I don’t know much about architecture and I’m even less up on street art. But I do know that I was awestruck by both on a recent trip to London. From the overwhelming grandeur of iconic spots like St.Paul’s Cathedral and the Houses of Parliament, to museums whose physical spaces are as impressive as the treasures they house, to uber-modern office space, to tunnels adorned with eye-popping graffiti, words can’t do justice to these places. So, I’ll keep my ramblings to a minimum and simply display a few things that caught my eye (and my emotions).
Westminster Abbey looks particularly stunning against a perfect blue sky—which we were fortunate to have over the Christmas holiday! Be sure to go inside. The enormous height and disproportionally narrow width of the nave, with its towering Gothic arches, is a glorious engineering masterpiece. The ornate side chapels are beautiful, especially the Lady Chapel.
Some call this an eyesore, but I love the medieval age church of St. Andrew Undershaft in the shadow of one of London’s most prominent modern buildings: St Mary’s Axe, better known as the Gherkin.
This is a super cool place near Waterloo Station that we probably would not have found had we not signed on for Tally Ho Cycle Tours. The 300 m Leake St. Tunnel, also known as the Banksy Tunnel after the famous British graffiti artist, is an ever-changing display of mesmerizing art. The Tweety Bird image at the top of the post was also taken there.
The physical spaces of many London museums are extraordinary. We loved the exquisite detailing of the Natural History Museum. During the Christmas holidays there’s an outdoor skating rink and colourful old carousel in front of the building, which adds to the charm (also makes waiting in line a bit more bearable). The overwhelming size of the British Museum’s glass-roofed Great Court is alone worth the visit.
Another hidden gem that we discovered thanks to Tally Ho Cycling is the provocative mural in East End London, depicting the rise against Fascism in the 1936 Battle at Cable Street.
Piccadilly Circus is a stimulus overload kind of place with large neon signs, convergence of numerous busy streets, and masses of pedestrians, buses and cabs. However, I found the elegantly curved buildings on Regent Street with their harmonious facades strangely calming.
Yet more interesting graffiti can be found along the small streets that intersect Brick Lane. Take the tube to Liverpool or Shoreditch stations and spend a few hours walking through this vibrant neighbourhood.
Another example of the old meets new, is the wonderful Horse Guards building, dating back to 1751 with Europe’s largest Ferris wheel, the London Eye, in the background.
The cobblestone walkways and beautiful Victorian architecture of Leadenhall Market transport you back in time, but the shops and restaurants at this covered mall are chic and modern. There has been a market at this site since Roman times. More recently, Leadenhall Market’s claim to fame is its appearance in several Harry Potter movies.
Check out more of London’s eye candy, like the Parliament Buildings and Tower Bridge in my London Top Five post.