London in 48 Hours

Aaaaah London, all famous and mighty, undeniably one of the world’s top tourist destinations. Every year, it attracts millions of travelers despite its reputation for temperamental weather. Indeed its appeal is hard to ignore, from the London Eye to Big Ben, headlines about real-life royalty, spellbinding theatre performances, and the irresistible cold shoulder of Londoners. Bustling, angry, diverse and eternally in motion, London is the best city to seek inspiration and realize that maybe indeed, everything is possible. Coming here goes with a guarantee: one shall never run out of things to do and discover in this great British capital.

So what if you suddenly find yourself stuck in London for a day or two? Well fret not and read on. After all, a traveler’s desire should be greater than the annoying pressure of time constraints. Or you can just sleep it off, it is entirely up to you. However, if you decide to take that challenge and do something with the next 48 hours of your life then congratulations! It is definitely not a walking city so you can go ahead and accept the fact that you will NOT see everything, but that doesn’t mean you cannot go and have a taste of London life. So walk fast, walk on the left and get ready for a quick London taster. 

The Essentials

First things first, you need to have a UK VisaGo to this link to apply for a Standard Visitors Visa. Here, you can find all the important information regarding the limitations of your visa, requirements, and application steps. It is very important that you read all the details carefully and fill up the required information as accurately and as honestly as you can. It is highly recommended that you have hotel/hostel bookings and itineraries ready before you apply, as these details are asked in the form as well.

For an incredibly detailed walk-through on the application process, read this blog.

Assuming you already have a Visa (and a plane ticket), the next thing to think about is to cover certain matters to ensure a smooth journey. Public transport in London is not cheap, but with so little tourist time, I am not giving you the luxury of whining about it. You have two options: the first one is to purchase an Oyster card which is a contactless card you use to access public transport. It has a cap, meaning there will be a ceiling price on your transport spend. Option two is purchasing a day travel card which will cost you ₤17 (the last time I checked). I would personally recommend the Oyster, as it is still relatively cheaper. For navigation, applications like Citymapper is quite useful but Google Maps is just as good if not better at times. Grab a map of TFL and a London tourist map if you want but I personally find that online apps can cover for that. If you cannot live without internet access, grab yourself a pay-as-you-go sim card and top it up. Data access can range from ₤10-₤20, depending on the inclusions. Lastly, grab an umbrella and a bottle of water – trust me, bringing your own drinking water goes a long way in the world’s most expensive city. 

Day 1

What’s a better starting point than breakfast? Go find a place that serves a bangin’ English breakfast to kickstart your short-lived adventure. I grew up on mornings filled with pan de sal and tapsilog but the traditional English breakfast is a welcome addition to my brekky options. Tasty and filling, it is a perfect start to any kind of day. It’s usually a plateful of bacon, fried eggs, grilled tomatoes, grilled mushrooms, sausages, baked beans, hash browns and a slice or two of toast with butter. For lighter options, go for the Eggs Benedict or Eggs Royale.

English Breakfast
Eggs Royale
After a hearty breakfast, head straight to Central London and see some iconic landmarks of the city such as Big Ben, River Thames, London Eye, Buckingham Palace and House of Westminster. Trafalgar Square is also nearby and is a good centrally located place should you want to rest for a bit, although its incessant crowd can be annoying. Swoon over the London Eye from below or get on it for around ₤25, and keep in mind that online booking will save you a bit of money. Don’t forget to take those pictures for now is the time! Those obligatory Big Ben photos are important so your friends don’t think you’re lying about all of this. But seriously, take as many souvenir shots as you want but don’t forget to be in the moment. Traveling isn’t ALL about petty pictures and food porn so don’t forget to appreciate the place for what it is and eat that damn ice cream before it melts.

Big Ben
London Eye
Don’t lose track of time and an hour or two past midday, find Bus 12 which will take you to Oxford Circus, a well-known shopping district in London. I am a fan of Oxford Street despite the constant fighting for walking space. It’s a haven for retail therapy and chances are you will find a good deal. If you just cannot stand crowds, you may want to check out Shoreditch Boxpark instead where you can enjoy pop-ups and independent retailers.

Should you get hungry in the midst of window shopping along Oxford Street, I have the perfect place for you. Smack Lobster Roll is just a twelve minute walk from Oxford Circus where you can try Lobster Rolls for ₤10 that are just on point delicious! Order the Seven Samurai, a fat roll overflowing with lobster chunks, Japanese mayo and cabbage, cucumber, pickled ginger, spring onions and togakashi spice. An additional ₤5 will get you a lobster chowder, perfect for those nippy days.

Parks are amongst the free attractions of London and the city has some impressive ones around. When the weather is good, you can be sure to find Londoners in two places: the park and the pub. Pray for good weather, pick a park and enjoy an afternoon like a true Londoner. The Royal Parks are obvious choices, complete with magnificent gardens and swans cruising around. Other beautiful parks include Holland Park, which boasts a Japanese themed garden complete with bonsai trees, a Koi pond and a peacock that is almost always snooty.

Cap the day with dinner at a local pub. Pubs are quite popular in London it’s almost a culture thing. Most of them serve food that are reasonably priced and you can get a drink or two and just... chill. Grab a local brew and cheers to getting through the first half of your tourist sprint around London.

Day 2

Now I know you only have two days, but museums are hard to pass on when in London. Most places charge you for a taste of culture but this city is generous enough to let you in absolutely free. So start early on your second day and see at least one museum please. The Natural History Museum is a great pick, or you can explore Victoria and Albert Museum or Tate Modern for some modern art display. You can spend half the day there and then just cut your museum venture short – make a mental bookmark and save the rest of your museum hopping for the future. For a list of other London’s free museums please click here.

Covent Garden is one of my favorite nooks in London. It has so much to offer from artsy stuff to lovely shops and there is always a good place for coffee or tea. Feel free to try British High Tea but you don’t absolutely have to, a nice warm cuppa with a sultana scone is just as nice (and less expensive). Covent Garden is near Soho where the theatre performances are. Live musicals define this part of London and the city is well known for performances such as Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera and The Book of Mormon only to name a few. The West End is a must see with its showcase of outstanding talent and musicals. Yes it can be pricey and I cannot possibly mention every show, but have a look and take your pick. Remember to try and book ahead of time to save money and time queuing. But mostly to save money. 

You might be wondering why I haven’t mentioned the Tower Bridge just yet, but here it goes. Finish your short London taster with an evening trip to the London Tower Bridge and see it in all its majesty during the night. To this day, the Tower Bridge is something I cannot stop staring at - it is just stunning. There is a London Underground station that can drop you off straight there so brave the tube with all its convenience and filth.

This London taster might feel a tad bit short of time and daunting, especially for first timers in London. But be brave and feel free to jumble it up and even skip some of them, everybody likes something else at the end of the day. Go experience the nightlife or dance your night away in a rumba bar. Forty eight hours may not be enough but knowing London, it will have you coming back for more at some point and you can resume your London travel story by then. And if at the end of it all, you develop a love-hate relationship with the city’s busy vibe, traffic and borderline anti-social locals, then I can assure you that for London, that sounds just about right.

Where to Stay:

Staybridge Suites
Spring Mews, Tinworth Street, Vauxhall Walk, London

Holiday Inn Express
5 Walthamstow Avenue, Chingford, London

Have you been to London? What other tips can you add?

If you like my posts and would love regular updates on travel photos, food finds, restaurant reviews, dance articles, and drunken tales, follow Pepe Samson on Facebook!

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