Think you've "been there, done that" when it comes to London? Think again. This is a great year for the British capital, with developments that make this summer a prime time to discover -- or get reacquainted with -- its timeless appeal.
The Museum of London (www.museumoflondon.org.uk) is becoming even more fascinating with the unveiling of its Galleries of Modern London. Here, around 7,000 objects and interactive displays trace the city's turbulent history from the Great Fire of 1666 to the present day. Kids will love stepping inside an original prison cell and strolling though a life-size reconstruction of a Victorian pleasure garden.
Tate Modern (www.tate.org.uk/modern) and WWT London Wetland Centre (www.wwt.org.uk) both celebrate their 10th birthdays with special events. Tate Modern, which is expanding its galleries and visitor facilities, is staging a major free arts festival on May 14-16. The WWT has several new wildlife zones and exhibits. The Florence Nightingale Museum (www.florence-nightingale.co.uk), which charts the story of the famous Crimean War nurse, is re-opening in a new building on the South Bank. Not far away, the Imperial War Museum (www.london.iwm.org.uk) is opening its Explore History Centre, which gives visitors better access its vast collection of films, photos, and sound recordings.
All of these changes are in addition to several important events earlier this year, such as the re-opening of the Jewish Museum London (www.jewishmuseum.org.uk), and the opening of the Discover Greenwich Cultural Centre (www.oldroyalnavalcollege.org), which tells the history of Maritime Greenwich and the monarchs, architects, and admirals associated with it.
The Serpentine Gallery (www.serpentinegallery.org) in Hyde Park celebrated its 40th birthday with several major exhibitions, while London Zoo (www.zsl.org) has become even more family-friendly with the Rainforest Life Exhibit, which features a walkthrough canopy that simulates the real thing.
A little more offbeat is the launch of Celebrity Tours of London (www.thecelebrityplanet.com) and the Elephant Parade (www.elephantparadelondon.org), an outdoor art event between May and July that scatters more than 250 life-size elephants painted by artists and celebs all over central London to raise awareness of the endangered Asian elephant.
The long-overdue re-openings of the world-famous Savoy Hotel (www.fairmont.com/promo/savoy) on the Strand and the Four Seasons (www.fourseasons.com/london) on prestigious Park Lane are just the icing on the cake. W London (www.wlondon.co.uk) brings a fresh modern face to busy Leicester Square later this year, while not far from it, just off Trafalgar Square, the Corinthia Hotel London (www.corinthia.com) is an exciting addition to the London hotel scene by a small luxury chain.
More than 1,000 contemporary-style rooms, studios, and penthouses have just opened on the South Bank, close to Waterloo Station and the London Eye, in the form of the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge (www.parkplaza.com). Also south of the river, in Battersea, the Pestana Chelsea Bridge (www.pestana.com) -- the four-star flagship of a Portuguese group -- has recently opened to largely glowing reviews from early guests. Also in Battersea, the soon-to-open Hotel Verta (www.hotel-verta.co.uk) bills itself as "the first integrated hotel heliport situation in the world" - it's right next to the new London's Vertical Gateway. The hotel itself has a thermal-hydro spa and décor that recalls aviation's golden age.
Alternatively, a new service offered by One Fine Stay (www.onefinestay.com) offers you the chance to stay in someone's swanky apartment while they're out of town, with properties ranging from sexy bachelor pads to family townhouses.
London's restaurant scene is continually evolving, but among the most exciting developments for 2010 are Bistrot Bruno Loubet (www.thezetter.com) at the hip Zetter Hotel in Clerkenwell, and Hix at Selfridges (www.hixatselfridges.co.uk) -- Mark Hix's third London eatery -- set within the classy department store.