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London's coolest new attractions

July 26, 2012 at 11:14 AM ET

Transport for London /
London's urban cable cars passes over the Thames River, offering views of East London, Greenwich and Canary Wharf. They can carry 2,500 passengers an hour in 34 cabins that travel at an altitude of 300 feet.

Emirates recently held a test flight over London, but it didn’t involve any planes. The Dubai-based airline is the primary sponsor of a new cable-car service suspended high across the Thames and capable of carrying 2,500 passengers.

Slideshow: See London's coolest new attractions

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 just 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 are all in the process of being unveiled as London welcomes 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.

But not all the buzzed-about attractions are in East London. Near Tower Bridge, in a development called More London, Renzo Piano’s 1,016-foot-high Shard skyscraper has taken shape and set a record as Western Europe’s tallest building. And about a mile to the west, just past the Globe Theatre, the first expansion phase of the Tate Modern — which receives more than 5 million annual visitors — is well under way. Architects Herzog & de Meuron’s addition is a striking latticework brick edifice with two former oil tanks repurposed as performance and exhibition space.

While 2012 is a seminal year for London, the new and improved Tate Modern, like the rest of these attractions, will keep the party going for visitors long after the Olympic Games’ closing ceremonies.

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