Log in
Updated minutes ago

What makes the city of London special for visitors

London bridge

London bridge

London - That it is one of the world’s major financial centres is a fact that London has been known for, for ages.

The megacity is the largest in Western Europe by metropolitan area with a population of 14.8 million and possesses the busiest city airport system in the world. I love visiting London.

It is the city I have visited more than any other, yet despite the various trips there, there are certain features about the United Kingdom capital city that always leave me in awe. In no particular order, I have listed ten of them that make it distinct for a Ugandan like me.

VICTORIAN ARCHITECTURE

London is an old city which has done a fine job of maintaining its architectural uniqueness. Medieval architecture has been maintained, with several buildings adopting Victorian designs. When you visit places like the Royal Albert Hall, St Pancras Railway Station and the Palace of Westminster, it is clear that there has been a deliberate effort to maintain and preserve the distinct appearance of these places.

London at night
London at night

The famous Big Ben clock, Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square all have a tinge of the Victorian era. Decades have passed and somehow, these places will forever retain that uniqueness. For history lovers, London is the place to be. You can’t get enough of the city’s timelessness.

LONDON UNDERGROUND

The tube system is a wonder of the world. Opened on January 10, 1863 as the world’s first underground passenger railway, it is one of the world’s busiest metro systems today.

It is unimaginable to think that a network system hundreds of metres underground can be designed to transport five million people every day. It is one thing to hear about it and another experiencing and using it every day. The network has expanded to 11 lines which cover 400km of track.

For a city with 8.8 million people and almost twice the number if you include the metropolitan area, the underground solves what would have been a massive transport conundrum for the working-class community. Still, I can’t help but wonder how it operates so seamlessly.

WOMEN EMANCIPATION

In Uganda, we still have women emancipation as a matter of national importance. In London, what every man can do, a woman can. It is not uncommon to see ladies managing trains, driving double-decker buses, flying planes, doing door-to-door deliveries and driving garbage trucks.

Women operate forklifts, cranes and all jobs that would nominally be executed by men in Uganda. Women’s suffrage was mostly achieved in the Victorian era, which lasted from 1837 to 1901 in the reign of Queen Victoria.

FREE NEWSPAPERS

As someone who has worked as a journalist all my life, mostly in print media, I do understand the challenges facing the industry especially in this digital day and age.

I am also aware of rising costs of newsprint and the diminishing appeal of newspapers globally. But the Metro and the Evening Standard remain ever present in the city of London, free.

Their print quality is top drawer and the content rich. The volume of either paper does not compare to the Telegraph or Daily Mail, obviously, but the copies of Metro and the Evening Standard are better than anything on the Ugandan market.

LGBTQ

Initially it was a cultural shock. The LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgender, Queer) community is part and parcel of the way of life in London, like in nearly every Western city and country.

Once at a restaurant near London bridge, we were served food by a bearded man who wore high heels, a skirt, had applied lipstick and spoke with a female accent. I didn’t know what to think, until my friend told me to get used to it. I used to be in utter disbelief so many years ago.

These days I have learnt how to live with it and mind my business.

THE LONDON BLACK CAB

It is called the Hackney carriage. But mostly, we know it as the Black cab. A symbol of London and Britain, the black taxi is a common sight on the streets.

The hackney carriages carry a roof sign TAXI that can be illuminated to indicate their availability for passengers. The origins of the word hackney in connection with horses and carriages are uncertain. The origin is often attributed to the London Borough of Hackney.

Like New York’s yellow taxis, the Black Cab is part of the London lifestyle. Typically, it is not cheap. The rates are higher than what you would pay for Uber. However, the Black Cab is always comfortable. Its design makes it part of the city’s treasured culture.

THE WEATHER

By UK standards, London’s weather is apparently admirable. I was there last month in the winter and the cold was somewhat bearable. Admittedly, I have always loved travelling there in the winter. I prefer winter to summer. But London’s weather is unpredictable. You will have wet summers and sunshine in peak winter. It can be cold. Very cold. Cold days are typically dull.

And the summer can be humid today, wet tomorrow and cold the other day. London sits at a junction where weather systems meet, meaning different systems vie with each other, resulting in a wide range of patterns. Kampala weather will forever be better till the end of time.

PRAMS AND PUSHCHAIRS

House helps, or maids, are expensive to afford and maintain. Many times, mothers and fathers have to do it all by themselves. Not a single day passes without one noticing a mother or father with a pram or pushchair carrying a baby on a bus or train.

Many underground stations have been designed with lifts to help the elderly or mothers with babies to avoid the elevators or stairs when going up or down. Public facilities, malls and high-end stores are all designed to factor in mothers with their prams. Even the roads have been designed to enable parents with pushchairs to move without inconvenience.

BEGGARS

No city lacks beggars. Yes, the first world has people who are homeless and live at the mercy of individuals they hope will be sympathetic of their existence.

You will find beggars on Oxford street, Bond street, Waterloo train station, Euston train station and Piccadilly Circus. The beggars, mostly immigrants, will be men or women whose ages will range from the 40s to 70s.

But I have also been stopped by young black children who asked if I could help them with a pound or two or five. Survival, or is it the hustle, is not only in Kampala. Clearly it is everywhere.

PUBLIC PARKS

In Kampala, we have decided to do away with almost every green belt there was. Only Uganda Golf Club survives. We have erected some ugly concrete structures that have denied us recreational places in the city.

London city and its various boroughs have parks that are maintained by the council and are routinely and regularly used by people for exercise, relaxation and meditation. They are cleaned every day and looked after for the benefit of the people in their different localities.

Places of this nature increase lifespans of citizens. But this reality is sadly lost on us in our country.

mnamanya80@gmail.com

Comments

+1 #1 todd 2024-02-22 20:15
Tower bridge is incorrectly referred to as London bridge.
Report to administrator

Comments are now closed for this entry