London Bucket List

There are some things in London that every first-time visitor just has to do. Whether you're looking for a selfie or the thrill of the experience itself, you just haven't visited London until you've ticked off each and every item on our "must-do" London bucket list.

1Take a photograph inside an old red telephone box

This design classic is one of the great symbols of London. Designed by the architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott in the 1920s, they were painted red to make them easy to find. Find the remaining red phone boxes in tourist spots like Horseferry Road - and a few unexpected corners of the capital, too. They're all operational, so after that photo you can even call up a friend.

2Experience the Changing of the Guard

First you'll hear the music of the brass band, and then you'll see the red uniforms marching up to Buckingham Palace. The outfits may be gaudy, but the soldiers who wear them are no joke. The ceremony marks the beginning of a new shift of the heavily armed sentries who are detailed to guard the Queen. The ceremonial Changing of the Guard takes place every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning at 11am outside Buckingham Palace.

3Eat a full English breakfast

Make sure your stomach is empty and head for the nearest, most ordinary cafe. You're looking for what Londoners call "a greasy spoon", a basic, no-frills establishment. If there are any options just say "I'd like a full English". The result, consumed with a mug of very strong tea, should include fried egg served on fried bread, crispy bacon and pork sausages. Eat as much as you can - and just be sure to walk if off afterwards.

4Buy something special in the sales

Elbows out for this one. Londoners love the sales season, traditionally from Boxing Day on December 26 to the end of January. We'd suggest Selfridge's on Oxford Street or Harrods in Knightsbridge for two contrasting experiences. The more adventurous will want to explore Liberty's, just off Regent Street, for a more restrained day at the sales.

5Indulge in afternoon tea

There's nothing more English than a proper tea, preferably served with cucumber sandwiches and a variety of cakes. The right afternoon tea served with the proper ceremony is expensive - and worth every penny. The Savoy and The Ritz are top of the pile, but many more mainstream hotels take afternoon tea with the seriousness this most English of rituals deserves.

6Take home something with a Union Flag on it

You may know the British flag as the Union Jack, but in fact this familiar red, white and blue design is called the Union Flag when flown on land and the Union Jack only when flown at sea. You might choose a t-shirt, a beach towel or even an umbrella. Our favourite is a Union Flag mug because you can fill it with the strongest tea you can stomach as a memory of your trip to London.

7Enjoy a fish and chip dinner

More fried food and another essential meal. Ideally the chips should be freshly fried and the fish heavily battered. There's usually a choice of hake or cod at everywhere from the smallest greasy spoon cafe to the more fancy restaurants which have re-invented the dish as part of "Modern British" cuisine. We'd go down the middle and order our fish and chips with a pint at the nearest pub.

8Master the English accent

Simply listen when you're on a bus or in a shop and you'll begin to understand how Londoners speak English. What at first seems strange will quickly become commonplace. Don't necessarily expect people to finish whole words - there simply isn't time in London for that. You might even try a little London rhyming slang. "Dog and bone" means "phone" for example and more controversially "trouble and strife" is rhyming slang for "wife".

9Catch the Tube during rush hour

This isn't for the faint-hearted or claustrophobic. It is essential for understanding how Londoners live in their city. Choose a busy station like Oxford Circus and walk down at the same pace as those around you. Remember the rule of the escalators: stand on the right, walk on the left and march with everyone else to the platform. Once crammed on the train, do not talk or look at anyone. These are the unspoken rules. You'll need a strong cup of tea afterwards.

10Walk across Waterloo Bridge at sunset

After all that you've been through, you deserve something truly beautiful, so beautiful that it's the subject of one of the most famous London pop songs, 'Waterloo Sunset' by The Kinks. Choose the west side of the bridge and walk from the north to the south for the best view. The eternal Thames will be beneath you and the great landmarks before you at the city's finest hour. Truly a great London moment.
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