Art, gardens and your cup of tea
Written by Eunie Jeong
London is a city that is represented by Big Ben, the London Eye, Buckingham Palace…. However, if you have only a few days, where should you go? This travel review includes three of the places that are a must-see.
1. Kensington Gardens
Although not as famous or as big as Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens is also well-known. One of the eight royal parks, and covering 111 hectares, it can be said that this place is equally as beautiful. The fields of flowers, with trees branching out here and there, under a clear blue sky, is a sight to be admired while sitting on a warm bench. The sight is at its best in summer, when the flowers are in full bloom, though this is short-lived.
Overlooking the garden is the Kensington Palace where the British royal family resides. There are tickets to tour part of the Kensington palace. There is a children’s playground built in memory of Princess Diana, , the late Princess of Wales, as shown in the map. The palace gates have messages from the people to Diana.
You can get there by a quick walk from the stations Lancaster Gate, Queensway, Bayswater and High Street Kensington. Kensington Gardens open from 6 am to dusk, but the ideal time to get there would be in the morning, when there are fewer people. In a survey, of 2017 and 2018, 39 % of visitors came for peace and relaxation to Kensington Gardens. The natural environment, the beauty and the tranquil atmosphere can give your mind rest.
2. National Gallery
London is famous for its cultural buildings, and the National Gallery, located near the Charing Cross Station, is a fitting example.
The gallery is filled with thousands of paintings by many renowned artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Rubens, Rembrandt, and Titian. Also, there are works by Impressionists like Van Gogh, Seurat and Claude Monet. The National Gallery is a site you can never forget. European masterpieces from many different periods will stun you as you wander around from one room to another. Special loans from other art museums will ensure that each visit has something new.
Although there are other viewers, the quiet atmosphere lets you immerse yourself. Their beauty is put into full show by the soft lights as well as Neoclassical architecture, which is a piece of art itself: grand and spacious halls with pillars arching towards the roof and vibrant coloured walls where the framed paintings hang. In almost every room, sofas or benches are situated in case tourists get tired, or simply want to admire the work. People can be seen sketching these paintings, which are done with style and technique that even a novice in art could not help but wish to imitate. With the many artworks, you will surely find one that is to your taste. The National Gallery is undoubtedly a place to visit more than once, and to treasure.
The Gallery opens daily: 10 am–6 pm and on Friday: 10 am–9 pm. Maps and audio guides are provided, giving an analysis of artworks and a tour guide is conducted several times each day.
3. Wallace Collection
The Wallace Collection, like the National Gallery, is a free art museum, full of rooms decorated with paintings, furniture, armour and works of art from the 15th to the 19th century. This place is not only a tourist spot but a very cultural place. The Symour family first established it in 1897 from a private collection, and later bequeathed it to the nation.
It opens from 10 am to 5 pm, and is closest to the busy Bond Street station, so the Wallace collection is convenient to get to. The Wallace Collection has regular exhibitions and activities, and sometimes decorates the rooms to match, such as the exhibition of An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahník, based on the painting “The Swing.”
It could be said, however, that the real attraction is the Wallace restaurant. This is especially good to visit when the weather is cloudy, due to the glass roof which is very reflective of light and heat. They serve breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea, from 10 am to 5 pm. The afternoon tea is from 2:30, and you can order the Wallace afternoon tea set, which includes scones, small sandwiches and little confectioneries. It also comes with your choice of tea. You can also order cakes and drinks. The light surroundings and a pot of hot tea with sweet and savoury delights give you the true London experience.
Different to Hong Kong, the general atmosphere of London, is more calm and leisurely, less busy. Perhaps this is why they have time for art, parks, gardens and cups of tea.