Don’t try to do it in a day: South west London’s cultural highlights

It’s always hurtful to a Londoner to hear a visitor from abroad dismiss our great city after spending only a few hours here. 

You know the type of conversation, I heard one on the tube recently, “Oh yeah we had a great day in Paris, such a beautiful city but London, I don’t know, there’s not as much to do here…”

I resisted the urge to grab the bulky lapels of his Superdry, lock his gaze to mine and say through clenched teeth “Look I’ve lived in south west London for ten years and I still haven’t seen all the stuff I want to see.”

So now I’m calm here’s some of what I would want to say to him.  First off, if you’ve travelled half way round the world to visit London, don’t just do a day trip.

London has a reputation for being expensive but if you shop around it’s no more so than Rome or Paris.  You need to stay here for at least a few days and where better than south west London.

If you’re really on a budget the obvious choice is Air B&B in say somewhere like Putney, however bearing in mind that you’ve travelled a long way to see this city you might want to treat yourself to a bit more comfort and privacy and go for a short term let.

Then again if you really want a memorable experience, a good hotel is a lot more than just a bed for the night.

So, you’re here for a few days: you can burn a lot of money chasing the whole of London on the tube so let’s just consider what’s on offer in this neck of the woods.

Well first off there’s the big three: the Science Museum, the Natural History Museum and the Victoria and Albert.

Three of the world’s greatest museums, all next to one another and all free; through if we all give a donation there’s a chance they’ll stay that way.  The Louvre, by comparison, will set you back twelve euros.

Sticking with the free stuff, there’s the magnificently re-gilded Albert Memorial and Albert Hall just a short walk away.

Few cities, if any, can boast parks as fine as London’s so take a walk by the Serpentine before ducking back into Knightsbridge where the architecture is wonderful and the four acres of Harrods is a spectacle in a league of its own.

Sticking with the big attractions, a walk through Green Park and St James’s Park will take you past Buckingham Palace and on to Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament, where you can head left along the Embankment.

Here you’ll find the Banqueting House with its ceilings painted by Rubens or right to the Tate Britain, just one of London’s world class art museums which again is free to enter.

I can feel myself getting riled at the thought of that young man again and I haven’t even mentioned the largest collection of living plants on earth at Kew, the wacky gothic of Strawberry Hill or the Victorian melancholy of the Brompton Cemetery. Nothing to do? Speak again Cordelia.

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