The area around the world-famous Victoria train station is ideal for accommodation for a short-break spent in London, given the quality and affordability of hotels here and its very central location (thus making it very easy to get to attractions from the area), but you may well ask, is it likely you’ll actually spend time in the area much? Is there anything to do here for, say, a day spent locally? Well, funny you should ask that very question, because there definitely, verily is…
Old Operating Theatre and Museum
(9a St Thomas Street SE1 9RY; open: 10.30am-5pm daily)
Start the day off as you mean to go on with this utterly fascinating venue; a museum of surgical history comprising a somewhat Victorian-era restored operating theatre (in fact, the oldest extant one in all Europe), which offers up a plethora of old-fashioned medical artefacts from a far less sophisticated and totally non-high-tech era. Best of all, though, perhaps is the place’s location; in the attic of an 18th Century baroque church – yes, really.
(2 Wilton Road SW1V 1AN)
A dinky yet delightful cast-iron miniature clock tower to be found at the intersection of Vauxhall Bridge Road and Victoria Street, this diminutive icon of the area is, yes, supposed to be an imitation of the much bigger (and more illustrious) ‘Big Ben’ – really, Elizabeth Tower – down the road in Westminster and, although it’s undergone a few refurbishments in its short-ish history, it’s undoubtedly become a landmark of the Victoria district since its erection 35 years ago. A fine spot to enjoy lunch, should you have bought a snack for the day (and already enjoyed breakfast at your accommodation; say, one of the hotels around Victoria Station London).
Queen’s Diamond Garden
(Buckingham Palace SW1A 1AA/ open: 6am-8pm daily)
An alternative al fresco lunch location, this delightful outdoor space may have gone under the radar as far as Londoners are concerned, but it’s their loss and it rightly has been a choice visitors’ spot for tourists ever since its establishment in 2012 to mark HM The Queen’s diamond jubilee. Indeed, that may be, in part, because it’s to be found next-door to the Queen’s Gallery at the monarch’s official London residence, Buckingham Palace – and the unlike the latter iconic building, it’s open all year round to all and sundry, free of charge. The garden’s exquisite too, don’t doubt it; it’s laid out in diamond-shaped boxes made from Portland stone.
The Greenwood pub
(170 Victoria Street SW1E 5LB/ open: 8am-12midnight Monday-Saturday; 9am-11pm Sunday)
A simply awesome venue for the early-evening (especially for some pre-show nosh), this once-upon-a-time Victorian pub has been transformed into a modern entertainment venue par excellence, but with, well, something of a difference. Or two. And that’s because not only does it serve a fine selection of beers on tap, provide a wide-catering food menu and a sports lounge (for all your football/ rugby/ tennis-viewing needs), but also is blessed with an irresistible – more stylish than kitsch – 1970s-era décor and, best and most eccentric of all, a fully operational barbershop for the gents and a totally decked-out hair salon for the ladies. Yep, it really does. To say it’s worth visiting this place is putting it mildly – especially if you may be in need of a short-back-and-sides!
Victoria Palace Theatre
(Victoria Street SW1E 5EA)
Located just down the street from Greenwood is this esteemed West End playhouse; just the venue to realise your opportunity to experience some fantastic theatre during your short-break in the capital (especially if you’ve made your base close by at accommodation near Victoria Station). Within its domed auditorium, the theatre’s owners stage a whole roster of diverse and high-quality touring and original shows and performances, the vast majority of them to packed-out houses of up to 1,500 punters. And, as with many ‘Theatreland’ venues, the Victoria Palace has a long and illustrious history, not least for its origins; designed by Frank Matcham, the leading theatre architect of his day, it opened in the early 20th Century, constructed on the site of the Victorian-era Moy’s Music Hall and just across the road from the world-famous railway station.
Tiles restaurant and wine bar
(36 Buckingham Palace Road/ open: 12noon-10pm Monday-Friday)
Finally, depending on which day of the week you plan to spend the day of your London stay in the Victoria area and how late your evening at the theatre concludes, if you’ve the time, you may want to see out your night at this most atmospheric of venues, featuring elegant bistro tables and, yes, tiled floors. And, actually, owing to the fact it serves a full pre-theatre-show menu, you may decide it’s a good alternative to Greenwood for an early evening meal.
Beverage-wise, though, what distinguishes this place is, well, unseen. In fact, to discover and understand it properly you’d have to head 200 miles west into the centre of the Welsh countryside, for its here that the sparkling wine that Tiles exclusively serves is created, cultivated and transported from the establishment’s very own vineyard. Yes, the finest booze served at this joint then is – proudly – all-British. Apparently, it’s made over a two-year period via stainless steel tanks on lees, including a one-year-long bottle maturation process. What better place to enjoy a tipple then during your short stay in the UK capital?