Weekend in London
Discover London's diversity on a spontaneous weekend trip - from art and parties to foodie delights.
London weekend breaks
A weekend in London is all about making room for spontaneity. Whether you’re an art fan, a party person or a devoted foodie, you’ll find something to float your boat in this diverse, sprawling city. If it’s your first visit, a walk along the Thames will tick the main sights off your list. Start at Big Ben, make a detour by Trafalgar Square, pop into Tate Modern and snap a few selfies at Tower Bridge, before a well-deserved pit stop at Borough Market.
If you can already tell your Hackney from your Hammersmith, you’ll know no two London weekend breaks are alike. When wanderlust strikes, what could be easier than grabbing your passport and hopping across the Channel for 2 days in London?
How to spend a weekend in London
Whether you’re cosying up in your favourite neighbourhood or roaming further afield, you can pack a whole lot into a weekend away in London. The city may seem impressively large, but its extensive public transport system makes it a breeze to explore.
Download an app such as Citymapper to help you navigate, and you’ll soon find your way on the Tube and Overground. When it comes to popular sights and big-ticket events, it pays to plan ahead. Buying a ticket online will ensure you won’t miss out, and you can often skip long waiting lines, too. Short on time during weekend breaks to London? Hop-on, hop-off tour buses such as City Sightseeing are a handy way to travel between London’s must-see landmarks.
Treat yourself to a luxury weekend in London
If you’re in the mood for a lavish weekend break, London knows a thing or two when it comes to fine living. Check in at a luxe hotel: London’s iconic addresses, like the Savoy Hotel, come with elegant suites, seductive cocktail bars and jaw-dropping views. Once you’ve dropped off your bags, hit Bond Street, Harrods or Selfridges to make the most of personal shopping experiences and tempting food halls. Still peckish? Ask your concierge to find you a table at one of more than 70 Michelin-starred restaurants, or book a refined afternoon tea. Fresh from a makeover by India Madhavi, Mayfair’s Sketch is still a favourite for scones, cakes and dainty sandwiches.
Fine dining in London
There’s no denying Londoners have an appetite for the finer things in life. Start an evening sipping martinis in deep velvet armchairs at Mayfair’s legendary Dukes Bar. Then head to the Connaught, a 15-minute walk away, where celebrated chef Hélène Darroze helms the hotel’s signature three-star restaurant. Expect a revamped and relaxed dining room, Damien Hirst collages, extraordinary British produce, and a feast to remember. There’s no better spot than a rooftop terrace to end the night in style. The Dorchester’s has charming staff, Italian-inspired tipples and a spectacular view.
A spa weekend in London
When the daily grind gets too much, nothing beats the sheer indulgence of a spa weekend. Londonhas plenty of pampering spots to choose from – if you know where to look. Just south of the river, Linnaean has some of the prettiest treatment rooms in town, plus a hair salon, flower-bedecked café and hand-picked edit of products to take home. Minutes from Covent Garden, Aire Ancient Baths is the new kid on the self-care block. Step into the soothing, candlelit space to feel transported to a Roman spa. Expect hot-and-cold plunge pools and a holistic menu of tension-taming treatments.
How to spend a cheap weekend in London
With so much to see and do, weekend trips to London can put a serious dent in your wallet. But that’s no reason to miss out: with a bit of advance planning, a budget break in London is entirely possible. In fact, you won’t need to spend a penny to get a cultural fix: most of the museums and galleries offer free entrance to their permanent collections. Use the same contactless or Oyster card on public transport, so you can travel as much as you like without paying more than the daily or weekly cap. Eating out can quickly add up, but thankfully there’s no shortage of street food stalls, bottomless brunches and market halls where you can fill up for less. Read on for some inspiration.
Cheap eats in London
A weekend break in London needn’t be all about Michelin stars: there are plenty of dining options for less. It’s no surprise that the capital has wholeheartedly embraced street food: it’s time-saving, delicious, and easy on the wallet. Seven Dials Market offers everything from vegan tacos to Uzbeki dumplings – or you could take a seat at the Cheese Bar’s conveyor belt for a quirky apéritif. A quick stroll from Oxford Circus, Arcade Hall is the latest foodie destination to open. Rumour has it the Thai comfort food at flagship restaurant Plaza Khao Geng always hits the spot.
A London boat tour for less
For a sightseeing tour with a difference, head down to the banks of the Thames, where a river bus service has been running for more than 20 years. It may be a picturesque way for commuters to get across the city, but it also doubles up as an under-the-radar tourist activity. There are 24 piers along the route: highlights include the Battersea Power Station, Houses of Parliament, London Eye and Greenwich Maritime Museum. Uber Boat by Thames Clippers tickets start at less than £5 for adults, and you can pay on board by contactless or Oyster card, or through the Uber app.
A London getaway with friends
Whether you have something special to celebrate or just need a laugh-filled break, nothing beats a friends’ weekend in London. There’s always something new in the capital if you’re in need of distraction. A night out could involve retro games and crazy golf at Plonk, say, or a nostalgic dip in Ballie Ballerson’s ball pit for grown-ups. But London really comes into its own in the summer, when pop-ups and terraces open up for the season. Tables for groups can be hard to come by, so make sure to book ahead. At Filipino bistro Sarap, bringing enough friends means you’ll be able to order a lemongrass-stuffed suckling pig for the table – a London tale to dine out on for months to come.
How to spend a day with friends in London
Making plans for a group of friends in London can sometimes feel like herding cats. Keep things simple with a day at Coal Drops Yard, a stone’s throw from St Pancras station. From tasty street food to live gigs, concept stores and art installations, this buzzy neighbourhood packs in the very best of London. Good dining options for groups of friends include lively Plaza Pastor’s top-notch tacos and margaritas, and Parrillan’s DIY tabletop barbecues. Look out for the year-round programme of events: in summer, grab a spot on the canalside steps for a free outdoor film screening.
Seasonal events in London
Need an excuse for a London weekend break? Time a visit to coincide with one of the many seasonal events gracing the capital’s calendar. There’s nothing quite like a raucous music festival with friends: try BST Hyde Park’s stellar lineup, or grab a ticket for one of All Points East’s two weekends in Victoria Park. Come winter, get your shopping done at the Southbank Christmas market, or check out Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland for wholesome festive fun. London’s ice rinks are quite magical, too: you’re guaranteed the season’s best selfies whirling around Somerset House’s courtyard.
A romantic weekend in London
What does romance mean to you? Whether it’s a leisurely breakfast in bed, late-night drinks in a cocktail bar or a simple woodland walk, there’s a London spot just right for the two of you. The capital’s beauty lies in its pockets of unexpected romance. Turn a corner in the City, for example, and you’ll find yourself wandering among the fairytale ruins of St Dunstan in the East Church Garden. Or climb up to Alexandra Palace’s boating lake, where swan-shaped pedalos wait to whisk lovers away across the water. In the springtime, make a beeline for the Hampstead Pergola, where boughs of blooming wisteria make a picture-perfect setting for any once-in-a-lifetime questions you may be thinking of popping.
Dinner for two in London
There’s no shortage of romantic things to do in London, but nothing beats a candlelit dinner. Set in an artfully distressed former courthouse in Clerkenwell, Session Arts Club has been quietly seducing critics and diners alike. It’s a unique experience: think gas-lit chandeliers, breezy European cuisine and a glam, hidden away rooftop pool. If you’re looking for a tried-and-tested venue, Richmond’s Petersham Nurseries never goes out of style. Produce is sourced from the founders’ farm in Devon, paired with handpicked Italian wines, and served in a dreamy bloom-filled greenhouse.
Take a romantic walk in London
You could easily spend a day getting lost with that special someone in Hyde Park, the largest of the four Royal Parks. Start with contemporary art exhibitions at the Serpentine Galleries, then take some time circumnavigating the tranquil lake and straying off the path as the mood takes you. You might come across the fragrant rose garden, tucked away in the park’s south-eastern corner. Hampstead Heath is another classic date spot. Stroll around the genteel grounds of Kenwood House, then head to the charming Spaniards Inn to cosy up with a drink or two in front of the roaring fire.