Mmm. This week Time Out London has gone on record as declaring London as the greatest city on the planet. Time Out NY does this on a regular basis, as does Time Out Paris, and I suspect that if it existed Time Out Riga would make the same claim too.
Personally, in spite of being a massive Londonphile, I don’t like all this bragging. It is something that New Yorkers have been doing for decades and it comes across as little more than a sales job born of misplaced arrogance. Kind of like Wolves fans singing about being the ‘greatest team the world has ever seen..’
I think London and Londoners know better. Surely it is British trait to be a little on the modest side. Also London hasn’t always been so great. Certainly you would have looked stupid making the case for London as the world capital in the late 80s and early 90s.
That said the Time Out article does make a pretty compelling case. The star witness is Bonkers Boris, who declares
‘I hope I won’t be accused of chauvinism if I say that London is the greatest city on earth – the commercial, cultural and artistic capital of the world. We have twice as many bookshops as New York, more theatres, a larger financial services sector – and a quarter of that city’s murder rate. We have more museums and more Michelin-starred restaurants than Paris. We have more parks and green space than any other European city.
Now I don’t care a hoot about Michelin starred restaurants (can’t afford to eat in them and besides wouldn’t ‘world’s best collection of ethnic restaurants would be a much better claim’) but he is bang on about his other points. Sure there is a lot wrong with London – the transport system creaks largely because it has been around so long and the city wasn’t designed to work in this way and don’t get me started on cycling. There are also nowhere near enough swimming pools and yes the weather isn’t great.
We have The Thames – surely the greatest city river in the world. If you have never taken a Clipper you really haven’t lived.
We have embraced multi-culturalism in a way that other cities can only dream of – London truly is a World city with people from across the globe. The London food scene is so much richer and diverse than pretty much anywhere on the planet.
We have that perfect mix of old and new – Look one way and you see a medieval tower, the other and you see the tallest building in Europe.
We have some wonderful villages – You could spend a week in London and have a wonderful time and see amazing things without going anywhere near the centre of town.
I think the key to London’s success is that it is able to constantly evolve. We are the Facebook of World Capitals, not always first with the innovation, but able to absorb new things in a way that keeps us addictive.
The irony is that we will probably be eclipsed by Shanghai, Mumbai or Rio sometime soon. But for now Time Out might just be right. Let’s not brag about it though.