After a few years of living in London, we have come to a conclusion that it would take a lifetime to get to know this city. We especially like those places which are free from the crowds and everyday rush, where we can see something interesting or kick back in an interesting environment.
One of such places, located in the very heart of London, more precisely, in the City of London, is Barbican. The Barbican Estate is a remarkable spot for lovers of architecture, nature and culture. It was built between 1960-80’s in a brutalist style. Some say it is an architectural gem, while others consider it an architectural carbuncle that does not look good even on sunny days. It is here that the Barbican Centre, the largest European art centre, is located. However, the biggest surprise for us in this concrete maze was the Barbican Conservatory. This is the second largest palm house in London, with two thousand species of tropical plants and hundreds of tropical fish. Three slender concrete 42-storey blocks of flats tower over the buildings of Barbican.
Railwaying through the city
From the City of London, it is worth moving towards the Excel market hall until you reach Royal Victoria station, the so-called DLR. Built in the 1980s, the new unattended Docklands Light Railway is an attraction especially for children, as they can sit in front of the wagon like a train driver. On the other hand, there is the Emirates Air Line, with its cable car floating in the air and running from the Royal Docks to the other side of the Thames. Some say it is a much cheaper alternative to the London Eye that needs no introduction. We tried this line when we were going to Greenwich Peninsula. The gondola ride over the Thames takes about 10 minutes. From the car located at an altitude of 90 meters you can enjoy an impressive view of London – on the one hand the Royal Docks, and on the other Canary Wharf and the O2 arena. Thrill seekers and travel freaks can stay here longer and walk from one end of the O2 to the other in just an hour and a half.
If London, then Greenwich
Although we have been to Greenwich several times, we still have not seen everything. No wonder, as this place is filled to the brim with attractions. The area of the old town, the park and the historic buildings of the Greenwich complex are on the UNESCO World Heritage List – everything within walking distance. The National Maritime Museum is the largest facility of its kind in the world, with more than two million exhibits. In March 2019, after a major renovation, it will be possible to see one of the wonders of Baroque painting in Great Britain – the Painted Hall at the Old Royal Naval College. Everyone should also stop and admire the Cutty Sark – a 19th-century clipper that broke many speed records when transporting tea from China to Great Britain. At the Queen’s House, you can see the world-famous collection of artworks. The heart of the house is the Great Hall with a black and white marble floor. We love the Tulip Stairs. The oval staircase impresses not only with shape, but also with colour and the technique. The construction from the 17th century, made of wrought iron with stylized floral decorations, has become the favourite motif of photographers visiting the gallery. Next, you can go to the Royal Observatory with the historic prime meridian and planetarium. From the park located on the hills, you can admire the city panorama, beautiful views of the River Thames and the Canary Wharf skyscrapers. A trip to this part of London should be crowned with a visit to Greenwich Market, where you can try street food from all around the world.
What to try?
When it comes to British specialties, everyone knows fish and chips and the no less popular English breakfast. When asked the question “What to eat?” in London, British friends will answer that you definitely have to try a burger, of course with British beef, order Sunday roast at least once, or try afternoon tea. Afternoon tea was introduced to England in 1840 by Anna Maria Russell, Duchess of Bedford. The duchess was hungry and needed a light meal between dinner and supper served late in the evening. Afternoon tea consists of sandwiches and cakes, usually arranged on a tiered stand, served with a pot of good tea. The sweets include the famous scones, which are a kind of sweet rolls that are covered with thick cream (clotted cream) and jam. Afternoon tea is a part of British culture. Up to this day, it has been popular to invite friends for this afternoon treat. The first two dishes can be bought in many pubs and restaurants, and afternoon tea can be found in good cafés, especially in hotels, galleries and museums.
History in the heart of the city
Our next favourite attraction – the Wallace Collection, is located five minutes from the crowded Oxford Street and Selfridges department store, where you can do shopping and admire the famous Christmas lighting. Here you can go back in time. This is a museum that houses wonderful artworks collected in the 18th and 19th centuries. In this gallery, we value dignified silence and the chance to contemplate the art while sitting on the soft benches present in many exhibition rooms. The spacious, often gilded and silk rooms house a collection of French paintings, furniture and porcelain. Many of the exhibits belonged to Madame de Pompadour and Queen Marie Antoinette. Among the most valuable are also paintings by Rembrandt, Titian, Canaletto and an unusual collection of bladed weapons and armors from around the world.