Capital days out: new London tourist attractions

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Olympics events and shows

Even if you didn't get tickets you can get into the spirit of things by visiting the Olympic sites or one of the many events and exhibitions linked to the games. A new Afternoon Olympic Walk, building on the success of the Daily Olympic Walk run by London's Blue Badge guides (adults ?9, concs ?7, under-16s ?5) takes a new route, starting at Bromley-by-Bow tube station at 1.30pm on Tuesdays and Fridays. View the Olympic and Paralympic Village, the Velodrome and other sports venues, and look out for specially commissioned Art in the Park projects including large-scale facades by international artists (

Or you could download a free Stratford audio walk from the London Borough of Newham's website ( The 90-minute walk takes in spectacular views over the Olympic Park.

In central London, Mine to Medals is a free exhibition at the British Museum (44 Great Russell Street WC1,, to 9 September) on the production of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic gongs. During the games (27 July-12 August), the Royal Opera House (Covent Garden, will host a free exhibition called The Olympic Journey: Story of the Games, showing artefacts, graphics, film and audio from the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, along with historic medals and torches.

At the Natural History Museum in South Kensington, a new exhibition on Robert Falcon Scott's epic Terra Nova expedition to Antarctica is opening this weekend(20 January) (, adults ?9, concs ?5.50). This powerful tale explores the scientific significance of the epic 1910-1913 journey, alongside the tragic human toll it took. Visitors can walk around a life-size replica of the base camp hut that still survives in Antarctica, and see artefacts used by Scott and his team and specimens they collected.

To celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens, the Museum of London (London Wall EC2,, free) is running Dickens and London, until 10 June. It recreates a journey through Victorian London with audio-visual displays, and includes rarely seen manuscripts of novels, including David Copperfield and Bleak House.

There's an amazing line-up of art shows in London this year. It kicks off with today's opening of David Hockney: A Bigger Picture, showcasing his East Yorkshire-inspired landscapes, at the Royal Academy (Piccadilly W1,, adults ?14, concs ?3-?13, until 9 April). From 9 February-27 May there'll be an exhibition of Lucian Freud Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery (St Martin's Place WC2, Celebrate post-war design at British Design 1948-2012 at the Victoria & Albert Museum in South Kensington (31 March-12 August,, adults ?12, concs ?8, under-12s free), or see a Damien Hirst retrospective at Tate Modern on Bankside (5 April-9 September,, adults ?14, concs ?12.20, under-12s free).

You could try getting into local politics, fighting your way up and eventually becoming an MP. But there are easier ways to get behind the scenes at the Houses of Parliament, including new art and architecture tours, available until the end of July. Running for 75 minutes on Fridays from 5.30pm (when the public gets chucked out) Royalty and Splendour in the House of Lords costs ?30pp, including a glass of champagne. Contemporary Portraiture in Portcullis House (?15pp) runs four times a day on Fridays. Tours of the main parliament buildings are available on Saturdays if booked in advance.

In Greenwich, the world's last tea clipper will reopen to visitors in late April following a seven-year restoration, interrupted by the fire of 2007 which set it back 14 months and added an extra ?10m to the cost. The vessel, which set a record passage time of 73 days from Sydney to London in 1885, is set to become one of the highlights of the Unesco world heritage site of Maritime Greenwich. Originally built in 1869 at a cost of ?16,150, the ship should be an incredible sight.
•, times and prices TBA

Newest residents Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge are due to move in to Kensington Palace in 2013, and its public rooms are undergoing a significant revamp. The palace gardens will connect to Kensington Gardens for the first time since the 19th century, and new cafes and courtyards are being added. The interior is being organised into four exhibition areas focusing on royal lives: William III, Mary II and Anne; George II; Victoria; and the princesses Margaret and Diana. The first, opening on 26 March, is Victoria Revealed, showcasing Victoria's life from the day she was awakened in this palace to be told she was now queen. • Adults ?14.50; children accompanied by an adult free., adults ?14.50, concs ?12, under-16s free

There's a new icon on the London Transport map: a cable car. The UK's first urban cable car will open in time for the Olympics (fingers crossed) and run over the Thames, connecting Greenwich Peninsula station on the south bank and the Royal Victoria Docks on the north. Promising to whisk up to 2,500 pedestrians and cyclists an hour over the river, the ?36m ride, sponsored by airline Emirates, will link the 02 Arena in Greenwich and the ExCeL centre in east London. Expect a different kind of view.
•, ticket prices TBA, but Oyster cards will be valid

White Cube, one of London's leading contemporary commercial galleries, added a huge new space in Bermondsey, to its existing two locations late last year. At 5,400 square metres, the new space, a converted 1970s warehouse, is the largest commercial gallery in Britain, and houses exhibition areas, a bookshop and an auditorium. It expects to host a show by Damien Hirst to coincide with his Tate Modern retrospective from April-September.
• 144–152 Bermondsey Street SE1,, free

Thanks to a generous donation, the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park is opening a new wing in July, the Serpentine Sackler Gallery. Zaha Hadid, the Iraqi-British architect responsible for the Aquatics Centre at the London 2012 Olympic Park, is remodelling an elegant former ammunitions depot, the Magazine Building, on the other side of the Serpentine Bridge, into a venue with a stunning transparent extension housing a cafe/restaurant. The new gallery will put on changing displays of new art and will include a children's play area and an annual large-scale light installation.
•, free

Three 30-metre wide underground oil tanks beneath what will be the new extension to Tate Modern (once Bankside power station) are being converted into galleries. The expansion will also incorporate a larger welcome area by the Turbine Hall ramp. More ramps will lead visitors down to the oil tanks. Designed to house visual art, thought and performance exhibitions and events, the tanks are due to open on 1 July.
•, free

February half term sees the opening of Shark Encounter at the London Aquarium on the South Bank, where you can come almost nose-to-nose with 16 sharks. A five-metre-long glass walkway takes visitors to within inches of four species of shark, including two 2.8m brown sharks. There is also a 19.6m by 12m pacific reef display with a dramatic shipwreck scene, and a Shark Academy with interactive exhibits telling shark tales.
• Opens 11 February, , adults ?19.80, children ?14.40

Fiona Quinn and Mark Henshall are regional editors of Frommer's London 2012 and England 2012 ( To buy a copy for ?11.99 (RRP ?14.99) go to

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