How to Spend a Long Weekend in London
The stress-free guide to exploring London.
It would be easy to squeeze far too much into a long weekend in London, cramming the city’s top sights into an itinerary that sends you hurtling across town on the tube every few hours. It’s much better to focus your time on one key area per day, so let Plum Guide take the lead to ensure that you can really make the most of your time in the Big Smoke.
Day 1: Explore the Square Mile
Begin your trip to London in its ancient heart, the Square Mile. This is where the Romans originally settled in the first century AD, building their Roman Walls, the remains of which can still be seen in the area today. Now, it’s known as the City of London, and is the capital’s key financial district. But don’t let that put you off – the area is a wonderful mélange of hyper-modern skyscrapers and historic backstreets.
Start your morning waking up at this swish pad and enjoy breakfast at the Heron Tower’s famous Duck and Waffle restaurant, and take in the views over Bishopsgate and the city, watching office workers file in and out of the skyscrapers.
After breakfast, wander over to Leadenhall Market, passing architectural masterpieces such as The Gherkin, the Lloyd’s Building and The Cheesegrater (the Leadenhall Building) along the way. The covered Victorian market itself has been preserved as it would have looked a century ago, with an ornate domed glass roof, original shop fronts and cobbled floors. It’s been featured in many films, and even depicted Diagon Alley in Harry Potter.
Continue on to the Sky Garden, on the top floor of the Walkie Talkie, for lunch at Darwin Brasserie. As well as a panoramic vista over the city, you’ll have the chance to walk through the lush indoor garden.
Walk off lunch by taking a scenic stroll – the city is eminently walkable, so make sure you pack wiselyfor your long weekend in London. As well as Victorian structures, you’ll go past the Monument to the Great Fire of London and St Dunstan in the East. This medieval church was bombed in the Blitz, but its exterior walls and carved windows remain, making it a peaceful sanctuary in the city.
From here, follow the Thames where possible until you reach St Paul’s Cathedral. The iconic cathedral sits on the highest point of the city, and its incredibly rich interior is well worth exploring. End the day with drinks and dinner in Paternoster Square, before bedding down in the heart of the city at one of London's most luxurious serviced apartments.
Day 2: Take in the West End sights
London’s West End is unmissable on a trip to England’s capital. Filled with theatres, entertainment and top sights, it’s a buzzing, energetic area.
Enjoy a fashionable breakfast in the chic interiors of the Ivy Market Grill, before wandering to Trafalgar Square to see its famous fountains and lions, perhaps popping into the National Gallery while you’re there. Then, make your way to colourful Chinatown, passing through the bright lights of Leicester Square on your way. Naturally, there are some excellent Chinese restaurants to sample here, or go a little further into Soho, where you’ll find a diverse array of places to eat to suit any taste and budget.
Following lunch, make your way to Covent Garden. This pretty covered market houses quirky shops and charming cafes, while the Jubilee Market opposite boasts stalls selling antiques and crafts. Many opera singers and street performers flock to the area, lending it a lively atmosphere.
Grab a pre-theatre dinner at Joe Allen. This atmospheric restaurant, with its exposed-brick walls covered with theatrical posters, live piano and tongue-and-groove wood paneling, has long been one of the best places for a sociable evening meal in the West End. Follow it up with a trip to the theatre or a show at the Royal Opera House, before staying in one of our beautiful homes nearby. This beauty in Covent Garden is a particular favourit, or you could stay at this bright apartment on the famous Drury Lane.
Day 3: Go south of the river
Start your day at Western Europe’s tallest building, The Shard, which can be seen from all across Southeast London. At the weekend, you can make a reservation for brunch at its contemporary British restaurant, Aqua Shard, where floor-to-ceiling windows provide a panoramic vista over London.
Just a short hop from The Shard, and one of the best places to spend any morning in London is Borough Market (Monday–Saturday). This busy market is jam-packed with food stalls selling delicacies from all corners of the globe. Londoners come for the fresh produce and stay for the atmosphere. Taste samples as you wander through, and perhaps pick up some souvenirs to take home.
From here, walk past Southwark Cathedral towards the impressive London Bridge for a few photos before making your way along Clink Street to Bankside, where you can walk along the Thames. Take in the view across the river before stopping at Shakespeare’s Globe. This stunning reproduction of the original Elizabethan theatre puts on open-air performances of the bard’s work.
Nearby, you’ll find Tate Modern, which is the best gallery in London for contemporary artwork, and which is housed in an imposing former warehouse. Continue along the river for dinner at the sleek Sea Containers Restaurant, where you can end your long weekend in London by dining in the delightfully stylish interior. Alternatively, choose to sit out on the riverside tables, admiring the dazzling lights of the city twinkling on the water as the sun goes down on your trip.
You may be visiting London to attend one of its biggest sporting events. Lucky for you, we've got places to stay near the tennis at Wimbledon and a big list of things to do around Wembley if your visit is football-focused. No matter what you do on your trip to London, make sure you book your stay in one of our expertly-vetted rental homes.