As one of the world’s most visited cities, London has any number of museums, galleries, street markets and historical sites to keep you occupied. An extensive public transport network makes it easy to get around the capital too, meaning there’s a lot that can be crammed into an action-packed 48 hours…
9.30 Delve into Britain’s turbulent past
Start your London experience with a visit to the World Heritage Site of the Tower of London. Once a royal palace and infamous prison, the imposing fortress now houses the Crown Jewels – a dazzling array of more than 23,000 gemstones – and provides an opportunity to meet its legendary ravens, known as the guardians of the tower. Be guided around the keep by a Yeoman Warder and uncover tales from 1,000 years of the nation’s grisly history.
From the tower, take in the architecture and engineering splendour of Tower Bridge, which has stood proudly over the River Thames for more than 125 years. Visit the Victorian Engine Rooms to see the stream engines that once powered the bridge, before enjoying panoramic views from the high-level walkways.
11.30 See the city from up high
For iconic views over the capital, sit back and relax in one of the London Eye’s 32 high-tech glass capsules. Standing at 135 metres, it’s the world’s tallest cantilevered observation wheel and offers breathtaking views in all directions. A gradual rotation in one of the pods takes around 30 minutes, providing striking views of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, the Shard and Canary Wharf.
Alternatively, you can climb the 528 steps of St Paul’s Cathedral on the way to the top of its iconic dome. Multimedia guides detail the story behind architect Sir Christopher Wren’s crowning achievement, and visitors can climb to several different levels of the three-dome structure. The Whispering Gallery stands 30 metres above the Cathedral floor, and is so named as you can whisper into the walls and hear what is said on the opposite side. The Stone Gallery and Golden Gallery are higher still, providing exceptional views of the Tate Modern and William Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.
12.30 Grab lunch at a thriving food market
There’s no shortage of eateries in the capital, including an array of pop-up stalls and new food vendors. Stop for lunch at Borough Market, where you’ll find 100 stalls serving up all kinds of gourmet delights. See fresh pasta being made at Padella, try dishes inspired by the Eastern Mediterranean at Arabica or get stuck into any number of international cuisines at the stalls, often prepared while you wait.
Alternatively, make your way over to the Southbank Centre Food Market on the Banks of the River Thames, which welcomes a range of street food traders and fresh produce every week. YIf you’re looking for something a bit more expansive, you’ll find an abundance of restaurants along the Southbank too.
13.30 Discover Britain’s rich history
After lunch, delve into two million years of human history at the British Museum, one of the capital’s most popular attractions. Dedicated to history, art and culture, the free to enter museum has a collection totalling more than eight million items, of which a selection are displayed across 60 galleries. Expect to discover artefacts from ancient Greece, Egypt and the Americas, modern collections exploring everything from life to clocks, and virtual galleries with a constantly changing set of exhibitions and displays.
Visit Buckingham Palace during the summer months, when the State Rooms are open, to discover more about the royal family. The working royal palace is the Queen’s official residence and the magnificent State Rooms are opened to the public for ten weeks every summer, as well as on selected other dates throughout the year. Catch the Changing of the Guard ceremony in front of the palace, a striking display of British pageantry, and pose for photos in front of the palace gates or by the glistening Victoria Memorial.
15.30 Immerse yourself in the arts
From miniature galleries to mammoth exhibitions, London has plenty of locations where you can immerse yourself in art and culture. Overlooking Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery showcases masterpieces by some of Europe’s most renowned painters, including Johannes Vermeer, Claude Monet, Anthony van Dyck, Rembrandt, Vincent van Gogh, Raphael, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, among many others.
The Tate Modern houses a striking collection of contemporary art and a constantly changing set of exhibitions throughout the year, and is Britain’s most popular visitor attraction. Its counterpart, the Tate Britain, explores British art from 1500 to the present day.
18.00 Experience delectable Michelin starred cuisine
From Michelin starred establishments to high street chain restaurants, London has all bases covered. There’s 67 restaurants in the capital with at least one Michelin star, with several found in five-star hotels and in some of London’s swankiest areas. Alongside long-standing culinary institutions, new additions to the list for 2020 include the three Michelin star Sketch in Mayfair, Endo at the Rotunda offering sushi at the site of the BBC’S former Television Centre, and Mãos in the heart of Shoreditch.
19.30 Catch a West End show
London’s West End is renowned for its theatres and is home to an eclectic array of musicals and stage shows featuring some of the biggest names in the business. Venture to the heart of Theatreland to take in a spectacle for yourself and to discover some of the brilliant shows that you can book in 2020. There’s also an abundance of long-running shows including Mamma Mia!, The Lion King, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and Wicked to enjoy.
22.00 Take in panoramic views from a rooftop bar
Standing high above the hustle and bustle of the city, London has numerous rooftop bars where you can sip cocktails and watch the sun go down. Look out over St Paul’s Cathedral from Madison in One New Change, sample colourful cocktails, flavoursome craft beers and everything in between at The Aviary or venture up to the City Garden or Sky Pod bars at Sky Garden for uninterrupted views out across the City.
10.00 Explore the capital’s free museums
Start day two with a trip to the leafy streets of South Kensington, where you’ll find a raft of free museums that delve into the spheres of science, natural history and art and design. Exploring human evolution and life on earth, from dinosaurs to volcanoes, the Natural History Museum houses more than 80 million specimens that cover 4.5 billion years of history! Walk beneath the skeleton of the largest mammal on earth in the main hall, hold on tight on the earthquake simulator and look out for a number of specialist exhibitions that are held throughout the year. The Victoria & Albert Museum is renowned as the world’s leading museum for art and design, with exhibitions on everything from art and architecture to textiles, fashion and jewellery. Its collection spans 5,000 years of human creativity and the Victorian buildings housing them are just as impressive as the collection itself. You can also discover iconic objects and stories of scientific achievement at the Science Museum, which houses an array of hands-on displays and special exhibitions that explore human innovation in all its forms.
12.30 Grab a bite to eat at Camden Market
Alongside a wealth of stalls selling vintage fashion, hand-crafted goods and unique gifts, Camden Market also has a delicious array of food and drink for you to get your teeth into. Discover cult cafes and cosy terrace bars, as well as street food stalls selling nearly every cuisine you can think of.
You could also visit one of the many food stalls and restaurants in the redeveloped Coal Drops Yard area of King’s Cross. If you’re in London between Wednesday and Friday, the KERB food market sets up in Granary Square too, offering a range of delicacies from all over the world. Fans of Harry Potter can pop into King’s Cross station after eating for a chance to pose for photos by the infamous Platform 9 ¾!
13.30 Take a walk on the wild side
After lunch, wander along the quaint Regent’s Canal past old-fashioned narrow boats on your way to ZSL London Zoo. Explore Tiger Territory and the Land of the Lions, relax by Penguin Beach and discover life in Gorilla Kingdom, alongside numerous daily events, feeding sessions and demonstrations. The zoo is home to more than 19,000 animals and you can even meet some of them on a dedicated meet the animals experience.
Alternatively, venture slightly out of the capital to explore Warner Bros Studio Tour London: The Making of Harry Potter, featuring breathtaking sets, props and original costumes from the movies about J.K Rowling’s marvellous wizard. Regular train services run from London Euston to Watford Junction, where a shuttle bus service can take you directly to the Studio Tour.
16.00 Enjoy a traditional afternoon tea
From the traditional to the charming, in London there’s ample opportunity to sample afternoon tea. Head to Harrods Tea Rooms for a set of sweet and savoury dishes, tuck into traditional delights at Fortnum & Mason or enjoy Town House at The Kensington’s London Landmarks Afternoon Tea, which mixes the city’s architectural feats with an abundance of British culinary traditions.
For more practical information on London, visit our London destination page.