London is perhaps one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. Its mixture of first world and third world, beggars and chauffeurs, dingy corners and trendy areas, is a bit of a shock, even for those who expect it.
With 7.5 million inhabitants in Greater London alone (reaching over 12 million if you take the metropolitan area into consideration) it is a definitely a buzzing city. No matter what time you’re out and about, it is almost guaranteed to be busy.
This hub of activity is also incredibly international and diverse. It has over 200 languages spoken within its boundaries and has countless nationalities represented in its general population.
Perhaps most difficult to come to terms with are the difficulties (and expense) of travel. Although the underground is fantastic, it is far from perfect. In preparation for the 2012 Olympics there are many closures and disturbances, especially after office hours and on weekends.
With its straight lines neatly drawn and coloured in, the underground also makes it difficult to get your bearings. Sometimes getting the bus can help you ‘map out’ the city a bit better and offers a more scenic way of getting around.
Aside from its troubles and difficulties, London is definitely a great city. No matter what your interest, London has it all.
Some of the world’s most exclusive names in fashion live and design in London, including Dame Vivienne Westwood, Paul Smith, Stella McCartney and Jimmy Choo.
Arts and culture? Take your pick! There are more than 100 world renowned museums in the city, including Tate Modern, Tate Britain, the National Gallery, the British Museum and Madame Tussauds, something for every age and every interest. A variety of them are free as well, the ones that are not often will offer discounts to students.
If shopping is what really gets your attention then London is certainly a great place to be. From high streets that teenage girls around the world dream about like Oxford Circus, to the jaw-dropping luxury of Harrods and all the way to small boutiques and charming street markets in Covent Garden and Notting Hill.
Home to some of the most successful plays around the world like ‘The Lion King,’ ‘Hairspray’ and ‘The Phantom of the Opera,’ the West End is another part of London that is well worth visiting, if only to see the beautiful and varied theaters. Tickets aren’t always difficult to get a hold of, especially if you go to a matinee performance and aren’t too fussy about your seats.
With such an international mix of people, London offers some of the best cuisine I’ve ever come across. What are you in the mood for? An elegant meal along the Thames? A gorgeous curry on Brick Lane? Some authentic Chinese noodles? Or a good old fashion carvery in proper old-fashioned English pub? Or maybe just some nice drinks in SoHo? You can have it all.
It’s so easy to get lost in the enchanting streets that hold centuries of history. Especially if you’re a bit of a book-worm like me. Charles Dickens’s novels come to life (minus the heavy smog) and in some parts of the city it’s as if Sherlock Holmes will pass you by on the street with Watson following afoot on their way to catch the illusive Moriarty.
Despite being such a big city, there are plenty of parks and gardens, from Hyde Park to Primrose Hill, that offer solace and a refreshing break from the hustle and bustle of the city.
This city of timeless classics and ever changing lifestyle, London promises its visitors an exciting and worthwhile time.
By Sam Rogers
JMU Journalism travel articles
St Stephen's Tower, home to the giant bell known as Big Ben; YouTube: London highlights