I spend at least one weekend each month in/around London so this post will offer both things to see if it’s your first time in the city and more local spots as well as some weekend/day trips & getaways.
First things first,
Start at Buckingham Palace (home of the queen) then start walking towards the Thames river through St. James’s Park until you reach Big Ben and Palace of Westminster (where Parliament meets). Next walk hop on a Thames Clipper River Bus (RB1, you can pay by scanning a contactless credit card or using apple/google pay directly from the queue – no need to buy a ticket) from Westminster Pier and pass the London Eye on your right, journey under Tower Bridge, all the way to Canary Wharf (the financial district/a brand new city).
Another fun activity in the area is renting a kayak from Docklands Sailing and Watersports Centre (15 pounds per hour, book online in advance) which is a favorite warm weather activity on those few sunny days in the city.
I recommend visiting Crossrail Place Roof Garden before heading back to the center via the DLR light rail connecting you to the tube at Bank (again you can pay for all of these transport services via contactless, you no longer need to go through the trouble of getting an Oyster Card).
For an epic city view head to the cocktail bar at the Top of the Shard (be prepared for $$$$ drinks but in my opinion seeing the nighttime skyline from here is worth it)
The Barbary – North African, tapas-style for sharing and very vegetarian-friendly
Tandoor Chophouse – Tandoori paneer tikka to die for + every single thing is amazing
Padella – Italian but beyond 90% of the other pastas you’ll ever try – we always order one per person + an extra then go family style
Kiln – Thai street food, but fancy. I had this the day I returned from a trip to Singapore and can tell you it’s authentic and just brings me right back to the food courts of SE Asia.
Gunpowder – Indian and oh so trendy, this is a treat and they have a few locations but I can’t pick a favorite, try any they are all lovely.
Bao Soho – decadent Taiwanese buns in a small space. Actually, I think I like the tiny bathrooms as much as the tasty foods (that sounds so weird, I know, but you’ll have to see to believe it)
Hoppers– Sri Lankan date spot in Soho, keep it trendy and order a hopper for goodness sake!
Gordon’s wine bar – smelly, cheesy, worth the wait (bring along some body spray for after?)
Flat iron square – variety of hipster eats near Tate Modern museum, I’m not complaining
Next on my list: Science afternoon tea at the Ampersand Hotel – my dream date
Swingers mini golf/bar/food hall for a rainy night when you aren’t feeling the pub thing
Sky garden (free, book ahead/visit the cafe…although…overpriced coffee? I’ll bring my own, thanks). Pictured above.
Barbican Centre – maybe the coolest place in town
Air line cable car – oh so fun! I’ve never been on the Eye but this seems better
On my to do list: extreme tourism: the O2 climb
Tate Modern/The British Museum – FREE and epic collections, these are NOT to be missed. I’ll head to the Brit any rainy day (or the Museums near Hyde Park: V&A, Natural History, etc.) – note that all of these are free AND excellent rainy day activities
Saatchi Gallery £10 may seem avoidable but I think that the exhibits are relevant and worth paying to see. This one is for modern art lovers (at least in my experience).
Mudchute Farm – cows and pigs in the city?!
To be continued…
London has many great jazz & comedy clubs (notably in the Soho area)
Check Timeout for what’s on these days