Travel

London: A World Inside A City

London-a world inside a city
Written by Shadip Rahman

I carry the weight of millions. Millions of pounds- both in weight, and currency. Each day I awake to footsteps eagerly rushing through my veins- the streets of the city.

Each night I drift to sleep with the lull of cars passing and the glowing light of streetlamps. I hold the lives of creators, thinkers, doers– Londoners. My diversity brings me strength- I am built upon it.
London

I hold in me centuries of deeply rooted history. My ancient bricks and concrete still hold up among the newly developed, modern structures. I am one of the fastest growing cities in the world- a global focal point, if you will. I am London.



My lungs stretch each morning with the air of promise.

Each day I am progressing, getting things done, inventing, creating, working, and enjoying. This morning, I watch as thousands of Londoners briskly make their way to the tube; off to work.

My eye is caught in particular by the cafes dotting my streets. People enjoy coffee, tea, and breakfast in the quaint, bustling atmosphere. Writers work on novels. Artists draw in sketchbooks.

Others simply gaze out the windows at the passersby, letting their minds run through philosophical thoughts.

 

After breakfast, tourists head off to the magnetic pull of London’s finest attractions. The London Eye draws in a crowd before the day has even started.

London

I overhear children’s squeals of excitement, shrieks of thrill and worry as they near the top, shouts of joy as it speeds up, and long-drawn sighs of awe with the spellbinding view.

From morning to night, the London Eye does not disappoint. London transforms from a city of ancient architecture to one of endless lights as the hours pass. You won’t want to miss it.

For more breathtaking views from above, tourists run over to the Emirates Airline Cable Car. Gazing at the city below, watching people mill about, bikers whiz by, and buses stop and start feels almost unreal. I listen again to the familiar sounds of awe and amazement from the travelers.

I then follow those who are passionate about history over to Buckingham Palace, Hampton Court Palace, and other regal areas to see history come alive.

Buckingham Palace - London 2014

Learning about these places in textbooks and seeing small pictures doesn’t compare to the real thing. The atmosphere is electric- preserved history right before your eyes.

What was once so integral in the shaping of our modern society now lies, resting, for all to see. You feel the spirits of those before- past kings and queens, Henry VIII, and everyone you’ve learned about in school. You can imagine the century defining moments that went down mere footsteps away from your own.



While in the realm of royalty, hundreds flock towards the outer gates to watch the changing of the guard. This is history in action- centuries of tradition kept up to this very day.

It feels like being both in the distant past and the very present simultaneously. You feel as if you’re not just witnessing, but experiencing history continually unfolding.

As I feel the comfort of their rhythmic march, black boots against concrete, I know things are alive and well.

 

After a morning of sightseeing, London’s vast assortment of eateries begin to fill. I feel the shift, the movement across streets, hungry city-goers pausing the day’s activities to refuel. As a city with one of the most diverse food options in the world, everyone is pleased.

Hosting traditional favorites, like fish and chips, among modern developments like vegan and vegetarian places, London’s diversity is truly displayed during mealtime.

You can get almost any kind of food- as a city with one of the most diverse ethnic makeups in the world, a culture of fusion, evolved, and traditional is all within walking distance. I watch as friends meet up, employees relish their break time, and newcomers savor the unique flavors.

Budget is not a problem here, as London holds a wide variety of price point options. From cheap, quick, yet delicious food trucks, to elegant, ornate restaurants, and everything in between, it is suited for all. Those who’ve heard of the legendary Nando’s may opt to give it a whirl, while others may experiment with Xi’an Impression.



Don’t forget about afternoon tea! Stop in for a visit at Brown’s Hotel Tea Tox for a healthy spin with avocado hummus, fresh fruits, and gluten free brownies. Or try The Ritz for a time honored treat that continues to please.

Brown's Hotel

Families visit the teddy-bear-giving, child-pleasing, yet opulent Langham, while creatives seeking an immersive aesthetic experience journey to Sketch.

First timers and regular Londoners alike regularly hunt for new afternoon tea restaurants to try out from the city’s growing assortments, ranging in the classically traditional to the utterly modern.

 

Re-energized, and ready to continue the day, our Londoners move back out into the streets, with a new hunger for adventure.

Rent a bike, or hop on the metro to find Big Ben. Although it’s currently closed for repairs, just seeing this monumental piece of history takes you back in time.

Thousands marvel at its massive structure, intricate architectural opulence, and fine detailed finishing. If any clock can take you back in time, it’s this one.

Thinking about the millions of others who have contemplated over this clock before you is mind bending. Such grand creations are the defining features of a city like London. I hold up Big Ben with pride, as a symbol to all of our presence in time, acting as a reminder to make every moment count.

 

After being amazed by some of London’s biggest and boldest offerings, many choose to take a stroll in one of the countless parks available. If the time is right, you might just catch the twelve thousand roses in bloom over at Queen Mary’s Gardens in Regent’s Park. Another large one, Hyde Park holds both history and beauty.

Queen Mary's Gardens

Having hosted demonstrations and protests by the Suffragettes, and still acting as a place for speeches, debates, performances, and other political activism, there’s always something going on. You can even go boating with swans- a seemingly impossible thing to do in a city.

 

Choose from a collection of gardens such as Kensington, Chelsea Psychic, and Kyoto. For one of the largest parts, with a high point perfect for viewing the area, Hampstead Heath is the place to go.

Featuring ponds, grassy stretches of land, and woods, it’s the ultimate way to reconnect with nature amidst the concrete jungle skyscrapers in the city.

 

If you’d rather water over grass, London has just the thing. Take a walk along the River Thames- or even a ferry, for a more immersive feel! Here you’ll see joggers, bikers, and walkers contemplating the view, pondering thoughts that stretch as far as the river itself.

You’ll be among the city at its most authentic- people moving from place to place, passing through time and space, existing in this very moment, this moment you all get to share. Movement is what builds a city. So, take a walk, and become a part of the city itself.



If the sunny weather holds up, make your way towards Primrose Hill to watch the sunset over the city. You could pack a picnic to munch away the last rays of sunlight, or head out to try another one of London’s countless restaurants afterwards.

primrose hill

Each evening, I feel the tracing tips of sun saying goodbye to the concrete and stone buildings, color saturated grass and flowers, and people preparing to end the day. It’s one of the most beautiful, serene moments to catch among the speeding pace of the city.

 

For dinner, if you’re feeling adventurous, try out London’s Dans Le Noir for a sensory handstand. At this daring restaurant, diners eat in the dark, fumbling for forks until they get the rhythm and unlock senses they had never used before. Don’t worry- staff guide you to your seat and explain everything that’s going on, so you’re not left completely in the dark!

 

After dinner, night life begins. Brixton Academy in south London often holds live music from world class musicians. Among those who have performed are The Smiths, Madonna, and New Order.

Ben Howard @ Brixton Academy

While in Brixton, check out the historic and diverse Electric Avenue, where you can buy quirky, handmade items from local shops. As the first street in London to get electric lights, it’s interesting to marvel at how this changed it’s fate. Of course, there’s live music, too.

The O2 hosts many live music performances as well. This modern center is the ultimate spot to visit, with friends or to make new ones! You can climb to the top, walk along the dome to the roof, and view the city among the skyscrapers.



Head home to one of London’s countless hotels. Try Ambassadors Bloomsbury for London’s rated number one best value hotel (just $103 a night).

Preparing for the flight home, British Airways offers tickets at an affordable price point- somewhere around $100-$150. Online booking websites like Kayak help search to find the cheapest tickets available. Searching and booking is made easy!

 

The next day, rain may have settled back in. Fog, glistening streets, and dripping windowpanes are London at it’s most authentic. This aesthetic atmosphere can only be truly experienced while in the city. Fortunately, there’s plenty to do indoors.

London boasts a wide range of museums, many of which are free! For art, classic and contemporary, visit the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. Or head to the waterfront to see Tate Modern on the Southbank; alone, an impressive external sight already, this museum hosts contemporary styles, including Picasso, Delauney, and Klee.

Those who love history can scout out the National History museum, and greet it’s famous Diplodocus skeleton. The Science Museum is right next door, and not far along is the Victoria and Albert Museum of cultural history (including artwork and fashion).

Victoria and Albert museum

The British Museum holds the Rosetta Stone, mummies, and an exhibition of archaeology. For a modern twist, the Samsung Digital Discovery Centre provides engaging activities related to today’s evolving technology.

 

The BFI (British Film Institute) is the place to go for film lovers. Shoppers can visit the luxurious Harrods department store, walking where customers like Oscar Wilde and the Royal Family have purchased London’s finer offerings.

Bond Street and Oxford Street possess similar riches; from elegant jewels, to glittering diamonds, from intricate watches, to designer handbags, all are guarded by security.

For shopping beyond just the window, Old Spitalfields, Greenwich, Southbank Centre, and Broadway Markets, along with Covent Garden make for good visits. Beyond Retro, Rokit, Cenci, and many other stores peddle vintage fashion. There’s a market for everyone.

 

Harry Potter lovers must visit Kings Cross- station nine and three quarters is real! For more Harry Potter, the Warner Bros Studio Tour explains the making of Harry Potter, where you see the actual set and props used to make the iconic movies.

 

London is known for magical bookshops that possess timeless, transformative qualities. Whether to do work in, write, read, purchase, browse, or simply admire, bookshops are a defining part of London culture.

Travel the world in Stanfords, reflect on life in the London Review Bookshop, admire the stained glass windows and ornate wooden shelves at Daunt Books- Marylebone, learn about art, architecture, and photography at Koenig Books, and discover Hatchards, London’s oldest surviving bookstore.

 

For a unique sweet treat, visit some of London’s premium dessert shops, featuring world-class chocolate, pastry, and confectionery chefs.

You can savor gourmet eclairs by Belgian master chocolatier-patissier, Pierre Marcolini. Share a colossal Freakshake at Molly Bakes with friends or family.

Experience authentic macarons at Ladurée, try the famout Ben’s Cookies, discover Japanese sweets like mochi at Minamoto Kitchoan Japanese Confectionary, or devour a monstrous waffle with all the toppings at Wafflemeister. Whatever your tastes, you can go around the world and back in London.




For your final night, if you time it correctly, you can take a candelit tour of Sir John Soane’s (the Bank of England’s architect) home. Fenchurch Street can take you up above, in the Sky Garden for free (if you reserve a spot) allowing you one last eye-catching, time-stopping view of the lit nighttime city.

London also has late gallery and museum openings, hosting events, talks, screenings, performances, workshops, tours, concerts, exhibits, and more.

 

London lives and breathes through the people that travel and inhabit it. Enjoy your time as you meld with the city- as you leave you’ll have made an impression on it as it will have on you. Make your stay as unforgettable as possible.

Jasmine Josh
UC Berkeley
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About the author

Shadip Rahman

Discover the world with me.
I’m glad you found your way to Our website! Since you are here, I assume you need some advice on traveling. I’ll be happy to help you with any information you might need to make your travel experience unforgettable.

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