If you’re visiting London for the first time, you’ll no doubt be concocting in your mind a list of ‘must visit’ places; the tourist-trap offerings that, yes, everyone sees – besides if they don’t, who’s going to believe they’ve been to London? You may want to pack in as much variety and diversity on your trip as you can (and this blogger would strongly advise you to), but in terms of the things you ‘must’ do, then these ought to be pretty much top of your list…
Like all of London’s major museums and galleries, the Tate Modern has free entry, which is one of the reasons why it’s easily one of the capital’s most visited attractions. Another reason is because its appeal is universal; it contains a breath-taking array of modern art (including specific temporary exhibitions). On its walls you’ll discover Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and everything between – including fascinating, confounding and controversial installation works from some of the edgiest artists around today. Located in the deeply atmospheric environs of the cavernous building that was once the Bankside Power Station, it’s lying there waiting to deliver you an unforgettable and inspiring day out. Even if everyone does go there.
It may not be the most sophisticated, the hippest or the most tourist-friendly shopping street in London, but it’s the most iconic and definitely the longest – and because of that you have to pay Oxford Street a visit. Bond Street and Regent Street boast the bespoke tailors and expensive designer stores, Shoreditch/ Boxpark and Soho offer the eclectic, trendy shops and Covent Garden has the street entertainers alongside the restaurants and cafes; what Oxford Street gives you is (seemingly) miles and miles of high street retailers one and the other, including the Topshop, Nike and HMV flagship branches as well as the John Lewis and Selfridges department stores.
Brick Lane market
Tourists the world over have heard of the indoor and outdoor markets in Camden (and rightly so; they are excellent), but for a quieter, more indie, more ‘authentic’ urban market experience, then visiting Brick Lane is definitely among the must do London things. Offering clothes bargains and a great choice of eclectic bits and bobs, it’s well worth schlepping to all the way to East London from one of the many hotels in West End London, not just because of the items you’ll discover there, but also because of the unique atmosphere, the fact it’s surrounded by world-class curry houses and framed by magnificent street art. A real treasure trove, to say the least.
The latest ‘must do’ attraction in London, the London Eye is incredibly popular (and pretty expensive; a regular ticket clocks in at around £22), but it is a rather essential element of any tourist visit to the city. And it’s worth it too because, yes, while it’s really just a giant ferris wheel on the South Bank, it does afford you a fine view of the city (especially Central London) on a clear day or quite the spectacular, glittering panorama if you go up at night. After you’ve completed your revolution on the Eye, you must check out the rest of the South Bank – like Covent Garden, it has its fair share of street entertainers, of course, but the book fayre under Waterloo Bridge is a must and the restaurant and bar in the BFI (British Film Institute) are laid-back, but far from stuffy trendiness of the highest order.
A red phone box
Let’s face it, we live in the era of the selfie; the possibility of getting away without having to/ not giving into snapping yourself in front of a major London landmark is pretty low, so you might as well just throw yourself into it – and do it properly. In which case, a great snap of yourself in London Town to upload on to Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook (or whatever social media’s your bag) would be in front of or – better – inside a red telephone booth.As iconic as the Horse Guards in their busbies, a double-decker bus and a pearly king or queen, but far easier to arrange a photo of (not least one including yourself), the red phone box may be the tourist cliché of all London tourist clichés, but photographing yourself with or in one will win grant you automatic bragging rights and convince everyone beyond doubt that you’ve been to London.