London's Strand “Oh, what a happy land!” goes the Music Hall standard so closely associated with the road stretching from Trafalgar Square to Temple, an avenue of delights in Victorian times and still one of central London’s most iconic streets.
It is also where you can find one of Londons most celebrated hotels, the Savoy Hotel London.
Though Covent Garden and Shaftesbury Avenue have replaced theStrand’s position as the home of theatre – many of the street’s great venues, including the Royal Strand Theatre, the Gaiety and the Tivoli are now either demolished or converted – there’s still a lot happening around these parts.
Trafalgar Square, known for Nelson’s Column, lions, fountains and dearly departed hordes of pigeons is a must-visit, an essential Londonsight with free events throughout the summer.
The imposing National Gallery (Trafalgar Square, 020 7747 2885, www.nationalgallery.org.uk) is one of the nation’s great treasures, with a permanent collection boasting masterpieces like Monet’s Water Lilies,
Van Gogh’sSunflowers, Constable’s Hay Wain and over 2,300 more wonderful paintings by the likes of Caravaggio, Da Vinci, Turner and Renoir set over an encyclopaedic layout of galleries following seven centuries of art history – and best of all, it’s free.
As is the very popular National Portrait Gallery nearby (St Martin’s Place, 020 7312 2490, www.npg.org.uk), visited by 1.5 million each year and crammed with portraits of British history’s great and good.
Atmospheric Temple Bar at the other end of the Strand is the home of Britain’s legal profession with ancient chambers and squares.
There’s also Somerset House (Strand, 020 7845 4600, www.somersethouse.org.uk), a former royal palace with a thrilling history – it was home to the Naval Admiralty during the Napoleonic wars and many monarchs made it their home – and has concerts, exhibitions and a brilliant outdoor winter ice rink.
There’s theatres galore around Aldwych including Covent Garden big-hitters like the Theatre Royal Drury Lane (Catherine Street, 0870 890 6002,www.reallyuseful.com/theatres),
The Lyceum Theatre and the Savoy Theatre – also home to the famous luxury art deco hotel - for the very best of the West End.
Eateries and English pubs abound on the Strand, and as well as Covent Garden’s wide range of food, Villiers Street next to Charing Cross has the outstandingGordon’s Wine Bar (47 Villiers Street, 020 7930 1408, www.gordonswinebar.com), a dungeon-like candlelit basement reputed to be the oldest wine bar in the city.
Charing Cross Station (Northern and Bakerloo Underground lines) is the best tube for the Strand, with Embankment (Circle, District, Northern and Bakerloo),Leicester Square (Piccadilly and Nothern) and Covent Garden (Piccadilly) very close by.
Strand: Tube (underground)
|Charing Cross Station
||Bakerloo - Northern
||District - Bakerloo - Northern - Circle line
|Covent Garden Station
|Leicester Square Station
||Piccadilly - Northern
||District - Circle line