By Londoner Kathryn Foley
Welcome to what could possibly be the best two days of your life, and certainly the best two days you’ve ever had in London. Your two day itinerary will be packed with culture and cocktails, local neighborhoods and the most famous central spots so you can enjoy a taste of London’s magnificent diversity. We’ll recommend some of our favorite spots in the city to eat and drink and give you the lowdown on where to shop, dance or simply wander. Enjoy! You can thank us later.
Begin your day in the heart of Covent Garden, starting the day right (with the right coffee). Hidden between two cobbled streets is the surprisingly peaceful bubble of Neal’s Yard, a secret garden where you’ll find 26 Grains, your stop for breakfast. Fuel up for the day with delicious plates of parmesan scrambled eggs on sourdough, tomato rum jam porridge (delicious) or artistically thrown together bircher muesli bowls. Enjoy the slow start to the day and meander through the small lanes and charming streets of Covent Garden, making your way to Westminster.
Once you reach Big Ben, meander along the banks of the Thames and you’ll see more than a few of London’s skyline landmarks - not bad for an hour’s stroll. From Westminster, cross over the river either on Westminster or Jubilee Bridge for the best views of the London Eye and walk along the South Bank, a two mile long hive of cultural activity. The Southbank Centre includes the Royal Festival Hall, the Hayward Gallery, the British Film Institute as well as a dizzying programme of festivals and free events, so there’s bound to be something to catch your eye.
Continue walking and you’ll reach the Tate Modern, a must stop for any art lover. Pop in for a peek at their free permanent exhibitions and let the lifts whisk you up to the viewing level of the Blavatnik Building where you’ll be greeted by 360-degree views over the city, all of which is gloriously free to enjoy. A little further along is Shakespeare’s Globe, and just after you’ll arrive at what could best be described as any food lover’s idea of heaven.
Your lunch stop is Borough Market, a haven for foodies where street food traders, artisanal food and produce stands, established restaurants and a sprinkling of traditional fruit and veg stalls make up a diverse foodie community. The market celebrated its 1000th anniversary in 2014, making it London’s oldest food market. Graze your way around this food and drink cornucopia and sample bites of fresh paella or Ethiopian curries, nibble charcuterie and cheeses, feast on venison burgers or indulge your sweet tooth with handmade chocolates. Borough is adored by Londoners not only for the diversity of its cuisines and the quality of its produce, but for its community atmosphere and inclusivity. Absolutely stuffed, hop on the tube at Borough and enjoy a sit down (hopefully) before you emerge on the other side of the river at Liverpool Street.
Happily above ground again and you’re just a few minute’s walk from your next stop. Old Spitalfields Market is an east end institution and one of the best daily markets in the city. Under the Victorian market hall roof, permanent shops, boutiques and restaurants encircle the central market stalls which are what you’re really here for! Browse everything from vintage hats to antique style maps and wooden toys, fashion by up and coming British designers to handmade jewelry.
Once you’ve browsed the market, venture into Shoreditch and explore this creative neighborhood which is known for its gritty and artistic vibe. Industrial warehouses and disused factories have been repurposed into gallery spaces and every exposed brick wall, old railway carriage and back alley is emblazoned with inspiring street art from world renowned artists as well as home grown talent. Make your way to Brick Lane and meander along this buzzing street - you’ll find up and coming artists’ work at the Brick Lane Gallery, countless vintage stores to rummage through and pop ups and exhibitions to explore at the Old Truman Brewery.
For a final spot of retail therapy check out Boxpark, a collection of shipping containers which popped up as a pop-up mall in 2011, and never left. This unique row of minuscule shops is home to an eclectic collection of independent lifestyle and fashion boutiques as well as a some tiny cafes. After an afternoon of adventuring in one of London’s coolest neighborhoods you’ll probably be about ready for dinner. Hop across the road to Pizza East - unassuming from the outside, but looks can be deceiving. The historic Tea Building was once home to lots of tea, but today it houses a contemporary pizza joint where you can feast on rustic wood-fired pizzas and antipasti platters.
Luckily for you, you’re in one of the best neighborhoods in the city to enjoy a cocktail or two (or three). Shoreditch hosts a myriad of bars from subterranean cocktail dens to hidden speakeasies, whisky bars (one with an actual whisky river in the middle, honestly) to good old fashioned pubs. Craft beer lovers should set up camp in a booth at Brewdog, whilst cocktail aficionados should try unpretentious Happiness Forgets in Hoxton Square or Callooh Callay, which is where the local bartenders like to enjoy a tipple after their own cocktail crafting shift has come to an end.
Day two will be packed with culture, and cocktails, so you’ll need a good breakfast to start things off. Just around the corner from South Kensington tube station you’ll find Brompton Food Market, an independent deli, greengrocers and cafe. Channeling a cozy neighborhood vibe at the same time as warehouse chic, this little spot is the best place in the area for brunch - enjoy sweetcorn fritters with grilled haloumi and chili jam or French toast drizzled with maple syrup and all the extras you could wish for (bacon, anyone?).
From here, you’re ready to discover some of the best of London’s free museums. South Ken is known as the city’s museum quarter, unsurprising since you’ll find the Science Museum, the Natural History Museum as well as the Victoria and Albert Museum sitting alongside one another on the same road. Peruse the permanent collections and marvel at the blue whale skeleton in the Natural History, discover wonders of geology, biology and evolution and then pop next door to the V&A to see beautiful art from all over the globe, historic artifacts and to be wowed by the building’s stunning architecture.
When you’re ready for lunch, stroll a little further down Exhibition Road until you reach the pedestrianized pocket of the area. On either side of the street tables spill out into the road from the open doors of their cafes (open in summer, that is), creating a bustling piazza of cafes and restaurants to choose from. For a casual bite, nibble tapas and stuffed sourdough sandwiches at Fernandez and Wells or grab a freshly made galette from The Crêperie.
After lunch make your way to Hype Park, one of the city’s biggest Royal Parks for a dose of London’s parklife. If you’re lucky with the weather, take a jaunt on the Serpentine Boating Lake but if not, the Serpentine Galleries make for a perfect rainy day alternative. Depending on how energetic you’re feeling, either grab coffee and enjoy the park from the comfort of the grass at the Albert Memorial, or walk your way to Hyde Park Corner. Hop on the tube or meander along Piccadilly until you reach Green Park station, where you’ll take the Victoria Line south to Brixton to discover a completely different side of London.
A microcosm of what the neighborhood is all about, Brixton Village and Market Row is a bustling indoor market in the old arcade that champions community vibes and supporting local businesses. Among the many independent shops, cafes, restaurants, bars and fresh produce stalls, you’ll find pretty much any and every cuisine or the ingredients to make your own version. Browse tiny shops selling from handmade leather bags to Moroccan homewares, West African fabrics to vintage records.
Dinner can only mean feasting at Pop Brixton. This community initiative is a unique project which took a dis-used plot of land and a cluster of old shipping containers and turned them into a thriving space for local businesses to set up shop. Street food traders, bars, social enterprises, a tattoo parlor and even a community kitchen garden have all made their home here. With two narrow lanes packed with hole-in-the-wall style street food kitchens to choose from, the best thing to do is take your time, soak up the vibe and enjoy a few drinks as you nibble Japanese gyoza, jerk chicken and melting wheels of Raclette cheese straight from the Alps and Hong Kong style roast duck.
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