London, England things to do and travel guide: 20 reasons to vist

1 SEE Diana: Her Fashion Story

In part to commemorate the 20th anniversary of her death, Kensington Palace is inviting all to celebrate the life of Diana, Princess of Wales, by way of her fashion sense. The major new dress exhibition traces the evolution of Diana's style, from earlier understated outfits to out-and-out glamour later in life. It's timely for other reasons too, those cocktail frocks are back on the catwalks; the chic are looking to Di for inspiration. There will also be a palette of spring flowers inspired by Diana's style planted in the Palace's Sunken Garden. It opens February 24 and runs all year. See hrp.org.uk/kensington-palace

2 SIP High tea at the Berkeley *

After a day of shopping at Harrods or Harvey Nichols, head to the nearby Berkeley Hotel for their designer afternoon tea, Pret-a-Portea. Pastry chef Mourad Khiat has chosen his favourite creations inspired by famous fashion designers. You can bite into a mini Jimmy Choo glittery gala show velvet praline cream cake and a Moschino blood orange Victoria sponge "yellow" M handbag. Pair them with a glass of Laurent-Perrier champagne, and sit back and admire the design in the newly renovated Collins Room (named after designer, David Collins). Afterwards, if you're still hungry slip in next door to Marcus Wareing's eponymous restaurant. See the-berkeley.co.uk

Sit back with your cuppa and admire the newly renovated Collins Room at the Berkeley Hotel.

Sit back with your cuppa and admire the newly renovated Collins Room at the Berkeley Hotel. Photo: Supplied

3 SEE Tate Modern's new Switch House

With Tate Modern having unveiled its new extension in 2016, there's now another reason to visit the art museum. The pyramid-like Switch House not only offers more precious gallery space, there's also a roof terrace offering panoramic views of London. Expect to view more art by women; 50 per cent of the solo rooms are by female artists including Phyllida Barlow and Louise Bourgeois. And put it in the diary to see Tate Modern's major summer exhibition, Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power (from July12 to October 22, 2017). Be sure to check out the huge tree sculpture by Ai Weiwei which stands in the centre of the older building's Turbine Hall. See tate.org.uk

4 STRETCH Take a yoga class *

Feeling a little lagged after that mammoth longhaul flight? This is just the tonic. Book in for an Inner Axis yoga class at Triyoga on Kings Road in Chelsea. These classes are designed to deal with sleeplessness and stress with breath-based yoga based on the methods taught by yogi Max Strom. It's for all levels, plus there's a great view of the Kings Road – the style capital of the swinging '60s – from the window. There's an organic deli onsite serving kale chips and fresh juices after class. Look up a class on the day you land, it is a guaranteed way to stop tiredness creeping in. Triyoga participate in the ClassPass program where guests can purchase a flexible membership. See classpass.com and triyoga.co.uk

5 EAT Lunch at Helene Darroze *

Choose what you will be dining on by eliminating white marbles on a Chinese checkerboard at this two Michelin-starred restaurant. If you're having three courses, you leave three marbles, each with an ingredient name on it. It's a fun approach to Darroze's modern cuisine; her team will whip up something sensational with your chosen ingredients as the star. The French chef was awarded the Veuve Clicquot World's Best Female Chef in 2015. Housed in the grand art deco glory of Mayfair's the Connaught hotel, (wood-panelled walls, curvy upholstered chairs) the dining experience is modern yet classic, plus the dishes arrive sans stuffy service. See the-connaught.co.uk/mayfair-restaurants/helene-darroze

6 VISIT The Forbidden Forest

On the Warner Bros Studio Tour in Leavesden, you can soon venture into the Forbidden Forest to see among the trees a full-size model of Buckbeak the Hippogriff. Be sure to be on the lookout for Aragog, the giant spider, and his family of eight-legged friends. It's all part of Harry Potter experience at this working studio set adjacent where all the eight films were made. The Studio Tour offers fans the opportunity to explore two soundstages and a backlot filled with original sets and special effects. Opens March 31. See wbstudiotour.co.uk

7 VIEW London Design Museum *

Britain's only museum dedicated entirely to contemporary design and architecture is worth visiting alone just to experience the brand new building. In an £83 million transformation, leading architectural designer John Pawson has converted the interior of the former Commonwealth Institute, a mid-century structure, into an impressive building within a building. Be sure to look up at the curves of the hyperbolic paraboloid roof. Of course, the exhibitions are impressive too, including the permanent (and free) exhibition, Designer, Maker, User, featuring favourite pieces of everyday design including a London Tube map, a slinky and denim jeans. See designmuseum.org

Britain's only museum dedicated entirely to contemporary design and architecture is worth a visit.

Britain's only museum dedicated entirely to contemporary design and architecture is worth a visit. Photo: Supplied

8 SHOP: Hackney Walk

Done all the High Street chains and looking for more bargains? There's a new outlet mall to check out in the east end. Hackney Walk on Morning Lane is London's first luxury outlet district. Housed in a series of transformed rail arches, expect the likes of Nike, Aquascutum, Anya Hindmarch and Bally with prices up to 70 per cent off. The Pringle store, in a former Victorian pub, stocks leftover fashions from its Mayfair store and the Burberry Factory store nearby offers discounts on trench coats. There's also a pop-up shop where local designer sell their wares. See hackneywalk.com

9 TRAIN at Claridges

Sure, most might go to Claridge's for the delightful art deco Fumoir Bar, or maybe afternoon tea in the foyer, but if you really want to experience the hotel (without actually staying there) book in a personal training session with the in-house Freedom2Train team on the top floor of the hotel. Not only will you get a session taking in elements of yoga, crossfit and HIIT, they can give you nutritional advice as well. An added bonus is walking down the hallways of this historic hotel, made wide enough to accommodate hoop skirts from 1800s (Queen Victoria was even a guest). And you can go for a champagne at the bar afterwards as a reward. See claridges.co.uk

Book in a personal training session on the top floor of the hotel.

Book in a personal training session on the top floor of the hotel. Photo: Supplied

10 SNOOP Jimi Hendrix' house

A few doors down from Claridge's is the third-floor flat where guitarist Jimi Hendrix lived in 1968 and which last year was opened as a museum. When not playing guitar, Jimi, with girlfriend Kathy Etchingham, would kick back among the boho chic stylings (bought from nearby John Lewis and Liberty) and watch Coronation Street. Brook Street has quite the music heritage, the Handel Museum is next door (the composer lived there for 26 years), and there's a green plaque for the Bee Gees up the road at manager Robert Stigwood's former home. See handelhendrix.org/learn/about-hendrix

11 SAIL the Thames

It's no secret that the architecture along the Thames is transforming London. See it all from another angle by hiring a rowing skiff for a peaceful jaunt along the river. Richmond Bridge Boathouses offer antique rowing boats (complete with velvet cushions and tassels) for up to eight people, available seasonally from March to October. If you prefer to have someone else do the skippering, consider a dinner cruise in a refurbished Prince Regent canal boat where you can dine on skate wings while viewing the night lights. The vessel departs from Paddington Central. See richmondbridgeboathouses.co.uk and londonshellco.com

12 VIEW Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens

This 17th century garden on the south bank of the Thames was once the lair of the likes of the Charles Dickens and William Makepeace Thackeray, who would come to see performances in the garden pavilion. Others would come for the fireworks or take hot air balloon rides or like Casanova, go for a "dark walks" where couples could enjoy each other's company in some privacy. Those days are over but now you can stroll through the much smaller green and then take in the new Cabinet Gallery on the grounds. The design evokes the polygonal gothic-style bandstand that once stood at the centre of the gardens. See cabinet.uk.com

13 SHOP Alfie's Antique Market *

Explore the nooks and crannies of this Marylebone institution celebrating good design. Begin at the top and head to the rooftop kitchen for a builder's mug of tea and digestive biscuit then bargain for furniture, art, jewellery, and fashion. From Gio Ponti furniture pieces at Vincenzo Caffarella to smaller items such as vintage frocks and fine linens from the 1920s, the fabulously curated stalls are just as fun to browse.  The basement is a veritable museum of mid-century lighting, wall sculptures and vintage movie posters. See alfiesantiques.com

Explore the nooks and crannies of this Marylebone institution celebrating good design.

Explore the nooks and crannies of this Marylebone institution celebrating good design. Photo: Supplied

14 SEE Photos of Londoners

Visitors to the London Metropolitan Archives in Clerkenwell can look back at photographs and drawings of working locals spanning 500 years in this free exhibition. The collection which makes up The Londoners: Portraits of a Working City, c.1447 to 1980 features the likes of chimney sweeps, waitresses and wrestlers. Glimpse rat catchers, female racing car drivers, and Lord Mayors going about the business of their daily life to give an idea of just how much our working lives have changed (and stayed the same) over the years. The exhibition runs until July 4, 2017. See cityoflondon.gov.uk/events/pages/event-detail.aspx?eventid=2903

15 VISIT the Geffrye Museum

You've seen Londoners from the last 500 years, now look at their homes. The Geffrye Museum explores the home from 1600 to the present day, focusing on the living rooms of the urban middle classes in London. Currently there's a free exhibition highlighting the teenage bedroom, the perfect way to peek into the style and fads of an era. Later in the year a new exhibition will explore diverse stories of home in London and beyond. The museum is set in glorious 18th-century almshouse buildings surrounded by lush gardens in East London. Visit before it closes for extensive renovations for the whole of 2018. See geffrye-museum.co.uk

16 EAT at Hotel Cafe Royal

Sweet tooths rejoice! The Cafe at Hotel Cafe Royal is London's first dedicated dessert restaurant featuring a selection of themed tasting experiences, all served with optional wine pairing. The sweet journey does feature some savoury treats to clear the palette from executive pastry chef Sarah Barber, whose grandfather was the previous head chef at Cafe. Afterwards sit down for a glass of Taittinger champagne at the hotel's opulent Grill Room. This historic room is where, in 1973, a young David Bowie officially retired Ziggy Stardust, with Mick Jagger, Lou Reed and Paul McCartney in attendance. See hotelcaferoyal.com

17 SEE the neon lights of London

It's not just Vegas that can boast a museum of neon lights, head to the Ravenswood Industrial Estate, a warehouse in South East London to see London's version, known as God's Own Junkyard. Here long abandoned signs, film and TV props (including the original Top of the Pops sign), and disco balls have been salvaged and restored to their former glory. And it's also home to the most magnificently named (or lamely, depending on your tastes) cafe in the capital, The Rolling Scones Cafe. Open Fridays to Sundays only. See godsownjunkyard.co.uk

18 TOUR: The Barbican

Longing for a green oasis with a dash of mid-century concrete? Then the Barbican is the place to visit. The conservatory has a giant greenhouse with 2000 species of tropical plants. Visit on a Sunday for afternoon tea here before exploring its brutalist beauty. On the 90-minute guided tour you'll find out how much concrete was used to build the estate, you'll stroll the highwalks and spot secret architectural motifs. There's also a free do-it-yourself adventure trail for families where through touring indoor and outdoor sites you can crack the code with a reward at the end. See barbican.org.uk/education/series.asp?id=606&show=listing

19 DRIVE Take a Mini tour

First-timers to London should eschew the big bus tour in favour of a tour of the capital in a classic Mini Cooper. Advertised as a tour that even people who hate tours will like, a local guide will chauffeur you to the Houses of Parliament, St Paul's Cathedral, the courthouse Keith Richards once appeared at and the Shard, with spritely commentary along the way.  A great way to get your bearings in the big city. See smallcarbigcity.com

20 RELAX Freshen up at the airport

Many flights from Australia land at London Heathrow at dawn, which can be a nuisance when you can't get into your hotel room to freshen up until after 2pm. If you're flying British Airways Club World there is a solution. At The Galleries arrivals lounge in London Heathrow Terminal 5, you can use one of the 94 showers (or a bath even), and sit down for some breakfast (they do a good English breakfast) before heading into London. There's an Elemis Spa there too for a free 15-minute facial or massage. See britishairways.com/en-gb/information/lounges/arrivals-lounges

Andrea Black was a guest of Visit Britain and British Airways

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