1. Don’t… go to Madame Tussauds.
If you’re like me, you’ll wonder what the point is of the eerie life-sized celebrity replicas in this tourist trap. Or you’ll just be plain freaked out by the stiff smiles in this bizarre house of wax. Either way, save the whopping entrance fee by steering well clear.
Do… dip into the London Dungeon instead. Although also owned by the Tussauds group, this dingy, damp realm of murderers and rodents will satisfy your dark side. You’ll be taken on a historical journey through the seedier side of London – a city that played host to Sweeney Todd, Jack the Ripper and the black death.
2. Don’t… do pricey dinners in the west end.
While there is no shortage of top notch eateries in the capital with more popping up by the second, they don’t come cheap. If you’re staying in town for any length of time, you don’t want your funds to be gobbled away by the exorbitant price tag on the city’s fine diners.
Do… grab a curry. It’s the unofficial dish of the UK after all. Head for Brick Lane where you can haggle with the hordes of restaurant lackies trawling the streets for punters. They’ll try to lure you into their respective restaurant with the offer of a free bottle of wine, extra poppadoms or a pistachio kulfi.
3. Don’t… head to Harrods.
Not only is this vast department store in wealthy Knightsbridge snooty enough to make you feel uncomfortable, it’s also full of things you’ll never be able to afford. Where’s the fun in that?
Do… hit the markets.
Portobello, Spitalfields and Borough all ooze with hot fashion and foodie treats. But nothing beats the dishevelled grime of Camden Market. Despite recent attempts to sanitise one of the most wonderfully skanky parts of London, the stubborn canalside sprawl has somehow managed to retain its character.
4. Don’t… sip tea at the Ritz.
Its glamorous surrounds are a London landmark, and its high tea is considered by many to be a British institution but the atmosphere is stuffy and the mood far from relaxed. Besides, there are plenty more interesting things to do in the capital than nibble overpriced cucumber sandwiches.
Do… try tea with a twist. Venture eastwards to gritty Bethnal Green’s Volupte Lounge where you’ll find a much quirkier way to enjoy your high tea – with a smattering of burlesque on the side. For 42 GBP, you’ll get tea, warm scones, sandwiches and a glass of bubbly with a dollop of tassled va-va-voom.
5. Don’t… sunbathe at Hyde Park.
It may be London’s most famous park within walking distance of tourist homing beacon Buckingham Palace, but there are far nicer and greener grassy spaces to be found slightly further afield.
Do… wander the wilds of Regents Park instead. Discover London’s villagey feel with a spot of café hopping along the park’s fringes in pretty Primrose Hill or St John’s Wood. Or stroll past its canals, spot a giraffe or two at London Zoo or get a dose of culture at the Open Air Theatre all set within its grounds.