One Londoner’s Love Letter to the Capital
There are many outstanding capital cities across the world that lay claim to being the best. Moscow and Washington DC may be the seat of government for the two current superpowers, Tokyo awash with neon splendour and Paris as romantic and beautiful as they come, but no capital city combines the greatest aspects of as many other major cities as London.
Historically, London has been a globally renowned city for at least 2,000 years, when it was first founded by the Romans who named the city Londinium. It was the centre of the British Empire, which once stretched across the globe, encompassing vast countries and as such has always been a hub for trade and commerce.
From these humble beginnings, London’s importance as a city continued to grow throughout the centuries. Even as the influence and scope of the British Empire waned, the importance of London as a city for trade, industry and finance continued to flourish and now the city rightfully ranks as one of the most important centres for global business, commerce, finance and retail.
It is not just London’s global importance as a centre for trade and businesses of all kinds that makes it the world’s best capital city; there are so many other attractions the city boasts that clearly underline why London is one of the most popular cities in the world for travellers to visit.
One of the biggest draws to London is entertainment and the capital city can boast some of the finest evenings out available anywhere in the world. Theatre lovers have ample choice in the famous West End, with some outstanding shows, including classics such as Les Miserables and The Moustrap; running at the same time as contemporary performances such as Mamma Mia, Legally Blonde and Thriller Live.
There is also the fantastic Royal Opera house, home not only to some of the finest operatic performances in the world, but also the Royal Ballet. The Royal Albert Hall hosts many classical concerts, including the pomp and pageantry that has become so associated with the famous proms concerts.
Architecturally, too, London is an important city. Few places in the world offer such a wide range of buildings in such a dramatically different style and from different eras. From magnificent modern edifices such as the imposing Canary Wharf, the O2 Arena (formerly the Millennium Dome), City Hall, 30 St Mary Axe (known colloquially as the Gherkin) and the iconic Post Office Tower to the undeniable beauty of Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace,Hampton Court and Trafalgar Square. London is an architectural treasure trove of buildings, each representative of a different epoch in the city’s history.
The city is also fortunate in being home to some of the world’s finest collections of art and artefacts, housed in some of the most magnificent settings in the world. The British Museum was the first established in the city in 1753 and now contains over seven million exhibits collected from all over the globe. The Natural History Museum, Science Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum are also outstanding attractions for those keen on archaeology, science and applied arts.
Art lovers also find London has plenty of attractions to entertain and inspire them. The National Gallery, situated in the spectacular Trafalgar Square, is home to the national collection of paintings while Tate Britain and Tate Modern also house many other outstanding and priceless works of art from many of the greatest artists of the ages.
London is also one of the key centres for the fashion and music industries. Every year, top designers bring their newest designs to the catwalks around the city and a host of the biggest names in fashion have their outlets in the shops around Oxford Street and Regent Street. Globally renowned names such as Fortnum and Mason, Hamleys and Harrods all have their flagship stores in the capital. Musically, the city hosts many outstanding venues for live popular music, including Wembley Arena, Roundhouse, the O2 Academy and the imposing O2 Arena, which attract a host of the top names in music from across the world to the city throughout the year.
In addition to the veritable feast of artistic attractions on offer, London boasts an equal number of aesthetic ones, too. The city boasts many outstanding public parks and spaces, including the famous Hyde Park as well as Regents Park, which is home to the famous London Zoo and situated close to Madame Tussauds' famous waxworks museum. Kew Gardens, for those with keen horticultural interest, is also well worthy of a visit and the royal parks of Green Park and St James’s Park are both wonderfully stylish.
Yet the city offers still more. As a sporting capital city London boasts a host of outstanding sporting opportunities including no less than four rugby union teams, 13 football league clubs (including five in the Premier League), two world famous cricket grounds, the Oval and Lord's, as well as the All England Tennis Club, home of the Wimbledon championships. Additionally, London is also home to Wembley Stadium and Twickenham, home of the English Football Association and English Rugby Football Association respectively.
There is also the imminent arrival of the Olympic torch in the city as 2012 is the year when London will host the Summer Olympics for the third time, following on from the successful games held in 1908 and 1948; an event that is sure to enhance the sporting credentials of the city still further.
Part of what makes London the best capital city in the world is that despite the myriad features mentioned here, there is still so much more to see and do. The London Eye has proven to be a spectacular and popular addition to the waterfront, the famous statue of Eros is now back in place in Piccadilly Circus; indeed everywhere you turn there is another adventure waiting to be discovered.
It is this staggering variety and breadth of life and the sheer scale of London that provides the heartbeat that powers the city from the banks of the River Thames. London is a city more than the sum of its parts. It is truly a metropolis and undeniably the best capital city in the world.
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