Day 1 - First day
Before you decide to go exploring the city, take some time out to peruse a map and do some research. Getting on the wrong tube or getting off at the wrong stop really could prove to be catastrophic. Once you think you have it sussed, go into the city.
Once you go into the city, make your way down to Canary Wharf (there is a Tube station here). After having a look around get on a ferry up the River Thames. This is a good place embark on a cruise as you will see most of the sights from the ferry. Usually taking approximately one hour, a good place to get off is at Westminster. Just across the river is the London Eye, the newest addition to London’s skyline. This Big Wheel offers breathtaking panoramas of the city and takes around 45 minutes to rotate fully.
Soho in London’s infamous West End is probably the city’s liveliest area, not just during the day but at night time also. There is a real buzz around the city’s main strip, Old Compton Street. When the bars and restaurants are full, so are the streets. When the bars and restaurants are empty, the streets remain full for a while, but not as long as other European cities. Opening hours in England are very different to those in the rest of Europe. Thankfully, this doesn’t take away from the atmosphere around Soho at night time as the atmosphere is like none other in Europe.
Day 2 - The tour and the theatre
London has so much to see that the only way to see it all is to get on one of the ‘Hop-On, Hop-off tours’. Tickets are valid on all routes.
The city sightseeing tour takes in basically all of London’s best known sights including Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, London Bridge and Buckingham Palace. There are some attractions more than others that you will want to get off at, but as there are so many to choose from that the tour will easily take up most of a full day.
You can’t go to London without taking in a show in the city’s infamous West End. While some shows can be expensive, you can buy tickets at booths in Leicester Square at discounted prices making it affordable for everyone these days. World famous musicals such as ‘Chicago’, ‘Grease’ and ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ have been staged in the English capital, as well as various plays and comedies.
Day 3 - Bargains, boats and bright lights
London is a shopaholic’s dream come true so having a few quid to burn can make it a more enjoyable experience. The city's best known streets for shopping are Oxford Street and Regents Street. Covent Garden is also full of trendy shops. When you are running low on funds to splash out on, don’t fret – there are different markets around the city where you will find bargains, the most popular of these being Camden Market. Open daily from 9.30am to 5.30, the market is divided into different areas for different items. For instance, Buck St is where you will find clothes and accessories, Camden Lock is where to go for arts and crafts, while Inverness Street is where you need to go for music and fruit and veg.
After rushing around Camden Market for a few hours, and listening to the stall holders shouting in your ears, you will need to chill out. There is no better place to do this than in Regents Park. Situated just north of the city centre, there is loads to do here such as relax on a boat in the park's pond, laze about in the gardens or maybe even visit London Zoo. And after a couple of hours of lazing around, take a leisurely stroll up to Primrose Hill for one of the best views over the city.
Similar to Times Square in New York, Piccadilly Circus in London city centre is blitzed with neon lights, most notably the ‘Sanyo’ and ‘TDK’ signs. There is a constant buzz all around the area and, as it is so close to Leicester Square and Soho, you won’t have far to go for a beverage or two once you have seen London’s electric circus.
Day 4 - Shop at Harrods, parade through the parks
You can’t visit London and not go to Harrods. It would be like visiting New York and not going to Bloomingdales. It is London’s best known department store and sells basically everything you can think of. Celebrating its 150th birthday in 1999, the food halls alone fill seven elaborately decorated rooms. If it is clothes being sought, and not food, browse around the 60 fashion departments.
Not far from Harrods are the Kensington Roof Gardens which stand 100 feet over Kensington High Street. From the roof gardens there is a view spanning over the whole city (well most of it). The roof gardens cover a total of one and a half acres and are divided between into three different themes – the English Garden, the Tudor Garden and the Spanish Garden, each blending their own characteristics very nicely. There is a particularly nice restaurant which is good for lunch. Not only does it offer tasty brunches and lunches, but you have the enjoyment of grand views over London at the same time.
Just up from the Kensington Roof Gardens are the Kensington Gardens (different gardens altogether). Within these well maintained grounds is the Round Pond, Kensington Palace and a score of tree-lined avenues which are perfect for some leisurely strolling. Opened in the 17th century, these gardens were extended, covering a greater area at the beginning of the 18th century. Another of the preferred parts of the park, particularly with families, is The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground.
A large cluster of London’s hostels can be found in and around Bayswater, which is just north of Kensington Gardens, and Hyde Park which just lies east of the park. Most of these have their own bars and, as they are backpacker bars, you are guaranteed to meet loads of fellow travellers, and enjoy the festivities.
Day 5 - Museums to movie sets
London has an assortment of museums to visit. These range from art museums to army museums to science museums. One of the newest of these is the Tate Gallery, situated in Millbank. It has a superb selection of British works from the 16th Century to the present as well as a distinguished selection of international modern art. The display usually includes the best of the British artists along with a selection of Monet, Dali, Picasso and Matisse. Two strangely attractive things about the Tate are the views from within thanks to the glass windows, and the area the museum is situated – Bankside and Southwark. There is loads to see and do here if the gallery doesn’t appeal to you.
From Bankside and the Tate, grab a tube to Warwick Avenue and you will find yourself in a part of the city called Maida Vale. This is also known as London’s ‘Little Venice District’. Regent’s Canal goes through the area that is full of barges which were originally built to transport cargo between there and the Thames. All around Maida Vale are scenic walks and relaxing pubs so spending an afternoon here will be no problem.
Thanks to the film of the same name, Notting Hill is now extremely popular with tourists. Everyone wants to see the bookshop where Hugh Grant met Julia Roberts. Before the film hit the silver screens worldwide, the area was heaving with trendy shops and bars. They are still there, just full with more tourists than previous. Don’t let this put you off though, as the area is a pleasant place to spend an evening.