London has something for everyone, from art to grand museums, dazzling architecture, royalty, diversity, glorious parks and irrepressible pizazz. It's rich in history but culturally and creatively innovative. Its cosmopolitan dynamism makes it feel both wildly international and totally British.
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After ticking off the top sights, get a more intimate sense of London and what makes it tick - explore the city's hip nightlife, its literary quarters, epic heathland, riverside charms, individual and striking shops as well as its boho heritage.
What To Do
If beer and chips are adding excess to your waistline, London offers a number of ways to work it off. Take out a rowboat for a dreamy drift after a picnic or promenade with purpose in Hyde Park. Or hire a nag and go for a canter
What To See
It's got a whole bunch of history. The old-fashioned kind.
London is one of the favourite urban haunts of visitors to Europe because of landmark sights like Big Ben, St Paul's Cathedral and Westminster Abbey. The city also boasts some of the world's greatest museums and art galleries, and more parkland than most other capitals.
Put some hoity back in your toity down Savile Row.
From world-famous department stores to quirky backstreet retail revelations, London is a mecca for shoppers with an eye for style and a card to exercise. If you're looking for something distinctly British, fill your bags with Twinings tea, Paul Smith shirts, Royal Doulton china and Marmite.
Pointe shoes, pub or painfully of-the-now club - you choose.
Choosing how to entertain yourself in London can be daunting. Whether you like your culture high or low, your dance in pointe shoes or heels, your music in strings or sub bass, being sporty or watching others play, drinking cocktails in an elegant club or a bitter at a pub, London has it all.
Most businesses close on public holidays such as New Year's Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, May Day Bank Holiday (the first Monday in May), Spring Bank Holiday (the last Monday in May), Summer Bank Holiday (the last Monday in August), Christmas Day and Boxing Day (26 December) although London's essential multiculturalism means you'll always find some shops open.
There are countless festivals and events in London. It all kicks off with the New Year's Eve fireworks and street party in Trafalgar Square, followed by the New Year's Day London Parade. On Shrove Tuesday pancake races are held in venues including Covent Garden and Spitalfields Market, and in April more serious racers take part in the London Marathon.
All London gets its colours on for the FA Cup Final in mid-May. There's even more colour at the Chelsea Flower Show, held in the last week of May.
Trooping the Colour, the Queen's birthday parade, is held in June; Wimbledon runs for two weeks in the same month and Pride London, one of Europe's biggest gay and lesbian festivals, also hits the streets. The raucous Notting Hill Carnival takes over the West End streets in August, although there is now a smaller celebration in Hyde Park, too. In September, some 700 normally inaccessible heritage buildings throw open their doors as part of the Open House weekend. This month, the city also celebrates its greatest natural asset with the Thames Festival on the south bank of the river.
Things wind down as the weather gets colder, though there are plenty of bonfires on Guy Fawkes Night, on the 5th of November. The Lord Mayor's Show is held in late November, complete with floats, bands and fireworks. Trafalgar Square lights up in December with the Lighting of the Christmas Tree.
Food and Drink
The undisputed culinary capital of the UK.
There is no denying London food has taken a turn for the better with the advent of high-profile chefs steering palates in innovative directions. However, trying to snag a reasonable meal without being left sucking on the lint of your empty pockets is still a challenge. Avoid the tourist trap chains and keep an ear out for local favourites.