London is one of the most vibrant and exciting cities in the world and following the 2012 Olympic Games, there has never been a better time to visit. If you’re booking a hotel in London for a weekend, you may find there is so much to do that you will struggle to fit it all in to a couple of days. Our guide to the best things to see and do will provide you with a starting point.
If art is what you enjoy, London has a whole host of galleries with art styles to suit every taste and unless you are visiting one of the many excellent exhibitions where there may be a charge, they are all free to enter.
Tate Modern is the national gallery for modern art in the UK. Situated in an old power station on the South Bank of the Thames, it hosts paintings as well as modern art installations. Tate Modern’s sister gallery, Tate Britain, is situated further down the Thames to the west and contains works of art dating from 1500 right up to the present day.
Overlooking Trafalgar Square is the National Gallery and alongside it, the National Portrait Gallery. The National Gallery contains many classic paintings and is owned by the nation, while the National Portrait Gallery contains over 175,000 portraits of men and women, some dating back to the 16th century.
As you would expect, London has a whole host of museums to cater for every taste and interest and most are free to enter. The Natural History Museum and the Science Museum are situated close to each other in Kensington, to the west of the centre and both provide interactive experiences that will delight adults and children alike.
Also to the west is the Victoria and Albert Museum, which is home to many thousands of artefacts celebrating art and design.
Also worth a visit are the Royal Museums in Greenwich, which include the Royal Observatory, the world’s largest maritime museum and the Cutty Sark. The British Museum is also worth a look and includes objects and artefacts celebrating human history over two million years.
It is possible to visit Buckingham Palace to see the State Rooms and any special exhibitions; however the Palace is only open to the public at certain times of the year and timed entry tickets must be purchased in advance. Alternatively, the Tower of London, which houses the Crown Jewels, is open to the public all year round, although there is also a charge to enter.
Other tourist attractions
As you would expect, there are other places to visit in London that are neither museums or galleries. London is home to the world famous Madame Tussauds’ waxwork museum as well as an amazing Aquarium, which is situated on the South Bank. Close to here is also the London Eye, a large wheel where you can take a ride in a capsule for some amazing views across London.
Places to visit for free
There are many other landmarks that you can pay a visit to without it costing you a penny. Why not go and see Nelson’s Column towering over Trafalgar Square and then take a walk down Whitehall past the end of Downing Street to see the amazing site of the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey?
If it is open spaces you are looking for, then both Hyde Park and St James’s Park offer some peace and tranquillity and provide an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Alternatively, take a boat trip down the Thames for a relaxing break, although a small charge will apply.
London is always playing host to special events and for more details of these, it is wise to look online or check London listings magazines or newspapers before you visit. However, you can always plan a trip to the theatre or a concert, but it is best to book tickets in advance to avoid disappointment.
Eating, Drinking and Shopping
London offers many places to eat and drink and it is possible to experience the cuisine of many different countries. All places vary in price and the range of food and drink on offer, but you are bound to find something to suit.
The main shopping area in London is Oxford Street, however there is also good shopping to be found in Covent Garden as well as Knightsbridge to the west, if you are seeking designer goods.
Before you visit the capital, check online for special offers on entry to attractions and then plan your London city break around the things you most want to do. You definitely won’t be able to fit it all in, so there will be plenty of interest left for your next visit!