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LONDON — More than 150 years ago, Hay’s Wharf bustled with ships delivering goods from faraway lands. The site was known as the "Larder of London" because of extensive shipping traffic.

Today, the vessels of yesteryear are long gone, but the site remains. Tourists flock here to enjoy its relaxed setting, where tea shipments from India and China were once unloaded from seafaring clippers.

The wharf, now called Hay’s Galleria, is a sanctuary of sorts in the middle of this lively city. Down a quiet, narrow alley from congested Tooley Street, the galleria opens up to a tall, wide atrium covered by a glass canopy.

Shops, restaurants and bars line the sides of the area, while stalls selling crafts and souvenirs huddle around the entrance. Dominating the center is a 60-foot moving sculpture with water jets and fountains titled "The Navigators."

At the end of the galleria, visitors can view the Thames and see the HMS Belfast warship and Tower Bridge. Numerous other attractions are a short walk from the galleria, such as the Britain at War Museum, Tate Modern, Vinopolis, Tower of London and London Dungeon.

Another scenic diversion can be a nice stroll along the waterfront, especially when weather cooperates.

Before heading elsewhere, explore the galleria’s shops that sell men’s and women’s clothing, shoes, theater tickets and books, among other things. Food options include Thai, French and English dishes as well as seafood, deli sandwiches and bagels.

Some of these restaurants have outdoor tables where one can plop down and soak in the ambience.

During the day, natural light peeks through the canopy, which also stops pesky rain showers from dampening one’s day.

"It’s a good place to meet up … for people who want to enjoy something a little bit different," said Brien Hobbs, deputy center manager for London Bridge City, a business estate that encompasses the galleria.

Although the galleria has shops, Hobbs doesn’t consider the site a shopping center.

"It’s more for people eating and drinking," he said.

He also believes the site has a mellow setting, unlike deafening nightspots in other parts of the city.

"I think it’s tranquil," he said. "You’re not going to have your ears blown out."

Hay’s Galleria

Location: It can be found inside London Bridge City, a business estate near the intersection of Stainer and Tooley streets, London SE1. The closest Underground station is London Bridge.

What to see: An eclectic mix of shops, restaurants and bars underneath a long, glass canopy next to the River Thames, with numerous other attractions nearby.

Web site:www.haysgalleria.co.uk


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