“Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”
So said famously the author of A Dictionary of the English Language Samuel Johnson about his home city in 1777. Some 240 years later, London is still regularly referred to as the greatest city on earth and is a long-running battle with Paris to attract the most tourist of any capital each year. But just why is it so popular?
Well I have lived in London for 6 years now and here are my top five things to love about the city.
From the hilltop in my local park I can gaze out upon a vista that includes a host of instantly recognisable landmarks, from the chimneys at Battersea Power Station via the City giants including the Gherkin, to the pyramid-topped One Canada Square in Canary Wharf. The list of icons is almost endless: historic legends like the Tower Bridge, the Tower of London and St Paul’s rub shoulders with new favourites such as the Shard, Cheesegrater and Walkie Talkie. But it’s the little gems that excite too: the ancient pubs tucked away down small alleys and the gorgeous townhouses of places like Chelsea.
The food and drink
I’ve lost track of the amount of different cuisines I’ve sampled and that’s just in Brixton! Eritrean, Mexican, Italian, Peruvian, Indian, Japanese, Thai, Chinese. There’s street food, independent, chain, high-end. There’s eating in the dark, eating on top of a skyscraper, eating on a barge. There are cocktails, brewhouses, gin bars, coffee shops. I’ve certainly never got tired of eating out.
It never sleeps
One of the first thing I noticed when I go back to my parents’ is that everything shuts down early. But in London, I’ve done high-street shopping at 9pm, caught the night Tube home at 2am and watched the election results in the pub until 5am. If you stay out late you don’t need to worry about transport home or finding something to eat – it’s a 24-hour city.
There’s something rather nice about being able to sample some world-class culture on your way home from work. I can jump off the Tube at Leicester Square and get a ticket to a West End show. I can watch famous bands in my local O2 Academy. And I can be a tourist for the day and visit the Tower of London or a museum if I want.
People express themselves in London like no place I’ve ever been. And by and large they are allowed to get on with it without prejudice. There’s something really refreshing about seeing so many styles and personalities doing their thing alongside city slickers in suits.
And they come from all over the globe. I’ve made Aussie mates, Kiwi mates and Spanish mates. It’s like being on gap year without having to leave home.