2 days in London and top 10 things to do

Nature
The wow factor for nature - does it show nature at its best? Doesn't need to be the wilder-beast migration or diving with hundreds of hammerheads. Rather make you pause as you realise just how awesome the natural world can be
4
Culture
How much does this experience showcase some of the better and finer things that us humans can offer? Sure, it can be ancient ruins and renaissance churches, but it can also be festivals or soaking up some of the great modern cities of the world
10
Fun factor/activity
Very simple - was it fun? This is usually linked in with doing some kind of activity - i mean, walking along some cliffs is nice, but paragliding from them, now that is fun. Its a vastly underrated factor in a truly great experience
7
Avoid the crowds
Big tour groups and being surrounded by loud fellow tourists can sap the life out of even the greatest of travel experiences. This score is to reflect just how much you can avoid this. But. . . The score also takes into account if the crowds actually add to the experience, such as with a party town or a bustling food market
3
World famous
How world famous is the experience?
10
unique
How hard is it to have a similar experience in other places round the world?
10
Overall Score
The highest score of nature or culture, + fun factor, + avoid the crowds, + the highest score of world famous or unique. Then turned into a score out of 100. More details at the bottom of the page
75 *What the scores mean and where do they come from
continent
Europe
country
UK
Length of time
1-2 days
Rough cost
Obviously people have different tastes, so this will depend on those tastes, but this is a rough idea of price of the whole experience based on 2 people able to split the accommodation costs and excluding travel there and back
$ 400
Time of year visited
July
Primary Tags
Click on any of the tags to see all travel experiences with the same tag
RANKING
How this travel experience ranks compared to all the other experiences on this site
76th/334 This travel experience's ranking compared to all the other experiences on this site
Top 30% SUMMARY RATING: Superb

Summary

One of the world’s premier cities and with just about everything you could hope for in a 2 day city visit.  World famous sites such as the Houses of Parliament and the Tower of London; world class restaurants, shopping areas and entertainment venues; vast parks which give you the opportunity to break away from the mayhem; and, of course, the mania that surround the Royal Family and their residences.  Yes, its busy, but it’s also a must visit city

 

There’s obviously heaps and heaps of things to do.  I’ve listed out below what I think are the top 10 split between must-sees and great to sees.  Plus, some general tips for how to get the most out of your visit

highlights

#1 Must do - walk along the River Thames to see many of London's key sights. Whilst there are some sights that don't sit on the river, many do and there is something just lovely about wandering along the river past the Houses of Parliament, London Eye, Tate Modern, Borough Market, Globe, Saint Pauls Cathedral, Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. It's the main tip I'd give for a London visit

#2 Must do - Buckingham Palace and the changing of the guard. There's something just so quintessentially English and London about the whole event as you look down the Mall, see the palace, the cavalry, the soldiers, and then wander through the nearby beautiful Hyde Park

#3 Must do - go and see one of the West End Shows and head out into Soho for a drink afterwards. London's West End has some of the world's most famous productions, but its also the wandering around before / after in what is London's main going out area that is the real highlight and will give you that buzzing feeling you've heard so much about with this city

#4 Must do - The Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and nearby Westminster Abbey. Some of the most famous sites in the world and all super close together. Hearing the bell ring whilst looking on to the Houses of Parliament from Westminster Bridge will definitely tick that first-timer London box

#5 Must do - visit one of London's many parks. The connected Hyde Park, Green Park and St James Park make the most sense to visit as they are close to Buckingham Palace and the House of Parliament, and are beautiful. But, my other tip is Regent's Park, which is probably the most elaborate, formal and truly Victorian of all of London's parks

#6 Great to do - visit one of London's many food markets. My main recommendation is Borough Market next to London Bridge which has hundreds of food stalls as well as plenty of standard restaurants all around the sides. Its location makes it a great choice. The other recommendation is Leadenhall Market that sits right in the middle of the City of London (the Financial District) and is a gorgeous covered arcade within walking distance to the Thames and to St Paul's Cathedral

#7 Great to do - lunch in one of the beer gardens or traditional London pubs. There are many dotted all across central London, but my tip is The Stag by Hamstead Heath which is has bands playing in the outside courtyard, right next to the park for views over London and does a wicked Sunday Roast

#8 Great to do - Greenwich. Greenwich is slightly further out from the standard central attractions (a 20min subway ride), but is one of the highlights of London in my opinion. You have two UNESCO World Heritage sites - Greenwich Observatory (source of Greenwich Mean Time) with its incredible views across London and the magnificent Old Royal Naval College; the Cutty Sark ship (a surprisingly engaging thing to see); and generally the beautiful village itself with its buzzing market

#9 Great to do - Tower of London and Tower Bridge. The Tower of London represented the gateway through the Thames to the city and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Take the tour with the Beefeater Tower Guards to see the history and then walk along the Thames to see nearby Tower Bridge

#10 Great to do - Covent Garden and Piccadilly Circus. Explore Covent Garden's entertainment area with its performers, shops and general bluster as you wander through the various levels and then make your way for a short 10min walk to Piccadilly Circus for all the lights. Its super busy though

Travel Tips

  • Weather – this can be key.  Not only because so many of the activities are outside so you want to avoid the cold and the drizzle, but also people’s attitudes.  As a fellow Englishman, I can’t tell you just how excited we Brits get when there is even the slightest glimmer of sun and warmth – it feels like we are Gollum exiting his long cave and has suddenly found the ring – our enthusiasm spikes, we rush to the parks and generally are just a different beast to the house-bound, grumpy trolls that we are for the rest of the year.  So, even though it’s busy, try to go in spring, summer or early autumn
  • Eating out – there are just so many places to go and eat out in London, but my tops recommendations are:
    • Borough Market as mentioned above
    • Brick Lane for a huge variety of curry restaurants (and actually some super bars)
    • Charlotte Street for a street almost entirely focused on restaurants and all in a very central location
    • China Town which is also very central
    • Northcote Road next to Clapham in South London with a street full of restaurants and a non touristy feel
  • Getting around – as with most major cities, the transport network is superb and very integrated.  You can now just use your bank / credit card (as long as contactless) for payment so it’s also very easy.  Taxis are expensive, so avoid or get an Uber
  • Events – there are always superb events being held in London, either major sporting events like Premiership football, Rugby Internationals, Wimbledon; concerts from some of the world’s most famous entertainers; or festivals like the Notting Hill Carnival .  Keep an eye out for them as they can really make the trip
  • Skyscrapers – you might notice in London that there are relatively few skyscrapers, something that is almost unique for such a big and wealthy city and is quite deliberate.  Should you be keen to see some though, best aim for The City of London financial district rather than Canary Wharf in the east.  Mainly because this area is far closer to the centre and has a wide variety of quite unusual skyscrapers that are worth checking out
  • Greenwich – for further details on a trip to Greenwich (highly recommend), see this individual travel entry – A day in Greenwich, London

Experiences nearby

The below map shows experiences nearby with a colour that reflect the Overall Score of those experiences

Score Detail

Background - how many times have you asked someone what a travel experience was like and the response was "amazing" or "awesome"?  That response is nice to know, but it makes it hard to differentiate that experience compared to others.  That is exactly what these scores are trying to do - differentiate the experience by giving a score out of 10 based on 6 categories and then giving an overall experience score

This overall experience score is calculated by:  take the highest of the "Culture" or "Nature" score (1-10) + "Fun factor" (1-10) + "Avoiding the crowds" (1-10) + highest of the "Unique" or "World Famous score" (1-10).  Then convert into a score out of 100

Extra detail - the logic being that I find all of the 6 individual scores important, but I don't want to mark an experience down just because it doesn't cover both "Culture" and "Nature", or because it isn't both "World Famous" and "Unique".  Take the examples of Safari in The Serengeti and walking through Rome - they both appeal at opposite ends of the nature / culture spectrum, and you can have a fantastic time without needing to appeal to both sides.  So, their overall scores aren't penalized for their lack of one or the other, and I've done the same for "World Famous" vs "Unique".  But . . . I do think that the "Fun factor" of an experience is important, irrelevant of other factors, and so is "Avoiding the Crowds" (or where there are crowds that add to the experience).  So, both of these scores are standalone