This is the first in a new series about London lovers. I asked a few people for their top 5 places in London. Follow London is your oyster on Facebook and Twitter so you won't miss a new post.
My name is Hannes Pype, 31 years old, from Kortrijk, Belgium. My first encounter with London must have been about a decade ago. When I started teaching secondary school English, I had –embarrassingly enough- never been to London. Hence my enthusiasm when I was asked to help organise a three-day London trip for our fourth year pupils. Once there I was immediately infected with the London virus. No incubation time whatsoever, instant addiction. Since then, I try to go there once or twice a year. I am even taking my band there in May to play a few gigs. So anyway, here are my five favourite spots in London, although the sheer idea of selecting merely five places has been a truly daunting task…
- Sir John Soane’s Museum: formerly the home of 19th century neo-classical architect, this place has something magical, out of this world about it. For one thing, it is situated in the area of the Inns of Court, which is in itself a nice place to stroll about. A keen archaeological and classical aficionado, Soane collected tons of artefacts, paintings, sculptures, … during his life. He wanted to display all of them in his house. Yes, his house. The place is literally packed with the most eclectic collection. Do pay a visit to the paintings room, where Soane quite creatively solved a lack of space issue. He definitely was as mad as a box of frogs, but his legacy is certainly worth a visit. www.soane.org – free of charge – 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields - tube station: Holborn
- London Street Art Tour, Shoreditch: Shoreditch is one of the places to be these days for the young, alternative crowd. Have a look around, especially at the fashion style of the passers-by. It’s like Hipster Central up there. Apart from that, it is also the area with the largest and most interesting collection of Street Art. An organisation called Street Art London does a great walking tour, with absolutely expert guys, who can tell you so much more than when you’re simply walking about and having a look. Just drop an e-mail to Karim and he will sort it out for you. Obviously not free of charge, but really reasonable prices, also for groups. www.streetartlondon.co.uk/tours/ - £12-£15 pp (non-private tours) – tube station: Old Street
- BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir (Neasden Temple): personally, this is one of the best hidden gems of London. Around the corner from Wembley stadium, it is the single biggest Hindu temple outside of India. All 5,000 tonnes of marble was hand-carved in India, shipped to the UK and assembled at the Neasden site by about 3,000 volunteers. The place will render you speechless, marvelling at the ridiculous amount of detail in the architecture. Inside, the spectacle continues, when you are shown around by very friendly and welcoming guides. And: it’s absolutely free! It’s a bit further away from the absolute centre of London, but it is absolutely worth the journey! londonmandir.baps.org – free of charge – 105-119 Brentfield Road, Neasden – tube station: Stonebridge Park
- Denmark Street: if you are a musician, this place is a must see. In the West End, just off Charing Cross Road, has been associated with music and musicians since the 1950s. It became famous as Britain’s “Tin Pan Alley” (referring to the famous New York Tin Pan Alley) because the biggest music publishers were to be found there. Most of the buildings in the –admittedly not very long- street are music shops. Some of them have marvellous collections of instruments, often great vintage ones. If you are passionate about music, this will be your kid in a candy shop moment. Off Charing Cross Road – Tube Station: Tottenham Court Road
- Denis Severs’ House: another extraordinary place to visit is Dennis Severs’ house. This Spitalfields residence was transformed into what Severs called a “still-life drama”. The idea is that each room takes you to a different era in history between 1724 and 1914. The attention to detail is overwhelming. Candles are burning, cups of hot (!!!) tea are on the table, even the chamber pot is “filled”. All the while, it looks as if people have just left the room and are bound to come back in any minute. Not very suitable for visiting with children, as the tours are conducted in silence (which adds up to the experience). www.dennissevershouse.co.uk – 18 Folgate Street - £14 pp – tube station: Liverpool Street Station