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48 hours in London: the top things to see and do

See the best that the capital has to offer

48 hours in london
Chloe Best
Lifestyle Features Editor
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As the saying goes, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life. The capital city has so much to offer visitors of all ages, and while you realistically won’t be able to see all of it in just two days, you can still cram in a lot of the major landmarks – from Buckingham Palace to Big Ben. Read on for your need-to-know 48 hour itinerary.

1st Day:

Morning: Explore Borough Market, the Southbank and London Eye

Start your day at Borough Market where you can fuel up for a busy day of exploring with a bite to eat from one of the market stalls. From fresh fruit and veg to delicious baked goods and street food, you’ll find it all here, and it is well worth taking a look around all of the different stalls if you can.

Southbank London© Photo: iStock

From here, you could take a trip to The Shard for panoramic views across the city. But you can still get a great view of landmarks like St Paul’s Cathedral and Tower Bridge if you head to the river. Follow the path towards the west, where you will pass the famous Globe Theatre and Tate Modern on your route, before eventually reaching the London Eye and attractions including the London Dungeons and Sea Life London Aquarium.

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If you fancy taking a trip on the London Eye it is well worth booking in advance, as the queues can get really long during the day. You’ll also save ten per cent on admission by booking in advance, with standard tickets costing £23.40 per adult online.

Afternoon: Check out Big Ben and Houses of Parliament, picnic in Green Park and see Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace

Just across the Thames you’ll see Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. You’ll be able to get the best pictures from further away, but if you cross over Westminster Bridge you’ll get a closer look at the iconic and grand structures. From here you could stroll up to see 10 Downing Street and meander into St James’ Park and through to The Mall, for your first glimpse of Buckingham Palace.

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If the weather permits you could go for a picnic in Green Park, or alternatively head to Piccadilly, where you’ll find a number of restaurants and cafés to choose from. Here you’ll also be able to catch a glimpse at Piccadilly Circus, with Trafalgar Square - home to the National Gallery - just a short walk away.

Alternatively: Head up to Bond Street and Oxford Street, where you can indulge in some retail therapy, visiting iconic stores like Liberty London and Selfridges.

Evening: Go for dinner and watch a West End show             

Head for an early dinner around Covent Garden before going to watch a West End show. If you haven’t booked in advance, you may be able to get discounted tickets at Tkts, a non-profit ticket booth in Leicester Square that has seats at many of the most popular shows for cheaper rates.

2nd Day:

Morning: Visit the Natural History Museum and explore Knightsbridge

Harrods London© Photo: iStock

Wake up early and head over to the Natural History Museum, which is free to visit and home to a number of fascinating displays, including a diving blue whale skeleton, which took the place of Dippy the Diplodocus when it went on tour in 2017. Once you’ve seen all that the museum has to offer, take a stroll around neighbouring Knightsbridge, where you’ll see a mix of designer and high street shops along with Harrods - one of London’s most famous department stores.

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Alternatively: If you don’t fancy visiting the Natural History Museum, there are a number of other attractions nearby, including the V&A museum and Science Museum.

Afternoon: Sample afternoon tea and take a river cruise along the Thames

For a special treat, why not try afternoon tea at one of London’s prestigious hotels. Visitors flock from around the world for tea at The Ritz (although you’ll have to book in advance), while these other venues are also regarded as some of London’s best for afternoon tea.

London City Cruises

Once you’ve indulged in all the scones, cakes and finger sandwiches you can eat, head down to the river to take a scenic boat tour. City Cruises operate from Westminster Pier, and operate regular sightseeing tours along the Thames, running as far as Greenwich.

Alternatively: Get the best of both worlds with a trip on the unique afternoon tea bus from Brigit’s Bakery. This memorable experience will see you travel past landmarks like Westminster Abbey, the Royal Albert Hall, Nelson’s Column and more, all while tucking into a delicious array of treats and tea. Book your tickets here.

Evening: Enjoy sunset cocktails at one of the city’s top bars

Let your trip come to a close with cocktails at one of London’s best bars. The American Bar in The Savoy is not only considered one of the best cocktail bars in the city, but also the world, and will be an indulgent end to an action-packed 48 hours. Or head to one of the many rooftop bars, so you can get one last view across the city skyline before it’s time to come home.

Where to stay in London:

You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to hotels in London, and what you choose is very much dependent on budget. For five-star luxury, hotels like The Dorchester and The Goring (a favourite of the royal family) are hard to beat. But if you’re simply looking for a bed for the night and little else, budget hotels like Premier Inn Hub offer a modern and comfortable room in the city for as little as £69 per night, saving you more cash to spend on your trip.

How to get to London:

London is well-connected to places across the UK by car, train or coach. Major stations including Euston, Charing Cross, Paddington, Liverpool Street and St Pancras connect the city to regions across the UK and internationally, with Eurostar connections to mainland Europe. Meanwhile, visitors from further afield can fly to London’s leading airports, including London Heathrow, with easy access into the city centre.

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