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Frommer's favorite experiences in London

Frommer's favorite experiences in London: Have afternoon tea, stroll through gardens, check out the pubs and more.
The West Front of St Paul's Cathedral in London.
The West Front of St Paul's Cathedral in London.Matthew Fearn / AP file
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Watching the Sunset at Waterloo Bridge: This is the ideal place for watching the sun set over Westminster. You can see the last rays of light bounce off the dome of St. Paul's and the spires in the East End.

Enjoying a Traditional Afternoon Tea: At The Ritz hotel, 150 Piccadilly, W1 (tel. 020/7493-8181), the tea ritual carries on as it did in Britain's heyday. You could invite the Queen of England herself here for a "cuppa." The pomp and circumstance of the British Empire live on here -- only the Empire is missing.

Cruising London's Waterways: In addition to the Thames, London has an antique canal system, with towpath walks, bridges, and wharves. Replaced by the railroad as the prime means of transportation, the canal system remained forgotten until it was rediscovered by a new generation. Now undergoing a process of urban renewal, the old system has been restored, with bridges painted and repaired, and paths cleaned up, for you to enjoy.

Spending Sunday Morning at Speakers Corner: At the northeast corner of Hyde Park, a British tradition carries on. Speakers sound off on any subject, and "in-your-face" hecklers are part of the fun. You might hear anything from denunciations of the monarchy to antigay rhetoric. Anyone can get up and speak. The only rules: You can't blaspheme, be obscene, or incite a riot. The tradition began in 1855 -- before the legal right to assembly was guaranteed in 1872 -- when a mob of 150,000 gathered to attack a proposed Sunday Trading Bill.

Studying the Turners at the Tate Britain: When he died in 1851, J. M. W. Turner bequeathed his collection of 19,000 watercolors and some 300 paintings to the people of Britain. He wanted his finished works, about 100 paintings, displayed under one roof. Today you see not only the paintings, but also glimpses of Turner's beloved Thames through the museum's windows. The artist lived and died on the river's banks and painted its many changing moods.

Strolling Through Covent Garden: George Bernard Shaw got his inspiration for Pygmalion here, where the Cockney lass who inspired the character of Eliza Doolittle sold violets to wealthy opera-goers. The old market, with its cauliflower peddlers and butchers in blood-soaked aprons, is long gone. What's left is London's best example of urban renewal and one of its hippest shopping districts. There's an antiques market on Monday and a crafts market Tuesday through Saturday. When you're parched, there are plenty of pubs to quench your thirst, including the Nag's Head, 10 James St., WC2 (tel. 020/7836-4678), an Edwardian pub that'll serve you a draft Guinness and a plate of pork cooked in cider.

Rowing on the Serpentine: When the weather's right, we head to Hyde Park's 42-acre (17-hectare) man-made lake dating from 1730, whose name derives from its winding, snakelike shape. At the Boathouse, you can rent boats by the hour. It's an idyllic way to spend a sunny afternoon. Renoir must have agreed; he depicted the custom on canvas.

Making a Brass Rubbing: Take home some costumed ladies and knights in armor from England's age of chivalry. Make your very own brass rubbing in the crypt of St. Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square; the staff there will be happy to show you how.

Getting to Know North London on a Sunday: Begin by looking for some smart fashion at Camden Market, a Sunday event on Camden High Street where stallholders hawk designer jewelry and clothing. Next, walk up to Hampstead Heath off Well Walk and take the right fork, which leads to an open field with a panoramic view of London. Cap your jaunt with a visit to the Freud Museum, open on Sunday until 5pm.

Dining at Rules: Rules, at 35 Maiden Lane, WC2 (tel. 020/836-5314), was established as an oyster bar in 1798; it may be the oldest restaurant in London. Long a venue for the theatrical elite and literary beau monde, it still serves the same dishes that delighted Edward VII and his mistress, Lillie Langtry, who began their meals with champagne and oysters upstairs. Charles Dickens had a regular table. If you're looking for an old-fashioned British dessert, finish off with the treacle sponge or apple suet pudding.

Spending an Evening at the Theater: London is the theatrical capital of the world. The live stage offers a unique combination of variety, accessibility, and economy -- and maybe a look at next season's Broadway hit.

Crawling the London Pubs: Americans bar-hop; Londoners pub-crawl. With some 5,000 pubs within the city limits, you would certainly be crawling if you tried to have a drink in each of them! We have suggested the traditional pubs that we think will make a worthwhile crawl. While making the rounds, you can partake of that quintessentially British fare known as "pub grub," which could be anything from a ploughman's lunch (a hunk of bread, cheese, and a pickle) to shepherd's pie, to nouveau British cuisine. Today, in the right places, some of that pub grub tastes better than the fare served in many restaurants.

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