Over the course of my trip I have been lucky enough to visit London on a couple of occasions. London is a wonderful city that offers a lot of culture, and history but also feels a bit more contemporary than some other large European cities. It has a lot of important tourist sights such as Big Ben, the London Eye and Buckingham Palace and even just the red telephone booths.
This will be one of my longer posts because I have gained a couple of different perspective, both as a planner and as a tourist. To make it easier I have separated this into two sections, so read whatever interests you!
AS A PLANNER…
Like many large cities, London is currently facing a housing affordability crisis. As part of my program at Oxford Brooke’s, I was lucky enough to spend a day in London with a focus on planning and architecture.
We started with a tour of St. Pancras International Station. Here we learned about the design of the station. We also learned about the history of the station, which was nearly torn down. An original hotel that was connected to the station has now been converted to a restaurant that contains a lot of the original building design. The station was designed as a Terminus station so that trains would end here and not travel through the City of London. Kings Cross is the connected adjacent station with Underground service for the rest of London.
The station now services several British Railway lines as well as the Eurostar which travels to Paris and Brussels. It’s a great example of a station that could have been destroyed but instead due to vision an design was converted into something wonderful. The redevelopment and the connections the station offers also served as a catalyst for a hub of new development and redevelopment including world renowned destinations such as Central St. Martens, part of the University of Arts London, and Google offices.
St. Pancras International:
The Kings Cross area redevelopment comprises an area of 67 acres of land and a rich industrial history. The area requires a mix of presevation, and new development. The area is anticipated to have 2000 new housing units. It will also offer shops, restaurants and even 40% of the area will be developed as open space. The area includes schools and spaces for children as well, making it also an ideal area for families.
Kings Cross Redeveloment Area:
Kings Cross is one area of London currently undergoing substantial redevelopment. Because the city is surrounded by a Greenbelt, development is limited to within the city, making brownfield sites very important.
We were lucky enough to visit New London Architecture (NLA) which offers a giant model of the City of London:
The model showed all existing buildings as well as any proposed developments to show where growth and change is occurring. The model is accompanied by a lighting system which can highlight features such as parks, museums and underground lines. The company has also put together videos that work together with the model to explain current development in London.
A presentation from Transport for London concluded our tours. We learned about the management of the Underground (Tube) and commuter rail outside of the city. TFL is also investing heavily in cycling infrastructure to create cycling “super highways” and the new Crossline 1 and 2 – new rail services through London. Housing is not the only challenge London is facing, moving 8.5 million people around in their daily lives is not an easy task.
This likely explains what I noticed to be very expensive transit. If I have any advice in London about transit is that it is great and easy to use, but buy an Oyster card because it will save you money!
AS A TOURIST…
I was lucky enough to see many of the popular sites in London.
Step One is get an Oyster card because it will save you money on transit!
For anyone interested in seeing a great view of London, the Shard offers a viewing deck. It also offers a restaurant, the Aquashard, which is free to visit and you can treat yourself to a nice drink or meal with a beautiful view.
Views from the Aquashard:
SOHO, The Convent Garden and Neal’s Yard are all great suggestions to visit that are more local spots. The Covent Garden offers a lovely market, with vendors as well as many stores.
The Covent Garden:
Neal’s Yard is a hidden gem of Covent Garden. It can be found through several alleys and is full of lovely buildings, plants, lights and cute bars and restaurants. We went to Homeslice for dinner for the best pizza ever!
The Tower of London is one of the most unique tourist spots in a London. It’s a great way to learn about the city’s history. While you could spend hours, even a couple hours is enough with all the tourists. Remember your student cards to save a lot here.
Make sure you check out the Thames and all the awesome bridges and boardwalks it offers,