There is way too much to do in London for one visit, so if you’re there for the Olympics and on some time restrictions, here are my picks for must-sees…
Shopping: You can’t beat Oxford Street. Take the Tube to Bond Street station and start at Selfridges. If you’re in the mood to buy but don’t know where to start, book a personal shopper who will select clothes from all the over the store. This service is free but you’ll be expected to purchase. Then shop your way down Oxford Street to Oxford Circus. Pop into Debenhams for a department store with the likes of Jasper Conran, H&M and Top Shop.
Vibe: I love Covent Garden for its boutiques, bars and buskers. You’ll find markets selling produce and flowers and bars full of after-work hipsters. This is where I’d meet friends if I were you. A settlement has existed since the 1st Century when the city was known as Londinium in Roman times.
High tea: The Goring Hotel where Kate Middleton got ready for her wedding to Prince William. This hotel is the overflow for Buckingham Palace so high tea here is more than just fancy cakes and teeny sandwiches, but your chance to hob nob with (near enough to) royalty. Read my blog about the Goring here >>>
Views: The London Eye, especially as the lights come up, but you will have to queue. Or instead of such a cliche’d attraction, climb 202 ft to the top of the newly restored Monument where the great fire of London started in 1666 and devastated most of the city. Great views from here for the princely sum of £3 and a little history lesson while you’re at it.
Look around: the cheapest way to look around and get your bearings of London is to take a bus in to the city, sit upstairs and look at the views. Take the #9 which goes through Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, Hyde Park Corner, Knightsbridge (Harrods) and past the Royal Albert Hall. Or the #15 from Tower Hill Station, to the Monument, Mansion House, St Paul’s Cathedral, Fleet Street and Trafalgar Square. Bear in mind some routes and times will be affected by the Olympics.
Art: Visit the Tate Modern (if you get modern art!) at Bankside in the old Power Station. The building itself is impressive and the collections within range from bizarre (like the contents of the artist’s wife’ bathroom rubbish bin) to gob smacking. The first travel story I wrote was taking the piss out of the Tate, but it is worth visiting for sure. You can read my Tate Modern story here if you like >>>
Culture: Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre at Bankside is worth seeing. But be warned, a play takes hours so if you don’t have the time, just go for a nosey. Only the balconies are under cover so if the weather is dodgy it’ll be nasty. Another cool thing for touch of culture is to find where some outdoor theatre is being held and take a picnic and a rug and sit under the stars. Of course, this also is dependent on the London weather. Ahem.
Unusual: Pop into a trial at The Old Bailey. These courts are open to the public so if you have a fascination for how the British justice system is run or are just a bit bored in the city one afternoon, go have a look. I did this once to see the lawyers and judges with their horse hair wigs and robes and to marvel at the history of the place. Did you know the Old Baily is built over a river?