48 hours in London: What you should not miss under any circumstances

Visiting London is always a great idea. However, as usual, we face a dilemma: A city this size in just two days? Of course we can! That’s the main reason behind these proposed itineraries – so you don’t miss out on any of the major attractions and make the most of your stay in London.

Before starting your journey, remember to download the PDF format city map (free) with all the points of interest marked. And, of course, the tube map here. It will prove to be a great help. Another recommendation? The London audio guide for free. Just upload it onto your mp3 player and let it accompany you as you quietly stroll around the city. Ah yes! And if you have an iPhone/smartphone, you can download it for free using the PAT City Guides app here (Android and iPhone) 🙂

Let’s not waste any more time. Two days to see London! Anything’s better than the tourist bus, right? Well, our plan is to do what we can in 48 hours, because London has a whole lot to offer.

Here we go with day one. For starters, the map:

Our itinerary kicks off in fine style… how? After an early breakfast in your hotel, we will take the tube to Westminster (Circle, District and Jubilee lines). On leaving the tube station, what will we see? The Palace of Westminster and Big Ben are not to be missed. After the obligatory photo, let’s take a look at Westminster Abbey. Spectacular is an understatement. In addition, it has appeared in countless films, such as for example, The Da Vinci Code and The King’s Speech. And for the more romantic among you, and for lovers of the tabloids, this is where William and Kate said “I do”, which, of course, was quite an event.

So, Westminster Abbey opening times are as follows:

  • Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday – 9.30 am to 3.30 pm
  • Wednesday – 9.30 am to 6 pm
  • Saturday – 9.30 am to 1.30 pm
  • Sunday, closed to tourists. Of course, there is mass, which you are invited to attend.

The entrance fee is £16 per adult. While this is a bit pricey (like everything in London), it’s a visit you won’t forget. The price also includes a very comprehensive audio guide, which we strongly recommended.

Try to leave Westminster Abbey by 11 am, or earlier if possible, as a hike of just over a kilometre (about 20 minutes) to Buckingham Palace awaits. Why the rush? The famous Changing of the Guard. Check the schedule with your hotel as it is programmed for alternate days. For example, in August it is held on odd days, while during September and October 2012 it was held on even days. What time? At 11.30 am, with British punctuality, of course. If you can arrive 20 minutes earlier, all the better. It can get very crowded, as this is certainly one of the best free shows in town. By the way, do you know what the hats of the Buckingham Palace Guards are made of?

After the Changing of the Guard, you can visit Buckingham Palace, but if you want to make better use of your time, take a good walk along The Mall to Trafalgar Square, passing under the majestic Admiralty Arch, of course. Will you be able to find the nose hidden in this stunning arch? It’s just a small challenge. 😉

Stroll through Trafalgar Square, admire Admiral Nelson, pop in to the National Gallery and at least check out a Van Gogh or two. Don’t worry, admission is free, as it is for many of London‘s museums. In addition, Trafalgar Square is home to the beautiful church of St Martin in the Fields, best known for its crypt. I still remember the first times I went there, more than 25 years ago now. The Crypt was an attraction that went virtually unnoticed. Today, however, there is even a lift to the Cafe in the Crypt. Oh! What a world we live in…

On leaving St Martin in the Fields, it’s time to look for a place to eat. The tummy is growling. The best option is to head for Leicester Square, a beautiful and busy square where you may even come across the likes of Charles Chaplin or Will Shakespeare, among other curious characters. There are dozens of restaurants here. Ranging from those with an ‘All you can eat for £ 5.99′ formula to the super-fashionable and super-expensive. It’s up to you.

After refuelling, we recommend you head for Piccadilly Circus, which is not to be missed. From there we will take you on a tour of the trendiest shops around. Continue along Regent Street and make a quick detour down Carnaby Street in the Soho district to check out the very latest styles. Then head back then to Regent Street towards the famous Oxford Circus. Credit cards at the ready! You are about to enter London’s best known shopping streets: Oxford Street. Here you will find clothes to suit all wardrobes, large music stores and even Europe’s largest Disney Store. Fantastic! If shopping is not your thing, what you should do is skip directly from (H) to (M). You will save money, time and shoe leather.

After taking in a good chunk of Oxford Street, you could slip in to London’s Soho district (remember we proposed an in-depth-tour of Soho) and at least take in Soho Square before heading for Frith Street or Greek Street (almost preferable, though you won’t have time for lengthy stops) and into the heart of London‘s Chinatown, Gerrard Street. Your camera will thank you.

If the sun hasn’t already set, it won’t be long in doing so. This is the ideal time to head for Covent Garden and, between shopping and street entertainment, look for a restaurant for dinner. There are plenty of choices. Bon appétit … there’s more to do tomorrow.

What a day, right?! You’ve managed to do a bit of everything.

Now, on to day two. Here we begin with the City of London:

Some time ago we proposed a [] comprehensive itinerary through the City of London. Today, however, we’ll be doing a whistle-stop version that only takes us a morning, as we have other plans for the afternoon.

Take an early tube to St Paul’s (Central line, red) and visit St Paul’s, the London cathedral that has appeared in countless films and documentaries. Impressive indeed. Entry costs £18 per person. Though pricey, it’s well worth it, as, among other attractions, you will have access to the upper galleries. In contrast, if you sneak into a mass you won’t have access to all areas. The visit should take just over 1 hour. As for the schedule:

  • Monday to Saturday – 8.30 am to 4 pm
  • On Sundays, only for the faithful.

And remember, you’re not allowed take pictures or videos inside 🙁

After the visit, walk along Cannon Street and visit the Temple of Mithras, or Mithraeum, one of London‘s lesser-known attractions. A piece of genuine history. It won’t take long. And if you follow the route we have marked out for you, you will come to The Monument, a monument to the Great Fire of London and one of the city’s most symbolic structures.

After this it’s time to visit one of the city’s most beautiful markets, Leadenhall Market, better known for having appeared in the Harry Potter saga. This is a great place for a snack before continuing our itinerary. Now prepare yourself for one of the highlights of your tour. I’m talking about the Tower of London, where I also recommend a visit, even if only to get a photo with a Beefeater. Buying your ticket online will also save you unnecessary queueing.

As for the Tower of London schedule:

From the 1st of March to the 31st of October :

  • Tuesday to Saturday – from 9 am to 5.30 pm
  • Sunday and Monday – 10 am to 5.30 pm

From the 1st of November to the 28th of February:

  • Tuesday to Saturday – from 9 am to 4.30 pm
  • Sunday and Monday – 10 am to 4.30 pm

Is it worth it? Definitely. You may notice that I have only made you pay entry fees for 3 sites in 2 days 🙂

The visit will take you about 2 hours, depending on your pace, and by then it will be lunchtime. While there are several options nearby, a more interesting option is to take the tube to Camden for the afternoon and evening.

If you still have time to tour The City, I suggest you take in Tower Bridge, which you can also go up, and cross the Thames to get a closer look at City Hall, a Sir Norman Foster design, and stroll around the area. A most agreeable option if the weather is on your side.

In the afternoon, as I said, it’s time to visit Camden. You may want to  check out the route we proposed for you a while ago. But if culture is more your thing, please don’t miss the British Museum, which is free. At the very least, you should admire some of the Persian pieces and the occasional mummy. This is a truly immense museum that would take an encyclopaedia to describe. And even that wouldn’t be enough.

And finally, having proposed a 2-day tour of London, I’m going to complicate matters just a little. Why? Because I want you to take advantage of your time in the city and see as much as possible. So, bear in mind the following recommendations:

  • If your visit includes a Saturday, spend the morning in Portobello Road
  • Find out what days the Changing of the Guard takes place (every other day) and take the proposed first-day route for the morning in question. It would be a shame to walk all the way to Buckingham Palace and not see the show, don’t you think?
  • If you’re an art lover, visit the National Gallery, the Tate Britain and the Tate Modern.
  • If you’re a romantic and liked the film Notting Hill, take this route.
  • If you’re not a culture vulture, take this Soho
  • And if you’re into the classics, be sure to consult our Sherlock Holmes or Charles Dickens

Goodness me! London has so much to see that you’re bound to return 🙂

You Might Also Like

Leave a Reply