My visits to London usually involve little more than getting off a train at Euston before a tube ride to whichever office I’ve been asked to visit.
Rarely do I get the chance to savour the many highlights the capital has to offer, until my family and I were invited to try out a Thames-side hotel in a perfect spot for a weekend of unashamed tourist treats.
The destinations on our list were the London Transport Museum to entertain our five-year-old who, like many boys of his age, loves anything with wheels.
Mum and dad’s choice was the Tower of London, a world-famous palace we’ve always wanted to visit but never seemed to get chance to do so.
Our base camp for the weekend was the Hilton London Tower Bridge, walking distance from some great places to see.
In between all this would be lovely food and stop-offs for family album photos and the Hilton provides plenty of opportunities for all that.
This is a slick, smart hotel that can comfortably cater for a business guest or rucksack-wielding family like ours.
The hotel is just streets away from the giant Shard skyscraper which stands some 1,004 feet high and is Europe’s tallest building.
A few hundred yards in the other direction and budding photographers will be able to capture views of HMS Belfast, the London Assembly building (Boris Johnson’s office), Tower Bridge and the Tower of London on the other side of the river.
We particularly enjoyed using the Hilton executive lounge which offers afternoon tea or evening cocktails and, had the weather been better, we would have made the most of the outdoor decking area which gives great skyline views across the capital.
The food in the hotel’s Larder Restaurant deserves a mention, particularly the almond battered cod with chunky chips – good, hearty fare after a day of sight-seeing.
The Tower of London is a true jewel in London’s crown and it’s easy to see why it pulls in visitors from across the globe.
One of the world’s most famous fortresses, it has seen service as a royal palace, prison, armoury and even zoo.
This palace has a grim reputation as a place of torture and execution but it is also home to priceless Crown Jewels, a Royal Mint and armoury.
Our son loved getting to grips with swords and armour while we learned more about the Tower’s more infamous ‘guests’ who include the great and good from royalty and nobility.
Despite its reputation, very few executions actually took place here and those that did take place were reserved only for the most sensitive cases.
The beheading of Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII, is probably the most famous execution, while the last person to be killed here was German Josef Jakobs, who was captured parachuting into England during the Second World War and charged with espionage and tried in private court. He was shot by a firing squad while seated in a chair in the East Casemates Rifle Range in 1941. This chair is still preserved in the Royal Armouries’ artefacts store.
Next on the list was the Transport Museum in Covent Garden – and you don’t have to be a bus or train spotter to enjoy a few hours there.
It tells the story of London’s different public transport systems, from the Victorian days of rapid growth in underground travel as rival companies carved routes under the city streets, through to modern services catering for millions of commuters and tourists each year.
The displays are fascinating and inviting as buses and railway carriages can be climbed upon to satisfy wannabe drivers or conductors.
Our visit coincided with an exhibition charting 150 years of London Underground poster advertisements, something I was really looking forward to seeing, having studied graphic design many years ago.
The gallery showcased works by famous artists including Edward McKnight Kauffer and Paul Nash, and designs from every decade over the last 100 years and illustrated how the most mundane public transport announcements could be turned into works of art by these masters of commercial design.
* Stacey Barnfield stayed at Hilton London Tower Bridge, 5 More London Place, Tooley Street, London, SE1 2BY. Visit www.towerbridge.hilton.com or call 020 3002 4300. Weekend rates from £139 (B&B including VAT). Midweek rates from £249 (B&B including VAT)
* For London Transport Museum information www.ltmuseum.co.uk/
* For Tower of London information visit www.hrp.org.uk/TowerOfLondon/
* Chiltern Railways offers good value family rail passes for travel between Snow Hill and Moor Street stations in Birmingham to London Marylebone. Visit www.chilternrailways.co.uk for a variety of offers and promotions.