You’ll spot scenes of Westminster on most London postcards, and it’s little wonder. After all, this place hosts riverside icons like the House of Lords, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey, not to mention the black taxis and scarlet phone boxes synonymous with England’s capital. Some of the country’s best-preserved Georgian mansions can be found in its neighbourhoods, too, sitting pretty in the quiet, leafy streets of Maida Vale and Belgravia. And let’s not forget the glittering lights of the West End, the world’s best place to catch dinner and a show.
Despite its modest eight or so square miles, this slice of Central London positively packs in the tourist attractions. Walking tours run all year round, charting more than one thousand years of history to the delight of millions of visitors. Favourite stop-offs include the Churchill War Rooms, Westminster Cathedral and the Florence Nightingale Museum. The crowning glory? Britain’s most famous landmark of all – Buckingham Palace. Those in-the-know avoid the awestruck crowds in its immediate vicinity, and admire it in the peace and quiet of neighbouring St James’ Park – a glorious 23 hectares of meadows and walkways.
Naturally, being neighbours with the Queen is a privilege that doesn’t come cheap. With home prices here falling largely into the multimillion pound bracket, Westminster residents tend to be politicians, celebrities and those born into ready-made fortunes.
That said, the local amenities tend to cater to the wealthy occupants. Expect top schools, members-only clubs, fine dining – including a reputable clutch of Michelin-starred restaurants – and designer boutiques. Bond Street, in particular, offers some of the biggest names in fashion. Chanel, Cartier and Dolce all have flagship stores here. Westminster is also the place to dip in and out of London’s finest establishments, like Harrods, Sotheby’s auction house and The Ritz.
It’s not all grandeur and glamour, though. Edgy Soho offers a great mix of laid-back bars, restaurants and live music venues, while Covent Garden is alive with quirky street performers and bohemian market stalls. For high street names like Zara and Topshop, there’s no beating Oxford Street. And if you’re after a more traditional selection, there are olde-world shops and pubs to be found in St James’s.