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Frommer's London day by day

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Frommer's London Day-by-Day Guide is the complete up-to-date reference for visitors who want to maximize their stay in the smartest, most time-efficient way. With full-color throughout with hundreds of evocative photos, this invaluable guide offers reviews on a wide array of sightseeing, lodging, shopping, dining and entertainment options in all price ranges, and also includes thematic and walking tours of the city's best-loved neighborhoods with Frommer's trademark candid and accessible expertise.

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16 Favorite Moments

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You can explore the wonders of science, history, and nature at world-class museums, eat yourself to a bigger dress size at top-notch restaurants, marvel at just how much gold and jewelry fill the royal palaces and castles, and say you’ve “done” London. But to get to know London, you need to experience the special moments that reveal the city’s true character. Here are some of the best:

 

Race to the top of the Shard. Two super-speedy elevators whisk you to the top of Western Europe’s tallest building for views that seem to stretch on forever in all directions. It’s a great experience at any time—particularly on the topmost viewing platform, which is exposed to the elements—but for a truly breathtaking photo opportunity, go in the evening when the sun starts sinking and the lights come on across the city. Go to page, .

Take an inter-art cruise aboard the Tate-to-Tate boat. Running between the sister galleries of Tate Britain and Tate Modern every 40 minutes, the boat allows you to instantly swap an eyeful of paintings and installations for views of some of the Thames’ most iconic sights, including the London Eye and Big Ben. The boat itself is a work of art with a colorful spotted livery by Damien Hirst. Go to page.

 

1. The Best Full-Day, Two & Three-Day Tours

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This tour is of “Iconic London.” You’ll be visiting attractions, including Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s, that have been familiar to Londoners for hundreds of years, as well as more recent arrivals, such as the towering Shard, and modern re-creations of the past, such as Shakespeare’s Globe. Total time: 1 day; total history covered: More than 1,000 years. START: Tube to Westminster.  Westminster Abbey. The nearly 1,000-year-old abbey is one of the finest examples of medieval architecture in Europe. Like a giant shrine to the nation, it contains some 3,300 memorials to kings, nobles, and other great British figures from down the ages. William the Conqueror, Edward III, Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth I (whose death mask was the model for her tomb’s figure), and Henry V, the hero of Agincourt, all have elaborately decorated sarcophagi. Don’t miss the Gothic ceilings (reflected in a large mirror for close-up viewing), the stained glass in the Chapter House, and the elaborate carvings of the Henry VIII Chapel’s choir stalls. And make your way to Poets’ Corner, where you’ll find monuments to well-loved literary names such as Chaucer, Austen, and Dickens. 1½ hr; arrive before 9:30am to avoid line-ups. 20 Dean’s Yard. 020/7222-5152. www.westminster-abbey.org. Adults £18, £13 seniors & students, £8 children 11–18, £36 family, free for children 10 & under. Free admission to services. Mon–Tues & Thurs–Sat 9:30am–4:00pm, Wed 9:30am–6pm,. Last admission 1 hr before closing. Closed Sun. Tube: Westminster.  

2. The Best Special-Interest Tours; British Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum, Royal London, Literary London, Kids' London, Hampton Court Palace

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The British Museum, started with a donation by the royal physician and collector Sir Hans Sloane in 1753, opened at a time when the expansion of the British Empire ensured that its collection would be as eclectic as it was priceless. Note the frieze above the entrance—it signifies the museum’s intention to encompass all the branches of science and art. START: Tube to Holborn.  The Reading Room. Located at the center of the Great Court, beneath the museum’s crazy-paving-style glass roof, this was once the home of the British Library—now moved to more spacious, if rather less elegant, premises in Euston (Go to page). It was restored to its 1857 grandeur for the millennium, and today provides a sophisticated setting for temporary exhibitions (entrance fees usually apply). Note the list of authors on either side of the entrance doors, including Dickens, Marx, Tennyson, Kipling, and Darwin, who all once sat within, composing some of literature’s finest works. 15 min.  

3. The Best Neighborhood Walks: Chelsea, Mayfair, Hampstead, The City & East End, Whitehall

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Since the 16th century, when Henry VIII and Thomas More built country manors on its riverbanks, Chelsea has had a long tradition of eccentricity, aristocracy, and artisanship. This posh district is great for a stroll. Keep an eye peeled for blue plaques affixed to houses; they reveal the many leading figures who once called this neighborhood home. START: Tube to Sloane Square.  Sloane Square. Royal physician Sir Hans Sloane (1660–1753), who helped found the British Museum, is the namesake of this busy square, marking the boundary between the well-to-do districts of Chelsea and Belgravia. In addition to his educational and medical achievements, Sloane discovered the milk chocolate recipe that became the basis of the Cadbury chocolate empire. Intersection of Sloane St. & King’s Rd. Royal Court Theatre. This restored theatre, originally built in 1888, is famous for showcasing playwrights such as George Bernard Shaw, John Osborne, and Harold Pinter. Nowadays, the work of today’s most promising dramatists is performed on the two stages. A few steps to the right of the Sloane Sq. Tube exit. 020/7565-5000. www.royalcourttheatre.com.  

4. The Best Shopping

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Shopping Best Bets

 

Best Time to Shop

During the August and January citywide, month-long sales

Best Shot at Last Season’s Designer Threads

Pandora, 16–22 Cheval Place (Go to page)

Best High-End Jewelry

Ritz Fine Jewellery, 150 Piccadilly (Go to page)

Best Fun & Vintage Jewelry

Hirst Antiques, 59 Pembridge Rd. (Go to page)

Best Sugar Rush

Artisan du Chocolat, 89 Lower Sloane St. (Go to page)

Best Children’s Toy Store

Honey Jam, 2 Blenheim Crescent. (Go to page)

Best Place to Score Stuff from Other People’s Attics

Grays Antique Market, 58 Davies St. (Go to page)

Best Foot Forward

The Natural Shoe Store, 13 Neal St. (Go to page)

Best Place to Find Out Where You Are

Stanfords, 12–14 Long Acre (Go to page)

 

5. The Great Outdoors

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Since 1536, when Henry VIII appropriated the land from the monks of Westminster Abbey for hunting, 142-hectare (351-acre) Hyde Park has been the scene of duels, highway robbery, and sport. Today, it is a beloved oasis in the midst of London where the masses come to sunbathe, roller-skate, putter around in boats, and generally try to leave the city behind. START: Tube to Hyde Park Corner.

 

Hyde Park Corner Screen. Erected in 1828, this imposing park entrance (one of six) was designed by Decimus Burton, the noted architect responsible for much of Hyde Park’s layout. The triple-arched screen is composed of Ionic columns, bronzed ironwork, and carved friezes inspired by the Parthenon Sculptures (Elgin Marbles) (Go to page, ). Unfortunately, it’s being degraded by air pollution at this busy traffic circle. 10 min.

Rose Garden. From the Rose Garden, a riot of color in the early summer, you can admire the back of Apsley House, the former home of (and currently a museum dedicated to) the Duke of Wellington. Nearby stands the Wellington Arch, topped by a majestic statue, Winged Victory, erected to commemorate the Duke’s numerous military triumphs. The garden is filled with fountains and climbing-rose trellises, both much loved by kids. Its central fountain is ringed with benches where you can sit with a picnic lunch, as hopeful sparrows flutter around. 20–30 min.

 

6. The Best Dining

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Dining Best Bets

 

Best for Keeping Kids Happy

Rainforest Café 20 Shaftesbury Ave. (Go to page)

Best Vegetarian

Food for Thought 31 Neal St. (Go to page)

Best Place for Beef

Gaucho Piccadilly 25 Swallow St. (Go to page)

Best Crepes

Kensington Crêperie 2 Exhibition Rd. (Go to page)

Best Afternoon Tea

Goring Hotel Beeston Place (Go to page)

Best Menu from Centuries Past

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal 66 Knightsbridge (Go to page)

Best Subterranean Dining Experience

Café in the Crypt St. Martin-in- the-Fields, Duncannon St. (Go to page)

Best American Noshes

Automat American Brasserie 33 Dover St. (Go to page)

Best Fish & Chips

Geales 2 Farmer St. (Go to page)

 

7. The Best Nightlife

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Nightlife Best Bets

 

Best Dance Club

Fabric, 77a Charterhouse St. (Go to page)

Most Diverse Entertainment

Madame JoJo’s, 8–10 Brewer St. (Go to page)

Best Jazz Club

Ronnie Scott’s, 47 Frith St. (Go to page)

Most Wacky Decor

Callooh Callay, 65 Rivington St. (Go to page)

Best Modern Speakeasy

69 Colebrooke Row, 69 Colebrooke Row (Go to page)

Most Unpretentious Clubbing

Plastic People, 147–149 Curtain Rd. (Go to page)

Best for Secret Drinking

The Lamb, 94 Lamb’s Conduit St. (Go to page)

Best Views

Vertigo 42, 25 Old Broad St. (Go to page)

Best Historic Pub

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, Wine Office Court, 145 Fleet St. (Go to page)

Best for Blues

Ain’t Nothin’ But . . ., 20 Kingly St. (Go to page)

 

8. The Best Arts & Entertainment

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Arts & Entertainment Best Bets

 

Best for a Laugh

The Comedy Store, 1a Oxendon St. (Go to page)

Best for Opera

Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (Go to page)

Best Baroque Concerts

St. Martin-in-the-Fields Evening Candlelight Concerts, Trafalgar Sq. (Go to page)

Best Restored Venue

Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Gore (Go to page)

Most Comfortable Movie Theatre Seats

The Electric Cinema, 191 Portobello Rd. (Go to page)

Best for a Cheap Movie Date

Prince Charles Cinema, 7 Leicester Place (Go to page)

Most Old-Fashioned Cinema

Coronet Cinema, Notting Hill Gate (Go to page)

Best Free Live-Music Performances

LSO St. Luke’s, 161 Old St. (Go to page)

Best for Independent Films

Curzon Mayfair, 38 Curzon St. (Go to page)

 

9. The Best Hotels

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Hotel Best Bets

 

Best Historic Hotel

Hazlitt’s 1718, 6 Frith St., W1 (Go to page)

Best Hotel for Victoriana

The Gore, 190 Queen’s Gate, SW7 (Go to page)

Best Hotel for Clubbers

The Hoxton, 81 Great Eastern St., EC2 (Go to page)

Best Luxury Hotel

Claridge’s, Brook St., W1 (Go to page)

Most Refined Atmosphere

The Connaught, Carlos Place, W1 (Go to page)

Best Hotel for Royal Watching

The Rubens at the Palace, 39 Buckingham Palace Rd., SW1 (Go to page)

Best Base for Museum-Hopping

The Gallery Hotel, 8–10 Queensberry Place, SW7 (Go to page)

Best Views of the Thames

Park Plaza County Hall Hotel, 1 Addington St., SE1 (Go to page)

Best Chance to Get a Good Package Deal

The Rembrandt Hotel,> 11 Thurloe Place, SW7 (Go to page)

 

The Savvy Traveler

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Before You Go

Government Tourist Offices (Visit Britain)

In the U.S.: Visit Britain, 551 Fifth Ave., 7th Floor, New York, NY 10176 ( 212/850-0321). In Canada: Visit Britain, 5915 Airport Rd., Suite 120, Mississauga, Ontario L4V 1T1 ( 905/405-1720). In Australia: Visit Britain, Level 16, Gateway, 1 Macquarie Place, Sydney, NSW 2000 ( 028/247-2272). The best place for information, regardless of your home country, is on the Web at www.visitbritain.com or www.visitlondon.com. You can download PDF brochures and maps, or have them mailed to a U.K. or U.S. address, or ask any question about the city by filling out the online contact form at www.visitlondon.com/contact-us.

The Best Time to Go

Although prices are highest in spring and summer, the weather is best then (though you should be prepared for showers at any time). Sunny and warm August is a sensible time to visit because many Londoners go on vacation and London’s notorious traffic lightens up (slightly). The only problem is all those extra tourists. Fares are cheapest between November and March, Christmas and New Year excepted. The city’s museum and theatre scenes are still in full swing in winter, but the city can get dark and chilly and bleak. September and early October can be gray and rainy, too, but most gardens are still in bloom.

 

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