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Red Mini driving through the street in Covent Garden

Weekend in London

Whether you’re travelling from the continent on a weekend break or it’s part of a longer holiday in Europe, London's the perfect place for an action-packed weekend of culture, shopping and restaurants. Or, for the less active, sampling the local beers and chatting with locals in a neighborhood pub.

Hear the clock strike at Big Ben, see the soldiers at Buckingham Palace, watch your neck at the Tower of London or head to the top of St Paul's for jaw-dropping views. Boasting some of the world's most iconic museums and art galleries, you'll be spoilt for choice in London.

Will you walk among the dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum or get experimental at the Science Museum, take in a Titian at the National Gallery or marvel at the modernists at the Tate Modern? Want to know more about London before you book? Need some inspiration for your next weekend away? Or just looking for unusual places you've not explored before? Just follow our guide, created for us by the local experts at Visit London.

 

Making the most of your weekend

  • St Paul's from the other side of the Millennium bridge

    What to see

    Many of London's iconic landmarks such as the Coca-Cola London Eye and the Tate Modern stand on the banks of the Thames. Look a little closer though and between the big names you'll find a few hidden gems.

    Tucked away on the South Bank, Gabriel's Wharf is a haven for independent shops, cafés and bars, while further downstream you'll find the elegant, yacht-lined St Katharine Docks. Here, you can take in a views of Tower Bridge from one of the stylish marina-side restaurants or step aboard a party boat.

    If it's nature you're after, venture west and further upstream to find pretty patches of green, such as the Chelsea Physic Garden, the second oldest botanic garden of its kind in England, and Holland Park with its resident peacocks.

    Of course there's more to London than the Thames, so head south of the river to discover some of the lesser-known stops on the city's culture trail: from the impressive natural history and anthropological exhibits at the Horniman Museum, to works by Rembrandt, Gainsborough and Canaletto at Dulwich Picture Gallery.

    If you’re staying North, head to the Zoo in Regent’s park, or blow away the cobwebs and stretch your legs with a gentle climb up Primrose Hill. You’ll be rewarded with an unbeatable panoramic view of London's skyline.

  • Water features at Battersea park in summer time

    When to visit

    London has a busy events calendar, with something for everyone, whatever the season.

    Spring

    See the city in bloom when the lawns at Kew Gardens are covered in a carpet of spring flowers, and make the most of the milder weather with a turn around one of the city's boating lakes.

    Summer

    The streets of west London come alive with calypso every August for the Notting Hill Carnival, while the warm, light evenings are perfect for catching a classic film at the outdoor Summer Screen at Somerset House or enjoying a sundowner at a rooftop bar.

    Autumn

    As the trees begin to turn from green to gold, Blackheath makes a beautiful backdrop for wrapping up warm and watching fireworks illuminate the sky for Bonfire Night.

    Winter

    After a day of Christmas shopping, nothing beats watching the darkness draw in and the city light up over a glass of mulled wine at a festive pop-up bar.

  • Two plates of delicious looking brunch with eggs and toast.

    What to eat

    You really can get the world on a plate in London and there are always new and exciting food experiences to try from around the globe. Eat like a Londoner and try delicious street food from one of the city's thriving markets or tuck into a British classic: traditional fish and chips.

    If you prefer a daintier lunch, it doesn't get more British than afternoon tea at one of the capital's most elegant establishments like Fortnum & Mason or the Ritz.

    For something a bit quirkier, tuck in to your tea atop a vintage double-decker bus. Follow it with something stronger with a tipple from one of London's unusual bars such as the East London Liquor Company, where the spirits are distilled on site.

  • Outside Liberty in London

    Where to shop

    Picture-perfect Neal's Yard in Covent Garden is a miniature shopping destination in itself, while the bustling Brick Lane market in East London is a great place to pick up something unique to take home.

    You’ll have to visit at least one of the big department stores while you’re in London, always good on rainy days as you’ll find everything under the one roof.

    Most of these are in the Oxford street area where you’ll find, amongst others, Selfridges, John Lewis and Liberty – all within walking distance of each other. While you’re in the area don’t miss St Christopher’s Place, it’s just next to Selfridges and is a great place for a pit stop in one of the many bars and restaurants, away from the craziness of the main drag.

    For a more exclusive (and expensive) shopping experience head away from the crowds to Knightsbridge, home to Harrods and Harvey Nichols.

  • Red London buses back to back in traffic

    Getting around

    Central London's quite compact, so you're never more than a few underground stops or a short walk from where you want to be.

    Bus is definitely the best way to see the city, especially from the upper deck where you'll get a totally different perspective of the streets. It's not the fastest way to travel however, as it is dependent on London traffic running smoothly, so best if you're not in a hurry.

    The tube is generally the fastest and most efficient way to travel in London, but do try avoid the underground at rush hour if you can. Oyster cards and contactless payment are the most cost-effective and convenient way to hop on and off the tube and buses.

    If you'd rather travel at a more leisurely pace, try a river cruise down the Thames or meet a local guide to share their knowledge on a cycling or walking tour.

How much to spend

Whatever your budget, there are lots of ways to enjoy a weekend in London. See the city on a shoestring, indulge in a luxury weekend or anything in between.

 

Low-cost London

• Make the most of the free museums

• Buy sightseeing passes in advance

• Stay a little further from the centre of the city

• Use an Oyster card or contactless payment on tubes and buses

• Walk shorter distances between attractions

 

Luxury London

• Explore the city's Michelin-starred restaurants

• Book a boutique hotel for a more bespoke stay

• Head to Knightsbridge to browse in flagship stores such as Harrods and Harvey Nichols