Let’s be honest, 48 hours is not enough time in London. Hell, a week probably isn’t even enough time when you think about how much there is to discover. However, if 48 hours in London is all you have, there are plenty of things that you can check off ye ole bucket list, especially if it is your first time through.
48 Hours in London:
My first suggestion is to either stay at a place that is near the city center, or get familiar with the underground (London’s subway system). We didn’t do either and walked a ton, but also ended up spending more money than I would have liked getting cabs in order to make it to some places. For the sake of this itinerary, I’m going to show you places that you can walk to at a relatively leisurely pace so you don’t feel rushed.
1. Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square, London’s City Hall. I mentioned this location briefly in my post regarding Harry Potter sights (which you can read about here). I feel like it is a great starting point in the middle of the city. It is rich in history and a really gorgeous old square that hosts many events. It also hosts The National Gallery, which is an art museum showcasing the development of Western European painting.
2. Big Ben
From Trafalgar, move along in the direction of the River Thames. Once on the river, you will see the iconic London Eye. To your right you will see the famous Big Ben sitting in the Queen Elizabeth Clock Tower along with the Palace of Westminster and Parliament. Depending on when you go, you will probably see scaffolding in it’s place. Construction was in the beginning phases for us and we learned it was because the tower started leaning towards the river. Big Ben is said to be silenced until 2021 when construction is expected to be completed.
3. Westminster Abbey
If you continue walking up the road Parliament is on, away from the River Thames, you will run into the Parliament Square Garden and a great statue of Winston Churchill. Stroll through here and towards the flock of people who will no doubt be at the great Westminster Abbey; a beautiful gothic church, and the site for many a British coronation. We did not go inside but I’m sure it’s gorgeous to see. The internet states it’s 22 pounds to go inside, if you buy on sight.
4. Buckingham Palace and The Royal Parks
From Westminster Abbey, I would walk up towards a few of the Royal Parks. St James is the first. I talk more about that and also Buckingham Palace in my post here. Connected to the area is Green Park. We did not walk through here, but if you have time, it is supposed to be lovely. A great picnic spot, if you will. A quick walk from Green Park you will come to the famous, and ginormous, Hyde Park. How much time you spend really depends on how much time you have. We walked through it on a mission to get to Notting Hill from, I don’t even remember where. It was a beautiful walk and I’m really glad that we did it, but it was definitely time consuming. Hyde Park has a unique Princess Diana memorial fountain and also a statue of Peter Pan, which were the reasons we decided to walk through in the first place.
5. Piccadilly Circus
Said to be the Time’s Square of London, Piccadilly Circus also shows it’s face in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One (when the golden trio dodge the double decker bus after they escape the death eater attack at Bill and Fleur’s wedding). It’s a gorgeous and festive square with some high end shops. We saw it’s glory at night, but I’m sure it’s just as great in the day or evening as well.
6. Leicester Square
Leicester Square is where you will find the hub for all things theater. There is a ticket booth in the center selling passes to the current plays. And the area holds a number of different theaters. It’s a spunky little area complete with a bunch of pubs and restaurants. Garrick Theatre is said to have been JK Rowling’s inspiration for Ollivander’s name in Harry Potter, Garrick.
I suggest ending your night somewhere in between this area and the Covent Garden borough. As I said before, there are great pubs, especially right around Garrick Street. There is even an awesome little candy shop. Apparently it’s part of a Harry Potter tour, but, while it does resemble Honeydukes, to me it looks more like a modern version of the candy shop from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (my favorite movie!). We had dinner at The Round House; scotch eggs, fish and chips, and some meat pie. It was scrumptious. There is a whole square, or more it seems, of different bars and pubs, each completely unique with wonderfully decorated exteriors. It was Anthony’s favorite area. We stopped in a couple of them and the vibes were definitely something I’d like to have had more time to spend in.
Today we will be exploring the other side of the River Thames.
1. London Eye
I think the London Eye is a good place to start your day. Back around the Big Ben area, which you are already familiar with. If you want to ride this tourist attraction, it won’t come cheap. At 36 pounds a person, we passed.
2. Shakespeare’s Globe
From the London Eye you can walk the nice footpath along the River Thames towards the famous Millenium Bridge. I also talk more about that landmark in my post here. Walk the suspension bridge and see the gorgeous views I mention (picture above). But then come back to the side of the river you started on. Right after the bridge is Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. This landmark is stunning. And to know the history that lives inside of it… gives me goosebumps. You can take a tour of the theatre if you want to. Prices range from 8-15 pounds. They also have a bar and restaurant inside called the Swan. All the deets are here if you’re interested.
3. Borough Market
From the Globe you will come to the Borough Market. This is a place that we didn’t actually have time to go through. But it was on my list. It is one of the largest and oldest food markets in London, with parts dating back to the 12th century. It is London’s most renowned food and drink market. Wander through here and sample some cheeses and breads, have a glass of wine, enjoy!
4. The Shard
Boasting some of the best views of London, the Shard (aka, Shard of Glass) is a 95 story sky scraper towering over London as you get closer to the famous Tower Bridge. For 24.50 pounds a person, you can access both the indoor viewing gallery and the outdoor skydeck. You can stay as long as you’d like, and if the weather is putting a damper on your experience, they claim to let you return for free (terms and conditions apply). For 11 euro a person more you can sip champagne while enjoying the views.
5. Tower Bridge
After you’re finished glimpsing the skyline, stroll on down to the iconic Tower Bridge. Built between 1886 and 1894, the Tower Bridge is both a suspension bridge and one that raises and lowers to let tall boats pass through. The towers are connected by two glass floor walkways. It’s around 10 pounds to go up the historic towers and enter the walkways. Which is more than worth it in my opinion. Cross the bridge and you can also visit the grounds of the Tower of London.
6. Sky Garden
We sadly didn’t make it to this experience even though it too was on my list. I’ve heard wonderful things about it, and like many other places, I can’t wait to return to London and see it for myself. Known as London’s highest public garden and situated inside a glass dome skyscraper. It hosts three stories of landscaped gardens intertwined with social spaces that include an open air terrace. The best part: it’s free to visit. Yes-sir-ee. But I do believe you have to make your reservation online and in advance. They also have 5 different bars and restaurants, so I would suggest grabbing your dinner here, have a drink and enjoy this enchanting experience of London.
7. Tamesis Dock
Finally, if you aren’t dead on your feet and stay back near the London Eye area, take the underground, or get a cab and head on over to Tamesis Dock. This is a quirky little barge turned bar that sits washed ashore of the River Thames. It’s tight corners, but such a cool experience. If you sit on the poop deck (no real poop, promise) you get a great view of Big Ben. With the breeze off the river, the hanging lights and some music playing, it truly is a great way to end your last night in London.
Alright friends, I know I missed a lot. What did you see in London that I didn’t mention? Or if you haven’t been, were these places that made your list? Tell me in the comments!
I’m sure you’ll also want to include some good eats along your route. You can check out my post about a few fun dining experiences we had in London below.
And feel free to follow my adventures on instagram.