.
at the Sky Garden, May 2016
London is a vast, cosmopolitan and modern city but it has also got a very rich history. It is easy to forget this fact when you’re standing among the newest skyscrapers and high-rise buildings in the very heart of London: the City of London. But that history is actually quite present. You just need to know where to look. So the next time you’re walking down the busy streets of London look up or look down and you just might spot the London Stone for example. However, the easiest way to learn about the history of London is to visit the Museum of London which is close to the Barbican center and St Paul’s.
First impressions: After visiting the Sky garden I walked down the streets of London in the direction of the Museum of London. The building itself is modern but ugly I dare say. However, as you well know the looks aren’t important, it’s what’s inside that counts. The entrance is free which is great! I entered the museum and followed the suggested route to see all the permanent exhibitions.
remains of old city wall
What can you see in the museum? The museum was established in 1976 and there are currently plans to move the museum to a new location. According to Wikipedia the Museum of London houses the largest urban history collection in the world. The permanent exhibitions include: London before London (prehistory mainly), Roman London, Medieval London, War, Plague & Fire, Expanding City, People’s City gallery (there’s an actual red phone box!), World City, The City Gallery (very small) and the London 2012 Cauldron.
Money, money, money..makes the world go round! I strongly disagree! I’m not like Carrie from SATC that my money hangs in my closet but I can still see where my money has gone..I just need to open a photo album and see all my beautiful travel photos! Thus visiting a bank museum isn’t exactly something I’d normally do.
On my recent trip to London (this May) I visited the Bank of England Museum. I have done a lot of free museums in London and when I saw that the Museums at Night festival coincides with my visit to London I decided to choose one of the museums that stayed open longer because of the festival. I browsed the Museums at Night website and I decided to go to the Bank of England Museum mainly because it was free and small and looked interesting enough.
Bank of England Museum
Of course, the Bank of England Museum is situated in the Bank of England building in the City of London. The closest tube station is Bank but even though I have walked around the City before and have certainly been on the Royal Exchange square more than once I was slightly confused to where is exactly the entrance to the museum. The Bank is to the left of the square but the museum’s entrance is in the small street Bartholomew Lane.
At the museum’s entrance you go through airport-like security and then go into a big room. It was around 7 pm (the museum is usually open until 5 pm) and there were quite a few people wandering around the museum. I was looking at some old photos of the bank building when a museum guide approached me and started speaking quickly about the bank’s history. I don’t know whether this happens usually. I guess this was because of the Museums at Night festival. I saw several other people looking amused too when they were approached by other museum guides.
I arrived to London on Wednesday evening (11 May). I stayed at a hotel at Norfolk square, Paddington so naturally the first thing I did in the morning was to visit the Paddington bear at the Paddington railway station (platform 1). I didn’t realize until the last evening that there was another statue of Paddington bear at the Norfolk square’s garden. Have you seen the Paddington bear movie? I remember going to the cinema with my husband on a Sunday morning in December a few years ago. We were the only adults there without the kids. Oops! Of course, the movie was based on a series of books written by Michael Bond and illustrated by Peggy Fortnum and other artists. The first book was published back in 1958 but Paddington bear’s popularity is still very strong today.
Paddington bear at the Paddington station
I’m an old-fashioned gal. I don’t appreciate much modern art (sorry, but I just don’t understand it) nor do I like modern ugly apartment buildings. I think that castles and palaces of bygone eras showed more our engineering and artistic abilities than any modern-day skyscrapers. I might be wrong but who would say that some modern-day church is more beautiful than St.Peter’s basilica in Vatican? (apologies to all architects out there, this is simply my ignorant opinion). I appreciate Art Nouveau style and Art Deco and that’s as modern as I get.
But there are a few contemporary architecture gems that I really like. What a surprise one of them is in London. Of course, it’s the Gherkin. That’s just its informal name by which it’s widely known but its actual name is the name of the street where it is: 30 St Mary Axe. It’s in the financial heart of London known as the City Of London. It was opened in 2004 and it’s 180m tall. It’s not the tallest building in London but it’s definitely one of the most interesting ones. During my first visit to London back in 2006 my BFF and me wandered around the City of London because we wanted to see the famous Llyod’s building. It’s really fascinating but in the end I liked better the Gherkin:)
What can I say? The Romans would say: De gustibus non disputandum est or in English In matters of taste, there can be no disputes or more known as There is no accounting for taste (that’s just me showing off my Latin language knowledge). One of the reasons I love London so much is this mix of the old and the new. So, after all I might not be as traditional or old-fashioned as I believe I am. But maybe London is just an exception to the rule 🙂
Who hasn’t heard of the Tower Bridge or the London Eye?But have you ever heard of the Monument in City of London? I have and I climbed it and I even got a certificate to prove it :).
My husband and I spent a week in Scotland in 2012. Of course, we had flights to Edinburgh via London so on our way back home we had a day in London before our return flight. It was his first ever visit to London and I tried to show him all the usual top tourist attractions and some of my personal favourites as well ( so I took him to my favourite pub for instance). However, in doing so I saw and did a couple of things that were new for me as well. One of them was to see FC Chelsea’s stadium ( he has a thing for visiting football stadiums which I don’t do when I travel alone). Then, I walked around St.Katharine Docks for the first time and I got to see the Tower Bridge opening up to let the ship pass under. Don’t they say it brings luck when you see that? He made fun of me later saying that I visited London so many times but that I had to take him along to get to see the Tower Bridge lifting 🙂 Ohh, and we saw the Royal family in Edinburgh (yes, I saw Kate & William and the Queen and her king in a car in a procession to the cathedral).
St Katharine Docks