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London - Around Town : The City (part 1)

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The ancient square mile of London, defined roughly by the walls of the Roman city, is a curious mixture of streets and lanes with medieval names, state-of-the-art finance houses and no fewer than 38 churches, many of them, including St Paul’s Cathedral, designed by Sir Christopher Wren. Don’t miss the City’s old markets: Smithfield still operates as a meat market, Leadenhall is in many ways more attractive than Covent Garden, while the former fish market of Billingsgate offers a great view of the once busy Pool of London.

Dick Whittington

A stained-glass window in St Michael, Paternoster Royal, depicts Dick Whittington (and his cat) – hero of a well-known London rags-to-riches fairy-tale. In fact, Richard Whittington, who was Lord Mayor of London four times between 1397 and 1420, was a wealthy merchant and the City’s first major benefactor. He pioneered public lavatories, building them to overhang the Thames.


Old Billingsgate Market


Sights
  1. Tower of London

    Tower of London
  2. St Paul’s Cathedral

  3. Tower Bridge

    When the Pool of London was the gateway to the city’s larder, this flamboyant bridge was constantly being raised and lowered for sail and steam ships bringing their cargoes from all corners of the Empire. Pedestrians who needed to cross the river when the bridge was open had to climb up the 300 steps of the towers to the walkway overhead. Today, visitors on the 60-minute Tower Bridge Exhibition tour still have views from the 40-m (135-ft) high walkways. The entrance is beneath the north side of the bridge. It ends with a hands-on experience in the massive engine room, and exits via a shop on the south bank of the river.

    • SE1

    • Open Apr–Sep: 10am–6:30pm; Oct–Mar: 9:30am–6pm

    • Admission charge

    Tower Bridge
  4. Barbican Centre

    The cultural jewel of the City, and run by the City of London Corporation, the Barbican Centre is an important arts complex. Music, dance, theatre, film and art all take place here, with top visiting performers and artists. There is also an excellent library, a restaurant, Searcy’s (see Eating and Drinking), and a waterside café. Opened in 1982, the arts complex is part of the Barbican, a major development covering 20 acres and flanked by large blocks of flats. Access from the Barbican tube station is along a marked route above ground level. The Centre looks across the moat to the church of St Giles Cripplegate, dating from 1550.

    • Silk Street EC2

    • Box office: 020 7638 8891

    Barbican Centre
  5. Museum of London

    An essential visit for anyone interested in the history of London. Visitors discover the City’s many incarnations in galleries covering prehistoric, Roman, medieval and early Stuart London, along with “London’s Burning”, a special display on the Great Fire of 1666 that shows how it transormed the city.

    • London Wall EC2

    • Open 10am–6pm daily

    Medieval shoes, Museum of London
  6. Guildhall

    For around 900 years the Guildhall has been the administrative centre of the City of London. City ceremonials are held in its magnificent 15th-century Great Hall, which is hung with banners of the main livery companies. In the Guildhall Library are rotating displays of wonderful historic manuscripts and an intriguing collection of watches and clocks, from the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers – some from 1600.

    • Guildhall Yard, Gresham Street EC2

    • Open 10am–4:30pm Mon–Sat (& Sun May–Sep)

    • Free

  7. Guildhall Art Gallery

    On the east side of Guildhall Yard is the Guildhall Art Gallery, two floors of paintings of varying quality and enormous interest. Many are associated with the City, and there are a number of highly romantic 19th-century paintings, including pre-Raphaelite works. With the aid of a computerized cataloguing system, it is possible to view all the Guildhall’s 31,000 prints and paintings.

    • Gresham Street EC2

    • Open 10am–5pm Mon–Sat, noon–4pm Sun

    • Admission charge

  8. Bank of England Museum

    Liveried doormen greet visitors to this excellent museum, housed in a marvellous building designed by Sir John Soane. A variety of material is on display, including 45 bars of gold bullion at the centre of the 1930s rotunda. There is a map of the City’s financial institutions and an electronic trading desk similar to those used by dealers today.

    • Bartholomew Lane EC4

    • Open 10am–5pm Mon–Fri

    • Free

  9. Monument

    This 62-m (202-ft) monument by Sir Christopher Wren is the world’s tallest free-standing stone column. Its height is equal to the distance from the baker’s shop in Pudding Lane where the Great Fire of London began in 1666 – the event that it marks. Inside, 311 stairs spiral up to a viewing platform; when you return to the entrance, you will receive a certificate to say that you have made the climb.

    • Monument Street EC3

    • Open 9:30am–5pm daily

    • Admission charge

  10. St Katharine’s Dock

    Near Tower Bridge and the Tower of London, this is the place to come and relax, to watch the rich on their yachts and the working sailors on the Thames barges. There are several cafés, the Dickens Inn, with outside tables, and the Aquarium restaurant for a serious meal .

    • E1

    Yacht haven, St Katharine’s Dock
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