Ten Things You Must Do While in London
The best way to get around is the public transport, TUBE, and trains. You can buy a daily, weekly, or extended pass that saves you alot of money. Buses are slow in this big, heavily-trafficked city. My advice is to take a double-decker tour “hop-on, hop-off” bus to get an overview of London, but not to try using city buses to get around. Taxi cabs are also impeded by closed roads, wrecks, and heavy traffic. The fares can add up quickly too. However, cabs are good for getting to the theater in a hurry or getting to the rail station for an early departure.
1. Something your kids will want to do is to visit the new Harry Potter Studio. They’ll love the Great Hall of Hogwarts School, Diagon Alley and wand shop, costumes worn by the actors, a video commentary by Daniel Radcliffe (Harry), and more. Parents, bring money as this is not a cheap attraction: $33 child, $44 adult, and $141 for a family of four. www.wbstudiotour.uk
2. Take a tour with one of the Yeoman Warders around the Tower of London, one of the world’s most famous buildings–and most haunted too. Discover its 900-year history as a royal palace, prison and place of execution, arsenal, and zoo. Of course you won’t want to miss the most famous attraction, the Crown Jewels (although the gallery of crowns worn by the royal family through the ages is pretty darned impressive).
3. At Madame Tussauds, you’ll come face-to-face with some of the world’s most famous faces. I hadn’t been in years so I made my love the last time I was in London. I was shocked at how realistic the wax figures looked. I swear it seemed like I was standing next to Brad Pitt, President Ronald Reagan, Shakespeare, and Her Majesty. They’ve added a pretty cool ride too and a shopper’s dream-come-true gift shop.
4. The EDF Energy London Eye is the world’s highest observation wheel, with 32 compartments known as ‘capsules’ that hold up to 25 people. You can’t get this view of more than 50 of landmarks anywhere else. But be alert! You’ll see 50+ landmarks in all just 30 minutes!
5. If you’re looking for an unforgettable experience, you’ve got to go to the Ice Bar. Enjoy the exhilarating -5°C experience of ICEBAR by ICEHOTEL, the UK’s only permanent bar made of ice. Located off Regent Street, visitors will be greeted warmly (the last warm thing you’ll get!) and will then don special capes and gloves to enter the bar. A free drink is included with the price of admission, but most folks don’t stop with one since alcohol warms the body. But don’t worry, there is a time limit. No one stays more than thirty minutes but can leave earlier if you like. There is an outer bar (normal temperatures )and restaurant where food and drinks are served. You must make a reservation in advance or you won’t get in and your credit card is charged at that time, so be sure to allow enough time to navigate your way there or risk losing your time slot and $$$. I highly recommend this experience!
6. Visit the Sherlock Holmes Museum, which has been furnished to look like the apartment of Conan Doyle’s famous fictional detective and his good friend, Doctor Watson. There is a popular gift shop that sells Sherlock Holmes collectibles and novelty items. Open every day except Christmas Day. 221B Baker Street.
7. You can’t say that you’ve been to London if you don’t see Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. Parliament sits on the site of the old Palace of Westminster, the main London residence of Kings and Queens. The clock tower is home to Big Ben (the bell). This is a real London icon. You can even opt to climb to the top of Big Ben.
8. Eat and shop in Covent Garden. I used to work in Covent Garden when I lived in London years ago. It remains a delightful area with cafes and pubs on the piazza, street performers (some argue these are the best in London), and little specialty shops. Alot of people will direct you to Kings Road or Picadilly Circus, but if you want to see something less touristy, this is it.
9. Visit Buckingham Palace, one of the world’s few remaining working royal palaces. This year is especially exciting given that it is the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. This means special events, such as an exhibit of royal diamonds and a tour that includes treasures form the Palace’s Royal Collection. Think Rembrandt paintings and Sevres porcelain. Open June 30 – October 7.
10. Check out a musical. Broadway’s nice, but there is nothing like going to a show in London. Currently, the top ten include Phantom of the Opera, Lion Kind, Thriller, Billy Elliot, Stomp, Les Miserables, Mamma Mia, Wicked, Shrek, and We Will Rock You.
There are so many things to do in London that you have to just go for the highlights. Some other highlights include Tower Bridge, British Museum, cruise on the River Thames, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and stuff like Jack the Ripper Walk, a pint at a quaint pub, ghost walk, day trips to Stonehenge and Oxford, and the London Dungeon. Just don’t try to do too much or it will turn out to be an exhausting and frustrating experience. London will be there when you’re ready to go back. When you do, maybe you’d like to combine it with a trip to Paris or Edinburgh.
For more information, check out www.visitlondon.com