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London may not have the beaches, palm trees and ocean views that are associated with a typical holiday, but the UK capital is still a great place to spend a few days. With world-class attractions and buckets of charm, there are so many ways that you could spend a holiday in London, but here’s our pick of five absolute musts for a trip to the Big Smoke:
1. Take in the Sights
London is a wonderful city to view from any angle, but it’s especially breathtaking when viewed from above. There are several viewing points located throughout the capital, such as Parliament Hill and Millennium Bridge, which are free to access, but if you want the best views of London that money can buy, you should visit either the Coca-Cola London Eye or the UK’s tallest building The Shard.
Situated on the south bank of the River Thames, the 135-metre tall London Eye is a giant Ferris wheel with pods dotted around its perimeter, where those with a head for heights can enjoy spectacular views of the capital. Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge and the Houses of Parliament are just some of the iconic sights that can be viewed during the 30-minute cycle of the wheel, with the journey particularly beautiful at sunset.
Meanwhile, The Shard stands 310 metres above London’s streets and is impossible to miss for miles around thanks to its distinctive pointed shape. The View from the Top of the Shard allows visitors to see glorious views of the capital that stretch for miles around, while standing at the top of Western Europe’s tallest building. And if you want to see London from above both during the day and at night-time, you can pay a little extra to visit this majestic structure twice in one day for a truly wonderful comparative experience.
2. Wave hello to the Queen
One of the main reasons that tourists from all over the world are attracted to London is because it’s the home of Her Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Buckingham Palace has been the official residence of the British royal family since the early 18th century. Peering through the palace gates can be an exciting experience, particularly if the Changing of the Guard is taking place, as it does on most alternate days throughout the year.
You can also step foot inside the palace, with guided tours of the State Rooms available on certain dates and special exhibitions taking place in The Queen’s Gallery each summer. The decadence of the palace’s interior will take your breath away, and stepping inside provides you with a rare glimpse of some of the glorious art and furniture that form part of the Royal Collection.
3. Get Lost in the Magic of the Capital
Since it opened in 2012, the Warner Bros Studio Tour at Leavesden, just outside London, has been a major draw for tourists visiting the capital. As the site where the eight Harry Potter movies were filmed over a decade, the studios house all of the props, costumes and sets used in the much-loved series, allowing visitors to get swept up in the magic of JK Rowling’s fantasy world. Key highlights of the tour include the scale model of Hogwarts Castle that was used throughout the franchise, as well as the medieval-style Great Hall and there’s even the chance to sample a frothy Butterbeer, just like Harry, Ron, Hermione and friends often do in the Three Broomsticks.
4. Enjoy a traditional English afternoon tea
Afternoon tea is a quaint British tradition, but one that should absolutely be experienced during a holiday in London; after all, where in the world could be better to indulge in this delicacy than at The Ritz?
With silver teapots, china cups, antique-style cakestands, 18 different types of loose leaf tea, scones with strawberry jam and Devonshire clotted cream and delicate finger sandwiches, all enjoyed while listening to the tearooms’ resident harpist or string quartet, few London experiences can be more traditionally English.
If The Ritz is fully booked during your stay, The Dorchester and luxury department store Fortnum and Mason also serve a high-end scrumptious afternoon tea.
5. Shop ’til you drop
If you want to take home a brilliant souvenir for your loved ones from your trip to London, then there is no shortage of shops to choose from. The capital is home to the flagship stores of some of the country’s finest stores, including Selfridges, Harvey Nichols and Hamleys toy shop, where you’ll be able to pick up a gift to suit all ages.
For something a little more exclusive, purchase a present from a shop that can only be found in London itself; Harrods and Liberty London are full of beautiful gift ideas, with the latter particularly famous for its bold floral-printed silk scarves that can only be found inside this magnificent Tudor-style store.