1,572 km2, 270 Tube stops, close to 300 museums, and 46 pubs called Red Lion alone; planning a trip to London can be overwhelming. But you’re in safe hands. Grab a ‘brolly’, an Oyster Card, and set your sights on one of our top city spots

Sights and attractions

Sights and attractions in London

With red buses, black cabs and iconic sights at every turn, photo opportunities abound in this town. For the truly postcard-worthy, point your lens at Westminster for Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, then on to Victoria to watch the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace – a classic London spectacle. Across town, St. Paul’s Cathedral is also quite the sight, as are the current residents of ex-royal prison, the Tower of London: the Crown Jewels and Tower Ravens. Finally, mount giant Ferris wheel the London Eye to see it all from 40km up.

Art and culture

Art and culture in London

London is duly proud of its cultural institutions – from stalwart museums, galleries and theatres to fleeting pop-up theatres. The Kensington Museums – the V&A, Science and Natural History Museums – cover off outer space, dinosaurs and ball gowns in one brilliant afternoon, and are great for kids. As is the Southbank Centre: Europe’s largest arts centre, with an innovative programme of plays, talks, gigs, exhibitions and ground-breaking, often free, events and festivals. Nearby, the Tate Modern gallery and its Bankside brother the Tate Britain cater to every taste in art, from sixteenth-century portraiture to avant-garde sculpture. For theatre, the Old and Young Vic theatres are an equally impressive pair, while a pilgrimage to Shakespeare’s Globe theatre is positively bucket list-worthy.

Food and drink

Food and drink in London

With 80 Michelin stars tallied in the 2016 Guide, those after fine dining won’t have far to look (Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester and Gordon Ramsay, Chelsea boast three), but its street food and market scenes are also thriving. Borough Market is the gourmand’s Mecca, heaving with artisanal edibles – though you’ll find a less crowded food fest in Bermondsey’s Maltby Street – while East London’s night markets offer drinking, dancing and street food stalls; try Street Feast. For a refined affair, there are few things more British than afternoon tea; The Ritz is the classic spot, although über-cool sketch does a fine line too. Later, take to a rooftop bar for cocktails and a bird’s-eye view: try luxe, leafy Kensington Roof Gardens; Radio Bar or Vista for central views on smart hotels; or Peckham’s Frank’s Café or The Queen of Hoxton for a younger crowd.

Shopping

Shopping in London

Lovers of luxury should kick off at Knightsbridge, home to hallowed, seriously high-end department stores Harrods and Harvey Nichols. Be sure to hit a high street while you’re here too – this is, after all, the birthplace of Topshop (you’ll find its flagship, among many others, at Oxford Circus, though beware the crowds). Round the corner is Carnaby Street, a colourful strip of cooler chains and indie shops, where you’ll also find the gorgeous, quintessentially British department store Liberty. Elsewhere, try Savile Row for bespoke British tailoring, Spitalfields for eclectic fashion and crafts or Portobello Road Market for antiques and atmosphere.

Unique to London

Unique to London in London

For all of its busy streets and towering towers, green space defines London – and delights Londoners, whose love of parklife is equally apparent in wintery post-lunch walks and deckchairs out, shirts off celebration when the sun appears. As thriving metropoles go, the city enjoys a lot of green and pleasant land; its eight main ‘Royal’ parks alone comprise 5,000 acres of verdant joy, while every turn reveals a sociable square, common, garden or wood. Top spots include Hyde Park’s Serpentine River, Gallery and Café, Richmond Park’s deer, Hampstead Heath’s panoramic vistas and bathing ponds, the Botanic Gardens at Kew, Holland Park’s Kyoto garden and Regent’s Park’s Zoo and open-air theatre.

In an hour…

In an hour in London

Just a hop, skip and a direct train out of town and you can be by the seaside, hugging England’s south coast in Brighton – a colourful convergence of arty types and traditional seaside living. Think fish and chips on the beach, fairground rides on the Pier and idiosyncratic shops and cafés in the Lanes. Alternatively, the picturesque university town of Cambridge – only 50 minutes from King’s Cross – is ideal for pursuing the oh-so-British pastimes of cathedral snooping, riverside picnicking and punting.

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