Insider London – what to see and do, where to eat and shop

Bright lights, big city – London will switch on your senses. Your tastebuds will sing. You’ll shop like a celeb and stroke your chin at the finest art. Be inspired with Virgin’s pick of the shops, museums, galleries and grub.

London is a riddle, said writer GK Chesterton – jump right in with our guide to the best attractions, shops and restaurants

Need inspiration? What to see

Culture vultures? Groovy, baby. From folk to flower power, protest to peace. The sixties were a heady time.

Feel them swing again at this exhibition devoted to Pop Art - the art movement that epitomised the decade. The World Goes Pop at Tate Modern

History buffs? Mummies from the tombs of ancient Egypt. Buff statues from the Parthenon in Athens. The British Museum is history – fascinating, gruesome, mind-blowing.

Must-sees at the British Museum:

  • Lindow Man: Prehistoric man preserved in a peat bog sheds light on the way we once lived.   
  • Sutton Hoo Ship Burial: See helmets, weapons and jewels recovered from an Anglo-Saxon burial site.

The British Museum is well worth a trip to the smoke – find cheap train tickets to London.

Outdoorsy types? Kick some leaves around in one of London’s many splendid parks. Hyde Park, one of London’s Royal Parks, has around 4,000 trees to wander among. Don’t miss Speakers’ Corner, where revolutionaries, politicians and everyone in-between have got on their soapbox. Sunday is the day to take trains to London for Speakers’ Corner sessions.

Retail therapy – where to shop

High Street Heaven

One-and-a-half miles of super shopping. Oxford Street boasts Zara, Uniqlo, H&M, River Island, M&S and flagship stores for John Lewis and Topshop that’ll blow your socks off.

Vintage shops, one-off boutiques and homewares

Hipsters, creative-types and those looking for something a bit different should head to London’s markets

  • Camden Market: A hub of alternative culture. Come here for retro fashions like battered Levi’s, old-school Adidas and stacks of dusty vinyl.
  • Brick Lane Market: Keep it kitsch with bric-a-brac, retro furniture and other cool stuff. A favourite of design students and antiques hunters.  

Our guide to London’s best markets – from food to fashion.

Label lovers - designer shopping

Regent Street: Head up West to splurge on – or merely gaze at – threads from Burberry, Lacoste, Hobbs, Calvin Klein and more. Don’t miss Liberty London, a Mock Tudor department store stuffed with luxury goods. From the iconic Liberty print bags, fabrics and cushions, to Marc Jacobs and Vivienne Westwood fashion.

Selfridges: Find every label worth its salt, a denim department that goes on forever and a totally awesome toy department. Enough said. Treat yourself (or someone else) with cheap train tickets to London.

Feeling hungry? Where to eat

An intimate dinner: With the tag ‘the most romantic restaurant in London’ you’re onto a winner at Clos Maggiore. Fine French food – check. Dining beneath stars amid candles and apple blossom – check.

Serious wine served by handsome waiters – check. This is a little bit of Provence transported to Covent Garden.

A light lunch: Pie and mash is a London staple - as cockney as Bow Bells. And at Battersea Pie Station pie and mash gets a foodie makeover while remaining true to its roots. Find traditional steak and kidney alongside trendy options like butternut squash and goat’s cheese. Time Out says it serves the ‘best pie in London’ – take trains to London to see if you agree!  

International: Critics have been falling over themselves to say nice things about Polpo. And what can we say? You’ll get small plates of unfussy but truly amazing Venetian food at this small London chain. Think pork and fennel meatballs with spaghetti. Yum.  

Street food: There’s a burger and then there’s a Bleecker burger. It’s made from rare-breed, pasture-fed beef, then grilled, slapped inside a toasted sesame bun and splashed with burger sauce in true NY fashion. Find a Bleecker burger  

Feeling hungry? Book train tickets to London.

Hidden London

Deeney’s: Haggis and cheese doesn’t sound like the most appealing combination. But honestly, the sandwiches served up at Deeney’s are good. Find them at Broadway Market on Saturdays.

The Screen on the Green: Like the flicks used to be. The cinema dates back to the early 1900s, but has some lovely modern touches – such as red sofas to chill on and drinks brought to your seat as you watch. It’s run by arty independent cinema chain Everyman.

Need tickets to London? We’ve got you sorted…