This is not about the classic attractions of London. We shall not inform you on the London Bridge or Buckingham Palace, assuming that, even if you were to be catapulted in the midst of London on one of those terribly foggy days, with no knowledge whatsoever on their history or whereabouts, you would still manage to find your way towards them (whether you wanted it or not).
This virtual spin is more of a lower key route, uniting some interesting (still famous) spots that will color your trip with an array of contemporary delights:
1. Gabriel’s Wharf and OXO Tower
Search for this chic refuge when in the South Bank area (much appreciated as a place for indulging in long walks, especially since it is so close to the Thames). Maybe naming it a refuge is a little too much, since it is quite popular with the employees of the area, but also with tourists like me and you. The quirky bit of this spot, that opened in 1988, has to do with two aspects: the shiny shops around here have been converted from garages (with colorful, old school fronts added), giving the place a unique appearance, while the place is filled with designer shops that sell one of a kind objects, for delightful souvenirs. Speaking of design, OXO Tower is nearby, with its spaces for temporary art exhibitions and its spectacular views.
2. Waterstones Library in Piccadilly
This is the place to shop if the thought of getting lost in a seemingly never ending wonderland of books appeals to you. You can visit the 5 stories of one of the most important bookshops in Europe, located in an elegant, thirties building, and be on the lookout for the newest releases in English- although you will be sure to notice what is fresh on the book market, thanks to their very discreet and yet poignant way of arranging everything. There is also a restaurant on the last floor, albeit a French one, but be sure it is nothing short of impressive…and expensive.
3. The Globe
Yes, yes, we know one wouldn’t exactly label a place such as The Globe as “contemporary”, but there is a strong reason behind this choice. First, because Shakespeare is timeless and so is the Globe, in its impressive ability to reinvent itself. Their vision of not only Shakespeare, but on the whole of drama, knows how to adjust and evolve so as to always keep things fresh and original, helping you to constantly rediscover the works of You- Know-Who and to see them in a different light. They also hold lectures, tours and exhibitions if you want to find out more about the most searched-for author on Google ever since 2004 (a very contemporary distinction, if we may add).
4. Tate Modern
Now this is a real treat and yes, it is quite famous. Located in the redesigned space of the former Bankside Power station, the architect of this impressive building was Sir Gilbert Scott, the one who concocted the emblematic red telephone box. At the Tate, they have everything from films and conferences all the way to private tours for two. Here, you can take your time while musing at the best works of British art from the 16th century up to present, but also at international pieces of art, both modern and contemporary. (You may also want to dive into the underground of this particular place, to admire the exhibitions in the mesmerizing space of the former oil tanks below the main body).
Recently named Best Family Restaurant in the Time Out Eating & Drinking Awards, The Tate café is the place to tickle your taste buds while falling in love with the view of the riverside.
5. National Theatre
King Charles compared it to a nuclear power station- no, not because of its impact on the audience, but because of the abstract look of the building, designed by Denys Lasdun. Its first artistic director was Laurence Olivier and you will notice that the largest of the three halls is named after him. And the quality of the shows is definitely in tune with the aura and the history of the place (you can enjoy the classic shows, such as Othello as well as unconventional ones, inspired by artists like Tori Amos) …the package is complete with the special deductions for those with ages between 16 and 25. If you are to arrive in summer or early autumn, go for the Inside Out Program, which puts on free (spectacular) performances and cinema screenings.
6. Royal Festival Hall
One of the world’s leading performance venues, it functions as an open-foyer centre, meaning you don’t necessarily need a ticket to admire the indoors. There is indeed a lot to be seen, or better yet, heard in this place. The London Philarmonic Orchestra gives most of its enthralling performances in this hall, but the repertoire is suited to fit all tastes, offering you everything from Mozart and Gershwin to Pink Martini. This spot, too, wants to spoil you when it comes to food, since it houses the Skylon restaurant, one more place that holds the promise to relax you with the perfect view.
7. London Wonderground
…is for those of you who like the flying colors of the circus and the cabaret environment. The place is filled with indoor and outdoor bars, and the fun pack of fairground rides, mazes, not to mention the sweet, rainbowish spiegeltents, that guarantee to bring out the playful child in you. Unfortunately, it is a seasonal attraction, from May to the end of September- so, you’d better buy the tickets straight away and get ready for London, with all its minor-and major-wondergrounds.
Some words for you 🙂
a. Array – display
b. Whereabouts – approximate location
c. Wharf – the word comes from the Old English hwearf, meaning “bank” or “shore”
d. Quirky – unconventional, surprising
e. Poignant – neat, skillful, and to the point
f. Concoct – to devise, using skill and intelligence
g. Muse – to gaze, to look at something thoughtfully
h. Mesmerizing – attracting and holding interest as if by a magic spell
i. To tickle your taste buds – to have a good taste (about food)
j. In tune with – in agreement with
k. Venue – place
l. Enthralling – holding the attention completely; fascinating
m. Maze – labyrinth
n. Rainbowish (slang) – colorful