The UK capital is as dynamic as ever, with a spate of world-class openings to enthrall the visitor, from a major art gallery to a new enclosure at London Zoo. So plan your stay with our guide
A world-leading hub for fashion, design, culture and food, London never sits still. However many times you visit there is always something new to experience, whether it's a shop, museum, gallery or restaurant. Never far from a park or waterway, you can also inhale some fresh air and enjoy quiet contemplation.
With Knightsbridge department stores Harvey Nichols and Harrods on the doorstep of Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London and jewellers such as Boodles and Bulgari a few minutes' walk away on Sloane Street, all your fashion needs are sorted. Also nearby are cult homeware destinations Skandium, The Conran Shop and Mint. Across the capital in Shoreditch, on and around Redchurch Street, you'll find up-and-coming labels and accessories by local makers. With its variety of stores, Westbourne Grove in Notting Hill is great for browsing, while concept stores are perfect all-in-one options choose from Dover Street Market in Haymarket and Clerkenwell London.
For first-time visitors to the capital, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Westminster, the Tower of London and St Paul's Cathedral are all musts. Along the River Thames, glass-clad skyscraper The Shard joins the London Eye Ferris wheel in offering a bird's-eye view of the city. Over in the east, the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is home to the ArcelorMittal Orbit, a 114-metre-high sculpture by Anish Kapoor, which has the longest helter-skelter-style tunnel slide in the world. Sports enthusiasts might want to relive the 2012 Games by swimming in the London Aquatics Centre or track cycling in the VeloPark.
London is renowned for its West End theatres, as well as The Old Vic, the National Theatre and the Donmar Warehouse. Its also worth visiting the smaller spots, such as the Menier Chocolate Factory at London Bridge or the Hampstead Theatre, where many of the best productions start out. Meanwhile, the big news in the art world is the addition to Tate Modern, a twisting, pyramid-like 10-storey structure by Herzog & de Meuron, and the Design Museum's relocation to Kensington. In December 2016, the Science Museum is unveiling its new Mathematics gallery, designed by the late Zaha Hadid and filled with intriguing pieces, from hand-held instruments to a 1920s aircraft.
Kings Cross in the north of the city is a regeneration success story, centred around the restaurants of Granary Square. It's also where you can begin a walk along the Regent's Canal, an eight mile historic waterway that stretches from the River Thames at Limehouse to Paddington. Alternatively, enjoy horse riding in Hyde Park, one of eight Royal Parks, or swimming with locals in the ponds on Hampstead Heath or in the Serpentine. Stoke Newington is home to the new Woodberry Wetlands nature reserve, while Kew Gardens is not to be missed. If you like big cats, London Zoo has recently opened a Land of the Lions exhibit.
The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, London is a blissful urban retreat with a 17-metre pool, lined in stainless steel. Allow time to relax pre-treatment in the Zen colour therapy area, the amethyst crystal steam room and the vitality pool. Therapies use products by British brand Aromatherapy Associates, and here you can have a Couture Facial from skincare expert Linda Meredith.
London offers food from all over the world. Feast on Sri Lankan at Hoppers in Soho, an opening from the family behind Mayfair's Michelin-starred Indian restaurant Gymkhana; fresh pasta at Padella in Borough Market; or duck foie gras at Frenchie. The latest A-lister hangout is Asian seafood venue Sexy Fish, where art by Damien Hirst and Frank Gehry lines the walls. For real wow-factor Michelin-starred food, however, head to auction house Bonhams, where the restaurant is run by chef Tom Kemble, or Dinner at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London, for Heston Blumenthal's fine dining inspired by historic cuisine.
It's hard to beat live entertainment. Ballet fans flock to the Royal Opera House or to Sadler's Wells Theatre for contemporary dance, while jazz aficionados can choose between the legendary Ronnie Scott's, the 606 Club or the newer Nightjar. There's also cabaret at The Crazy Coqs, part of Brasserie Zedel, and comedy at the Leicester Square Theatre. The Art Deco Electric Cinema in Notting Hill is an institution for film lovers, and Somerset House comes into its own on winter weekends for ice skating to DJ sets.