Cultural Guide to London
Samuel Johnson once said ‘when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.’ Whilst perhaps expressed a little strongly (there are other fantastic places in the world) Johnson was pretty accurate in his sentiments – London really does have it all going on! Today the capital is a giant cultural melting pot where a British cultural past meets a more diverse and global present. London’s galleries, museums, palaces and notable sites are all set against an innovative art, fashion, dance and music scene. Explore London’s vibrant culture with a set of wheels from easyCar.
For visitors to London, the Royal Family is often the prime attraction. Recent films such as ‘The Queen’, ’The King’s Speech’ and ‘A Royal Night Out’ have done much to peak interest in the Windsors and the history, pomp and circumstance that surrounds them. When it comes to London’s royal buildings, Buckingham Palace (the Queen’s official residence) is the real jewel in the crown. In the summer the magnificent state rooms are open for visitors to explore and it is from this palace that the family make their public appearances on the famous red draped balcony. Other historical royal houses in the capital include: Hampton Court Palace (court of King Henry VIII), Kensington Palace (London residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge), and the Tower of London (home to the Crown Jewels) – all of which are open throughout the year.
Museums and Galleries
London has a wealth of museums and permanent gallery spaces, many of which are free of charge to visit. Head to ‘Albertopolis’ (an area of South Kensington on Exhibition Road) for some of the popular museum names: the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum. If you want to see some of the world’s most famous historical finds like the Rosetta Stone and the Parthenon, make The British Museum your goal. Art more your cup of tea? Two of the four Tate Galleries (Tate Modern and Tate Britain) are located in the city and there are two National Galleries (one for portraiture and one for other art) situated near Trafalgar Square. Contemporary art doesn’t go unrepresented in London either with independent galleries, like Pace Gallery in Soho or White Cube in Shoreditch, showing modern, international pieces.
World Heritage Sites
Four of England’s sixteen UNESCO World Heritage Sites can be found in London, giving the city the highest density of protected sites in the country. Built in 1759 and awarded their UNESCO status in 2003, the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew have a special cultural significance as a place of study for botany and ecology. A forty-five minute drive from central London, Kew has an extensive set of gardens, including aquatic, grass, azalea and rock gardens. There are also glasshouses each containing a different type of plant: bonsai trees, alpine plants, palms and waterlilies. Wander through the ancient and rare trees to hunt out Kew’s collection of Henry Moore Sculptures or its hidden period buildings. Another site on the London’s heritage list is Maritime Greenwich. Notable for its astronomical studies, history and Palladian architecture, Greenwich is full of things to do and see. Visit the world’s largest Maritime Museum, take a tour round the Queen’s House, pop up to the Royal Observatory and discover the Cutty Sark.
The face of London’s culture sector has to constantly shift and evolve in the face of global competition, but London is still able to take on the big boys! The city is the third most popular filming location in the world, after Los Angles and New York, with over 14,000 hours of film shot there to date. London Fashion Week is held twice a year (with famous names such as Vivienne Westwood and Christopher Kane taking a prominent role) and the capital continues hold its place as world leader for men’s wear. London hosts a huge 250 festivals a year, including Europe’s largest street festival, Notting Hill Carnival, and the world’s leading design festival, London Design Festival.