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Travel

Have a capital time in London

Whether you're taking the grandchildren for a day out or enjoying a child-free excursion, Teri Harman helps you make the most of the capital

Summer in the city can be a great experience. London has wonderful parks and open spaces, river walks and plenty of things to do for the whole family. Whether you're on a tight budget or able to splash the cash, we have some ideas for days out in the capital..

Free attractions

London's art galleries and museums all offer free entry, unless you ae visiting a special exhibition. Top of my list is the British Musem (nearest tube Tottenham Court Road or Holborn), where you can see countless treasures including the Elgin Marbles, Egyptian mummies and the Rosetta Stone.

If you are taking the grandchildren, the Science Museum (South Kensington) is a great favourite, too, with interatctive exhibits for children and the spacecraft that carried British astronaut Tim Peake to and from the INternational Space Station last year.

Other free things to see and do include the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace- for times, see: (www.changing-guard.com/dates-buckingham-palace.html)- and the Houses of Parliament, where you can attend a debate free of charge.

Queue on he day for entry to the public galery or, if you fancy attending Prime Minister;s Questions (every Wednesday at noon), apply to your local MP for tickets in advance: (www.parliament.uk). 

one of my favourite free places is the British Library (near King's Cross) where the Treasures Gallery has a fascinating array of exhibits, from the Lindisfarne Gospels and Lady Jane Grey's prayer book to Captain Scott;s diary, the manuscripts of Wilfred Owen and some handwritten lyrics by John Lennon. Some of its special exhibitionas are also free including (until October 21) a topical one about Windrush.

Choice suggestion:

Start with a mrning visit to the Tate Modern art gallery on the South Bank of the Thames, take a photo (or walk across the river and back) on the Millennium (aka 'Wobbly') footbridge, then continue along the South Bank past Shakespeare's Globe theatre to Borough Market, which dates back 1000 years and offers a vast array of excellent food and drink stalls.

Either enjoy some street food there. or cross the road by London Bridge station and head for The Shard, London's tallest building (www.the-shard.com). Going up to the top is pricey (£30.95 pay on the day, £24.95 booked in advance, children £24.95 and !19.95). If you are ready for lunch, however, there are three restaurants and a bar on the 31st and 32nd floors, not quite the top, but great views all the same. At the time of writing, (www.booktable.co.uk) has offers at the Aqua Shard restaurant for a two-course lunch at £28 and three courses at £34 per person. You can almost rhink of it as a 'free' lunch...

After lunch take an Overgroung train at nearby London Bridge atation for the eight-minute journey to Greenwich and spend the afternoon in beautiful Greenwich Park, where you can stand on the Meridian line which separates the eastern and westerm hemispheres. Visit Nicholas Hawksmoor's St Alphege's church, the free National Maritime Museum and Sir Christopher Wrens masterpiece, the old Royal Naval College.

The ceiling in the college's Painted Hall is currently being restored and you can take a fascinating close-up look on a guided tour (£10, children £5.50, no under-sixes allowed). Book at: (orne.digitickets.co.uk)

Greenwich also boasts other attractions: the Royal Observatory, a planetarium and the cutty Sark ship but all have an entry fee.

Splashing out

According to visit Britain, the mos popular paid-for attractions in the capital are the London Eye and the Tower of London. The eye (on the south Bank near Waterloo) costs £24.30, children £19.80 when booked online (£27 and £22 respectively if you pay on the gate). For kids, a great plave nearby is Sea Life, Lonfon'ts aquarium located on the fround floor of County Hall (www.visitsealife.com) booked in advance online, the cost is £20.40, children aged three to 15 £16.30, under-threes free, or £26 and £21 respectively if you pay at the door. 

the Tower of London (nearest tube Tower Hill) has a rich history that appeals to adults and children alike. For the best price book online: (www.hrp.org.uk/tower-of-london). Admission is £22.70, concessions £17.70, chldren £10.75.

London Zoo in Regents Park is another great favourite for kids. Again, book online to save around £5 per person at: (www.zsl.org). Admission is £24.30, concessions £21.90, children aged three to 15 £18, under-threes free.

When you tire of the zoo, nearby at Little Venice you can take a trip on the Regent's Canal with Jason's Trips (www.jasons.co.uk). A 108-year-old canal boat ambles along a 45 minute journey past some of the capital's most exclusive homes to Camden Lock, where yoou can explore one of London's oldest markets, or simply come straight back to your starting point (£10 single and £15 return, a £1 discount for seniors and children).

The kids might also like Madame Tussaud's waxworks (www.madametussauds.com) near Baker Street tube station. Online prices from £35, children £30, under-threes free.

Choice suggestion:

The hottest new ticket on town is for the Queen;s Diamod Jubilee Galleries in the eastern triforium of Westminster Abbey, called by Sir John Betjeman "the best view in Europe". Tucked high up in the walls below the vaults, it offers unique aerial views of the Abbey's interior, and was used by television cameramen and royal commentators at the Queen's 1953 Coronation. It was recently refurbished at a cost of £22.9m; tickets are only avaailable for times entry in conjunction with an Abbey ticket: (www.westminster-abbey.org).

If you can secure a ticket, begin your day at the Abbey, and afterwards take a stroll through St James's Park to Buckingham Palace, where state rooms are open to the public from mid-July until September 30. Tickets cost from £13.50 for disabled people and under 17s, to £22 for over-60s and £24 for other adults, with under-fives free. Entry is timed and tours atke around two and a half hours. Each year there is a differentspecial exhibition and in 2018 it features art chosen by the Prince of Wales: (www.royalcollection.org.uk). 

Forgo lunch in favour of a posh afternoon tea. From buckingham Palace walk through Green Park to Piccadilly. If you really want to push the boat out, The Ritz (www.theritzlondon.co.) is the traditional choice, but at prices from £57 per peson (£76 each if you would like a glass of champagne) it's an expensive treat. Also, there is a strict dress code: men must wear a jacket and tie, and no jeans, trainers or anything else deemed 'sportswear' is permitted. you'll probably need to book several weeks in advance, too.

Having tried both, I prefer The Wolesley (www.thewolseley.com), vitually next door at 160 Piccadily. It has a much more relaxed atmosphere, no dress code and is a good deal cheaper, from £29.75 per person (£40 per person with a glass of champagne). Moreover, although they recommend you book in advance, The Wolseley holds a number of tables for walk-ins on the day, so you may be able to get in without pre-booking.

If you have any energy left after your tea, stroll down to Leicester Square and visit the TKTS booth for last-minute and discounted tickets for West End theatre productions.

Although you can only buy tickets by visiting the booth in person, you can check online to see what migh tbe available for that day. for example, the day I wrote this, it was selling tickets for 42nd Street reduced from £75 to £45, and £35 tickets were reduced to £25. 

Are you planning a last minute trip to London? What would you suggest for a day out? 

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