10 Great Things To Do In London
1. The Natural History Museum
The dramatic Diplodocus skeleton in the grand entrance hall might be the museum’s best-known attraction. But there’s so much more to this colossal Victorian monument to the natural world.
The fantastic Dinosaur gallery culminates in a roaring animatronic T.rex while the Darwin Centre features 28 million insects and six million plants in a vast cocoon.
Elsewhere, the Life galleries are full of fossils and taxidermy exhibits while the Restless Surface gallery replicates the experience of a giant earthquake.
2. The South Bank
A walk along the South bank of the Thames from Westminster to London Bridge must rank as one of the most spectacular strolls anywhere. Riverside delights unfold at every step, from the classical majesty of the Houses of Parliament to the delicate precision of the Millennium Bridge.
Along the way, take a ‘flight’ on the London Eye, the Western Hemisphere’s tallest ferris wheel, marvel at a Matisse or two in the Tate Modern or stock up on the finest fresh fruit, veg and meat at Borough Market.
If you need a drink after all that, why not call in at the George Inn on Borough High St. London’s last surviving coaching inn has been keeping punters well lubricated since 1676.
3. Up The Thames To Greenwhich
If you haven’t got the energy for a South Bank Walk, then just hop on a river cruiser, sit back and enjoy the view. Circular cruises ply their way between Westminster Pier and the Tower of London, making various stops en route.
Alternatively, longer trips upriver are available, going west and east. If you opt for the latter, you can combine your voyage with a day out in Greenwich.
Home to the Royal Observatory, National Maritime Museum and, of course, the Greenwich Meridian the delights of this most charming of suburbs are too numerous to list. There are plenty of good riverside pubs to choose from too.
4. London Zoo
The world’s best known zoo still packs a big punch when it comes to showcasing the wonders of the animal kingdom. But nowadays, the emphasis is as much on conservation, education and breeding as it is on spectacle.
Recent additions, such as the Tiger Territory, Gorilla Kingdom and Penguin Beach, a beautifully landscaped enclosure featuring a pool with cool underwater viewing areas, show that it’s possible to get the best of both worlds.
5. Portobello Road and Camden Markets
London is a great place for open-air shopping with thriving markets scattered throughout the capital.
Portobello Road is one of the best. With its vibrant mix of street food, fruit and veg, antiques and fashion, it also offers rich opportunities for spotting celebrities. Camden Town in North London also has a fantastic variety of goods, from vintage clothing to musical instruments. And when you’ve had enough of browsing the stalls, you can head for one of the local pubs or just sit and relax by the canal.
6. Hampstead Heath
It might be a bit chilly just now for a dip in its famous open-air bathing pools but there can be few better places than Hampstead Heath for blowing away the cobwebs. It’s a great place for a rejuvenating winter walk and, with its rolling meadows and woods, it feels a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of the big city.
Break up your walk with a visit to the magnificent neo-classical Kenwood House or else enjoy panoramic views across London from the top of Parliament Hill.
7. Trafalgar Square and National Portrait Gallery
CHARING CROSS/ LEICESTER SQUARE
Built to commemorate the Royal Navy’s famous victory over Napoleon in 1805, Trafalgar Square needs little introduction.
Once you’ve finished posing for photos with the lions and craning your neck to see if Lord Nelson’s still at the top of his column, head up the steps to the National Portrait Gallery. Housing over 10,000 works, the NPG is a lesson in art and history through the faces of the great and not-so good. Highlights include fascinating contemporary portraits of Queen Elizabeth I, Jane Austen and, er, David Beckham.
8. West End Theatre
No trip to the big city is complete without taking in a show and the variety of plays and musicals on offer in London’s West End and on the South Bank is unrivalled. There’s something for all tastes here, from old classics to contemporary dramas and dazzling musicals. A walk through the bright lights of the West End might be drama enough for some but if you have your heart set on seeing the latest hit, remember to book your tickets early.
9. Get On Your Bike
Since the introduction of the congestion charge for inner city car use, Londoners have been taking to their bikes as never before. Now, thanks to a new popular bike hire scheme introduced by London Mayor and bike nut, Boris Johnson, visitors can get in on the act too. ‘Boris bikes’ are available from over 400 well-marked docking stations around the city.
All you need to hire a bike is a debit or credit card and trips that take less than 30 minutes are free.
10. Outdoor Ice Skating
If the Christmas shopping is getting you down this year, why not skate away your cares instead.
London’s outdoor ice rinks are rapidly becoming the coolest new addition to the capital’s festive attractions with many of the city’s top tourist sites inviting visitors to cool their heels. There are lots to choose from but the Somerset House ice rink, surrounded on three sides by the great columns of this neoclassical palace, will take some beating.