Our day started with a visit to Spitalfields Market and on the way there we stopped to take a look at one of the 13 cast iron statues marking the boundaries of the City of London. The dragon symbol is thought to have been derived from the legend of St. George.
Moving on we soon arrived at Spitalfields, a short walk from Liverpool Street station. It’s one of London’s oldest markets which from its small beginnings in the 17th century, grew to become a major centre in London for the sale of fresh produce. Over the last 20 years it has been sympathetically transformed and is now home to an array of upscale independent stallholders offering hand crafted gifts, clothes, artwork and jewellery.
It’s a lovely, vibrant place for a wander as the surrounding streets are home to fashion stores and quirky boutiques, some based in the historic former Fruit and Wool Exchange. There’s food for every budget too from restaurants to street food trucks serving up a wide variety of tasty dishes.
Dotted around the market area are a collection of 21 life sized bronze elephants installed just over a year ago by artists Gillie and Marc. This installation named Herd of Hope represents a mother and 20 orphaned elephants embarking on a journey across London when the family become separated.
Outside the main courtyard of the market we spotted another interesting installation ‘Together Forever on Wheels’ by the same artists. The rabbit headed woman and a dog headed man setting off on a motorbike ride made us smile as we wandered by.
Not far from Spitalfields Market on Fulgate Street is Dennis Severs House, the Georgian terraced house that he owned and lived in until his death. Since 1980 the house has been open to visitors telling the story about an imaginary family of Huguenot silk weavers in 18th and 19th century Spitalfields. (Tours £15 Thursday-Sunday from 12.00 noon). The house was closed when we visited but I’d like to have an opportunity to visit sometime.
Our morning stroll continued onto Shoreditch, a vibrant creative hub in the East End of London. Brick Lane lies at its heart with this narrow street becoming a mecca for artists and bohemians thanks to its colourful street art, vintage shops and enticing street food. The area attracts both locals and tourists who come to its Sunday market to browse its stalls cram packed with bric-a-brac, clothing, jewellery and gifts.
From there we made our way to Aldgate East underground station but just as we were approaching we noticed Whitechapel Gallery located next door in a historic building. Admittance is free so we stepped inside to take a look. One of the exhibitions was entitled ‘Travel Bureau’ so that seemed the perfect gallery for us to explore.
After leaving the gallery we took the District and Circle line to St. James’ Park which we then strolled through towards Buckingham Palace before continuing across Green Park to Piccadilly. The Royal Parks are delightful whatever the time of year and lovely green spaces to enjoy a picnic in on warmer days.
We’d come along to Piccadilly as we’d pre-arranged a timed entry slot to visit the Royal Academy. As we were slightly early it was the perfect excuse to pop into Fortnum and Mason, the luxury department store opposite. It’s always a treat to look around the store admiring its fine crystal, porcelain and large selection of teas.
It was then over the road to the Royal Academy based in Burlington House. It’s home to Britain’s largest established art school and renowned for putting on world class exhibitions of arts from around the world.
We’d come to see the exhibition Late Constable spanning the final 12 years of one of Britain’s best loved artist’s life until his untimely death in 1837. The exhibition included paintings, drawings and sketches.
Afterwards, we explored the building which is absolutely beautiful with its grand staircases and marble pillars. Its stylish cafes, restaurant and gift shop are open to non ticket holders and a lovely place to stop off for coffee or lunch.
From Piccadilly it was just a short walk onto Leicester Square where we were just in time to view the Swiss Clock and Glockenspiel chime 3.00 p.m. The clock originates from the Swiss Centre which was demolished in 2008 sadly taking the original clock with it. A replica has since been installed which is 10m high featuring a selection of moving figures representing traditional Swiss farmers with a rotating alpine scene. It’s a lovely sight to see in such a lively part of the West End.
The area around Leicester Square is famed for its theatres and restaurants and we enjoyed having a wander around as it was falling dark before finding somewhere to eat dinner before taking the train home.
We’d loved being tourists in our own capital city spending time exploring many of London’s iconic landmarks. I hope you have enjoyed this series of posts as whether you live in the U.K. or elsewhere, London is always an exciting city to visit and impossible to tire of.
Our weekend in London was supported by Visit London and as always all views and opinions are entirely my own.
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