London Olympics: A travelers guide

Arriving at Heathrow, travelers face a bustling airport and then a bustling, often-baffling city. But with some coaching, you can be an Olympic-caliber visitor. (Dean Mouhtaropoulos / Getty Images)

The new little sister of the lovely but expensive Indian restaurant Cinnamon Club. It serves small plates — unusual for an Indian restaurant — but it gives you a chance to sample more tastes. 5 Kingly St.; 011-44-20-7437-1664, http://www.cinnamonsoho.com. Dinner main dishes from $19.

Rochelle Canteen

Best for lunch, although open 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. But first you must find it behind the bandstand in Arnold Circus. Ring the bell marked Canteen next to the gray door in the red brick wall and enter the garden of this former school. The restaurant is in the bike shed and offers a small menu with fantastic food. Rochelle School, Arnold Circus, London; 011-44-20-7729-5677, http://www.arnoldandhenderson.com. About $60 for two.

Fifteen

Jamie Oliver's restaurant, where unemployed young people get a chance to become professional chefs, with great success. 15 Westland Place; 011-44-20-3375-1515, http://www.fifteen.net. Main dishes from $30.

Polpo

Venetian small plates, such as chopped liver crostini ($2.30). Reservations accepted for lunch, but dinner is first come, first served in this pop-up style but permanent restaurant. 41 Beak St.; 011-44-20-7734-4479, http://www.polpo.co.uk. Heartier small plates $9-$15.

Jimmy's

Serving the same Anglicized Greek food — kleftico and moussaka — in a Soho basement since 1948. Even the prices haven't changed much. Expect basic Bohemian atmosphere and service. 23 Frith St.

Burger & Lobster

Serves dishes that match the name — lobster, lobster roll or burger, all with chips and each one costing a minimum of $31. It's a bargain for the lobster but a bit steep for a burger. No reservations. 29 Clarges St.; 011-44-20-7409-1699, http://www.burgerandlobster.com

Forman's Fish Island

Closest restaurant to Olympic Stadium. It's the long pink building resembling a salmon just the other side of the canal from the stadium's west entrance. Its convenience and excellence justify the price for the very best British food. The Forman family has been smoking salmon since 1905. Stour Road, Fish Island; 011-44-20-8525-2365, http://www.formansfishisland.com. Dinner packages from $235; $352 during the Olympics.

For a budget Italian pizza and pasta chain, I like Carluccio's, http://www.carluccios.com, because it's fun and noisy and the place cares about the food. Pasta dishes from about $12; main dishes from about $17.

15 FREE (OR NEARLY FREE) THINGS TO DO

Rent a bike

All over central London there are racks of blue bikes for rent; they're known as "Boris bikes" after the cycle-crazy mayor who introduced them in 2010. You need to insert your credit card at the docking station and pay £1, about $1.55, for access. After that, the first half hour is free. Go to http://www.tfl.gov.ukand click on Barclays cycle hire, the official name of Boris bikes, for details.

London history

The Museum of London, in the middle of a roundabout, tells the multilayered, quirky history of London, starting with the skull of an extinct auroch from 245000 BC. The Lord Mayor's gilded carriage stays here when he's not using it. Free. 150 London Wall; http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk

National Theatre