Fabulous Ways to Spend 5 Days in London
Spending a few days in London and in need of an expert guide to the city? You've come to just the right place.
Samuel Johnson said that when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life. Here at Plum Guide, we definitely share that same opinion. If you're in the city for a few days and want to plan your trip perfectly, we can help you with our guide to 5 days in London.
Day 1: Embrace a bit of tradition
Wake up in your wonderful Plum home like The Wilfred in Westminster. Much of London’s history began in the neighbourhood of Westminster. Super central, it has the highest concentration of the famous landmarks and attractions that the city has become synonymous with. You’ve seen these icons on tote bags throughout your whole life, but seeing them in person is something else entirely.
First things first – head to Regency Café for the most important meal of the day. As implied by its nickname, 'the fry-up' the full English breakfast isn’t for the faint-hearted. The only fruit or vegetable included is a tomato, and even that's fried. Luckily, falling into a food coma is one of a Londoner’s favourite pastimes, so you’ll fit right in. The offering at the Regency Café is one of the best in the city. Stepping inside, you’ll notice how retro the restaurant feels, and that’s exactly the point. Everything from the menu to the décor has hardly changed since it first opened in 1946.
Next up, head to Buckingham Palace to watch the changing of the guard. Regardless of how you feel about the monarchy, the pageantry of the changing of the guard is truly a sight to behold. It’s an old tradition, but one that never loses its brilliance. Watching the guards, all dressed in traditional red tunics and bearskin hats, marching along to a live band will make you feel patriotic no matter where you're visiting from. The ceremony begins promptly at 11am, so be sure to arrive early.
Afterwards, do some shopping along Piccadilly. The UK is home to many of history’s literary geniuses. From Charles Dickens and Jane Austen to JK Rowling and E.L. James (just kidding on the last one, unless haphazard erotica is your thing), it’s only fitting that the city memorializes these icons with countless bookshops that are filled with their life’s work. The oldest of these bookshops is Hatchards, a place where many of these legendary authors have actually visited during its 200+ year history. Spend an afternoon perusing its extensive stock of stories. As e-books and smartphones take over, Hatchards is on the front lines, keeping the printed word alive.
Day 2: Head south
Get ready to spend a day south of the river. Crossing the Thames River into the South Bank is a must, no matter how often you visit London. With so much going on around here, this is one of the best places to stay in London with kids. Looking across the river will give you postcard perspectives on iconic landmarks like Big Ben and the London Bridge as they were always meant to be seen. Treat yourself to afternoon tea on the 31st floor of The Shard. You might not be a Count or a Lady, but you sure can act like one. The views of the London skyline are some of the best from this height. The contemporary take on this upper-class tradition includes a selection of finger sandwiches, freshly baked scones, and homemade jams and jellies. It’ll have you looking down on your subjects walking the streets as you declare, 'Let them eat cake'.
Take the Millennium Bridge (the younger, millennial sister of the London Bridge) to the Tate Modern (the younger, millennial sister of the Tate Britain). Housing the largest collection of modern and contemporary British art in a converted power station is almost a performance piece in itself. The contrast of having some of the most avant-garde work in such an industrial architectural space is a perfectly modern combination. Be sure to check out the website for upcoming shows. Its temporary exhibitions celebrate some of the biggest names in art working today.
After your culture fix, it's surely time for a tipple so make your way over to Dandelyan. Nobody does gin like the Brits. And no one does cocktails like Mr. Lyan. Spearheaded by Ryan Chetiuawardana, an innovator in the London bartending scene, Dandelyan's bar offers innovative drinks and sophisticated takes on the classics. Once you're ready to call it a night, head back to your characterful Plum home like The Aquinas.
Day 3: Live like a local
Notting Hill is more than just the second-best Hugh Grant movie. (The best, of course, is Four Weddings and a Funeral). It’s a charming neighbourhood where you can spend the day walking the streets, marveling at the colourful and striking townhouses. As a quieter, more residential area, it’s one of the easier places to imagine life as a local. If you’re going to live like a local, you have to eat like one. And even though fish and chips is as tired an English stereotype as screaming bloody hell with a cockney accent, Londoners very much still partake in it. But knowing which place to go will separate you from the tourists. So, look out for two things: fresh fish and light batter. The Chipping Forecast accomplishes both and their chips, usually an afterthought, are lovely in their own right.
Football fan? It doesn’t matter. Once you enter the Famous 3 Kings pub, you’re automatically reborn. The local lads will be more than happy to show you the way. Just make sure you’re cheering for the right team. With 13 TV screens, you’ll never miss the action, even if you’re not entirely sure what the action is. Order another pint and you’ll eventually get there. When it comes to getting around, there are many well-known ways to travel through London: the famous double decker buses, the cheeky underground tube, even the notorious black cabs. But one of the best, underrated ways to see the smaller, quieter streets of London is on a bicycle. And the best part? You won’t get stuck in brutal traffic.
Day 4: Eat up (then walk it off)
What better way to start to draw the curtain on your 5 days in London than in the cultural hub of the city? The West End is many things: lovely, picturesque, commercial, entertaining, but there is one thing it will never be, and that’s boring. Indian food has become a British staple, and while London has many, many tasty options to choose from, finding an interesting take on the category is hard to come by. Calcutta Street takes on that challenge by offering authentic Bengali street cuisine. The décor, the music, and the staff all add to the authentic vibes for some of the best Indian food you’ll ever eat outside the real Calcutta city.
The end of a trip always instills moments of nostalgia. What better place to reflect on the trip at hand than sitting on the grass at the historical Regent’s Park. Walk around the inner circle and marvel at the gardens or contemplate life as you watch the canal go by. If you want some company without the talking, drop by the London Zoo, which is located just nearby. You can’t leave London without doing a little bit of shopping. The city has many markets filled with unique treasures and antique finds, but one of the most comprehensive is Brick Lane Market. From household goods and quirky crafts to second-hand clothes and artisan foods, you’ll find tons of souvenir opportunities to bring home. Take your time, there’s no rush here. Stall-owners are as willing to strike up a conversation as they are a sale.
Day 5: Flower market and a final feast
What to do on the last of your 5 days in London? We've saved the best til last. So, enjoy a lie in and a leisurely morning in your Plum home before heading out to enjoy some of our favourite things to do in London. If your last day happens to be a Sunday, then make your way to the much-loved Columbia Road Flower Market. The one silver lining behind the comically large amounts of rain the city gets are the abundance of flowers. Columbia Road's market is one of the most popular Sunday activities for tourists and locals alike. Even if you’re not going to buy anything, a stroll down the colourful street is pleasant either way. There are some lovely boutiques and cafés along the road to peruse too.
Next up, you might fancy a spot of lunch. Usually kebabs are associated with a night of complete debauchery. And while we fully recommend indulgent behaviour, we also want to demystify the fact that you have to be drunk to enjoy a kebab. A local institution since 1972, all the North Indian offerings at Tayyabs are worth trying, especially the fiery grilled lamb chops, rich dahls, and of course, the magnificent kebab. And afterwards, prepare for the ultimate relaxing Sunday activity with some popcorn and the latest critically-acclaimed movie at Electric Cinema. Film buffs will never experience movie-watching like they will at Electric Cinema. One of London’s oldest cinemas, the Soho House group restored the space to include glamorous armchairs, footstools, cashmere blankets and cocktail service. The one downside? You’ll never want to watch a movie any other way.