As soon as they set foot in the UK capital, it hits any and every visitor – whatever the reason they’ve come to the city – just how much there genuinely is to see and do in London. But where to start? How to organise one’s thoughts? How to weed out the wheat from the chaff when it comes to the ultimate must-visit venues and attractions? Well, why not dip your toes into our handy A-Z guide of the very best that London has to offer…?
The unmissable quartet when it comes to London’s greatest galleries are surely the Tate Modern (for the finest modern art), the Tate Britain (for the finest British art) and the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery (for the finest of all fine art and outstanding portraiture in a historical context, respectively). Possibly the most awesome collection of art in any city anywhere in the world; the best thing about it all? All four venues are free to enter – although it’d take a hard heart not to contribute a few pounds for their upkeep on the way out.
The oldest area in the whole city (it effectively dates back to Roman times), the ‘Square Mile’ may be the financial heartbeat of the capital but it’s also jam-packed with some supreme sights and sounds, among them the world-famous, fortress-like Bank of England, the perfect ‘people’s church’ that’s St. Paul’s Cathedral with its glorious dome, the Monument (the impressive edifice that was erected in the late 17th Century to commemorate the then recent 1666 Great Fire) and so many nooks and crannies worth discovering. Why? Because their appearance frankly hasn’t changed since the days of Dickens (and Scrooge!) way back in the Victorian era.
The so-called lungs of London, its green public spaces are – like the major galleries and museums – mostly free to enter, which is what makes them so glorious really (and terrific should you already be making savings via Premier Club Rewards); they’re open to all comers and so enjoyed by everybody from every walk of life. Indeed, if you so desire, you can stroll all the way from Westminster slap-bang in the city’s centre to Holland Park in the upmarket west via the parks alone – aside from crossing the odd road, that is. A word to the wise: if you’re intent on visiting the Royal Parks (and you definitely ought to be) then taking in the view of Buckingham Palace from the charming St. James’s Park, discovering Kensington Gardens – at the western end of Hyde Park – and hopping on the Tube’s Northern line to Hampstead for its expansive, fantastic Heath (all right, it may not be a Royal Park, but who cares) are absolute musts.
If losing yourself in some of the greatest museums on the planet sounds just the ticket then you definitely need to head to ‘Albertopolis’ – the neighbourhood in South Kensington just south of Hyde Park that offers up not just the Royal Albert Hall, but also the self-describing and comprehensively brilliant Science and Natural History Museums; as well as the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), which is superb for the decorative arts and design. And then of course there’s the simply and utterly unbeatable British Museum away to the east in Bloomsbury – a very strong contender for the most extraordinarily varied and, frankly, best museum in the entire world.
Finally, one of the greatest draws of all for visitors to London, from wherever they hail, is the myriad theatres of the West End. So many are there that there’s simply not enough room here to list anything approaching all of them, so instead let’s focus on what you can catch in this cracking clutch of superb playhouses – everything from glossy big-budget musicals to cutting-edge, modern drama and Classical Shakespeare to witty satirical plays and awesome opera and ballet to hilarious comedy farces. Whatever you fancy when it comes to theatre then, yes, ‘Theatreland’ will undoubtedly be able to cater for it. And, as a bonus, the West End’s many quality restaurants tend to run dinner deals for theatregoers throughout the year, so keep your eyes peeled for them – and for reduced show tickets too, of course!