Can you recommend the best things to do in London for a weekend

01:00 Thu 12th Jul 2001 |

Asks meltdown

A. There is so much to do in London that it is difficult to fit it into one weekend, but if you've got the energy we've got the information!

Just the size and the amount of people the city contains can be overwhelming if it's your first visit to the city�- it is estimated that approximately 7 million people live in London, and that 3 million more commute in each day to work. It is a cosmopolitan city�- with 37 immigrant groups at the last count - and is still famed for being a ramble of villages thrown together as the city has expanded, with the City of London at its core. It is the hub of British business, political and financial life, the seat of government and the Royal family, and the place that most tourists to Britain visit.

London is especially attractive to young visitors as it has a healthy and influential club and music scene, which is married to trendy bars and pre-club hangouts. It is also full of stylish and exclusive restaurants; armfuls of art galleries; multitudes of museums; hundreds of theatres; it has more parkland that most other major cities in the world; a prevalent major waterway in the River Thames which remains�bustling, rejuvenating and scenically impressive all at the same time; great shops and
a pop culture that other European cities strive to match.

Specifically, you should try and visit the following areas if you get the chance:

The Westend is usually the core of many tourists visit to London as it is home to Leicester Square (full of cinemas and buskers); Covent Garden (shops, street theatre and cafes); Oxford Street (even more shops); and Soho (once infamous for its seedy sex shops, it is now more synonymous with gay bars, trendy clubs, cafes and restaurants).

Trafalgar Square

Within five minutes walking distance from here you also have Piccadilly Circus (traffic jams and neon lights); Trafalgar Square (embassies, Nelson's column and pigeons), Charring Cross Road (book shops and theatres); and Tottenham Court Road (all journeys in search of electronics end here).

An array of new tourist attractions opened up last year to coincide with the city's Millennium celebrations, these include the Millennium Dome (now closed and a major visitor centre, but still standing); the London Eye (a huge Ferris wheel located on the South Bank, it boasts the best birds eye views of London); the Tate Gallery of Modern Art (known simply as Tate Modern, found on Bankside, south of the river, the nearest tube is Southwark (Jubilee line) or Blackfriars (District & Circle line); and the yet to open Millennium Bridge.

South of Trafalgar Square heading towards the River Thames you will find the political centre of the city centred around� Whitehall, Parliament Square, the Houses of Parliament, Downing Street, Big Ben and nearby Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace.

Across the river is the infamous South Bank, also known as the concrete jungle as its grey buildings reflect an obsession with it in the early 1970s. But don't let its dull fa�ade fool you, it is home to the Royal Festival Hall, the National Theatre, the London Eye, and the London Aquarium. It is always full of buskers, book markets and skateboarders and brimming with atmosphere not to mention the odd bit of live music or street theatre.

If you are a fan of green open spaces, visit one of London's many parks. The parkland conurbation of St James's Park, Green Park (opposite Buckingham
Palace), Hyde Park (Speakers Corner) and Kensington Gardens (home of the Serpentine Gallery) stretches from Whitehall to Notting Hill in the west.

Just to the north of Oxford Street you can find Regents Park (home of London Zoo); more north still is Hampstead Heath (full of bathing ponds and home to Kenwood House). In the opposite direction, south of the River you'll find Battersea Park (complete with a Buddhist temple) and Richmond Park (home to wild deer).

If you visit London to 'do' the shops you have plenty of choice. If you are wealthy or into designer clothes Knightsbridge (Harrods), Mayfair, New Bond Street, and Kensington are the places to head for. The Kings Road in Chelsea (Sloane Square tube) is also a great place to shop.

If you're on Oxford Street and want something a bit more exclusive, head for Bond Street tube station where you'll find South Molton Street and St. Christopher's Place,� where bespoke boutiques and big names can be found.

On a weekend, Portobello Market in Notting Hill or Camden Market in Camden Town are good places to visit for second hand chic. In the East End, Sunday markets, selling everything from fruit and vegetables to jewellery and junk, are held on Petticoat Lane and Brick Lane, E1, while Columbia Road, E2, is brightened with a flower market.

If you are into antiques, visit Spitalfields Market, E1; Camden Passage (in Islington, Angel Tube) N1, and Greenwich Market, SE10.

There�are also an abundance of museums in London. Some of the best include the British Museum (nearest tube Russell Square), it's the oldest museum in the world, and can take you days to plough through it.

On Cromwell Road in South Kensington you'll find the Victoria & Albert Museum and its 4 million artefacts; and the Natural History Museum, which is
one of the finest buildings in London. The Science Museum is also a big favourite with tourists.

Although the City is the financial hub of London, it is also its oldest part and is home to the amazing St Paul's Cathedral, which was constructed by Sir Christopher Wren between 1675 and 1710, and stands on the site of two previous cathedrals dating back to 604.

If you are into art,� you could do a lot worse than visit London. The Barbican Art Gallery (within the Barbican Centre in EC2) hosts thematic shows, including lots of photography; The ICA (The Mall, nearest tube Charing Cross) has two gallery spaces for contemporary art; the Royal Academy on Piccadilly is famous for its one-off shows, including its Summer Exhibition; the Haywood Gallery (South Bank Centre, Waterloo tube) is a good target if you're into modern art; the Saachi Gallery in NW8 (nearest tube, Swiss Cottage) is infamous for its modern shows, including installations; the Whitechapel Gallery is another great venue for contemporary art (nearest tube, Aldgate East).

Trafalgar Square is home to the National Gallery, which has one of the world's most impressive art collections and the National Portrait Gallery.

If you have time to head out of the centre of town, Greenwich is a good destination, it is home to the National Maritime Museum and the Observatory (home of GMT), and old ships including the Cutty Sark and the Gypsy Moth.

North of the river, Highgate Cemetery (nearest tube Highgate or Archway, both on the Northern Line) is a big tourist attraction as it contains the remains many famous people including Karl Marx and George Eliot.

If you intend to visit a lot of galleries and museums it is best to buy a Go See card, which costs �10 per day or �16 for three days and allows you unlimited access to most museums and galleries.

Q. Is it easy to get around London
Yes it is very easy if you use an A-Z street map available from newsagents and use the tube (underground system) or the bus network. If you need information on the tube or bus services contact London Transport.

If you are using the public transport system it is best to purchase a travelcard (offered for the day, week or month), which allows unrestricted travel on the tube, busses and the overland railway. Passes are available from all tube stations, railway stations and some bus terminals. You will need a photocard for any pass that lasts for longer than a day.

Extensive information on London is available from the London Tourist Board. Tel: (0906) 133 7799 (24-hour general tourist information) or (0906) 866 3344 (24-hour London Line 2000).

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By Karen Anderson

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