"London is enchanting" the English writer Virginia Woolf noted in her diary entry for 5 May 1924. "I step out upon a tawny coloured magic carpet... and get carried away to beauty without raising a finger." You might not agree as you rattle through the dingy tunnels of the London Underground, or queue in the rain for the latest blockbuster art exhibition, but we all know what she means. This mighty metropolis is truly captivating, as much for its great multicultural mix of people as for its checklist of world-famous sights.
If you're a first-time visitor, my advice is don't try and see or do it all - you can't! If you're a returnee, head for somewhere new. Fortunately, this is a city that is easy to get around, and one thing to do soon leads into another thing to do. Planning is important but don't turn your sightseeing into a military manoeuvre - most neighbourhoods offer a bundle of attractions, so there's little point in racing from one side of town to the other in the same day. As well as checking opening times, keep an eye on the Transport for London website (www.tfl.gov.uk) as roadworks, strikes and delays are a fact of life here.
Where to start? Well, here's my personal Big Five...
1. Take a stroll along the South Bank.
2. Wander through the British Museum.
3. Visit Westminster Abbey.
4. Walk or picnic on Hampstead Heath.
5. Take a boat to Greenwich and visit the Royal Observatory.
How I’ve picked my things to do:
Well, it was a lot of fun... Firstly, I thought where I might like to take someone who'd never been to the capital before. Then I added in a few things to do that everyone has heard of and which in my view also deliver, just so you can go home and say 'yeah, we saw that' - and hopefully add that it was well worth it. I then ummed and aaahed a lot as I wittled everything down to my final essential list, aware that a visitor's time is precious. It was a bit like when you're packing and you know you have to chuck some things out. I've stuck to sights that are central, and ensured that there is a reasonable geographical spread so wherever you stay there should be something good close by. There's a good number of attractions that won't cost you a penny to enjoy, and hopefully something that appeals to most ages and interests, But above all, my selection was about giving you a sense of what makes London so special. Get ready for a treat...