Car Hire London – Heathrow, Stansted, Gatwick, Luton etc

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See

Parliament Square is the religious and political centre of the city. You can tour The Houses of Parliament, and climb the Clock Tower to see the famous bell, Big Ben. Opposite is magnificent Westminster Abbey, where Kings & Queens have been crowned since 1066. See how many famous names are remembered at Poet’s Corner. Nearby is Whitehall, with the Edward Lutyens Cenotaph, Horse Guards and the Prime Minister’s residence at 10 Downing St. Trafalgar Square is dominated by Nelson looking down on the National Gallery housing one of the world’s greatest art collections. Not far from here you can watch the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace (usually 11.30am); you’ll know when the Queen is at home if the Royal Standard is flying.

Big tourist attractions include Madame Tussaud’s Waxworks (often big queues) – the Chamber of Horrors is gruesomely fun, as are the London Dungeons. Most visitors include a trip to at least one Musuem – the Victoria & Albert, the Science Museum and the Natural History Musuem are all near each other in South Kensington.

Shop

Head for Oxford St and surrounding areas to get the full shop-till-you drop experience. A couple of favourites are Selfridges Department Store and Hamley’s Toy Store in Regent Street. Combine boutique shopping with entertainment at Covent Garden Check out Octopus for quirky gifts for all ages. Probably the famous store in London is Harrods – the interior is fabulously OTT. Fortnum & Mason is a gourmet delight. Liberty’s is in a lovely old black & white building where fashion, fabrics and household are displayed with beauty and elegance.

London is famous for its street markets – so many to choose from but make sure you know which days they are on. Camden Market has loads of funky stalls alongside Regent’s Cana – teenagers love it. Portobello Road is famous for antiques and jewellery – but no real bargains to be had these days! Spitalfields is has lots of trendy shops. The Royal Exchange and Bond Street provide the ultimate luxury shopping experience.

Eat

Most of the museums have excellent refreshments; the V&A Museum Café is a Pre-Rafaelite gem. Afternoon tea at The Ritz is a classic treat and for classic Italian food in relaxing style try one of the Carluccios. Fish & Chips? The Golden Hind in Marylebone is popular. For something really different check out the funky Gilgamesh Bar & Restaurant in Camden.

Drink

Many overseas visitors and locals love the English pub – traditional places like the Lamb & Flag, (previously known as the Bucket of Blood!) and The George Inn, Southwark, one of the oldest and newly refurbished. Fancy a cup of tea with style and passion? Yum Chaa and Bea’s of Bloomsbury have lovely tea shops around the city. Cocktails with a view? The Trafalgar Hotel Roof Top Bar is perfect.

Listen

London’s night-life is famous – something for everyone. Many pubs have live music and night clubs and bars all over the city. Jazz fans head for Ronnie Scott’s in Soho, opera aficionados try to get tickets for anything at the Royal Opera House. For those who want loud music there’s The Ministry of Sound (no alcohol) and for wild themed nights you can go to Heaven. For something really different check out the funky Gilgamesh Bar & Restaurant in Camden.

Stay

London is not cheap for places to stay so shop around for good deals. Breakfast isn’t always included and watch out for VAT. For budget travellers the Travel Lodge chain is good value. Sawdays have lots of lovely hotels, Inns and B&Bs for all price ranges. For outlandish quirkiness book into the Pavilion Hotel – you have to see the Honky Tonk Afro room! Lime Tree Hotel is an elegant Georgian townhouse. At the top end The Goring is a favourite with the Royal family. Serviced apartments are a good choice for a longer stay –SACO Holburn has space and style. City Base Apartments have lots of choice throughout the city and beyond.

Walk

The pavements of London may not be paved with gold but they are hard on the feet so make sure you’ve got comfortable shoes. Regent’s Park, has open-air concerts, lakes and lovely gardens. Stroll through St James’ Park and if you’re lucky you’ll catch the pelicans being fed. Kensington Gardens has the gilded Albert Memorial overlooking the Albert Hall. Wander along the south side of the River Thames; there’s lots to see including the London Eye, County Hall, the South Bank Centre and National Theatre, Gabriel’s Wharf for great shops, galleries and restaurants, HMS Belfast, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and Tate Modern. From here you can cross the Millenium Bridge to Sir Christopher Wren’s beautiful St Pauls Cathedral. Walk by Tower Bridge and if you are lucky you’ll see it being rasied to allow shipping to pass through. Don’t miss the Tower of London nearby, where the colourful ‘Beefeaters’ guard the Crown Jewels.

Get Out

A short distance from the city centre, the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, showcases the world’s largest collection of plants. Get lost in the Maze at Henry VIII’s Hampton Court or take the Thames Clipper down river to Greenwich, now a World Heritage sit. The National Maritime Museum has a huge collection of naval and sea-faring artefacts. The Royal Observatory is the home of Greenwich Meantime; stand on the Meridian Line at Longitude 0 degrees. Nearby is the Old Naval College, a graceful baroque building. The Cutty Sark, a famous landmark here, was badly damaged by fire but reopened in 2012. For something completely different, visit Highgate Cemetery, burial place of Karl Marx and many other famous people.

Avoid

The usual big city rules apply – keep away from unlit streets and alleys, use common sense after dark and don’t get into unlicensed taxis; licensed Black Cabs (now in other colours!) have ‘For Hire’ signs and can be flagged down in the street. Avoid the Underground during rush hour 8.30am – 9.30am and 5pm-6pm.