Marcus Leath  /  AP file
The Tate Modern in London. The building, designed by architects Herzog & de Meuron, is one example of the way art museums are taking on new and dynamic looks as communities once again seek signature looks for their institutions.
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Special to msnbc.com
updated 7/17/2006 3:12:38 PM ET 2006-07-17T19:12:38

Move over, Tokyo. Studies show that London is now the most expensive city in the world, both in which to live and to visit. Has that dissuaded tourists from coming in 2006? Not in the least. The city has been inundated with travelers because London is not just expensive, it’s also rich: rich in history, in architecture, in cultural experiences, in nightlife and, in the last decade, in cuisine. Creating an itinerary for just 24-hours, therefore, is a daunting task: no matter what you choose, it's inevitable that you're going to leave out something wonderful. With that in mind, here are some suggestions - flawed, I admit - for how to spend your own time in London. Know that whatever you end up doing, you'll have a smashing time. It's just that kind of town.

8 a.m. - 9 a.m.:  Black pudding, eggs, a rasher of bacon (aka Canadian bacon to those in the US), a roasted half tomato, some sautéed mushrooms perhaps and a side of beans and toast—these are the ingredients for a traditional British fry up and though it’s heavy, it’s a delightful way to kick off the day in London (just don’t tell your cardiologist). Dozens of greasy spoons serve fry up, of course, but those in the know and in the neighborhood, choose Uncles , an unpretentious little place with a hip, young crowd; a dedicated chef; and a fun Brit pop soundtrack.

9 a.m. or 10 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.:  Though hundreds have been sent to the Tower of London never to reemerge, you’ll go on your own volition, as this collection of prisons and fortresses remains as gorily intriguing today as it was in the days when executions in the yard were a common occurrence. It was here, in the Bloody Tower, that Sir Walter Raleigh and the two little nephews of Richard III lost their lives; nearby Tower Gate marks the killing spree of Henry VIII, who had Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, Lady Jane Gray and Sir Thomas More eliminated on that spot.  There are also exhibitions on torture, and in a much less bloody vein, the Crown Jewels—including the 530 carat Star of Africa and a ruby worn by Henry V at Agincourt—wowing the crowds at the Jewel House. Informative, hour-long walking tours are led by the guards (aka Beefeaters) every hour on the half-hour until 3:30 p.m.

MORNING ALTERNATIVE
If you’ve already done the Tower, why not take a peek at how London is reinventing itself—once again—with a stroll across the Millennium Bridge to the Tate Modern . The bridge, the first new one in London to be built since 1894, is meant to evoke a “blade of light”, the suspension cables on the underside of the bridge, so that crossers have an unimpeded view of either bank. A pedestrian-only bridge, it’s startlingly modern and quite beautiful. The same could be said for the Tate Modern, which was created out of the massive shell of the former Bankside Power Station, the brutal simplicity of the building lending itself surprisingly well to the display of art. The finest modern collection in Britain, the museum boasts masterpieces by Lucien Freund, Picasso, Salvadore Dali, Matisse, Mondrian and others.

Noon-2 p.m.: Forget fish and chips. There are a very few of those types of eateries left in London. Instead head to Punjab and order the real national dish of Britain: curry. You won’t find a restaurant that serves up a better and more affordable one either than this old timer, the first Northern Indian restaurant in London (est. 1947). I’ll be extremely jealous of you if you order the lamb with pomegranate sauce (the best Indian dish I’ve ever tasted), but really, you can’t go wrong whatever you choose here.

2 p.m. - 5 p.m.: Head next to Westminster Abbey the most important church in England, where centuries worth of monarchs have been crowned, and later laid to rest (King Harold is believed to have been the first to be crowned on this spot in the 11th century). Beyond the royal tombs and chapels, you’ll be able to pay your respects to your favorite British bards, as Chaucer, Samuel Johnson, Tennyson, Browning, and Dickens are all buried here, with memorials nearby to Keats, Shelley, Milton and others. After the Abbey make your way to the Cabinet War Rooms , the underground command bunker used by Churchill and his advisers during World War II. After the war, it was sealed up and forgotten until the 1970’s, meaning that what you see here---the huge wall maps, Churchill’s cot in a side room, the old-time BBC microphones on the desk—are not recreations but the actual stuff of history. In February of 2005, an informative and highly-interactive museum on the life of Churchill opened in one of the rooms.

AFTERNOON ALTERNATIVE
One of the greatest delights of London is simply strolling its ancient streets, so why not catch a walking tour? With the Original London Walks you’ll have an expert at your side, helping you trace the path of Jack the Ripper (one of their guides is Donald Rumbalow, former curator of the London Police Museum and the world’s foremost expert on Victorian crime); explore the chic enclave of Mayfair (home to nobs from Lord Nelson to Princess Diana’s lover Dodi Fayed); or the spots Shakespeare would have visited when he lived and worked here. London Walks offers half a dozen options each day, as well as evening tours.

5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.: If you choose not to do the first evening activity (see below), you could have a blow-out dinner at one of the city’s best restaurants, such as the elegant and exquisite The Square . With the strength of the pound against the dollar, a meal here could put you back several hundreds of dollars for your group (and though the foie gras terrine is sublime, that may not justify the extreme expense). So you may want to consider dining in the West End instead at the less expensive celebrity favorite The Ivy (yes, that is Hugh Grant at the table next to you). Serving up gourmet Brit food, though with a definite French influence, it’s the perfect spot for a celebratory pre-theater dinner.

8 p.m. - 10 p.m. or 11 p.m.: You must go to the theater when you’re in London--no ifs, ands or “but I’ll be boreds” (you won’t be!) . This is one of the greatest theater cities in the world and there are dozens of thought-provoking, entertaining plays and musicals on every night of the week. Best of all, they’re relatively affordable (especially when compared to ticket prices in New York City, its big rival). For half-price tickets on the day of the show, you can go to the ticket booth in Leicester Square ; if that’s too much trouble, you can book in advance through online sites which will supply you with both reviews and information on booking tickets.

11 p.m. - on: The underground may shut down at midnight, but the city itself is hopping well into the wee hours of the morning, with dozens of dance clubs and bars (even pubs can now stay open later than they used to, though most are still closing at the traditional hours). At the cutting edge of the dance scene since 1999, Fabric not only has a license to keep the club open for 24 hours a day between Thursday and Sunday each week, it’s placed the subwoofers for the sound system into the floor boards, so you’ll not only hear the music, you’ll feel it coursing through your body. With three dance floors, numerous bars and a roof terrace, it’s a massive place to hang, filling with 2500 partiers per night. 


Pauline Frommer is the creator of the new Pauline Frommer Guidebooks which will be debuting in bookstores this July.

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Uncles, 305 Portabello Road, W10 (Tube: Ladbroke Grove); telephone 020/0962-0090

Tower of London, Tower Hill, EC3 (Tube: Tower Hill); telephone 087/756-6060; www.hrp.org.uk.com/; Admission £14 adults, £11 students and seniors, £9 children; Mar-Oct Mon-Sat 9 a.m. - 6 p.m., Sun 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.; Nov-Feb Tues-Sat 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., Sun-Mon 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Tate Modern, Bankside SE1 (Tube: Southwark);  telephone 020/7887-8008; www.tate.org.uk/; Sun-Thurs 10 a.m. - 6 p.m., Fri-Sat 10am-10pm; free admission

Punjab, 80 Neal Street, WC2 (Tube: Covent Garden);  telephone 020/7836-9787; www.punjab.co.uk/

Westminster Abbey, Broad Sanctuary, SW1 (Tube: Westminster or St. James Park); phone 020/7654-4900; www.westminster-abbey.org/. Open Mon-Tues and Thurs-Fri 9:30 a.m. - 3:45 p.m.; Wed 9:30 a.m.- 7 p.m.; Sat 9 a.m. - 1:45 p.m.. Admission £7.50 adults; £5 for students, seniors, and children 11-18; free for children under 11.

To find theCabinet War Roomsgo to the Cabinet Steps at the end of King Charles Street (off Whitehall, near Big Ben, tube: Westminster or St. James). Open Apr-Sept daily 9:30 a.m. - 6 p.m., Oct-Mar 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Admission is £10 for adults, £8 for seniors and students, free for children under 16. For more info go to www.iwm.org.uk

Original London Walks, telephone 020/7624-3978; www.walks.com. Afternoon walks generally start between 2 p.m. and 2:30 p.m., costing just £6.

The Square, 6-10 Bruton St., W1 (Tube: Bond St. or Green Park). Phone 020/7495-7100 well in advance for reservations.  Open Mon-Fri noon-3 p.m.; Mon-Sat 6:30-11 p.m.; Sun 6:30 - 10 p.m.

The Ivy, 1 West St, WC2 (Tube: Leicester Square); phone 020/7836-4751 in advance for reservations. Open Mon-Sat noon-3 p.m.; daily 5:30 p.m. - midnight (last order); Sun noon-3:30 p.m.

Be sure that you’re using the TKTS booth at Leicester Square; a number of imitators have popped up and they don’t discount their tickets, in fact they overcharge. The TKTS booth is open Mon-Sun 10 a.m. - 7 p.m. and Sun noon-3 p.m. Tickets are discounted between 25% and 50% and all major credit cards are accepted.

To learn what’s on in Londonbefore you arrive, go to www.officiallondontheater.com/. Some trustworthy ticket brokers include www.keithprowse.com/ and www.applausetickets.com/.

Fabric, 77A Charterhouse St., EC1 (Tube: Farringdon). Telephone 020/7336-8898. There’s usually of cover charge of between £12 and £15.

Pauline Frommer is the creator of the new Pauline Frommer Guidebooks which will be debuting in bookstores this July.

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