Every week our Holiday Hero Neil Simpson takes an in-depth look at a brilliant holiday topic, doing all the legwork so you don’t have to. This week: Why there’s rarely been a better time to visit the capital.
London is calling if you want a perfect day out or mini-break in the UK. More blockbuster attractions reopen every day, with most displaying the official ‘Good To Go’ stamp to confirm they follow the latest rules on Covid-secure hygiene and social distancing.
Visit now and you can enjoy the capital without the crowds. Usually in August up to 60 per cent of those on Tubes and in museums are tourists. Now they’re conspicuous by their absence.
Capital culture: Tower Bridge’s glass floor, which is 150ft above the river
Here’s what’s open, but check details online as many places are asking visitors to reserve timed entry slots in advance…
‘Whale hello again’ is the message from Hope, the vast skeleton of the blue whale now hanging in the entrance of the Natural History Museum. The complex reopened last week and is still free. The neighbouring Victoria & Albert Museum is also open and will soon be followed by the Science Museum where a new exhibition on Artificial Intelligence and Driverless Cars launches on August 19.
In Trafalgar Square The National Gallery is open with limited visitor numbers so you can get unobstructed views at its world-beating Titian exhibition, ‘Love, Desire, Death’.
London landmarks are welcoming guests as well. Head to the Tower Bridge Experience to climb the grand Victorian staircase then edge across the glass floor of the walkway 150ft above the river. St Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey (with the new Queen’s Window designed by David Hockney), the London Eye, Madame Tussauds, the Churchill War Rooms and other attractions are back in business.
On the banks of the Thames, the long queues for river boats have disappeared so you can now board a Clipper service within minutes. There are onboard loos so you can wash your hands before sitting back to enjoy the views. If you fancy piloting your own boat, head to Hyde Park where pedalos are for rent on the Serpentine and cafes in every Royal Park are open.
Head east to explore London’s newest park, the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, alongside the huge Westfield shopping centre in Stratford. Relive the glories of 2012 amid acres of green space, and head for the Aquatic Centre, which is open for pre-booked swims, or the main stadium where tours restart soon. You can also ‘Ride The Slide’, hurtling down the helter-skelter built into the ArcelorMital Orbit tower.
The London Eye, Madame Tussauds (pictured above), the Churchill War Rooms and other attractions are back in business
Back in the heart of the capital, small-group guided tours are being re-introduced if you want to brush up your history. Walks.com is capturing the mood of the season with a new Disastrous London tour covering everything from the Black Death and the Great Fire to modern zombie films.
Shopping can be a pleasure with more room to browse at big-name stores such as Hamleys, Harrods, Selfridges and Fortnum & Mason.
While summer tours of Buckingham Palace have been cancelled, its shop remains open, selling royal souvenirs and gifts.
Though West End theatres are closed, theatreland is open. Several streets in Covent Garden and Soho have been pedestrianised and restaurant tables are spilling across the space. Family favourites such as the Hard Rock Cafe are open, while locals say it’s never been easier to get a table at high-end haunts such as The Ivy.