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101 things to do in London: attractions and sights

These wonderful London attractions, museums and parks are all must-sees

Britta Jaschinski / Time Out

They’re the city’s most recognisable representatives, but don’t overlook them just because they’re the postcard perennials. These are the London attractions everyone should visit, and if even the most cynical Londoners don’t enjoy them, we’ll eat our bearskin cap.

Museums, parks and days out in London

Contemplate life and death at the British Museum

In galleries lined with the prized possessions of kings and the everyday trinkets of peasants, the British Museum reveals stories of life, death and glory. Get a picture of how Native American cultures lived centuries ago, seek out the sport of a lion hunt in carvings circa 645BC and explore rituals of death and remembrance reflected in the decorated casket of the ancient Egyptian mummy of Katebet.

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See World War I’s stories re-told at the Imperial War Museum

The IWM’s brand new First World War Galleries examine the politics and legacy of the 1914-1918 conflict, but also day-to-day life in the trenches. In photographs, artefacts like tins of food, and a collection of letters (many from fighters who never came back), the museum tells a powerful and moving story.

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Elephant & Castle

Compare Ming with modern at the V&A

The Victoria and Albert Museum’s ceramics collection is the most extensive in the world. Grayson Perry might have revived an appreciation of the artform (see his handiwork here, alongside ornate pieces of the Medici age) but the collection shows how greatly valued ceramics have always been, from figurines crafted in Paris to soup tureens made in Chelsea.

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Walk among dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum

For everyone from T-Rex-obsessed toddlers to budding paleontologists, the Natural History Museum remains the ultimate destination for matters pre-historic. A walk around the dinosaurs gallery, with its life-size models and skeletons, allows you to appreciate the sheer scale of these creatures, while the four animatronic displays reveal more about how they lived.

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Gloucester Road

Learn through art at the Science Museum’s Media Space

The Science Museum’s stunning new second floor gallery provides a chance to explore the imagination and creativity of invention as captured in photography and art. See a visiting exhibition or installation then kick back and discuss it over a coffee in the café.

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See The Ambassadors at the National Gallery

Because it’s free to visit, even if you have just ten minutes you can nip into the National Gallery and see one great masterpiece on your way to somewhere else. Try Holbein’s ‘The Ambassadors’. Laden with symbolism, the painting also features the ‘anamorphic perspective’ technique popular in Early Renaissance art; the seemingly smudged image in the foreground becomes a human skull when viewed sideways on.

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Leicester Square

See both Tates in a day

Can’t decide between the Picassos at Tate Modern and the Constables at Tate Britain? Do both! The Tate Boat (decorated with Damien Hirst dots) runs along the Thames between Tate Britain by Vauxhall Bridge and the Tate Modern on Bankside every 40 minutes during gallery opening hours, seven days a week (except Dec 24-26).

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Go stargazing at the Royal Observatory

The Peter Harrison Planetarium in Greenwich Park is the only place in London where you can take your eyes on a tour of the universe. In these days of HD and 3D TV, the Planetarium has raised its game, with state-of-the-art projection technology and spectacular films revealing the latest scientific discoveries. Shows include Space Safari, which is suitable for children under eight.

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Drive a tube train at the London Transport Museum

Children can be seen and heard at this lively Covent Garden temple of travel. There are hands-on exhibits and visitors can clamber on board a tube train or experience what it’s like to sit behind the wheel of a bus. Sadly you can’t take one for a spin, but standing still certainly evokes the experience of London traffic.

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Read Beatles lyrics at the British Library

The Magna Carta, works of Shakespeare and Dickens, copies of The Beano – they all have a home at the British Library. However, you can also see original manuscripts handwritten by some of the world’s greatest musical talents. See early drafts by John Lennon of ‘In My Life’, ‘She Said She Said’ and ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ written on a piece of Lufthansa-headed paper.

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Jason H
Jason H

There is a new walking tour of Notting Hill that is interesting and has a few surprises thrown in www.seenottinghill.co.uk 

Riva D
Riva D

There are some attraction passes, such as London Pass (http://www.londonpass.com/) or London Eye+Madame Tussauds Combo Pass (http://www.madametussauds.com/London/BuyTickets/TicketOptions/Default.aspx), that helps you save money on attraction admissions. The problem with these passes is that whether you can save money or not depends on the list of attractions you plan to visit. You might want to use Trevii (http://www.trevii.com/) to input your itinerary and compare which attraction pass saves you the most.