One of the longest of the many lines of track that make up the London Underground – or Tube – network, which itself ensures millions and millions of locals and visitors get about the place throughout the year, the District line offers up many a highlight should you stop off at select stations during any trip along it. So then, here’s just a selection of the top things to see and do on that sprawling green line on the Tube map…
Your first essential stop has to be Tower Hill. For it’s here that you’ll discover positively the oldest and most historically resonant building in the entire city – the Tower of London. Having stood on the same spot for almost a thousand years now, from the Norman Conquest right up to the present day, the Tower has been used as everything from a fortress to a palace; a prison to a site of torture and execution; a jewel depository to an exclusive zoo.
Famed today as the much-adored public attraction that’s home to both the Crown Jewels and the colourfully dressed Yeomen of the Guard (whom host terrific tours of the place), it’s simply unmissable. As is the marvel of Victorian engineering that’s Tower Bridge, located just down the road – take the tour and, if you’re lucky, witness the bascules (the bridge’s two towers) lifting the road to allow tall rivercraft to pass through.
To be fair, aside from the arts venue that’s Somerset House, there’s not a great deal to see on the Thames’ North Embankment, bit this station is a perfect place to hop off the Tube and at which to cross the river and sample the delights of the South Bank. Brimming with globally acclaimed attractions like the London Eye, the South Bank Centre, the National Theatre and the BFI, along with a plethora of eateries, shops and pop-up highlights like the book fayre under the arches of Waterloo Bridge, this stretch of vibrant river-walk is rightly one of the most popular parts of the capital with visiting families.
Westminster is the small area of Central London that’s both the seat of primary political power in the UK and a UNESCO World Heritage site. And that’s because it contains both the Victorian neo-Gothic architectural masterpiece that’s the Houses of Parliament and the near-millennium-old church of kings and queens that’s Westminster Abbey.
The latter is a timeless medieval construction and has been the coronation site of practically every English (and subsequently British) monarch as well as the place of worship used for numerous Royal and state occasions, such as the funerals of Winston Churchill and Diana, Princess of Wales and, more recently, the wedding of her son, the Duke of Cambridge. It’s also the resting place of a great many British icons, including Geoffrey Chaucer and Charles Darwin.
One of the most sought-after and elegant districts of the capital, South Ken is a must-visit area for those on a short-break owing to the long, wide boulevard Exhibition Road (in the area known as ‘Albertopolis’), on which you’ll find the fantastic venues that are the Science, Natural History and Victoria & Albert (V&A) Museums. This part of town’s also home to a fair number of French expats, which lends it an even more elegant and stylish air, as well as many a trendy café and cool boutique. Best of all, though, should you have sensibly decided to make your place of stay very central – maybe at a hotel near Piccadilly Circus station like the Shaftesbury Piccadilly – then it’s all within very easy reach thanks to a mere short hop on the Tube.
Wimbledon (Wimbledon branch)
Anyone for tennis? Yes, quite clearly, this is the station to head to if you’re a fan of the racquet-and-ball game. Down the road from here is the impressive stadia where the Wimbledon Championships are held every June, one of the four prestigious Grand Slam tournaments. And even if it’s out of season, the venue’s more than worth paying a visit because you can go on a tour of the place and discover many of its riches and, via its museum, delve back into its glory-packed history – and those of the greatest stars to have graced its grass courts.
Kew Gardens (Richmond branch)
On the way to Richmond, just outside the city itself, you can get off here for the extraordinary natural wonder that’s another UNESCO World Heritage site. In the spring and summer Kew’s an absolute must-see, that’s for sure; it offers up a total 121 hectares of wondrous green creations, blooming flowers of all exotic shades, perfect pagodas and glorious greenhouses. In truth, imaginative botanical events are held here all year round – both during the day and after dark.
Richmond (Richmond branch)
Finally, any (admittedly lengthy) trip on the District line has to take in this undeniably elegant borough, especially for the unimpeachably fine Richmond Park. The largest of London’s Royal Parks, it’s a naturally serene place that, to step into it and stroll about, really does make you feel like you’ve left the hustle-bustle of the city far behind for a while; thanks not least to the herds of red and fallow deer for which it’s been a natural habitat for centuries upon centuries. Glorious!