From the Tower to the Tate, from Big Ben at Westminster to the Big Crash in The City, London is one of the most historic, hectic and culture-packed capitals in the world. Everyone knows its red double-decker buses, its iconic bridges over the muddy Thames, the soaring domes of Wren's St Paul's Cathedral, the packed theatres of the West End, the changing of the Queen's horse-mounted guards outside Buckingham Palace. And newer attractions, such as the London Eye ferris wheel and the giant O2 exhibition tent, keep visitors coming back.
But however well you know the city - and most of us at i-escape have lived and worked there at some point in our lives - there are always some jewels to unearth. You can catch a free lunchtime concert at St.Martin in the Fields off Trafalgar Square (a sound to rival most national choirs), poke around the art-filled nooks and crannies of Sir John Soane’s Museum, rub shoulders with Jamie Oliver at the fruit stalls of Borough Market, stretch out on the shady lawns of Chelsea's Physic Garden, get wet watching Shakespeare at the faithfully reconstructed Globe, or stumble into a steamy riverside pub for fish and chips and a pint.
It's the close-packed variety that we love so much. If you don't fancy fish and chips, chances are you'll find curry, dim sum, pizzas or haute cuisine within a few blocks. In Covent Garden you can move from scruffy street artists to world-class opera in a matter of minutes. From Chelsea's millionaire haunts to Brixton's multi-ethnic slums is just a short hop on the Tube. Catch a boat downriver and you'll see the half-derelict docks of Millwall opposite the vast and stately Maritime Museum of Greenwich - whose Observatory, of course, is the epicentre of world time zones (0° Longitude). So if Londoners act as if it's the centre of the world, there's some justification.
Three words of warning: London is expensive (except the galleries and museums, many of which are free or donation-based); London is big (it's nearly 200km around the famously traffic-snarled M25 ring road); and London is crowded (hit the Tube at rush hour and you'll have to wedge yourself in - literally). So pace yourself on all counts.