By Christine Potter
Three days in London may seem like too short a time to see all the sights, but you’ll be amazed at what you can fit in – from a stately home in Hampstead to a viewing of the Crown Jewels in the Tower of London.
The best way to get around – and a solid investment in time and money – is to buy a London Travelcard, which allows almost unlimited travel on the Underground (Tube), buses and rail services. Combine it with a London Pass, which offers discounts on admission to the major attractions and services, and the savings are considerable. This pound-saving combo can be purchased at www.londonpass.com
First-time visitors must see the major sites: Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace and the Changing of the Guards, Saint Paul’s Cathedral (climb to the uppermost Golden Gallery for a spectacular view across the city, and then descend to the crypt where heroes such as Admiral Lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington are buried), Westminster Abbey, the Victoria and Albert Museum (a.k.a. The V&A), the National Gallery and Madame Tussauds.
An efficient way to see as much as possible in a short time is by tour bus. A hop-on-hop-off service lets you control how much time you spend at each attraction and offers great flexibility. Alternatively, a guided tour option can give you ‘front and centre’ advantages at such events like the Changing of the Guard. Find out more from www.visitlondon.com.
If you’ve been there and done all the above, then the following places are worth checking out:
• Borough Market is the place for foodies. On the South Bank, the full market is open from Thursday to Saturday (8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.) and lunchtimes bring bowler-hatted city gents to munch on traditional Cumberland sausages. Some 70 stalls – some operated by costumed vendors – showcase produce from across the country.
• Nearby is The Clink Prison, which dates back to 1144. The museum features original torture devices. You’ll hear colourful tales about the prisoners of this shady Southbank area. ©VisitBritain/Eric Nathan
• Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre is a brilliant reconstruction of the Bard’s original playhouse. You might catch a performance, but at least take the tour, which includes rich anecdotes about Elizabethan theatre, the Bard and his contemporaries.
• Cross the river to St Paul’s by the Millennium Bridge, which has been dubbed the ‘Wobbly Bridge’ by irreverent locals. Fans of the TV series MI-5 will recognize it as the site of many a spook rendezvous.
• A whole day can be devoted to Greenwich. Visit the Observatory – where you can stand in two hemispheres astride the Prime Meridian – the Queen’s House, the National Maritime Museum and the clipper ship Cutty Sark. Reach Greenwich on a river trip accompanied by commentary on the passing sights, or hop on the Tube to connect with the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) for Cutty Sark station.
• Kenwood House on the edge of Hampstead Heath in North London is a stately home with splendid interiors and an art collection that includes Vermeer, Rembrant and Turner. Many go to visit the adjoining Brew House Café in the gardens, and to stroll in the surrounding woodlands.
• Theatre buffs have a plethora to choose from in London, and not generally known is the 60-plus ticket advantage. Go to any theatre on the day of performance and ask for the ‘60-and-over’ rate of just 20 pounds per seat. If seats are available, the booking office will let you have them on proof of your age. It’s a great chance to see blockbuster shows at budget prices.
Where To Stay:
Budget: Ibis London City. A 15-minute walk from St Paul’s and just 20 minutes to the South Bank. Plain but good value. www.ibis.com
Mid-range: Charing Cross Hotel that’s adjacent to Charing Cross Station. Luxurious rooms in a building that is just about as central as you can get for the theatres, Trafalgar Square and Covent Garden.
Splurge: Sofitel St James. Sumptuous without being stuffy and central for London’s West End. This hotel is tucked away beside St. James Park and is a short walk to Buckingham Palace. www.sofitel.com/london
Check out www.visitlondon.com to plan your trip. Pick up free maps and information from the Britain and London Visitor Centre near Piccadilly, at 1, Lower Regent Street. There you can book everything from train and bus tickets to theatre seats and hotel rooms.