Marble Arch is a famous and much photographed London landmark and, odd though this famed tourist attraction may be (more on that in a second), it’s worth heading there as there are lots of things to do nearby. From some truly world-class shopping options found on and around the nearby Oxford Street, to the sprawling green space of Hyde Park and, of course, a great selection of hotels, ranging from 5 star boutique hotels to luxurious, grand selections like The Montcalm London Marble Arch hotel it’s an area with plenty to offer.
Yes, Marble Arch is a bit quirky as far as well-known landmarks are concerned, given the fact that nowadays it’s more-or-less a large traffic island at the junction of Edgware Road, Park Lane and Oxford Street that buses and cars simply drive around on their way to wherever they’re going, rather than it being a final destination of its own.
A brief history of Marble Arch
This wasn’t always the case. The monument, made of white Carrara marble and designed by John Nash, was built in The Mall as an entrance to the cour d’honneur of Buckingham Palace. It was moved in 1851 to its current location and the widening of Park Lane in the sixties ultimately led to its position in the middle of the road, largely cut off from easy public access. When you consider that only Royal Family members and the King’s Troop are allowed to pass through the arch, perhaps that’s not too much of an issue.
The surreal stretches beyond the bizarre location, however, with the spectacle of a giant disembodied horse head, the site Tyburn Tree where many a miscreant was executed and the Benedictine monastery Tyburn Convent, this is far from your run-of-the-mill tourist spot.
So, to help you navigate the dos and the don’ts, let’s take a look at some of the best things to do if/when you find yourself in the Marble Arch area.
Shop till you drop
We’d be remiss to not mention, right off the bat, that shopping on Oxford Street and its neighbouring areas is one of the most popular of all London tourist attractions. Though because of this popularity, the streets are often thrumming with crowds and that’s not everyone’s cup of tea. If you’d rather avoid the hustle and bustle, we’d recommend you explore the streets that lead off Oxford Street where you’re likely to stumble upon smaller boutique shops. Saville Row too is a place worth checking out, not just for the high-end men’s fashion, but also for its colourful history which includes the final live performance of the Beatles.
Colloquially referred to as ‘Number One London’ – which is enough of a reason to visit all on its own – Aspley House was the very place where the first Duke of Wellington resided and is still today one of the city’s finest residences. It got the ‘Number One’ moniker because it used to be the first house you encountered when entering London from the countryside. Today, it is a fantastic museum which showcases a collection of medals, memorabilia, sculptures, paintings and various other collectables which used to belong to the Duke himself.
The London Planetarium
If you don’t mind heading away from Marble Arch a little, then why not travel all the way to the stars with a visit to the London Planetarium? ‘Guided tours’ of the galaxy led by world-famous experts, topped off with a fascinating experience aboard the Spirit of London ride is a truly great way to spend an afternoon.
The eastern side of Hyde Park, which is the side closest to Marble Arch, is particularly expansive and more often than not untouched by the crowds that congregate to other parts. It’s great to take a relaxing stroll around the royal gardens but make sure you time your walk to avoid the various music concerts and gigs that take place there; unless that’s exactly your sort of thing, that is.
Princess Diana Memorial
Opened by the Queen in 2004 to honour the memory of the late Princess of Wales, the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain is a treasured and strikingly beautiful landmark. The design, which incorporates 545 pieces of Cornish granite, is said to express Diana’s love of children and her vibrant life spirit.
This is a famous spot – or infamous spot, depending on your viewpoint – where orators of every description will clamber upon their respective soapbox and deliver public speeches. The stage invariably belongs to fringe groups, political activists and the occasional eccentric member of society that draws his/her fair share of double-takes. Don’t be surprised if you encounter a healthy dose of heckling or the odd intellectual debate breaking out. Either way, a quick pass-by is always likely to offer some form of entertainment.
Still Water Horse sculpture
Still Water, a bronze sculpture by Nic Fiddion-Green, is 10 metres high and features a disembodied horse’s head with its mouth pointing downward as if ‘drinking’ from the plinth upon which it stands. If you’re a fan of sculptured art, it is definitely worth stopping to take a closer look.
More oddity from this corner of London, this time in the form of a plaque which marks the site of the Tyburn Tree. If you’re wondering what’s so special about a plaque that marks where a ‘tree’ used to stand, the gruesome reality is that it actually indicates London’s main execution site where as many as 50,000 people are thought to have reached the end of the line. The nearby Tyburn Convent has a shrine and nuns who pray to this day for the lost souls.
Or you could always just relax…
Despite its peculiar nature, Marble Arch has a wide offering of things to do and will add a bit of variety to your London stay. Or if you’re looking for something that fits in with a more tradition rest-and-recuperate schedule, a luxurious stay in a spa hotel in London will fit the bill nicely. The plethora of London hotel special offers you can find will help you create a genuinely memorable stay in the capital.