London began in The City, where the Romans etablished a settlement and it flourished into a trading centre. Much of it was burned down in the Great Fire of 1666. Today, it is an office district, and its resident population has decreased since the 1850s, with a short revival in the 1990s but still is nowhere near where it used to be.
While there is plenty of modern architecture on show, there are sprinkles of history around as well.
The Bank of England was founded in 1694 with a mission to serve the people as the government's banker and debt manager. The current building was a redevelopment completed in 1939. Note that a lot of central banks store their gold in the basement vaults here.
Across the street from the bank is the Royal Exchange, which was established in 1566 for trading stocks, taking inspiration from the Bourse in Antwerp. The current building is a third generation that was opened by Queen Victoria in 1844. It was extensively renovated in 2001 and is now a shopping mall.
Shorter historic buildings contrast against much taller, glassy buildings next door.
Despite many modern skyscrapers in the area now, there are still a number of narrow alleys in the road plan.
St. Michael's Church is a reconstruction following the Great Fire by Sir Christopher Wren between 1669 and 1672.
8 Bishopsgate is a 50-storey office tower under construction that will have a viewing gallery on the top floor and a 961-space bike parking lot. The street was named after one of seven gates along the old city wall.
Leadenhall Market's history goes back to Roman times in the 14th century. It was a food market but has gone more upscale today. The present building was built in the late 19th century with wrought iron and glass that overlaps the old medieval street plan. The architect wanted to design a "respectable arcade" for the poultry market.
Just outside the market is the Lloyd's building, which was designed by Lord Richard Rogers and opened by the Queen in 1986. Iconic in design, all of the services facilities, including staircases, elevators, toilets, and pipes, were on the outside of the building to facilitate maintenance. It was even listed as a Grade 1 building in 2011, just 25 years after it opened.
The "Walkie Talkie" building at 20 Fenchurch Street is not only a must-see for architecture fans, but it also has the city's highest public garden that can be accessed for free with an online pre-booking. Opened in 2014, it saw controversy very early on when its concave shape reflected the light that melted cars below. As a result, sunshades had to be fitted onto the windows to prevent reoccurrence.
The architecture becomes more predictable and less controversial along the Thames waterfront.
I then headed up London Bridge to cross into Southwark.
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