There are tons of guidebooks about London out there – heck, even we’ve written one ourselves. Most guidebooks focus on tourist and are more box-ticking guides to London than anything else. The Blue Guide to London is much different.
The Blue Guide to London is essentially a London Guidebook that instead of focusing on tourist information, focuses on the cultural framework of London – its history, art, architecture, important places, etc.
It’s a weighty tome – coming in at over 600 pages – it’s densely packed with tons of great information about London. The book is divided into sections that cover the various London boroughs. Inside each section, they go into detail of the history and architecture of that area. For example, if you’re curious as to the history of Fleet Street, there’s a great little section on its history along with explaining its history with the press.
The book contains numerous beautiful black and white pictures along with full color maps. My favorite bits were the schematics of famous attractions like St Paul’s Cathedral or Westminster Abbey, very helpful for getting a sense of place.
Here’s a brief excerpt:
Visiting Tower Bridge
Entry to the Tower Bridge Exhibition (open April–Sept 10–6, Oct–March 9.30–5.30; admission charge; shop; T: 020 7403 3761, towerbridge.org.uk) is via the North Tower and visitors are taken up by lift. The two walkways (now covered, and which also serve as exhibition space) afford impressive panoramic views of London; worth the entry fee alone. London’s historic landmarks increasingly jockey for position with its new skyscrapers. UNESCO and English Heritage are concerned that these giant edifices are unsympathetic and recently the World Heritage status of the Tower of London and Westminster was called into question. After a short film in the South Tower about the bridge’s construction, you are transported down by stairs and lift to road level. Follow the blue line on the pavement to the final part of the tour, the Victorian Engine Rooms, which are situated on the south side of the river (Shad Thames). Here one can see the enormous pumping engines, accumulators and boilers that were originally used to raise the bascules. An interactive model of the bridge allows you to raise the bascules via both steam and modern hydraulic methods. Exit via the gift shop. You can either explore the south side of the river from here, where there are plenty of riverside places to eat or return across the bridge to St Katharine Docks.
As I’ve been to London many times now, I’ll definitely take this book on my next trip. It provides a more well rounded experience to learning about London’s landmarks and special places. It’s way more ‘meat’ than you would find in a standard guidebook. I generally stopped taking guidebooks years ago as they couldn’t really tell me more than I didn’t already know or couldn’t find out with a quick lookup on the smartphone. This makes the guidebook useful again by providing information right at your fingertips about London’s rich history.
We highly recommend it for the Londonphile.