Jessica Padykula is a freelance writer and editor in Toronto, Canada covering a wide range of topics for several online lifestyle publications. She is a regular contributor for SheKnows, covering travel, style, relationships, health and...
Ready for take-off? This week Frequent Flier is heading across the pond. London is one of our favorite cities. With so much to see and do, great places to shop and cozy pubs to stop into for a pint, it's a wonder we ever get back on the plane to come home. With the 2012 Summer Games in London just around the corner, we thought we’d share some of the top tourist spots in the city to give you a taste of what it has to offer.
Get your art fix at Tate Modern London, the national gallery of international modern art for Britain. Created in 2000, it's become world renowned as a top spot for modern art from around the world and well worth a few hours. The collection at Tate Modern includes all the major modern art movements and features all the big names, from Picasso and Dali to Matisse and Mirò. Take a free guided tour (daily) to get a glimpse of the highlights. On now: Check out the first major Damien Hirst exhibition in the UK (until Sept. 9).
Tower of London
Constructed more than 900 years ago, this London landmark is packed with interesting things to see and do. Take in the Queen's Crown Jewels (23,578 gems), check out 500 years' worth of royal armor, visit the White Tower overlooking the River Thames at the center of the Tower of London and take a trip back in time at the medieval palace.
Open from 10 a.m. until midnight during the 2012 Summer Games, the London Eye is a great way to get a bird's-eye view of the city. Built in March 2000 (known then as the Millennium Wheel), it has quickly become one of London's most iconic attractions. Each rotation is about 30 minutes, and you can see almost 25 miles from the top!
St. Paul's Cathedral
Built between 1675 and 1710, St. Paul's Cathedral is must on any visit to London. First up: Climb the iconic dome. First you'll get to the Whispering Gallery, named for its unique acoustics (a whisper on one side can be heard 100 feet away!). Keep climbing and you'll find the Golden Gallery (only 271 more steps), where your climb will be rewarded with fantastic panoramic views of London.
From ceramics and jewelry to metalwork, paintings and sculpture, the V&A is home to artifacts from around the world. If you're not sure where to start, do what we did and join a daily free introductory tour to get a better idea of what's available and where you want to spend your time among the extensive displays.
Bonus: Have kids? Keep them from getting bored by borrowing a V&A backpack filled with fun activities for kids ages five to 12. Stories, puzzles, construction games and other hands-on activities easily ensure everyone stays happy.
Covent Garden is one of our top must-stop spots in London — with good reason. From speciality shops and cute cafes to great bars, restaurants and people watching, it's not hard to spend hours wandering, shopping, snacking and sipping. Street performers abound and events take place daily so you'll always find something to see. Don't forget to check out the Real Food Market (Thursday to Saturday) teeming with delectable food stalls.
The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, London are not only stunning to walk through (there are more species grown here than any other garden in the world). Kew Gardens is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Wander through the myriad landscapes, glasshouses, a treetop walkway (fun for kids), even a gallery of botanical art. The gardens also offer live music and theater.
Boasting an incredible eight million objects in its collection the British Museum is one of the most interesting places you'll visit while you're in London. Founded in 1753, the fascinating collection spans more than two million years of human history. Highlights include an Easter Island statue, the Rosetta Stone, Parthenon sculptures and the Mummy of Katabet, one of the most-studied Egyptian mummies. Love the Bard? Starting July 19 (until Nov. 25), you can check out a major exhibition on the world of Shakespeare.
Regents Park and
One of our favorite places to fit in a jog in London, Regent's Park, (a whopping 410 acres), was designed in 1811 and features stunning rose gardens. The park is also the largest outdoor sports area in London with spots for football, softball, rugby and cricket. The diverse outdoor space is also home to the London Zoo, the Open Air Theatre (see performances until early September), bandstands and a boating lake. Bonus: The view from the top of Primrose Hill is one of the best in the city and not to be missed. Bring your camera.
Did you know: Big Ben is poised for a name change. The iconic tower will be renamed Elizabeth Tower in honor of the Queen's 60-year reign.
No visit to London is complete without saying hello to Big Ben, one of the city's most well-known and recognizable attractions. Big Ben actually refers to the giant bell inside the clock tower, which weighs more than 13 tons. Other fun facts to note: the tower comes in at 315 feet tall, the minute hands are nearly 14 feet long and the numbers measure approximately 24 inches in length. Photo op: The clock tower looks especially photo-worthy at night when the four clock faces are illuminated.
Pack your bags and join us next time when we take a trip to gorgeous Antigua, Guatemala.