The Thames is the backbone of London and a natural focus for festivals and flotillas. Walk along its banks or take an excursion boat to enjoy an historic journey.
• The Thames will be the backdrop for the Diamond Jubilee River Pageant on 3 June.
• Poetry Parnassus (26 June-2 July) will bring 205 poets from the Olympic and Paralympic nations together at the Southbank Centre for a huge poetry festival.
• London Duck Tours presents the Duckathlon (27 July-9 September), a triathlon-inspired sightseeing tour by road and river.
• Olympic and Paralympic ticket holders can board the Thames Clippers 2012 Games riverbus service. Travel from central London to Greenwich Park and North Greenwich Arena in 30 minutes.
London is a city of spectacular views, whether you’re watching a Waterloo sunset, flying a kite on Parliament Hill or peering down from the top of St Paul’s.
• Skip pricey open-top bus tours and sit on the top deck of a regular London bus. The 168 from Waterloo to Hampstead Heath and the 7 from Westbourne Grove to Russell Square are two of many fascinating routes. Click here for all routes
• To see the entire city and enjoy a thrilling ride, you can’t beat the London Eye. A standard ticket costs £18.60. Book in advance and receive a 10% discount.
• Visit Tate Modern, the iconic gallery showing work by world-famous artists, for free. Take tea in the café and admire the riverscape and the marvellous Millennium Bridge, leading straight to St Paul’s. Jump on a boat to Tate Britain right outside if you want to visit both galleries.
• Zoom up in the lift to the 28th floor of the Park Lane Hilton for a fancy cocktail served with a panoramic view in the Galvin at Windows bar and restaurant.
Style-wise, London is the world’s coolest city and pure fashion heaven. It’s impossible not to splash out, so save your money and prepare to splurge.
• Hit Covent Garden for boutiques, Oxford Street for chain stores and Carnaby Street for style. Harvey Nichols and Harrods rule in Knightsbridge and don’t forget Liberty – on Regent Street, W1, a quirky department store housed in a historical building.
• Spitalfields Market is a unique fashion mecca on Saturdays and Sundays, while nearby Brick Lane buzzes on Sundays, with young designers selling their work amidst the curry houses. Buy a corsage from Columbia Road Market, open on Sundays for beautiful flowers, plus buzzing shops and cafés.
• The Westfield Stratford City at the gateway to the Olympics Park is a new consumer paradise of 228 shops, 72 restaurants and 17 cinema screens.
• Camden Lock Market is open for food and fashion every day of the week.
Explore on foot, by bike, by bus, train or Tube. Find maps and journey planners at www.tfl.gov.uk or at any Tube station.
Buy an Oyster card for cheaper bus and Tube travel. Pay a £5 deposit and add as much credit as you want.
Reach the Olympic sites on the high-speed Javelin shuttle from St Pancras International station to Stratford International in the Olympic Village.
Pick up a hire bike. Known as Boris bikes in honour of the tousle-haired mayor, these shiny blue steeds give pedal power to visitors and locals. To find out how to access a bike, visit www.tfl.gov.uk.
For a leafy shortcut, follow the Regents Canal, which runs from Paddington Basin, through Regents Park, Camden and Islington, then down to meet the Thames at Limehouse. Walking along this tranquil waterway makes a delightful day out.
This year is a special one in history, so bring your children to join in the action. Many things are free, from wandering the world’s best museums to watching street performers in Covent Garden. London’s parks are green and gorgeous, ideal for a picnic.
• Enjoy the magic of the V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green to discover the history of toys, see magical exhibitions and join in with the delightful activity programme.
• Escape to London Zoo to see England’s biggest penguin pool and marvel at an astonishing range of animals, reptiles and birds. Fast-track your entry by booking a ticket online.
London offers a world of exotic, affordable cuisine. Try Chinese in Chinatown, Indian/ Bengali food on Brick Lane, Vietnamese in Dalston and Turkish food in Stoke Newington. Expect a vast choice and lots of budget options. Many upmarket restaurants offer excellent set-price lunches and pre-theatre/ cinema bargains.
Splash out on afternoon tea at Claridges.
Tayyabs in Whitechapel is famous for its Pakistani Punjabi cuisine. Dinner costs around £12.
From luxurious hotels to budget bolt-holes, you can find a London base to suit you. Staying with Londoners who have a spare room to rent can be an enjoyable and affordable option, especially during the Olympics, when prices may rise. Visit www.londonhomestays.com and www.accommodationforthegames.com. For more suggestions, visit www.londontown.com or www.visitlondon.com/accommodation.
Built in Victorian times as Marylebone Station hotel, it’s five star all the way, with some of the biggest bedrooms in London, a luxurious spa and a selection of elegant restaurants and bars. The showstopper is the glass-roofed atrium at the heart of the hotel, rising eight storeys and housing the Winter Garden restaurant, where you can enjoy breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea or dinner to the accompaniment of live music. Double rooms are priced from £150. Read our full review here or visit www.landmarklondon.co.uk.
Thistle Kensington Gardens
Opposite Kensington Gardens, this newly refurbished hotel has amazing views from the eighth floor of the Albert Memorial to Battersea Power Station. Visit www.thistle.com
Crowne Plaza London
With great views of St Paul’s, this friendly hotel has tasteful, comfortable bedrooms and a buzzing atmosphere. Try a St Paul’s martini or afternoon tea in its stylish Nineteen Below bar or dine in the Giorgio Locatelli fine- dining Italian restaurant, Refettorio. Sizzling Sichuan dishes are served in the Chinese Cricket Club. Prima readers can book a special package – one night in a newly renovated deluxe room with breakfast and a three-course meal for two worth £100 in the Chinese Cricket Club, for £245. Available from Thursday through to Saturday and subject to availability, until 29 February 2012. Visit www.crowneplaza.com/londonthecity or call 020 7438 8000, quoting Prima.
The Arosfa, Bloomsbury
Once the home of Pre-Raphaelite painter Millais, today it’s a charming budget hotel, which welcomes everyone from single travellers to families. With a comfortable lounge offering free tea, coffee and internet access, a pretty garden and clean, inviting rooms, this is an excellent base, minutes from the British Museum. Double rooms with breakfast from £97. Visit www.arosfalondon.com or call 020 7636 2115.
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