London is one of the best examples of how a city can be sowed from different cultural materials. Each individual district and borough has its own unique identity and cultural demographics. The city is a kaleidoscope of contrasting colours and atmospheres and each area guests of Montcalm Hotels visit, will be distinct from the last.
So if you have a limited time in the city but want to make the most of it, what are the neighbourhoods you can visit that truly define the city’s heritage and culture? This blog will explore the many diverse areas of London and what they add to the city. Whether you’re visiting the English capital for a Montcalm London afternoon tea or to sample the city’s nightlife, these areas prove that London is the cultural capital of not only England, but Europe.
We’re not talking about the borough of Westminster here, which includes other areas we’ll get onto later, but the actual seat of power in London. Westminster is the go-to area of London for visitors who want to learn more about the history of England’s monarchy and government. With tours of the Houses of Parliament running on a daily basis, visitors can also enjoy the magnificence of Westminster Abbey where many of the most influential Brits are buried or commemorated. Easy to reach from the Montcalm Marble Arch, Westminster is teeming with monuments and history.
London Bridge is probably most famous for its historic sheltered food market, named Borough Market. Dating back hundreds of years, Borough Market is currently a street food and ingredients supplier, whilst nearby attractions also speak to a longstanding riverside community. Make sure to visit Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, a reconstruction of the Elizabethan era theatre that debuted many of the Bard’s plays, as well as the nearby Bermondsey Street for upmarket shopping, dining and the influential contemporary art gallery White Cube.
City of London
Also known as London’s “Square Mile”, the City of London was the original site of Roman “Londinium”, dating back to the year 47 AD. You can still see parts of the old Roman wall here, as well as legendary landmarks like St Paul’s Cathedral, which dates back to the rise of British Christianity. The City of London is also home to a number of historic streets and districts including historic newspaper printing street Fleet Street, the Tower of London and the Liverpool Street financial district.
The LGBTQ district of London is home to not only a wealth of very fun gay bars, but London’s West End as well. The district’s many theatres and nightclubs make this one of the most fun areas of Central London.
Camden is another nightlife district that has a vivid, if not more post-war aligned history. Based in North London, its arts and culture are tied up with the punk movement of the 70s and 80s, and was home to the likes of late singer songwriter Amy Winehouse. Its collection of music venues and canalside bars draw in everyone from goths to jazz enthusiasts. A main draw for tourists to Camden is its historic market, running daily through a labyrinthine network of canalside stalls.
When visiting Hampstead, you might find that it feels more like a village than a part of London. This is because of its quaint Georgian townhouses and vast expanse of nature reserve providing a more rustic feel to the area. Known as Hampstead Heath, the 800 acre green space is full of beautiful fields and woodland, as well as a series of freshwater swimming baths that are open all year round. Make sure not to miss the stunning views from Parliament Hill, the legacy of which stems from the fact that it was allegedly where Guy Fawkes himself planned to watch the destruction of the Houses of Parliament.
Bordering Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, South Kensington is one of the most popular tourist draws thanks to its triumvirate of museums. The Science, Natural History and Victoria & Albert Design Museums were all in fact part of a Victorian invigoration of the area, spearheaded by Prince Albert himself. Other attractions here include the Royal Albert Hall, one of the most prestigious and beautifully designed live music and arts venues in the country.
The Victorian innovation of South Kensington all harks back to the aftermath of the Great Exhibition of 1851, when Queen Victoria’s husband, inspired by the success of the international event, ordered the building of a series of cultural centres to enhance the education of Londoners. It also cemented South Kensington’s reputation as a tourism and education powerhouse.
Brixton’s vivid culture and community stems back to the Windrush generation, when many Afrocaribbean and West Indian immigrants settled into the area and made it their own. The last southern stop on the Victoria Line, Brixton now has a thriving arts and music scene.
Partially made famous by the Hugh Grant film of the same name, Notting Hill has become synonymous again with the market held in the area on Portobello Road. Here visitors will find a daily market that jumps between vintage fashion, bric a brac and antiques, and draws in daily crowds of tourists and locals alike. Alongside its affluent neighbourhoods, Notting Hill is also famous for its annual Notting Hill Carnival, which celebrates the Caribbean heritage of the local community. This event takes place on the August bank holiday weekend.
From Jack The Ripper to nightlife wonderlands, Shoreditch has a rich and diverse history, much of which emanates out of market street Brick Lane. The Jewish and Bangladeshi history of this street harks back once again to London’s strong relationship with immigration, whilst the area in general has a former identity as a Victorian era slum and the hunting ground for Jack The Ripper. Alongside its local hotels such as the Brewery Hotel on Chiswell Street, Shoreditch is also home to the tech hub of Old Street, teeming with digital startups that exemplifies how London’s east end has a foot in the past but an eye on the future.