Guide to Gaping: In London’s Financial District

I mean where else might you gape? Though if you’re a gaper like me, you would find fodder for it most anywhere. There’s no harm really, except once in a while midges might make their way in and an odd fly or two. So if you like experimenting with bugs and beetles in Asian food markets, why just keep your mouth open and you can have them for free in your own city.

The husband works in the heart of the City. Right next to the Gherkin. On Friday evening, I sauntered into its shadow to meet him for drinks and dinner. Now, a prime area for gapers is within the bounds of London City, you know the Square Mile, which is supposed to be just 1.12 square miles in London, but as you walk around, it seems substantially larger than that humble number.

But first, whip back your lovely heads. Though I shall not and will not be held responsible for a crick.

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The Gherkin (aka 30 St. Mary Axe) looms above me.
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Standing tall at 591 ft. if contemporary architecture can woo you, The Gherkin gets the job done.
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The Walkie-Talkie (20 Fenchurch) stands tall too at 525 ft. 

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The Shard. The tallest in the hood at 1,016 ft.
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Even street installations loom over you.
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Straight ahead on the right hand side that weird steel structure, with its ducts and lifts sticking out in your face, is the home of insurance. Lloyd’s of London. You can literally see its bowels, the inner workings, so you would get the term ‘Bowellism’ and an example of a strange, modern school of architecture. It was coined by a British architect, Michael Webb, who got it from a lecture delivered by a history of architect in which that man said: “I saw the other day a design for a building that looked like a series of stomachs sitting on a plate. Or bowels, connected by bits of bristle”.
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Where Lloyd’s of London stands, there used to be located the ‘Old’ East India House (a late 17th-century Dutch print) which came up in the 1600s.
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This is the ‘New East India House’ that was built by 1729. It was the London headquarters of the East India Company that ruled British India till the government wrested power from its clutches in 1858 and took over the job of governing India.

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The Cheesegrater (Leadenhall Building) is 737 ft. tall and can you spot those lifts that are moving simultaneously in shades of neon orange and green? It is a fascinating feature.
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The 387-ft. tall St. Helens on the left, The Gherkin on the right, and in its shadow, bathed in the mellow rays of the setting sun is St. Andrew Undershaft, a 16th century Gothic church, that survived the Great Fire of London and the Blitz.

If you stepped back in time, this was Londinium, a trading port for and by merchants along the mighty Thames. It came up around 47 AD when the Romans ruled Britain and later was sacked by the tribe of Iceni led by their queen Boudica.

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All hail Boudica.

Now that I am done waffling, how about a pint or two?

Where to Drink:

Sky Garden at 20 Fenchurch. This is an expensive affair but with a view of London’s skyline. You could be easily looking at £70 per person (totted up for the most expensive items on the menu which include starter, main course and dessert) excluding alcohol. A 5-course tasting menu is priced at £55 and for wine pairing add £42 more. If you are still game, you can book 60 days in advance because people do book it up weeks ahead. P.S.: Dress code is a bummer but there you are, no shorts, flip flops, sports gear, please.

Aqua Shard. Here’s another pricey beauty that will get you when the bill arrives, but hey, the views of the riverside loveliness of the city from the 31st level of The Shard might just make up for it. I would say pop in for a Champagne afternoon tea that starts at £58 per person. Nibble into dainty delicacies while sipping on some bubbly to numb the senses before the bill arrives.

Leadenhall Market: If you are fine with views of the city on the ground level, look no further than Old Tom’s Bar in this market that stands on grounds where trade has been going on since the Roman times. Potter fans, you have seen it in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Yes, I know that you know, yet the need to disperse Potter trivia…

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Follow me into Leadenhall Market? The 19th century Victorian market traces its origins back to the 14th century when it used to be a meat, game and poultry market within the portals of a ‘hall with a lead roof’. It has an ornate roof painted in shades of green, maroon and cream. 
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City workers hard at work on Friday evening. They stand in massive columns outside pubs with their pints. Soon those ties shall go askew, shirts protest their way out of trouser waistbands and the hair shall manage to look ruffled even with generous amounts of hair gel in place. For the bald, the last is not a problem.
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Where the husband leads, I follow.
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Next to roll down the stairs of the craft beer pub.
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Inside the atmospheric bar.
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And find delectable extra mature cheddar cheese that melts like cream in the mouth, paired with sourdough crackers and caramelised onion chutney. That Camden Pale Ale is precious.

Before I leave you, the shot below is from an obituary published on April 16, 1835 in The Times. The allusion is to Old Tom, a gander who had arrived in the City from Ostend in Belgium. He followed his heart (a wily female of the flock), and even though the rest of his flock became fixtures on dining tables, Old Tom somehow had people indulgently feeding him scraps. He made it to the ripe age of 37 till he died a natural death and was buried in the market. Below is a tribute to the venerable gander.

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42 thoughts on “Guide to Gaping: In London’s Financial District

  1. These are definitely gape-worthy sights and I love London for its wonderful, unique, quirky architecture. Your photos are amazing. I really like the contrasting styles of the Gherkin and St.Andrews. That insurance building is quite something too. Makes me want to visit London again!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I love the Gherkin building. Mostly for the name, but also once I kept staring at it, it really resembles a gherkin with its shape. That’s amazing. There’s so many shiny buildings, I don’t think I could stop staring at them all. The buildings are all so tall. I would be mesmerized watching all those lifts go up and down in the Cheesegrater building too. Also, who names these buildings? They get such cool names 😀 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Giant gherkins and graters – really quite a work of imagination, right? What’s not to love 😉 They are affectionate terms from locals and city workers. I know that The Cheesegrater came up via an owner of a cafe in Hammersmith whose husband works in the building x

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Some really interesting facts about the history of the area which I had no idea about! Most places around the financial district are expensive 😦 But I guess it’s expected, infamous ‘London Prices’ and all… I actually went to the Sky Garden last week and the views were stunning, I’ll get round to writing a post about it soon haha 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Wow, those are some massive buildings. I’m more of a country gal but I can definitely see the beauty in them. That cheese looks amazing and the bread looks like Portuguese bread, which is really good too. And you look tall! Are you tall girl? I’m 1,58 cm so I worship tall people. If you’re over 1,75 cm you become a goddess to me. Great photos, my dear! xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cheila, I ask tall people for extra inches. No one lends it though. Boohoo. I am just about 5’4.5″ so no hopes of that. No worshipping gonna happen here. Yes I love the country too first but cannot deny the tug of modern architecture once in a while too. That cheese was creamy and so tasty, superbly mature cheddar, and it was sourdough. Actually in Portugal all I had was lots of seafood, fish and pastries so I missed out on the bread. Sigh. But thank you for the sweet comment, girl xx

      Liked by 1 person

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