Of all the cities that you could visit time and time again and never truly feel like you’ve seen it all, London has to top the list. So what if you only have 48 hours in London?
Even in a limited time, you can always get a good taste of any city and have some unique experiences that simply couldn’t happen anywhere else in the world. My biggest tip is to take it slowly; don’t try to fit absolutely everything in and you’ll see far more as a result.
Here’s what my mum and I did on our recent trip with only 48 hours in London:
48 Hours in London: Day One
10:30am: Walk around Covent Garden market
Covent Garden was made for wandering and taking in the markets and street performers. Between dropping our bags off at our hotel and sitting down for brunch, we took a stroll through the bustling streets and window shopping.
11:30am: Head for brunch at Le Pain Quotidien
Is there a better way to start a good weekend than with a good brunch? Le Pain Quotidien’s nourishing options were just the thing to set us up for the day. Their Covent Garden branch was a perfect choice for us since it’s located in the heart of the district and was only a few minutes walk from our hotel.
See my full review of the vegan options at Le Pain Quotidien here.
1pm: Hop on a Thames River Cruise
From Covent Garden, it’s only around a fifteen minute walk down to Westminster pier on the Thames. Westminster is the perfect spot to board a river cruise, with views of Big Ben on one side and the London Eye on the other. We went on the “hop on, hop off” river rover as it’s such a flexible option. As we travelled along the river there was landmark after landmark, so I honestly can’t think of a better way to explore on a hot day when you only have 48 hours in London.
Unfortunately, we were forced to cut our trip short at Tower Bridge, as we’d queued for over an hour to get on our boat trip. You can, however, go as far as Greenwich and all the way back if you like. There are lots of companies who offer boat trips from various points along the Thames so it’s worth doing your homework first. We went with City Cruises and I can’t say I’d recommend them as the staff at the pier were worse than incompetent (in short, they let passengers from the back of the queue onto the boat ahead of the front of the queue – on not just one boat that came in, but two – and very nearly had a riot on their hands), but the gentleman doing the commentary on the boat was brilliant. In fact, if he started doing his own tours, I would recommend them!
3pm: Take a slow walk back along Northbank
Walking along the banks of the Thames is equally as wonderful as a boat trip. So, once we’d hopped off the boat, we decided to take a casual walk back to Covent Garden along the north bank of the Thames – after we’d taken a moment’s respite in a riverside café that is. Taking a stroll along the riverside also gives you a better opportunity to take plenty of photos at your own pace.
4pm: Pop back to the hotel to freshen up
With a theatre show coming up later in the evening as part of our theatre break with Superbreak, we wanted to make sure we had plenty of time to spruce ourselves up before the evening. We stayed at Kingsway Hall Hotel, a 4-star hotel that sits between Holborn and Covent Garden tube stations making it very convenient to get to. It’s also easy to access from both Euston and King’s Cross train stations by bus.
Our room was a large, exceptionally clean and well-appointed twin room. Being set in an Edwardian building, the hotel has quite a traditional feel to it, but areas like the bathrooms were very modern – definitely the balance you want. The hotel also has a spa and my only regret is not having enough time to make use of it!
5:30pm: Take an early dinner in Convent Garden
We headed out to The Real Greek, a modern Greek restaurant that serve tapas-style dishes. I’d heard that they served vegan options but, disappointingly, these aren’t marked on their regular menu. It’s worth taking a look at the allergen menu online before you visit or requesting it when you arrive as this does indicate vegan items. In fact, there are at least ten vegan-friendly mezze dishes so it’d be great to see these marked on the main menu (do be warned that their falafel are not suitable for vegans).
The menu recommends 3-4 dishes per person but I found that two plus a shared portion of flatbread with olive oil and dukkah to begin was more than ample for a light dinner. I went for the grilled aubergine with garlic tomato sauce and couscous salad for my main. The food was very enjoyable but the flatbread definitely gets the biggest thumbs up from me.
7:30pm: See Motown the Musical at Shafesbury Theatre
It’s only a stone’s throw to The Shaftesbury Theatre from The Real Greek. We headed down on foot straight after dinner to take our seats. Now I will be the first to admit that musicals aren’t usually my thing, but Motown The Musical seriously impressed me. The musical charts the history of Motown Records and, oh my, what a back catalogue they have! The singers were out of this world, the show was both touching and funny in turn. Knowing almost all of the music made it even more fun!
10:30pm: Grab an al fresco drink in Covent Garden on the way back to the hotel
Covent Garden has lots of cosy little bars dotted around where you can sit outside on a warm evening. We stopped off for a cheeky glass of prosecco after the show.
11:15pm: Sleep at Kingsway Hall Hotel
By this time, I very much appreciated the comfy beds at Kingsway Hall Hotel. My feet were done for the day!
48 Hours in London: Day Two
9am: Pop downstairs for a filling hotel breakfast
I was a bit wary before heading down as hotel breakfasts are often hit and miss as a vegan. Fortunately, I didn’t need to be. The Kingsway Hall Hotel has a huge hot and cold buffet spread with lots of fresh fruit, toast and cooked items that are vegan-friendly. I had a bowl of fruit followed by a mini cooked breakfast. I had a big pot of coffee too with my breakfast (naturally). They didn’t have any non-dairy milk though, so I was happy I’d popped a few vegan coffee creamers in my bag in preparation.
10:30am: Visit the View from the Shard
We decided to head up to The View from The Shard first thing on Sunday morning. There’s nothing better than getting a good view of a city! We booked our tickets in advance for the first time slot at 10:30am. It’s by no means cheap, but you can save a nice chunk by booking in advance. Tickets are £25.95pp in advance, compared to £30.95 on the day!
We arrived a little early but were allowed to head up right away. I’d definitely recommend going for the first slot as it was so much quieter when we first got up there. There are two viewing levels at The Shard with equally spectacular views across London and beyond; one with huge floor-to-ceiling windows and a higher level with grass (fake), flowers (real) and birdsong (fake, obviously!). Parts of the roof of the higher level is completely open, giving you a strange sensation of being in a sky-high garden.
11:30am: After The Shard, our next stop was Canary Wharf, somewhere neither of us had been before. We stopped for coffee, had a nose around the shops and walked along the waterfront. I wouldn’t say it’s a must-see but it was a lovely, slow-paced way to wrap up our weekend before heading our respective ways home.
Getting there: I travelled from Leeds to London with Virgin Trains East Coast. Their direct service runs every 30 minutes both ways and they have a handy ‘when is my next train?’ app on their site, which I found very handy since I had an open ticket for both journeys!
This post is in collaboration with Superbreak and their #UKin48Hours campaign. Be sure to hop over to their blog if you’re looking for more ideas to explore the UK!