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By Chris | May 24 2007
London is famous for its diversity, whether it be the diversity of its culture, inhabitants, architecture or cuisine.
Given the incredible range of places to visit and things to see in this bustling metropolis, it can be difficult to choose what to do. Should you be dedicating your days to parks and gardens, or to museums and galleries, and if so which ones?
Elite Traveler has the answer, and has selected the attractions that are best equipped to amuse, entertain, and enlighten you. These are a few of our favorite things…
The world’s tallest observation wheel, the London Eye offers guests unrivalled 360 degree vistas of the capital.
Its prime location on London’s South Bank makes it the ideal spot for viewing classic London monuments such as Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, and – a little further off – the impressive City skyline, punctuated by the magnificent dome of St Paul’s Cathedral and the gilded spires of the Tower of London. The London Eye is also the perfect venue for a celebration; private capsules offer visitors the opportunity to commemorate that special occasion in style, high above the crowds, and can accommodate anything from a romantic champagne flight à deux to a private party for up to 25 people.Phone: +44 (0)871 781 3000 (booking line) / +44 (0)871 222 4002 (events team)
Located in a not particularly picturesque part of London, Dennis Severs’ House is easy to miss.
And what a shame if you did, as it has got to be one of the capital’s most unusual experiences. Brainchild of eccentric American Dennis Severs, the house is a faithful recreation of the way an English home changed between the early 1700s and the dawn of the Victorian era. This bizarre space invites visitors to experience history in as authentic a way as possible; not only through sight but also through sound and smell. Strictly for grown-ups, visits through the multi-era house are conducted in silence and in tiny groups.Contact: Mick Pedroli, House Manager
Hidden in the roof of a baroque church, this intriguing museum showcases The Operating Theatre, a tiny but perfectly preserved operating space in use between 1821 and 1862 in the days before anesthetic and antiseptic surgery. The museum also includes a 300-year-old herb garret containing an extensive collection of the herbs, infusions, and extracts used before the birth of advanced science, as well as an unusual array of archaic medical utensils. Contact the curator for a private guided tour.
For something a little different, why not visit Hyde Park Stables and go for an invigorating ride in the fresh air and wide open spaces of the park? Situated right in the center of London, these stables offer a wide range of riding experiences. Join a group for a slow, stately ride, book an individual lesson for a more structured ride, or try a tour for two. VIP experiences can be made by arrangement, and are tailored to suit individual needs whilst also ensuring that visitors make the most of the park’s picturesque vistas.
For over 900 years the Tower of London has dominated the City of London and is still one of the capital’s most prominent landmarks. Throughout its long history, it has served as a royal palace and fortress, prison and place of execution, an arsenal, royal mint, menagerie and jewel house. Today, the Tower is home to some of the most potent symbols of British history: the Yeoman Warders, ravens and Crown Jewels. Experience this historical gem with a VIP viewing of the Crown Jewels, or dine in the Martin Tower and overlook the time-honoured ‘Ceremony of the Keys’, the official locking of the Tower that has continued for over 700 years.
Elder sibling of the Tate Modern, Tate Britain is the national gallery of purely British art.
Featuring works from the Tudor era to the present day, the displays there present an unparalleled picture of the development of art throughout British history. Highlights include works by Turner and Constable, as well as the dreamy paintings of pre-Raphaelite artists Millais and Rossetti. Enjoy these national treasures during a private Tate tour for two during the day or evening.Phone: +44 (0)20 7887 8888
The Victoria and Albert Museum, known locally as the V&A, was named after Queen Victoria and her husband in 1899.
Hosting extensive collections of artifacts from many of the world’s richest cultures, it is a must-see for any discerning visitor. The collections, which comprise paintings, sculpture, architecture, ceramics, furniture, textiles, jewelry, and metalwork, span over 2,000 years of human creativity, in virtually every medium and from all over the globe.Phone: +44 (0)20 7942 2000
Serving as both the office and London residence of Her Majesty the Queen, Buckingham Palace is one of the few working royal palaces in the world today. Its 19 state rooms are lavishly furnished with some of the greatest treasures from the Royal Collection – paintings by Rembrandt, Rubens, Poussin and Canaletto, sculpture by Canova, and exquisite examples of Sèvres porcelain. All of this can be viewed during an exclusive evening tour in the company of an expert guide, featuring guidebook, champagne, and the luxury of knowing there will be no crowds to distract you.
Preserved in a town house in Mayfair, the Wallace Collection is 25 galleries’ worth of French 18th century painting, furniture and porcelain, including superb Old Master paintings and a world-class armory. The museum stages temporary exhibitions as well as events, lectures and art classes for all ages. Benefit from a tour with the museum’s specialist guides, then relax in the Wallace Collection’s courtyard, the glamorous location for Oliver Peyton’s café and brasserie de luxe, which serves the very best in seasonal French dishes.
With over 1,000 portraits on display, from Elizabeth I to David Beckham, the National Portrait Gallery houses the world’s largest collection of personalities and faces.
Artists featured range from Holbein to Hockney, and the collection includes work across all media, from painting and sculpture to photography and video. Elite travelers wishing for an extraspecial experience can benefit from the gallery’s patronage scheme, which offers patrons the opportunity to participate in private drinks receptions, exhibition previews, private breakfasts, behind-the-scenes tours, and visits to artists’ studios.Phone: +44 (0)20 7306 0055 / +44 (0)20 7312 2463
One of London’s best kept secrets, the Sir John Soane Museum and library showcases the collected possessions of Sir John Soane, Professor of Architecture at the Royal Academy in the 1800s, and includes Hogarth’s Rake’s Progress paintings and various wonderful antiquarian pieces, not least the sarcophagus of King Seti I. For a bespoke tour of this quirky, labyrinthine house, contact the museum’s Development Director, Mike Nicholson.
Opened in well-heeled Chelsea in October 2008, the Saatchi Gallery takes an innovative approach to contemporary art, presenting work by largely unseen young artists or by international artists whose work has rarely or never been exhibited in the UK. Take in the museum on a private tour with a curator, and then chill out on the King’s Road with a visit to Conran-designed café-restaurant Bluebird or a wander around traditional English food purveyors Partridges.
Created from a disused power station in the heart of London, the imposing Tate Modern houses the national collection of international modern art. The permanent collection, representing all the major modern art movements from 1900 onwards, includes important masterpieces by Picasso, Matisse, Pollock, Rothko, and Giacometti, as well as famous works by Pop art heavyweights Lichtenstein and Warhol. As with the Tate Britain, guided tours are available to ensure you get maximum enjoyment out of your experience.
Located in the leafy London suburb of Richmond, the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew are a welcome break from the hustle and bustle of the city. Spanning 300 acres, these rambling gardens are home to the largest collection of living and preserved plants and flowers in the world, and are a major player in the drive to conserve and continue the planet’s natural heritage. Wander through the garden’s elegant landscapes, get a bird’s eye view of the gardens from the awe-inspiring Xstrata treetop walkway, or admire the exotic flora in the iconic Palm House, the most important surviving Victorian iron and glass structure in the world.