Few people other than Londoners know exactly how big the city really is. So when you visit “London” you’re really visiting one of many regions and boroughs of the city, many of them in outer North, South, East and West London.
Central London is what most people think of when they think “London”– it’s the innermost section of the city and contains some of the best-known tourist attractions. It’s in Central London that you’ll see St. Paul’s Cathedral, London Bridge, The Tower of London, and the rebuilt Globe Theatre.
In contrast to the city center, West London is a retreat for the capitol’s rich and famous, and features some incredible world-class museums, shopping, and entertainment.
West London is a relaxed area full of natural beauty, like the Kew Gardens, and even the famous Harrod’s department store. The region is also home to Kensington Palace–the 1605 building is the preferred residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge–William and Kate!
While London is an enormous city that is easy to get lost in, visitors shouldn’t forget that there’s an entire world outside of the city’s central district, one with some incredible architecture and culture to explore.
We’ve picked out some of our favorite boroughs and attractions in West London, and while they aren’t all incredibly famous tourist attractions, they are worthy of visiting. Get a taste of West London’s culture!
West London Explored
1. Richmond Upon Thames
Richmond Upon Thames, or just Richmond, is probably West London’s most attractive borough.
The River Thames runs through the area for over 10 miles, so there’s plenty of river-front views. Richmond features beautiful Royal Parks, historic homes, theaters, galleries, and town centers bustling with local shops.
The area is easily reached via tube, train, bus, car, bike, boat, and by foot. The quiet area is a nice break from the hustle and bustle of Central London.
2. Kingston Upon Thames
Kingston is another riverside settlement like Richmond, built upon the ancient market town where Saxon kings were crowned.
Today, it is a bustling village with lots of sights to see, including the Ham House, Wimbledon Windmill, the Coronation Stone, All Saint’s Church, and a unique sculpture, “Out of Order.”
The sculpture is in the form of 12 disused red telephone boxes that have been tipped in a way that resembles falling dominoes.
As one of London’s 35 major centers, Putney is the home of the University Boat Race, which was first contested in 1829 in Henley-on-Thames.
The starting point was moved to Putney in 1845, and since has been an annual event beginning at the University Stone.
Putney was also the home of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, the author of Frankenstein–she lived in Putney at Layton House in 1839, and at White House in 1843.
Chiswick is set above a particularly looping section of the River Thames, and is an attractive suburb with period properties, green spaces, and a vibrant mix of shops and restaurants.
Beer has been brewed on the site of the Fuller’s Griffin Brewery for over 350 years, so it’s a must have while visiting Chiswick.
Other sites to visit are the Chiswick House, one of the finest surviving examples of Palladian architecture in England, and St. Nicholas Church, which as a surviving 15th century tower.
This West London district is bordered by Shepherds Bush to the north and Chiswick to the west, and is linked to Barnes by the Hammersmith Bridge. Hammersmith is one of West London’s key commercial and employment centers, as well as the major center of London’s Polish community.
When visiting, you shouldn’t miss are “The Ark” office building. While you can’t go inside, the exterior is breathtaking. The Hammersmith Bridge is a breathtaking gold and green suspension bridge–the oldest in London and the first suspension bridge built over the River Thames.
The local pub, The Dove, dates back to the 17th century and has served famous patrons like Ernest Hemingway.
6. Shepherds Bush
This area might be primarily residential, but it also has an amazing shopping district, Westfield Shopping Centre, just north. Shepherds Bush also has a number of thoroughfares, all of which feature a number of unique local shops, pubs, and restaurants.
7. Kew Gardens
The Kew Gardens are the world’s largest collection of living plants. Founded in 1840, the garden’s collection includes more than 30,000 different kinds of plants. The herbarium has over seven million preserved plant specimens. The gardens also include a sizable library, which contains over 750,000 volumes and 175,000 prints and drawings in the illustrations collection.
The gardens are one of London’s top tourist attractions and were placed on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 2003.
Fulham is just a short tube journey south from Earl’s Court, and has plenty to offer. The area’s busy Broadway street and offshoots are packed in incredible bars, restaurants, shops, and pubs. Nearby there are large parks and riverside pathways. The proximity to Stamford Bridge and Craven Cottage make it a great daytime visit for soccer fans.
9. Notting Hill
Notting Hill is a cosmopolitan suburb that attracts millions of visitors every August for the Notting Hill Carnival. The Portobello Market runs along Portobello Road, and is one of the best markets in all of London. Antique lovers should visit on Saturday, the busiest day for antiques.
Notting Hill was also the subject of the 1999 The Notting Hill movie starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant, which was a box office hit.
10. Heathrow Airport
Heathrow is a major international airport in Hillingdon, London, and is the busiest airport in the entire United Kingdom, as well as the busiest airport in Europe. If you fly into England, you will typically fly into London, and into Heathrow Airport.
The airport is enormous, and has a large variety of designer stores and nice restaurants, so even if you have a layover, you won’t have to worry about finding things to do.
Chelsea is an affluent area in southwest London, popular for shopping, antiques, dining, music, and the arts. Visitors to Chelsea should visit Albert Bridge, Battersea Park, and the Chelsea Physic Garden–London’s oldest botanic garden. The Physic Garden has actually been linked to medicinal plants ince 1673!
Visitors should also go to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, which features some incredible floral arrangements and displays.
Battersea may be largely residential, but it bustles like Central London, with top-notch restaurants, bars, and pubs bringing in visitors from across the country. Family friendly attractions like the zoo and park are always a hit. Art lovers should check out the Battersea Arts Centre and Pump House Gallery.
If you’re looking for a great view of the city, Battersea has a heliport with choppers that can take you up for some incredible views.