London's Seven Newest Attractions for 2012

By Sean O'Neill
October 3, 2012
Courtesy <a href="" target="_blank">Sean O'Neill</a>

London has raced to create several new attractions in time for this summer's Olympic and Paralympic Games. While you may be skipping the city during the Games unless you have tickets to events, the rest of 2012 is an ideal time to check out these fresh, permanent landmarks.

The city's tallest skyscraper debuts

Last night, south London celebrated the opening of The Shard, the tallest skyscraper in Western Europe, located next to London Bridge Station. Created by architect Renzo Piano, the pyramidal, reflective shape has become the most defining building on the cityscape. Today tickets went on sale for the 800-foot-high, 360-degree observation deck, which opens to visitors February 1, 2013 (from £24.95, or about $40 for adults 16 and over;

The city's first cable car
Running since late June, a new cable car service across the Thames connects the O2 Arena in Greenwich with the ExCeL Centre and the Docklands in North London. It's called Emirates Air Line (from £5 or about $8; because of a private-public partnership with the famous mideast airline, and the staff wear the uniforms of Emirates flight attendants. The cars move up to 9 mph, though they're slowed when it is windy.

London's hottest new arts venue

One of the city's most visited museums is the contemporary art venue Tate Modern, housed in a former power station along the Thames. Two long-unused oil tanks have been converted into giant underground spaces for live art installations and performances. These giant concrete tanks open to the public on July 18. Part of a mammoth expansion of the museum, the galleries claim to be the "first in the world to be permanently dedicated to live art, performance, installation and film works."

The city's tallest public sculptureThe new 37-story-tall sculpture/observation tower ArcelorMittal Orbit opens mid-July for the Olympics. The giant red structure was co-designed by British architect Annish Kapoor, who made the Cloud Gate (a.k.a., the Millennium Bean") sculpture in Chicago. The Orbit closes after the Olympics for a period until the Olympic Village is renovated and re-opened to the public with facilities for the community and a new Olympic history museum.

Europe's largest shopping mall

Located next to the Olympic Village and open throughout the games, Westfield Stratford City is well-linked to downtown by subway and features many of the city's top brand stores. Tip: The John Lewis department store has a third-story window overlooking the Olympic park, plus a nice restaurant with free WiFi.

London's largest mural

Britain has had a long history of "pleasure gardens," essentially parks specifically devoted to providing culture to the public in an outdoor setting. London's latest such venue is in a 15-acre converted industrial space on the northeast side of the Thames River, called ( Opened on June 30th, the gardens currently sport a 10-story mural created by Shepard Fairey, the street artist who came up with the Barack Obama campaign 'Hope' posters. Events will rotate, but the space welcomes outdoor parties and art exhibitions. Check its website for the schedule.

A classic ship, rebuilt and re-displayed

Destroyed by fire in 2007, the Cutty Sark is a three-masted tea clipper from the 1800 that has been rebuilt in a $77 million project. Created in 1869, it was the swiftest merchant sailing ship of its time. A clever museum display elevates the ship as if it were floating so that you can walk underneath it (


Budget Travel's Picks for Affordable Hotels in London

Paris's Newest Attractions for Summer 2012

5 Affordable Restaurant Chains in London]

Plan Your Next Getaway
Keep reading

Why Airlines Should Bring Back Delicious In-Flight Meals

I got a big surprise on my recent ANA flight to Japan: a meal. Not just one meal, mind you, but two: a 5&ndash;course dinner featuring chicken cutlet and soba noodles and a full breakfast including melon, yogurt, and a sort of hot Asian oatmeal. I can’t remember the last time I was served a proper meal on a flight&mdash;at least, one that I didn’t have to pay for&mdash;and I enjoyed these immensely. The most delicious part of all: I was flying in coach. Like many Asian airlines, ANA has continued to serve in&ndash;flight meals on its international flights to all its passengers, unlike the penny&ndash;pinching American companies who often stiff the riff&ndash;raff in coach. It’s always been fashionable to whine about airplane food, either the quality or the quantity or both (just like the old joke about the Jewish grandmother who kvetched that the food at her new retirement village was a lousy and the portions too small). But it wasn’t until my ANA meals (did I mention that I got two on the return trip, too?) that I realized how much I’d missed in&ndash;flight food. The dishes themselves were tasty enough, but it wasn’t the food per se that I enjoyed. It was the way the meals broke up the long flights to and from New York, giving them a sense of pacing and time passed. The meals transformed a mere flight into a journey, an experience. The flying time may have been 12 hours, but that never felt like drudgery. It felt exciting, like when we were little kids on a big plane trip. Back then, my mother would steal the airline silverware because it was so much nicer than what we had at home. Now, you’d be stealing plastic utensils&mdash;if you were lucky. We all know why the American airlines cut out their food service: the bottom line. But it’s hard not to wonder if that was a pyrrhic victory. Everything about flying has become harder in the last decade; airlines are about as beloved as politicians and Wall Street bankers. Would a decent, reliable, in&ndash;flight meal take some of the bitter taste away from the whole experience? Would it make flying feel special again, enough of a reward to put up with the hassles at the airport? Would getting served a meal&mdash;even a mediocre one&mdash;change the way you feel about flying? &mdash;Marc Peyser MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: 11 Surprisingly Lovable Airlines 25 Summer Travel Deals You Don't Want To Miss 4 Most Common Reasons Airlines Lose Luggage


What's Your Biggest Pet Peeve When You Fly?

In a recent poll by Skyscanner, a travel website based in the U.K., more than 2,700 flyers ranked their biggest, most irritating air travel pet peeves. Turns out the Brits care more about what other passengers are wearing than anything else. Coming in tenth was flip flops (isn't it okay to be casual while you're on vacation?), followed by team shirts and noisy jewelry. Men who show off their hairy chests came in close behind (maybe too casual is not okay after all.) Next, in a step towards gender equality, was women whose tops are a bit too low cut. The awkward combination of socks and sandals takes the next slot, with offensive t&ndash;shirts, short shirts that reveal too much belly, and sweat spots on clothes. Which brings us to the number one pet peeve for flyers in the U.K.&mdash;men with low pants who wind up rocking the "plumber" style. Sure, those things might be mildly annoying while you're trapped on an airplane, but let's face it, if this poll were taken by American flyers, you'd be reading a list based on TSA security screenings, screaming babies, oblivious parents, children who are convinced the back of your seat is a soccer ball&mdash;after a three hour flight from Rome to Dublin, I'd have to rank this number one&mdash;and probably a lack of proper in&ndash;flight meals or entertainment. Maybe some things like rude t&ndash;shirts would make the list, but I have a feeling we have different ideas of what drives us crazy in the air. What do you think? What is your biggest air travel pet peeve? Sound off below! MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: Would You Decline an Upgrade to Be Closer to a Travel Companion? Malaysia Airlines Tests Child-Free Areas on Flights 11 Surprisingly Lovable Airlines


Paris's Newest Attractions for Summer 2012

When you visit the Eiffel Tower, glass-windowed elevators whisk you up to an observation deck, where you can see miles of Parisian rooftops and boulevards from about 905 feet in the air. There are many iconic sights to pick out: the Louvre museum, Notre Dame cathedral and other landmarks. Yet as a travel lover, you may already know about these iconic sights. So what are the newest attractions that will be worth checking out in the City of Light this summer? Read on to find out. A new wing at the world's most visited museum "A headscarf blowing in the wind" is the way one architect has described the Louvre museum's new Arts of Islam wing. The new structure is already as spectacular to look at as the glass Pyramid, which was added about 20 years ago to the museum's main courtyard. The silk-like structure appears to be floating in mid-air because of the absence of supportive pillars. More than 18,000 Arabic artworks will be displayed when the gallery opens to the public this summer on dates to be announced soon ( A new look for the interior of the d'Orsay If you haven't been to Mus&eacutee; d'Orsay, the city's prettiest museum, since last fall, you'll like its $28 million interior renovation. The world's finest collection of Impressionist paintings are now showcased in a larger space with darker backgrounds and improved lighting to make the masterworks by Monet and Degas look their best in this former grand train station ( A new napping station downtown The world's prettiest city cries out for lots of walking around, but sometimes your feet just want a rest. Weary visitors can stop in to the Zen Nap Bar, a four-floor space in the center of the city. Slip on a pair of slippers and take a rest in an "anti-gravity chairs (read: very plush and supportive loungers) in a dark room while listening to soft music (15-minute nap costs 12 euros, about $16, Zen Bar &agrave; Sieste; 29 Passage Choiseul; weekdays and Saturdays, noon to 8 p.m., A renovated space for contemporary art The Palais de Tokyo a stone's throw from the Seine downtown has been around for 75 years, but it re-opened this spring as “the biggest non-collecting contemporary art museum in Europe,” with 236,000 square feet devoted to creative exhibitions ( Rent car more easily downtown What if you could rent a car in Paris for just a few hours, without having to worry about finding a parking spot or if street parking is allowed? Brave drivers can now rent a vehicle in an electric-car-share program called Autolib' which works like the capital's popular Velib' bike-share program. Hundreds of electric cars are at scattered, central locations downtown, such as one that's a block from Notre Dame on Il de La Cite. Americans and Canadians can rent a car if they possess an International Driving Permit and using an English language website (from $20 via AAA; A new architectural landmark Opened this spring, Les Docks, Cit&eacute; de la Mode et du Design, looks like a caterpillar, thanks to an innovative design by architects Jakob+MacFarlane. The 155,00-square-foot gallery, high-end shopping, and (soon-to-be) dining complex in the 13th Arrondissement in southeastern Paris is a must for culture vultures because the collections will highlight the latest in the world's designs (34, quai d’Austerlitz, Traveler's alert: Paris' Picasso Museum is closed due to renovation. Paris's best freebie of the summer: Watch a free movie outdoors Finding something free to do at night in Paris can be a challenge for out-of-towners, but not to worry. For a month starting July 27, Cin&eacute;ma en Plein Air&mdash;a free summer festival&mdash;is screening a number of fun English-language movies (like Gran Torino and Superman) plus French-language films on Europe's biggest inflatable screen in Parc de la Villette in the 19th arrondissement. Head there at sundown. Small shops on the rue Eug&egrave;ne Jumin (near the eastern entrance), including Monop', sell ice cold ros&eacute; plus cheese, salads, and other treats (rent an optional strampotin (lawn chair) for about 7 euros. 211 avenue Jean Jaur&eacute;s, Fun fact: Nearly nine million visitors toured the Louvre last year, a 5.6 percent year-on-year jump, says AFP. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL Budget Travel's Paris Articles and Tips Paris &amp; Rome, Air, 6 Nights, From $1,229 Budget Travel's Hotel Recommendations in Paris


Get Up Close And Personal At The Kennedy Space Center

It’s no secret that in addition to world&ndash;class beaches and the unparalleled opportunity to overdose on theme parks, Florida also offers the opportunity to tour the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral. The center includes the Rocket Garden, which features rockets from the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions, including a model of the Apollo 11 spacecraft that first put people on the moon; the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame; and live programs such as Lunch with an Astronaut and Exploration Space: Explorers Wanted, which immerses visitors in a blend of live theater and interactive, multimedia presentations in a 10,000&ndash;square&ndash;foot exhibit space. Now, visitors can boldly go where few have gone before, with behind&ndash;the&ndash;scenes tours of rarely seen areas, such as Firing Room 4, with its countdown clock and video monitors, where all space shuttle launches were controlled from 2006 on. The tours will also include a drive past Launch Pad 39, a visit to the Apollo/Saturn V Center, and into the Vehicle Assembly Building, where shuttles and Apollo rockets were assembled. Here, you can see items such as the 6&ndash;million&ndash;pound "crawler" that moved the Space Shuttle to the launch pad. The center is currently undergoing a major renovation, and next summer the Atlantis, the last Space Shuttle assembled at the VAB, will be on display to the public in an innovative $100 million exhibit that will display the shuttle as if it were orbiting the earth, according the a spokesperson for the center. Interactive programs will take visitors “up close and personal” with the shuttle and allow them to learn the 30&ndash;year history of the shuttle program. The Kennedy Space Center is about an hour’s drive from downtown Orlando and is also a popular stop for cruise passengers from nearby Port Canaveral. &mdash;Robert Firpo&ndash;Cappiello MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: 15 More Places Every Kid Should See Before 15 12 Family Trips Budget Travel Editors Love One&ndash;Tank Escapes for 8 Cities