London – How to make the most of your time
London – rain, hail or shine – it’s a grand city to visit any time of the year.
There’s so much to see and do but here are some of the highlights every visitor should see.
The London Eye
It’s perfect for a bird’s eye view of the city and is the most popular paid attraction with about 4 million visitors annually.
It is priced about $35 for a 30 minute ride in a capsule –you can also hire a private capsule for family and friends.
Feeling romantic – a Cupid’s capsule package for two with chocolates and bubbles is popular for proposals.
An attendant advises however if you are going to pop question wait till the last 10 minutes as it’s a long way down if you get a no.
A river cruise on the Thames takes about 40-minute return, passing by the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, St Paul’s Cathedral, Tate
Modern, Tower of London, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and the Tower Bridge.
The Shard is a striking 95-storey skyscraper with viewing platforms showcasing 360-degree views of the city and beyond.
On a clear day you can see as far as Windsor about 64 kilometres and if you can’t see four major landmarks you can visit again for free.
Yoga lovers can pre book for a yoga session on Saturdays.
Hop on Hop Off Bus
Catch a hop-on hop-off bus to see the sights and get an idea of where everything is and where you want to revisit.
Your ticket offers a discount when you buy a ticket for the same bus company in another city – so don’t throw those tickets away.
Don’t miss the Changing of the Guard ceremony that is held daily from May to July and on alternative days for the rest of the year.
The palace is incredible building – it’s got 775 rooms- 78 bathrooms as well as 760 windows cleaned every six weeks and a clockmaker who looks after 350 clocks and watches.
If you watched the series Crown – you will have had a peek into the palace that will undergo a 10 year $600 million renovation starting in April renewing pipes, wiring and plumbing.
The popular private stateroom tour gives you a good look around – but book well ahead as it is only offered at certain times of the year including August 5- September 24 2017.
There are 19 State Rooms are used extensively by The Queen and members of the Royal Family to receive and entertain their guests.
The workmanship in the design and decor is amazing and there’s great art work on the walls.
Standouts are the magenta throne room, where the Queen sits on special occasions, the Music Room where guests are presented and grandest state room- the White drawing room with its gold piano and sumptuous decor.
There’s also a garden tour that covers 16 hectares and features more than 350 types of wildflowers, around 200 trees and a small lake.
Where to stay?
There is so much accommodation on offer including b and b’s pubs, apartments and grand hotels.
Our favourites are the Goring which is close to Buckingham Palace – you may even hear those corgis barking.
It is where Kate Middleton stayed the night before her wedding and a peek into the four room suite shows that it is certainly fit for a princess and those with a healthy bank account.
It is decorated in Gainsborough silk that was copied from a dusky green design woven in 1910 for the Titanic’s first class dining room. It boasts priceless British antiques and artwork.
Quirky touch – the shower that’s big enough for six, features a large photo of Queen Victoria behind glass – she watches over you as you soap up.
The hotel was opened in 1910 by Otto Goring, with several world firsts such as private bathrooms and central heating.
It seems even back in the early days, many Royal guests preferred the hotel to chilly Buckingham Palace.
Fourth generation owner Jeremy Goring has a great sense of humour and also loves surfing in Australia.
Look closely at the new hand-painted wallpaper in the lobby depicting an English parkland with wild animals and you can see Goring family caricatures.
As for the dining room Viscount David Linley did a renovation in 2005 complete with three pale pink Swarovski crystal chandeliers that at first had some Goring devotees up in arms.
Rumour has it the late Baroness Thatcher asked when the Christmas decorations were coming down.
In winter the terrace resembles a scene from St Moritz, where the Gorings love to ski, with heart-warming cocktails, fondue, antique skis, thick cashmere rugs and waiters clad in vintage ski jumpers.
Another amazing hotel and step inside and you may well start humming the tune Puttin’ On the Ritz.
It’s a place where you wish those walls could talk as the guest list stretches from royalty, presidents and movie stars to mere mortals who have saved up for a special stay at the famed hotel.
There are grand spiralling staircases, intricate architecture and ravishing rooms which are a perfect balance of taste and style that reflect old-world opulence.
High Tea in the Palm Court is very popular and you need to book well ahead.
Think dainty cucumber sandwiches, cakes and scones, jam and clotted cream.
If men arrive without a tie – you can borrow one with a deposit of 20 pound but they needed worry as no one would want to run off with them.
The Ritz was opened by Swiss hotelier, Cesar Ritz in 1906 and celebrated its 110th birthday last year.
The Langham Hotel
This hotel has the best cocktail bar called the Artesian that has scooped The World’s Best Bar’ awards that’s similar to the Oscars for cocktails – for four consecutive years from Drinks International Magazine.
It has amazing cocktails that look like a work of art with names such as Fast Money Comes at a Price, Death of a Hipster and Treacle cocktails that go well with barbecue pork ribs.
It is another place for a wonderful high tea, a tradition they started back in 1865.
The Underground is an efficient and fast way to get around or catch a bus.
A Travel Card or Oyster Card can be pre-purchased from the VisitBritainShop online and paid for in Australian dollars. It offers unlimited travel on buses, the Underground and rail.
London cabs – they used to have to memorise all 25,000 streets and the locations of another 20,000 landmarks within a 10kms of Charing Cross or catch a Uber.
Weather permitting – walk – you never know what you will see or who you may run into.
London’s food scene is on fire and Londoners love to eat.
There’s everything from the trendy street food scene to Michelin star restaurants, great gastro pubs and gourmet cafes.
One of my favourite things is a visit to the famous Borough Markets that dates back to 13th century, making it London’s oldest fruit and veg market.
There’s a potato merchant with a business that dates back to 1875 with a rainbow of coloured potatoes ranging from black to deep purple.
There are about 100 stalls with fabulous produce selling everything from Posh Boys Bangers, ultra-chocolate brownie and wild boar pies. It is great to wander around and smell and taste the huge dishes of Spanish paella and Thai green curry.
Also on offer are wheat shots that equates to dining on three days of green leafy vegetables and a vegie cocktail that makes you downright dangerous- or so the owners claim.
Harry Potter Pub
Don’t leave the market without a cider or ale at the flower bedecked Market Porter pub.
Harry Potter fans may also recognise the pub – it was transformed into the Third Hand Book Emporium in a Harry Potter movie.
Some of the hottest restaurants include
Aquavit- Nordic cuisine
Bao Fitzrovia – black cod bun
The Barbaray – Barbary coast cuisine
Kiln for great curries and best fish and chips – Golden Union Fish Bar – for fabulous fish and mushy pies.
There are more than 60 Michelin star restaurants including three stars- Gordon Ramsey’s Chelsea and Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester in Mayfair.
There are lots of great shows and musicals including Les Mis, Wicked, Book of Mormons, Carol King’s Beautiful and Cirque de Soleil’s Amaluna.
The Mouse Trap
The MouseTrap, a whodunit by great crime writer Agatha Christie, is in its 64th year and completed 26,000 performances – it has made theatrical history because it has run so long.
The British Museum and National Gallery have free entry but save a day for a visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum, Science Museum and Design Museum which are fabulous.
If you like gory tales and odd museums the Old Operating Theatre Museum is for you.
Built in 1821 for poor women, the theatre has been restored with original furniture and equipment, including a 19th-century operating table and scary surgical instruments. It was the scene of many amputations pre-anaesthetic days.
Take a short day trip to Hampton Court Palace – 35 minutes from London
Costumed historians take themed tours to meet a King Henry VIII look alike and his courtiers
See Henry’s lavish State Rooms and the Great Hall with its huge, grand tapestries.
Visit grand kitchens where they would cook twice a day for 600 people.
On the first weekend of each month the full team will be preparing the dishes for the Tudor court and don’t forget to visit the famous maze and explore 24 hectares of colourful gardens
The best advice for a visit to London is do your homework and book ahead online for everything to avoid the queues especially in summer when tourism is massive.
For more information: www.visitbritain.com