WHY WE LOVE IT
- The best of two worlds: London is simultaneously happening and historic.
- Iconic sights: St. Paul's Cathedral, the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace.
- A foodie's paradise: gourmet restaurants and celeb-packed bistros, plus glamorous cocktail bars and cozy pubs.
- Worlds within a city: groovy Notting Hill, hip Hoxton, trendy Marylebone, tony Hampstead, dynamic Docklands.
- A culture-lover's delight: world-class museums, galleries, theaters, concert venues and bookstores.
- Unique shopping: everything from boutiques selling naughty knickers to vast antiques markets and Harrods.
WHEN TO GO
London's weather is reliably unreliable, but it's most predictably sunny in June, July and September; the last two weeks of September and the first week of October are among the best times to visit, both in terms of weather and crowds. July and August are the busiest months, so that's when hotel rooms are hardest to find and highest priced, and August can be surprisingly spritzy. It's chilly in early December but dry, and the holiday lights are gorgeous. January isn't terribly cold or wet either; it's easy to get theater tickets—and, oh, those post-Christmas sales!
WHAT TO PACK
Think layers. Because the weather is so unpredictable, you can't go wrong bringing extra sweaters, jackets and raincoats, even in summer. If you're planning to dine at the top restaurants, glam it up—and have him bring a dress shirt, a jacket and a tie, which are sometimes required. London is a stylish city, so if you want to go all out, you'll fit right in. For daytime, pack comfortable shoes. And, of course, an umbrella, though there's no shortage of places to buy them.
Visit London (visitlondon.com) is the city's official tourist organization; its Web site is an excellent trip-planning resource. The well-staffed walk-in Britain and London Visitor Center (1 Lower Regent St.; visitbritain.com) offers maps, brochures and personalized sightseeing advice. Its services include a currency-exchange bureau, an Internet lounge and booking services for hotels, transportation, tours and entertainment.
GETTING MARRIED IN LONDON
Out-of-country visitors must reside in London for seven days, followed by a 15-day waiting period after filing for a license on the eighth day. If you're not a U.K. resident or EEA national, you must apply for a visa from your country's British consulate stipulating your intention to marry in the United Kingdom. For details, see the Marriages page of the General Register Office (www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/marriages/index.asp). You can be married in some terrific places, among them Tottenham Hotspur soccer stadium (during June and July) and the surprisingly romantic new St. Pancras International Eurostar station, which as luck would have it has the world's longest champagne bar. For other ideas, log on to Visit London (visitlondon.com) and type "wedding venues" into the Web site's search engine.