London is a city with limitless opportunities to pursue cultural, adventurous, fun or relaxing activities, for as famous London resident Dr. Johnson once said, “When man is tired of London, he is tired of life, for there is in London all that life can afford”. He may have uttered these words nearly 300 years ago but it still holds true today, and the only problem with spending a weekend in London is narrowing it down to what you want to do the most.
Firstly, there are the main tourist attractions which every visitor wants to see on their first trip to the capital. The magnificent Tower of London built by William the Conqueror is home to the glittering Crown Jewels, as well as the infamous Traitors Gate, where enemies of the state would arrive by boat before being incarcerated in the dungeons.
You can see where they were held, often for years on end, and some of the remarkable graffiti they left behind. Right next to the Tower is Tower Bridge, which many visitors mistake for London Bridge, its twin turrets, Gothic architecture and rising bascules instantly recognisable.
A climb to the top gives you views over the Thames and the glass floor means you can look down on the boats, traffic and people scuttling far below you.
St Paul’s Cathedral features high on visitor’s bucket lists. Designed by Sir Christopher Wren, its famous dome is the highest in the world. The interior is rich and vibrant with a beautiful ceiling, but many visitors are far more interested in the vaults, where the great and the good of England are buried, including Christopher Wren.
It is best to visit it on a Saturday, as services are held on Sundays, although if you attend a service, it is free to visit and the choirs sound wonderful in that huge open nave and dome.
For culture vultures is the overwhelming amount of museums, art galleries and music venues on offer, many of which are free. These vary from the central National Gallery where you can admire the works of the Great Masters to small venues which specialise in just one area, such as the Foundling Museum, the Old Operating Theatre or the Museum of Curiosities.
Out of the hundreds of museums to choose from, a lesser known but one of the best is the Dennis Severs House in Spitalfields.
A five storey Jacobean house, this was created by artist Denis Severs to depict family life across 200 years of time. This is no museum of bright lights and display cases; this is walking through a house as if the inhabitants have just popped out for a moment.
The scent of cooking fills the air, chairs are pushed back around a dining table, beds are unmade, half written letters rest on a desk. It is a truly unique experience and one which is well worth doing.
For visitors looking for adventure there is also no shortage of options. A full speed RIB boat ride down the Thames listening to music, including the James Bond theme tune, is an experience you will never forget, and you may even spot the odd seal enjoying the waters.
You could try sky dining – enjoying food and cocktails while suspended in the air next to the huge O2 Arena, hanging from one of London’s cranes. Many visitors enjoy the outdoor climb over the O2, strapping on to the walkways and ascending to the top of the world’s largest tent to drink champagne and admire the views over the city.
Those who are looking for fun and night-life will not be disappointed by the huge variety of themed bars, many of which are at their most buzzing on a Saturday night.
There are speakeasies, a prison cell where you dress in an orange jumpsuit and drink in a prison cell, or a Wild West saloon where you can drink amongst card games and (staged) bar fights.
There are bars in Victorian public loos, 1940s underground stations and at the top of the Shard, the highest point in London, with views over the city to the hills beyond.
Sarastro in Covent Garden is filled with theatre props, and you can dine sitting in gilt covered opera booths surrounded by eclectic objects while you listen to live music – 70s on a Saturday and classical on a Sunday.
London has 74 Michelin starred restaurants and some fantastic markets for foodies. Try Borough Market in Southwark for an amazing array of culinary tastes from across the globe in the beautiful setting of ornate Victorian steel and glass. Open over the weekend, it is on the Saturday that you will find it at its most vibrant. And yes, you’ll find vegan food here too!
If it is the natural world you are interested in, the world-famous Kew Gardens are open year-round. The largest and most diverse botanical collection in the world, it covers over 300 acres and is the perfect place to wander amongst the trees or huge greenhouses filled with exotic plants.
London is filled with parks, and Hyde Park in the centre is more than a wonderful green space to rest and relax. You can hire a boat and paddle around the Serpentine, explore the free art galleries, go horse riding, outdoor swimming or even play in the senior playground.
If you visit on a Sunday, head to Speaker’s Corner to be entertained by the speeches which range from sensible and political to the weird and wonderful.
London is at its best over a weekend: have an action-packed Saturday followed by a more relaxed Sunday to really get the most from the English capital.
Bio: Sarah from Slow Travel
Sarah runs Slow Travel, a website for those who want to travel off the beaten path and avoid the crowds. Whether that is uncovering new places to explore that few people know about, or how to visit the bigger tourist sites without hordes of people, the website is a useful guide for Slow Travel in the UK. Follow Sarah from Slow Travel on Facebook and Instagram.
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