LONDON (Reuters) - Got an extra long weekend to explore the British capital where Queen Elizabeth II will be celebrating her 60th year on the throne with a massive Diamond Jubilee party? Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors explore London amid the royal hoopla.
6 p.m. You'd better arrive at least a day or two ahead of the main festivities. Many people will get to London even earlier and will already be staking out places for Sunday's 1,000-boat flotilla along the Thames, Monday's pop concert outside Buckingham Palace and Tuesday's royal procession along the Mall. For a full official guide look on: www.thediamondjubilee.org/
Why not familiarize yourself with some of the local culture and go for a pint first. Friday night before a national holiday means the pubs will be buzzing.
Ditch the ubiquitous lager dens dotted around the capital in favor of a visit to the 2010 “pub of the year” as chosen by Britain’s Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA).
The Harp in Chandos Place lies in the shadow of Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square, near Covent Garden shopping, dining, Leicester Square, the theatre district and the pubs and clubs of Soho.
8 p.m. Dine with the ruling class at Rules restaurant (www.rules.co.uk) in Covent Garden. It’s old, it’s grand, the food is traditional English and it’s a popular dining spot for the privately educated elite. This gastronomic institution has been reviewed by Kingsley Amis, defended by John Betjeman, immortalized by Graham Greene and frequented by Edward VII and his lover Lillie Langtry.
Top up at the bar with a pre-dinner drink from the Royal Collection Cocktails menu: One recipe for every one of the 16 countries where Queen Elizabeth is head of state.
Throw some regal shapes at one of the clubs favored by the young royals. Cut loose at Whisky Mist (www.whiskymist.com), get your Middleton mojo on at Mahiki (www.mahiki.com) or shake your aristocratic booty at Boujis (www.boujis.com) until the wee hours. Plenty of Sloane Rangers and Hooray Henrys to choose from here. But remember: keen royal watchers are already standing five deep at the barricades.
Unless you have tickets for the Epsom Derby, where Queen Elizabeth will kick off jubilee celebrations by indulging in her passion for horse-racing, today is the best of two days to get your sightseeing in before the pageantry of the coming days.
9 a.m. Head to the Tower of London (www.hrp.org.uk). Founded by William the Conqueror after his 1066 invasion of England, the Tower, with its strategic location on the River Thames, has been a royal palace, a place of execution, a prison for traitors and still holds Britain’s Crown jewels.
12 p.m. Cross over Tower Bridge, turn left and go for lunch at one of the many restaurants on the South Bank. For top dining try Le Pont de la Tour which overlooks the Thames, or the slightly less formal dining at the Chop House and Blueprint Cafe. They are all found at one website (www.lepontdelatour.co.uk/)
1 p.m. Head back toward Tower Bridge and keep walking past it. Here are the Mayor’s round and gleaming glass and steel offices. There is a broad walkway beside the Thames that is popular with both locals and tourists.
As you stroll along you’ll pass the Clink museum (www.clink.co.uk), Vinopolis (www.vinopolis.co.uk) — a wine-lovers’ emporium of all beverages related to the grape — a replica of Francis Drake’s globe-circumnavigating ship the Golden Hinde (www.goldenhinde.com), and a lovely bankside pub called the Anchor Bankside before arriving at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre (www.shakespearesglobe.com).
The thatch-roofed, oak-beamed Globe is a faithful reconstruction of the open-air playhouse designed in 1599 and a unique international resource dedicated to the exploration of Shakespeare’s work and the playhouse for which he wrote.
Take in nearby Tate Modern Museum (www.tate.org/modern/), housed in an imposing converted power station. Further along the river you can go for a ride on the giant London Eye (www.londoneye.com) Ferris wheel or cross the Millennium footbridge just opposite the Tate for a visit to Christopher Wren’s magnificent St. Paul’s Cathedral (www.stpauls.co.uk), where Charles and Diana were married.
If you’d like to recreate last year’s royal wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton - now known as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge - wander a bit further on and cross over Westminster Bridge for a visit to Westminster Abbey (www.westminster-abbey.org).
Here is also where England’s monarchs are crowned and many put to eternal rest alongside the graves of the unknown warrior, Geoffrey Chaucer, Alfred Tennyson, Robert Browning, Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling, Thomas Hardy, George Frederic Handel and Laurence Olivier.
7 a.m Get up! Get out! If you want to catch even a glimpse of the royal flotilla as it passes through London on the River Thames, you’d better make your way to a viewing spot soon alongside a million expected spectators.
A Chinese junk, Venetian gondolas and a boat rowed by Olympic champions will be part of the 1,000-vessel flotilla, where the queen will also be accompanied by a host of musicians playing everything from Bollywood songs to James Bond tunes.
London mayor Boris Johnson has said he expected the flotilla to be “like Dunkirk except more successful”, a reference to the evacuation of British troops from France during World War Two.
Olympic and Paralympic champions including five-time rowing gold medal winner Steve Redgrave will lead the flotilla in a vessel also manned by soldiers injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The first Chinese junk to visit London since the Great Exhibition in 1851 will join the flotilla, as well as several gondolas, passenger ships, kayaks and lifeboats.
The flotilla will be over seven miles long and travel 25 miles of the Thames, passing every bridge in central London, some of which will be open to spectators at each end. For help with finding a spot to watch, click on: here
4 p.m. After the procession, Go for tea. Claridges (www.claridges.co.uk) was named by the United Kingdom Tea Council as London’s top afternoon tea place for 2011 and it’s just around the corner. Make sure you book in advance and obey the dress code: Elegant smart casual; no shorts, vests, sportswear, flip flops, ripped jeans or baseball caps.
6 p.m. Head back to your hotel for some rest.
8 p.m. Now that you’ve tasted a bit of royal hoopla, you might also be hungry for dinner. There are some 140 restaurants in Britain with Michelin stars, four of which have the highest accolade of three stars. Two of those are in London.
One is Restaurant Gordon Ramsay on Royal Hospital Road (www.gordonramsay.com) in Chelsea, the other is Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester hotel (www.alainducasse-dorchester.com).
10 a.m. Have a lie-in. You might not have tickets for the pop concert at the palace tonight here . But you can be in the vicinity to soak up the tunes and the vibe.
In the meantime, take the opportunity to visit the London dungeon experience (here) near London Bridge. Scare yourself with the prospect of transportation or execution, take the rat walk or the Traitor; Ride to Hell as you experience 1,000 years of the darker side of British history.
12 p.m. Go for lunch at the George Inn, a 17th century pub which earns a mention in Charles Dickens’s “Little Dorrit” and is London’s last remaining galleried coaching inn. Dickens used to come here for coffee.
The George’s aged two-tiered balconies overlook a courtyard set aside for patrons to enjoy beer, ale, porter, stout and all other manner of drink as well as a hearty menu of pub food. This London treasure was rebuilt in 1676, after a fire destroyed the original. Shakespeare was another well-known regular.
2 p.m Take the Underground to the Imperial War Museum near Westminster. Winston Churchill was the queen’s first prime minister and it was from here that he directed the Allied Forces which defeated Nazi Germany in World War Two.
The original Cabinet War Rooms - today part of the Churchill War Rooms - which sheltered the people at the heart of Britain’s wartime government during the Blitz, lie beneath London’s bustle.
In 1940, shortly after becoming Prime Minister, Churchill stood in the War Cabinet Room and declared: ‘This is the room from which I will direct the war’. Today, you can step back in time to explore the secret headquarters where Churchill and his staff changed the course of history.
4 p.m. Head to the nearby Strand and Covent Garden for a bit of early supper or a late tea in one of the many restaurants and cafes.
6 p.m. You have three choices. If you have tickets for the party at the palace, get over there and have a mooch round the royal gardens and then take your place for a gala pop concert which will include Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Ed Sheeran, Jessie J, JLS, Kylie Minogue and Robbie Williams on a spectacular stage built around the Queen Victoria Memorial, right in front of Buckingham Palace.
If you don't have tickets you could join the thousands of people who are likely to be in the vicinity, head back to your hotel to watch it on the BBC, see it on a BBC big screen outdoors (here) or find a local pub holding a jubilee pop concert party.
6 a.m. By now you must be royally exhausted. Nevertheless, today is THE day. The royal procession, the horse-drawn coach, the guards on horseback, a thanksgiving service at St. Paul’s Cathedral and the royal wave from the balcony of Buckingham Palace, a flypast and a feu de joie (celebratory rifle salute).
Get your sandwiches, thermos of tea or coffee, bottles of water and a spot along the royal process route and hang onto your view.
A timetable can be found on: here
4 p.m. Go home.
Reporting by Paul Casciato, editing by Steve Addison