Uptown Reservations: This well-run bed-and-breakfast service offers 85 private homes in the fashionable areas of central London at very appealing rates: 65 pounds (about $95) for a single; 85 pounds (about $125) for a double. All include private bath and a full breakfast. They will also arrange to have a driver meet you at the airport and bring you into London. Contact them at 41 Paradise Walk, London SW3 4JL, phone (011-44) 20-7351-3445; Web site: www.uptownres.co.uk

Royal Garden Hotel: This modern, high-rise hotel boasts a great location, fabulous views and a helpful staff. Address: 2-24 Kensington High Street, Phone (011-44) 20-7937-8000. Web site: www.royalgardenhotel.co.uk.

One Aldwych: Award-winning, cutting-edge design, excellent service, trendy lobby bar, pool in lower level with music playing underwater, excellent restaurant. Address: 1 Aldwych, (011-44) 20-7300-1000 Web site www.onealdwych.com

Here are some neighborhoods we like.

When looking up an address or giving one to a taxi driver, be sure to notice the complete street name, because the variations are many: mews, road, crescent, row, circle, garden, villas, place, etc. Luckily, London taxi drivers still know their city better than cabbies anywhere else.

— Chelsea/The Kings Road: We began shop-hopping in the King's Road's antique, fashion and home shops. Starting at the bottom of the street (opposite end from Sloane Square), you'll find a mix of clothing and home design shops. Antiquarius is a warren of antique shops featuring outstanding jewelry, china, vintage fashion accessories and more. Farther up the road, you'll find every sort of clothing store, from the Gap to Next and Monsoon and a few funky offerings reminiscent of the swinging London of the 1960s. We could have spent half the day going through the racks of vintage clothing at Steinberg & Tolkein.

At Sloane Square, you can't miss Peter Jones, a department store with a great fabrics department. Across the square is surely one of the most outrageous shops in the city: Basia Zarzycka at No. 52 Sloane Square, where the owner creates hats, shoes, hanging ornaments and more. Everything glitters as if Tinker Bell worked there. Hats are $500 and up; hair ornaments are more affordable. Next door is Emma Hope's trendy shoe shop, and next to that is V.V. Rouleaux, an Aladdin's cave of tassels, ribbons, feathers, beads, cording and other trims in every imaginable color and size.

— Brompton/Knightsbridge: Fulham Road, with its fine home stores such as Smallbone and Czech & Speake bath fittings, leads to Brompton and Knightsbridge, home to the one and only Harrods department store. Don't miss nearby Beauchamp Place (say beechum), a short street just a few blocks west of Harrods, lined with cute upscale designer shops and San Lorenzo, the in place for lunch.

— Mayfair: This upscale neighborhood includes Bond Street, with shops such as Burberry, Chanel, Donna Karan, Gucci and the like, along with Cartier and Tiffany's. You get the picture. Just off Brook Street at Davies Street is Gray's Antique Market and mews, a mix of shops that includes a great consortium bookshop. On Brook Street, don't miss Colefax and Fowler, for a dose of classic English interior design. Stop in at Claridge's for tea. It's not as touristy as the Ritz and you probably won't need a reservation. Continue on Bond, cross Piccadilly and you are in St. James' and Jermyn Street, where you can have custom shirts made. If you haven't had tea yet, try Fortum and Mason, just across the street, where we overheard a father tell his small son: "This is the scone palace."

— Strand/Soho Convent Garden is totally touristy, but briefly fun. On Monday morning, the Jubilee Market is worth a look. It's a mix of antiques and what the Brits call a jumble sale. Then head up the Charring Cross Road to explore musty bookshops. Duck into charming Cecil Court, a snug collection of small shops that offer books, prints, old theater posters and a few antiques.

— Bloomsbury: Northeast of Soho is the literary heart of London, clustered around the British Museum, with its new courtyard and cafe. Nearby you'll find a wealth of fine print and rare-books shops, any one of which could keep you occupied for hours or days.

— Notting Hill: The neighborhood is jumping on Saturdays, thanks to the famous Portobello Road market. After fighting the mob there, head over to nearby Westborne Grove for a sandwich at Tom's Deli, and do a little window shopping in the trendy clothing, home and antique shops. Another day, take the time to explore Kensington Church Street, home to some really fine antique shops.

— Islington/Camden Passage: Take a taxi or the Tube (to Angel stop, NOT Camden) on Wednesday or Saturday for the market. It's a good mix of outdoor stalls, with silver, jewelry, glass and some nicer antique shops. At Annie's vintage clothing shop, my sister found a top hat in perfect condition. I'm sure I'll see it on stage someday.