Tips for the Best Attractions Near the Capital's Central Station
If you want to have easy access to a wide spread of the city's biggest attractions, and be at the center of the action as far as dining, theater, music, art, and shopping go, then basing yourself at Victoria Station in London is a fantastic option. With great connections to Heathrow and Gatwick airports and Tube lines linking it to every part of the capital, it's fair to say that Victoria Station is London's most convenient place to start your accommodation search.
A Little Bit of Background About Victoria Station, London
Before we start, it makes sense to introduce the station in a bit more depth. Victoria Station was opened in the 1860s to serve as London's gateway to the south, connecting the capital to the seafront at Brighton and the cities of Kent. For a long time, it was the jumping off point for aristocratic ventures into Europe. But in World War I it took on greater significance, becoming the main point of departure for soldiers bound for the Western Front.
In the 1930s, Victoria introduced one of the first rolling cinema screenings on a station platform. Until it shut down in 1981, this screen beamed the day's news to commuters and bystanders which, as the 1930s wore on, must have become a bit alarming. After the war, things chugged along, until a huge investment in the 1980s saw the station totally remodeled, adding a shopping mall and new services to Gatwick Airport, making Victoria one of the best-connected stations in the whole of London. And that's where we are today. So let's have a closer look st some things to see and do in the area.
Get Your Fill of Royal Attractions
For one thing - and it's a big thing as far as tourists are concerned - Victoria Station is really convenient if you intend to do a tour of London's royal attractions. When you emerge from the station, there's a big clue on the street sign, which reads "Buckingham Palace Road." Follow that for half a mile, and you'll be right outside the palace gates.
But besides Buckingham Palace, there are plenty of other royal places to visit near Victoria Station. St. James' Palace is the other side of Green Park, just 5 minutes by Tube. You can't go inside as it's a functioning royal residence, but the exterior view is a must. Then there's Kensington Palace, on the west side of Hyde Park. This time, you can head inside to see the residence of the Dukes and Duchesses of Westminster - and it's a real treat. See the King and Queen's State Apartments, selected paintings from the Royal Art Collection, and an exhibit dedicated to the Princess Diana's influence on fashion. It's all a short hop from Victoria, and heaven for royalty fans.
Make a Date at the Tate for an Artistic Feast
However, if you aren't into monarchy, Victoria Station London has plenty of other charms that make it the ideal place to stay. One of the most appealing of all is the presence of the Tate Britain - one of the UK's most prestigious and impressive art collections. Located on Millbank next to the River Thames, it's just a 10 minute walk from the station, or one stop on the Victoria Line to Pimlico. And it's definitely a trip worth making.
The gallery focuses on British art, but it's the cream of the crop as British art goes, with outstanding works like Constable's "Flatford Mill", or John Everett Millais' famous image of Ophelia drowning herself after being spurned by Hamlet. The collection ranges from the 17th century to modern names like Barbara Hepworth and Francis Bacon, so there's something for everyone. And it's all free of charge, making it almost impossible to resist.
Have the Natural History Museum on your Doorstep
Another great advantage of staying near Victoria Station is the amazing concentration of museums within walking distance (or at the least a very short Tube journey). Most of these are also family friendly, offering days worth of diversion and education for visitors young and old. For example, the Natural History Museum can be found on Cromwell Road in Kensington, which is right next door to the west. Thanks to recent additions and renovations, it's become one of Europe's premier nature-centered museums, being dubbed a "cathedral to nature" by some scientists, and who are we to argue?
The whole complex houses a whopping 80 million items, and 5 million people pass through the gates every year, but it never feels crowded. Highlights are everywhere, although at 26-meter-long, Dippy the Diplodocus makes a suitable mascot for the giant museum. The only contemporary painting of the extinct dodo bird, an original copy of Darwin's "Origin of Species" and a macabre cup fashioned from a human skull are all typical of what's to be found there. Basically, if you have any interest in natural history, stay near Victoria Station London and you'll be in paradise.
Explore the Science Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum
Aside from the Natural History Museum, Victoria Station London is right next door to two other exceptional London attractions. First off, the Science Museum is a brilliant place to head when you need to entertain youngsters. Situated on Exhibition Road in Kensington, it's crammed with educational exhibits and artifacts like giant steam engines, components from the Colossus machine that cracked the Nazi Enigma Code, and Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine - a direct ancestor of today's computers. Add in IMAX cinemas and space simulators, and science geeks will find it tough to leave.
Then there's the Victoria and Albert Museum - a very different beast. This time, the theme is design and fashion. It's the kind of place you might find a whole hall dedicated to David Bowie's fashion sense, or galleries packed with 3,000 jewels from Europe's elite. There's one of the world's greatest wedding dress collections (some as much as 500 years old) and furniture made by master craftsmen from Renaissance Italy onwards. So it's one of the best places to visit near Victoria Station London if you have a passion for art and crafts. In fact, it's probably the best place in the UK, period.
Shop 'Till you Drop at Harrods
When we list the shopping opportunities near Victoria Station London, you'll wonder why visitors stay anywhere else. Truly, the area stretching a mile or so around the station is one of the world's great retail centers, so bring an extra canvas bag or two to use during your stay.
For starters, Victoria Station London is a stone's throw away from Harrods. One of the world's most famous department stores, Harrods is less than a mile from Victoria, and has been outfitting the capital's elites since 1834. Nowadays, it's the place to go for the very best in everything, whether it's picnic hampers, Dolce and Gabbana handbags, Swarovski watches, or bespoke toys that can't be bought anywhere else. But don't just get your head down and shop. Be sure to check out the Art Nouveau windows and sculptures that adorn each floor, and take time for afternoon tea at the popular cafe (bookings are advisable).
But you don't even have to leave the shops at Victoria Station London to enjoy an exclusive retail experience. There's a shopping mall right above the station concourse called Victoria Place, which hosts brands like New Look, the Body Shop, and the Parisian gift store Pylones. So when you're staying in the area, don't forget to ride the escalator to the first floor for a little window shopping.
A Station Right Next to the Houses of Parliament
Museums, galleries, and royalty are all very well, but there's an even bigger historical attraction near Victoria Station London - the Houses of Parliament. Built in the 1850s in a remarkable neo-Gothic style, the UK's political heart is an amazing building, and tours of the House of Commons, the libraries, and the House of Lords are a must. As is a trip up Big Ben to meet one of the world's most famous bells.
Just across the way from Parliament, and just as important, you'll come across Westminster Abbey. Whatever you do, head inside for a tour, as few places in the world have such an aura of history. A list of the people buried there gives a flavor of what to expect: Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Isaac Newton, Sir Laurence Olivier, and George Frederick Handel, as well as 18 kings or queens of the nation. It's a holy site for poets, explorers, and patriots, and a magical place for everyone to visit.
Catch an EPL Game at Stamford Bridge
What about sports fans staying near Victoria Station London? Well, it turns out that this corner of central London is pretty convenient for them as well. Most of all, you can easily get to Stamford Bridge, the home of Chelsea Football Club, one of England's leading Premier League teams. Just hop on the District Line to Fulham Broadway and you'll be there in minutes.
If you do want to catch a game, be aware that tickets tend to go on sale 42 days before every fixture, and each individual can purchase up to four tickets. So be quick and decisive, and plan your sporting activities well before flying. There may also be tickets available closer to the game, but expect higher prices.
If soccer isn't your thing, you could also enjoy a classically English day of sport by visiting the Oval Cricket Ground. Located just across the River Thames from Victoria Station London near Vauxhall, the Oval hosts plenty of international cricket matches every year, including at least one 5-day Test Match (you don't need to go to every single day!). You might need to do some research before you go, but once you get into it, you'll soak up the atmosphere in the typical English style.
Take a Tour of Notting Hill's Boutiques and Antiques
Another one of the best places to explore near Victoria Station London is Notting Hill. This upmarket part of West London is probably most famous for the 1999 movie starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant, and for it's lively street carnival in late August, but in fact there's much to see and buy at any time of year.
A major highlight is Portobello Road market, which antiques fans will adore. Taking place every Saturday and Sunday, it's basically a narrow street lined with sellers offering everything from antique clocks to unique photos and prints. Anything could be there, and rummaging in the stocks of stallholders is great fun.
And just down the road, why not have a look at the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising? It's not huge, but what they have there is fascinating, with exhibits of consumer goods from the late 19th century onwards. After that, take it easy at one of the neighborhood's many pubs, such as the Cow or the Ladbroke Arms. You should even find beers made by local legends Fuller's who are based in nearby Chiswick.
Places to Eat Near the Station
Dining out is always a major consideration when picking somewhere to stay, and Victoria Station London doesn't let travelers down on this score. Actually, there are some stellar dining districts within easy reach. We've already mentioned Notting Hill's pubs, but not its Michelin-starred restaurants, pan-Asian tapas bars, English brasseries, and high-class Italians.
Belgravia is another gastronomic hotspot, with high-end gastropubs like the Thomas Cubitt, Thai restaurants, and more fine Italian ristorantes housed in lavish Georgian buildings. The West End is just around the corner from Victoria Station London as well. Within a few minutes of leaving your hotel, you can be at the finest Asian or French eateries in Soho, or enjoying sushi in Mayfair. Needless to say, there's no lack of dining options.
Dive Into the Markets and Street Life of Brixton
It's not all about swanky bistros and upmarket Italian restaurants near Victoria Station London. If you want to experience London's street food scene in all of its glory, Brixton is a better place to head. You can get there via the Victoria Line (which takes less than 10 minutes), and when you get there you'll find one of the capital's most vibrant food scenes. Make a bee-line for the covered market to track down artisan pizza, Eritrean jeera, Jamaican ackee and saltfish, and Okonomiyaki Japanese pancakes. The global selection is always changing, making it a really exciting part of town for foodies to check out. And, while you're there be sure to peruse the clothes stalls of Brixton Village, nibble some tasters at the Chocolate Museum, and rest for a while in Brockwell Park, before heading back over the river to Victoria Station London.
Pick the Perfect Hotels
As you can see, Victoria Station London is one of the city's great focal points. It's close to art galleries, museums, sporting spectacles, world famous department stores, royal palaces, and the Houses of Parliament. In short, whatever you want to do, staying near Victoria Station London is probably a good idea.
But what are the best places to stay in the area? Well, few places are as well situated as the Victor Hotel. Staying there would place you at the heart of Pimlico, with the Thames, the Tate, and plenty of pubs and shops just a short stroll away. Aside from the Victor, the Novotel Waterloo is just across the river. There's also no shortage of excellent hotels in Kensington and Earl's Court, where the Bentley and the Cranley will never let you down. All of these places aren't far from Victoria Station London, but it's always worth having a look around for yourself. London is full of excellent hotels, and you'll have your own unique requirements to meet.
London's Center is Just a Walk Away
The beautiful thing about staying in the area is that when you're based near Victoria Station London is just a walk away. 15 minutes to the north, you can reach Buckingham Palace and Hyde Park. By strolling the same distance to the west, you can get to Harrods, while the Tate and Parliament are hardly any distance to the east. And the boutiques of Chelsea's Kings Road stretch out to the south west. Whichever way you look, there's something to see, do, or buy around Victoria Station London. So if you're planning a trip to the UK's capital, give Victoria Station London a look. It could have everything you need - and just a little bit more.