There’s so much to see and do in and around Piccadilly in the heart of the West End; of course, there is. And, let’s face it; should you have made your base on your trip accommodation located in this very neighbourhood, then there’s a good chance (especially if it’s a hotel boasting many amenities, such as a spa West End) you may never end up venturing more than a mile away, or even half a mile away.
Yet to not do so while staying in the UK capital would be a real crying shame, for there’s just so much to discover, be beguiled by and get involved with in London – after all, it doesn’t have a reputation as one of the most diverse, colourful, exciting and bustling cities in the world for nothing. Indeed, an area you may want to check out is the neighbourhood where the centre of the town crosses over into the financial district (The City). Commonly referred to as the Barbican, it’s many and various delights to discover – before popping back to the Piccadilly area to, say, use your Rainforest Café discount – include the following…
St Paul’s Cathedral
(St Paul’s Churchyard EC4M 8AD)
A short walk away from the Barbican area (and its famous multi-arts venue) is this glorious slice of living London history. As a building, St Paul’s is arguably more recognisable than the nation’s official premier Anglican place of worship, Westminster Abbey, (what with its white brick and iconic dome) and, inside, there’s much to recommend it. Not only are we talking an ornate main interior but also the potential to access the dome itself (not least the acoustically-amazing ‘Whispering Gallery’) and, down in the basement, the Crypt, where you’ll find the resting place of both the Duke of Wellington and Horatio Nelson, among many more.
Museum of London
(150 London Wall EC2Y 5HN)
Documenting pretty much the entire history of London Town, this museum’s various collections are fascinating, to say the least; after all, not many metropolises in the world can trace their origins all the way back to the prehistoric age – and then, on top of that, boast a world-class museum in which architectural finds and once-seen-never-forgotten artefacts surviving from down through every previous century rub shoulders for the attention. In total, it comprises six million different objects, including the ridiculously ornate, gilded Lord Mayor of London’s Coach. Don’t doubt it then; an enlightening visit here may prove just the ticket following a delicious Indian afternoon tea London at your hotel.
Bank of England Museum
(Bartholomew Lane EC2R 8AH)
The UK’s central bank (and, in fact, the eighth oldest bank anywhere in the world), the Bank of England stands slap-bang in the centre of The City area, housed in an impressive-looking but rather austere, square-shaped stone building – a far cry then from the splendour of many a Piccadilly hotel London. Obviously, much of its innards is off-limits to Joe Public but not its museum. In fact, it’s open, free of charge, every weekday (apart from Bank Holidays, obviously) and on the day of the Lord Mayor’s Show – usually a Saturday in November.
So, why pop inside? Well, it may not sound it but what it contains is really rather fascinating; among the expected collections of notes and coins, books and documents are also pictures, furniture, statues from different, stiffer but elegant ages, as well as – most impressively of all – silver trinkets and, yes, a genuine gold bar (of which 99.79% is pure gold), which visitors can handle themselves (within its own Perspex box, that is) – undoubtedly the highlight of the tour!
(Guildhall Yard EC2V 5AE)
Offering a terrific glimpse into London’s Roman past, this attraction comprises the ruins of an amphitheatre thought to have been originally constructed in AD70 (from wood) and renovated into a stone building in the 2nd Century AD. The remains themselves include a foundation wall and drain.
Having been used in its heyday for several public events including gladiator games, animal-fighting events, army entertainment and even public executions of criminals (which, yes, too were entertainment for the masses), it appears too to have been used for religious activities, before (following the 4th Century) ending up derelict for hundreds of years and, eventually, becoming lost in the winds of time. Remarkably, though, it was rediscovered only as recently as 1988, when its remains and small museum opened beneath the Guildhall Art Gallery.