London’s Coolest New Attractions

The skyline of London is shifting before our eyes, and these cool new attractions are well worth the price of admission

Emirates Air Line London
The Emirates Air Line Transport for London

As Western Europe’s most populated and dynamic city, the British capital isn’t short on diversions. London’s intoxicating world beat plays out across cobbled alleyways, leafy parks, and gilded avenues oozing with history. And the Thames already has its iconic landmarks, from Tower Bridge to the London Eye Ferris wheel.

But the city isn’t resting on its laurels. London, which celebrated the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee with great pomp, is already on to the next big things: new arts venues, parks, and thrill rides like the Emirates Air Line cable car. Even locals are taking notice. These cool attractions were unveiled as London welcomed the world for the Games of the XXX Olympiad.

Many sights are naturally in East London in proximity to the Olympics or make up part of the Games complex itself. Olympic Park, for starters, spreads over 247 acres of parkland in a feat of bioengineering that includes wildlife habitats, a riverside promenade, and trees planted as a hedge against climate change—proof that there’s literally room to grow in this chaotic city. Man-made attractions within the park will also vie for your attention, notably the ArcelorMittal Orbit, a twisting steel tower with a viewing platform. —Farhad Heydari

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Thames RIB Experience

Thames RIB Experience
(Courtesy of Thames RIB Experience)

An already popular outing on the River Thames has just gotten a whole lot cooler, especially if you’re a James Bond fan. The exhilarating 400-horsepower Thames RIB experience, which speeds by some of London’s most iconic sights at 40mph, now features a stand-alone 80-minute James Bond–themed itinerary—with fascinating anecdotes about Ian Fleming and high-speed flybys past the headquarters of the MI5 and MI6 secret service.

thamesribexperience.com

—Farhad Heydari

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Shark Reef Encounter at the London Aquarium

SEA LIFE London Aquarium
(Courtesy of SEA LIFE London Aquarium)

One of the world’s most feared predators has a spiffy new home at Sea Life London Aquarium. At the Shark Reef Encounter, 16 creatures—from sand tiger sharks to bowmouths, grey reefs, and blacktips—sinisterly wend their way through a 65-foot tank dotted with shoals of other less harmful fish. Your encounter involves strolling a 15-foot section of glass walkway above the tank, peering down at the fins below, and interacting with exhibits that chronicle the 450-million-year evolution of the shark.

visitsealife.com

—Farhad Heydari

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The Emirates Air Line

London
(Transport for London)

London now joins a rarefied group of cities like Barcelona, Medellín, and Taipei that host urban cable cars. This one arches over the Thames River, offering glorious views of East London, Greenwich, and Canary Wharf. Dubbed the Emirates Air Line, for the Dubai-based carrier’s part-sponsorship of it, the $92 million gondola service links the ExCeL exhibition center at the Royal Docks with the O2 arena (formerly the Millennium Dome). It can carry 2,500 passengers an hour in 34 cabins that travel at an altitude of 300 feet, more than half a mile across the Thames.

tfl.gov.uk

—Farhad Heydari

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Tate Modern Expansion

Tate Modern
((c) Herzog and de Meuron and Hayes Davidson 2009)

The Tate Modern debuted in 2000 and quickly became the world’s most popular modern art museum, attracting more than 5 million annual visitors. Architects Herzog & de Meuron’s much-needed addition is a latticework brick edifice above two disused oil tanks—huge subterranean spaces that will also be open for live art installations and performances. A second phase of expansion is slated for 2016.

—Briana Fasone

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The Shard

The Shard
(Courtesy of Baron Phillips Associates)

Opening in 2012 at the foot of London Bridge, Renzo Piano’s 1,016-foot-high triangular tower seizes the title of Western Europe’s tallest, cloud-scraping building, with an observation deck that promises 40-mile city views and easy access from high-speed elevators. The glass-encased floors are filled with a mix of offices, apartments, upscale restaurants, and guest rooms at a Shangri-La hotel.

the-shard.com

—Briana Fasone

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Up at the O2

O2
(Courtesy of The O2)

Brace yourself: Up at the O2 is a vertiginous walk atop the O2 arena (formerly Millennium Dome), which played a starring role in the pre-title sequence of the James Bond film The World Is Not Enough. The excursion lasts 90 heart-pounding minutes and was inspired by similar climbs at Sydney’s Harbour Bridge. Thrill-seekers don bespoke climbing suits, shoes, and safety harnesses to access a viewing platform on the arena roof, walking along a tensile fabric walkway 175 feet above the ground.

theo2.co.uk

—Farhad Heydari

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The Serpentine Sackler Gallery

Serpentine Sackler Gallery
(Zaha Hadid Architects)

A 206-year-old, onetime gunpowder depot built in the style of a Palladian villa in Kensington Gardens has been repurposed by Pritzker Prize–winning architect Zaha Hadid as a new cultural destination to complement the Serpentine Gallery. Located yards from the existing gallery, the hitherto Magazine Building will encompass nearly 9,700 square feet of galleries and social space, including a restaurant, as well as a new wing.

serpentinegallery.org

—Farhad Heydari

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