One of my favourite views of London is from an aeroplane when returning from travels but I don’t like to leave my beloved city too often so also like these places for seeing London from up high.
The London Eye
A 135m high observation wheel on the South Bank, opposite the Houses of Parliament, each rotation of The London Eye takes around 30 minutes and it moves slowly so you won’t be fully aware it is moving all the time. You’ll get views up and down the River Thames and can see as far away as Windsor Castle on a really clear day but can always see into the gardens at Buckingham Palace. At night, you’ll see a very different London when it’s all lit up and, again, it’s different in summer or winter so it’s always worth going on the Eye again and again. You can choose special occasion tickets to enjoy Mulled Wine at Christmas or Champagne all year round, and every ticket includes entrance to the 4D cinema experience which is totally recommended.
The London Eye
Built between 1671 and 1677 by Sir Christopher Wren, The Monument was designed as a symbol of hope for London after the Great Fire of London in 1666 to show the “city would soon rise again”. It’s a 61m tall stone Roman doric column in the heart of the City of London with a single spiral staircase to reach the viewing platform. There’s nowhere to stop on the way up (or down) so you might as well count the 311 steps on the way. There a gilded golden orb right on the top but you still get good views of the City of London from the viewing “cage” which has been enclosed to keep us safe. The height of The Monument is the exact distance between it and the site in Pudding Lane where the Great Fire of London began. Everyone who makes it back down again gets a certificate for their achievement.
St Paul’s Cathedral Galleries
You can spend hours at St Paul’s Cathedral without climbing up to the galleries, and there’s the Oculus 270 degree film experience in the Crypt for the views from the higher levels, but if you are fit and able to do climb up as it’s all worth it. The Whispering Gallery is inside and is only(!) 257 steps from the Cathedral Floor. Sure, that’s fun but, of course, you’ll want to go to the outside higher levels so walk another 119 steps to the Stone Gallery from which you can walk around and admire the views of the City and across the River Thames. But don’t stop there. Continue up for another 152 steps, on particularly narrow staircases, and you’ll really be proud of yourself as you’ll reach the Golden Gallery and the views are even better from 85m above the Cathedral Floor.
Tate Modern seen from the Stone Gallery at St Paul’s Cathedral
Up at the O2
The O2 has been a popular venue since it opened but for their fifth birthday a new attraction was added: a skywalk over the top of The O2 Arena. You get kitted out in a full climb suit and have safety training and then it’s the climb along a fabric tensile walkway to reach the platform at the summit at 53m above the ground. It can be pretty windy up there but the views of Canary Wharf and even back into town towards Tower Bridge are fantastic. At the summit you get unclipped from the safety harness so can walk around freely and see in all directions before getting reattached for the steep climb back down.
Emirates Air Line
This is the first cable car in London and the first urban cable car system of its kind in the UK. It’s technically part of the public transport network but I don’t think that stops anyone taking a ride just for fun. It connects North Greenwich, near The O2, to Royal Docks, sort of near ExCel, across the River Thames. The views include Thames Barrier and, of course, The O2. The journey can take between 5 and 10 minutes depending whether it’s a commuter peak time of day or not. And it’s not far – only 1.1km – but it is fun.
Emirate Air Line aka London’s Cable Car
Tate Modern 6th and 4th floors
Directly opposite St Paul’s Cathedral, Tate Modern has two viewing options. On the 4th floor you can step outside onto a balcony and look across the Millennium Bridge. It’s a wonderful spot to take photos or sketch the view of St Paul’s. Up on the 6th floor there’s a restaurant and bar for you to enjoy the higher views from behind the large glass windows.
This is the special viewing tower on the London 2012 Olympic Park which opened for the Games and we all hope will remain open in the future. It’s the UK’s tallest sculpture to date and has offered excellent views into the Olympic Stadium and of the redevelopment of east London.
The View from The Shard
Due to open in February 2013, tickets are already on sale to get those views from 244m (800ft) above the capital. There are high-speed lifts to race you up to the viewing platform with views possible of 40 miles away. At 1,016 feet high, The Shard is regarded as one of the most ambitious architectural endeavours in the UK.
The View from The Shard – Levels 68, 69 and 72. Credit: © The View from The Shard
My Top 6 Favourite London pubs
Julie Falconer is a London-based travel writer and consultant. She is the author of the travel blog A Lady in London and runs a Europe travel website called VisitingEU, which offers information for independent travelers. You can follow her on Twitter at @aladyinlondon.
The Holly Bush in Hampstead, London
The Holly Bush Pub in Hampstead
The Holly Bush pub in north London’s Hampstead is one of the coziest, most classic pubs in London.
With a maze-like series of rooms, plenty of fireplaces, and dark wood galore, it is the perfect place to curl up with a beer or cider on a winter afternoon or enjoy a full Sunday roast with friends or family.
The pub also has an upstairs dining room that offers a bit more of an upscale experience for those that want a quieter environment.
The Grazing Goat, Portman Square, Marylebone
The Grazing Goat
Opened in late 2010, the Grazing Goat is a great addition to the gastropub group that includes the Thomas Cubitt in Belgravia and The Orange in Pimlico.
The pub is bright and airy during the day, but the rustic wooden tables and big fireplace make it a great place to while away an evening as well.
The food is excellent, if a bit pricey, and the drinks menu has something for everyone. If you’re too tired to go home at the end of the evening, there are rooms upstairs where you can stay the night.
More on the Grazing Goat >>
The Windsor Castle, Campden Hill Road, Kensington
The Windsor Castle in Kensington
The Windsor Castle in Notting Hill a perennial London favorite.
Famous for having a series of historic rooms connected by tiny doorways (watch your head!), the pub is also known for its fantastic beer garden.
In the summer, the garden is the perfect place for a pitcher of Pimm’s, and many an afternoon has been spent enjoying the good food, beer, cider, and other drinks on offer there.
The Gun, Canary Wharf
The Gun at Canary Wharf
Out in east London’s Canary Wharf, The Gun is one of the best classic pubs in a neighborhood that is mostly known for skyscrapers and contemporary architecture.
Situated right on the water with great views across the Thames, The Gun is the perfect spot for an after work drink or a dinner on the terrace.
On cold days, the interior warms with comfy chairs by the fire, a great indoor restaurant space, and a beautiful private dining room.
The Punch Bowl
The Punch Bowl in Mayfair
Located in the heart of Mayfair near Hyde Park, the Punch Bowl is best known for being owned by film director Guy Ritchie.
But far from a sleek, modern pub that you might expect from a celebrity-owned establishment, the Punch Bowl has a great historic feel. Wooden booths and a long traditional bar give the Punch Bowl an amazing ambiance, and the dining area in the back is the perfect place to enjoy a meal.
The Fox and Anchor
The Fox and Anchor
Hidden away down a small side street near Smithfield market, the Fox & Anchor is one of the most beloved pubs in Farringdon.
The long, narrow bar area is a favorite hangout of both market workers and City professionals, and the dining room in the back has intimate, romantic alcoves that are perfect for dates or quiet dinners. The Fox & Anchor also has rooms upstairs, complete with gorgeous claw-foot bathtubs in the middle of the floor!
Top 10 London Cafes For a Decent Drink of Tea
Laura Porter writes the About.com London Travel site and fits in further freelance writing while sustaining an afternoon tea addiction to rival the Queen’s. You can follow her at @AboutLondon and find out more at about.me/lauraporter.
“I adore tea and, thankfully, am able to indulge this addiction at many places across London. I won’t drink tea in a paper cup, particularly not good quality tea, so always steer friends towards these London tea houses who care about the drinks they serve as much as I do.
For those of us who enjoy good tea and want something better than a cheap teabag in a mug I can recommend these London tea houses and cafes.”…. Laura
Just off Oxford Street, the busiest shopping street in London, this is my favourite place to stop for quality tea when in town. There isn’t a tea menu; instead on the counter you’ll find rows of little ceramic milk jugs with hand-painted labels, filled with the loose leaf tea on offer. You’re encouraged to pick them up and have a sniff to help you decide. I can recommend the Regent’s Park tea which is a blend of green tea and tropical fruits and reminds me of a Spring day in Regent’s Park, just after it’s rained. Tea is served in a two-cup pot so you’ll be able to stop and relax. There are two floors of seating but I like the ground floor best and prefer the tables near the window or the exposed brick wall.
45 Berwick Street, Soho, London WIF BSF
Nearest Tube: Oxford Circus
The gluten and wheat free cakes were what first brought me to The Chelsea Teapot at the far end of the King’s Road (opposite end to Sloane Square) and I found they tasted even better than the ‘normal’ ones. The tea room is utterly charming with vintage crockery and a real ‘Cath Kidston’ feel to the decor. I understand they’re popular for breakfast and lunch options too but I’ve never been able to resist the Victoria Sponge with a pot of tea. An excellent place to stop when shopping on the King’s Road or when visiting one of the local attractions such as the Chelsea Physic Garden or Carlyle’s House.
402 King’s Road, Chelsea, London SW10 0LJ
Nearest Tube: Sloane Square
London Review Bookshop Cafe
Located opposite the British Museum, this bookshop cafe is small and always busy with those in the know. I have managed to try more than cakes here and can recommend the salads too but what draws me back is the excellent tea. It’s all table service here, possibly because there isn’t room for customers to get to the counter to order, but staff are always friendly even if service is a little slow at times. To enter you have to go through the bookshop so why not choose something new to read as it’s usually a really relaxed place to enjoy tea and a Lavender cookie.
14 Bury Place, London WC1A 2JL
Nearest Tube: Tottenham Court Road
Hidden away above a courtyard shopping area off Carnaby Street is the peaceful retreat, Camellia’s Teahouse. This cozy cafe has a huge selection of tea which they take seriously but are always willing to share their knowledge. A tea connoisseur’s heaven brings in those already enlightened in the way of tea drinking to others who come to discover what all the fuss is about. The long tables may mean you share with other guests but you’ll usually find others as happy to be there as you.
Top Floor, Kingly Court, Carnaby Street, London W1B 5PW
Nearest Tube: Oxford Circus
Salt Espresso Lunch & Tea
On the edge of Covent Garden, I like Salt for lots of reasons. Firstly, they care about how they serve each tea. Brewing is timed and tea leaves removed before the pot is brought to your table. So no stewed tea. I like that. Then there’s the indoor and outdoor seating, great staff who always make you feel welcome, and I haven’t mentioned the food yet but I really should. The banana bread is legendary and all the baked goods are worth trying. Coffee drinkers always rave about the great quality too but for me it’s tea all the way.
32 Great Queen Street, Covent Garden, London WC2B 5AA
Nearest Tube: Holborn
Bea’s of Bloomsbury
Bea’s knows about American style cupcakes which keep expats and US visitors’ sugar rush needs in check. But for me it’s their tea and I love the original Bloomsbury branch best. It’s a small cafe but tea is served in pots and with a smile. If you stop for food, order the well-priced afternoon tea and it’ll come on a cute cake stand with white ceramic ladies legs on top. Bea has published books about her delicious cakes so it would be wrong to not indulge here.
44 Theobald’s Road, Bloomsbury, London WC1X 8NW
Nearest Tube: Holborn
Drink Shop Do
This kitsch cafe bar and shop near to King’s Cross is unlike any other as everything is for sale. We’re not just talking the artwork on the walls, but even the vintage crockery to the chairs you sit on. This makes it a constantly changing mish-mash of happiness and a fun place for tea. Not a morning place, instead this is where you come for lunch, afternoon tea or ‘cocktail o’clock’ and all are welcome whether you want to join a ‘do’ and create something to take home or if you just want a decent cuppa in a cool environment. And check out the shop on the way in for fun gifts such as handmade bags and accessories.
9 Caledonian Road, King’s Cross, London N1 9DX
Nearest Tube: King’s Cross
We Are Tea
Right next to St Paul’s Cathedral, this is the place to go for a wider choice of quality loose leaf tea in the City. There are big silver tins of tea on the shelves and staff can bring them down for you to see before deciding. I like to sit at the big wooden table and use the free wifi. We Are Tea also sell tea for you to take home and I love the Silver Needle White Tea, which they stocked years before it became more popular. I also live the infusion teas with names such as Serenitea and Immunitea.
Paternoster House, 1 Paternoster Square, London EC4M 7DX
Nearest Tube: St Paul’s
Teanamu Chaya Teahouse
I discovered Pei’s Chaya Teahouse when I attended one of his free tea tastings. Pei is a true tea master (he wouldn’t say it so I’ll say it for him) and by asking a few questions he can help you choose the perfect tea for you that day. Pei also makes all of the culinary delights which are so beautiful and so delicious they have to be part of your visit. Unusually, the Chaya Teahouse is actually on the ground floor of Pei’s home, and is only open at weekends, but don’t let that put you off as you will feel at ease immediately in the calm space which is never intimidating. I know nowhere else in London where friends can perform a Chinese tea ceremony together at their own table. I doubt Pei owns a mug but I always drink gallons of tea here as I keep continuing the tea ritual and learning something new everything time I’m there.
The Coach House, 14a St Lukes Road, Notting Hill, London W11 1DP
Nearest Tube: Westbourne Park
Tea and Tattle
I’ll admit now I’ve not been here yet but the reports are good putting it firmly on my ‘must visit’ list. Very close to the British Museum, it has become popular with visitors to town as it often has afternoon tea deals with tourist packages, meaning it’s been hard to get in there just for a cuppa. It’s a small tea room, in the basement of the Arthur Probsthain Oriental and African Bookseller, a family run bookshop with a history of over a hundred years.
41 Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3PE
Nearest tube: Tottenham Court Road