New things to see and do in London that you (probably) don’t know about

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Sky-high cocktail bars, Thames-crossing cable cars and record-breaking tunnel slides - discover what else is new in London

Think you know the capital? If these things don't spring to mind, it's time for another visit…

London’s skyline has changed a lot since the turn of the century. Strangely shaped glass monoliths with weird names now punctuate the horizon of the capital and, if you haven’t been for a while, it may be hard to get used to London’s new image. Take a quick tour…


1. The ArcelorMittal Orbit

Sir Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond’s 114-metre-high tower of tangled red steel that formed the showpiece of the London 2012 Olympic Park is the UK’s tallest sculpture. Kapoor invited German artist Carsten Höller to weave in a 178-metre tunnel slide, which opened last year.

A viewing platform offers views of some 20 panoramic miles of the metropolis, with the skyscrapers of the City and Canary Wharf in the distance.


2. Shoreditch, new and improved

This trendy district of East London used to be dark and gritty. The transformation is extraordinary. Where once there were edgy, industrial warehouse drinking holes, there are now sophisticated bars and polished restaurants.

Next to Shoreditch High Street Tube station, Boxpark Shoreditch is a double deck of shipping containers that offers tiny spaces for shops and takeaway food and coffee shops. (You’ll also find Boxparks in Croydon and Wembley.)


3. Up at the O2

The ‘Up at the O2’ walk offers a chance to hike over the girders of the structure I knew – in the early noughties – as the Millennium Dome.


4. Emirates Air Line cable car ride

The 34 cable cars travel along the 1,100-metre span over the Thames from North Greenwich to Royal Docks. As it slowly climbs up to 90m, the views are spectacular; gaze down the river to the Thames Barrier, and in the other direction at the Dome, to Canary Wharf and over to the City.

From here, you can get a better look at those new, strangely shaped buildings – the Walkie Talkie, the Shard, the Cheesegrater and the structure that started this weird naming convention, the Gherkin.


5. The Sky Garden

This three-storey landscaped garden is in an atrium at the top of the Walkie Talkie Building. With a cocktail bar and restaurants also at the summit, surrounded by exotic foliage, the Sky Garden  offers views in every direction – the classic curves of Tower Bridge and St Paul’s Cathedral stand out like beacons of old London, surrounded by the regular lines and rectangles of the new.


6. The Design Museum

The new home of The Design Museum is in the former Commonwealth Institute next to Holland Park and the architecture of the building is awe-inspiring, with a soaring beamed atrium and a ring of oak-lined walkways that climb gently to the exhibition spaces, study areas and cafes.

The permanent exhibition is as nostalgic as it is visionary, with everything from typewriters to 3D printers tracing the history and psychology of design, from the domestic to the scientific.


7. Handel & Hendrix in London

Just off Oxford Street, the Handel House museum has been discreetly enticing visitors for several years. Since last year, however, a new dimension to it pitches the history of the 18th-century composer against a later resident of the neighbouring house: Jimi Hendrix.

The Handel part of the museum showcases art, etchings and musical instruments related to Handel’s life, with creaking floorboards and period furniture.

Meanwhile, the upstairs room – strictly speaking next door – is where Hendrix lived between 1968 and 1969. His bedroom has been painstakingly recreated using photos of the day and help from his former girlfriend (and cohabitee) Kathy Etchingham.

In the other rooms, the story of his short-lived but legendary music career is explained through photos, music and newspaper clippings. It’s a fascinating juxtaposition of two of music’s most important historical figures, separated by 200 years and a wall.


8. Battersea Power Station (coming soon…)

The behemoth Battersea Power Station has sat, since the 1930s, like a giant on the south side of the Thames. For years it has lain vacant, but now it’s up for a huge makeover that will transform the site into a new district for London.

The power station itself is still very much a building site, but over the next ten to 15 years, it will slowly be transformed into a multi-use site offering everything from housing to shops, bars and restaurants and entertainment spaces.


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