48 Hours to See Some Lovely London Stuff

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey on a sunny Saturday. Lovely London stuff, indeed!

We vowed to do some proper sightseeing on a recent whirlwind 48 hour visit to London, and I loved every minute.

Let me tell you that this is one European city break you absolutely need to do.

It sounds ridiculous, but I genuinely don’t think I ever realised there was so much to see in London. Despite several visits, I’m a total London amateur. My trips to the city have always involved wearing out my voice by catching up on gossip with my friends, but I’ve never made the time to wear out my feet by properly exploring the city until now.

For all the London first-timers among you – here’s how we spent our time in this brilliant city:

We saw a show, and stayed in Soho

View from our Soho balcony at Z Hotels

View from our balcony at Z Hotel Soho

Once The Musical at the Phoenix Theatre

Once The Musical at the Phoenix Theatre

We stayed at Z Hotels which is right in the heart of Soho and on the doorstep of theatre land. Our room even had a balcony, which was great for people watching – a favourite travel hobby of mine. I don’t believe we could have picked a better location. Zipping round the places we wanted to visit was a cinch from here. And Soho has the perfect buzzy atmosphere for a weekend evening.

We also stayed less than five minutes walk from the Phoenix Theatre where we saw the absolutely outstanding Once The Musical; just perfect for bobbing back to touch up my mascara seeing as I shed more than a few tears during the show!

We maxed out on history in the marvellous British Museum

Inside The British Museum

Inside The British Museum

Being able to walk to the British Museum in ten minutes was perfect. We knew that this was one museum we simply could not miss. We actually spent an hour there on Friday afternoon and went back to immerse ourselves for a couple of hours more on Sunday. A highlight was seeing the Rosetta Stone, but the whole place was just mesmerising on a scale I couldn’t possibly have imagined. And best of all, it’s FREE (though donations are welcomed to help keep it that way).

We talked politics and palaces at Westminster

Houses of Parliament

Inside the grounds, but sadly not inside the building. You can’t take photos on the tour.

It’s easy to forget that the home of Parliament is also a palace, but the guided tour allows you to get a feel for this magnificent building in its entirety. And standing right inside the House of Lords and the House of Commons? Fascinating stuff. (Tours cost £16.50 per person.)

We pounded pavements and passed up on taking the tube

Walking around Covent Garden

Wandering around the market in Covent Garden on Sunday morning.

Much as I am sure the tube is perfect for flying around London, our weekend itinerary meant exploring on foot was perfectly doable. Our morning walk at 8.30 am on Saturday from Soho to Westminster for our tour of Parliament also let us see a different side of London. Trafalgar Square was so much more peaceful first thing than later on in the afternoon. So I urge you when you visit: save the sleep-in for when you get home. Get up and get out!

We also broke up the walk from Westminster to Buckingham Palace with a hearty pub lunch – just what you need to keep you going!

We didn’t tun up our noses at the open-top tour buses

Riding the tour bus over Tower Bridge

Riding the bus over Tower Bridge

They might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I believe tour buses have real value for people who want to see as much as they can of a city in a short time. A 24 or 48 hour ticket also gives you the opportunity to use it as your transport. There are a few companies who offer a service in London, and it’s possible to get a free boat ride on a Thames Clipper with your ticket on some – the views from the river are pretty special.

We used Golden Tours, but with hindsight I’d have chosen Big Bus Tours or the Original Tour as their buses seemed much more frequent.

Tower Bridge from The Thames

Tower Bridge as seen from The Thames

So have I seen enough to say I’ve done London?

Absolutely not. Next on my hit list are the Victoria & Albert Museum, a trip to Greenwich and a posh afternoon tea somewhere fancy (as well as meet-ups with blogger pals Emma and Yishyene who I had such a great time with in Rotterdam earlier this year).

But enough from me – what about you? What would you do with 48 hours in London? Let me know in the comments!

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During my stay in London, I was hosted by Z Hotels. All opinions about the hotel are entirely my own. To be honest, the free cheese and wine buffets every evening speak for themselves!

12 Comments

  • Naomi says:

    Knowing me I would eat my way through London, especially wandering up Brick Lane ending up at the 24 hour bagel shop with the yummiest bagels with salt beef and mustard – to die-for!

  • Agness says:

    48 hours in London? It’s more than enough to see the city twice :):):) That post really makes me wanna get back to London and get into one of these sightseeing buses to see the palaces at Westminster and the Tower Bridge 🙂

  • London is my favorite city! I recently returned from a year long stay there. This post has some great tips and like you said, you still have plenty more to see! You’ll adore the Victoria and Albert Museum. It’s one of my favorites. I’d recommend eating at their cafe. I’m normally not a fan of a museum cafe but this one is awesome and has some beautiful rooms. Also, if you want a great high tea experience, I’d also recommend the Rose Lounge at the Sofitel London St James Hotel. The Orangery in Kensington Gardens is also a beautiful and slightly cheaper alternative.

    Happy travels 🙂

  • Cat says:

    Spend an afternoon in Camden, visit the food market, go shopping in Camden Market & have a few beers – great place for people watching

  • MummyTravels says:

    I’ve lived here for nearly 15 years (eek!) and still so much to discover – this is a fab plan for a first visit, but here’s a few more of my favourites:

    – Walk along the South Bank – often something on, and always fab views along the river if not
    – The Tower of London – up there with the British Museum as one of my top London attractions
    – Take a boat trip to Greenwich (sunny days recommended!) and go to the market
    – Spitalfields market (would go there over Camden/Portobello, although both are lovely)
    – Almost anything from the London Walks company – have done various ones over the years, and they’re fascinating, especially the ones around the City

    • Clare says:

      Great tips for next time! I am hoping we’ll plan another London weekend for 2014 so I shall be sure to follow your advice. I really fancy a boat trip to Greenwich and the London Walks company sounds great – I’ll definitely check them out…

  • Anja says:

    Hmm, the first day I would probably see all the sights – Big Ben, London Eye, Westminster Abbey and the museums and the evening and next 24 hours I would eat, eat, eat and SHOP. London has some of the best shopping there is. And I really recommend visiting some of the cool cocktail bars there, like Nightjar which has amazing drinks and live jazz music.

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