Go for the History, Stay for the Modernity
It’s hard to pin down exactly what makes London so magical; it may be that constant jostle for balance that is unlike any in the world. Centuries-old landmarks like the Tower of London and Big Ben may grace scores of postcards, but those two chestnuts belie the vitality that causes so many stunning skyscrapers to go up every year. London may be home to the famous royals, but to a surprising extent, London is also a city of immigrants: the 2001 census shows that nearly 2.2 million people born all over the world call London home. In a city that offers both Queen Elizabeth and Kate Moss, tweed suits and Doc Martens, and lemon curd and kebabs, with a world-class club scene where young revelers stumble home on winding streets that evoke their old-world beginnings, the excitement of duality is palpable. But London’s art scene and its distinct sense of urban grittiness is increasingly tipping the scales in favor of modernity. Powerhouses like the Tate Modern and the National Theater are paving the way for a provocative, often political, always bold explosion in the arts that shames the stagnant, guarded scenes found in other parts of the world. Years of rich and poor living side by side, postwar restlessness and rebellion and London’s famously bleak weather have produced a singularly gritty edge that has influenced culture across the board. Though London will always have its grandiose past, its mark on the present and future is what truly makes it worth visiting.