Catching a show in London's West End theater district is just as necessary as watching a play on Broadway during a trip to New York City. The quality is some of the best in the U.K., and the constant mix of new and classic productions with local and world-renowned (think Andrew Lloyd Webber, Benedict Cumberbatch) talent excites both visitors and locals alike. Even if you don't consider yourself much of a theater devotee, recent travelers said the atmosphere, specifically near the lively Leicester Square, where many of the theaters are concentrated, is worth a late-night wander.
To find ticket deals, head to the official discount booth (TKTS) in Leicester Square. Keep in mind that you'll need to visit the booth the day of the performance. But if you're not picky about what to see or have a more relaxed schedule, the TKTS booths run different deals every day, meaning you could land a great price for a wonderful performance. Booths are open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Access to the area is free. You can reach the area via a variety of Tube stations, including Leicester Square and Charing Cross.
99 Sushi Bar
Hotel NH Eurobuilding, Padre Damián 23, Madrid, 28036, Spain | +34 91 359 3801
$$ (Entrees $15 to $30)
CUISINE Japanese or sushi
This successful local chain of Japanese restaurants has endured thanks to its use of the freshest fish and the most inventive sushi and sashimi dishes in town. The tiger prawn tempura served in a spicy rémoulade has been widely copied but never improved elsewhere.
As the birthplace of Antoni Gaudí, Pablo Picasso and Manolo Blahnik, Spain has inspired many of the world's most prolific artists. Travel to Spain to experiences its many national and natural treasures. From flamenco dancers and matadors, to towering gothic cathedrals and ancient Roman ruins, to vast plains and high mountain peaks, Spain conjures an array of captivating images in the minds of expectant travellers. Whether you are looking to escape to a sleepy hilltop village in Andalucía, dance until the wee hours at a nightclub in Barcelona or feast on tapas in Valencia, Spain has much to offer.
Once the recreational stomping grounds for King Henry VIII, this long swath of green stretching from Kensington Palace in the west to Oxford Street in the east is now open to the public and a must-visit for travelers looking for a relaxing moment away from the city's hustle and bustle. Among Hyde Park's meandering foot and bike paths and flourishing flora and fauna, you'll find a few standout attractions that are worth exploring. Watch the swans and boats glide over the serene Serpentine Lake (or rent a vessel yourself), visit the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain or stop by the Speakers' Corner, a site for public speeches and debates since the 19th century (previously used by Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and George Orwell). If you continue on the memorial walk you'll likely pass through Kensington Gardens where you'll find the ornate Albert Memorial, the Italian Gardens and the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground.
Visitors say the tranquil atmosphere of Kensington Gardens are unparalleled anywhere else in the city – and that they're beautiful no matter the weather. The closest Tube stations to Kensington Gardens include Lancaster Gate and Queensway, Bayswater and High Street Kensington. Hyde Park is free to all visitors and is open year-round from 5 a.m. to midnight, while Kensington Gardens opens at 6 a.m. daily. The Tube stations that surround Hyde Park are Lancaster Gate, Marble Arch, Hyde Park Corner and Knightsbridge. To find out more about seasonal events and other parks around London, visit the Royal Parks website.
With its smart red awnings, the CH Carolina Herrera boutique is located in a seven-story stone building in the Recoletos neighborhood. The shop, a dark, wood-paneled space, carries stylish, sensible women's and men's clothing from Venezuelan designer Carolina Herrera's signature brand, accessories stamped with the fashionable "CH" logo, plus a mix of baby carriages, stationary, and perfumes. There are two Herrera boutiques in the neighborhood—the other is a 15-minute walk north at 2 Calle de Doña Bárbara de Braganza.
Plaza de Cibeles is considered to be the most famous plaza in Madrid. Located along the central Calle de Alcalá (which leads into Sol) and adjacent to Paseo del Prado (the street that houses The Prado and the Thyssen museums), the plaza and its stunning architecture is a big draw for tourists. The main building in the square, the Palace of Communications, was formerly a post office but now serves as the city's mayor's office. The fountain features the Roman goddess Cybele, who represents Earth, agriculture and fertility. The goddess has unofficially been adopted by the city's fútbol (soccer) team, Real Madrid. When Real Madrid, or the Spanish National team, win a title, the city holds a parade that ends in Cibeles with one of the players fastening the team's flag to Cybele.
Visitors are allowed in select areas of the Palace, including the observation deck which affords panoramic views of the city. And what's more, it's only €2 to get in. For a great photo op, recent travelers strongly suggest visiting the site at night, as the lights illuminating the building and fountain highlight the plaza's unique architectural details. You can get to Plaza de Cibeles from the Banco de España metro station.
Big Easy is somewhere you go hungry and leave stuffed. This Thanksgiving, it's going to be doing itself proud. The relaxed venue is the perfect place to with a group, to indulge in what it's calling "the ultimate Thanksgiving feast." The $46 menu includes butternut squash soup, farm-to-table herb-roasted turkey with southern slow cooked gravy, Grandma Emma's apple cranberry chutney, sweet potato mash, green bean casserole, and coleslaw. Save room for dessert though, for it's the American favorite: key lime pie.
London used to be highly criticized for its heavy and uninspired menu items. Fish and chips (fried cod and french fries). Bangers and mash (sausages and mashed potatoes). Mince meat pies. You get the picture. Now, London is hailed as one of the world's best foodie cities. And with its melting pot of cultures, it's not difficult to see why. London offers everything from modern British to Malaysian cuisine.
To sample the best of the various cuisines London serves up, you need to know where to go. For Indian food, visit the curry houses on Brick Lane. If you want an authentic high tea experience, book reservations at The Langham, London, The Lanesborough or at Claridge's – but be sure to dress the part. If you're all about fine dining, check out the Michelin star-heavy Clerkenwell neighborhood. There you'll find St. John, the restaurant that garnered fame for utilizing the full body of meat in its dishes, coined as "nose-to-tail" dining.
If you're one for celebrity chefs, Gordon Ramsay has a number of restaurants in the city, including the Michelin-rated three-star restaurant, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay. Jamie Oliver also has four restaurants spread throughout the city. If you're looking for something a little quirky, try the two-star Michelin-rated brasserie-style Sketch, whose bathrooms are egg pods you step inside instead of traditional stalls. There's also The Attendant Cafe, which is housed in what used to be a Victorian restroom. Don't worry, it's immaculate in more ways than one. London also features great rooftop restaurants as well. For a meal with a side of vistas, head up to Sushi Samba or the 24-hour Duck & Waffle, which is billed as the highest restaurant in the U.K. from its 40th-floor perch.
Pub culture is huge in the U.K. If you're interested in getting a taste of British life that doesn't include visiting London's top attractions, it's best to grab a drink. Pubs serve much of the same drinks found in bars, but you must try a cider. There are a variety of flavors and brands available from traditional Magners or Strongbow ciders to those that are pear and strawberry flavored. Many pubs also serve meals throughout the day. You're likely to find traditional British dishes for a fraction of the price in pubs than you would in sit-down restaurants. Along with the traditional bangers and mash and fish and chips (which some argue taste better in pubs), you should make time for a traditional English breakfast and Sunday roast. Both are very hearty and a beloved culinary tradition among the Brits. If you're on the go and don't want to buy a sandwich from Pret A Manger, seek out pasty stands. Pasties are savory pastries typically packed with meat, potatoes or some vegetables. Pasties are filling and affordable and conveniently located in the larger train stations in London, such as Waterloo, King's Cross and Victoria stations.
Summer is shaping up to be anything but a slow season on the Madrid restaurantscene, with new ventures arriving in rapid succession all around the city. When it opened a few weeks back, El Imparcial in La Latina elicited headlines heralding the return of gorgeous restaurants.
Open from noon to 2 a.m. (all-day kitchens are a welcome trend in Madrid), it’s certainly been drawing the city’s beautiful people who come for lunch, an afternoon drink and some browsing the restaurant’s design shop, or a late dinner. The menu features lightened up and easy-to-share versions of Spanish classics, simple pastas and even an eco-version of a Big Mac, which surprisingly nails the taste of its notorious namesake.
Across town El Perro y la Galleta, the second restaurant by Carlos Moreno Fontaneda, scion of Spain’s first family of cookies, has just opened opposite the Retiro Park. Building on the success of the year-old and wildly popular Bar Galleta (galleta means cookie), the new restaurant also serves all day and already has a loyal clientele days after opening (meaning: reservations recommended).
Many of the standout dishes on the menu use the traditional Galletas Maria—the preferred snack of generations of Spanish youth—in innovative ways, such as the perfect sweet-salty breading for lightly fried eggplant. Of course the cookies get reinterpreted in virtually all the desserts. The grand but casual dining room has a neo-Victorian vibe with quirky collections of objets and a fetching mix of furnishings.
Tatel is also landing with a splash, given that backers include singer Enrique Iglesias and Spanish sports superstars Pau Gasol, and Rafael Nadal. Though its high-profile investors may call to mind the days of the supermodel-marketed Fashion Café, all food critics and gastronomes are talking about Tatel’s market-driven menu of spot-on Spanish fare and its sumptuous dining room. Plans are afoot for locations in Mexico and the U.S.A.
Other locales worth adding to your address book for the season include Lady Madonna and Babelia Café.
Sitting in Trafalgar Square, London's National Gallery features a labyrinth interior so large that it requires a color-coded map to navigate. The museum features paintings in the Western European tradition from the 13th to 19th centuries, including Italian Renaissance masterpieces and French Impressionist works. Among its 2,300 in-house pieces, visitors will find famed paintings, such as Botticelli's "Venus and Mars" and Van Gogh's "Sunflowers."
Recent visitors loved the variety of paintings at the National Gallery, saying that travelers may need more than a day to get a glimpse at all the masterpieces that grace its never-ending halls. They also commend the gallery's cafe. If reading placard after placard isn't necessarily your thing, you can take a free, hour-long tour, which is offered daily at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. And if you're worried about keeping the kids entertained while you take in the collections, the National Gallery provides audio tours and maps designed especially for children, some of which come with a small extra fee.
The National Gallery welcomes visitors from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday through Thursday, and on Friday until 9 p.m. Although permanent collections are always free, the museum oftentimes charges for special exhibitions and they also recommend a 20-pound (about $28) donation. Check the museum's website for special exhibition prices. You'll find the museum off the Charing Cross and Leicester Square Tube stops. A handful of bus routes, including nos. 3, 6, 9, 11, 13, 15, 23, 24, 87, 91, 139 and 176 stop at Trafalgar Square.
The British Museum is both an architectural beauty and a trove of some of the world's most noted antiquities. In fact, many travelers it's the best museum in all of London. What's more, it's free to visit. From the Rosetta Stone to the Elgin Marbles to the Lindow Man, the British Museum is a history buff's dream containing artifacts in the millions. The immense collection can make an initial museum visit seem overwhelming: Pick the exhibits that most interest you, and plan return trips if you feel so inclined.
If you want a little help navigating the museum's 8 million objects, consider tagging along on a guided tour. Several, including the daily eye-opener tours and weekly lunchtime gallery talks and Friday evening spotlight tours are free. You can also book a highlights and special early morning tour for 14 pounds (around $20) and 30 pounds (less than $45), respectively. Audio guides, which cost 7 pounds (less than $10), are also available to rent daily.
Recent travelers were in awe of the museum's vast exhibits, advising future travelers set aside several hours to really do it justice. Even if you don't consider yourself an amateur historian, you'll still want to stop by – the museum truly has something for everyone, according to past visitors.
The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. from Saturday till Thursday, but stays open until 8:30 p.m. on Fridays. Though admission is free, access to some exhibitions will cost you. You'll find a gift shop and three eateries on-site, including a quick-service cafe and casual pizzeria, as well as the more formal Great Court Restaurant. The British Museum is accessible from the Tottenham Court Road, Holborn, Goodge Street and Russell Square Tube stops. More than a dozen bus routes also stop near the museum. For more information, visit the British Museum's website.
The English writer Samuel Johnson famously said, "You find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford." More than two centuries have passed since Johnson's era, but his words still ring true. Life in London is nothing short of invigorating, and travelers find that one visit isn't enough to experience everything this two-millennia-old city has to offer.
Here, the antiquated clasps hands with the contemporary. You'll find the historic Tower of London and the avant-garde Tate Modern both considered must-sees. Shakespeare's sonnets are still being uttered by actors who don modern garb. Londoners most certainly still respect the royals, but they also jam to the likes of Arctic Monkeys and Adele. And while they still praise the power of tea, they now make room for some Starbucks here and there, and pressed juice too. A current leader in everything from politics and banking to fashion and music, London's culture compass is always attuned to what's next.
Exit the La Latina metro station and wander down Calle de las Maldonadas to one of Spain's most popular flea markets, El Rastro. Dating back to the 15th century, the market starts at Plaza de Cascorro and is primarily concentrated on Calle de la Ribera de Curtidores, ending at Ronda de Toledo. The streets, also including Calle San Cayetano, are lined with hundreds of merchants selling everything from kitschy souvenirs to antiques and even everyday household items. Fashionistas, in particular, flock to El Rastro for the market's abundant Moroccan leather hand-stitched bags and second-hand clothing and jewellery.
Recent visitors' reactions to El Rastro varied: some loved the atmosphere, especially the live music, and others found the market to be mediocre, with very few bargains or finds. Some travelers recommended exploring the side streets adjacent to the main street for a greater selection. Others said to escape the crowds, venture into the stores lining the main street as some of them contain items featured in El Rastro.
The market is only open on Sundays and public holidays from 9 a.m. till 3 p.m. Plan to get there early as crowds can get heavy as early as 11 a.m. This area is also a hot spot for pickpockets, so keep your hand on your bag at all times.
This medieval church, graced by many royal weddings and coronations, offers a magnificent peek at London's far-reaching history. Westminster Abbey is pretty much always busy – and the staff keeps you moving at a pretty swift pace – so do a little research ahead of time to avoid missing your personal must-sees. For instance, if you're a bibliophile, consider a visit to the Poets' Corner. This is the final resting place of famed authors Geoffrey Chaucer, Charles Dickens and Rudyard Kipling, among others. If you're fascinated by all the intrigue surrounding the British royalty, you might like to visit the shared tomb of enemies and half-sisters Elizabeth I and Mary Tudor.
If you prefer to see the abbey at your own pace, but still want a little guidance on the history you're encountering, take advantage of the free audio guides online. Alternatively, you can take a 90-minute Verger-led tour and see the Shrine (containing the tomb of Saint Edward the Confessor), the Royal Tombs, Poets' Corner, the Cloisters and the Nave. If you decide to take this tour, there is an extra 5 pound (around $7.30) charge added to your original admission price.
Although most travelers agree that Westminster Abbey is indeed a must-see attraction, some lament the high admission price and overwhelming crowds. Keep in mind, photos are not allowed (to many travelers' chagrin). Westminster Abbey is usually open to visitors Monday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., though you should check the abbey's calendar for any scheduled closings before you plan your tour. Admission for adults costs 22 pounds (about $28.75), while children between the ages of 6 and 16 pay 9 pounds (about $11.80). You'll save a few pounds if you purchase your tickets in advance online. If you have a London Pass, your entrance fee is covered. The closest Tube stops are Westminster, on the Jubilee, District and Circle lines, and St. James's Park, on the District and Circle lines. For more information about tour times and admission prices, visit the Westminster Abbey website.
Read on for a taste of Spain’s true identity, plus a wealth of inspiration and useful tips for your next trip.
This royal palace housed the kings of Spain from the mid-1700s to 1900s. Although the royal family does not currently live in the palace, it is still considered their official residence. It is the largest royal palace in Western Europe with a total of 3,000 rooms, only some of which are open to the public, including the popular armory room and royal pharmacy.
The majority of visitors were wowed by the luxuriousness and the grandeur of the palace, but many also complained about the long lines to get in. If you want to beat the crowds, make sure to get there early. Admission is 11 euros (about $13.20) for adults and hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. or 8 p.m., depending on the season. If you aren't interested in touring the inside of the palace, walk around and rest your feet in one of the two on-site gardens. The Sabatini Gardens are adjacent to the property, and easily accessible via street stairway. However, if you really want to beat the palace crowds walk further down the street behind the palace to the less-traveled Campo del Moro Gardens for a truly royal retreat. You can reach Campo del Moro Gardens by getting off the Príncipe Pío metro, and the palace from Plaza de España or Ópera metro stations.
Jorge Juan 20, Madrid, 28001, Spain | +34 91 515 4332
$$ (Entrees $15 to $30)
FEATURES Great design
Opened in June 2016 just a few doors down from Quintin, Sando Silva and Marta Seco's latest endeavor has a Brazilian theme but a far-reaching menu that includes tandoori, sushi, black-bean hummus, and flame-grilled fish and Brazilian rodizio. The bar's offerings match the kitchen's diversity, and there is a jazz club in the basement to linger in after the meal.
On Sunday, as the hordes weave their way through the Rastro Flea Market, the savviest of shoppers flock instead to Alonso Ojeda for the collection of antique lithographs and maps, but especially for the frame-worthy hand-painted 1930s–1950s antique advertisements (35 euros, or about $45, each). In one ad, a pair of boxers fight to sell you Valencia oranges, in another, a 1940s-style skier does the same. The illustrated 1950s recipes, colored by hand, beg to be hung in your kitchen.
Hubbard and Bell, the Brooklyn-esque diner in The Hoxton Holborn, will be serving family-style fare this year, with its shareable Bring Me Food menu. Starters include venison carpaccio and kale Caesar salad; mains feature smoked turkey with sprouts and pickled cranberry, and roast beef with baby beets. Come dessert, it's all about the pumpkin and pecan pie (though proud Brits can show some love to their turf with a classic British cheese plate).
Based in Madrid, Cellar Tours takes private groups on luxury food and wine tasting trips throughout Europe, including Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, and Ireland. Tour groups travel in a chauffeured Mercedes to various wine regions and gourmet destinations, where participants may hunt for truffles, sample olive oils, make chocolate, or enjoy private wine tastings. In Madrid, one itinerary begins with a walking tour of the old center followed by a guided tour of the Museo del Prado, a class about wine regions, and a tapas-style lunch. Multi-day excursions include reservations at five-star hotels and resorts.
The London Eye (the giant Ferris wheel found in many London panoramas) located on the River Thames is meant to deliver great views – not a thrilling ride. It circles around slowly, offering an unbeatable bird's-eye perspective of London's South Bank. However, those with a fear of heights should beware: When you're more than 400 feet high, the 360-degree views can be a bit disconcerting.
While some travelers say the London Eye is an absolute must-do, others found the experience to be overrated. Some recent travelers said the lines were too long (upward of a couple hours) and the ticket prices too high. However, many others were amazed by the views, especially Parliament and Buckingham Palace. Visitors were keen to note that this ride is not a fast one, with the average rotation of the wheel at least 30 minutes long.
Ticket prices range depending on the type of package desired, but the standard admission for adults starts at 27 pounds (around $38). Keep in mind that if you book your ticket in advance online, you'll save a few pounds. To see a complete list of ticket options, or to book your ticket online, head to the London Eye website. Also, check the website for opening times, which vary by season. You'll find the London Eye (also known as the Millennium Wheel) off the Waterloo Tube stop.
Regueros 8, Madrid, 28004, Spain | +34 91 702 1586
$$$ (Entrees $31 and up)
Haute cuisine or molecular gastronomy
FEATURESNotable chef, Tasting menu
After working at the Michelin two-starred El Club Allard, chef Diego Guerrero spent a year traveling the globe to seek inspiration before opening DStage, where the tasting menu takes diners on a gastronomic journey that blends his memories of home cooking with flavors picked up on his travels.
Talk about hair of the dog!
Sure we’ve heard of cat cafes, but now there’s a bark-tender. For one day, the Bar D’Alsace-tian in London will employ a team of Alsatian dogs to deliver cold bottles of beer to customers via custom harnesses in the shape of a barrel. The May 6th event was set up by brewers Kronenbourg 1664, so as you can imagine there will be one of their cold brews inside the mini barrel. They’ll also be delivering cheese and bread, as any good waiter would.
"We’re absolutely delighted to be opening the doors on the world’s first bar staffed by dogs,” brand director Ifeoma Dozie told local papers. “It provides customers with a truly unique experience and is the ideal way for us to bring the ‘Alsace-tians’ to Kronenbourg fans.”
Not to worry, some humans will be on hand to make sure the dogs are fully stocked and available to wait on you paw and foot. And if you can’t make it to the puppy party, there’s still plenty more weird things going on in London like the opening of a nude restaurant.
Jeremy King and Chris Corbin have a knack for giving old European swank just the right touch of contemporary cool. To wit, their Picadilly restaurant and tea room the Wolseley, with its formal silver service, winking staff, and hipster clientele. Last year the duo opened their first hotel, the Art Deco beauty The Beaumont, much in the same spirit, with a 1980s Bentley at guests’ disposal that once belonged to the Queen Mother. The in-house restaurant, the Colony Grill, already sends a little love America’s way with its name. Come Thanksgiving, it ups the ante with a $68 dinner that includes a roast pumpkin, pecorino and quail egg salad, Norfolk Bronze turkey with Brussels sprouts and bacon, sage stuffing, sweet potato, cornbread and apple pie à la mode for dessert.
Located on the South Bank along the Thames, the Tate Modern is part of a group of four museums (all named Tate) that house the 70,000 artworks that comprise the national collection of British art. As its name suggest, this Tate holds the more contemporary-style pieces than its three other counterparts, making it more of a hit or miss among travelers. Dalí and Picasso, among many British artists, are represented inside this repurposed power plant – but you'll find the works are scattered. Art is grouped by theme rather than by artist.
Recent visitors said if you're a fan of contemporary and modern art, you'll enjoy the Tate Modern. If you're partial to antiquities or the more traditional works of art, you'll probably be better served at the British Museum or the National Gallery. Other visitors suggested downloading the Tate App for your smartphone to get a deeper understanding of the works. Art aside, the eateries located within the museum may be enough of a reason for travelers to visit. Both the level 1 Cafe and level 6 Restaurant at Tate Modern afford stunning views of St. Paul's Cathedral, which is situated on the other side of the river.
Whether you're visiting for the art, architecture or vistas, the Tate Modern is open Sunday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. The museum welcomes visitors free of charge (not including special exhibits), and is accessible off the Blackfriars and Southwark Tube stops. For more information about special exhibitions, visit the museum's website.
Madrid has an easy, unfussy charm that is best appreciated on foot, strolling from one neighborhood to the next and stopping in to interesting shops and museums as they pop up. In a city as culturally rich and undeniably exciting as Madrid, there is no shortage of fascinating things to do. If you’re interested in history and art, the Golden Triangle of museums is not to be missed. Located in roughly the same area, the Prado, Reina Sofía, and Thyssen-Bornemisza are the core of Spanish art. The Prado specializes in pre-20th-century (think Goya and El Greco) while the Reina Sofía features a wonderful collection of modern works from the 20th century (Picasso, Dali, and Miró). Meanwhile, the Thyssen-Bornemisza displays a mixture of classical and modern artwork, including the old masters Van Eyck and Rubens as well as Impressionists like Van Gogh, Degas, and Renoir. Outside these three museums, those looking for things to do in Madrid will find that the city also has a naval museum, a museum of natural history, a museum of the Americas, and other fantastic galleries.
Another great way to experience the city and find things to do in Madrid is to simply walk around. The city is filled to the brim with wonderful classical architecture and well-manicured parks and plazas. On a Sunday, check out the city’s massive flea market, known as El Rastro, followed by lunch at El Imparcial or any of the local bars in the tapas-dense neighborhood of La Latina. Sportier sorts will be drawn to Madrid Río, with four miles of jogging and bike paths and ziplines and playgrounds for kids. Or take in a soccer match with one (or both if you’re really lucky) of the city’s rival teams, Real Madrid and Atletico. By night, head to Chueca, Madrid’s LGBT-friendly district, or the Malasaña neighborhood to experience Madrid’s raucous nightlife. And don’t leave Madrid without climbing to the top of the Circulo de Bellas Artes for an unrivaled view of Madrid’s skyline.
This square, located in the heart of Madrid, is more a must-experience attraction than a must-see one. Surrounded by cafes and bars, Plaza Mayor practically begs passersby to take a seat, order a coffee or glass of wine (depending on the time of day) and people-watch. Not only do throngs of tourists pass through, but multiple street performers plant their feet here to entertain. The square starts getting busy around 2 p.m. and will grow increasingly busy as night falls. If you find yourself in Madrid during the holidays, locals recommend visiting the holiday markets held in the plaza. Recent travelers acknowledge the touristy nature of Plaza Mayor — the souvenir shops, the less-than-gourmet yet overpriced restaurants etc. — but some of them still take the time to sip a cortado and take a few photos.
You'll find the square just west of Puerta del Sol, easily reachable via the metro off of the Sol or Opera stops.
Of Madrid's three famous museums, the elegant Museo Nacional del Prado is the most celebrated. Opened in 1819 with the help of Isabella of Braganza (King Ferdinand VII's wife), the museum contains 8,600 paintings and more than 700 sculptures, featuring Spanish, Italian and Flemish styles of art. Among the most famous works featured include Velazquez's "Las Meninas," Goya's "The Third of May 1808," El Greco's "Adoration of the Shepherds."
There are often lines outside the Prado, so plan on getting there early and make sure to wear comfortable shoes. Although the Prado charges an admission fee of 15 euros (about $18) for adults (visitors younger than 18, and students 18 to 25 get in for free), try to visit during the museum's free hours (usually the last two hours of the evening). However, many recent travelers recommended visitors allot half a day to tour the museum, simply because there is so much to see.
The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on Sundays and holidays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. You can find the Prado adjacent to Retiro Park, and reach the attraction off the Atocha or Banco de España metro stops.
Along with Parliament and Big Ben, Tower Bridge is London's next must-see architectural marvel, not to mention the most famous bridge that crosses the Thames. Construction on the bridge started in 1886, which means it's practically modern by London standards, but Tower Bridge stands out for its stunning detail and moveable roadways that lift up when large ships need to pass through. The views from the bridge are an added bonus. From the elevated sidewalks visitors get a prime view of the Tower of London, St. Paul's Cathedral's iconic dome and one of the newest additions to London's skyline, The Shard.
If you're interested in viewing the city from a higher vantage point (about 137 feet), consider a tour of the Tower Bridge Exhibition. This exhibit will take you to the top of the bridge, equipped with a glass floor, as well as to the bottom to the bridge's engine rooms. However, recent visitors say that those who are afraid of heights might want to forgo the tour because of the glass floor. Adults pay 9.80 pounds (about $13.75), youths ages 5 to 15 pay 4.20 pounds (about $6), while children younger than 5 get in for free. If you have a London Pass, entry to the exhibition is included. Check the website for opening times. Keep in mind, most recent travelers recommend only doing this if you have time to kill or are extremely interested; a walk across the bridge is free and nearly as impressive. Hop off the Tube at Tower Hill to stroll across the Tower Bridge. You can also take bus routes nos. 15, 42, 78,100 and RV1.
The Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, named for the family from which the collection was bought, is housed in the intimate Villahermosa Palace. The museum has more than 1,000 works of art, ranging widely in style, from German Expressionism to Russian Constructivism and 19th-century American art. Artists featured include Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, Wassily Kandinsky, Marc Chagall, Vincent van Gogh and more. Most recent visitors enjoyed their time at the museum — some liked it better than the Prado for its coziness and diversity; others recommended you visit the latter and Queen Sofia museums first. Admission is 12 euros (about $14.40) for adults and 8 euros (about $9.60) for students. Hours are 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Mondays and 10 a.m. to 7 p.n. Tuesdays through Sundays. Located just west of Retiro Park, you can tour the museum by jumping off at the Banco De España metro stop.
The Blues Kitchen feels admirably American at the best of times, with a menu full of Texan barbecue and a bourbon collection of size, but it's really amping things up by hosting an all-singing, all-dancing Thanksgiving party. From 12 p.m. to 1 a.m., a traditional three-course meal with all the trimmings ($46) will be served, alongside free-flowing pumpkin ale and bourbon cocktails, and live rhythm 'n' blues that'll have you on your feet all night.
The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía is Madrid's modern art gallery and along with the Prado and the Thyssen-Bornemisza, makes up the city's threesome of great museums. The museum contains about 20,000 works of art, including pieces from Salvador Dalí and Joan Miró but probably the most famous work is found on the second floor. Picasso's "Guernica" is the museum's crowning jewel.
As is the case with other modern art museums, travelers say you'll especially enjoy Queen Sofia if you appreciate modern art. If you're not a huge fan, you might want to spend your time at the Prado or Thyssen-Bornemisza. Note that you can skip out on the admission price (€8 EUR) by visiting the museum during its free hours, which are Sundays from 1:30 to 7 p.m. and the last few hours before close Monday and Wednesday through Saturday. Hours vary, so be sure to check the museum's website for details. You can reach the museum from the Atocha metro stop
From Norway to Italy, Europe is filled with many rich and exciting destinations. For those of you with this incredible part of the world on your travel radar, here are our favorite travel articles and videos on travel in Europe.
Besides Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's Cathedral is arguably the second must-see church in London. With its imposing dome, one of the largest in the world, St. Paul's forms a predominant spot along London's skyline. It's also a survivor: Although an older incarnation burnt during the Great Fire of London, Sir Christopher Wren's dome (completed in 1711) survived numerous World War II bombings.
Though some reviewers are put off by the pricey admission, most recent travelers agreed that a peek inside is well worth the extra coin. To make the most of your visit, reviewers highly recommended climbing to the top of the dome to the Golden Gallery. You'll have to hike up 528 steps, but after catching your breath you'll enjoy far-reaching views of the River Thames, the Tate Modern, and Shakespeare's Globe theater. And once you've seen the top, head below ground to the crypt (the largest in Europe), which now houses a restaurant and cafe.
Similar to Westminster Abbey, you can bypass a fairly steep entry fee by attending a service. Various types of services take place throughout the week daily; check the websitefor hours. Sightseers can tour the cathedral Monday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., although tickets are last issued at 4 p.m. Adult tickets cost 18 pounds (about $25), students and seniors pay 16 pounds (about $23), while children (ages 6 to 17) pay 8 pounds (approximately $11). If you book online, however, you save 2 pounds and enjoy fast-track entry. If you have a London Pass, your entry is covered. The cost of admission grants visitors entry to the cathedral floor, crypt and the three galleries in the dome. You can find the cathedral off the St. Paul's Tube stop.Besides Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's Cathedral is arguably the second must-see church in London. With its imposing dome, one of the largest in the world, St. Paul's forms a predominant spot along London's skyline. It's also a survivor: Although an older incarnation burnt during the Great Fire of London, Sir Christopher Wren's dome (completed in 1711) survived numerous World War II bombings.
Though some reviewers are put off by the pricey admission, most recent travelers agreed that a peek inside is well worth the extra coin. To make the most of your visit, reviewers highly recommended climbing to the top of the dome to the Golden Gallery. You'll have to hike up 528 steps, but after catching your breath you'll enjoy far-reaching views of the River Thames, the Tate Modern, and Shakespeare's Globe theater. And once you've seen the top, head below ground to the crypt (the largest in Europe), which now houses a restaurant and cafe.
Similar to Westminster Abbey, you can bypass a fairly steep entry fee by attending a service. Various types of services take place throughout the week daily; check the websitefor hours. Sightseers can tour the cathedral Monday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., although tickets are last issued at 4 p.m. Adult tickets cost 18 pounds (about $25), students and seniors pay 16 pounds (about $23), while children (ages 6 to 17) pay 8 pounds (approximately $11). If you book online, however, you save 2 pounds and enjoy fast-track entry. If you have a London Pass, your entry is covered. The cost of admission grants visitors entry to the cathedral floor, crypt and the three galleries in the dome. You can find the cathedral off the St. Paul's Tube stop.
Hotel NH Eurobuilding, Padre Damián 23, Madrid, 28036, Spain | +34 91 570 0766
$$$ (Entrees $31 and up)
Haute cuisine or molecular gastronomy
FEATURESFoodie magnet, Notable chef, Tasting menu, Great design
Diverxo’s David Muñoz (the youngest chef ever to helm a Michelin three-starred restaurant) continues to wow diners with his highly inventive takes on Asian and Spanish ingredients in completely unexpected preparations and presentations. A lunch or dinner booking is a three-hour surrender to the chef, who may start the tasting menu with two courses of crumbs on the table followed by having diners rise to eat a dessicated shrimp head hanging above their heads. With its new home, designed by Lazaro Rosa Violán with a surreal and surprising emphasis on frolicking pigs, the restaurant (along with 99 Sushi Bar) anchors the new gourmet campus growing at the NH Eurobuilding Hotel.
While most people associate Spain with a sunny Mediterranean climate, this large country is actually divided into three distinct weather regions. So the best time to visit Spain will depend on your travel plans and where you're heading, but generally the early part of summer and beginning of autumn are good times to visit most regions. This aside, the coastal south enjoys a Mediterranean climate with mild, wet winters and warm, dry summers. The central plains, including Madrid, have a more extreme climate, with hotter summers and colder winters. While the mountain areas get the most rain. The Basque country to the north has a maritime climate and is cooler and wetter.
The true center of Madrid — kilometer zero — Puerta del Sol fills with spurting fountains, shops, restaurants and lots of people. If you're looking for a place to rest your feet after a long day of touring, or a quiet place to stay, Sol is not the place. The area is always crowded, especially at nighttime when the city comes alive with people passing through the square looking to party at some Madrid's hottest bars and nightclubs (many of which are situated in Sol). It's the best place to taste Madrid's life and vibrancy, so even if you're going out to dinner, don't pass up the opportunity to walk through and take in the area. Recent travelers say it's a great destination to people-watch considering the concentration of street performers and protesters. And if you're visiting over the New Year, you'll find Puerta del Sol is Spain's Times Square. Step off the Sol metro stop, and you'll be right in the thick of things.
The Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, located north of central Madrid, is the city's main fútbol (or soccer) stadium and the domain of the city's most popular team: Real Madrid. Fútbol is an integral part of Spanish life, and the stadium's sheer size is example of this (its capacity is 80,000-plus). Although you can take tours, many say the best way to experience this stadium is to cheer Real Madrid on at a game.
Should you want to take a tour, prices are 25 euros (about $30) for adults and 18 euros (about $21.60) for kids 14 and younger. Hours for tour vary by season and the team's schedule. For more information, visit the stadium's website. You can find the venue off the Santiago Bernabeu metro stop.
Buckingham Palace, the London home of Queen Elizabeth II, is open for tour (except for the queen's private quarters, of course) in the summers and select dates during the winter and spring. On the tour, you'll have access to the 19 State Rooms where the queen and members of the royal family host guests for state, ceremonial and official affairs. Opulently accented with chandeliers, candelabra, paintings by Rembrandt and Rubens, and exquisite English and French furniture, these rooms display some of the most magnificent pieces from the Royal Collection. Along with the grand interiors, the State Rooms are also a witness to history. Those who followed the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton closely will recognize the Throne Room, which served as the backdrop for the official wedding photographs of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
For tours in the summer, recent travelers suggested taking advantage of the audio guide (included with admission), so that you hear a detailed history of each room at your own pace. The palace advises you set aside at least two hours to see the State Rooms (and that you wear comfortable shoes), while recent travelers advised that you use the facilities prior to the start of the tour; there are no public restrooms available until you reach the garden. Tour tickets start at 24 pounds (about $33.50) for adults; 22 pounds (about $30.75) for seniors (older than 60) and students; 13.50 pounds (about $18.90) for kids younger than 17; children younger than 5 enter for free. You can tour the palace from 9:30 a.m. to 6 or 7 p.m. depending on the month (the palace is open from late July to late September). Visitors can also spring for the Royal Day Out Ticket, which also includes entrance to the Queen's Gallery and Royal Mews, but it will cost you.
If you'd rather skip the admission fees altogether, you can still experience Buckingham Palace by witnessing the storied Changing of the Guard (also referred to as Guard Mounting), which occurs daily at 11 a.m., from April until late July, and on alternate days the rest of the year (except during inclement weather). Make sure to get there early, as many previous visitors say the area gets crowded very quickly, making it hard to see anything if you arrive shortly before the ceremony starts. You'll find Buckingham Palace off Green Park, Hyde Park Corner or St. James Park Tube stops. Bus Nos. 11, 211, C1 and C10 stop on Buckingham Palace Road. For more information, visit the Royal Collection Trust website.
Since her first collection in 1981, designer Ágatha Ruiz de la Prada has developed a colorful niche for her bright, pop-art-style clothing, house wares, and accessories. This Madrid store, decorated with pink walls and jellybean hues, is the flagship. The designer’s collections range from underwear to umbrellas, while children’s items include bicycle helmets, educational books, and baby cribs. There are also patchwork pillows in various shapes, gift-wrapping paper, and heart-shaped bathroom sinks. The department store chain El Corte Inglés also carries clothing and household items from the designer label.
This storefront-size bar has a formidable list of wines on a chalkboard. The hearty semi-spicy pepper stuffed with beef and béchamel ($1.50) is a standout.
Traveling overseas come late November? Doesn’t mean you’ll miss a traditional turkey dinner.
Thanksgiving might be a U.S. holiday, but just as most things tend to travel across the pond, its celebrations have, too, with more and more London restaurants giving nod to this one with dedicated Thanksgiving menus full of all-American flavors. Come November 26, no Londoner will struggle to get a slice of pumpkin pie. Pleasing both expats and keen adopters of the holiday alike, we've rounded up a guide to the very best places to celebrate the holiday in London this year.
• Running With the Bulls, Pamplona
• La Tomatina Festival, Buñol, Valencia
• Witnessing Picasso's art and Gaudi's iconic architecture in Barcelona
• Lying on the sun-drenched beaches of the Mediterranean on the Costa Del Sol
• Hiking the majestic Pyrenees
• Surfing in San Sebastian
• Bull Fighting in Madrid
• Seville – the home of Flamenco
Chefs and food critics agree that Madrid has sprung from the shadows of Spain’s gastronomic-powerhouse provinces of Catalonia and the Basque Country and firmly placed itself on the global food map. The current crop of must-book tables are at Mexican, Japanese, Italian, and Brazilian restaurants, not to mention spots serving both traditional (Triciclo, La Bien Aparecida) and molecular Spanish (DStage, Diverxo) cuisines. At Sala de Despiece, a new take on straightforward, ingredient-based Spanish fare marks a territory all its own. And with an Argentine leading its kitchen, 10-year old Sudestada is often tapped as one of the best Vietnamese and Southeast Asian restaurants in Europe.
Far from such fine dining establishments, the revolution has spread to the city’s markets, like Mercado de San Miguel and the chic Platea food court, where the best of Spain’s and the world’s delicacies can now be nibbled (and sipped) while standing up or on the move. Unsurprisingly, Madrid also remains one of the tapas capitals of the world.
This cast iron market right outside of Plaza Mayor is a favorite among travelers and locals alike. Visitors can purchase some wine, grab a cocktail or coffee, snack on a variety of ready-to-eat tapas, or pick up some ingredients for dinner later from the fruit, seafood and meat stalls available.
Recent visitors loved the vast selection of food offered, as well as the fun, vibrant atmosphere, with some saying they could eat at the market all day. Some travelers, however, felt the market was too expensive and complained of the lack of seating available. Either way, all agree that it is a must-see, if not a must try something to eat. Hours for the Mercado San Miguel are 10 a.m. to 12 a.m. Sunday through Wednesday and 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. from Thursday to Saturday. You'll find the market just west of the city center (Puerta del Sol).
To the east of central Madrid, Parque del Buen Retiro (Retiro Park) can be translated as "The Retreat," and that's what it is — a sprawling swath of lush greenery filled with formal gardens, lakes, cafes, playgrounds and more. This 300-acre park previously housed Felipe IV's palace and gardens, and didn't become open to the public until the mid-18th century shortly after most of royal buildings burned down from a fire.
Today, you can still delight in the Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace), which holds regular art exhibitions, rent a paddle boat on the Estanque (lake), or take a stroll in the Rosaleda(Rose Garden), which has more than 4,000 roses. There is also the open-air puppet theater for those traveling with little ones, which puts on a show every Saturday and Sunday.
The overwhelming majority of travelers greatly enjoyed their time at Retiro Park. Some minor gripes included the high price of cafe concessions, and some reported the presence of shady characters; however, both of these gripes can be contained by bringing a picnic and using some common sense (not loitering in the park at night). Hours for this park are 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. or 12 a.m. daily, depending on the season. You can access Retiro by getting off at the Retiro, Atocha or Ibiza metro stations.
Our essential guide to the world's most supercalifragilisticexpialidocious city.
London is a child's paradise, and not just because so much of it seems to come out of favorite books—the Hyde Park of Mary Poppins, Paddington Bear's station, Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens. It's the size of the place: this is a city of neighborhoods, buildings that sprawl rather than climb. And there are countless small delights. You can joggle along in a red double-decker bus, pass bobbies in cute helmets, count ghosts at the Tower of London, and listen to the natives speak their funny English. The only burden?Choosing from the vast number of museums, historic houses, broad green parks . . . and shops full of teddy bears and toy soldiers.
First, a bit of general advice...
You can't make him smile
But you can certainly try! In the Changing the Guard (11:30 a.m. daily May through July, on alternate days all other times), guard brigades leave Wellington Barracks for Buckingham Palace. There's less pomp—and fewer crowds—at St. James's Palace: you may even get a private moment with a guard. The mounting of the guard takes place at the Horse Guards, Whitehall, each day at 11 a.m. (10 on Sundays). Look for the plumed helmets. The Queen's Life Guard is changed each day at 10:28 a.m. (9:28 on Sundays); they proceed from Hyde Park Barracks to Horseguard Road. To see all the queen's horses, and some of her men, visit the Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace (Buckingham Palace Rd.; 44-171/930-4832).
Care for a spot of lunch?
The Earl of Sandwich really started something—the art of the sandwich is explored here as nowhere else. Bluebird (350 King's Rd.; 44-171/559-1000) is a regular restaurant in a lofty light-filled space, but if you don't have time for a full meal, pick up sandwiches in the svelte food store on the ground floor. There's also good take-away from Boots pharmacies and Tesco Metro (locations throughout the city), and from the food halls at Marks & Spencer (47 Baker St.; 44-171/935-4422). Sit down at Seattle Coffee or Pret A Manger—the very successful chain that serves up superb sandwiches, sushi, and slushies--one of which is bound to be a block away. Homesick?Try Fatboy's Diner (23 Horner Square; 44-171/375-2763) for hamburgers and milk shakes.
Kiss that allowance good-bye
Portobello Road is still going strong every Saturday—and though the fads of this moment (inflatables, anything gothic) will pass soon, what's next is certain to be here first. It's great for techno tapes. And don't forget Portobello's vintage shops (they're open every day). There's more street cred at Camden Market, on weekends, and at Covent Garden, which always buzzes. The Dr. Martens Department Store (14 King St.; 44-171/497-1460) is near the latter. Girls should check out Topshop Oxford Circus (Oxford St. at Great Portland St.; 44-171/636-7700) for cutting-edge gear, as well as the Oasis, Warehouse, and Miss Selfridgechains (even if just for trying on nail polish)—they're all over town. Urban Outfitters (3638 Kensington High St.; 44-171/761-1001) heads the list of musts on Kensington High Street. And everyone will find Lush (123 King's Rd.; 44-171/376-8348) a hoot—a beauty shop passing as a grocery, it sells bath gels and soaps packaged like food.
The mad hatter requests your presence at a tea party
A London ritual, afternoon tea is a good excuse to rest and refresh—and eat to your heart's content. The grand hotels do it right. Many require reservations; expect to pay about $25 per person for the privilege. At the Lanesborough (1 Lanesborough Place; 44-171/259-5599), good little girls and boys nibble their way through towering tiers of sandwiches, scones, and tarts to the tune of a tinkling piano. Other top pots: Claridge's (Brook St.; 44-171/629-8860), Brown's (between Albemarle and Dover Sts.; 44-171/493-6020), the Savoy (Strand; 44-171/836-4343), the Ritz Hotel (150 Piccadilly; 44-171/493-8181), and Le Meridien Waldorf (Aldwych; 44-171/836-2400), where there's a chocolate buffet— yes, a chocolate buffet—on Fridays.
"Cheerio" has nothing to do with breakfast
If your hotel doesn't start you off right, pop into a corner shop selling breakfast bites. A handy one is the Coffee Gallery (23 Museum St.; 44-171/436-0455), near the British Museum. South of the river, Boiled Egg & Soldiers (63 Northcote Rd.; 44-171/223-4894) serves breakfast all day. Or dip a croissant at Patisserie Valerie(105 Marylebone High St., 44-171/935-6240; 44 Old Compton St.,44-171/437-3466).
Making the most of the many museums
For a grounding in city history, spend a morning at the Museum of London (150 London Wall; 44-171/600-3699). Exhibits dollop out information in the most entertaining way—a model of the old City of London, for instance, "burns down" every 15 minutes. The British Museum (Great Russell St.; 44-171/636-1555) has to be taken in small bites: feet will drag after the third mile of Greek vases. Instead, pick up one of the maps outlining a route like the "Egyptian Sculpture Gallery Trail." The British Library (96 Euston Rd.; 44-171/412-7000) is fun for its Beatles lyric sheets and Winnie the Pooh memorabilia. The Tower of London (Tower Hill; 44-171/709-0765) offers a chance to revel in tales of villains and heroes; what child can resist the Bloody Tower?If that palls, there's always the Crown jewels.
This is a nation that loves its toys . . .
. . . and makes some of the best: Corgi cars, sturdy toy soldiers and farm animal sets, teddy bears, rocking horses, marvelous books. An old Victorian gallery, the Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood (Cambridge Heath Rd.; 44-181/980-2415) houses the Victoria and Albert Museum's toy collection, with a whole suburb of dollhouses. The problem with toy museums is that kids want to own the exhibits. Cheerful Daisy & Tom (181 King's Rd.; 44-171/352-5000) has all the English reliables, a mechanical puppet show upstairs, and an enormous book section where children can flop and flip ). Truth be told, the museum shops—at the V&A, the Natural History and Science museums, the Museum of the Moving Image—are the source of some of the best children's souvenirs.
Twice the bus, twice the fun
London transportation can be entertaining in itself—watch the inevitable squabble over who snags the cab's jump seat. The tube is the most efficient way around, but double-decker buses offer the bonus of good views from up top. (And they cost much less than the tour buses.) Buy a daily family Travelcard (after 9:30 a.m.) and zones one and two of the Underground are available to you at about $13 for four travelers. Or pop for a weekly pass ($26 for adults, $9 for children), though you'll need passport-size photos. The whirling-wheeled, whistle-blowing London Transport Museum (39 Wellington St.; 44-171/379-6344) tells the story of all that's stuck in traffic.
Gawking at the royal jewels in the Tower is one thing; finding the royals in the flesh takes some doing. If the standard is flying at Buckingham Palace, then the queen is at home. (The daily Court Circular in the Times notes who's where, but Wills-and-Harry watchers have to go to Eton, 40 minutes away.) You can see the graves of an array of ex-monarchs at Westminster Abbey (Dean's Yard; 44-171/222-5152), or visit the museum, which has the waxen death effigies of Elizabeth I, Charles II, and others. For more contemporary royalty, tour Kensington Palace, where Diana lived after her separation from Prince Charles. Mourners still hang flowers on the fence, but the state apartments have been redesigned to downplay her time there. Buckingham Palace is open for only a few months, in the summer (call 44-171/799-2331 for a schedule). Hampton Court is remarkable, in children's minds, mainly for its garden maze. The newly restored Windsor Castle has a nice moment in front of Queen Mary's dollhouse, but the rest is an endless shuffle through rooms that resemble a well-done Hilton.
Let's get scientific
The bugs-in-the-home exhibit at the National History Museum (Cromwell Rd.; 44-171/938-9123) will make you itch; the Earthquake Room will make you shake, rattle, and roll. In the basement of the Science Museum (Exhibition Rd.; 44-171/938-8080), around the corner, hands-on galleries could well occupy half a day; there's even one for tinies. Costumed interpreters wander the whole building—if you're lucky you'll bump into Thomas Crapper, the inventor of the flush toilet. Across the river is the London Aquarium (County Hall, Riverside Building; 44-171/967-8000), where you can pet a ray. Outside, walk along the river for a gee-whiz view of Big Ben and Parliament.
Cure a sightseeing slump with a run through one of London's prize parks. Kensington Gardens blends into Hyde Park for long walks, with stops at the Peter Pan statue, the Fairy Oak, the boats of the Serpentine (you can swim here in season), and the shiny gold statue of Prince Albert, around which there are chubby squirrels to feed. The newly reopened Serpentine Gallery (44-171/402-6075) is a good family stop, since it's small, and the often controversial art exhibits can be very amusing. And you can hire a horse at Hyde Park Stables (44-171/723-2813) or Ross Nye's Riding Stables (44-171/262-3791), both at Lancaster Gate, across Bayswater Road from the park. (Rollerblades can be rented on neighboring streets, but bicycling in most parks is strictly regulated, and rentals nonexistent.) Hampstead Heath ranges from the wild-and-woolly to the Kenwood House, with its collection of 18th-century art. Take a kite to Parliament Hill—the skyline view is a bonus—or check a listings guide for one of the fun fairs sometimes held on the heath. Regent's Park has both rose gardens and wide-open spaces, as well as boating ponds and playgrounds and kiosks with snacks. In summer, the outdoor theater alternates Shakespeare with musicals. The London Zoo (Regent's Park; 44-171/722-3333) presents both animals to pet and animals to admire, such as the rare black rhinos. To get there, hop on one of the traditional wooden boats that ply the Regent's Canal (London Waterbus Co., 44-171/482-2550; or Jason's Trip, 44-171/286-3428).
You're in the army now
At the Imperial War Museum (Lambeth Rd.; 44-171/416-5000), there's a harrowing trip through a World War I trench, where you pass a soldier frying up breakfast while shells whistle by, as well as a goose-bumpy World War II air raid that fills a London street with smoke and sirens. The National Army Museum (Royal Hospital Rd.; 44-171/730-0717) has a new army of 75,000 toy soldiers that re-enacts the Battle of Waterloo. Most evocative are the Cabinet War Rooms (Clive Steps, King Charles St.; 44-171/930-6961), the underground bunkers from which Churchill ran the war. They remain as they were on V-E Day, with ringing phones, clicking typewriters, and the maps on which armies' movements were traced.
Forget the hard rock
In general, good child-friendly restaurants are found wherever families live—Fulham, Notting Hill, Kensington—as well as in tourist centers near the theaters. A traditional Italian restaurant with a tented garden, La Famiglia (7 Langton St.; 44-171/351-0761) is jolly but deeply chic (is that Princess Michael of Kent in the corner?). Another first-class Italian very welcoming to children is Bertorelli's (1923 Charlotte St.; 44-171/636-4174). Good behavior might merit one of the scrumptious gelati. At space-age Mash (1921 Great Portland St.; 44-171/637-5555), order a rocket salad—rocket is what Brits call arugula. Royal China (13 Queens Way; 44-171/221-2535) is bright and dazzling and filled with flashing chopsticks. It's especially known for dim sum. For classic bistro food, try the informal Francofill (1 Old Brompton Rd.; 44-171/584-0087). Forget the queen—God save the restaurateur who first thought to put crayons on the table. Indian food is an important part of the London restaurant scene—La Porte des Indes (32 Bryanston St.; 44-171/224-0055) is in a beautiful space with tumbling fountains that might intrigue children enough to make them try the tandoori chicken.
All the world's a stage
There's a fine tradition here of children's theater that goes beyond Punch and Judy. Try the Little Angel Theatre (14 Dagmar Passage; 44-171/226-1787); the Puppet Theatre Barge (44-171/249-6876), on an old canal boat moored on the Thames in summer and in Little Venice in winter; or the Unicorn Theatre for Children (6 Great Newport St.; 44-171/836-3334). Looking for more-adult fare?The Lloyd Webber warhorses still play in the West End—just try to snag seats for Phantom. Do avoid the area's ticket touts; instead, call or visit the box office, call Edwards & Edwards (800/223-6108) before you leave home, or queue up at the half-price ticket booth in Leicester Square. It's potluck, but armed with Time Out's reviews, you can land a terrific evening for about $20 a head. Sure things: the very scary Woman in Black and Agatha Christie's Mousetrap. It's not Shakespeare—for that, tour the Globe Theatre (New Globe Walk; 44-171/902-1500) and take in a performance; if you have the stamina, the most fun is to be a groundling standing in the pit. A dip into England's long theatrical history, the Theatre Museum (1E Tavistock St.; 44-171/836-7891) has kids' costume and makeup workshops. The television generation, however, might prefer the new BBC Experience(Broadcasting House, Portland Place; 44-870/603-0304). You can fiddle with sound-mixing machines and givea Teletubby a hug. The hugely popular Museum of the Moving Image (South Bank; 44-171/928-3535) takes up film and animation. There's lots to do here: "fly" like Superman over London, host a TV interview, star in a film.
The spook factor in London is high, and any self-respecting child is keen to the possibilities. A warning about the London Dungeon (2834 Tooley St.; 44-171/403-0606): there is no age limit on feeling queasy during the autopsy segment (the body is one of Jack the Ripper's victims). Those who want to learn what life was like in a Victorian prison can run through the actual cells of the House of Detention(Clerkenwell Close; 44-171/253-9494) and savor the torture instruments. And at the Old Operating Theatre (9A St. Thomas's St.; 44-171/955-4791), the pictures do a fine portrayal of surgery without anesthesia—and re-enactments are noisy. Anyone still seeking thrills might enjoy a tour in which a black-caped guide leads a group through back alleys, telling shivery tales (Original London Walks; 44-171/624-3978). Catherine Calvert, a writer and editor living in London, has two daughters who know the Natural History Museum well.
WHERE TO STAY
City regulations limit the number of bodies—however small—that can be crammed into a room. The rule varies from hotel to hotel, but if you're told a room is for three, believe it. Ask for connecting doubles or look for "family rooms"—which typically sleep four or five. To get help, try the London Tourist Board's booking service (44-171/932-2000; http://www.londontown.com), or one of the many on-line services (two to get you started: http://www.hotelnet.co.uk and http://www.ase.net).
At the top end, the newly remodeled Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park (66 Knightsbridge; 44-171/235-2000, fax 44-171/235-4552; doubles from $405) supplies in-room coloring books, toys, and videos; special menus; and a teddy bear to keep. 22 Jermyn Street (22 Jermyn St.; 44-171/734-2353, fax 44-171/734-0750; doubles from $340) is an antiques-filled, family-owned 18-room hotel. Owner Henry Togna even puts out a children's newsletter, and there are books, videos, and puzzles (and Sega games on request) to keep them occupied when they're not relaxing in their teddy-bear dressing gowns. Beautifully constructed in a former government building across the river from Big Ben, the London Marriott (County Hall; 44-171/928-5200, fax 44-171/928-5300; doubles from $305) opened last fall. Kids dig the multichannel TV's, the 25-meter-long pool, and the fact that the London Aquarium is downstairs; parents like the frequent package deals. At the spiffy Athenaeum Hotel & Apartments (116 Piccadilly; 800/335-3300 or 44-171/499-3464, fax 44-171/493-1860; doubles from $440) the Mary Poppins package puts children ages 5 to 10 in the care of a real British nanny for an extra $150 per day, with trips to all sorts of attractions. Finally, what teen wouldn't want to stay where the rock stars rock and the models promenade?Overlooking Hyde Park, Metropolitan (19 Old Park Lane; 44-171/447-1000, fax 44-171/447-1100; doubles from $340) is state-of-the-art minimalist. Besides, what could your two-year-old break that a rock star hasn't already trashed?Then there are the more reasonable options. Recently refurbished, the Basil Street Hotel (8 Basil St.; 44-171/581-3311, fax 44-171/581-3693) has family accommodations—two bedrooms sharing a bath—from $405, with discounts for stays of more than five nights. The Cranley Gardens Hotel (8 Cranley Gardens; 44-171/373-3232, fax 44-171/373-7944; doubles from $180, including tax and breakfast) is well-placed for the V&A and the Science and Natural History museums.
Others to keep in mind: Five Sumner Place (5 Sumner Place; 44-171/584-7586, fax 44-171/823-9962; doubles from $199, including breakfast); Windermere Hotel (142144 Warwick Way; 44-171/834-5163, fax 44-171/630-8831; doubles from $165, including tax and breakfast); and Abbey Court (20 Pembridge Gardens; 44-171/221-7518, fax 44-171/792-0858; doubles from $215, including tax and breakfast).
Children have their own hotel at Pippa Pop-Ins (430 Fulham Rd.; 44-171/385-2458, fax 44-171/385-5706; from $123 per child), where those from 2 to 12 can overnight in a town house (the baths have rubber duckies). It might be better than leaving your kids with a sitter you don't know, should you decide to go out without them.
Locals and tourists alike tend to adore Portobello Road Market. Located in the posh Notting Hill neighborhood (made famous by the Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts movie of the same name), the market stretches down the long Portobello Road, considered to be the high street (or main street) of Notting Hill. The market is filled with merchants of all kinds (more than 1,000 to be exact) selling a variety of common flea market items including antiques, art, jewelry, clothing and food. But what stands out about Portobello Market (aside from its adorably colorful location) is its collection of antiques and quintessentially English items. In just a few blocks, visitors can find a wellie shop, scores of vintage tea sets, quality London souvenirs and Banksy recreations. The market is also billed as being the largest antiques market in the world. If you have a penchant for fashion, the best sampling is found at the end of the market near the Ladbroke Grove Tube stop. There, visitors will not only find the greatest concentration of locals but a great selection of vintage attire as well.
Recent visitors loved Portobello Market for its lively atmosphere, wide selection of items and cheap food stalls. Although many lauded the quality found at the food stalls, some urged visitors to check out nearby restaurants, as many serve exceptional British and international fare. Others also advised visitors to pay close attention to their belongings. Portobello Market is not only very crowded, but concentrated on a narrow street, creating an easy opportunity for pickpockets to strike.
Keep in mind: Saturday is the only day Portobello Road turns into a full street market, open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Select stalls are open daily, but considering the amount of residences close by, Portobello Road is quiet and quite bare during Sunday and the weekdays. To get to Portobello Road Market, hop off at Notting Hill Gate or Ladbroke Grove Tube stations. For more information, visit the market's website.
The Houses of Parliament, composed of the House of Lords and the House of Commons, fill the massive Palace of Westminster. Guided and self-guided tours (which come highly recommended by recent travelers) take visitors through multiple areas of the building, including Westminster Hall (the oldest building on the Parliamentary estate), the House of Commons Chamber and the Royal Gallery, to name a few. If you're not interested in perusing the halls that make up the U.K.'s governing body, many travelers say that simply admiring the iconic structure's impressive exterior is enough, and an absolute must-do for anyone visiting London.
If you're one of many looking to snap your own photo of one of the most photographed buildings in the world, the best vantage point is from Westminster Bridge. But if you want a truly smashing shot, head on over to Lambeth Bridge or the Golden Jubilee Bridges on the South Bank for a view of Parliament and the London Eye together. Keep in mind that Westminster Bridge connects the city's two biggest attractions (London Eye to Parliament) together, and as a result is almost always very crowded. It's also important to know that merchants and (rather shady) gamblers set up along the bridge, so keep your personal belongings close and walk along the left side, as a higher number tend to concentrate on the right.
Guided, self-guided and tours that include afternoon tea are all available Saturdays year-round as well as most weekdays during Parliamentary recess. Self-guided tours, which include an audio guide, take about 60 to 75 minutes and are 20.50 pounds (about $29) for adults and free for one child ages 5 to 15 years with a paying adult, then 8.50 pounds (about $12) for each additional child. Guided tours cost 28 pounds (around $39) for adults and 12 pounds (about $17) for children ages 5 to 15 years. All children younger than 5 enter for free. You can save a few pounds by purchasing your tickets in advance. Consult Parliament's website for up-to-date information on tour dates and hours, as they are subject to change. To get to the Houses of Parliament, hop off at the Westminster Tube station.
The portal to London's buzzy West End, Piccadilly Circus lives up to its name. Regularly compared to New York's Times Square, Piccadilly Circus is the meeting place of five busy roads and is the center of London's hustle and bustle. Whether it's businessmen and women on their way to work in the morning, shoppers en route to the department store-clad Oxford Street (just a few streets north) or lively club and bar hoppers passing through at night, Piccadilly is always thrumming with activity.
Recent travelers highly recommend a visit to Piccadilly Circus for its proximity to restaurants, shops and nightlife spots and the energy and excitement it exudes. For the best ambience, some suggest you visit Piccadilly at night, when the neon lights of the billboards reflect off the Edwardian-era buildings and the Eros statue. A quick disclaimer – Piccadilly Circus is not an actual circus, as some travelers have expected; rather, the name refers to the circle (circus), off which a handful of major roads spoke. Access to the area is free.
Although its exterior might be grim and even unimpressive (especially when compared to stately Buckingham Palace), the Tower of London's interior is always bustling with activity. The tower, which actually comprises multiple towers – 12 of which can be explored by the public – offers something for everyone. If you're enchanted with the history of the monarch, don't miss the famous crown jewels exhibition. Among the items you'll see is the Imperial State Crown – which is still worn by the queen for each State Opening of Parliament – and the Sovereign's Sceptre with Cross. If you have more than an hour to spend here, take an entertaining tour led by the Yeoman Warders (tower guards). During the hour-long excursion (included in your admission ticket), the guards will regale you with tales of the tower's bloody past. Lastly, don't forget to visit the White Tower, an iconic symbol of London's heritage and one of the world's most famous castles. Inside, you'll find the 350-year-old exhibition, "Line of Kings," along with artifacts from Henry VIII, Charles I and James II.
The majority of travelers say the Tower of London's high admission price and long lines are worth every pence. And some recent visitors strongly recommend attending the free tour put on by the Yeoman Warders.
The Tower of London is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Sunday and Monday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., though it closes an hour earlier November through February. Tickets for adults cost 26.80 pounds (about $38); entrance for children between the ages of 5 and 15 costs 12.70 pounds (about $18). Children younger than 5 get in for free. If you want to save some quid on admission, buy your tickets in advance on the Tower of London's website. If you have a London Pass, your entry is covered. Along with bathroom facilities and Wi-Fi access, the Tower of London also offers four eateries and several gift shops on-site. You'll find the Tower of London off the Tower Hill Tube stop.
The Churchill War Rooms are the underground bunker that Prime Minister Winston Churchill and his war cabinet used to shelter from bomb raids and plot their steps during World War II. The maze-like corridors tell the story of this volatile time period, centering on the larger-than-life leader that Churchill was.
Travelers describe the Churchill War Rooms as fascinating, and more than one traveler calls it a favorite London attraction. Some say that the attraction is much bigger than they had imagined and that people tend to spend a lot of time soaking in the exhibits and information. Others say that the lines at the museum cafe can be long. For all these reasons, most recommend that visitors get to the Churchill War Rooms early to avoid a long wait.
The Churchill War Rooms are open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tickets cost 21 pounds (or about $29) for adults and 10.50 pounds (less than $15) for children, ages 5 to 15. Kids younger than 5 who are accompanied by a parent or caregiver get in for free. If you have a London Pass, admission is free. Keep in mind that if you buy your tickets in advance online, you’ll be able to shave a few pounds off your admission price. Audio guides are included in the price of admission. The closest Tube stops are Westminster and St. James's Park. For more information on the Churchill War Rooms, visit its website.
Bosco de Lobos
Hortaleza 63, Madrid, 28004, Spain | +34 91 524 9464
$ (Entrees $15 and under)
FEATURES Great value, Local haunt, Casual
Located inside the verdant courtyard of the College of Architects in trendy Chueca, the terrace of Bosco de Lobos feels like an escape from the city. Spread over two floors, the various interconnecting dining rooms are sleek and chic yet surprisingly cozy, and are a great setting for the menu’s pitch-perfect pizzas and pastas.