London for the switched-on: 7 unmissable capital attractions


Visitors to London can afford to – and should be choosy – in terms of what they go and see during a stay in the city. Indeed, with a bit of thought and research, it’s possible for the savvy traveller to successfully mix up what they do in the UK capital, being the fantastic, fascinatingly diverse metropolis it is; blending the must-see tourist landmarks with more unusual, eclectic and undeniably rewarding attractions. Here are some suggestions…

Science Museum
(Exhibition Road SW7 2DD)
Inside this South Kensington institution, you’ll discover a dynamic and compelling collection of exhibitions, dedicated to the likes of space exploration, the physics behind locomotion and interactive science-learning. It also offers‘Science Museum’s Lates’, which ensures grown-ups can wander its wonders on the last Wednesday of every month without the crowds and noisy little ones of the day. Each night is based around a different theme, such as wearable tech or crime.
(Open: 10am-6pm daily; apart from the last Wednesday of the month – see above)

Victoria and Albert Museum
Victoria & Albert Museum
(Cromwell Road SW7 2RL)
Containing the largest collection of design and decorative arts on the planet, The V&A’s undoubtedly a classy cornucopia of curation and culture. Like the Science Museum, it also offers appealing late-night openings for adults only; ‘Friday Lates’ sees DJs and bartenders join the fascinating objects on display, while for those visitors who may still need convincing it’s working hard to shed its stuffy reputation, consider the fact that in recent years it’s held exhibition of the work of fashion designer Alexander McQueen, as well as ‘Disobedient Objects’, a provocative and moving display of objects and artefacts from protest movements over the last century.
(Open: 10am-5.45pm Monday-Thursday and Saturdays; 10am-10pm Fridays)

Westminster Abbey
(20 Deans Yard SW1P 3PA)
Finally, truly one of those major London attractions that you can’t help but be impressed and moved by, the Abbey tends to get overlooked as a tiresome tourist mega-zone, but it shouldn’t. It’s a place to bask in architectural and cultural grandeur for surely any visitor, being near one thousand-year-old icon and final resting place of so many monarchs, thinkers and visionaries.
(Open: 9.30am-3.30pm Monday-Saturday; closed on Sundays)

The Shard
(32 London Bridge Street SE1 9SG)
There’s two big reasons to give this latest of London’s skyscrapers, located at London Bridge (and so very easy to get to via the Tube from The Montcalm London City at The Brewery Hotel), a visit. First, the controversy. A cross between a sky-splitting needle and a glass pyramid, it has as many detractors as enthusiasts and is an undeniable landmark of the London skyline. Second, its views. Although a trip to the top will cost you a whopping £30, you’ll have to travel a very long way to top the panorama it offers from its viewing floor near the summit – it boasts a staggering forty-mile viewing radius.
(‘The View from The Shard’ open: 10am-7pm Sunday-Wednesday; 10am-10pm Thursday-Saturday)

Leake street graffiti tunnel, Waterloo
Leake Street
Just a short hop from The Shard, here’s another essential exponent of the modern London cultural experience.This seemingly unassuming alley round the back of the Waterloo area actually offers up work by some of the best street artists and underground performance artists you’ll find anywhere. Something of a tunnel-shaped canvas, modern theatre space and, yes, shortcut for commuters, this attraction (which is often known as ‘Banksy Alley’) will demonstrate all you need to discover to get a fresh, lively and genuine taste of the London that’s beneath the surface of the London that everyone thinks they know. Give it a try and see for yourself.

Somerset House
(Strand WC2R 1LA)
Thanks to housing the recently relocated Courtald Gallery, the Tudor vaults, London Fashion Week (when it’s on) and a vast square taken up by fountains for the little ones in summer and an ice-skating rink in winter for everyone, Somerset House is a marvellous destination. However, less well known – but just as worthy – is its history; it’s always been a prominent building, having been 17th Century residence of the nobility and a critical base for naval and customs officialdom. So why not book a historical tour and then enjoy a cocktail on the back terrace?
(Open: 10am-6pm daily)

Portobello Road market
Finally, one of the world’s most vibrant and colourful street markets,this world-famous attraction boasts everything from fantastic food stalls to local fashion designers and vintage treasures to unmissable trinkets.Just remember to take out some cash before you descend on all the stalls, as very few will probably allow you to pay with plastic!