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Attractions

Britain at War Experience
64-66 Tooley Street, SE1 (0171 403 3171). London Bridge tube/BR.
Open Apr-Sept 10am-5.30pm (last Admission); Oct-Mar 10am-4.30pm (last Admission).
Admission £4.95; £3.75 students, OAPs; £2.75 under-14s; £13 family (2 adults, 3 children).

The latest of London's 'real life' experiences: this one transports you back to London in the Blitz, a time of air raids, gas masks, black-outs, ration books and propaganda.

Guinness World of Records
The Trocadero, Piccadilly Circus, W1 (0171 439 7331). Piccadilly Circus tube.
Open 10am-10pm daily.
Admission £5.95; £4.20 OAPs, students; £3.95 under-16s; under-4s free; £15 family (2 adults, 2 children).
Credit A, AmEx, DC, £TC, V.

The exhibits, illustrating feats, facts and record-breakers from the best-selling Guinness Book of Records, use scale models, films, recordings and lots of push-button machines. The place is definitely showing signs of wear and tear - not surprising given the number of visitors over the last ten years. Even so, it's better value than most tourist traps because there's enough here to keep adults and children entertained for a good couple of hours; plus it's Open (and quietest) in the evening.
Disabled: access; toilets. Group discounts. Shop.

London Dungeon
28-34 Tooley Street, SE1 (0171 403 0606). London Bridge tube/BR.
Open Apr-Sept 10am-6.30pm daily; Oct-Mar 10am-5.30pm daily (last Admission 1 hour before closing).
Admission £7.50; £6 students; £4.50 OAPs, under-14s; disabled in wheelchairs and under-5s free.
Credit A, AmEx, £TC, V.

Peer through corroded railings in a dank, dark, musty-smelling maze of gloomy arches and eerie nooks, with the railway rumbling overhead. You'll see medieval torture scenes and hear the screams as the rack tightens. The location, artefacts, atmosphere and basic idea of presenting the grizzliest moments of British history are successful and most people enjoy their visit. A recent addition is the Jack the Ripper experience, which has provoked protests for its glorification of a rapist and murderer. Still, the coach parties pile through, and the shop does a roaring trade. The Dungeon is least busy Monday to Wednesday mornings. Café.
Disabled: access; toilets. Group discount. Shop.

London Planetarium
Marylebone Road, NW1 (0171 486 1121). Baker Street tube.
Open June-Aug 10.20am-5pm daily. Sept-May 12.20-5pm Mon-Fri; 10.20am-5pm Sat, Sun.
Admission £4.75; £3.10 OAPs; £2.50 under-16s (no children under 5). Combined ticket with Madame Tussaud's £11.25; £8.50 OAPs, students; £6.95 under-16s; £29.45 family (2 adults, 2 children).
Credit A, AmEx, £TC, V.

Following a £4.5 million refit there's a new entrance, bigger exhibition area and new auditorium with uni-directional seating (not so much fun as sitting round under the huge dome, as before, but the view is supposed to be better). The Zeiss projector has been replaced with the Digistar Mark 2 - the most advanced star projector in the world. Café. Foreign-language translation. Group discount. Induction loop facilities. Shop.

London Zoo
Regent's Park, NW1 (0171 722 3333). Camden Town tube/Baker Street tube then 74 bus.
Open 10am-5.30pm daily.
Admission £7; £6 OAPs; £4 under-15s; free under-4s; £20 family (2 adults, 2 children).
Credit A, AmEx, £$TC, V.

The British obsession with pets gets serious: you can adopt an octopus for £15 or an elephant for £6,000. The money goes towards looking after the beast for a year and your name will go on a plaque by its enclosure. It's a marvellous place for kids: feeding times and special events are posted on noticeboards, and the new Children's Zoo is much larger than before (see chapter Children). The gardens are beautifully landscaped and the Zoo buildings include some gems of modern architecture: look out for the Penguin Pool (1934) by Lubetkin, Hugh Casson's Elephant House (1965) and Lord Snowdon's Aviary (1965).
Disabled: access; toilets. Education centre. Films. Group discount. Lectures. Restaurant. Shop.

Madame Tussaud's
Marylebone Road, NW1 (0171 935 6861). Baker Street tube.
Open May-Sept 9am-5.30pm daily. Oct-Jun 10am-5.30pm Mon-Fri; 9.30am-5.30pm Sat, Sun.
Admission £8.35; £6.25 OAPs; £5.25 under-16s; £21.95 family (2 adults, 2 children). Combined ticket with. Planetarium £11.25; £8.50 OAPs, students; £6.95 under-16s; £29.45 family (2 adults, 2 children).
Credit A, AmEx, £$TC, V.

Madame Tussaud lived in Paris during the French Revolution and learnt the art of waxworks from her uncle; in 1802 she brought her collection to London, and it's been pulling the crowds ever since. One of the oldest and most gruesome exhibits (in the Chamber of Horrors) is the guillotine blade which beheaded Marie Antoinette. To be measured up for a wax model here is proof of fame: ideas for new figures come from a poll of visitors. Latest additions to the ranks of royalty, politicians, sports stars and celebrities include David Copperfield, Joanna Lumley, Hugh Grant and Linford Christie. It's recently been reorganised into themed areas with a dark-ride finale, The Spirit of London, taking you on a journey through history in a 'time-taxi'. There's nearly always a queue (not surprising with 2.3 million visitors a year), but you can avoid it by booking the day before. Café. Group discount.
Disabled: access by prior arrangement; toilets.

Rock Circus
London Pavilion, Piccadilly Circus, W1 (0171 734 7203). Piccadilly Circus tube.
Open 11am-9pm Mon, Wed, Thur, Sun; noon-9pm Tue; 11am-10pm Fri, Sat.
Admission £7.50; £6.50 OAPs, students; £5.50 under-16s; disabled and under-5s free; £19.95 family (2 adults, 2 children).
Credit £$TC.

The first part has static tableaux of wax pop stars - George Michael, Status Quo and the late Jim Morrison are all present. Headphones pick up infra-red signals and play a song for the display you're looking at. There's a 20-minute 'concert': seeing bionic wax models of the Beatles in a revolving theatre can be unnerving, especially when sound and motion are synched, or when Bruce Springsteen gives it some on the guitar. The use of video backing, however, rather undermines the whole concept. It's all good fun, for a hefty fee.
Disabled: access; toilets. Group discount. Shop.

Sherlock Holmes Museum
221B Baker Street, NW1 (0171 935 8866). Baker Street tube.
Open 9.30am-6pm daily.
Admission £5; £3 under-16s.
Credit A, AmEx, JCB, £TC, V.

Not strictly a museum as there are no genuine artefacts on show and no information about Conan Doyle (who created Holmes) or the Edinburgh surgeon who was the inspiration for the fictional character. Instead, theAdmission price allows the visitor to trot up and down four floors of Victorian bric-á-brac which recreates the lodgings of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson. In the cosy living room you can pose in Holmes' armchair with his pipe and Stradivarius. The room upstairs is lined with lookalike 'artefacts' such as the club used to murder Colonel Barclay in The Crooked Man and Dr Mortimer's stick from The Hound Of The Baskervilles. One room is taken up by a souvenir shop; clearly profit is the driving force. The recreation of the rooms is done well but a fiver is steep for a bit of atmosphere. Shop. Restaurant.

Tower Hill Pageant
1 Tower Hill Terrace, EC3 (0171 709 0081). Tower Hill tube.
Open 9.30am-4.30pm daily.
Admission £5.95; £3.95 4-15s; £14.95 family (2 adults, 2 children).

A dark-ride museum in which you sit in a time car and glide past 26 illuminated tableaux of old London, with appropriate sounds and smells provided along the way. The trip takes about 15 minutes (you can ride more than once if you want to) and there's an excellent display of the latest archaeological finds from Roman times.

The Trocadero
13 Coventry Street, Piccadilly, W1 (0171 439 1791/Food Street 0171 287 2681). Piccadilly Circus tube.
Open 10am-midnight daily; Food Street noon-1am daily.
Admission Trocadero Passport Mon-Fri, valid 5 days to all 4 attractions £14.95; £12.95 under-16s.

The choking, road-doomed area around Piccadilly Circus must prove a sorry disappointment to the thousands of tourists who've no doubt traipsed there in the mistaken belief that it's the pulsing heart of London. Well it's not, of course, but once they're in the area there's no avoiding the screaming posters for this self-consciously space-age centre. The headline act is arguably the Guinness World of Records (see above), but it's by no means the most fun. You can join the shrieking office parties at Quasar (0171 434 0795), an action Laser Gun Game, which involves blasting everyone in sight in a darkened arena throbbing with brain-shattering music (10am-11pm Mon-Thur, Sun; 10am-midnight Fri, Sat; £6 per adult for a 20-minute off-peak session, £4.50 children; £7 and £5.50 at weekends). Alien War (0171 437 2678) offers the chance to be devoured by a seven-foot monster with acid for blood (£7.95 for 20 minutes, £5.95 children, family ticket £23, under-12s must be accompanied by an adult); while Emaginator (0171 734 3271) has a choice of four thunderous, white-knuckle rides (Open 11am-midnight daily, £3.50 per ride, £5.50 for two rides, £15 for six). If you still have the stomach for it, Food Street serves Oriental food, including some good dim sum and satay (the real Chinatown is just round the corner in Gerrard Street). The Trocadero Passport allows you five days' access to this temple of Mammon, plus entry to the the seven-screen MGM cinemas for £2 before 6pm (see chapter Film). It's worth a blast.