London is one of the most diverse and exciting cities in Europe, a multi-layered, sprawling treasure trove of iconic buildings, cool neighborhoods, quirky locations, hip hangouts and memorable views. With regular connections to the United States, it's simple to arrive here, but what comes next? Delve beyond the world famous landmarks of the British capital to find the real London.
Like many major tourist magnets, it’s possible to navigate your way around London purely by the attractions that draw visitors to the British capital. There are buildings that are emblematic of London and the United Kingdom that will no doubt make the top of your list: think Buckingham Palace, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge and the Palace of Westminster.
The past is around every corner in London, it’s a city with a strong sense of place and connection to its history. Yet, London has been home to wave upon wave of counter-culture movements, different ethnic influences, and innovators that have carved their own niche on the edifice of the modern urban landscape.
Rising imperiously from the London Bridge Quarter, rooted in one of the city’s longest established districts, The Shard is the tallest building in the United Kingdom. It also provides a panoramic view of the financial district, River Thames and Tower Bridge (the best view is, in fact, from the restroom). Enjoy a cocktail in the Oblix lounge on the 32nd floor as the sun sets over the London skyline.
A short walk along the Thames takes you to the Tate Modern, the former power station where Britain’s industrial past crosses paths with its creative future. London boasts one of the most impressive art collections in the world across public galleries and museums. The Tate Modern does not charge for admission to the majority of its gallery space and features some remarkable works from the 20th century in an atmospheric setting.
Search for cheap flights to London The West End of London features the cultural totems of the theater district, famous restaurants like The Ivy and the bright lights of Piccadilly Circus. You’ll also find a huge concentration of entertainment businesses and shopping avenues. A ride on the Central line of the London Underground will transport you to the East End, the beating heart of the city’s identity and a burgeoning location for start-ups, hipsters and quirky restaurants. Enter the [hip world of Shoreditch](http://londonist.com/2016/09/explore-shoreditch-with-these-cool-photos), a hot spot for street art, punctuated by pop-up restaurants and the hangout of choice for young creatives and musicians. If you don’t mind [vying for table space in a local pub](http://londonist.com/pubs/princess-of-shoreditch) then you’ll find intriguing company, impressive food and eye-catching fashions. Music is an important part of the London story and it’s not hard to find. From arena shows to improvised street-corner gigs, open your ears as you tour the city. In many ways London is a network of villages and the area with the most musical soul is Camden Town. This enclave in an inner city district of northwest London is dominated by its canal and alternative music venues. The Roundhouse Theatre and the Electric Ballroom attract local and international acts. Meanwhile, Camden Market with its network of independent retailers and food stall-holders is actually the fourth-most popular visitor attraction in London, attracting around 100,000 people each weekend to indulge in local eats, pick up boho fashions or simply read a book by the canal. Camden is as fascinating as it is distinctive.
When standing amidst the perpetual bustle of Leicester Square, Whitehall with its grand government buildings or other tourist traps, its easy to forget that London contains many pockets of calm amidst the constant movement and activity. Hyde Park is one of London’s eight Royal Parks close to Buckingham Palace and the upmarket Knightsbridge district. Famous landmarks include the Serpentine Lake, featured in many movies and where local swimmers enjoy the water all year round. London rightly enjoys a reputation as one of the gourmet capitals of the world with a collection of internationally-renowned destination restaurants. The abundance of restaurants allows hidden gems to hide in plain sight, located in doorways or basements only know to regular customers. ![Food in London](http://content.skyscnr.com/9b3b2db21b866a623c45e8a94a4073b0/GettyImages-78024833.jpg “Food in London”) Look for one of London’s oldest Indian restaurants at [Hotel Strand Continental](https://www.skyscanner.com/hotels/q/?q=Strand+Continental%2C+London%2C+England%2C+United+Kingdom&sd=2017-01-17&ed=2017-01-18&na=1&nr=1&bpt_eid=o_82012235&fhids=82012235) to discover one of the city’s best-kept secrets. India Club in an unassuming and quaint dining room specializes in south Indian cooking with an abundance of vegetarian and meat based dishes. In Clapham, the wonderfully named Powder Keg Diplomacy restaurant is a traditional, antiquated and atmospheric feel. Local rate its quintessentially British menu and full wine list. For another view of London from a different perspective, follow the trail of young, affluent professionals and media personalities to Primrose Hill on the northern side of Regent’s Park, which once served as a hunting ground for King Henry VIII. The summit here has an unadulterated view across a grand swathe of central London. It’s the type of view that you could study for hours, taking in the distinctive Telecom Tower, London Eye observation wheel, Houses of Parliament and new soaring glass buildings in the Financial District. You may even spot a new landmark to explore as you continue to delve beneath the surface of this enigmatic destination.