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48 hours in London - where to eat, what to see and where to go in the big smoke

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London’s compact center and excellent public transport system makes it an easy city to navigate despite its size. But with so many sights to see, you still need a good plan to make the most of your trip. This itinerary will get you round the highlights of Europe’s biggest city in record time.

Friday

5 p.m. – London is served by four major airports, all of which have rail connections to major stations in the capital which link into the London Underground (tube) network. Heathrow, the largest and busiest of the airports, has a tube station in the airport itself, although you can get to central London much faster on the direct Heathrow Express train to Paddington Station.

6 p.m. – Start your London trip at one of the city’s most famous sights: St Paul’s Cathedral. You can pay a small fee to explore this iconic symbol of London, or wait for one of the hourly services for free entry. When you’ve seen enough, walk down the hill towards the river and cross the Millennium Bridge, which features amazing views of riverside London landmarks like Tower Bridge. Once you are across, you will be standing in front of the Tate Modern, the enormous modern art gallery housed within the distinctive shell of an old power station. Both the permanent collections and temporary exhibits are consistently excellent, and a visitor can spend hours wandering the building.

 

7 p.m. – Make your way out of the Tate and head west onto the South Bank, a stretch of the Thames which is London’s cultural heart, with all manner of theatres, cinemas, galleries and cafés. Stop for dinner at the OXO Tower Restaurant, where you can eat with a lovely view over the river and the beautiful buildings on the far side of the Thames, before continuing your South Bank stroll.

 

8 p.m. – Follow the river as it curves south and you see a gigantic wheel come into view. This is the London Eye, built as part of London’s millennium celebrations and kept after its huge success as a tourist attraction. It will cost around £20 ($35USD) for a ride in one of the pods to the top, but you can enjoy a glass of wine as you watch the lights of the big smoke twinkling into life.

 

Saturday

9 a.m. – One of London’s best features is its compactness. This makes walking a viable option for visitors wanting to see the sights, but make sure you wear your comfy shoes, as there’s plenty of ground to cover. Start your tour at another of London’s distinctive landmarks: Big Ben. From here continue past the Houses of Parliament to Westminster Abbey. Like St Paul’s, you can either pay to enter and explore or wait for a service for free entry – and a free performance from one of the world’s most famous choirs.

 

1 p.m. – Head back across Parliament Square and take Birdcage Walk along the south side of St James’ Park to Buckingham Palace. Once you’ve had your fill of annoying the famous guards in their big hats, continue up Constitution Hill past the Wellington Arch and stop for a proper British pub lunch at the Grenadier. Have the fish and chips in their traditional English form: delicate white cod in a crispy batter, with soft thick cut chips soaked in malt vinegar.

 

2 p.m. – Burn off your lunch walking along the south side of Hyde Park until you reach the glowing golden Albert Memorial, opposite the equally glorious Royal Albert Hall. These two tributes from Queen Victoria to her late husband are some of the world’s most famous monuments to love.

 

5 p.m. – Head down Exhibition Road and you’ll find yourself in London’s museum district. Here you are left with a choice between three of the world’s finest museums. The Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum, which is a museum of decorative arts. All are free and offer each offers a fantastic mix of exhibitions and permanent collections.

 

9 p.m. – Reward yourself for a hard day’s walking by taking Brompton Road back towards Knightsbridge and drop into the lavish food hall of the boutique department store Harrods. This world class retail store offers cuisine from every corner of the globe to choose from, but real Londoners will tell you that only the oyster bar gives you the proper Harrods experience.

 

Sunday

9 a.m. – Start Sunday at Trafalgar Square, home to Nelson’s Column. At the north end of the square is the National Gallery, the home of British art and the third most visited gallery in the world. Housed in a majestic 19th building, its enormous and varied collection comprises over 2,300 displayed works from as far back as the 13th century.

 

11 a.m. – The next square over from Trafalgar is the equally celebrated Leicester Square, known for its large cinemas where the city’s glamorous film premieres take place. From here it’s just a short walk to the noted shopping district of Covent Garden.

 

1 p.m. – There are restaurants to suit all tastes scattered amongst the shops Covent Garden Market, but this is the perfect chance to try another English classic – pie and mash –at Battersea Pie Station. Get the steak and stout, or try the perennial London favorite: steak and kidney.

 

3 p.m. – The British Museum is the largest museum in Britain and widely considered its best, despite some serious competition. Mainly concerned with archaeological and ethnographic items, it is filled with objects “borrowed” from the four corners of the world by the British Empire, including the Rosetta Stone, the Elgin marbles, and a stunning collection of Egyptian antiquities.

 

5 p.m. – It would be unthinkable to leave England without a nice afternoon tea, so when you’re finished at the museum, head to The Montague Hotel across the road to enjoy a pot or two with hot scones and fresh clotted cream; while enjoying the view over the gardens from the conservatory.

 

If you have more time…

From London Zoo to Madam Tussauds, Hyde Park to Portobello Road and the Barbican to Abbey Road, there’s far too much to see and do in London to fit into just a weekend. If you do happen to find yourself with a spare day however, try out some of these.

 

For sightseeing, Tower Bridge and the Tower of London are classics that couldn’t be squeezed into the weekend; and they are just across the river from the distinctive Shard skyscraper, one of the city’s newest attractions.

 

For culture, go and see a play at Shakespeare’s old theatre The Globe or at the Southbank Centre; or see an exhibition at The Saatchi Gallery or The Imperial War Museum.

 

For shopping, Oxford Street – Selfridges department store in particular – is the place to go for high-end goods, while Camden Market has a more bohemian vibe.

 

Sports-wise, there are so many soccer clubs in London you won’t be far from a stadium wherever you stay. If you don’t want to pay big money to go and see teams Arsenal or Chelsea though, why not pay a visit to Fulham FC’s beautiful riverside home Craven Cottage in leafy West London, where you can buy reasonably tickets at the stadium on the day of the game.

 

London also has some fantastic clubs and nightlife: try trendy Soho for cool bars or even trendier Shoreditch & Dalston for a more hipster experience. Fabric in Clerkenwellis the place to go to see the world’s hottest DJs in London’s most famous nightclub.

 

Location/contact details:

Day one

St. Paul's Cathedral

St. Paul's Churchyard, London EC4M 8AD, United Kingdom

www.stpauls.co.uk

020 7246 8350

 

Tate Modern

Tate Modern, Bankside, London SE1 9TG, United Kingdom

www.tate.org.uk

020 7887 8888

 

OXO Restaurant, Bar and Brasserie

Oxo Tower Wharf, Barge House Street, London SE1 9PH, United Kingdom

www.oxotowerrestaurant.com

020 7803 3888

 

London Eye

London SE1 7PB, United Kingdom

www.londoneye.com

0871 781 3000

 

Day two

Big Ben, Palace of Westminster

Westminster, London SW1A 0AA, United Kingdom

www.parliament.uk

020 7219 4272

 

Westminster Abbey

20 Deans Yd, London SW1P 3PA, United Kingdom

www.westminster-abbey.org

020 7222 5152

 

Buckingham Palace

London SW1A 1AA, United Kingdom

www.royalcollection.org.uk

020 7766 7300

 

Grenadier Pub

18 Wilton Row, London SW1X 7NR, United Kingdom

www.taylor-walker.co.uk

020 7235 3074

 

The Albert Memorial

Kensington Gardens, London W2 2UH, United Kingdom

www.royalparks.org.uk

020 7298 2000

 

Natural History Museum

Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, United Kingdom

www.nhm.ac.uk

020 7942 5000

 

Victoria and Albert Museum

Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL, United Kingdom

www.vam.ac.uk

020 7942 2000

 

Science Museum

Exhibition Road, London SW7 2DD, United Kingdom

www.sciencemuseum.org.uk

0870 870 4868

 

Harrods

87-135 Brompton Road, London SW1X 7XL, United Kingdom

www.harrods.com

020 7730 1234

 

Day three

Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square, Westminster, London WC2N 5DN, United Kingdom

www.london.gov.uk

020 7983 4750

 

The National Gallery

Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN, United Kingdom

nationalgallery.org.uk

020 7747 288

 

Battersea Pie Station

28 The Market, Lower Ground Floor, Covent Garden, London WC2E 8RA, United Kingdom

www.batterseapiestation.co.uk

020 7240 9566

 

The British Museum

Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG, United Kingdom

www.britishmuseum.org

020 7323 8299

 

The Montague on the Gardens

15 Montague Street, London WC1B 5BJ, United Kingdom

www.montaguehotel.com

020 7637 1001

 

Other things to see

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge Road, London SE1 2UP, United Kingdom

www.towerbridge.org.uk

020 7403 3761

 

Tower of London

London EC3N 4AB, United Kingdom

www.hrp.org.uk

0844 482 7777

 

The Shard

32 London Bridge Street, London SE1 9SG, United Kingdom

the-shard.com

0844 499 7111

 

Shakespeare's Globe

21 New Globe Walk, Bankside, London SE1 9DT, United Kingdom

www.shakespearesglobe.com

020 7902 1400

 

Southbank Centre

Belvedere Road, London SE1 8XX, United Kingdom

www.southbankcentre.co.uk

020 7960 4200

 

Saatchi Gallery

Duke Of York's HQ, King's Road, London SW3 4RY, United Kingdom

www.saatchigallery.com

020 7811 3070

 

Imperial War Museum

Lambeth Road, London SE1 6HZ, United Kingdom

www.iwm.org.uk

020 7416 5000

 

Selfridges

400 Oxford Street, London W1A 1AB, United Kingdom

www.selfridges.com

0800 123400

 

Camden Market

Camden High Street, London NW1 8NH, United Kingdom

www.camdenmarket.com

020 7485 5511

 

Craven Cottage

Stevenage Road, London SW6 6HH, United Kingdom

www.fulhamfc.com

0843 208 122


fabric

77A Charterhouse Street, London EC1M 6HJ, United Kingdom

www.fabriclondon.com

020 7336 8898