"Fodor's" calls London one of the coolest, most modern cities in the world. It’s undoubtedly one of the most historic, too. From castles to cuisine, word-renowned art galleries to back-alley market stalls, the United Kingdom’s capital sports a slew of interesting places to check out.
Since 1837, Buckingham Palace has housed British sovereigns while in London. Now the Monarch’s administrative headquarters, the complex, housed in the borough of Westminster, is used to welcome foreign heads of state and tourists. While the monarch resides in Buckingham Palace, their crown jewels are kept in the Tower of London, a central London fort that has throughout its 900-year history housed some of the nation’s most notorious prisoners. One such resident was Guy Fawkes, who in 1605 attempted to blow up the British Parliament. The complex now serves as a museum and exhibition center, watched over by the iconic ceremonial guards known as “Beefeaters” and a flock of ravens. There have been five churches built on the central London site where St. Paul’s Cathedral now stands. A sequence of fires led to the structures being rebuilt, the current one completed in 1711 courtesy of renowned architect Sir Christopher Wren. The cathedral is one of Europe’s grandest, and only Rome’s St. Peter’s Basilica sports a larger dome.
The iconic Tate Modern museum stands in a former power station in Pimlico that overlooks the River Thames. Inside are some of the finest contemporary and modern works by artists such as Cézanne, Matisse, Picasso and Warhol. For an entirely different experience, in the Westminster borough rests Soho, home to a number of bars, restaurants, theaters and the capital’s Chinatown and red light districts. There is a vast array of markets scattered throughout London. Alfie’s Antique Market, in Marylebone, is the city’s largest indoor market; its stalls sell mainly antiques, vintage clothes and collectibles. The market of Camden boasts more than 100 stalls that sell designer clothing, art, food and furnishings. Covent Garden Market can be found in its eponymous central London piazza, graced by street performers and a slew of specialty stalls. Since the 19th century, Notting Hill's Portobello Road Market has been one of London’s most diverse and, since the 1950s, have become especially well-known for its collection of antique stalls.
Hyde Park was first established in the Westminster district in 1536 as a royal hunting area. The following century, it opened to the public. At 1.5 miles long and a mile wide, it is one of the city’s biggest parks. Its lake, the Serpentine, is London’s oldest boating waterway. In the summertime, it’s not uncommon to catch people cooling off in the park’s Joy of Life fountain. Also in Westminster and spreading over to Camden, Regent’s Park is home to Queen Mary’s Gardens, which boast 400 varieties of roses. One-hundred of the park’s 395 acres of land are dedicated to fitness, the largest outdoor sports area in central London. Regent’s Park sports a zoo, an open-air theater and the U.K.’s largest free-to-access waterfall collection. Stretching from Hampstead to Highgate, Hampstead Heath is an island oasis just outside the capital’s center, famed for its epic views. It also sports a zoo, athletics track, three swimming ponds and an education center.
The London Eye is a 443-foot Ferris wheel on the banks of the River Thames near Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. Affording unsurpassed views of the city, it is one of the most visited attractions, with 2 million visitors each year. Not to far away, the 1,000-foot Millennium Bridge was the first pedestrian river crossing constructed in London in more than a hundred years. It connects two of London’s finest landmarks past and present -- St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Tate Modern Art Gallery. Premium sports facilities and a slew of stunning parks and water features are housed at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, the site of the 2012 Olympic Games. The Copper Box Arena, Hackney, is where the London Lions -- the city’s only professional basketball team -- play, while the nearby Arcelor Mittal Orbit, Britain’s tallest sculpture, provides spectacular city views.