You can’t see it all on a short break in London. Cram in the best experiences with just a few nights in a London hotel by following this inspirational itinerary.
Kick off your short break in London near Waterloo, soaring above the Thames on a half-hour revolution of the London Eye observation wheel. You’ll see London’s landmarks spread out like a popup map, with Big Ben across the river and the green royal parks breaking up the city streets. Book ahead to jump the queue.
Stroll east along the river past the Southbank Centre’s performance and gallery spaces. Second-hand booksellers set up stalls while buskers and skateboarders play under the arches. Pass the former power station housing the Tate Modern art gallery and the lovingly recreated Shakespeare’s Globe theatre.
Start: London Eye.
Nearest tube: Waterloo
As stomachs start to rumble keep walking and gourmet Borough Market will come to the rescue. On Fridays and Saturdays Londoners crowd into top-quality food stalls under the Victorian ironwork. Take a pint of ale from the Market Porter pub into the next-door café selling fat sausage sandwiches.
Nearby Tower Bridge is Victoriana at its madcap best – a technological marvel in a medieval-styled shell. It’s the best way to approach the Tower of London for a whistlestop tour of English royal architecture, complemented by bloodthirsty tales of gruesome executions.
Start: Borough Market.
Nearest tube: London Bridge
A short tube hop north-west of the Tower of London, traders have bought and sold meat at Smithfield Market for over 800 years. So it’s no surprise to find carnivores’ favourite restaurant St John just up the road. It’s not cheap, but its bold take on traditional British cooking regularly puts it near the top of ‘world’s best’ lists.
Start: St John restaurant.
Nearest tube: Farringdon
Start your day in West London by picking one of Kensington’s trio of world-class museums. The Natural History Museum’s dinosaurs and the Science Museum’s interactive displays will delight the kids. Or try the Victoria and Albert Museum’s collections of art, fashion and design.
Start: Exhibition Road.
Nearest tube: South Kensington
If the weather co-operates, a picnic by the Serpentine lake in Hyde Park is just the ticket, followed by some rowing or a trip on the Solar Shuttle boat. Or drop in on Kensington Palace, home to assorted royals for three hundred years.
At the corner of Hyde Park skilled orators and oddball ranters exercise their right to free speech at Speaker’s Corner every Sunday. Savvy shoppers swing south of Oxford Street for smaller boutiques like designer Paul Smith’s Mayfair ‘furniture and curiosity’ shop, or arty books and fashion around Covent Garden.
Start: The Serpentine, Hyde Park.
Nearest tube: High Street Kensington or Knightsbridge.
Round off a London short break with a West End show. Cheap tickets are on sale at Leicester Square booths. Look for bargain pre-theatre meal deals at nearby restaurants, or splash out on oysters at Bentley’s in Mayfair. Big-name musicals are fantastically popular, or see what’s on at innovative theatres like the Donmar Warehouse.
Start: Leicester Square.
Nearest tube: Leicester Square