Things to do near Bank and Monument
Have a drink in the sky
For a fun and sophisticated evening, take your date to one of the bars and restaurants at 20 Fenchurch Street, better known as ‘Sky Garden’. These landscaped public gardens begin from level 35. I haven’t tried all of the eateries there, but Darwin Brasserie left a favourable impression. Tip: when you call to book, ask if they can give you a table by the window. You will have the whole of London under your feet and the most romantic view that you can wish for.
If you dine, don’t stuff yourself – with live music, multi-level bars and floor-to-ceiling windows, it’s a really fun place to spend the evening. Explore and have a miniature bar ‘crawl’! Tasteful décor with lots of greenery creates an atmosphere that’s as cosy as it is elegant. Some guests might get less elegant as the night progresses, but hey, that happens everywhere. For Sky Garden, get off at Monument and walk. Please note, that while entry is free, advance bookings are required.
Get lost in the Barbican Estate
If you’re visiting the Barbican Centre, you will get the opportunity to walk through The Barbican estate. It is a brutalist housing complex that can be terribly confusing for a first-time visitor. Even seasoned Londoners find new ways in and out of the estate, as well as other delightful discoveries – a church, lakes, elevated gardens, a fountain, tennis courts, a tunnel…If you’re worried about getting lost in the maze or just want to find out more, there are guided tours of the estate (yes, it’s big enough for that). The estate, originally envisaged in the 50s, was bombed and rebuilt. Some flats, though compact, are sold for as much as 4 million pounds. Personally, I find it one of the most magical places in London, and a perfect marriage between rough concrete and natural features.
Find an oasis of calm
St Dunstan in the East was a church that got burned and, later, bombed. However, its beautiful walls and serene gardens remain. You could be forgiven for feeling like you’re on the set of Lord of the Rings. Nowadays, the gardens are a public park, with benches for tranquil meditations and old ruins that have vines growing through the windows. Sir Christopher Wren designed the steeple (as indeed he did every beautiful historical building in London). If you look at it closely, you will be able to spot scorch marks left by the Blitz. Don’t be surprised if you bump into a wedding party or two, the gardens are sometimes rented out for weddings and many newlyweds stop by for a photoshoot. You will be tempted to take a photo for your Instagram, too.
Have a wander around the City
The City of London is a unique place. It’s bustling with financial sector workers during weekdays and almost eerily quiet over the weekend. Use this time to explore the area a little further. See if you can find the silver dragons that mark entrances to the City. The City, also known as the Square Mile, enjoys special status. The Queen has to get the permission to enter from the Mayor, and may never dress more extravagantly than the Mayor while she is visiting.
Whilst the excellent clock museum is no longer in the City (it has moved to west London), there is plenty to see here. Once you tire (can you?) of the stunning architecture and cute little gardens, visit the Museum of London or St Paul’s Cathedral. The Bank of England is also an interesting place to see, but do check when it is open to visitors as it does keep strange hours sometimes.