When planning a day around a visit to London from abroad, either as an ex-pat or on a very long holiday, or anywhere in between, you’re likely wanting to see the big tourist sights, catch a musical, wander around SoHo shops and visit one of our many street markets. And if that’s all you wish to do, that’s fine. But London is much bigger than that, of course.
As delightful as the garden at Buckingham Palace is, and as thrilling as the West End delights are, you will want to wander further afield to take in more of each borough’s local flavour. For starters, why not try out some of the local spots in north-west London?
1) Neasden. While this neighbourhood is maybe not quite as celebrated as, say, Willesden, or Camden, among others, it has quite the spiritual treasure: the BAPS Sri Swaminarayan Mandir, the largest operating Hindu temple outside of India, and the first official Hindu temple constructed in Europe. It is such a striking building in such a humble-looking suburban neighbourhood that it’s often simply called the ‘Neasden temple.’
Built out of over 2800 tonnes of limestone from Bulgaria and 2000 tonnes of Italian marble, the entire structure was hand-carved in India, but sent to north-west London and put together again slowly. Completed in 1995, this jaw-dropping piece of spiritual architecture may be Neasden’s only big claim to fame, but it’s worth paying a visit just to see the sheer size of the temple, let alone go in at midday to experience the 11.45 AM ‘Arti’ ceremony, or take a guided tour. Just be sure to observe their strict dress code if you do decide to go inside.
2) Regent’s Park. Though part of the park sits in Westminster, it’s officially a north-west London park as it also sits in Camden, and it’s one of London’s best-known green places. Thanks to its many things to see and do, you could plan an entire day around Regent’s Park and come away extremely happy. Whether you love sport, theatre, or just seek to grab a a bite to eat and sit meditating amongst one of the many garden areas of the park, there is no shortage of fun.
3) Musical Museum & Museum of Water and Steam. Come to Kew, where you will find two delightful museums, one featuring music and the other about water and steam. They’re both quite near each other, so you could easily make a day out of learning about the ‘mighty Wurlitzer’ or seeing an organ concert, and then taking your kids over to learn about steam and railways, among other activities. Of course, that’s just for starters, so head over to their main websites to see what’s on.
4) RAF Museum. If you fancy military history as much as the annals of music and steam, you can’t go wrong visiting the RAF Museum on Grahame Park Way. For starters, the sheer size of the entire place will make your jaw drop, but seeing the different types of planes, plus taking your kids to play around with the hands-on air traffic control display will be enough for just one day out. There is much more to see, of course, and admission is free, so you can eke out the museum over a period of days, if you want.
Just bear in mind that they are transforming the museum in honour of its Centenary in 2018, so you will want to visit the RAF Museum website to sign up for updates concerning various gallery closings, etc.
These are just four of the major spots in north-west London that will stir your imagination, awaken the senses, lift your mood, and simply provide a wonderful day—or several days—out for you and your family.