A sense of it all
Vibrating floors, blindfold games and a sensory escape room are just some of the highlights of OpenSenses (20-21 May; p. 30), a new festival that challenges the senses. The National Gallery, Westminster University and Moorfields Eye Hospital are taking part in the city-wide weekend, which is made up of workshops, exhibitions, live performances, open studios and sensory walks. Director Stephanie Singer says: ‘ The festival is motivated by the realisation that people touch their phones more than they touch their loved ones. It aims to get people back in touch with their bodies and senses.’
This attractive 15th-century building was the summer retreat of the Bishops of London. Now it’s a museum with gardens, café and art gallery (p. 36). Museum, historic rooms and shop winter Mon-Thur 12.30pm-4.30pm; Sun noon-5pm. Admission free, charges for special events. www.fulhampalace.org. Bishop’s Avenue, SW6 6EA. T: 020-7736 3233. Off map. Station: Putney Bridge.
Go Ape Battersea Park
Make like a monkey at this treetop playground, suitable for children aged 6+. Negotiate ladders, bridges and zip lines while attached to a reassuring harness. Enthusiastic staff are on hand throughout the 3.5-hour-long experience. Daily from 8.30am. Adult £35; child £27-£35. www.goape. co.uk/battersea-park. Battersea Park, SW11 4NJ. T: 0845- 643 9236. Off map. Station: Battersea Park.
Golden Hinde II
A full-size reconstruction of Sir Francis Drake’s 16th-century vessel, in which he circumnavigated the globe. Regular events include dressing up in historical costumes, quiz nights and battle workshops. Daily 10am- 6pm. Guided tour adult £ 7; child £5. www.goldenhinde.com. 1 Pickfords Wharf, Clink St, SE1 9DG. T: 020-7403 0123. E10. Station: London Bridge.
Ham House and Gardens
One of Europe’s greatest 17th-century houses, this atmospheric Stuart mansion on the River Thames has a rich history of period living. Discover its oustanding furniture and textiles, with a hands-on servants area in the basement. Its gardens are said to be haunted. Please check for times. Adult £10.80; child £5.40. www.national trust.org.uk. Ham St, Surrey, TW10 7RS. T: 0208940 1950. Off map. Station: Richmond.
Handel & Hendrix in London
Formerly known as Handel House Museum, these are the homes of Anglo-German composer George Frideric Handel and American guitarist Jimi Hendrix. See where Handel lived and composed for 36 years, plus Hendrix’s bedroom restored to how it was in 1968-1969 (p. 36). MonSat 11pm- 6pm; Sun noon- 6pm. Adult £10; child £5. www.handelhouse.org. 25 Brook St, W1K 4HB. T: 020-7495 1685. D6. Station: Bond Street.
Permanently moored on the River Thames, this ship is Europe’s only surviving World War II cruiser. In service until 1965, it’s now a reminder of Britain’s naval heritage. Explore its nine decks and hear the personal stories of those that worked and lived on board. Daily 10am6pm. Adult £14.50; child £ 7.25. www.iwm. org.uk. The Queen’s Walk, off Tooley St, SE1 2JH. T: 020-7940 6300. E11. Station: London Bridge.
Houses of Parliament
The site of Parliament since 1265 and still a royal palace, the current building includes the Elizabeth Tower housing the bell Big Ben, which was built in the 19th century. Watch debates for free when the Houses are in session (take your passport). Tours every Sat plus Mon-Fri 26 & 31 May. Audio tour adult £20.50, child £8.50 (first child free; online discounts available); guided tour adult £28, child £12. www.parliament. uk/visit. Palace of Westminster, Parliament Square, SW1A 0AA. T: 020-7219 4114. F8. Station: Westminster.
The Jewel Tower
Built around 1365 to house Edward III’s treasures, this is one of only two buildings left from the medieval Palace of Westminster after an 1834 fire. Don’t miss the ornate ceiling carvings. Please check for times and prices. www.english-heritage. org.uk. Abingdon St, SW1P 3JX. T: 020-7222 2219. F8. Station: Westminster.
This 19th-century home belonged to the romantic poet John Keats. See his paintings, books, letters and household items, plus the engagement ring he gave to his sweetheart Fanny Brawne. Wed-Sun 11am-5pm. Adult £6.50; child free. www.cityof london.gov.uk/keatshousehampstead. Keats Grove, NW3 2RR. T: 020-7332 3868. Off map. Station: Hampstead.
This royal residence sits in Kensington Gardens and was Princess Diana’s last home. Diana: Her Fashion Story. A fascinating long-term exhibition dedicated to the iconic style of the ‘people’s princess’. See the King’s Staircase adorned with painted walls, and the Queen’s State Apartments. Daily, please check for times. Adult £17; child free. www.hrp.org.uk. Kensington Gardens, W8 4PX. T: 0844- 482 7777. Off map. Station: High Street Kensington/Queensway.
On the edge of Hampstead Heath, Kenwood house and its landscaped gardens is a hidden gem. Admire Robert Adams’ interiors and an art collection including Rembrandts, Vermeers and Gainsboroughs. Free admission. Please check for times. www.english-heritage.org.uk/kenwood. Hampstead Lane, NW3 7JR. T: 020-8348 1286. Off map. Station: Hampstead.
This royal retreat, in the grounds of Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (p. 28) open during the summer months, was home to King George III. Don’t miss the Royal Kitchens – untouched since 1818 – and the tiny Queen Charlotte’s Cottage, built around 1771. Admission free with Kew Gardens tickets. www.hrp.org.uk. Kew Gardens, Richmond, TW9 3AB. T: 0844- 482 7777. Off map. Station:
Parents take a back seat here as children take charge at this centre for educational entertainment – a good space for inspiration for their future career. Three times the size of Trafalgar Square, covering a mammoth 75,000 sq ft, this child-size city has two storeys of everything a kid could want including TV and animation studios, a chocolate factory, radio presenting classes, disco dancing, food factory, pit lane and aviation academy – there’s even a tattoo parlour. Look out also for occasional evenings, which are for adults. Daily from 10am, check for closing times. Adult from £9.50; child from £11.50. www. london.kidzania.com. Westfield London Shopping Centre, Ariel Way, W12 7GA. T: 0330-131 3333. Off map. Station: Shepherd’s Bush.
The London Bridge Experience & Tombs
An exciting history lesson on the past of the 1,700-year-old London Bridge site. Special effects and actors bring this theatrical, spinetingling scary attraction to life, where you’ll meet historic figures such as Jack the Ripper. Tickets also include the London Tombs, under the bridge, which are in a former plague pit. Please check for times and prices. www.thelondonbridgeexperience.com. 2- 4 Tooley St, SE1 2SY. T: 020-7403 6333. E10. Station: London Bridge.
The London Dungeon
This uniquely thrilling attraction will whisk you back to the capital’s most perilous past. See, hear, feel and (ahem) smell the chilling lyamusing characters of the ‘bad old days’ as they come to life before you. Not for small children or the faint-hearted! Joint tickets with Sea Life London Aquarium, Coca-Cola London Aquarium, London Eye, Madame Tussauds and Shrek’s Adventure! available. Please check for times and prices. www.thedungeons.com. County Hall, Westminster Bridge Rd, SE1 7PB T: 0871- 423 2240. F8. Station: Waterloo/Embankment.
Coca-Cola London Eye
This London icon is one of the world’s largest observation wheels. Interactive screens in each pod give an insight into landmarks on view. Joint tickets with the London Aquarium, London Dungeon, Madame Tussauds and Shrek’s Adventure! available. Daily from 10am, check for closing times. Adult £24.95; child £19.95. www.londoneye.com. County Hall, Westminster Bridge Rd, SE1 7PB. T: 0871-781 3000. F8. Station: Waterloo.
ZSL London Zoo
Immerse yourself in the animal kingdom at the world’s oldest scientific zoo, which has more than 750 species. As well as an aquarium with tropical fish, penguin beach and endangered Sumatran tigers, you can see the Land of the Lions exhibition – which features Asiatic lions in surroundings designed to resemble an Indian national park. 17 May: Safari in the City. An after-hours event which includes a twilight tour, talks from conservation experts, an Africanthemed dinner and prizes. Daily 10am- 6pm. Adult £29.75; child £22. www.zsl.org. Regent’s Park, NW1 4RY. T: 020-7722 3333. C6. Station: Camden Town.
Celebrated home of life-sized wax figures depicting famous people from the worlds of entertainment, politics, sport and history, from the Queen to Adele. Pose with your favourite legend and visit the terrifying Chamber of Horrors and Scream experiences. Don’t miss the permanent Star Wars exhibition, featuring 11 sets from the film. The Game’s Afoot, an immersive attraction with actors, illusion and sound effects, is a highlight. Joint tickets with the London Aquarium, London Dungeon, London Eye and Shrek’s Adventure! available. Please check for times. Adult £35; child £30. www.madametussauds.com/london. Marylebone Rd, NW1 5LR. T: 0871- 894 3000. Station: Baker Street.
This beautiful stone column standing in the heart of the City was built in 1677 to commemorate the 1666 Great Fire of London. Climb the 311 steps to its observation gallery. Daily 9.30am- 6pm. Adult £4.50; child £2.30. Joint tickets with the Tower Bridge Exhibition available. www.themonument.org.uk. Monument St, EC3R 6BD. T: 020-7626 2717. E10. Station: Monument.
Star Wars Identities. Browse 200 original sketches, models and props from the film franchise, and answer questions about your personality to reveal which Star Wars character you most identify with. Mon-Sat 10am-6pm. Tickets £10-£20. www.theo2. co.uk. Peninsula Square, SE10 0DX. T: 020-8463 2000. Off map. Station: North Greenwich.
Old Royal Naval College
This Baroque masterpiece, part of the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site, has costumed characters and tours. Don’t miss the magnificent ceiling in the Painted Hall (p.36). During temporary conservation work, you can see the ceiling on an hour-long tour from an observation deck (adult £10; child £5). Check for guided tours. Daily, check for opening times. Admission free. www.ornc.org. King William Walk, SE10 9NN. T: 020-8269 4799. Off map. Station: Cutty Sark/Greenwich.
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Formerly the site of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, this park includes an aquatics centre and the ArcelorMittal Orbit observation tower (p. 24). Please check website for sporting events. Park open 24 hours daily. Admission free. www.queenelizabetholympicpark.co.uk. Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, E20 2ST. T: 0800- 072 2110. Off map. Station: Stratford.
Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
This curiosity-filled museum with over 700 artefacts is a hit across the globe. Explore a range of oddities over six floors, from a shrunken head to an albino alligator and the world’s tallest man, plus the eye-popping Magnificent Mirror Maze where it looks like you’re ‘getting lost’. Daily all year round 10am-midnight. Adult £27.99; child £20.99. www.ripleyslondon.com. 1 Piccadilly Circus, W1J 0DA. T: 020-3238 0022. E7. Station: Piccadilly Circus.
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Better known as Kew Gardens, this botanical research centre and World Heritage Site contains plants from across the globe, with Victorian tropical greenhouses and a Chinese pagoda. The Treetop Walkway offers great views. Throughout 2017 you can also experience The Hive, an enormous aluminium structure modelled on a beehive surrounded by wildflowers. Buzzing and lights play inside it in response to a real beehive. Daily from 10am, please check for closing times. Adult £15; child £3.50; charges for special exhibitions. www.kew.org. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 3AB. T: 020- 8332 5655. Off map. Station: Kew Gardens.
The Royal Institution of Great Britain
Grade I-listed Georgian building housing a museum about the institution’s 15 Nobel Prize-winning scientists. Visit its free Faraday Museum and you can see scientists at work, too. Check the website for its programme of fascinating talks. Mon-Fri 9am- 6pm. Admission free; charges for talks. www.rigb.org. 21 Albemarle St, W1S 4BS. T: 020-7409 2992. E6. Station: Green Park.
The Royal Mews
Built by John Nash in 1825, this beautiful part of Buckingham Palace houses the Queen’s vehicles and horses, including the Diamond Jubilee State Coach. Witness daily life and learn about the mews’ history. Mon-Sat 10am-5pm. Adult £10; child £5.80. www.royalcollection.org.uk. Buckingham Palace Rd, SW1W 1QH. T: 0303-123 7302. F6. Station: Victoria.
The Royal Observatory
The home of Greenwich Mean Time and London’s only planetarium. Learn about the concept of time in the Peter Harrison Galleries and watch planetarium shows throughout the day. The Sky Tonight. Daily planetarium show that explores the Moon, constellations, planets and deep space objects. Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year. Stunning exhibition. Meridian Line and observatory daily 10am- 4.30pm. Adult £9.50; child £5. www.rmg.co.uk. Blackheath Avenue, SE10 8XJ. T: 020- 8858 4422. Off map. Station: Greenwich/ Maze Hill/Cutty Sark.
Sea Life London Aquarium
One of Europe’s largest aquariums with 500 species of global marine life and walk-through tank tunnels, including a scary glass walkway above 16 sharks. Ocean Invaders: Enter the World of the Jellyfish. Get up close to a swarm of jellyfish at this new permanent exhibition. You can also snorkel with sharks (from £80 including admission). Please check for times and prices. Joint tickets with London Eye, London Dungeon, Madame Tussauds and Shrek’s Adventure! available. www.sealife.co.uk/london. County Hall, Westminster Bridge Rd, SE1 7PB. T: 0333-321 2001.
Station: Westminster/ Waterloo.
Ride the magical 4D ‘DreamWorks Tours’ bus to step into live actor fairytale-themed shows where you can meet the characters from the much-loved films. Joint tickets with London Eye, London Dungeon, Madame Tussauds and Sea Life London Aquarium available. Please check for times. Adult £27.50; child £22. www.shreks adventure.com. Riverside Building, County Hall, Westminster Bridge Rd, SE1 7PB. T: 0871-221 2837. F8. Station: Waterloo.
St James’s Palace
One of London’s oldest palaces, constructed in the 14th century and home to royalty for three centuries. Palace and house closed to the public. www.royal.gov.uk. Marlborough Rd, SW1A 1BS. E7. Station: St James’s Park.
St Katharine Docks
This central London marina dates back to the 11th century and is tucked away by the Tower of London. The vibrant waterside destination is lined with regular markets, shops, galleries such as Artopia and The Alexander Miles Gallery, and restaurants including CAU, Tom’s Kitchen, Bravas Tapas and White Mulberries. www.skdocks.co.uk. 50 St Katharine’s Way, E1W 1LA. T: 020-7264 5287. Off map. Station: Tower Hill.
Landmark Palladian church with tours, a brass-rubbing centre and live classical music (some free). Holy Communion given daily and classical music performed weekly by candlelight. Please check for opening times. Admission free; brass rubbing from £4.50. www.stmartin-in-thefields.org. Trafalgar Square, WC2N 4JJ. T: 020-7766 1100. E8. Station: Charing Cross.
St Paul’s Cathedral
Sir Christopher Wren’s 300-year-old cathedral has stunning mosaics. Climb up the dome to the Whispering Gallery and a further 271 steps to the Golden Gallery for a classic London panorama. Then head down to the crypt, with its monuments to Wren and Lord Nelson. Don’t miss Oculus: an Eye into St Paul’s, a 270-degree film experience, for an excellent overview. Free tours. Mon-Sat 8.30am- 4.30pm. Adult £18; child £8. www.stpauls. co.uk. St Paul’s Churchyard, EC4M 8AD. T: 020-7246 8350. D9/10. Station: St Paul’s.
18 Stafford Terrace
This house gives an insight into the personal lives of Punch cartoonist Edward Linley Sambourne, his wife Marion, their two children and their live-in servants, who lived here from 1875. A highlight is a costumed actor-led tour, on which you’ll meet Mrs Sambourne or her parlour maid Mrs Reffell for a dramatic account based on old diaries. Wed, Sat-Sun 11am-12.15pm & 2pm-5.30pm. Adult from £ 7; child from £5. www.rbkc.gov.uk. 18 Stafford Terrace, W8 7BH. T: 020-7602 3316. Off map. Station: High Street Kensington.
Tower Bridge Exhibition
This breathtaking bridge, designed in 1884, is one of London’s most famous landmarks (not to be confused with its less grand, but much older neighbour, London Bridge). It has wonderful views; check out the glass floor on the high walkways. You can also tour the engine rooms with a knowledgeable guide. Joint tickets with The Monument available. Daily 10am-5.30pm. Please check for prices. www.towerbridge.org.uk. Tower Bridge Rd, SE1 2UP. T: 020-7403 3761. E11. Station: Tower Hill.
Tower of London
See centuries of history at this historic landmark, which has been a prison, an armory and a fortress. Inside is the Bloody Tower, Traitors’ Gate and the Jewel House, home of the dazzling Crown Jewels which you glide past on a moving walkway. Enjoy free guided tours by ‘Beefeaters’ ( Yeoman Warders) where you can learn about legends of the tower, including the ravens and wild animals that once inhabited. Book ahead online to attend the nightly Ceremony of the Keys, which dates back to 1340 (tickets are free). 26-27 May: Pride, Power and Politics. This tour explores the changing attitudes to gender and sexuality from the 12th century to the present day (p. 22). Tue-Sat 9am-5.30pm; Sun-Mon 10am-5.30pm. Please check for prices. www.hrp.org.uk/tower-of-london. Tower Hill, EC3N 4AB T: 0844- 482 7799. E11. Station: Tower Hill.
This venue used to protect the Queen’s treasures under the old Coutts Bank. It’s now a treasure trove and home to the Gaultier bustier from Madonna’s Blonde Ambition tour, plus other iconic rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia at Hard Rock Cafe’s revamped little museum. Daily 11.30am-10.30pm. Admission free. www.hardrock.com. Hard Rock Cafe London, 150 Old Park Lane, W1K 1QZ. T: 020-7514 1700. E6. Station: Hyde Park Corner.
The View from The Shard
Ascend the tallest building in Western Europe in a high-speed ‘kaleidoscopic’ lift, for views over the city and beyond. At 1,017ft, on a clear day you can see as far as Windsor – and if you can’t see four major landmarks you can visit again for free. If you pre-book you can do yoga on Saturdays at 8.30am (£45). It also hosts silent discos every Saturday at 10pm. Don’t miss the murals on the ground floor of London’s famous characters (p. 26). Daily 10am-10pm. Advance adult £25.95, child £19.95; on the day adult £30.95, child £24.95. www.theviewfromtheshard.com. 32 London Bridge St, SE1 9SG. T: 0844- 499 7111. E10. Station: London Bridge.
Warner Bros Studio Tour London
Explore behind the scenes of the legendary Harry Potter films in The Making of Harry Potter tour. After a short film about the site, visitors can get up close to the iconic sets, including the Great Hall, Hagrid’s Hut, Diagon Alley and a recreation of Platform 9¾, among others. You can even taste the famous butter beer! It gives a fascinating insight into filmmaking. Please check for times. Adult £39; child £31. Online booking essential. www.wbstudiotour.co.uk. Studio Tour Drive, Leavesden, Hertfordshire, WD25 7LS. T: 0845- 084 0900. Off map. Station: Euston to Watford Junction, then shuttle bus.
Climb to the viewing galleries of this magnificent arch for panoramic views over the Royal Parks and the Houses of Parliament, plus exhibitions. Joint tickets available with Apsley House. Daily 10am-5pm. Adult £4.70; child £2.80. www.english-heritage.org.uk. Apsley Way, Hyde Park Corner, W1J 7JZ. T: 020-7930 2726. F6. Station: Hyde Park Corner.
Consecrated in 1065, this abbey is the crowning and burial site of most English monarchs. It also houses Poets’ Corner, the burial place of Charles Dickens and other famous writers. Mon-Sat, please check for times. Adult £20; child £9. www.westminsterabbey.org. 20 Dean’s Yard, SW1P 3PA. T: 020-7222 5152. F7. Station: Westminster/St James’s Park.
WWT London Wetland Centre
This 104-acre wildlife reserve has the Water’s Edge Café overlooking lakes, ponds and gardens which are home to more than 100 species of rare and wild birds. Otters are fed at 11am and 2pm. To 21 May: Celebrity Dusty Duck Display. Six foot-tall sculptures including Steve Backshall’s Explorer Dusty, Joanna Lumley’s Absolutely Fabulous Patsy Dusty and Justin Fletcher’s Pirate Justy Dusty take you around the grounds. Open all year round. Daily 9.30am- 4.30pm. Adult £12.26; child £6.75. www.wwt.org.uk. Queen Elizabeth’s Walk, SW13 9WT. T: 020- 8409 4400. Off map. Station: Barnes.
FESTIVALS & EVENTS Canalway Cavalcade
To 1 May: This waterway festival has been taking place in Little Venice since 1983. Boats are decorated with bunting and there are family-friendly activities including boating and water games, Morris dancing and competitions. There will be food stalls and a real ale bar. Free. www.waterways.org.uk. Little Venice, W2. T: 07979676461. Off map. Station: Warwick Avenue.
Chelsea Flower Show
23-27 May: Stroll past stunning floral sculptures and through nine beautiful show gardens at this annual event (p. 16). Tickets £35-£63. Tue-Fri 8am- 8pm; Sat 8am-5.30pm. www.rhs.org.uk. South Grounds, Royal Hospital Rd, Royal Hospital Chelsea, SW3 4SR. T: 020-7881 5200. Off map. Station: Sloane Square.
20-21 May: Vibrating floors, blindfold games and a sensory escape room are highlights of this new festival, which challenges the senses (p. 24). Expect workshops, exhibitions, live performances, open studios and sensory walks. Please check for times and prices. www.opensenses.squarespace.com. Various locations.
RIVER TRIPS Circular Cruise Westminster
Circular Cruise Westminster operates a hop-on hop-off sightseeing service from Westminster Pier. Boats depart every 40 minutes for Embankment, Festival, Bankside and St Katharine’s Piers (for Tower of London), returning non stop to Westminster. 11am-5pm. Adult single £10, return £14; child single £5, return £ 7. www.circularcruise.london. Westminster Pier, Victoria Embankment, SW1A 2JH. T: 020-7936 2033. F8. Station: Westminster.
Daily guided sightseeing tours on the River Thames between Westminster, Waterloo, Tower and Greenwich piers. River Red Rover is an all-day hop-on, hop-off sightseeing service. Thames Circular Cruise is a 50-minute sightseeing service from Tower Pier or Bankside Pier to Westminster and back. London Showboat cabaret cruise departs from Westminster Pier and includes a four-course meal with live music Fri-Sat. Please check for times and prices. www.citycruises.com. Westminster Pier, SW1A 2JH. T: 020-7740 0400. Departure points vary.
London Duck Tours
Ideal if you’re keen for an amphibious adventure. See some of London’s best-loved sights on land before a thrilling splashdown on the River Thames. Adults £26; child £18. www.londonducktours.co.uk. 55 York Rd, SE1 7NJ. T: 020-7928 3132. F8. Station: Waterloo.
London Eye River Cruise
Live commentary on a 40-minute sightseeing river cruise. Daily 10.45am-7.45pm. Adult £13.15; child £6.58. Discounted joint tickets with the London Eye available. www.londoneye.com. London Eye Pier, South Bank, SE1 7PB. T: 0871-781 3000. E8. Station: Waterloo.
MBNA Thames Clippers
The fastest and most frequent fleet on the river, with departures from major London piers every 20 minutes. The boats set off from 20 piers across the capital. Oyster cards are valid. Download the free in: flow app, which can provide a real-time audio explanation of the sights you see as you pass them. River Roamer hop on and off adult £16.30; child £8.15. www.thamesclippers.com. Departure points vary. T: 020-7001 2200.
Thames River Services
This hop on, hop off service with live audio commentary departs from Westminster Pier and St Katharine’s every 30 minutes, 10am- 4pm for Greenwich Piers and the Thames Barrier. Please check for prices (35% online discount Mon-Fri). www.thamesriverservices.london. Westminster Pier, Victoria Embankment, SW1A 2JH. T: 020-7930 4097. F8. Station: Westminster.
Try this 50-minute adrenaline-fuelled experience and you’ll enjoy sightseeing, speed and awesome aquabatics all in one. Departs from Westminster Pier. From 11am. Adult from £39; child from £29. www.thamesjet.com. Departure points vary. T: 020-7740 0400. F8. Station: Westminster.
TOURS & GUIDED WALKS
Daily sightseeing trips aboard a fleet of open-top double-decker buses. Tickets are valid for 24 hours. A one-day orientation tour includes three walking tours. Adult £30; child £12.50. www.bigbustours.com. Departure points vary. T: 020-7808 6753. F6. Station: Victoria.
Big Bus Walking Tours
Choose from three guided tours: Royal London at 10am, Harry Potter at 1.30pm and Haunting Mysteries at 4.30pm. All take 90 minutes to two hours. £5, or free with a Big Bus Tour. Daily. www.bigbustours.com. Depart from Big Bus stop 10, Trafalgar Square, WC2N 5DN. T: 0207808 6753. E8. Station: Charing Cross.
Billingsgate Roman House & Baths
Beneath the curious cobbled pathways of the Square Mile is a rich Roman history that’s survived 2,000 years of building, fires and bombings. Lower Thames Street is home to one of Roman London’s most fascinating remains. The Billingsgate Roman Bathhouse was discovered in 1848, and is now open to the public. Explore this fascinating insight into ancient life in the City on a 45-minute guided tour and discover the remains of the Roman Bathhouse which is hidden beneath offices. £8 adult; £6 child. Please check for times. www.museumoflondon.org.uk. 101 Lower Thames St, EC3R 6DL. E11. Station: Tower Hill.
Capital Taxi Tours
A Blue Badge or City of London qualified guide drives you around in a taxi for up to five people. Choose from London tours by day or night, trips outside the city and themed tours including a Doctor Who one – on which you’ll see a Tardis, locations from famous films and TV series – and one for TV Downton Abbey fans. Prices vary and are per taxi. www.capitaltaxitours.co.uk. Departure points vary. T: 020- 8590 3621.
City of London Guides Walks
A variety of themed walks not offered by other companies, focusing on everything from Fleet Street – the home of journalism – to Smithfield
Market, ‘City in Spires’ – a tour of Wren’s churches, – and City gardens. No advance booking necessary. Adult free-£12.50; child free-£8. www.cityoflondonguides.com. Departure points vary.
The oldest and largest sightseeing company in London has been accompanying visitors on city tours and out-of-town excursions since 1930. Visit Warwick Castle, Windsor Castle, Stratfordupon-Avon, Stonehenge, Bath and more, as well as all the London sights such as St Paul’s Cathedral. Please check for times and prices. www.evanevanstours.com. Departure points vary. T: 020-7950 1777.
From day excursions to overnight city breaks, the London experts offer quality tour experiences from London to popular locations such as Bath, Stonehenge, Windsor Castle and Leeds Castle. Please check for times and prices. www.goldentours.com. Departure points vary. T: 020-7630 2039.
Golden Tours Open-Top Bus Tours
See the sights aboard an open-top bus. Live guided (Essential Tour) or multilingual audio commentary (all routes) tours let you hop-on and hop-off. One-day, 24-hour and 48-hour tickets. Please check for prices. www.goldentours.com. Departure points vary. T: 020-7630 2039.
More than 100 themed 45-minute free tours around Bloomsbury and Holborn. Most walks do not require pre-booking. 10am & 1pm walks start at the orange information kiosk outside Holborn Tube station. www.beemidtown.org. 88-94 Kingsway, WC2B 6AA. T: 020-7078 7077. D7/8. Station: Holborn.
Jack the Ripper Tours
Blue Badge Guide Richard Jones of London Walking Tours devised these popular two-hour walks, offering an intriguing look at the infamous Jack the Ripper. Numbers are limited in order to give participants a better experience. Booking essential. Daily 7pm from outside Exit 4 of Aldgate East Underground station. £10. www.jack-theripper-tour.com. T: 020- 8530 8443. Off map. Station: Aldgate East.
London Chocolate Tours
Sample truffles and ganaches in Mayfair’s finest chocolatiers on this two-hour tour by a former cocoa trader. Along the way you’ll learn how chocolate is made. Booking essential. Sun 12.30pm. £15 for Where London readers (usually £39). Departs from The Ritz London by Green Park Tube station. www.tourguides.org.uk. T: 0208526 7755. E6. Station: Green Park.
The London Helicopter Tour
Discover the capital from the unique perspective of a helicopter, with its amazing uninterrupted views. Departing from London’s only heliport, glide above the River Thames, taking in iconic landmarks including the Tower of London, St Paul’s Cathedral and The Shard. Choose from the 12-minute Buzz, 18-minute Sights or 30-minute Max tour – or be brave and opt for the 18-minute ‘open door’ ride (£300 per person). Prices start from £150 per seat for a shared tour. www.the londonhelicopter.com. The POD Building, Bridges Court, SW11 2RE. T: 020-7887 2626. Off map. Station: Clapham Junction.
London Horror Tours
Be spooked by ghost stories and tales of the notorious serial killer Jack the Ripper, Sweeney Todd and the Krays on tours run by Dr Jack, an actor, entertainer and former guide. Please visit its Facebook page for more information, and call for times and prices. Departure points vary. T: 07722-24 7660.
London Literary Pub Crawl
See where the giants of the London literary world ate, drank and worked. This unique tour is artist-led and arranged by the not-for-profit charity The Maverick Theatre Company. Starting in Fitzrovia and ending in Soho, it includes pubs and bars associated with the British Film industry and writers. Sat 5pm (not 13 May), please check for other times. £24. www.londonliterarypubcrawl.com. 12 Fouberts Place, Carnaby St, W1F 7PA. T: 020- 8090 5082. D7. Station: Oxford Circus.
London’s oldest walking tour company offers more than 300 walks, with a choice of morning, afternoon and evening. Favourites include the Jack the Ripper Walks (daily 7.30pm & Sat 3pm from Tower Hill), a Harry Potter tour (selected Wed & every Sat-Sun 2pm; departure points vary) and a spooky West End Ghost Walk (daily 7.30pm; departure points vary). Walks take two hours and there is no need to book. Adult £10; child free when accompanied by an adult. www.walks.com. Departure points vary. T: 020-7624 3978.
Original London Sightseeing Walk
Walks depart daily from the Original London Visitor Centre and include Changing the Guard (departing 10am), Rock ‘n’ Roll (1pm) and Jack the Ripper (3.30pm from Tower Hill Station). Walking tours are free with an Original London Sightseeing Tour, or £9.50 per walk. An Explore Walks Pass, which grants access to all three walks over a 48-hour period, costs £19. www.theoriginaltour.com. 17-19 Cockspur St, SW1Y 5BL. T: 0208877 1722. E7. Station: Charing Cross.
The Original Tour
With decades of experience, these live and multilingual open-top guided bus tours take you to the city’s best attractions, allowing you to hop on and off at more than 80 stops. The 24-hour tour includes three free walking tours and a Thames River cruise pass (p. 34). The 48-hour tour includes an extended River Cruise Pass with access to Greenwich. Adult £32; child £15. www.theoriginaltour.com. 17-19 Cockspur St, Trafalgar Square, SW1Y 5BL. T: 020-8877 1722. E7. Station: Charing Cross.
PlanetPass is an app that allows you to book a private guided tour for up to six people at any time or day. Choose from street art, Jack the Ripper, a Borough Market one for foodies, and more. From £9 per person. www.planetpass.com. Departure points vary. T: 01865-922 380.
Royal Albert Hall Tours
Take a one-hour Grand Tour of this grand Victorian concert hall. Most days throughout the year; call for times. Adult £13; child £6. www.royalalberthall.com. Kensington Gore, SW7 2AP. T: 0207959 0558. F4. Station: South Kensington.
Royal Opera House
This is one of the world’s leading opera venues, also home to the Royal Ballet company. Backstage Tour. Get an insight into the venue’s history, where you may also see a production in rehearsal. Most days 10.30am, 12.30pm & 2.30pm; please check. Adult £12; child £8.50. www.royaloperahouse.org. Bow St, WC2E 9DD. T: 020-7304 4000. D8. Station: Covent Garden.
See London by Night Tour
Ride around the West End and City in the evening. Regular departures from outside The Ritz hotel. Tours last 90 minutes. Daily 7.30pm, 8pm, 8.30pm, 9.15pm, 9.45pm & 10.15pm. Adult £18; child £10. www.seelondonbynight.com. 150 Piccadilly, W1J 9BR. T: 020-7183 4744. E6. Station: Green Park.
Shakespeare’s Globe (Tours)
This reconstruction of Shakespeare’s original Elizabethan Globe Theatre has tours of props and costumes, while the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse is a candlelit performance space. Tours Mon-Sat 9am-12.30pm; Sun 9am-5pm. Exhibition Mon-Sun 9am-5pm. Exhibition and Globe theatre tour adult £16; child £9. www.shakespearesglobe.com. 21 New Globe Walk, Bankside, SE1 9DT. T: 020-7902 1400. E10. Station: Blackfriars.
Go behind the scenes at this famous football stadium and concert venue. The 75-minute tour takes you inside the dressing rooms and through the players’ tunnel. Have your photo taken with a replica of the FA Cup. From 10am; please check for dates. Adult £20; child £12. www.wembleystadium.com/wembley-tours. Wembley Stadium, HA9 0WS. T: 0800-169 9933. Off map. Station: Wembley Park.
Westways Carriage Horses
Get collected from your hotel and experience the sights from the comfort of a horse-drawn carriage. Tours last 2.5 hours in a four or six-seater carriage, with an adjustable hood. £475 per carriage. www. westwayscarriagehorses.co.uk. T: 020- 8572 3155.
OUT OF TOWN Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology
Britain’s first public museum dates back to 1683. See archaeological artefacts, pre-Raphaelite paintings, Egyptian mummies and Oliver Cromwell’s death mask. Degas to Picasso. Charting the rise of Modernism in France, featuring works by Manet, Cezanne, Degas and Picasso. Tue-Sun 10am-5pm (and 1 May). Free admission, charges for special exhibitions. www.ashmolean.org. Beaumont St, Oxford, OX1 2PH. T: 01865-278000. Off map. Station: Paddington to Oxford.
See three centuries of treasures in magnificent state rooms at this Baroque palace, the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. The palace is set in 2,100 acres of ‘Capability’ Brown parkland and formal gardens. 27-29 May: Blenheim Palace Food Festival. Outdoor food stalls and tastings. Palace daily 10.30am-5.30pm; park daily 9am- 6pm; formal gardens daily 10.30am- 6pm. Adult £24.90; child £13.90. www.blenheimpalace.com. Woodstock, Oxfordshire, OX20 1PP. T: 01993- 810530. Off map. Paddington to Oxford, then bus S3.
Hampton Court Palace
Once home to King Henry VIII, this Tudor palace and maze is set in 60 acres of parkland. Pride at the Palace. Evening tours for over 16s with talks on the palace’s former gay inhabitants (p. 22). Palace, formal gardens and maze daily 10am-6pm. Adult £23; child £11.50. www.hrp.org.uk. Hampton Court, East Molesey, Surrey, KT8 9AU. T: 0844-482 7777. Off map. Station: Waterloo to Hampton Court.
Fairytale 900-year-old castle with a moat, gardens and parkland. Explore the spiralling yew maze, and see 100 species of birds in the aviary. Grounds and gardens daily 10am- 6pm; Castle daily 10.30am-5.30pm. Adult £24.90; child £16.90. www.leedscastle.com. Maidstone, Kent, ME17 1PL. T: 01622765 400. Off map. Station: Victoria to Bearsted.
Palace of Holyroodhouse
The Queen’s official residence in Scotland stands at the end of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, against the spectacular backdrop of Arthur’s Seat. Highlights include Mary, Queen of Scots’ chamber. Daily 9.30am- 6pm. Adult £12.50; child £ 7.50. www.royalcollection.org.uk. Canongate, The Royal Mile, Edinburgh, EH8 8DX. T: 0303-123 7306. Off map. Station: Edinburgh Waverley, then a 15-minute walk.
This 5,000-year-old World Heritage Site is the world’s most famous stone circle. With obscure Neolithic origins, it is perfectly aligned with the rising sun at the solstice. Daily 9.30am-7pm. Check for prices. www.english-heritage.org.uk. Amesbury, Wiltshire SP4 7DE. T: 0870-333 1181. Off map. Station: Waterloo to Salisbury, then bus or taxi.
This stunning Palladian mansion set in parkland is home to the Duke Of Northumberland. Please check for times and prices. www.syonpark.co.uk. Brentford, Middlesex, TW8 8JF. T: 020- 8560 0882. Off map. Station: Waterloo to Syon Lane.
Renaissance-style chateau built in the late 19th century. Magnificent house and wine cellars, plus gardens and aviary. Please check for times and prices. www.waddesdonmanor.org. Near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, HP18 0JH. T: 01296- 653226. Off map. Station: Marylebone to Aylesbury.
Built by William the Conqueror in 1068, this castle is now a family-friendly experience, plus landscaped gardens designed by ‘Capability’ Brown. Please check for times and prices. www.warwick-castle.com. Warwick, Warwickshire, CV34 6AH. Off map. Station: Warwick.
Watts Gallery Artists’ Village
An Arts and Crafts gem in the Surrey Hills, with stunning Victorian paintings and sculptures. Tue-Sun 11am-5pm. Adult £9.50 ( Tue £4.75); child free. Down Lane, Compton, Surrey, GU3 1DQ. T: 01483- 810235. Off map. Station: Waterloo to Guildford, then bus or taxi.
The Queen’s weekend home and the world’s oldest inhabited castle. The State Apartments are furnished with art by Rembrandt, Rubens and Canaletto. Changing the Guard alternate days 11am except Sun. Daily 9.30am-5.30pm. Adult £20.50; child £12. www.royalcollection.org.uk. Windsor, Berkshire, SL4 1NJ. T: 0303-123 7304. Off map. Station: Waterloo to Windsor & Eton Central or Windsor & Eton Riverside.
The Shard is the tallest building in Western Europe (p. 30)