The UK’s capital is a magnificent blend of the historic and the contemporary. A burgeoning cultural scene that makes it one of the most vibrant cities in the world, says Emma Love

London is a culturally diverse capital that’s full of life. From the cool design talent to the world-renowned chefs who reside here, it is constantly evolving with new shops, shows and buzzy supper spots. Add to the mix the instantly recognisable, historic sights and it is one of the most exciting and memorable cities in the world.

Retail therapy

For designer fashion and jewellery, head to Sloane Street: all the big names are here, from Chanel to Prada, Graff to Gucci. If you want everything under one roof, Harrods on Knightsbridge has got it covered, from fine foods to fashion and fragrance. Fashionistas should also make a stop in Harvey Nichols and take a wander down to The Shop at Bluebird on the King’s Road, which stocks 120 designers including Isabel Marant, Sonia Rykiel and Zac Posen. Take some refreshment or browse the boutiques – Joseph, Myla, Kate Kuba, Liz Earle – in the pedestrian haven of Duke of York Square. Venture up to Notting Hill to visit the indefinable emporium Couverture & The Garbstore that presents home accessories and womenswear collections alongside vintage finds. If you’re in town at the weekend you can’t beat Notting Hill’s famous Portobello Market on Saturdays for one-offs by up-andcoming designers, or try Spitalfields in east London on Sundays.

Spectacular sights

Buckingham Palace is one of London’s most famous landmarks, so time your visit to see the changing of the guard, which takes place every other day. Big Ben and Westminster and the Tower of London are all equally unmissable. Take a tour with a Yeoman Warder and hear tales of treachery and torture in the Tower. Nearby, close to the River Thames, is St Paul’s Cathedral, with its iconic dome. Take a riverboat upstream from St Katherine’s Pier to a contemporary icon, the London Eye, which offers magnificent views. Pre-book your place in one of the glass pods to avoid the queues.

Culture vulture

Make a point of seeing something from Kevin Spacey’s innovative programme at The Old Vic or from the acclaimed Donmar Warehouse whose reach now extends into the West End. Fans of modern dance will be in their element at Sadler’s Wells in Islington, while for ballet and opera it has to be the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. The Barbican is a brilliant all-rounder offering exhibitions, concerts and films. When it comes to art and museums, the big hitters include Tate Modern and Tate Britain, the British Museum and the National Gallery. Among the less obvious but worth a visit are the relaunched Saatchi Gallery and the Wellcome Collection of quirky exhibits from the world of medicine.
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