Samuel Johnson famously once said, “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life,” and it’s true that London is one of the most entertaining, charming, and lively cities in the world. With so many options for sightseeing, having just a few days in this iconic city can feel overwhelming. Here are some suggested must-sees for a weekend getaway to London that will leave you planning not only your first trip but your trip back as well.
Victoria and Albert Museum
Most of London’s museums are free so you can explore your interests (art, design, architecture, etc.) for hours at no cost. A personal favorite is the expansive Victoria and Albert Museum which houses more than 2.27 million objects, ranging from sculptures and art to decorative design pieces. You’ll definitely want to section off an entire morning to feel you have done this museum any justice, but it’s also located in the museum district so you can hop to other impressive exhibits if you really get in the museum mood.
The Royal Botanic Gardens
The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew houses more than just plants — though they do have the largest and most diverse living plant collection in the world. With glasshouses and art collections, there are more than 100 attractions to see at any given time, many of them emphasizing science or conservation. Check ahead of time to prioritize what you want to see for an afternoon.
After a busy day of looking at plant collections, exhibits, and artwork, switch things up with an evening drink at The Shard. The building is more than 1,000 feet high and looks over the Thames and the entire lit-up city. This view is particularly romantic at night so go with a friend and have a few glasses of champagne as you admire the sunset.
Pub Comedy Show
End day one with a trip to a classic British pub for dinner, ideally one with a comedy or music show of some sort. This is easy to look up based on the day you arrive as the city is filled with hundreds of happening pubs. There’s nothing better than ending your night with laughter, good food, and the ever warm atmosphere of a pub.
Covent Garden is a part of town just outside the West End. The neighborhood has many small stalls to shop at in its main square, as well as a few nicer destinations if you venture farther out to Seven Dials (seven intertwining streets leading from Covent Garden to Soho). There are also plenty of places to grab breakfast here as you browse and enjoy the fresh air.
The Tate Modern is a world famous art museum housing contemporary and modern art. The museum is well-curated and boasts artwork from incredibly renowned artists such as Braque, Picasso and Lichtenstein. They also have a cafe with a view of London if you find yourself getting peckish.
The Globe Theater
As you stroll back along the Thames, stop by the Globe Theater. The reconstructed Elizabethan theater is associated with William Shakespeare and is definitely worth stopping by, though save your actual theater viewing for day three.
Walk past Buckingham Palace on your way to Westminster Abbey, a grand Gothic church with much to marvel at. Entry can be a little pricey, but you won’t regret the time spent in this sacred and endlessly historic spot learning about the tombs or spending a quiet moment in the rose garden.
After a day filled with a lot of walking and a variety of different sites, end on a high note by seeking out one of the many up and coming gin gardens or stop in a quiet pub for some Pimms. London has a wonderful night scene, and there’s no better way to start the night than with a drink with friends.
Tower of London
Rise early to try and beat the crowds to the Tower of London. The fortress castle resides in North London and houses the Crown Jewels alongside 1,000 years of history. There are excellent guided tours and hidden surprises, including some resident ravens who are known as guardians to the Tower. You’re also right across from Tower Bridge which is another quick exhibit or photo opportunity at the very least.
Spend the early afternoon at Trafalgar Square watching an array of street performers, marveling at impressive statues, and generally people watching.
After stopping in at Trafalgar Square, wander over to Soho. Find a restaurant amid the colorful, busy, and relentlessly fun streets. Best known for its nightlife, consider returning here in the evening hours for endless entertainment options.
West End Show
Finish your long weekend by seeing a show on the West End, England’s Broadway equivalent. The shows are universally incredible with careful staging, elaborate set and costume design, and stunning performances. There are several ways to snag tickets for less than their going rate including seeking out TKTS, a booth in the center of Leicester Square that has discount tickets for same day or upcoming shows. Definitely plan ahead and figure out a budget friendly way to get yourself inside a historic theater for a cutting edge performance.