Need to know before you visit: useful facts about London attractions

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Planning a short-break in London? A fun-filled time here can offer a supreme experience for all the family. And yet, it’s useful to be aware of one or two things before you arrive in the capital – for instance, the following little-known facts about London attractions that doubtless won’t be immediately obvious until you learn them. Armed with them, though, and on your way to your accommodation (perhaps the Park Grand hotel Paddington), then you’re bound to save time, money and enjoy an even more satisfying trip to London…

Buckingham Palace opens only in the summer

Buckingham Palace

… And you’re greatly advised to book in advance. Yes, like it or not, The Queen’s official London residence is only open to anyone besides herself, her own guests, those who work there and those visiting on official business in the summer months. To be fair, though, such a public opening tends to be seen as rather a generous move on the part of Her Majesty, given that it’s only a fairly recent development (in the last 15-20 years). Plus, yes, it’s highly likely you’ll be left disappointed and not be able to actually get in on a day and at a time convenient during your trip to the capital unless you go online prior to arrival and book your slot at the Palace. In short, it’s a hugely popular attraction and tickets sell out fast, fast, fast – all the year round, actually! Trust us (ahem); your best bet is probably to visit the Royal Collection Trust’s website.

Be impromptu to book a West End show

Spontaneity’s your friend if you want to see a show (musical, play, comedy, stand-up comics; whatever) at a West End theatre. That means popping along to the half-price ticket booth in the very centre of town (Leicester Square) when it opens at 10am and grabbing yourself cheap tickets for that night’s performance for you and yours. Or alternatively, if you know exactly what you want to see and where it’s being put on, make the trip to the theatre itself around the same time of day and snag dramatically reduced return tickets for that night’s performance. Simple – well, when you know how.

Bargain-hunting at Borough Market? Afternoons are best

 Borough Market

One of the best-loved of London’s many and various food markets – enormously so with the passionate foodie crowd – Borough Market also, like it or not, has a deserved reputation for getting very busy too. Indeed, it can get just like, well, Piccadilly Circus there some mornings at the weekend. To wit, the best times for popping along to this oh-so delicious-morsel-vending location for some decently-priced offerings certainly isn’t at the weekend and, in fact, for bargains not in the morning either. Now, it’s true that if you want to avoid all the crowds, then weekdays before 10am’s the best bet, but for well-priced taste-tastic snacks and more, you’re best advised to aim for around 4pm on weekdays when the vendors are beginning to discount their goods to sell off as much that’s potentially left over from the day’s trading before packing up and heading home. We’re talking the likes of fresh fruit and veg, fish and pastries here – do note, though, that a good number of the stalls will only accept cash as payment (no debit or credit cards).

The Houses of Parliament isn’t open to the general public

 Houses of Parliament

Well, technically it is; but only if you know somebody from the UK who’s taken the trouble to book a visit to the Houses of Parliament via their own Member of Parliament (MP) and will be accompanying you for your time spent in this iconic example of neo gothic architecture and, of course, the timeless seat of British democratic power – so entry to the place isn’t exactly going to be included in one of the many available London hotels special offers. If you don’t mind going through that rigmarole – and you’ve a very good UK-based friend, who’ll do the necessary leg-work for you – then stepping inside Westminster’s corridors of power makes for a fascinating and unforgettable hour or two, for sure.

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