Top tips to make a short London stay happily memorable
Whether you've visited London before or you're making a maiden voyage, you can always use a few pointers to help keep yourself on track when you get there. The capital of England has so much history, grandeur and life packed into its 600-plus square miles that you'll barely catch a glimpse in two days of what it holds. But, if you maximize your time – and your money – you'll come home with a lifetime's worth of memories.
The Palace of Westminster, otherwise known as the House of Parliament. The Palace's Perpendicular Gothic design, its cutting outline in the shadow of Big Ben and its enormity –
nearly 8 acres– impresses with its majesty. The Palace of Westminster offers several tour options, including guided and audio tours, and it's proximity to other points of interest, such as Buckingham Palace, Churchill War Rooms and Westminster Abbey, lets you knock out a full day's itinerary without need for a taxi or bus.
- The British Museum – it will rock your cultured world. You'll see the Rosetta Stone, the Parthenon Sculptures, the Mummy of Katebet, the Sloane Astrolabe and an Easter Island statue – and those are just a few of the 25 pieces in Room Four. The British Museum has around 8 million pieces in its collection, the oldest a 2-million-year-old stone chopping tool, which you'll probably need to make your way through the crowds if you visit during peak hours or special events. To save time and achieve maximum viewing time, purchase your tickets online, arrive before the 10 a.m. opening and shoot for a sunny day when attendance tends to run lower.
- Shakespeare's Globe, a reconstruction based on the original Globe Theater owned by Shakespeare's acting troupe, the Lord Chamberlain's Men. Fire destroyed the original Globe in 1613, but you can still visit the original site a little over 200 yards away from the new location. Opened in 1997, the reconstruction stays true to the original in all aspects save capacity, as safety requirements limit visitors to about half of the original Globe's 3,000-person capacity at any time. During a visit, you can see current productions, hear performances in the dialect commonly spoken by 17th-century actors and enjoy so many tours and exhibitions you'll know exactly how many of Shakespeare's plays feature an eye-gouging scene.
The hop-on/hop-off open-top bus tours. Seeing London from a bus is like trying to view wildlife in a passing car
the scene changes so rapidly you can't appreciate the beauty of each specimen. Instead, rent a bike. The city has over 11,500 bikes available at over 750 docking stations citywide, and you can get riding for as little as £2 (about $2.50 as of June 2017).
- Harrod's, unless you really need a $54,000 Krug champagne trunk, a $10,000 box of Patchi chocolates or a $233,000 bottle of Clive Christian No. 1 perfume. Even a plastic stadium cup with the Harrod's logo printed on it will set you back more than $10. Instead, hit up some of the local markets, such as Camden Lock Market or Portobello Road Market, where you'll find thousands of stalls packed with vintage clothes, handmade jewelry, toys and gifts that fit any taste and budget.
Check the weather forecast before you leave to determine if you'll need a raincoat. For those who want to play it safe, pack a raincoat and umbrella
– it's London.
Pick up a Type-G three-pin power adapter in the States for your laptops and mobile devices. They cost much more at Heathrow Airport and pretty much anywhere else a tourist might purchase one.
Leave your suitcases and large bags in your hotel when visiting major attractions like the House of Parliament and the British Museum, because
security is tight. You don't have to out yourself as an American at first sight with a fanny pack, but a light, compact day bag works nicely.