London Calling - The City of Old and the City of New

By Elisha Burberry

As far as cities go, there are few that can rival London’s bold, brash and bustling vibrancy. Not only is it a modern, cosmopolitan epicentre of international activity, it is also steeped in history, having been settled for almost two thousand years, including periods of Roman and even Viking rule.

It could be said that London has more than its fair share of iconic images, from Big Ben and Tower Bridge to Buckingham Palace and red double-decker buses. But these photo-friendly attractions may only offer limited entertainment for the snap-happy tourist, and as beautiful and historically significant as they are, it’s important to remember that London has so much more to offer. In fact, there’s no shortage of things to do in London that will appeal to all interests and budgets.

For starters, there’s the British Museum which is open every day and has free entry. It holds in trust for the UK one of the finest collections of art and antiquities in existence, including the Rosetta Stone which dates from 196 BC, and its subsequent discovery in 1799 which led to the deciphering of Egyptian hieroglyphs. Then there is the London Eye; the world’s tallest observation wheel, located on the banks of the River Thames and offering unparalleled views of the capital's skyline.

For outdoor activities, London doesn’t disappoint, as it has five football teams in England’s Premier League. So whether it’s a ticket for a title-decider or a tour of Arsenal’s impressive new Emirates stadium, there’s a lot on offer. Furthermore, London has plenty of sprawling parklands including Hyde Park and Regents Park which offer everything from boating, tennis and cricket to cycling, jogging and, perhaps more appealingly, fine-dining by the Serpentine Lake.

If that doesn’t appeal, then there’s also the opportunity to engage in some retail therapy in many of London’s shopping hotspots, including Covent Garden, which has everything from small boutiques to large High Street stores, not to mention an abundance of pubs, cafes and street performers that make Covent Garden a lively experience.

But, perhaps the one aspect of London that makes it such a prominent player in the world community is its position as a major transport hub, which consists of five international airports, a port and the largest underground railway system in Europe, in terms of route length. It also has a direct train-link with Europe via the Channel Tunnel, making it possible to reach central London from Paris in less than three hours without having to go near an airport.

With such connections to the international community, it’s little wonder that so many people choose to visit London, with more than 26 million overnight visits in 2006. And with London set to host the Olympics in 2012, the demand for hotels in London can only intensify, as it prepares to welcome even more visitors in the build up to one of the world’s greatest sporting events.

With its activities, vibrancy and accessibility, London seems to have all roads leading to it - sending out the aura that London is indeed calling.

Elisha Burberry is an online, freelance journalist and keen traveller and watersports enthusiast. Originally from Scotland, she now resides in London.

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