48 hours in London

19 Jun 2016

London is one of the world’s most visited cities, with an estimated 18.8 million international visitors in 2015. Here’s how we’d spend 48 hours in the Big Smoke.

Day One

If you’ve never been to London before, there are some key sights you'll want to tick off first. Take the train to Waterloo and walk over Westminster Bridge, where you’ll get the best views of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben (pictured below). Buckingham Palace is a short walk away and is open to the public from 23 July-2 October but pre-booking is essential. Also nearby (towering away on the other side of the bridge) is the London Eye. Tickets cost from £21.20 per person when booked in advance, or £28 if you want to jump the queue.

If the weather is wet (this is London after all), the good news is you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to museums or galleries to visit. The British Museum, the V&A, the Science Museum, the Tate Modern and the Imperial War Museum won’t cost you a penny to visit the permanent exhibits (special events may come with a charge).

Construction of the 95-storey Shard finished in February, 2013, making it the tallest building in London. While you could pay £25.95 each to visit the View from the Shard viewing platform, a better idea is to book lunch or afternoon tea at the Oblix or Aqua Shard restaurants on the 31st and 32nd floors. The views stretch for up to 40 miles.


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Also nearby is the Tower Bridge Exhibition. Tickets are £9 per adult and include access to the glass platform that stretches over the Thames 138 feet below.

Catching a show in London's West End is one of the quintessential London Experiences. If you haven't booked tickets in advance, call the theatre on the day to see if they have had any last-minute returns. The box offices in and around Leicester Square don't usually offer much of a discount on the most popular shows, so it often pays to ask the theatre directly.


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Many of the surrounding restaurants will offer a reasonable pre-show set menu from 5:30-7pm. If you are hungry afterwards, late-night options in the West End include the Soho Kitchen and Bar for American fare until at least midnight; and The Royal Dragon Restaurant and Karaoke in Chinatown.   

Day Two

Forget Oxford Street, Bond Street and Harrod’s. For the real London shopping experience, head to one of the many markets. Early risers can see real traders at work at Billingsgate Fish Market from 4am-8am (Tuesday-Saturday), or the Smithfield Market for meat (Monday-Friday from 7am). 

Spending time around all that fresh produce is likely to work up an appetite. At that point we recommend making your way to Borough Market (pictured below) for an early lunch. This mecca for foodies is home to more than 100 stalls selling all manner of gourmet cuisine. It's also home to one branch of Monmouth Coffee, purveyors of the capital's finest caffeinated beverages. 


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For an alternative view of London, make your way north to Hampstead Heath for the afternoon. The easiest way here is to head from Borough to nearby Waterloo, jump on the Northern Line and take the Tube to Belsize Park. From there it's a hop, skip and a jump to the 790-acre Hampstead Heath. Even better - go via Hampstead High Street Hampstead. It's quaint and reminiscent of a country village, with lots of boutique shops to check out along the way.

The Heath itself has panoramic views over London at its highest point, and the Spaniard’s Inn at the northern end is the perfect place for a drink before heading back to the city. The pub dates back to 1585 and is one of London’s oldest - if you’re here on a Sunday the roast dinners are a must.

There are no shortages of restaurants in London. But for your last night, head to Madison’s near St Paul’s. It’s known for its cocktails and impressive views of the cathedral from the roof terrace. Expect dishes such as 35-day aged steak, confit pork belly and truffle macaroni cheese.

Alternatively, Michelin-starred Seven Park Place by William Drabble at St James's Hotel and Club is consistently rated one of the best in the capital. The French-inspired menu features signature dishes including poached lobster tail with cauliflower purée. There are only nine tables so pre-booking is essential.

Ready to book? Check out Travelzoo’s latest deals on London hotels. Alternatively, see below for a selection of our favourite hotels in the capital…

5 Hotels We Love in London

K West Hotel & Spa
Location: Shepherd’s Bush, West London
Why we love it: This deluxe 4-star hideaway has it all: fine dining, a chic cocktail den and one of the best spas in the city. The location provides easy access to the sights of central London and instant access to the vast Westfield shopping centre.  
Click here for rates and availability (inc extras for Travelzoo members)

The Milestone Hotel
Location: Kensington, West London
Why we love it: This 5-star property is renowned for its exceptional service and hard-to-beat location – Hyde Park is just over the road, while Knightsbridge, Kensington Palace and the Royal Albert Hall are just a short walk away. Kids’ bonus: free colouring books and behind-the-scenes tours. 
Click here for rates and availability (inc extras for Travelzoo members)

Devonport House
Greenwich, East London
Why we love it: A well-priced option given the 4-star rating and location in historic Greenwich. Nearby attractions include The O2, the National Maritime Museum and the Cutty Sark. Central London is 20 minutes away – a little longer if you take the boat.
Click here for rates and availability (inc extras for Travelzoo members)

Chesterfield Mayfair
Location: Mayfair, Central London
Why we love it: This boutique property within walking distance of Knightsbridge and Buckingham Palace is renowned for its refined English atmosphere, superb afternoon tea and exclusive surroundings. Butlers Restaurant holds a prestigious 2-AA-Rosette rating.
Click here for rates and availability (inc extras for Travelzoo members)

Hotel Xenia
Location: Fulham, Southwest London
Why we love it: This white-pillared Victorian building in South Kensington is a few minutes' walk from Earls Court, Kensington Gardens and attractions such as the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and the V&A Museum. Bonus points for the Living Wall cocktail bar with a heated terrace in the herb garden.
Click here for rates and availability (inc extras for Travelzoo members)

This post was written by guest blogger Emma Sheppard

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