Impress Your London Visitor In Just One Day
Most of my visitors arrive jetlagged, queue for London Eye tickets, have their bags stolen in Covent Garden and snooze through ‘Hairspray’, so they don’t always see the best side of London.
If you have someone staying from overseas this winter, you can impress them even if they’ve been here before by taking them to places they probably won’t have seen.
Then send them to The Building Centre, 26 Store St WC1. Here they’ll find a massive 1:1500 scale model map of London where they can quickly get their bearings, and the Imagination Gallery next door usually has cool exhibitions relating to the London skyline.
If you’re collecting your visitor from Eurostar at St Pancras International, whip them over to King’s Place, York Way N1 for coffee – Rotunda is a white circular bar/restaurant with an outside terrace overlooking the calm, wildlife-filled Battlebridge Basin, yet you’re in central London. There are art galleries and two concert halls here.
If you want to impress your guest with your knowledge of hidden museums, take them to the Sir John Soane at 12 Lincoln’s Inn Fields WC2 and get the gentleman with the white gloves to open up the secret Hogarth room – until a couple of years ago you used to be able to open it yourself – this reveals a second room, then opens yet again to display the airy atrium. The building is riddled with little tricks like this, and the attendants will be happy to show you. They also do candelit tours.
You could also go for a English Tea in the Italian Courtyard at the Wallace Collection ( an oasis which houses ‘The Laughing Cavalier’, just off Oxford Street), but the best trick is to go there just after dark when it’s illuminated.
Somerset House is a gem, not just because of their fountains, ice rink and summer screenings, but because so many films have been shot at the rear of the building. Nicole Kidman comes here in ‘Portrait Of A Lady’ and Pierce Brosnan reports for duty in ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’. I like to take tea on the broad, sunny terrace. This is a shot used for the ‘Sherlock Holmes’ movie.
Then if your guests still have the time and energy to go to the London Eye afterwards, that’s their call.