To celebrate the release of our latest London Story video featuring Mayor of London Boris Johnson, we asked Boris to be our guest editor on visitlondon.com’s homepage from 23 to 25 January 2014, populating it with some of his favourite London experiences.
While making his London Story video for us – which was filmed in a pod on The EDF Energy London Eye – Boris waxed lyrical about some of his top things to see and do in London.
“As I kid, because I was a bit of a nerd, I used to love going to the British museum where I would spend hours loitering in the Duveen galleries, looking at the Elgin Marbles – the ‘ta Elgíneia Mármara’, as they are called in Greece.”
The British Museum in Bloomsbury is the UK’s most visited tourist attraction, welcoming millions of people each year. Entry is free and provides access to an enormous wealth of historical artefacts, paintings, sculptures and scriptures from across the world (8 million in total) that make up the museum’s stores. These include the Rosetta Stone, The Elgin Marbles, the Easter Island Statue of Hoa Hakananai’a, and The Vindolanda tablets. As well as permanent exhibits, the museum curates temporary displays, and the Great Court and Reading Room are particularly popular with visitors due to their impressive architecture.
“I cycle a lot but I also particularly like walking down the canal. There’s a fantastic walk just near us along the Regent’s Canal where you see these ancient bits of industrial architecture with new dwellings springing up among them.
“The buildings have got all this glass and steel and it’s the combination that’s so attractive. It’s 18th and 19th century industrial architecture that’s been brilliantly renovated with 21st century technology. It’s a fantastically vibrant area and so unlike any other city.
“We walk down the canal for a purpose – not just because it’s romantic and beautiful but because there is a pub, called The Narrow Boat, that sells fantastic sausage and mash.”
The 8.6-mile (14km) Regent’s Canal links the River Thames in the Limehouse Basin with Little Venice in north-west London. Along its route the canal bisects ZSL London Zoo, curves along the edge of Regent’s Park, passes through the busy shopping district of Camden, and then on to Islington and on to East London’s developing landscape, such as the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. When it was built in the early 19th century, the canal’s primary function was for carrying goods; today it mainly provides a conduit for relaxation and leisure time.
“I love getting on my bicycle and riding all the way through Hackney. It is an area changing very, very fast with all these bars being opened and new startup businesses. I then go through Victoria Park, right the way to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park which is connected up in the most extraordinary way. I recommend that for a day out and particularly when we reopen the whole park this year.”
Once London secured the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, work began on this piece of land in East London to turn what was previously wasteland into a hub for Londoners and visitors alike. The initial phase saw the creation of Europe’s largest shopping mall, Westfield Stratford City, next door, followed soon after by the Olympic Stadium and its sister sporting arenas. When the London 2012 Games finished, the park closed for refurbishment but the north section has since reopened for sporting events and festivals. Incremental new openings will occur throughout 2014 including parklands featuring new plant life, affordable homes, plus a variety of public-use sports and event venues.
“[My family and I] go to Greenwich and hang out there because it has such a beautiful park. You can have a wonderful afternoon having a picnic, feeding the ducks, hiring a boat – which you can also do at the Serpentine – and all that kind of stuff.”
London’s River Thames has a number of river bus services available. To get to Greenwich you can board one at Embankment, head east past the London Eye, Tower of London, Canary Wharf, and onto Greenwich where you disembark to enjoy The Cutty Sark, the National Maritime Museum, the Royal Observatory Greenwich and Greenwich Park. As well as hosting the Prime Meridian Line, this 183 acre (74 hectare) Royal Park dates back to 1427 and offers a stunning vantage point from which you can look across London at landmarks such as The O2 Arena, Canary Wharf and The Gherkin. There is also an enclosure for wildlife including deer and foxes.
24 Hours in London: Food & World-Class Attractions
“London has a superb range of places to eat and you are spoilt for choice for Michelin starred restaurants – not that I go to Michelin Star restaurants! I love this café called Frank’s in Southwark Street, where you can get one of the best fry-ups in the world or I can recommend a Turkish joint in Islington, called Pasha.
“It is very, very important to see the British Museum and the Tower of London. The Tower was built in Norman times and is the most interesting example of how London thrives on alien imports because every stone of that initial structure came from Caen in France. Visitors should also go and see the crown jewels.
“There are so many unbelievable hidden jewels in London, like the Wallace Collection for instance.
“Then you’ve got the Tate Modern – which is not only the biggest but has the most number of visitors of any modern art museum in the world.”
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What would you recommend to visitors to London?