1. Get nostalgic in the V&A Museum of Childhood
Did you know Monopoly's obscure tokens (the top hat, iron and thimble etc) originated when the niece of the game’s creator suggested he use charms from her charm bracelet? It’s little nuggets of information like this that you’ll take from the V&A Museum of Childhood. Boasting the world's finest collections of children's toys, dolls' houses, costumes and of course, board games, it's where little Lego men from the 80s meet Victorian dolls and everyone's favourite boredom-buster: The Slinky. With items dating as far back as 1872, it’s a very agreeable combination of history and nostalgia.
2. Hire a Santander bicycle for cheap
Officially named Santander Cycles, this public bicycle hire scheme makes for an easy and economical means to get around the city. You can hire a bike from as little as £2; you’ll get the first 30 minutes for free, and then it’s just £2 for every additional half hour. Simply go to any docking station (they’re red) and use your bank card to get started. There’s no need to book and you can return your bike to any dock across the capital. Take your wheels for a ‘landmark crawl’ – hitting one famed monument after the next, from Nelson’s Column to The Gherkin.
3. Go in search of London’s most infamous noses
If you’re down Soho way, look out for ‘the seven noses of Soho’. Created in 1997 by artist Rick Buckley, he attached 35 reproductions of his own nose to random buildings; protruding from walls and hanging from the exterior walls of the National Gallery and Tate Britain. Today only about ten survive. Go and find them!
4. Discover the world’s best artists in the National Gallery
Vincent van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ hangs in the National Gallery like the poster-boy for the world’s most recognised artworks. Eat your heart out, Louvre, you might have Lisa, but London’s got a huge collection of stunners, including work by Leonardo da Vinci, Monet and Michelangelo (to name drop but a few). With 2000 pieces showcasing the handiwork of western European masters from the 13th to the 19th century, there are paintings from virtually every European school of art. You’re in the presence of legends - and they’re yet to be out-shone.
5. Have a quirky cool time in Camden
Base yourself in Camden and your experience of the UK’s capital will be bona fide London. Loud and alternative, creative and kooky, defined by both affluence and penny-scrimping disparity; old things, new things and those that aren’t quite sure. Chockablock with artisans, and the preferred hangout of the late Amy Winehouse, if there’s one place where the city slickers loosen their crisp silk ties, it’s in crazy, quirky Camden.
Boasting a ceaseless energy, Camden is also home to London’s best eclectic shopping. The high street is lined with embellished shop fronts, from life-size bohemian elephants to six-foot Vans shoes. The congested markets are a mad hatter's tea party of stalls and street vendors, all framing Regent’s Canal. A mash-up of kitsch gifts, tattoos and neon tights (and lights), you’ll find plush pubs serving brown stout and niche cafés selling nothing but breakfast cereal. You’re a far cry from the city described in guide books, but you’ll pick away at the real essence of London.
6. Uncover the non-touristy hot spots
Tourist attractions abound, but idle days can be one of London’s most under-rated pleasures. Venture to one of the city’s numerous green spaces with a hamper of goodies bought just one hour earlier from an organic food market. Find a grassy knoll and watch the cricketers bowl, or rent a boat and row across the river, working up the appetite for an ice-cream.
7. Dine in the dark
Dans le Noir is a concept restaurant in London’s Islington. The theme being that you dine in complete darkness. This somewhat daunting experience commences in a fully lit bar area, where you’ll select from one of four colour-coded and highly ambiguous menus: red (meat), blue (fish), green (vegetarian) and white (chef’s choice). Diners are then served by a team of visually impaired staff in a pitch black dining room. At the table, you’ll have absolutely no idea if your date, in an attempt to place fork and food somewhere near their mouth, flicked a lump of buttery cod into your wine glass. The likelihood is they did, along with several peas and a wayward bean. And don’t even think about using your phone light; mobiles are confiscated at the bar.
8. Say hello to an enormous squid
Archie the giant squid lives in London’s Natural History Museum, in a custom made nine metre tank. Caught off the Falkland Islands in 2004, the 8.6 metre monster is roughly the size of a bus. Drop in and say hello. Cromwell Road, London.
9. Watch a movie outdoors at Somerset House
Throughout the summer outdoor cinemas pop up across the capital, but nowhere quite as grand as Somerset House. This Neoclassical building with a 1776 birthdate is situated on the south side of the Strand and overlooks the River Thames. Come August, it plays host to Film 4's annual Summer Screen event, welcoming guests to watch a bevvy of screenings under the blanket of a starlit sky. Spend a balmy summer’s evening in a beautiful courtyard, with rugs, picnics and beanbags (or whatever else you can carry on the underground). From red carpet premieres, to iconic hits and timeless masterpieces, the film reel doesn’t stop turning for 14 consecutive nights. Well organised types buy their tickets as soon as they go on sale (in May). That might seem early but these events are always a sell-out.