June 17, 2016
London, the second weekend of June and the city is in party mood. Thousands of visitors have come from near and far for a weekend of events celebrating the Queen’s birthday. There’s also the countless other happenings that make up every weekend in this most vibrant of cities. So how, during the busiest of times in one of the world’s busiest cities, did I manage to find peace and quiet and have all the big attractions to myself? Simple. I just got up early.
Whether you live in the UK or are just visiting this is a really special way to see London, particularly during the longer days of summer. June and July are best. Admittedly, if you’re not already wide awake with jet lag, it’ll mean setting the alarm for silly o’clock – but it really is worth it. At this time of the morning you’ll witness tired revellers tripping home after their big nights out, you’ll meet the clean-up crews getting the city ready for the new day, and you’ll see the early risers out jogging or off to their shift jobs. The city feels so different from the daytime bustle and crowds of tourists. You virtually have it to yourself as can be seen in this video-
I arrived at Victoria Station at just before 5am and hired a bike from London’s self-service bike-share scheme. It was a short ride up to Buckingham Palace, along the Mall and through St James’s Park. I then spent the next couple of hours on a whistlestop tour of London’s highlights, from Trafalgar Square and Westminster Bridge to a breeze along the Southbank (no vendors in sight) and a freewheel down Fleet Street before finishing up at Somerset House. By this time (around 7am) London was waking up and a well-deserved breakfast was in order. And after all that activity, it tasted really good.
Once you’ve done the big attractions this is also a fantastic way to discover the hidden London people rush past every day; the tiny little squares and parks that all have a story to tell. You can visit the famous markets such as Smithfields and Billingsgate and watch the traders in action or you can take time to truly appreciate the magnificent architecture that is all around.
It’s the perfect time for photography, for reflection and for truly enjoying a new city and seeing it in a completely different light.
Early riser? We’ll soon be up with the larks in another Virgin Atlantic city, so keep an eye out for the next in our 5am series.