Forget the flying rats: Lonely Planet has discovered that London is groovy again

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The Independent Travel

Barely two years ago the Lonely Planet travel guide condemned London as a dirty and dangerous place where you were more likely to be attacked than greeted with a smile. It told readers to expect restaurants and pubs to close early and warned of "dirty, flying rats" over Trafalgar Square.

Barely two years ago the Lonely Planet travel guide condemned London as a dirty and dangerous place where you were more likely to be attacked than greeted with a smile. It told readers to expect restaurants and pubs to close early and warned of "dirty, flying rats" over Trafalgar Square.

Now the backpackers' bible seems to have noticed a remarkable turnaround in the city, rating it as "the place to be right now". London is "on the crest of a wave" due to "magnificent historical architecture" and "some of the world's greatest museums and art galleries".

The appeal of the capital has been boosted by millennium projects such as the Tate Modern, the Courtauld Gallery at Somerset House and the London Eye, the guide says. Eating out has improved and is now "as diverse, stylish and satisfying as anywhere else on the planet" the guide says, citing such venues as J Sheekey, Lindsay House and Sketch. But it advises readers: "If the service wasn't up to scratch, just refuse to pay the service charge."

The guide, which is aimed at London's £100m market of overseas visitors, also documents the city's less well known highlights to those abroad. Top Shop on Oxford Street is an "icon" and it recommends the Battersea Arts Centre, curry houses in Tooting, the "new Brick Lane", and a night of greyhound racing at Walthamstow Stadium.

The latest edition, to be published next month, says: "London has always been a compelling capital but right now it's one of the most dynamic hubs on earth, leading the vanguard in music, visual arts, fashion, film and even food. It's not the techni-coloured swagger of the swinging 60s but London's back in the spotlight and it is certifiably groovy."

The guide warns that some streets are losing their character due to chain pubs, cafés and restaurants. It also attacks the capital's litterbugs, saying: "It's galling to see people casually chuck rubbish out of car windows or toss their litter on the street." Transport is branded "the biggest bugbearand the challenge Mayor Ken Livingstone is most keen to face".

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