From Westminster itís a manageable walk upriver to the Tate Gallery, repository of the nationís largest collection of modern art as well as the main assemblage of British art. The grand streets and squares of Piccadilly, St Jamesís, Mayfair and Marylebone, to the north of Westminster, have been the playground of the rich since the Restoration, and now contain the cityís busiest shopping zones: Piccadilly itself, Bond Street, Regent Street and, most frenetic of the lot, Oxford Street.
East of Piccadilly Circus, Soho and Covent Garden form the heart of the West End entertainment district, where youíll find the largest concentration of theatres, cinemas, clubs, flashy shops, cafes and restaurants. Adjoining Covent Garden to the north, the university quarter of Bloomsbury is the traditional home of the publishing industry and location of the British Museum, a stupendous treasure house that attracts more than five million tourists a year. Welding the West End to the financial district, The Strand, Holborn and Clerkenwell are little-visited areas, but offer some of central Londonís most surprising treats, among them the eccentric Sir John Soaneís Museum and the secluded quadrangles of the Inns of Court.
A couple of miles downstream from Westminster, The City Ė the City of London, to give it its full title Ė is at one and the same time the most ancient and the most modern part of London. Settled since Roman times, it became the commercial and residential heart of medieval London, with its own Lord Mayor and its own peculiar form of local government, both of which survive, with considerable pageantry, to this day. The Great Fire of 1666 obliterated most of the City, and the resident population has dwindled to insignificance, yet this remains one of the great financial centres of the world ranking just below New York and Tokyo. The Cityís most prominent landmarks nowadays are the hi-tech offices of the legions of banks and insurance companies, but the Square Mile boasts its share of historic sights, notably the Tower of London and a fine cache of Wren churches that includes the mighty St Paulís Cathedral.