Heading to London this weekend? I’ve got the perfect recipe to share with you all for a fabulous 2 days in this city I love!
In a city the size of London it probably seems impossible to fit a visit into a mere two days but I’m here to reassure you it can be done! It’s all about prioritising and deciding what’s most important to you.
Main Attractions – Not to be missed!
- The Shard OR The London Eye (more notes below)
- Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament (the outside view is more than enough)
- Covent Garden Market and Seven Dials (more notes below)
- Buckingham Palace (only open between August and October but there’s a gift shop and the building itself – along with the Victoria Monument out front – are both amazing)
- The Tower of London and Tower Bridge (only pay to go into the Tower if you’re a big history or British monarchy fan – can be really crowded but is an interesting experience)
But seeing these main attractions won’t fill your weekend so below I’ve broken down the things to see and do by category. All you need to do is mix and match to make the itinerary which works best for you!
In the mood to spend spend spend? You’ll want to focus on the main shopping zones:
- Sloane Square and the King’s Road – this is what’s known as ‘the high street’ and has a wide range of brands like Zara, Reiss, Waterstones and more. It’s also the home to one of my favourite bookshops in London – John Sandoe Books – which can be found just off the King’s Road and will quickly become one of your favourite places in London.
- Sloane Street – Running from Sloane Square into Knightsbridge, the further north you go on this street the higher the prices climb but so too does the quality!
- Harrods – it’s hectic and full of mayhem every day of the week but it’s absolutely worth a wander through. Check out the food halls on the main level and then work your way up to housewares. If you’re in need of a £10,000 Swarovski encrusted claw foot tub this is the place to find it!
- Selfridges – filling an entire city block on Oxford Street, Selfridges is a shopping heaven with something for everyone.
- Oxford Street and Regent Street – packed with everything from £1 shops to Burberry and the UK’s first J. Crew the crowds can be epic but take a deep breath, take your time and enjoy the experience. It’s especially fun right now with all the Christmas lights string up!
- Seven Dials and Covent Garden – if you’re looking for antiques, books and assorted knick knacks this is the area for you. The Old Covent Garden is a lovely building and the streets around Seven Dials have truly one of a kind offerings.
- Piccadilly – home to some major London landmarks including Fortnum and Mason’s (purveyors to the Queen), Waterstones Piccadilly (the biggest book store in Europe), Hatchards (my favourite bookstore in the world – if you’re looking for a signed copy of your favourite book or the latest bestseller you’re very likely to find it here) and Piccadilly Circus.
- Portobello Road and Notting Hill – the market is famous for its antiques and jewellery and the gorgeous coloured houses lining the street just add to the appeal. The market is open every day except Sunday.
In the mood for some arts and culture? London has tons of fantastic galleries and museums and the best part is that they’re all free! My top recommendations:
- The National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery – Looming over Trafalgar Square the two galleries are housed in the same massive edifice and are absolutely gorgeous inside.
- Museum of Natural History – The building is the main attraction here (unless you like dinosaurs…then you absolutely must go inside for a visit) so you could get away with seeing it from the outside. It’s always absolutely packed with tourists and families so go early and aim for the side entrance – the main entrance is a literal zoo!
- V&A Museum – Just across the road from the Museum of Natural History the V&A is much calmer and serves a more mature clientele – they’re well known for their special exhibitions and fashion history.
- British Museum – The main thing this museum is known for is the roofed courtyard at its centre and for being home to the highly controversial Greek Marbles which are well worth a look. It’s also generally quite busy so again, the earlier you can get there the more calm the experience will be.
- The Sherlock Holmes Museum – It’s tiny and fun but unless you’re a huge fan I’d give it a miss because it is the very definition of niche!
- The Saatchi Gallery – The man himself is probably more famous than his gallery (for all the wrong reasons) but it always has really unique (though sometimes weird…) exhibits. Its primary appeal is the in-house café and its proximity to Sloane Square and the King’s Road.
- Tate Britain – This will feel quite small and provincial after the National Gallery but the building is lovely and it’s so much calmer than any other gallery you’ll visit in the city.
- Tate Modern – If you’re a fan of Modern Art you should definitely put this one on your list. If you’re not then skip it. (It does have a nice view across the river to St. Paul’s Cathedral from the café though!) Be prepared to have to pay for the best exhibits.
In the mood to see London from above? There are two major contenders: The London Eye and The Shard. I think both are brilliant so it’ll come down to personal preference but I would definitely advocate doing one or the other. Either way you should absolutely book your tickets online in advance – you’ll get them at a discounted price and avoid insane line-ups. Book early or late in the day to avoid the crowds!
- The London Eye
- A really unique experience – you feel as though you’re floating over the Thames!
- Fabulous views of Parliament and north of the river.
- Not so good:
- The ride around is less than half an hour so if you can’t gaze across the landscape at your leisure.
- The pods can be quite crowded.
- The Shard
- Once you’re up there there’s no time limit – when I went with my sister we arrived in late afternoon and stayed long enough to watch the sun set and the city lights come on.
- It’s the highest building in the city and on a clear day you can see for miles.
- Not so good:
- No seating anywhere so if you do want to hang out you have to be prepared to sit on the floor.
Looking for some fresh air? There are 10 royal parks in London but I’d argue that the ones which are ‘must-see’ are:
- Kensington Gardens & Hyde Park – Divided by a body of water called The Serpentine (Kensington Gardens is to the west and Hyde Park is to the east) this is one of London’s most beautiful green spaces. Starting at Wellington Arch (Hyde Park Tube Station) enter the park gates on your right. Once you’re in, if you keep heading west you’ll pass the rose garden before coming to the lake. Keeping the water on your right hand side walk along until you come to the Diana Memorial fountain. It’s an interesting monument to the lost princess and worth a look. Continue up a small hill and cross the road to formally enter Kensington Gardens. There’s no wrong way to wander as there are treats everywhere! Within the Gardens you’ll find: The Albert Memorial (south – right across the street from the Royal Albert hall), the Peter Pan statue and the Italian Gardens (north, follow the serpentine up (water on your right). At the very west side of Kensington Gardens you’ll find Kensington Palace – former home of Princess Margaret and Princess Diana and current home to Will, Kate and George, and Prince Harry. Head to The Orangery for a spot of tea or a scone.
- Green Park – This green space divides the hustle and bustle of Piccadilly from the calm serenity of Buckingham Palace. Home of a lovely maple-leaf-themed fountain (you’re welcome, UK) and Canada Gate through which you can glimpse the Queen’s ‘office’ in London.
- St James’s Park – Running alongside ‘The Mall’ this is a calm oasis.
- Regents Park – Home of the London Zoo and some truly beautiful gardens this is a nice place for a lovely stroll but it’s a bit north and there isn’t much else near it so if you’re pressed for time it’s not terrible to give it a miss.
Feeling hungry after all your adventures? There are too many great places in London to summarise here and everyone has different preferences so here’s a short list of my personal favourites:
- Pizza Pilgrims in Kingly Court. The BEST pizza you will ever taste. Ever.
- Flat Iron on Beak Street in Soho. Amazing (affordable) steak.
- Hawksmoore on Air Street. Phenomenal (expensive) steak & Seafood.
- Jamie’s Italian – brain child of celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and home to truly amazing pasta.
- Borough Market – tons of stalls with everything you could desire.