The UK’s capital city offers much to explore on both sides of the River Thames
HORSE GUARDS PARADE
One of London’s quintessential attractions, the Horse Guards Parade is a wonderful slice of colorful British tradition. Before you see it, though, pay a visit to the Household Cavalry Museum in Whitehall to learn more about the history and heroes of the British Army’s senior regiment from its origins in 1661. As well as audiovisual presentations, exhibits and displays of uniforms, you can watch the troopers preparing their horses through a glass partition. The Changing of the Guard ceremony takes place at 11:00 AM Mon-Sat and 10:00 AM on Sundays. The museum is open daily 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM; admission is £7 ($10.50) for adults and £5 ($7.50) for children; householdcavalrymuseum.co.uk.
From Whitehall it’s a short walk to Trafalgar Square; turn right into Northumberland Avenue and stop for lunch at Boyds Brasserie, situated in a historic Victorian building. It was once a 500-room hotel, but was requisitioned by the war office in 1940. Inside the restaurant the décor is impressive, with
much of the 19th century Verde de Prato and Sanguino marble remaining. The menu offers traditional British fare with a modern twist in the form of“British tapas.” Try the seafood bisque (£8.5/$13) for mouthwatering flavor, or the delicious sea bass with golden raisins and kale with a Jerusalem artichoke purée (£21/ $32). Lunch Mon-Fri noon to 3:00 PM, afternoon tea Mon-Sun 1:00 PM – 5:00 PM, dinner Mon-Sat 5:00 PM – 10:00 PM; 8 Northumberland Avenue, London WC2; tel 0207 808 3344; boydsbrasserie.co.uk.
THE RIVER THAMES
You cannot visit London without strolling along the River Thames. After a full lunch, walk south down Northumberland Avenue until you reach Victoria Embankment on the north side of the broad river. Cross via the Golden Jubilee Bridge to the South Bank; as you’re crossing look right and two iconic London sights stand on opposite riverbanks: the historic Houses of Parliament on the right, and the modern London Eye wheel on the left. Once on the South Bank, turn left and start walking. Along the broad pedestrian promenade you’ll see people jogging, riding bikes, fooling around on skateboards or entertaining the crowds with huge soap bubbles and other inventive acts.
TATE MODERN MUSEUM
A gentle 20-minute stroll brings you to the massive brown edifice that is the Tate Modern Museum. This was originally the Bankside Power Station, but was converted into a gallery in 1995 by Swiss architects. Today, a visit to the Tate Modern takes in the full scope of modern art in a single visit, from iconic artworks such as Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Diptych and Lee Bul’s Craving White to the latest photographic art and more. Of course a full exploration will take you most of the day, but if your time is limited you can visit just one of the special exhibits that are regularly put on here. Admission to the museum is free, but there is usually a fee for special exhibits. Open daily 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM, Fri and Sat until 10:00 PM; tate.org.uk.
Back by the riverside, turn right and walk past the reconstruction of Shakespeare’s famous Globe Theatre, before turning south onto Park Street until you reach Stoney Street.You have arrived at Borough Market, a well-known food paradise whose history stretches back to the 11th century. In this warren of stalls winding through five acres, you’ll find more than 100 vendors peddling an exceptional selection of produce, both British and international, from truffles and cheeses to fruits and hams. The enticing aroma of hot dishes such as paella and whole-roasted pig fills the air, tempting customers to chow down. Borough Market is open Mon-Thu from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Fri until 6:00 PM, Sat from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM; 8 Southwark Street, London SE1 1TL; boroughmarket.org.uk.
THE BERKELEY HOTEL
London is famous for its afternoon tea, but rather than queue for a table at well-known tourist hotspots like the Savoy or the Ritz, why not try an equally classy but more secluded establishment. From London Bridge Station it’s a 30-minute Underground ride via the Jubilee and Picadilly lines to Hyde Park Corner (£2.3/$3.5); head towards Knightsbridge and turn left at Wilton Place to reach the Berkeley Hotel (a black cab will cost around £20/$30 but may take considerably longer, depending on traffic). The Berkeley’s Caramel Room is one of the city’s chicest places to eat and drink. Its award-winning Prêt-à-Portea afternoon tea sports a creative twist that is popular with fashionistas, who love the cakes and pastries inspired by the latest catwalk designs. The menu changes every six months, and the tea set costs £45 ($68). Afternoon tea is served from 1:00 PM to 6:00 PM daily; tel 207 107 8866; theberkeley.co.uk. BT