London Tourists

7 Great ways to spend your weekend in London

If you’re planning on visiting London for a weekend trip, finding things to do won’t be difficult. But with royal palaces, bustling markets, fascinating museums and historic bridges to see; exclusive restaurants and cafes to try out and beautiful parks to stroll through, knowing just where to start may be more of a challenge. Here are some suggestions for a great weekend in London.

The Museums & Hyde Park

No-one can visit the capital without taking in the three prestigious South Kensington museums: the prestigious Natural History, Science and Victoria & Albert museums are all situated within 5 minutes walk of one another and each could fill a day by itself. The dinosaur reconstructions at the Natural History museum are impressive, while the Science Museum incorporates many fascinating interactive experiences. The V&A houses the world’s largest collection of decorative arts and design.

After all that time indoors, a 15 minute walk down Exhibition Road will bring you to the green oasis of Hyde Park, where you can stroll, picnic or ride a horse. Also nearby is the exclusive area of Knightsbridge, and the famous Harrods store on Brompton Road (a great place for souvenirs – though quite pricey).

For sustenance you could sample a cream tea at Claridge’s in Mayfair or even splash out on a four course meal at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay.

The Palaces

Buckingham Palace is another must-see attraction, particularly the extravagant ‘Changing of the Guard’ ceremony which takes place every morning (or every other morning in the off-season). There is even a Guards Museum, where you can try on the iconic red uniform yourself. A generous number of the palace’s 775 rooms in this working palace are open to the public in the summer, and if you see the Royal Standard flag flying from the roof then you will know Her Majesty is at home.

Kensington Palace, another of the occupied royal residences, is nearby and also worth a visit. A cream tea in the Orangery is pleasant, while actors in traditional historic costumes take you back in time with royal tales from the past.

The South Bank

The South Bank of the Thames is packed with tourist attractions and traditional London experiences alike. On the Waterloo side you can walk along the river and discover treats like the London Eye (book in advance to get slightly more change out of £30); the Southbank Centre; London Dungeon; the Tate Modern, based in the former Bankside Power Station and Shakespeare’s Globe, the modern reconstruction of the original Globe which burnt down in the 17th Century. As you head further east you will find yourself among London’s traditional cobbled streets, with hidden cafes among the railway arches.

If you get the chance, cross the river for a closer look at the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, while Whitehall and Downing Street are only a short walk away. If you fancy a fun night out, the Tattershall Castle, a paddle steamer which doubles up as a comedy club and nightclub, is permanently moored near the London Eye.

The Tower of London & Tower Bridge

Situated on the North bank of the Thames, the unmistakeable Tower of London cuts an impressive sight, and with its Beefeaters, grisly history, crown jewels and resident ravens there is plenty to find out about. Tickets cost £22 and the castle is open every day except Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.

Watching the heavy bascules of the Victorian Tower Bridge raise up to allow ships to pass through is always an awe-inspiring site, and you can discover exactly how it works with an audio-visual tour which includes a trip to the steam room. After your tour you could replenish your energy with a meal at the Bridge House – the fish and chips comes highly recommended. The nine decks of the nearby HMS Belfast are also well worth exploring where you can learn more about her role in D-Day and what conditions were like on board.

Hampstead Heath

For a more tranquil experience of the capital, head a little way north and discover the 790 acre natural haven which is Hampstead Heath and its three outdoor swimming ponds. Take a hike through ancient and modern woodland and see if you can spot a grass snake, slow worm or even an elusive fox. Make your way to Parliament Hill where you can indulge in various sports or just marvel at the amazing views over the city below.

Kenwood House, to the north of the Heath, covers 120 acres, with a third of it designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest. You may be lucky to catch one of the Lakeside concerts which happen every summer.

The Freud Museum is not too far away and displays his fine collection of Greek, Roman, Egyptian and Oriental collectables. His study has been preserved just as it was when the psychoanalyst worked there – including the all-important therapist’s couch.

Kew Palace & Gardens

To the west of the city lie The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and their stunning 400 year old Palace, once home to George III during his infamous ‘madness’. From huge glasshouses and treetop walkways to ornate temples and serene lakes, there are hundreds of attractions to explore, including the Palm House, an early attempt to create a tropical environment. Kew Gardens has the world’s largest collection of living plants with over 30 000 living plants. It also has one of the world’s largest herbariums with over 7 million specimens.

Nearby Watermans Arts Centre, on the bank of the Thames, is a hive of activity, offering creative workshops, cinema viewings, theatrical performances, a New Media exhibition programme and the Riverside Cafe and Restaurant which is open until late every day of the week. And there is always something exciting going on at the Eventim (Hammersmith) Apollo, including famous musicians and comedians.

Camden & Regent’s Canal

Finally, you cannot leave London without enjoying the many markets of Camden, including the labyrinthine Stables Market and the famous Camden Lock Market. A narrowboat tour down Regent’s Canal will take you from Little Venice to the Docklands, passing by Lords cricket ground and London Zoo along the way. Prepare for a Bohemian-style night out, with bars like KoKo’s at the centre of Camden’s alternative music scene.