FROM PAST TO PRESENT, THE CITY IS SWINGING AGAIN
- Fast Track: a double-decker bus tour will let you get your bearings as you hit all the city's hot spots
- A poultry purveyor at Borough Market
- Damien Hirst's Sympathy in White Major – Absolution II, featured at Tate Modern
- The changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace
IF ANY CITY COULD BE SAID TO BE HAVING A MOMENT RIGHT NOW, IT'S LONDON. The city of Shakespeare, Churchill and Beckham has seemingly everything going for it. The afterglow of last year's Royal Wedding has turned the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in June into a spectacle of interest to more than only monarchists. The following month, when thousands of fl ag-waving Olympians stream into the London Olympic Stadium, global audiences glued to the television will marvel at athletic feats of speed, agility and endurance as well as the romanticized view of double-deck buses, Tower Bridge and stoic Buckingham Palace guards. The crush of visitors, however, will mean a larger than usual infl ux of tourists into the city during its annual summer rush, so if you're going you'll need to be prepared to fi ght the crowds every step of the way. But with its wealth of historic attractions and bounty of modern restaurants, shops and hotels, London's worth the e ort. The jolt of energy provided by the high profi le events promises to make a summer visit even more memorable. Here are some of our favourite places to ensure you make the most of the experience.
Where to Stay:
News reports have been ringing the alarm bells for months now about infl ated room rates during the Olympics. Alternative services offering short-term home rentals, such as OneFineStay.com and Vive Unique, have been the benefi ciaries as tourists look for more affordable options. That said, the legacy of the Summer Games will be a host of new hotels, which means future visitors will be spoiled for choice. Located just off Fleet Street, Temple Court Hotel (rooms from £129) is the third London property of the value-priced Apex Hotels chain. With two locations in operation, Z Hotels are making a name for themselves with central locations, smart design and bargain rates (starting at £75).
What to See:
There's so much to see in London that you can easily be overwhelmed by the options. Your best bet to cram in as much as possible is to take one of the jump-on, jump-off open-top, doubledecker bus tours that virtually ensures seeing Big Ben, The Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, the London Eye and more. After getting all of the obligatory photo ops taken care of, you can decide where you'd care to spend more time. If we have a vote, we strongly suggest visiting this summer's blockbuster Damien Hirst exhibition at the Tate Modern, which is London's largest permanent art exhibition, and wandering Portobello Market in West London, which is teeming with books, clothing, antique and food stalls in an area that also boasts a good selection of pubs.
Where to Eat:
Culinary hot spots like St. John Bar and Restaurant, The Ivy and The Fat Duck have forever changed any notion that English cooking is a punchline to a joke. But good luck getting a reservation. For more accessible, yet noteworthy options, you can't go wrong with a visit to Vinoteca. This wine bar, which has locations in Farringdon and Marylebone, was inspired by the casual grace and charm of similar eateries in Spain and Italy. Elsewhere, the Canteen chain offers back-tobasics British comfort food, with unapologetically nostalgic dishes like Scotch eggs and Lancashire hot pot. Thursday through Saturday, you could do worse than grazing your way around the cheese, bread and meat stalls at Borough Market, London's oldest fruit and vegetable market.