Bereits Kunde? Jetzt einloggen.
Lesezeit ca. 10 Min.

TRAVEL: London walks: five classic sights


Spotlight - epaper ⋅ Ausgabe 1/2019 vom 19.12.2018

Haben Sie schon einmal zu Fuß die britische Hauptstadt erkundet? LORRAINE MALLINDER führt Sie auf einer interessanten und vergnüglichen Tour zu Londons berühmtesten Sehenswürdigkeiten.


MEDIUM AUDIO PLUS

Artikelbild für den Artikel "TRAVEL: London walks: five classic sights" aus der Ausgabe 1/2019 von Spotlight. Dieses epaper sofort kaufen oder online lesen mit der Zeitschriften-Flatrate United Kiosk NEWS.

Bildquelle: Spotlight, Ausgabe 1/2019

It’s early morning on London’s Circle Line. The Underground train is packed with people on their way to their jobs in the financial district, known as the “Square Mile”. Christened Londinium by the Romans around AD 43, this is where the story of London begins, so it seems a good starting point for a tour of the city’s most iconic sights. Sipping a takeaway tea, my arm brushing against a copy of the ...

Weiterlesen
epaper-Einzelheft 8,99€
NEWS 14 Tage gratis testen
Bereits gekauft?Anmelden & Lesen
Leseprobe: Abdruck mit freundlicher Genehmigung von Spotlight. Alle Rechte vorbehalten.

Mehr aus dieser Ausgabe

Titelbild der Ausgabe 1/2019 von FROM THE EDITOR: Celebration time!. Zeitschriften als Abo oder epaper bei United Kiosk online kaufen.
FROM THE EDITOR: Celebration time!
Titelbild der Ausgabe 1/2019 von WORLD MAP: Happy New Year!. Zeitschriften als Abo oder epaper bei United Kiosk online kaufen.
WORLD MAP: Happy New Year!
Titelbild der Ausgabe 1/2019 von THE US IN GERMANY: California dreamin’. Zeitschriften als Abo oder epaper bei United Kiosk online kaufen.
THE US IN GERMANY: California dreamin’
Titelbild der Ausgabe 1/2019 von BOOKS: In our good books. Zeitschriften als Abo oder epaper bei United Kiosk online kaufen.
BOOKS: In our good books
Titelbild der Ausgabe 1/2019 von I ASK MYSELF: Is this what allies do?. Zeitschriften als Abo oder epaper bei United Kiosk online kaufen.
I ASK MYSELF: Is this what allies do?
Titelbild der Ausgabe 1/2019 von A DAY IN MY LIFE: Queen of ingredients. Zeitschriften als Abo oder epaper bei United Kiosk online kaufen.
A DAY IN MY LIFE: Queen of ingredients
Vorheriger Artikel
PRESS GALLERY: Vanishing insects: a silent threat
aus dieser Ausgabe
Nächster Artikel @382 SHORT STORY: The agent and the poet — Ms Winslow inves…
aus dieser Ausgabe

... Financial Times held wide open by the man on the seat next to me, I have one question on my mind: Can I do it all in one day? Is it possible to take in a couple of millennia worth of drama spread out over six miles or so by suppertime?

I exit the train at Tower Hill, on the edge of Londinium, where some of the last fragments of the ancient city wall, a two-mile barrier built around the settlement to keep out the Picts, can still be seen. Given the amount of walking ahead of me, I’m thankful for the breakfast of eggs and sausages I had at my Airbnb apartment

9 a.m. — The Tower of London
My first stop is the Tower of London, a powerful symbol of this city’s dark, mysterious past. The fortress, with its prison and Jewel House, was built by Norman king William the Conqueror in the 11th century. Legend has it that, should the ravens living on the grounds ever leave, Britain will fall. Thankfully, the black birds are still around, kept on site by daily meals of raw meat and blood biscuits.

Historically, the Tower has been guarded by Beefeaters, so named because they used to be paid partly in beef. I find one standing just inside the Tower’s grounds, dressed in his blue and red uniform. He is entertaining a small crowd with tales of the unfortunates who came to a terrible end on Tower Hill, beheaded for the entertainment of onlookers.

Nobles were not immune, as the example of 16th-century statesman Sir Thomas More shows. On the grounds that it broke Catholic Church rules, More opposed Henry VIII’s divorce from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, who had not borne the king any surviving sons. The king promptly declared himself supreme head of a new Church of England. More’s refusal to bow cost him his head. Four centuries later, he was declared a Catholic saint.

Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s second wife (out of a total of six), met the same fate as More. After giving birth to a daughter, she suffered several miscarriages. Upon hearing that one of these would have been a boy, the king became convinced that the marriage was cursed, and he had Boleyn beheaded on charges of adultery and treason. Her daughter, however, would go on to become one of England’s most iconic monarchs: Elizabeth I.

The Jewel House, which houses the 23,578 royal gemstones, is also worth a visit. Of note is the Koh-i-noor, also known as the “mountain of light”, possibly the world’s most controversial diamond, seized after the Brits invaded the Kingdom of Punjab in 1849, during the reign of Queen Victoria. That stone is now part of The Queen Mother’s Crown, although India, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan have all claimed ownership.

10.30 a.m. — Walk
With a head full of history, I enter the heart of Londinium, today a maze of streets and alleyways filled with churches, grand old buildings and modern architecture. I go straight to Bank junction, the site of the majestic trio of Mansion House, the home and office of the Mayor of London; the Royal Exchange, formerly a trading hall, now a luxurious shopping centre; and the Bank of England.

The Bank of England, the nation’s central bank, is known as the “Old Lady of Threadneedle Street”. The nickname comes from a 1797 cartoon showing the prime minister of the day wooing an old lady who is wearing a dress made of banknotes. His true intention is to get hold of the chest on which she is sitting, symbolizing the nation’s reserves of gold. To think that I am now standing on those reserves, which are among the world’s largest.

I nip down Walbrook Street, past the £1 billion headquarters of news giant Bloomberg. Seven metres below is the London Mithraeum, the remains of an ancient Roman temple to Mithras, a mysterious bull-slaying god.

11.30 a.m. — St Paul’s Cathedral
Walking down Cannon Street, the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral comes into view. This is the soul of London, depicted in many a painting, rising from the river fog like a ghostly apparition. Built to replace the original medieval cathedral, which had been destroyed in the Great Fire of London of 1666, this Baroque beauty was once considered vulgar.

If there’s anything St Paul’s stands for, though, it is British resolve in the face of adversity — especially during the 1940–41 Blitz, when the dome was hit by a Luftwaffe bomb. Aware of its symbolic power, wartime leader Winston Churchill ordered that it be saved “at all costs”.

The cathedral’s interior is a dream. I find myself beneath the dome, bathed in sunlight that is streaming in from above, taking in the stonework and the mosaics between the arches.

Above me, I hear people talking to each other through the walls of the Whispering Gallery. This famous quirk is produced by the curve of the dome’s walls, which carries the sound all the way round.

The steps leading to the outside Golden Gallery, near the seven-tonne ball and cross at the very top of the cathedral, would test the fittest. But bursting lungs are quickly forgotten once you see the panoramic vistas over the shining waters of the Thames to the south and over the crop of new buildings like the Gherkin, the Walkie Talkie and the Cheese Grater to the east.

12.30 p.m. — Walk
From St Paul’s, it’s a short stroll down the walkway to the Millennium Bridge. About midway across, I hear a strong female voice and wonder if there might be some big celebration taking place. It’s a surprise, therefore, to find a lone girl with a guitar and mic belting out songs outside the Tate Modern.

Emily Lee is her name. She has a wonderful voice and a take-no-prisoners way of performing.

“She’s good,” says a woman next to me. I continue westwards along the shingle banks, where locals walk their dogs, passing the National Theatre and the book market on trestle tables beneath Waterloo Bridge.

On Westminster Bridge, I stop to take in the Palace of Westminster and its iconic clock tower on the north side housing Big Ben. But I’m distracted by a small crowd that has gathered round a hustler shuffling cups over a ball. “Place a bet,” he shouts, holding up several £50 notes. One woman wins, and arguing breaks out among the others. I notice the way they talk, as if reading from a script. I can smell the scam a mile off. It’s somehow amusing that all this is happening in the shadow of the “Mother of Parliaments”.

This is truly London, in all its grit, grime, glory and grandeur.

2.15 p.m. — Westminster
Instantly recognizable, the iconic Palace of Westminster is a fantastic piece of 19th-century Gothic Revival architecture overlooking the Thames. It contains the remains of the original 11th-century palace, destroyed by two fires, in 1512 and 1834, and the two Houses of Parliament.

Westminster Hall, the oldest part of the complex, was built in 1097 by William II, son of William the Conqueror. It has an other-worldly atmosphere. Light filters through the stained-glass windows by the steps leading into St Stephen’s Hall, where statues of Parliament’s most famous speakers stand facing each other, watched by the early kings and queens of England set in the hall’s four corners.

On one wall, I spy a painting of Sir Thomas More defying a prominent cardinal of the day. Twelve years later, More lost his head for defying the king.

I’ve seen the House of Commons, the lower house of elected members, with its green leather seats and oak panelling, so many times on the television, but it feels smaller and somehow dingier in real life. Even empty, the air is thick with intrigue.

Outside again, I cross the road to Westminster’s Gothic sister, Westminster Abbey. Since the crowning of William the Conqueror in 1066, the abbey has been the location of every royal coronation and many royal funerals and weddings. Many of British history’s biggest celebrities are buried here, including Queen Eliza beth I, Charles Darwin and Stephen Hawking.

I’ve come for a quick look at The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries, a secret space — the triforium — housed high above the abbey floor. Hidden from public view for more than 700 years, it now displays artefacts from the abbey’s history, including a fascinating collection of wooden mannequins that were dressed to look like the dead sovereigns at their royal funeral processions. Going up the newly built Weston Tower to the triforium, there are incredible views of the Palace of Westminster.

3.45 p.m. — Buckingham Palace
I follow Birdcage Walk along beautiful St James’s Park to Buckingham Palace, the biggest attraction of them all. As usual, the crowds are pressed up against the gates of the queen’s home. You can tell if she’s at home by the flag flying above the palace: the Royal Standard if she’s in residence, and the Union Jack if she’s elsewhere. Of course, there’s also the possibility of a chance sighting on that famous balcony, but don’t get your hopes up.

The Queen’s Gallery, next door to the palace, shows works from the Royal Collection all year round. I find a triptych by Liverpool artists the Singh Twins, showing the influence of India on British culture. Among the cast of characters, I’m touched to find Duleep Singh, the last Maharaja of Punjab, a tragic figure from Britain’s colonial history.

Kidnapped by the British at the age of 11, after his kingdom had been annexed to British India, Singh was raised as a Brit. At the age of 15, he was received by Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace. It is said that the queen showed him the Koh-inoor diamond, the very same one that is now in the Tower of London. Everyone waited with bated breath as he walked to the window and held it up to the light. There was a collective sigh of relief when he handed it back, for that diamond was rightfully his. It belonged to him.

Later in life, Duleep tried to return to India to mount a rebellion against the British Empire. But he failed and died a lonely death in Paris. One of his daughters, Princess Sophia, went on to become a leading figure in the suffragette movement that would win women the vote.

5 p.m. — Trafalgar Square
I stroll down Pall Mall towards Trafalgar Square. Ever since I first saw it on the Monopoly board as a child, I’ve loved the name of this street. It comes from a 17th-century ball game called paille-maille that used to be played by the upper crust in St James’s Park.

Trafalgar Square is the place to come for colour and characters, gathered around Nelson’s Column with its statue of Admiral Horatio Nelson, who died in the midst of victory against the French and Spanish navies at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. I find artists doing drawings on the paving slabs. There’s a man with a mic, a sort of one-man orchestra making a series of beeps, beats and what appear to be burps, who has onlookers entranced.

I make for the National Portrait Gallery, located just round the corner from the square. On the second floor, I find a worried-looking Winston Churchill, painted in 1916 by Sir William Orpen. In 1915, Churchill had resigned, after sending 46,000 Allied soldiers to their deaths in a catastrophic campaign to take the Dardanelles Straits from the Ottoman Empire. Under investigation, he seems emptied of life force. “It’s not the portrait of a man, it’s the portrait of a soul,” he would later say. It wasn’t until 1917 that his name was cleared.

I stay until closing time, studying the portraits on show. The National Portrait Gallery is a treat, giving an intimate perspective of the story of Britain.

6.30 p.m. — Walk and a drink
From Piccadilly, it’s a short walk to The Ritz, one of the city’s grandest hotels. Close your eyes for a moment and imagine a 19-year-old Princess Elizabeth, the future queen, doing the conga through the lobby on 8 May 1945, celebrating the end of the Second World War.

I take a seat in the Art Deco surroundings of the Rivoli Bar. Deputy manager Andrea Caputo serves me a gin cocktail. Looking at the menu, I almost choke on an olive as I find the bar’s most expensive cocktail: a £500 Sazerac made with cognac that is over a century old. “Does anyone ever order this?” I ask Andrea.

He smiles: “Maybe a couple of times.” I feel I’ve earned my aperitif. It seems as if my head had been so full of the stories I picked up along the way that I barely noticed the walk. Such is the impact of this city on the imagination.

Already, I’m looking forward to my next visit.

If you go

Stay

Eat and drink

The Wahaca Southbank

Experiment: Mexican food in a recycled shipping container in the Southbank Centre

The Rivoli Bar: Inventive cocktails in Art Deco surroundings at The Ritz

See and do

Tower of London

St Paul’s Cathedral

Palace of Westminster: Buy tickets from Portcullis House at 1 Parliament Street on the western side of Westminster Bridge

Westminster Abbey

Queen’s Gallery

National Portrait Gallery


Illustrationen: Martin Haake

Illustrationen: Martin Haake

Illustrationen: Martin Haake