The City of London is one of the world’s foremost financial and business districts. It’s home to many grand, historic institutions such as the Royal Exchange, the Old Bailey and the Bank of England, as well as headquartering many large global businesses. Also referred to as the Square Mile, the City’s boundaries are based on the original Roman town of Londinium …which measure almost exactly one square mile.
Restaurants in the City are many and varied, catering mainly to the needs of business people. There are eateries for meetings and celebrations, for a quick bite or a leisurely lunch. Highlights include Duck & Waffle on the 40th floor of the Heron Tower at 110 Bishopsgate, with truly spectacular views across London. Michelin starred 1 Lombard Street is, suitably enough, a former bank, while Galvin La Chapelle is the third award-winning restaurant by chef brothers Chris and Jeff Galvin, set in a former Victorian chapel.
City types have a wide selection of bars to sample after they’ve left the office. Vertigo 42 is just the spot for a champagne celebration … and great views. Or for a well-earned pint of beer after a long day, it might be worth checking out Counting House, a pub housed in a converted bank. 5cc is said to be London's most intimate cocktail bar, tucked away underneath Harrild & Sons, an old print house turned public house. And Draft House serves rare beers and local brews, as the craft beer movement makes a comeback in the capital.
As the most ancient part of London, the City has many notable landmarks. One of the oldest is the Roman Temple of Mithras, whose ruins were discovered in 1954. The 17th-century St Paul’s Cathedral, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, and sited on the City’s highest point, remains one of London’s most popular attractions. The covered Leadenhall Market dates back to the 14th century and still sells fresh food from Monday to Friday. For something more contemporary, there’s always 30 St Mary Axe (The Gherkin), the bulbous 40-floor skyscraper designed by Sir Norman Foster.
Bridewell Theatre, just off Fleet Street, was founded in 1994 in a disused Victorian swimming pool and laundry. It stages classic and contemporary productions, including 45-minute lunchtime plays, during which the audience eat. The City has around 50 churches, many of which host musical performances during lunchtimes and evenings. To feed the mind, head over to Gresham College, London’s oldest Higher Education Institution, which offers over 100 free public lectures a each year, covering art, literature, business, history, law, mathematics, science, music and much more.
Arts & Culture
The Barbican Centre offers an exceptionally diverse programme of events. The massive Barbican Hall is the official home of the London Symphony Orchestra, but it also hosts high-profile international jazz, rock, world and classical music. Three cinemas screen mainstream films and more specialist fare. Two theatres stage superb performing arts shows from around the world. At the same sprawling venue, you’ll also find the Barbican Art Gallery, smaller exhibition spaces, live music in the foyer, book signings, talks and children’s events. Elsewhere, the Bishopsgate Institute puts on music concerts, cultural events and plenty more.
For many years, the Royal Exchange near Bank Station — with more than 30 high-end boutiques — was the City’s main shopping attraction. But in 2010, One New Change opened right next to St Paul’s, stocking mainly High Street brands, from Oliver Bonas to Reiss. Leadenhall and Spitalfields Markets are lively former Victorian markets, while there are more specialist one-off shops like shoemaker Crocket & Jones, Hart’s the Butchers, and Burlington Bertie, for cigars and pick ‘n’ mix sweets.