Ride The London EyeThe London Eye must be the most endearingly frivolous addition to an ancient city's skyline since Gustave Eiffel dreamed up an entrance arch for the Paris Exposition in 1889. Riders on the world's biggest ferris wheel can see all the way to Greenwich on a clear day. (Unfortunately, clear days are pretty rare in London.)
Make The SceneThe fresh produce vendors are long gone, replaced by corny souvenir shops and fast food, but the fabled energy of Covent Garden survived its renovation. Saturday is the best day, as street performers do their best and crafts people set up stalls. Mondays mean flea market. A Covent Garden Web cam is trained on the action.
Smell The RosesSpeaking of gardens, how do the English do it? It's as if an infinite number of garden gnomes with uncannily green thumbs is perpetually pruning every square inch of London. At Kensington Gardens, one of a chain of central parks, you can lounge and gawk, stroll the willow-draped Long Water, and have tea in the palace Orangerie.
Follow The BardIt's always been the wrong side of the river as far as the nobs are concerned, but Southwark is where Shakespeare lived and worked. The newly rebuilt Globe Theatre stages his plays in as authentic a setting as modern fire laws allow. One of his hangouts, the George Inn, still stands. More on his life here is at the Southwark site.
Gloat Over LootLord Elgin practiced poor politics in 1804 when he packed up Greece's Parthenon and took it home as a souvenir. They're still at the British Museum, a monument to the impeccable taste and sticky fingers of the Empire's adventurers. Some exhibits are devoted to England's past, like the Sutton Hoo Hoard.
Get The ShiversWilliam the Conqueror built the vast, gloomy Tower of London after his 1066 invasion, mostly to cow the natives. He was also known as William the Bastard, but not to his face. In spite of the crowds, the Tower retains an aura of dread. This is where two of Henry VIII's wives arrived through Traitor's Gate, at left, to be executed. Oh yeah, and don't miss the Crown Jewels.
Drop A Few Bucks At HarrodsIf you're into shopping, Harrods is a destination in its own right. This vast emporium of really good stuff has welcomed shoppers since 1849. Now owned by Mohamed Al Fayed (the late Dodi's dad), it's not for the faint of pocket. At left, Stuart Weitzman diamond and platinum shoes on sale for more than one million euros. Stunt marketing aside, the Food Courts are awesome.
Go ModernThe Tate Modern, open only since 2000 in an ugly former power plant on the Thames, showcases Britain's collection of modern art. This is where new artists shock their elders with installations like the one featuring a cow's head floating in formaldehyde. That makes the Salvador Dali exhibit that opened June 1, 2007 look positively tame.
Take The River PathIf you thought about it too much, the story of the Thames over the last 1,000 years, real and fictional, would make your toes curl. But the fabled river is perhaps more beautiful (and clean) than ever. Big Ben and the Embankment Gardens are rivaled by new attractions across the river, where the Globe Theater, the Millennium Eye and the Tate Modern are linked by walkways.