Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post about how to spend a great short break in London — forty eight hours of markets, museums, art, shops, food, music and theatre in London.
There’s no way to see everything on a short break in London, but with this inspirational itinerary you’ll experience some of the best London has to offer and come away with an authentic flavour of London city life.
LONDON SHORT BREAK: DAY ONE
Start off on a high note with a spectacular view over the entire city of London from the London Eye ferris wheel on the banks of the River Thames (book ahead to queue jump). The half-hour revolution is a great way to get your bearings, pick out some of London’s historic landmarks — like Buckingham Palace and St. Paul’s Cathedral — and enjoy a bird’s eye view of the spectacular neo-Gothic Palace of Westminster and Whitehall, the U.K.’s political hub. Once you’re back on land, take a stroll along the Southbank where buskers, skaters, and secondhand book stalls will keep you entertained until you reach the former power station housing the Tate Modern art gallery and the recreated Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.
The gourmet Borough Market is the place to head once your stomach starts rumbling. Londoners crowd around food and drink stalls under the Victorian ironwork structure sampling some of the best British and international produce including delicious cheeses and sizzling sausages. There’s a great collection of pubs and cafes around the outskirts of the market where you can have a pitstop and nurse a tasty pint of locally brewed ale.
Back toward the Thames is the iconic Tower Bridge and Tower of London, where you’ll uncover bloodthirsty tales of gruesome executions. From Tower Millennium Pier, catch a boat to Greenwich past the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf. The world heritage site is home to the Royal Observatory, where Greenwich Mean Time is set and a great place to watch the sunset over London and Greenwich Park. As darkness falls, the green GMT laser, which streaks across the sky and marks the path of the Prime Meridian, will emerge.
There are two good options from Greenwich: Catch a gig at the enormous O2 Arena in North Greenwich or hop on the DLR and tube to Aldgate East — walking distance from Brick Lane’s “curry mile.” Touts will try to tempt you into their restaurants, but your best bet is to take a peek through the windows. Once fortified by curry, there are a number of trendy bars and clubs nearby where you’ll find excellent under-the-radar music and DJs – like Vibe Bar, Big Chill Bar or Cafe 1001.
Nearest tube: Cutty Sark DLR
LONDON SHORT BREAK: DAY TWO
Start early at the atmospheric Columbia Road Flower Market and nearby vintage boutiques. Then make a swift trip across the city to south Kensington, and choose from a trio of world class museums – the Victoria & Albert, Natural History or Science, all equally entertaining for kids and adults. Once museum-ed out, it’s time for some high-end shopping in nearby Knightsbridge at Harrods and Harvey Nichols.
If weather permits, take a walk in Hyde Park and stop for a picnic by Serpentine Lake, where you can hire a boat for a restful afternoon row. Smart shoppers head south of hectic Oxford Street to designer boutiques in Mayfair or independent stores around Neal Street and Covent Garden, where you can catch some talented street performances in the piazza. Then nip across to the National Portrait Gallery near Leicester Square.
Start: Hyde Park
Nearest tube: Hyde Park Corner
Now that you’re in the West End, it’s worth picking up a cheap last-minute ticket for a show from one of the many booths in and around Leicester Square. Big-name musicals are always a blast, but it’s also worth investigating what’s on offer at smaller theatres like the New Ambassadors. For a pre-theatre meal, try Chinatown or look out for bargain theatre deals always on offer in nearby restaurants. For something a touch classier, head to a bistro in Soho.
Start: Leicester Square
Nearest tube: Leicester Square
Hannah Wood writes on behalf of Hotels.com, which offers an ideal range of hotels in London for your weekend stay.
If you only had two days in London – how would you spend it? Let us know in the comments!