Kate Eberlen, author of Miss You, talks us through her idea of a perfect afternoon in the capital and picks her favourite books about London.
‘People always say that they like New York because it’s exactly how it is in the movies. I love London for the opposite reason. No movie I’ve seen captures London ‘s variety – the serene elegance of the white stucco terraces; the improbable red-brick Christmas cake of the Royal Albert Hall; golden Albert glinting in the sunshine; horses galloping on Rotten Row; crazy swimmers diving into the Serpentine; and, near Hyde Park Corner…gardens with luscious herbacious borders and pergolas of roses, planted and tended for no other reason than to give people colour to look at….’
Tess Costello, Miss You
London is such an amazing, multi-faceted city, embracing cool modernity alongside ancient tradition, and there is so much to see. The only drawback: like most other capital cities, it’s expensive. But it doesn’t have to be!
My solution is simple – walk!
You can experience everything described in the extract from Miss You
above on a summer stroll through London’s Hyde Park, which stretches westwards from Oxford Street and Piccadilly towards Notting Hill and Kensington, but there are many other wonderful walks in London that take you to famous sights and fabulous views without spending any money at all.
One of my favourite ways of spending time in London is walking along the south bank of the River Thames. If you start at the Southbank near the London Eye (Waterloo underground station), you can either go west for a great view of the Houses of Parliament, or, you can walk eastwards all the way along the riverbank to Tower Bridge. It’s as beautiful at night, with the lights of the City glittering across the river, as it is sparkling in daytime sunshine. (And there are plenty of places to shelter, or grab a coffee, even if it’s raining!)
The London Eye from Westminster Bridge
The first building you’ll pass is the Royal Festival Hall, the bustling venue for lots of festivals and concerts, so you’re likely to see some public art or a street performance, after that, you might want to browse the second-hand bookstalls outside the National Film Theatre, or gaze at the brutalist architecture of The National Theatre, its stark concrete lines softened at night by coloured light.
Royal Festival Hall, part of the Southbank Centre
Next you’ll find yourself in Gabriel’s Wharf with its eateries and boutiques, and, if you enjoy window-shopping, there are some very interesting and original designers with workshops in the Oxo Tower building, a little way further along the river.
River Thames and Oxo Tower from Southbank
The path then takes you under Blackfriars’ Bridges before opening out in front of Tate Modern. This huge edifice started life as a power station. It was converted into London’s biggest modern art gallery for the Millennium, and a new wing has just opened, which has a panoramic viewing gallery on the 10th floor. The amazing art collection inside includes countless modern masterpieces and it is completely free, although you have to pay to enter special exhibitions.
Tate Modern and Millennium Bridge
The Millennium footbridge spans the river and will be very familiar to fans of the Harry Potter as it is a dramatic location in the film Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
. You can walk across it to St Paul’s Cathedral or simply look at the view of the Cathedral, as the architect, Sir Christopher Wren, did when it was being built. The house where he lived stands next to bridge and just beyond that is The Globe Theatre, an authentic reconstruction of a theatre from the time of William Shakespeare, where his plays are regularly performed.
St Paul’s Cathedral and The Millennium footbridge
On the north side of the river, the skyline is now crowded with the gleaming glass towers of the City of London, like the Gherkin and The Cheesegrater. On the south side, the impossibly tall prism of the Shard towers above cobbled streets, Victorian warehouses, ancient dungeons and excavations. You’ll even walk past a life-size replica of 'The Golden Hind', the first English ship to sail around the world in 1577.
The Golden Hind, St Mary Overie Dock
If you’re hungry, this is the time to take a slight detour for lunch in Borough Market, where stalls sell mouth-watering street food from all over the world.
Returning to the river, you’ll soon find yourself gazing the iconic spectacle of Tower Bridge, with the Tower of London on the other side of the river.
I can’t think of a better way of getting a feel for the modern city and a sense of its history in just one afternoon!
Kate's debut novel Miss You is out now.
A story of true love and near misses that spans nearly two decades
Tess and Gus are meant to be. They just haven't met properly yet. And perhaps they never will . . .
A witty, uplifting story of two lives criss-crossing but not quite aligning, perfect for anyone who loved One Day
Listen to an audio extract.
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