Most people have a well-defined idea of “London”—staid tradition, afternoon tea, heavy ales, and cultured accents in tweed. People with this notion of London can easily complete their vacation in 3min. by making their way to the banks of the Thames and staring pointedly at the gilded heights of Big Ben, but this would be to miss the true charm of this expansive, diverse place.
Despite its weighty history, the city today is not all ghost tours, beefeaters, and double-decker buses. Beyond Buckingham Palace and the blinding lights of Piccadilly Circus, London is a living, breathing metropolis, home to more people than any other city in the European Union. Comprised of 32 boroughs along with the City, London can seem at times more like a conglomerate of villages than a unified city, but each part’s unique heritage and character contributes to the big picture. Thanks to the feisty independence and diversity of each area, the London “buzz” is continually on the move—every few years a previously disregarded neighborhood explodes into cultural prominence.
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The London Top 5
St. Paul's Cathedral
It’s something of a challenge to enter St. Paul’s Cathedral and not take the Lord’s name in vain.
London has no shortage of lovely churches steeped in history. But Westminster Abbey stands out as the best combination of historical importance, breathtaking beauty, and a still-vibrant community of worshipers.
The National Gallery presides over Trafalgar Sq. and is perhaps even more impressive than the square itself.
Museum of London
The Museum of London is an exhaustive celebration of the city.
Imperial War Museum
Housed in what was once the infamous Bedlam insane asylum, the Imperial War Museum is mad for history.