“Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner, that I love London so…” as the oft-repeated song goes. Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner, born, raised and based in the East End that I love London so, but I don’t think it is, it’s so much more than that.
It’s a 2am bagel from Brick Lane, it’s the sense of wonder standing in the British Museum atrium staring up at Sir Norman Foster’s glass roof, it’s a Peruvian/Hungarian/Indonesian/Japanese/take your pick meal from Soho, it’s street theatre in Covent Garden’s piazza, it’s gazing at the Magna Carta in the British library, it’s shoe shopping in Selfridges, it’s window shopping in Harrods, it’s the neo-gothic extravaganza of the Houses of Parliament, it’s the view from The Shard. It is whatever you want it to be.
It’s a dynamic city that is constantly changing and re-inventing itself; pushing the boundaries of fashion, art, music and theatre. Yet it is a historic city steeped in tradition, where no matter how much things change it’s always familiar, which is infinitely comforting in this great metropolis.
It’s a city where you can be in the hustle and bustle at any time, where you can dance until 7am in Fabric but if you need a breather, there are numerous things you can do to relax and get respite from the sheer energy of this sometimes exhausting city. A walk in one of several royal parks, sure. A coffee at Climpson & Sons in historic Spitalfields market, why not?
It’s ice skating in Somerset house in the winter and it’s rooftop film clubs in the summer. It’s the city of punk music, the miniskirt, and concerts in Hyde Park. It’s the city of the Tower Bridge, Beefeaters and St. Paul’s Cathedral. It’s the city where, in the right spot, you can get a picture of the 1000-year-old Tower of London and the largest building in Western Europe.
For centuries, London has attracted people from all over the world in search of a better life. This helps make London one of the world’s most diverse cities with over 300 languages spoken daily. It’s what makes London the culinary capital of the world.
There are the Caribbean communities of Notting Hill, Dalston and Brixton, the Bangladeshi communities of Whitechapel and Brick Lane, the Jewish communities of Golders Green and Stamford Hill, the Portuguese community around South Lambeth and the Middle Eastern enclave around Edgware Road.
In any of its 33 distinct neighbourhoods, with their own looks, sounds and smells, you’re never far away from your next adventure thanks to the 156 year old engineering marvel known as the tube.
In 20 minutes you can go from the grunge centre of Camden to the affluent environs of Knightsbridge or 30 minutes from admiring at a Da Vinci in the National Gallery to being awestruck by dinosaur remains at the Natural History Museum.
People come to London to party, they come to view the palaces like Buckingham and Hampton Court, and they come to go on walks that take in the very different London’s of Charles Dickens, Jack the Ripper, and Karl Marx.
They come for world-class art, both modern at the Tate Modern and traditional at the Tate Britain and National Gallery, they come for what is currently the world’s most innovative theatre and they come to see, to explore, to take in this great city where anything is possible.
London is not an immediately lovable city. Somewhere like Paris is laid-out specifically to inspire gasps and wonder. Paris is a fling. London is a life-long love affair. You have to get to know London to truly appreciate it, but once it grabs hold of you, it will never let go. You’ll start to question why anyone would want to live anywhere else.
Samuel Johnson once said that “…when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford” and that statement is as true now as when it was uttered in 1777.
London is known by a few names: some call it ‘LDN’, some call it ‘The Big Smoke’ and some call it ‘Swinging London Town’.
Me? I call it the capital of the world.
Welcome to London, you’re going to love it.
Thanks for reading,