The best artistic attractions in London, England
Now if you’ve read my last post on Historic attractions in London you already know I think there is an unbelievable amount of attractions in London, England. In this second part of my three part series on attractions in London I’m going to touch on places and activities that are more artsy and cultural. So let’s begin shall we?
I guess if you were going to start anywhere on arts and culture in London it would be in the West End. London’s West End is famous for its arts scene. It’s comparable to Broadway in New York City. From classic musicals like Les Miserables, or Phantom of the Opera to the new hits like Book of Mormon; there are around 40 theatres in the West end that house plays, musicals and comedies. I’d recommend seeing at least one performance here, they’re all on the high end of the budget scale, but this is basically one of two best spots in the world to see this much talent on stage.
I only saw the one musical in London and it was Les Miserables. I’ll admit it wasn’t my first choice but I picked the Monty Python reunion two nights earlier so I was willing to compromise! After about 5 minutes into the production of Les Miserables, I was definitely not disappointed. Everything was so much nicer than just about every musical I’ve seen before. The engineer part of my brain was amazed at the practical design of the stage how everything transformed seamlessly and simplistically. The performers were all great too. If you get a chance I’d highly recommend seeing it. Even in the cheap seats, we had an incredible view of the stage.
If you’re not into live theatre, the West End still has a lot to offer for the arts enthusiast. There are plenty of museums in this area like the National Gallery where you can see works by Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt, Van Gogh and more. There’s also the National Portrait Gallery, which houses the largest collection of portraits of personalities from the middle ages to now. Both of these galleries are free so they’ll be pretty easy on the ol travel budget unless you plan on seeing the special exhibits which they sometimes host, the price of these vary depending on the exhibit.
So should I just spend all my time in the West End if I want to see artsy attractions in London?
Well the West end is probably the most concentrated area of arts and culture in London, there are plenty of attractions in London that are outside of this neighborhood. The Tate Modern Art Museum would be one of them. It’s also a free museum to enter, but with additional costs for special exhibits. Built in an old power generating station on the bank of the Thames, this is the place to go if you want to see more modern art from Picasso, Dali or Matisse and many more. I really enjoyed Tate because modern art to me is weird, sometimes funny and always interesting. I’m always amazed what inspires people to work with unconventional materials to create these works of art.
After you’re done at Tate you might as well take a stroll down the river bank of the Thames to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. You can take a tour through the Globe and see all of the different props and learn about the craftsmanship from the plays back in his day. This was more interesting for me from a production point of view. I know that Shakespeare is incredibly famous and put together amazing pieces of entertainment that has influenced the majority of movies and television we see today but I find it hard to be interested in those plays now a days. The impressive part for me is how they designed the sets and did the special effects for these plays hundreds of years ago.
The reproduction of the Globe Theatre is also very impressive. As part of the tour they take you into the open air theatre and tell you all about how it was made and what changes had to be made to keep it up to modern safety regulations. The reproduction is made almost exactly in the same methods as it would have been originally built with. Due to the straw roof being extremely flammable and the structure made of wood, the only major change is a modern sprinkler system and fire detection.
You can even catch the rotation of all of Shakespeare’s plays in the theatre. Sometimes you can even catch them performed in other languages.
Let me know what other artsy and cultural things you’ve done in London or would like to do when you visit.