5 Best Places to hang out in London, UK
By: Cindy Eve
London; a vast, thriving metropolis of 2 cities and 32 boroughs, with a vibrant mix of places to hang out; you are spoilt for choice. Just about every week during the year, there is some event or festival taking place, and it's sometimes hard to choose what to do. Likewise with 'best places to hangout'.
So, to give you a headsup on some great places to hang out in London,I have listed areas which, although all within a few minutes walk of each other, with the exception of St Paul's, which is situated in the City of London, each have their own personality and offer a totally different and unique experience.
One of London's most popular tourist attractions, Covent Garden served as a fruit and vegetable market for much of it's existence.
The largest in England, the market used to cover the whole of the square and occupied many of the buildings. With a long and illustrious yet varied history, Covent Garden has over the years been transformed beyond all recognition from when it first got it's name. Part of the area was walled off for use as arable land and orchards by Westminster Abbey by 1200, and was referred to as "the garden of the Abbey and Convent". In 1540 Henry VIII took the land belonging to the Abbey, including, what by now was called "the Covent Garden".
There are a vast number of entertainment options: cinema, clubs and nightlife, events, opera and ballet, pubs, bars, cafes, restaurants, shopping, sightseeing and theatre, as well as a craft market called the Apple Market. Covent Garden is a great place to hang out, a venue that pulses with vibrant energy no matter the time of day.
A place where you could start the day with breakfast, go shopping at any number of shops or stalls, stop for coffee and cake (or tea and scones), cheer at the antics and acrobatics of the street performers, then have lunch with either a British or International flavour at any one of 442 restaurants, go see a movie, afterward which you could stop off for a pre-dinner drink at a pub, then go for dinner and finally head off to the theatre......all without having to leave the area.
The Covent Garden area has long been associated with theatre:
The Royal Opera House, Bow Street, often referred to as simply "Covent Garden", originally opened as the Theatre Royal in Covent Garden on the 7th of December 1732, the present building is actually the 3rd Theatre on the site.
The Theatre Royal Drury Lane, in Catherine Street, which had it's origins in a patent granted on the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660. The most recent of four incarnations, the first of which opened in 1663, making it the oldest continuously used theatre in London. Theatre Royal has evolved via several auditoria to the present famous building. The first ballet was staged at Theatre Royal in 1717.
Right next door to Covent Garden is London's Transport Museum.
Covent Garden tube station on the Piccadilly Line. They do sometimes close the station due to overcrowing, don't despair......walk from either Leicester Square or Piccadilly Circus tube stations, which are a short walk away.
Chinatown is famous throughout London and beyond, for its food. With 78 restaurants, you can sample cuisine from all over Asia including Cantonese, Szechuan, Mongolian, Malaysian and more.
Boasting a huge range of shops, bars, restaurants, events, courses and experiences that you might not realise are there, Chinatown's not just about restaurants – it's about the community that lives there. There’s more to this vibrant part of London's Soho than meets the eye. In what is a relatively small area you can find a large number of shops offering their wares; herbal remedy treatments, hairdressers, pharmacists, reflexology specialists and travel agencies, as well as 12 bars and pubs.
Chinatown with a long and rich history that stretches back to the 17th Century has had many a story told about the people and events that live and work in the area. Present day Chinatown now encompasses Gerrard St, the bottom half of Wardour St, Rupert St and Rupert Court, a section of Shaftesbury Avenue, Lisle St, Macclesfield Street, Newport Place, Newport Court and Little Newport Street.
A Daily Telegraph article in 1970, titled “The Strange Community of Gerrard Street”, highlights Chinatown’s evolution from an area of solely restaurants to a community serviced by “Chinese barbers, Chinese beauty parlours, Chinese mini-cabs, accountants, bookshops and libraries, supermarkets, travel agents, gambling clubs and even a chamber of trade”.
The community holds several festivals throughout the year; one of which is the extravagant 'Chinese New Year' celebrations in February each year.
You can reach China Town with an easy walk from either Leicester Square, Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus or Tottenhamcourt Road.
At the heart of London's Westminster, is one of the city's most vibrant open spaces; one of the most famous squares in the UK and the world.
A great place to hang out, pulsating with the ebb and flow of human and vehicular traffic, Trafalgar Square plays host to a number of events, festivals and exhibitions during the year.
Enjoy the splash of water from spurting fountains that gush from exotic sculptures, clamber up onto the bronze lions that face off around the base of Nelson's column for a photo opp with a difference, or stop and admire the latest exhibition on the 4th plinth.
Trafalgar Square is close to and surrounded by magnificent museums, galleries, historic buildings and cultural spaces, including the National Gallery, where you can see Van Gogh's 'Sunflowers' amongst many other fantastic and fabulous paintings.....for FREE!
Climb the stairs to the National Gallery patio for a fab view of Whitehall towards Big Ben. At the base of the stairs is a restaurant where you could stop off for a cup of coffee or a snack. To the right of the stairs are some benches where you can sit and relax while you enjoy the sights.
Trafalgar Square often plays host to many events in the city, transformed from it's usual appearance into any number of guises; e.g. The Maze in August 2010, or Chinese New Year (an annual event), Malaysia Night, Thai Festival, St Patrick's Day Parade, Trafalgar Parade, and of course the annual Christmas Tree from Norway, amongst many others.
Trafalgar is named for when the French were defeated in a decisive battle at sea off the west coast of Spain near Trafalgar.
Now presided over by Lord Horatio Nelson who lead the British to victory at the Battle of Trafalgar. Each year in October, celebrations are held in his honour. A short walk takes you to Leicester Square (behind the National Gallery) or to the right to Charing Cross.
Across the way is St Martin's in the Field Church, also to be seen on the perimeter are Canada House and South Africa House. Lord Nelson atop his column faces along Whitehall towards the House of Parliament aka Westminster Palace, where you can see Big Ben. King Charles I, seated on his horse on a small island at the head of Whitehall, faces in the same direction.
a short walk from either: Charing Cross on the Northern Line, or Leicester Square on the Northern and Piccadilly Lines as well as any number of buses.
I have placed Leicester Square 2nd to last because at the time of writing the lovely garden in the centre of the square is boarded up, undergoing a renovation prior to the 2012 Olympics - however the night-life thrives and Leicester Square buzzes with energy!
Leicester Square, a pedestrianised square in the West End of London,is at the centre of London's entertainment and social scene, with clubs, bars, pubs, restaurants, fast-food take-aways, major cinemas, and home to several nightclubs; often very busy, particularly on Friday and Saturday evenings.
Leicester Square is the centre of London's cinema land, and one of the signs marking the Square bears the legend "Theatreland". A prime location in London for major film premières, where you could get to meet the likes of Tom Cruise, Emma Thompson and many, many other stars as they walk along the red carpet. The square is surrounded by floor mounted plaques with film stars names and cast handprints, and within the square are plaques showing the distances to various places around the world .
Leicester Square co-hosts the London Film Festival each year, and is the home for tkts, formerly known as the Official London Half-Price Theatre Ticket Booth.
A tourist hub, it is also a hotbed of historic details, frequented by many famous and influential Londoners. In the middle of the Square is a small park where you can see a statue of Charlie Chaplin, and in the centre is a 19th century statue of William Shakespeare surrounded by dolphins. Pic 14 a duplicate of the one in Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey.
Named after Robert Sidney, 2nd Earl of Leicester, who purchased four acres (1.6 hectares) in St. Martin's Field in 1630, by 1635 he had built himself a large house, Leicester House, at the northern end (subsequently demolished in 1791). The area in front of the house was enclosed, depriving inhabitants of St. Martin's Parish of their right to use the previously common land. The parishioners appealed to King Charles I, and he appointed three members of the Privy Council to arbitrate. Lord Leicester was ordered to keep part of his land (thereafter known as Leicester Field and later as Leicester Square) open for the parishioners.
The area was developed in the 1670s. It was initially fashionable and Leicester House was once residence of Frederick, Prince of Wales. By the late 18th century, the Square was no longer a smart address and by the 19th Century began to serve as a venue for popular entertainments peculiar to the era. Several hotels grew up around the square making it popular with visitors to London. The square remains the heart of the West End entertainment district today.
During the Labour government's 1979 Winter of Discontent, garbage collectors went on strike and Leicester Square was used as an overflow dump, earning it the nickname of "Fester Square".
Just off Leicester SquareHippodrome, London
The Venue Leicester Square (West End theatre)
Global Radio has its headquarters on the east side of Leicester Square, close to the Odeon Leicester Square. The building houses the radio stations 95.8 Capital FM, Classic FM, Xfm London, Choice FM, Gold, Heart and LBC.
The square regularly hosts a fair each winter and a stage is erected for performances connected to other events such as the Chinese New Year.
Leicester Square tube station on the Northern and Piccadilly lines. Walk from Trafalgar Square, Charing Cross, China Town, Covent Graden and Piccadilly Circus. There are a number of buses that service the area.
And now for something really differentSt Paul's Cathedraland I am sure you must be wondering why I have included this on my list!
The steps of St Paul's are a wonderful place to hang out while enjoying the energy of the area, and watch people as they come and go. If you sit there long enough, you feel yourself easing into the fabric of the cathedral, listening to the bells chime the hours, absorbing centuries of sound, and watching the flow of traffic as it ferries good citizens along ancient highways rich with the history of the city.
The steps of St Paul's have featured in many ceremonies over the years with a rich tapestry of events. They featured in the famous movie 'Mary Poppins' and supported the feet of Princess Diana on her wedding day.
The steps also feature in the Lord Mayor's Show as the Lord Mayor is welcomed into the city and blessed by the Dean of St Paul’s, a ceremony that takes place on the steps for all the citizens of the city to witness
Take a stroll around the perimeter of the cathedral for a look at the statues and sculptures erected in the churchyard, particularly that of St Paul and the fountain on the east side of the gardens. While you are strolling around the perimeter, be sure to look up at the wonderful carvings of cherubs that adorn the outer walls.
The statue of Queen Anne in the forecourt of St Paul's Cathedral is a copy of an original by Francis Bird, erected in 1712, and surrounded by heavy cast iron railing, a standing figure in white marble on a high, shaped base of Portland stone. In front is the royal coat of arms and at each corner a seated symbolic figure.
St Paul's is still a vibrant part of city life. Concerts and recitals are held every week, and ancient civic ceremonies are still enacted annually by the City's guilds. You might like to time your visit to end in time for Evensong at 5.00 pm (Mon-Sat).
The crypt of St Paul's Cathedral is wonderfully quiet and peaceful place for a meal or refreshments.
A cathedral dedicated to St Paul has stood on this site since 604AD,and throughout the cathedral has remained a busy, working church where millions come to reflect and find peace.
It is generally reckoned to be London's fifth St Paul's Cathedral, all having been built on the same site since AD 604. The cathedral is one of London's most famous and most recognisable sights. At 365 feet (111m) high, it was the tallest building in London from 1710 to 1962, and its dome is also among the highest in the world.
St Paul’s is not only an iconic part of the London skyline but also a symbol of the hope, resilience and strength of the city and nation it serves. Above all, St Paul’s Cathedral is a lasting monument to the glory of God.
Two million visitors and worshippers who come to St Paul’s each year can witness Wren’s original vision and see his Cathedral as fresh as the day it was completed. A great place to hang out!
A short walk through Temple Bar is Paternoster Square where you can find a number of interesting buildings, Paternoster Square Column with flaming urn that resembles a pineapple, Shepherd and sheep sculpture by Elizabeth Frink, and a restaurant and coffee shop.
Getting there: St Paul's tube station on the Central Line or across the Millenium Bridge from Tate Modern. You could also enjoy a ride on the iconic Routemaster from Trafalgar Square or from the Tower of London. There are a number of buses that serve the area.
For more information and interesting tid-bits about London and it's marvels be sure to visit: http://3daysinlondon.info/
About the blogger:
Cindy is the founder of 3daysinlondon. Through her blog, she shares adventures & tips about the magic she find in this city. Visit 3daysinlondon for ideas of wonderful places to explore and see, and perhaps you could be persuaded to linger for a week and evenbit longer.
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