London - Introducing the city (atestat)
neIntroducing the city
With a population of just under eight million, and stretching more than thirty miles at its broadest point, London is by far the largest city in Europe. It is also far more diffuse than the great cities of the Continent, such as Rome or Paris. The majority of the London’s sights are situated to the north of the River Thames, which loops through the centre of the city from west to east, but there is no single predominant focus of interest, for London has grown not through centralized planning but by a process of agglomeration - villages and urban developments that once surrounded the core are now lost within the amorphous mass of Great London. Thus London’s highlights are widely spread, and visitors should make mastering the public transport system, particularly the Underground (tube), a top priority.
One of the few areas of London witch is manageable on foot is Westminster and Whitehall, the city’s royal, political and ecclesiastical power base for several hundred years. It’s here you’ll find the National Gallery and the adjacent National Portrait Gallery, and a host of other London landmarks: Buckingham Palace, Nelson’s Column, Downing Street, the House of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. From Westminster it’s a manageable walk upriver to the Tate Gallery, repository of the nation’s largest collection of modern art as well as the main assemblage of British art. The grand streets and squares of Piccadilly, St James’s, Mayfair and Marylebone, to the north of Westminster, have been the playground of the rich since the Restoration, and now contain the city’s busiest shopping zones: Piccadilly itself, Bond Street, Regent Street and, most frenetic of the lot, Oxford Street.
East of Piccadilly Circus, Soho and Covent Garden form the heart of the West End entertainment district, where you’ll find the largest concentration of theatres, cinemas, clubs, flashy shops, cafes and restaurants. Adjoining Covent Garden to the north, the university quarter of Bloomsbury is the traditional home of the publishing industry and location of the British Museum, a stupendous treasure house that attracts more than five million tourists a year. Welding the West End to the financial district, The Strand, Holborn and Clerkenwell are little-visited areas, but offer some of central London’s most surprising treats, among them the eccentric Sir John Soane’s Museum and the secluded quadrangles of the Inns of Court.
A couple of miles downstream from Westminster, The City – the City of London, to give it its full title – is at one and the same time the most ancient and the most modern part of London. Settled since Roman times, it became the commercial and residential heart of medieval London, with its own Lord Mayor and its own peculiar form of local government, both of which survive, with considerable pageantry, to this day. The Great Fire of 1666 obliterated most of the City, and the resident population has dwindled to insignificance, yet this remains one of the great financial centres of the world ranking just below New York and Tokyo. The City’s most prominent landmarks nowadays are the hi-tech offices of the legions of banks and insurance companies, but the Square Mile boasts its share of historic sights, notably the Tower of London and a fine cache of Wren churches that includes the mighty St Paul’s Cathedral.
The East End and Docklands, to the east of the City, are equally notorious, but in entirely different ways. Impoverished and working-class, the East End is not conventional tourist territory, but to ignore it is to miss out the crucial element of the real, multi-ethnic London. With its abandoned warehouses converted into overpriced apartment blocks for the city’s upwardly mobile, Docklands is the corner of the down-at-heel East End, with the Canary Wharf tower, the country’s tallest building, epitomizing the pretensions of the Thatcherite dream.
Lambeth and Southwark comprise the small slice of central London that lies south of the Thames. The South Bank Centre, London’s little-loved concrete culture bunker, is the most obvious starting point, while Southwark, the city’s low-life district from Roman times to the eighteen century, is less known, except to the gore-addicts who queue up for the London Dungeon.
In the districts Hyde Park, Kensington and Chelsea you’ll find the largest park in Central London, a segment of greenery which separates wealthy West London from the city centre. The museums of South Kensington – the Victoria & Albert Museum, Science Museum and Natural History Museum – are a must, and if you have shopping on your London agenda you may well want to investigate the hive of plush stores in the vicinity of Harrods, superstore to the upper echelons.
Some of the most appealing parts of North London are clustered around Regent’s Canal, which skirts Regent’s Park and serves as the focus for the capitals’ trendiest weekend market, around Camden Lock. Further out, in the chic literary suburbs of Hampstead and Highgate, there are unbeatable views across the city from half-wild Hampstead Heath, the favorite parkland of thousands of Londoners. The glory of Southeast London is Greenwich, with its nautical associations, royal park and observatory. Finally, there are plenty of rewarding day trips along the Thames from Chiswick to Windsor, a region in which the royalty and aristocracy have traditionally built their homes, the most famous being Hampton Court Palace and Windsor Palace.
London. Historical buildings
Political, religious and regal power has emanated from Westminster and Whitehall for almost a millennium. It was Edward the Confessor who established Westminster as London’ s royal and ecclesiastical power base, some three miles west of the real, commercial City of London. In the nineteenth century, Whitehall became the “heart of the Empire”, its ministries ruling over a quarter of the world’s populations.
The monuments and buildings from this region include some of London’s most famous landmarks – Nelson’s Column, Big Ben and the House of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace, plus the city’s two finest permanent art collections, The National Gallery and the Tate Gallery. This is a well-trodden tourist circuit for the most part - hence the council’s decision to reinstate the old red phone boxes – with few shops or cafes and little street life to distract you, but it’s also one of the easiest parts of London to walk round, with all the major sights within a mere half-mile of each other, linked by two of London’s most triumphant avenues, Whitehall and The Mall.
Despite being little more than a glorified, sunken traffic island, infested with scruffy urban pigeons, Trafalgar Square is still one of the London’s grandest architectural set-pieces. London’s Trafalgar Square, the city’s official center, features some of England’s most treasured historic monuments. The square was laid out between 1829 and 1841 on the site of the old royal stables and is lined on its northern side by the National Gallery. The gallery, begun in 1824, boasts one of the finest art collections in the world, with work from every major western artist from the 15th through the 19th centuries. The square’s dominating landmark is a pedestal supporting a statue of Lord Nelson, the British naval hero who defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Trafalgar in Spain, in 1805. Trafalgar Square is the location for festivities at Christmas Eve, New Year, and other major public occasions.
Nelson’s Column, raised in 1843 and now one of the London’s best-loved monuments, commemorates the one-armed, one-eyed admiral who defeated Napoleon, but paid for it with his life. The statue which surmounts the granite column is triple life-size but still manages to appear minuscule, and is coated in anti-pigeon gel to try to stem the build-up of guano. The acanthus leaves of the capital are cast from British cannon, while bas-reliefs around the base are from captured French armaments. Edwin Landseer’s four gargantuan bronze lions guard the column and provide a climbing frame for kids to clamber over. If you can, get here before the crowds and watch the pigeons take to the air as Edwin Lutyens’fountains jet into action at 9am.
Keeping Nelson company at ground level, on either sides of the column, are bronze statues of Napier and Havelock, Victorian major-generals who helped keep India British; against the north wall are busts of Beatty, Jellicoe and Cunningham, more recent military leaders. In the northeast corner of the square, is an equestrian statue of George IV, which he himself commissioned for the top of Marble Arc, over at the northeast corner of Hyde Park, but which was later erected here “temporarily”; the corresponding pedestal in the northwest corner was earmarked for William IV, but remains empty.Taking up the ...
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