Two perfect days in London
In a vast city filled with royal landmarks, world-class museums and galleries — most of them free — and cutting-edge architecture, where do you start?
Weather permitting, it’s good to explore London on foot. Start on the South Bank of the River Thames, opposite the House of Commons. You’re right next to the London Eye so if it’s a clear day, buy a ticket for the 30-minute ride. Head east along the waterfront past the Southbank Centre, a multi-arts venue comprising the National Theatre, Queen Elizabeth Hall and Royal Festival Hall.
Keep walking to Gabriel’s Wharf, an eclectic gathering of artists and craftsman’s shops and cafes. Further east lies the Tate Modern, a cavernous converted warehouse, that’s now home to a huge collection of contemporary and modern art. Until April 3, 2016, you can see “Alexander Calder: Performing Sculpture,” an exhibition from this pioneering American artist.
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Enjoy lunch on the sixth-floor restaurant, with its astounding views of the river and St Paul’s Cathedral. To visit this Sir Christopher Wren masterpiece simply cross the Millennium Bridge outside the gallery. Alternatively, take the speedy DLR train from nearby Bankside station to Greenwich. Here, in the Royal Observatory’s courtyard, home to the Greenwich Meridian Line, you can stand with one foot in each hemisphere.
In the evening, return to the city for a performance on London’s famous stage: The award-winning “War Horse” runs until March, or Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” can be seen at the intimate candlelit Sam Wanamaker Playhouse from Feb. 17 to April 22, 2016.
Take a post-breakfast walk through Green Park, one of eight Royal Parks in London, and head up to Buckingham Palace where crowds gather for the Changing the Guard (alternate days at 11 a.m.).
On the southern side of the palace is The Queen’s Gallery, which exhibits royal treasures in a former 19th-century chapel. See the long-awaited exhibition “Masters of the Everyday: Dutch Artists in the Age of Vermeer,” until Feb. 14.
Walk west through Hyde Park past the slender Serpentine Lake. On the south side you’ll see the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain. Outside the park, Exhibition Road is a hub of famous museums (all free). You can see sculptures and fashion at the V&A, or kid-friendly exhibits at the Science Museum and Natural History Museum, all of which have good cafes and shops.
For more high class shopping, Knightsbridge calls. Walk or take a bus to the huge, famous department stores of Harrods and Harvey Nichols for luxury British fashions and food halls to die for.
You’re now in one of London’s most fashionable districts, with restaurants to match. For a blow-out experience, savor British gastronomy at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, hearty Indian cooking at Haandi or French cuisine at Bar Boulud. Bon appétit!
For more travel advice go to Insightguides.com.