London Calling

I’m ready to get lost in the green streets of London - home of the world’s first subway network and traffic lights.
By Fulya Ozgener

I’d be lying if I said London, where I can simultaneously experience a variety of cultures (some familiar and some new to me) in a cosmopolitan environment, is a one-time city.

With every visit, I feel there is a new corner to see, an experience to gain, or a taste to explore that I have missed. Now I know – there will always be a next time for London.
I stop by the Thames, which travels through the city, and see that almost everything here has been touched by humankind. It’s easy to see how civil engineering has shaped the city over the years by fighting against the water and digging subway tunnels in the river delta; there are even statues of civil engineers to commemorate their accomplishments.

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I start the first day at Holland Park, a giant botanical garden where one can relieve stress by walking barefoot on the soil. I decide to follow suit and have a packed lunch on the grass like the locals do. As the fast pace of life goes on outside, the park is full of a sense of tranquility. Soon, lunch break is over for Londoners, and I decide to take a short walk towards Notting Hill, where the movie of the same name is set. With its Victorian terraced houses and colorful historical texture, Notting Hill is one of the districts where London’s alternative cultures meet.

After shopping at Portobello Market and getting lost among the nearby design shops, I sit at one of the cafés and inhale the smell of coffee. With every sip, I become a part of this city. I can no longer ignore a rumbling stomach but I have already decided where to eat: The Elgin at Notting Hill!

Having rested a bit and satisfied my appetite, I continue my exploration. First comes Buckingham Palace (easily accessible from Green Park Underground Station), followed by Westminster Palace and Big Ben. I enter a long queue to get a panoramic view of the city from the top of the London Eye by the Thames. A reminder – if you wish to stay on the ground while enjoying a peerless view, I suggest you attend one of the river tours, which start in front of the Tower of London.

I’m facing a dilemma as the hour calls for the traditional British afternoon tea. I can either have a cup of coffee sitting on the stairs at Trafalgar Square in the midst of urban energy, or head to Ham Yard Hotel where I can feel a bit more like a Londoner. It seems feasible to do both so I first experience a classic British afternoon tea ceremony at the hotel, and then take the Piccadilly line to Covent Garden Station. Within a short walk, I arrive at the glamorous performance hall of the Royal Opera House to watch Swan Lake. I couldn’t imagine a better way to end the day.

I begin the next day with a breakfast that is pleasant in both taste and sight at The Breakfast Club, and head towards the British Museum and the Museum of London. My next stop is the Barbican Center, one of the largest art and conference centers in Europe, that hosts both the Royal Shakespeare Company and the London Symphony Orchestra. After drinking a large cup of coffee (which tastes delicious - maybe because of this cultural experience), I feel I’m beginning to get hungry. I treat myself to a scenic lunch at Duck & Waffle (on the 40th floor) near Liverpool Street Underground Station.

If you’re not hungry and can tap into the energy of the coffee, I suggest you visit Liverpool Street and Old Spitalfields Market to shop at the stores and – if it’s Sunday – at the open-air markets. After lunch, I hop on an iconic double-decker towards Borough Market, which is almost a thousand years old and where you can see a display of many cuisines. It’s a must to experience London's street culture. I have enough energy and time for new tastes and sights. I decide it’d be amiss not to see a musical when I'm this hyped. While The Phantom of the Opera is a classic, there is also Thriller Live, during which you might find yourself tapping your feet to the beat. I choose the latter and find myself giving my own performance in my seat.

I begin the next day with a lovely breakfast at Cecconi, within close distance to Oxford and Regent Streets, two of London’s main arteries, and decide that it’s time for some shopping. Around here, you can find almost any brand. Make sure to spend some time at Liberty of London department store not only for shopping, but also to admire the elegance of the displays. Situated behind the department store, Carnaby Street also deserves a glance.

When shopping is the name of the game, it’s a must to visit Selfridges. On the basement floor, you will also find a great variety of delicious foods and beverages. I hardly keep myself from going overboard.
As in every city, London has some newly rising, modern districts in addition to its classic corners. Just to give you an example, Shoreditch and Old Street, both hubs of art and fun, are great choices for those who long for the late-90s vibe of Beyoğlu Istanbul.

If you’re a fan of spicy food or Indian cuisine, get in the line in front of Dishoom to appease your appetite. If you visit the area on a Sunday, make sure to stop by Columbia Road Flower Market, which turns the entire street into a sea of flowers from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
There are endless events to attend, corners to explore and delicacies to taste in London, so make sure to plan a next visit. Keep in mind – London never invites you just once, and you'll find yourself constantly accepting all its invitations and packing your bag for each lovely adventure.

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