The capital of England and the United Kingdom and one of the world's most visited cities, London has something for everyone, from a rich history stretching back to Roman times and grand architecture to world-class dining, entertainment, and grand old parks. London seamlessly combines 21st-century modernity with Old World charm and beauty. Here are the best things to do in London.
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One of the world's most famous landmarks, iconic Big Ben has been synonymous with the City of London and the Houses of Parliament for centuries. Often mistaken for a tower at the northeastern end of the Houses of Parliament, it is actually the bell within the tower that is named Big Ben and whose strikes were heard for the first time on July 11th, 1859.
Resting in the Elizabeth Tower, renamed by the House of Commons in 2012 in honor of Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee, Big Ben swings behind the clock face and has rarely stopped ringing the hours. Visited, viewed, and admired by millions of people from all over the world, this iconic landmark is not only magnificent to look at but has also played a vital role in the history of the city of London and of England itself.
Westminster, London SW1A 0AA, UK, Phone: +44-20-7219-4272
© Borough Market
Based in Southwark in Central London and one of the largest and oldest food markets in the city, Borough Market is a wholesale and retail food market that sells an array of gourmet foods, delicacies, fresh fruit and vegetables, and made-to-order fare. Established in 1014 as a fresh food market for the local people, Borough Market has been selling fresh produce, including bread, cheese, fish, meats, vegetables, ciders, coffees, cakes, and patisseries for over 1,000 years.
The market has more than 100 stalls, including stands that specialize in imported goods. The market is open from Monday through Saturday, with full market days on Wednesday to Saturday and a variety of fruit and vegetable stalls and hot food traders on Mondays and Tuesdays.
8 Southwark St, London SE1 1TL, UK, Phone: +44-20-7407-1002
Next read: 221B Baker Street
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Founded in 1753, the British Museum is home to a remarkable collection of treasures spanning more than two million years of human history and encompassing an array of world cultures. Centered around a magnificent Great Court, the museum's permanent collection features more than eight million objects, including extraordinary mummies from Egypt, ancient Greek sculptures from the Parthenon, and the world-renowned Rosetta Stone.
In addition to the impressive permanent collection, the British Museum also hosts special exhibitions, displays, and events designed to encourage a greater understanding of the collection and the cultures they represent. The British Museum is open daily from 10 am until 5:30 pm and is open late on Friday.
Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG, UK, Phone: +44-20-7323-8299
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Buckingham Palace is the official London residence and administrative headquarters of the reigning monarch of the United Kingdom and an iconic symbol for the people of London. Located in the City of Westminster and housing the Royal Family for more than 180 years, Buckingham Palace is also one of London's most popular tourist attractions, drawing millions of visitors every year to view the magnificent building and watch state occasions, royal hospitality, and other special events.
The palace has 775 rooms and houses the offices of the Queen, Prince Philip, the Duke of York, the Earl and Countess of Wessex, and the Princess Royal. The state rooms, which are used for official and state entertaining, are open to the public every year during August and September, and the palace's garden is the largest private garden in London.
London SW1A 1AA, UK, Phone: +44-303-123-7300
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Cutty Sark is a legendary 19th-century British clipper ship, the fastest ship of her time and the world's sole surviving tea clipper. Built on the Clyde River in 1869 for the Jock Willis Shipping Line, Cutty Sark was one of the last tea clipper ships to be built and is now on display in Greenwich as an award-winning visitor attraction.
After being damaged by fire, the ship was lovingly restored to its former glory, raised out of the water and ensconced in a modern visitors center. Here, guests can walk directly beneath the stern, which rests three meters above the ground, to see and touch the original hull planks and iron framework, which are nearly 150 years old. The Cutty Sark Museum is open daily and hosts an array of exciting events and programs throughout the year, featuring music, comedy, and drama.
King William Walk, London SE10 9HT, UK
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The Globe Theatre is a famous Elizabethan open-air theater in London that is associated with William Shakespeare and his works. Built in 1599 by Shakespeare's playing company, known as the Lord Chamberlain's Men, the theater was designed as a three-story, open-air amphitheater that could house up to 3,000 spectators.
The original theater was destroyed in a fire in 1613 and rebuilt a year later; a modern reconstruction, named "Shakespeare's Globe," was completed in 1997. Today, the oak-and-thatch replica of the original Elizabethan theater puts on open-air Shakespeare plays, offers guided tours of the building, and features an engaging and informative exhibition that explores the life of Shakespeare and the theater for which he wrote.
21 New Globe Walk, London SE1 9DT, UK, Phone: +44-20-7902-1400
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Hyde Park is one of London's eight Royal Parks and the largest in the city. The park is the greatest of four that form a chain of green urban spaces, including Kensington Gardens, Green Park, and St James' Park, and is home to several famous landmarks, including the Serpentine Lake, Speaker's Corner, and the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain.
Hyde Park covers 350 acres in the heart of London and attracts millions of Londoners and tourists every year to enjoy its beautifully landscaped grounds, peaceful lakes, and an array of recreational activities, including boating, cycling, horseback riding, and open water swimming.
The Old Police House, Hyde Park, London W2 2UH, UK, Phone: 0300-061-2000
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Kensington Palace is a royal residence overlooking the Round Pond in Kensington Gardens. Set in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, the palace has been a residence for the British Royal Family since the 17th century. The palace is currently the official London residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, along with the Duke and Duchess of Kent, Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, and the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester.
Today, several of the state rooms are open to the public, including the King's and Queen's State Apartments, which display many paintings and other objects from the Royal Collection, and the Royal Gardens. Kensington Palace also features various exhibitions as well as a shop and The Orangery Café.
Kensington Gardens, London W8 4PX, UK, Phone: +44-20-3166-6000
9.St Paul's Cathedral
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With its magnificent dome framed by the spires of Wren's city churches, St Paul's Cathedral is one of the most iconic and recognizable sights of the London skyline. Designed in the English baroque style by acclaimed architect Christopher Wren and built in the late 17th century, St Paul's Cathedral sits on Ludgate Hill, overlooking the city.
The Anglican cathedral is the seat of the Bishop of London, the main church of the Diocese of London, and is dedicated to Paul the Apostle. Dominating the skyline for more than 300 years, the cathedral is the second largest church building after Liverpool Cathedral and claims a significant place in the national identity of the United Kingdom. St Paul's Cathedral is a working church with daily services, including state funerals, Jubilee celebrations, and peace services.
St. Paul's Churchyard, London EC4M 8AD, UK
10.Tate Modern Gallery
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The Tate Modern is Britain's national gallery of international modern art. Located in the former Bankside Power Station in the Bankside area of Southwark, Tate Modern forms part of the Tate Group, which includes Tate Britain, Tate St Ives, Tate Liverpool and Tate Online.
One of the largest museums of contemporary and modern art in the world, Tate Modern is home to a national collection of British art dating back to the 1900s and features an array of both contemporary and international art. The gallery features a permanent collection, to which admission is free, as well as a variety of temporary exhibitions that change throughout the year.
Bankside, London SE1 9TG, UK, Phone: +44-20-7887-8888
11.The Phytology Medicinal Garden
© The Phytology Medicinal Garden
The Phytology Medicinal Garden is one of London's most beautiful botanical garden facilities, originally established in 2014 at Bethnal Green Nature Reserve. The garden transforms a former World War II-era bomb site in East London into a gorgeous natural and cultural institute, showcasing plants that are utilized in the science-based practice of phytotherapy, which uses molecules derived from a variety of plant species for the purpose of medicinal treatment. Visitors can explore the garden or harvest their own plants with the assistance of the facility's staff. All plants are cultivated in pollution-free soil to ensure safe use for medicinal purposes. Special events held at the facility throughout the year include modern apothecary workshops and UpRoot creative and performance gardening workshops.
Bethnal Green Nature Reserve, Middleton Street, Bethnal Green, E2 9RR, London
12.The Sea Life London Aquarium
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Located on the ground floor of County Hall on the South Bank of the River Thames, the Sea Life London Aquarium takes visitors on an inspiring underwater journey into the depths of the ocean. Established in 1997, the aquarium is home to thousands of sea creatures, including rare green sea turtles and stingrays, and features a variety of exciting exhibits such as the "Shark Walk," the "Shark Reef Encounter," and the "Ocean Tunnel."
Thousands of visitors encounter the creatures of the deep in impressive displays at the aquarium every year, and it is also renowned as a leading center of excellence in conservation, education, preservation, and marine management.
County Hall, Riverside Building, Westminster Bridge Rd, Lambeth, London SE1 7PB, UK, Phone: +44-0871-663-1678
13.The London Eye
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One of London's most famous tourist attractions and skyline icons, The London Eye is a giant Ferris wheel located in the South Bank district by the River Thames.
Also known as the Millennium Wheel or the Coca-Cola London Eye, the London Eye stands at 443 feet high with a diameter of 394 feet and offers the second highest public viewing point in London after the observation deck on the 72nd floor of the Shard. Located in the London Borough of Lambeth, the London Eye is set at the western end of the Jubilee Gardens between the Hungerford and Westminster Bridges and operates daily from 11 am.
Riverside Building, County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road, London, SE1 7PB
14.The Peggy Porschen Parlour
© The Peggy Porschen Parlour
The Peggy Porschen Parlour is an award-winning baker ad food art studio in London's affluent Belgravia district, founded in 2003 by its namesake cake designer and her husband Bryn Morrow. The studio, which has been open to the public since 2010, crafts edible works of art for special events, including birthday parties, wedding and baby showers, and corporate special events. Creative cupcakes, cookies, and ready-to-eat cakes are also sold at the bakery, which has received acclaim from international publications such as Vanity Fair and Vogue and has designed cakes for celebrities such as Elton John and Madonna. Visitors to the bakery can enjoy a variety of delicious tea, coffee, and champagne beverages to accompany baked goods selections.
116 Ebury St, Belgravia, London SW1W 9QQ, UK, Phone: +44 20 7730 1316
15.Mind the Gap Tours
© Mind the Gap Tours
Mind the Gap Tours offers guided "off-the-beaten-track" tours for small groups in and around London. Designed for visitors to explore and discover the "real" London, Mind the Gap Tours range from gentle cycle trips on vintage bikes along the Thames to Hampton Court to venturing into some of London's oldest pubs on foot.
Tours take the "road less traveled" on London's traffic-free routes and delve into the hidden and lesser known parts of London, including the Bike Windsor, Bike Hampton, Kayak Windsor, and Drink London tours. Bike tours cover up to 8 miles on flat, traffic-free routes, while walking tours cover between 3 and 4 miles. Kayak tours involve gentle paddling on tranquil waters along approximately a mile's stretch of river.
Lambeth, London SE1 7LT, UK, Phone: +44-7768-310005
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The National Gallery is a world-renowned art museum in Trafalgar Square in the heart of London. Established in 1824, the National Gallery is housed in a building designed by William Wilkins and is the only façade on Trafalgar Square to have remained unchanged throughout history. The National Gallery is home to a collection of over 2,300 artworks in the western European tradition dating back to between the mid-13th and 19th centuries.
It is open to the public all year round and is free of charge. The National Gallery is one of the most visited galleries in the world, after the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Louvre in Paris.
Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN, UK, Phone: +44-020-7747-2885
17.Small Car Big City Tours
If you are in London and want to feel like a local, try seeing the city from the seat of the Mini Cooper, the true London icon. Small Car Big City is a tour company that offers to take you on a tour of London in your own beautifully restored Mini. Buzz through the city from your Mini like so many Londoners and drive by Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, St Paul's Cathedral, and much more. You will be guided by true Londoners, people who love their city as much as they love the fun little cars. They offer a range of tours such as two-hour long Landmarks of London, London’s Best Bits, the four-hour long The Italian Job that includes a stop for a coffee, a visit to the local markets and street art, and the eight-hour long Live like a Local.
8 Northumberland Avenue, Trafalgar Square, London, WC2N 5BY, Phone: +44 2078 396 737
18.Palace of Westminster
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The Palace of Westminster, also known as the Houses of Parliament or Westminster Palace, is where the two Houses of the Parliament, namely the House of Commons and the House of Lords, meet to conduct their business. Situated on the north bank of the River Thames in the City of Westminster borough, the Palace of Westminster originally served as a royal residence until the 16th century and is a beautiful example of Gothic Revival architecture.
The palace houses over 1,000 rooms, including the chambers of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, as well as libraries, committee rooms, lobbies, dining rooms, and bars, and one of the palace's most famous features is the clock tower, which houses the famous Big Ben bell.
Westminster, London SW1A 0AA, UK, Phone: +44-20-7219-3000
19.London Cocktail Club
© London Cocktail Club
The plan was to open a bartenders’ paradise, where people can come for the world’s best cocktails, where they can throw their hands in the air, sing and dance to the latest band, and be loud and rowdy. It started with one bar in 2008, quickly exploded all over London, and is now spilling out onto the scene. Each bar is unique, with its own brand of craziness. Their original Covent Garden Cocktail Club is a classic Victorian speakeasy, a relaxed, laidback, dimly lit basement club where everyone can become a member in 24 hours, for free. Leather sofas and vintage decor offer a perfect backdrop for excellent cocktails, both classic ones and new ones that pop up daily. There is also a small selection of beers and wines.
6-7 Great Newport Street, London, WC2H 7JB, Phone: +44 20 7580 1960
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Tower Bridge is one of London's most famous attractions and an iconic symbol of the city. Built between 1886 and 1894, Tower Bridge is a combined bascule and suspension bridge that crosses the Thames River and is situated close to the Tower of London.
The bridge features two towers, which house the Victorian engine rooms and form part of the Tower Bridge Exhibition. The towers are connected by two horizontal walkways that are open to pedestrians and boast beautiful views over the river and city. Tower Bridge was painted white, red and blue for the Queen's Silver Jubilee in 1977.
Tower Bridge Rd, London SE1 2UP, UK
© Bread Ahead
As you are browsing through London’s Borough Market, follow the most tantalizing smell of freshly baked bread and you will find Bread Ahead. The stalls are brimming with loafs of crunchy sourdough breads, cheese and olive sticks, focaccia, white tin loaves, ciabatta, and all sorts of donuts. Everything comes from their bakery just around the corner, where they also run a baking school. It is your chance to learn how to make all these goodies – they are addictive – and join one of the many half-day workshops. The bakery has a few more shops around London where you can also get a full breakfast and a cup of coffee while checking your Instagram.
Borough Market, Cathedral St, London SE1 9DE, United Kingdom, Phone: +44 20 7403 5444
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Trafalgar Square is a famous public square in central London that commemorates the British victory in the Battle of Trafalgar during the Napoleonic Wars. The square has been significant landmark since the 13th century, initially containing the King's Mews before they were moved to Buckingham Palace, and has been used for community gatherings and political demonstrations over the centuries.
Today, the square is a must-see destination for visitors to London and has the 169-foot Nelson's Column at its center, guarded by four iconic statues of lions. The Fourth Plinth hosts an array of contemporary art, and at Christmas time, the square is home to the largest Christmas tree in London. Trafalgar Square is also home to thousands of pigeons.
Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN, UK, Phone: +44-20-7983-4750
23.Victoria and Albert Museum
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The Victoria and Albert Museum is the world's leading museum of decorative arts and design. Founded in 1852 and named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, the museum houses a vast permanent collection of more than 2.3 million objects spanning over five centuries of human creativity.
The museum is home to many of the UK's national collections of art and design and features some of the world's greatest resources for the study of art, architecture, Asian Art, design, decorative arts, textiles, fashion, photography, and more. The Victoria and Albert Museum is open daily from 10 am to 5:45 pm and until late on Fridays. Admission is free.
Cromwell Rd, Knightsbridge, London SW7 2RL, UK, Phone: +44-020-7942-2000
24.Skylon Restaurant, Bar and Grill
© Skylon Restaurant, Bar and Grill
Located on the third floor of the London’s Royal Festival Hall, Skylon Restaurant, Bar and Grill is a celebrated London destination with magnificent views of the river and the London skyline, featuring modern European design and discreet 1950s touches. The huge, airy, and bright space is divided into distinct sections. The main restaurant area has an elegant vibe with white tablecloths. It features contemporary British cuisine from Executive Chef Kim Woodward. You simply have to try his Cornish crab served with pureed apple, cucumber, and salmon roe. The grill area, which is more informal, is separated by a stunning center-stage bar serving imaginative cocktails. Skylon gets its name and design from the iconic structure that resembled a starship and was built in 1951 on the same site for the Festival of Britain.
Royal Festival Hall, London SE1 8XX, United Kingdom, Phone: +44 20 7654 7800
© Alternative London
Alternative London offers award-winning off-the-beaten-track tours around East London that delve into the heart of this vibrant region to explore the past and present of what is known as the capital's cultural and creative hub. East London's specialists and innovators of the pay-what-you-want tour, Alternative London offers tours led by knowledgeable locals with a love and passion for East London, who showcase London from a local's perspective.
Tours explore London's incredible graffiti and street art scene as well as famous pubs, beautiful buildings, and other hidden gems, along with regular walking, biking and pub tours, a unique London Street Art Tour, and graffiti workshops.
Unit 5, The Yard, Yorkton Street, E2 8NH
25 Best Things to Do in London
- Big Ben, Photo: Courtesy of william87 - Fotolia.com
- Borough Market, Photo: Borough Market
- British Museum, Photo: Courtesy of Claudio Divizia - Fotolia.com
- Buckingham Palace, Photo: Courtesy of Dutourdumonde - Fotolia.com
- Cutty Sark, Photo: Courtesy of mkos 83 - Fotolia.com
- Globe Theatre, Photo: Courtesy of Andrei Nekrassov - Fotolia.com
- Hyde Park, Photo: Courtesy of Tim M - Fotolia.com
- Kensington Palace, Photo: Courtesy of Leonid Andronov - Fotolia.com
- St Paul's Cathedral, Photo: Courtesy of Vladislav Gajic - Fotolia.com
- Tate Modern Gallery, Photo: Courtesy of Kitty Kat - Fotolia.com
- The Phytology Medicinal Garden, Photo: The Phytology Medicinal Garden
- The Sea Life London Aquarium, Photo: Courtesy of ani snimki - Fotolia.com
- The London Eye, Photo: Courtesy of fotobeam.de - Fotolia.com
- The Peggy Porschen Parlour, Photo: The Peggy Porschen Parlour
- Mind the Gap Tours, Photo: Mind the Gap Tours
- National Gallery, Photo: Courtesy of flik 47 - Fotolia.com
- Small Car Big City Tours, Photo: azzBoo/stock.adobe.com
- Palace of Westminster, Photo: Courtesy of dbrnjhrj - Fotolia.com
- London Cocktail Club, Photo: London Cocktail Club
- Tower Bridge, Photo: Courtesy of Gang - Fotolia.com
- Bread Ahead, Photo: Bread Ahead
- Trafalgar Square, Photo: Courtesy of anders photo - Fotolia.com
- Victoria and Albert Museum, Photo: Courtesy of Tony Baggett - Fotolia.com
- Skylon Restaurant, Bar and Grill, Photo: Skylon Restaurant, Bar and Grill
- Alternative London, Photo: Alternative London
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Gang - Fotolia.com
Places to Visit in London: Westminster Abbey
Formerly known as the Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, Westminster Abbey is a large Gothic church in the City of Westminster in central London and one of the United Kingdom's most notable religious buildings. Built in 1245, the church has been used as the traditional place for royal coronations, royal weddings, and burials for more than 700 years and is an iconic symbol of London. Westminster Abbey is open to visitors from Monday to Saturday throughout the year while on Sundays and religious holidays such as Easter and Christmas the abbey is open only for worship, to which all are welcome.
20 Deans Yard, Westminster, London SW1P 3PA, UK,
Tower of London
Officially known as Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London, the Tower of London is a historic castle set on the north bank of the River Thames. Built by William the Conqueror in 1078 during the Norman conquest of England, the castle was used as a royal residence in its early history but was later used as a prison in the 16th and 17th centuries, when many historical figures fell into disgrace, including Elizabeth I before she became queen. Surrounded by a moat, the Tower is a complex of several buildings located between two concentric rings of defensive walls. Today, the Tower of London is one of the UK's most popular tourist attractions and is protected as a World Heritage Site.
St Katharine's & Wapping, London EC3N 4AB, UK, Phone: +44-844-482-7777
The Shard is a 95-story skyscraper in Southwark and one of London's modern icons. Also known as the Shard of Glass, Shard London Bridge, and formerly London Bridge Tower, The Shard reaches over 1,000 feet high and is the tallest building in the United Kingdom.
Designed by acclaimed architect Renzo Piano to replace the Southwark Towers, the glass-clad pyramidal tower features 72 habitable floors, with an open-air observation deck and viewing gallery on the 72nd floor at a height of 802 feet, which is open to the public. The View from The Shard, as it is known, is a premium visitor attraction that boasts breathtaking panoramic views of the city stretching for up to 40 miles.
32 London Bridge St, London SE1 9SG, UK
More things to do: National Portrait Gallery
Places to Visit in London: London Zoo
The London Zoo (also known as Regent's Zoo) is the oldest scientific zoo in the world and home to a collection of more than 17,500 animals from 750 species. Originally established as a base for scientific study, the London Zoo was opened to the public in 1847 and has been delighting visitors with outstanding exhibits featuring animals in their natural habitats from all over the world.
Habitats at the London Zoo include Animal Adventure, the Clore Rainforest Lookout, Gorilla Kingdom, Blackburn Pavilion, Into Africa, Land of the Lions, and Tiger Territory. The London Zoo is also a leading institution for education, conservation, preservation, and animal welfare.
London NW1 4RY, UK, Phone: 0344-225-1826
Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum is dedicated to showcasing the natural history of the world through a variety of world-class exhibits and displays that feature a vast range of specimens from various segments of history. One of three museums on Exhibition Road, including the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Science Museum, the Natural History Museum is home to around 80 million earth and life science specimens from the genres of botany, mineralogy, entomology, paleontology, and zoology.
The Natural History Museum is also a leading research institution and a world-renowned center for taxonomy and has a vast library containing thousands of books, manuscripts, journals, and artwork collections linked to the investigation and work of the various scientific departments within the gallery.
Cromwell Road London SW7 5BD, Phone: +44-020-7942-5000
Shoreditch Street Art Tours
Explore one of London's most vibrant and internationally significant areas on a guided tour with Shoreditch Street Art Tours. An important street art location since the early 2000s, Shoreditch is full of walls decorated by leading local street artists such as Banksy, Sweet Toof, Eine, Pure Evil, and D*Face, while other world-renowned artists have artworks scattered around the area, which is constantly evolving.
Shoreditch is home to a variety of street art galleries and studios, suppliers, street artists and graffiti writers, and other creative industries. Tours are led by a lauded photographer and chief commentator, who has a passion for the area and the city and shares his extensive knowledge about this energetic, dynamic, and fresh scene.
London E1 6AN, UK, Phone: +44-7834-088533