11 Exceptional London Experiences

A statue of Queen Boadicea near Big Ben. Jeremy Hoare
By Lesley Logan

When you start craving seeing more of London than just the bits that are associated with the royals, here's some of our favorite capital experiences for you to try.

Photo Caption: The iconic Big Ben.
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Evening view of the Tower of London, seen from across the River Thames. It has a long and bloody history and is also home to the English Crown Jewels. The white tower is the oldest medieval building, thought to date from 1078, serving as a fortress, armory and royal residence. In 1988, the Tower was designated as a World Heritage Site. Simon McBride
Chat with Sir Walter Raleigh, William the Conqueror, and other historical figures at the Tower of London. The Tower's entertaining actors have their characters' life stories down pat, and are walking, talking history. Don't be shy; they love to interact with visitors and answer questions. They may even approach you in a friendly, if archaic ("What ho, my good lady? Methinks thou art in need of a boon companion") manner as you wander around.

Photo Caption: Evening view of the Tower of London, seen from across the River Thames.
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A blown glass sculpture at the Victoria & Albert Museum. Frommers.com Community
Drink champagne and dig the music at the Late View at the V&A, held under the museum's obese glass chandelier on Friday evening. Several of the renowned museum's galleries are open for exploring, and the relaxed atmosphere makes for a leisurely and seductive visit. Pick up a ticket for one of the lectures that start at 7pm, and round out the night with a browse through the gift shop.

Photo Caption: A blown glass sculpture at the Victoria & Albert Museum. Photo by Donna Natasa/Frommers.com Community
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Breakfast time at St. James Place's The Wolseley in London. Loic Le Meur
Dine next to a celebrity at The Wolseley, but act unimpressed. Don't even think about autographs, cameras, or gaping at this Piccadilly hot spot, where the modern British cuisine is good and the clientele often stellar. Make lunch and dinner reservations in advance of your visit. Weekdays and nights are better than weekends to catch sight of a celeb or royal, and remember that only Americans dine before 8pm.

Photo Caption: Breakfast time at St. James Place's The Wolseley in London. Photo by Loic Le Meur/Flickr.com
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A bridge across the Serpentine River in Hyde Park during the late afternoon in late February. John Troynousky
Crisscross Hyde Park's scenic Serpentine in a paddle boat on a sunny morning as ducks and geese wheel overhead. The little island on the north side is reputed to be local resident J. M. Barrie's inspiration for the Island of the Lost Boys in Peter Pan. Bring a camera and your energy, or opt for a rowboat and let a companion do the work.

Photo Caption: A bridge across the Serpentine River in Hyde Park during the late afternoon in late February.
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The famous Portobello Road in London. stefano.petraz
Haggle for a bargain at Portobello Road Market, either at the open-air stalls or in the warrens of indoor arcades. You may get 10% to 15% off the asking price, which everyone involved knows is set just for that probability. Saturday's the big day for this famous antiques market, and part of the fun is sharing the street with seething crowds of bargain hunters and loiterers.

Photo Caption: The famous Portobello Road in London. Photo by stefano.petraz/Flickr.com
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Riders on Rotten Rown in London's Hyde Park. Frommers.com Community
Ride down Hyde Park's Rotten Row on horseback and you'll feel like a character from a 19th-century English novel, as you pass joggers, in-line skaters, and bicyclists. There's no better way to absorb the atmosphere of London's most popular park.

Photo Caption: Riders on Rotten Rown in London's Hyde Park. Photo by lightspeedxm/Frommers.com Community
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Millennium Bridge stretches over the Thames River between St. Paul's Cathedral and Tate Modern. Frommers.com Community
Stand in the middle of the Thames on the Millennium Bridge, which spans not just the river, but the centuries, with St. Paul's Cathedral on one side and the Tate Modern on the other. The views of the cityscape are impressive, especially at sunrise and sunset.

Photo Caption: Millennium Bridge stretches over the Thames River between St. Paul's Cathedral and Tate Modern. Photo by CliffK/Frommers.com Community
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Shakespeare's Globe Theatre has been reconstructed on London's Bankside, located just 200 yards from the site of the original building. Richard Turpin
Become part of the play at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre as one of the "groundlings" who stand in front of the stage, much as the rabble did during Shakespeare's time. You never know when the actors might mingle among you as they bellow out their lines. It's a truly Elizabethan experience, minus the thieves and the spitting.

Photo Caption: Shakespeare's Globe Theatre has been reconstructed on London's Bankside, located just 200 yards from the site of the original building.
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London Aquarium and the London Eye lit for night. Frommers.com Community
The top of the city's amazing Ferris wheel, the London Eye, is the best place to get a picture-perfect shot of the capital's far-reaching landscape. Any time is a good moment to take this "flight," but for a truly breathtaking photo op, jump aboard on a late afternoon as the sun starts sinking and the lights come on across the city. Tour guides will talk you through all the sights you can see, from spy central M15 to distant Alexandra Palace.

Photo Caption: London Aquarium and the London Eye lit for night. Photo by iamme82889/Frommers.com Community
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A view of nightfall on Leicester Square lit by the bright neon lights of the Empire Cinema. Peter Wilson
Eat ice cream at the intermission of a first-class production as a well-deserved splurge for having gotten a half-price ticket for a very good seat at one of London's many famous theaters. If ice cream's not your thing, order drinks before your play starts and pick them up during the interval. Chin, chin.

Photo Caption: A view of nightfall on Leicester Square lit by the bright neon lights of the Empire Cinema.
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The National Gallery in London Fiona Wong
Print a poster of your favorite masterpiece at the National Gallery. The computers in this world-renowned museum's Sainsbury Wing offer virtual reconnaissance tours of this huge, treasure-packed museum and allow you to browse, choose, and print out high-quality posters of your favorite paintings in a variety of sizes. The database is huge and intelligently organized
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