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London Travel Guide and Some Fabulous Things to Do in London

Visitors are often concerned that London can be an expensive place for a vacation, but in reality many of the city's greatest attractions are accessible for free. What's more, hotels in London to fit every budget are conveniently located near virtually all of these attractions. This brief London travel guide explains it all.

Britain's national art galleries, Tate Modern and Tate Britain, house some of the world's finest collections of art. Contemporary art is the focus at Tate Modern, while Tate Britain exhibits British art dating back to the 16th century. Other major art galleries around London are the National Portrait Gallery and the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. The Museum of London tells the history of the city, while the Victoria & Albert Museum focuses on art and design from prehistoric times to contemporary fashions.

The Natural History Museum, with its enormous collection of dinosaur fossils, is considered a must-see attraction, along with the Science Museum, which has dozens of hands-on exhibits for children to experience scientific innovations of the past 300 years. Plus many of these major museums and galleries are open late. Also, while most of the resident collections in these museums are free to the public, there are also special exhibitions for which admission is charged. Any London Hotel in the vicinity of these attractions will put visitors close to their destinations.

London's parks offer more free sights for visitors, and many London Hotels are situated near enough to public parks for really good views. Many tourists speak highly of Queen Mary's Rose Gardens in Regent's Park while others prefer St. James's Park, with its excellent views of Buckingham Palace. Enormous Hyde Park is known for its statue of Peter Pan, commemorating the beloved children's classic written by J.M. Barrie. Hyde Park also is known as the site of the Diana Memorial Playground, in honor of the late "people's princess," and Speaker's Corner, where the right to free speech is exercised daily by political, religious and cultural activists. Speaker's Corner is located at Park Lane and Cumberland Gate, near the Marble Arch station of the London Tube, and is active on Sunday mornings. Have a rant if you dare, but expect plenty of heckling.
The Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace is another must-see event that's free to view. The Guard changes in the Forecourt inside the gates at 11:30 am daily during the summer and every other day in the winter. Get there early to get the best view.

Trafalgar Square is another of Britain's most popular tourist attractions. Architect John Nash designed Trafalgar Square in the 1820s and it was built in the 1830s. In addition to the National Gallery, the square is home to Nelson's Column, a 185-feet-tall column topped by a statue of Horatio Nelson that commemorates the great naval commander's victory over Napoleon at Trafalgar. Political demonstrations often take place here, while at Christmastime there's a more peaceful exhibit: a huge Christmas tree from Norway is donated annually to thank the British for liberating the Norwegians from the Nazis. Any hotels around Trafalgar Square will put visitors close to these sights.

While many committed shoppers take to the upscale stores along Oxford Street, London is also famous for its street markets geared more toward the common people. Among the most popular are Camden Market, Portobello Market, and Greenwich Market. A street market was artfully used to show the passage of time in the movie "Notting Hill" starting Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant. London accommodation near these markets can be determined by checking out some of the online guides for street markets.

Westminster Abbey is another historic London edifice that can be visited for free if one attends worship there (admission is charged at other times to help defray operating costs). The best service to visit is Evensong, held at 5 pm on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, plus at 3 pm on Saturdays and Sundays. The Abbey choir sings at Evensong, including the children's group, The Choristers of the Choir, who are studying music at Westminster Abbey Choir School. Evensong at Westminster Abbey is a feast for eyes, ears and soul.

Visitors who tastes run toward old-fashioned British justice will enjoy watching a trial at the Old Bailey, the haunt of the fictional barrister Horace Rumpole that's formally known as the Central Criminal Court. Public galleries open at 10 am Monday through Friday. Since the Old Bailey is located in central London, any London Hotel in the city center will serve as a base for a visit here.

Finally, why not gets your photo taken while standing on the Prime Meridian? Longitude Zero, the line from which all longitude on Planet Earth is measured, is located at The Royal Observatory in Greenwich. You'll find a metal strip in the courtyard signifying the place where you can stand in both the eastern and western hemispheres at the same time! And it won't cost you a dime - or in this case, ten pence.

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