London: Places to Explore

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The Thames Upstream

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The upper stretch of the Thames unites a string of fashionable districts—Chiswick, Kew, Richmond, and Putney—taking in winding old streets, horticultural delights, cozy pubs nestling at water's edge, and Henry VIII's fiendish outdoor labyrinth at Hampton Court Palace. The neighborhoods dotted along the way are as proud of their village-y feel as of their stately history, witnessed by such handsome and historic estates as Strawberry Hill and Syon House. After the sensory overload of the West End, it's easy to forget you're in a capital city at all.

On the banks of the Thames just west of central London, far enough out to escape the crush and crowds you've probably just started to get used to, Chiswick is a low-key, upmarket district, content with its run of restaurants, stylish shops, and film-star residents. No doubt its most famous son wouldn't approve of all the conspicuous wealth, though; Chiswick was home to one of Britain's best-loved painters, William Hogarth, who tore the fabric of the 18th-century nation to shreds with his slew of satirical engravings. Hogarth's House has been restored to its former glory. Incongruously stranded among Chiswick's terraced houses are a number of fine 18th-century buildings, which are now some of the most desirable suburban houses in London. By far the grandest of all is Chiswick House, a unique Palladian-style mansion borne from the 3rd Earl of Burlington's love of classical and Renaissance architecture—a radical style at the time. A mile or so beyond Chiswick is Kew, a leafy suburb with little to see other than its two big attractions: the lovely Kew Palace and the Royal Botanic Gardens— anchored in the landscape for several miles around by a towering, mock-Chinese pagoda.

Named after the (long-vanished) palace Henry VII started here in 1500, Richmond is still a welcoming suburb with a small-town feel, marred only by choking levels of traffic. Duck away from the main streets to find many handsome Georgian and Victorian houses, antiques shops, a Victorian theater, a grand stately home—and, best of all, the largest of London's royal parks.

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