When you think of the architecture in London, what comes to mind? Let me guess. St. Paul’s Cathedral? Buckingham Palace? Westminster Abbey? Besides those with a design background, most people respond with the classics. These significant sites certainly make up most of the architecture in London. But I’m not about that. I’m not an expert by any means, and this is just my opinion, but let me introduce you to my favourite architectural spots in the city.
Although I had no interest in traditional landmarks, it felt like a mistake to disregard them altogether. I mean, who goes to London and deliberately skips out the Big Ben?
To solve this problem, I joined a free one-day walking tour to speed through the classics. At least I could tick them off the unspoken list. It was all settled and everything was going as planned – until lunch break rolled around.
I suddenly had a really, really big urge to, y’know, go number two. I found a bathroom no problem, but I ended up using so much time emptying my bowels that when I’d finally arrived at the meeting point for the afternoon, I was met with an empty grass field.
The tour had already moved on.
Sigh. I guess I’m just not destined to see the British classics after all.
I’m pretty sure that most people who visit the British Museum go for the history, art and culture. Me? I went for the architecture of the building. There’s only one way to describe this gem of an architecture in London: epic. Located in the Bloomsbury area, the British Museum houses over eight million works in its permanent collection. It’ll sure keep you busy for hours.
Inside the Greek Revival façade of the entrance, you’ll find the Reading Room and Great Court, stunning masterpieces of by architects Fosters and Partners. I was lucky enough to meet another solo traveller there and we helped each other take photos of the beautiful architectural details. The design is truly amazing. Make sure to stop and admire the incredible Great Court roof, which is built with 1,656 uniquely shaped panes of glass!
Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1B 3DG, UK
+44 20 7323 8299
If you want to see a panoramic view of London, you cannot skip the beautifully designed Sky Garden. It offers a true spectacle across the capital and is free to visit, provided you make a booking beforehand on their website. The glass-paned interior lets in natural light 155 metres up and the stunning surroundings are only heightened by the greenery planted throughout the space. It was the perfect way for vertically-challenged lil’ me to see the city in one sweep.
1 Sky Garden Walk, London EC3M 8AF, UK
+44 20 7337 2344
One of my must-visit pieces of architecture in London was the Tate Modern. There, I got to see (a commissioned replica of) the artwork Fountain by Marcel Duchamp, the legendary urinal that gave rise to Dadaism. Based in the former Bankside Power Station, Tate Modern is an art gallery holding British art from the 1900’s to present day contemporary art. I fawned over the concrete interiors and tried to visit all the exhibitions, but there was just too much to finish seeing in one day. It definitely needs a revisit in the future.
Bankside, London SE1 9TG, UK
+44 20 7887 8888
The British Library is not only the second largest library in the world, but also a famous piece of Brutalist architecture in London. Its iconic design was recently given Grade 1 Listed Status by Heritage Minister Tracey Couch and it’s not difficult to see why. Having come a long way since its controversial construction in 1962, the library, with its soaring interior spaces, has become a trove of artistic, literary and scholarly treasures. My eyes almost brimmed up with tears when I explored the Brutalist building, not only because of its beautiful architecture but also because the people inside were actually reading. You gotta understand that where I’m from in Hong Kong, no one reads, okay?
96 Euston Road, King’s Cross, London NW1 2DB, UK
+44 330 333 1144
If you’ve been following my London blog posts, you’d know that I’m still obsessed with my visit to the Serpentine Pavilion half a year on. I’ve written all about it in a blog post dedicated solely to this piece of architecture in London. The pictured temporary installation by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) has already been taken down, but fret not, the 2017 pavilion is coming soon to Hyde Park this summer!
Kensington Gardens, London W2 3XA, UK
+44 20 7402 6075
Greenwich Foot Tunnel
One little gem I made a point to visit when I went to Greenwich was the Greenwich Foot Tunnel. Designed by civil engineer Sir Alexander Binnie, the underground passage is open 24 hours daily and brings you from Greenwich on the south bank to the Isle of Dogs on the north.
I wasn’t there to cross the River Thames, though. I was there to take an Instagram-worthy photo. But while cyclists are told to dismount when crossing the tunnel, none of them actually regard this rule. I was constantly afraid a bike would whizz by and knock my tripod off its feet. But hell, it’s worth the risk if you, like me, want to explore more than your typical pieces of architecture in London.
Greenwich Foot Tunnel
Greenwich, London SE10 9HT, UK
+44 20 8854 8888
So there you have it, an unconventional list of stunning architecture in London and my favourite design landmarks of the city. There are more, including the interiors of little cafés here and there and smaller structures such as The Hive in Kew Gardens – but listing them all would result in a never-ending blog post. If you’re hungry for more architectural places to check out, be sure to read my blog post on the Serpentine Pavilion. Let me know in the comments which of my picks from this list is your favourite!
- Why Travelling Solo to London Was the Best Thing I Ever Did
- 4 Outdoor Parks in London to Brighten Up Your Day
- Why You Absolutely Cannot Miss the Serpentine Pavilion
- An Unconventional List of Stunning Architecture in London
- Think You Know How to Spend 24 Hours in London?
If you enjoyed this post and want to get updates on my journey around the world before they even hit this blog, make sure to follow me on Instagram and subscribe to charmainenyw.com’s mailing list!