ROYAL DETOUR: No trip to London is complete without a glimpse of Buckingham Palace.
ROYAL DETOUR: No trip to London is complete without a glimpse of Buckingham Palace. michelle gately

London calling: Save the best for last in England

GIVEN the centuries of history and millions of possibilities that lie in London, it's easy to be overwhelmed by everything the city has to offer.

From iconic royal sights to flagship stores for some of the biggest international brands and galleries housing some of the art world's most influential pieces, there is pretty much nothing you can't find in England's capital.

This comes with its own set of problems.

Saving the best for last and taking a piece of advice I read somewhere along the way, I make London my last destination in the UK. While I'm not jet lagged, I am a little weary.

I spent my first month of solo travel packing in as much as possible, ticking plenty of things off my bucket list.

I am ready to slow things down by the time I get to London, so set my mind on immersing myself in the city's cultural and literary offerings rather than the sites for which the city is famous.

A single room at Stüdyo Paddington by Bridgestreet proved the perfect base for this solo explorer, just minutes' walk to Paddington Station and several tube lines.

The clean, comfortable and surprisingly spacious room was a delight to return to each night.

There are compact, standard and premium single or double rooms on offer and a tidy communal dining space with complimentary continental breakfast.

The autumn colours of Hyde Park.
The autumn colours of Hyde Park. Michelle Gately

Hyde Park, one of London's many gorgeous green spaces, was also a short stroll away and in full autumn bloom during my visit.

Although I'm from a land of exotic animals, the squirrels darting throughout Hyde Park were endlessly fascinating to me.

Spending a quiet hour or two walking through the space, watching locals play with their dogs and children feed birds is the perfect chance to reflect on your travels.

On the northern side of the park near Lancaster Gate, you'll find the Italian Gardens, believed to have been a gift from Prince Albert to Queen Victoria and a peaceful place to stop for a break.

Of course, a visit to the UK wouldn't be the same without some royal sightseeing, especially if you've binged on the latest season of Netflix drama The Crown.

An easy way to take in the main sights is a walk along The Mall (pronounced to rhyme with pal) from Trafalgar Square up to Buckingham Palace.

Detour from the famous red royal road through St James' Park to enjoy yet more of the city's delightful green space.

Buckingham Palace.
Buckingham Palace. Michelle Gately

Make sure to join the crowds outside the palace gates to snap a typical tourist photo.

If you've still got some pounds to spend, London is the perfect place to shop.

Splurge at the city's historic department stores, like Harrods, Fortnum and Mason, Selfridges or at the large flagship stores for the world's biggest brands in Oxford St.

If you're looking to scour for a bargain, there are plenty of borough markets to choose from.

Hip Camden is the perfect place to spend a day in any weather, with covered markets as well as stalls in which you can easily spend hours getting lost.

Here you'll also find trendy cafes and restaurants but strolling around the quieter streets is where you'll find the best delights.

London of course holds a few hidden gems for history and literature nerds - better still, they're free to visit.

Victoria and Albert.
Victoria and Albert. Michelle Gately.

Sir John Soane's Museum is a virtual treasure trove of curiosities, a breathtaking collection of bizarre and surprising items.

Untouched since the iconic English architect's death 180 years ago, the museum stretches across three homes Sir John owned and transformed.

Treasures include the sarcophagus of the Egyptian king Seti I, more than 30,000 architectural drawings and a breathtaking picture room, with hidden panes opened throughout the day for visitors lucky enough to time their visit perfectly.

For something a little quirky, swing past the Wellcome Collection, which houses some fascinating graphic design, medical and advertising exhibitions.

The British Library is a sight to behold, with permanent displays including the Magna Carta, Jane Austen's notebooks, Beatles lyrics and more.

But if there's only one museum you visit, make it the Victoria and Albert. You can easily spend a day getting lost in its halls, which span 5000 years and cover almost every artistic medium as well as hundreds of fascinating historical objects.

This space is truly awe-inspiring, a reminder of how small each individual is in the scheme of global human history.

Harrods by night is a sight to see.
Harrods by night is a sight to see. Michelle Gately

On the opposite side of the Thames and slightly off the main tourist path you'll find the Imperial War Museum London.

Sadly, I wildly underestimated this museum and didn't leave nearly enough time to explore the collections.

Although if you're short on time, it's easy to navigate to the periods of most interest, such as life at home during World War II or conflicts of the espionage of Britain's secret forces.

The Holocaust Exhibition is a sobering reflection on history's darkest hours and a solemn tribute to survivors.

Every traveller deserves a little luxury and a visit to south bank's OXO Tower is the perfect end to a day exploring the city.

Be sure to book ahead, especially in summer months, because the view over the city skyline is understandably highly sought-after.

Although they're open for a range of meals, the Not Afternoon Tea is the perfect modern and indulgent twist on a British classic.

Each plate of seasonal delectable desserts (which look almost too good to eat) is paired with a cocktail for the perfect afternoon treat.

Get your timing right in the cooler months and you'll be able to enjoy watching the city lights blink to life as the sun sets over the Thames.


Bushfire reported near Glen Esk

Bushfire reported near Glen Esk

People in the area may be affected by smoke

Newly planted trees stolen straight out of soil in parklands

Newly planted trees stolen straight out of soil in parklands

The group planted 35 trees for National Tree Day earlier this year.

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