Guest Post from Claire
My favourite way to travel around the city is the tube (when I'm not on foot!), so where possible I've added tube stops for attractions! The Journey Planner site from Transport for London is fantatsic for plotting routes. Invest in an Oyster card for longer journeys, and walk the shorter distances - like Paris or Madrid, London is full of fab, fun finds when you go a little off the beaten track.
When you get here, I think one of the funnest ways to get your bearings is to enjoy one of the many open topped bus tours available. While they are a little touristy, they are also a great way to get your bearings and see a lot of central London. If you're feeling very brave, try the DUCKbus - this amphibious vechile dashes you round lots of sights and then plunges into the Thames (in a deliciously controlled way!). after that, ten of my tips would be....
1. Go to Spitalfields Market (best tube stop, Liverpool Street).
Smack bang in the heart of the City is Spitalfields. Home to a wonderful market, tonnes of quirky, fun stores, close to some of the city's most iconic skyscrapers (I have a soft spot for the Gherkin), and full of great eateries - it's the perfect place to sit and people-watch. After all that shopping and enjoyment, grab a curry on Brick Lane, or settle down with a pint in the wonderfulWater Poet pub.
2. Get cultured at our museums (best tube stop for my recommendations: South Kensington).
London loves to shop....but also boasts some of the greatest museums on earth. The Science Museum, Natural History Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum are all in the south west of the city (signposted and accessible via a pedestrian subway at South Ken) and are free, barring special exhibitions. Such a wealth of things to see and do!
3. Do a six-part tour of some of London's most wonderful sites (best tube stop to start: Charing Cross/Leicester Square).
Part 1: Head to Trafalgar Square. Look at Nelson on his column and the lions by their fountain. In the warm weather enjoy the many people splashing in the fountains!
Part 2: Leave the square and head under Admirality Arch to the wide and sweeping grandeur of The Mall. Relive the many carriage processions you've watched sweep through here.
Part 3: Reach Buckingham Palace. Take many pictures. Do a very happy dance if the Royal Standard is flying high, signifying Her Majesty being at home.
Part 4: Walk along or through the calm sweetness of Green Park.
Part 5: Marvel at the Wellington Arch, and if you've time, visit Apsley House, the residence of the Duke of Wellington, with the fabulous address 'Number 1, London'.
Part 6: You've walked a little over a mile, and you're now in Hyde Park. Take a turn about, watch the ducks on the Serpentine, wander through to the beautiful Kensington gardens (where sometimes you might catch a glimpse of the Duchess of Cambridge walking her dog, Lupo), or head north towards Oxford Street if the shops are calling...
4. Put on The Ritz (best tube stop: Green Park).
London does glamour and glitz and afternoon tea very well, but The Ritz does it exceptionally well. If you can get a table (they book up months in advance), take your afternoon tea here - it is beautiful, and very decadent. Tiny sandwiches, cakes, and scones which appear to replenish magically. Honourable mention to the Grosvenor House, where they also do a super afternoon tea. The Ritz is also great for cocktails - the lounge is very Gatsby and refined, and the bar staff mix like demons!
5. Head to Hampstead (best tube/train stop: Hampstead, Hampstead Heath).
Hampstead Heath is a ginormous plot of land in the north-west of London. Half an hour from the hustle and bustle of the West End, you can wander through a pastoral idyll. There are ponds for swimming, as well as ponds for ducks, and the view from Parliament Hill is stupendous - the whole of London spreads out before you. Take a picnic, and after a day on the Heath explore Hampstead village, filled as it is with restaurants, pubs, and cafes.
6. Regents Park (best tube stop: Baker Street, Regents Park, Great Portland Street).
Even closer to town is Regents Park, one of my favourite spots in London. Ride on pedalos, take in the manicured gardens, visit the zoo (London Zoo is a true treasure!), ride a Boris Bike around the Outer Circle, read a book beneath the trees, feast on free range meats at The Honest Sausage, venture to Primrose Hill to celebrity-spot and take in brilliant views (and while you're there, do pop into Primrose Hill Books - an Alladin's cave of books you'll be dying to dive into, with very helpful, friendly, knowledgable staff). After all that, curl up with a pint at The Volunteer, or a delicious roast meal - this place is a great, welcoming London pub!
7. Walk the river (best tube stop: oh my goodness, there are oodles!).
The Thames flows through London and is a big part of the city. Here you can read about the numerous river walks available - it's a great way to explore and enjoy the city! Whether you're feeling cultured on the South Bank, blissful in Battersea Park (where there are monkeys!), or enjoying the pubs and parks of Richmond, you're sure to find a location and distance that works for you!
Most big cities have their 'must do' item. The Eiffel Tower. The Leaning Tower. The Empire State. London has a wealth of things to see and do, but I'd heartily recommend you making the London Eye one of them. This Ferris-wheel-gone-wild has you far above the busy streets, with views for miles. It's fabulous at any point of the day (I've been on the Eye many, many times now!), but I especially like the night flights - all those twinklings lights stretching for miles are so romantic and inspiring!
9. Shop On (best stops: Oxford Circus, Bond Street, Green Park).
Everyone who comes to London seems to want to shop. Three of my favourite department stores are John Lewis (the bastion of Britishness and good taste), Selfridges (very haute, great for people watching), and Fortnum & Mason (fabulous wines, homewares, and foodstuff. Oh, and the 1707 restuarant in the basement is a treasure!). Also worth a look are Regents Street, and Bond Street (window shopping central!).
10. Explore an area: Notting Hill/Marylebone Village (best tube stop: for NH, Notting Hill Gate; for MV, Marylebone or Baker Street).
I love exploring parts of London on foot. There's so much to see, from cute shops to great buildings, interesting people to blue plaque spots (here in the UK the homes of famous folk are oftentimes marked with a blue circular plaque). Two areas where I can happily wile away an afternoon are Notting Hill (romantic and boho, and Portobello Market is fabulous) and Marylebone Village (great pubs, lovely shops). Camden (best tube: Camden Town/Chalk Farm) is also awesome for people watching.
So that's my top ten. There are so many things I haven't space to urge you to do....catch a show (Matilda and Billy Elliot are both amazing); eat at Belgo or Tapeo or Byron or Guiseppes; visit one of the many galleries (my favourites? The National Potrait Gallery or Tate Modern); take in the splendour of St Paul's....
Whatever you decide to do, I hope you enjoy a great visit to this super city!