How to Spend the Perfect Weekend in London
London is the most visited city in Europe and the second-most visited in the world. In fact, over 20 million tourists travelled to the city in 2018! The Romans founded London in 50 AD, and it has had a long and compelling history since then. From its plethora of ornate historical buildings to its sleek, modern skyscrapers, London is a fascinating place to explore on a weekend city break.
What to See in London
Big Ben – The Elizabeth Tower
London’s most iconic landmark, “Big Ben” is a nickname for the clock atop the Elizabeth Tower. However, only the incredible 13-ton bell inside is actually named Big Ben. Originally completed in 1859, Big Ben has become a universal symbol for the city of London and a must-see when walking around Westminster. Currently, the tower is undergoing extensive repairs and is unfortunately covered in scaffolding. Big Ben will be revealed and open for tours once again in 2021.
The London Eye
Another famous, quintessential London sight is the massive Ferris wheel on the Thames, otherwise known as the London Eye. With over 3.5 million visitors each year, the London Eye is the most popular paid tourist attraction in the United Kingdom. The wheel has 32 pods, one for each of the boroughs in the city, and the view from the top is stunning. On a clear day, you can see as far as Windsor Castle!
Of the many bridges crossing the Thames, the Tower Bridge is probably the best-known. Its name comes from its proximity to the historic Tower of London — contrary to the common misconception, it is not called London Bridge. Tower Bridge was built in the late 1800s, and it is still a very busy crossing point in the city. About 40,000 people cross the Tower Bridge each day, and the bascules are raised to allow ships to pass through around 1,000 times per year!
Tower of London
Unlike the Tower Bridge, the Tower of London dates much further back than the Victorian Era. The fortress was initially established by William the Conqueror in 1066 as both a royal palace and military defence centre. Up until the 19th century, the Tower retained its military function but has since become a major tourist attraction and cultural symbol. It is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site and is open for tours daily. A somewhat mythical site, many believe the Tower is haunted by the ghosts of former royals, and a minimum of six ravens are kept inside the castle at all times for superstitious reasons.
Where to Go in London
London is full of charming, energetic, and diverse neighbourhoods, but no trip to London would be complete without a stroll through Westminster. This beautiful district is the most popular tourist area in London and is home to 11,000 buildings of historical interest. Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and Buckingham Palace are just a few among them.
For a break from the bustling city, head over to the lush Hyde Park. On a sunny day, it’s a great spot for a picnic, relaxing stroll, or even a paddle on a rented boat in Serpentine Lake. King Henry VIII actually established the park in 1536 as a hunting spot. It has been a public space since 1637 and remains one of the finest city parks in the world. Admire the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain or listen to the heated debates of the day at Speaker’s Corner.
On the south side of the River Thames, South Bank is home to a number of must-see attractions in London. For only £5, you can enjoy a traditional play with a modern twist in Shakespeare’s original Globe Theatre. Then, explore the Tate Modern, one of the largest museums of contemporary art in the world. Otherwise, you can discover whatever pop-up food stands and markets are going on as you walk along the Thames.
Camden Town, or just Camden, is the ultimate alternative hangout in London. With its quirky, colourful vibe and ever-popular Camden Market, this borough is a fun, diverse contrast to the many old historical sites in the city centre. The area is dotted with independent cafes and coffee houses as well as vibrant vintage clothing stores. Be sure to check what’s on in advance, since Camden is also a hub for live music with venues like the Roundhouse, the Electric Ballroom, and many, many more.
Where to Stay in London
5* The Kensington Hotel
If you’re craving a bit of luxury, the Kensington Hotel won’t disappoint. Situated in one of London’s classiest neighbourhoods, this hotel is just steps away from some of London’s most popular attractions such as Hyde Park, the Natural History Museum, and Kensington Palace. This hotel is the picture of Victorian elegance, but with modern amenities. Guest rooms are spacious and finely decorated, and the drawing rooms are equipped with fireplaces. For dining, the hotel features Town House, an all-day restaurant option, and K Bar, the swanky onsite bar.
4* The Queen’s Gate Hotel
For a similar location and ambience, the Queen’s Gate Hotel is an excellent accommodation option for a more affordable price. This boutique hotel offers daily breakfast buffets, free WiFi, air conditioning, and a fitness centre. Further dining options include room service and an onsite bar/restaurant, Q Bar. The 90 guest-rooms vary from standard rooms fit for only one or two people to full family suites.
Are you ready to spend your next weekend getaway exploring beautiful London?