London in Two Days

Visit the popular tourist sites on day 1, and wander through some of Londonís most famous neighbourhoods the following day.

Day 1

What better place to start than at Londonís most famous attraction,
Buckingham Palace. Between June and October parts of the palace are open to the public, but at other times of the year you can catch the colourful Changing of the Guard, which takes place in the forecourt at 11.30 am daily in the summertime, and on alternate days throughout the rest of the year.

Next head to the Houses of Parliament. If you walk down to Victoria Station, several buses will take you from here to Westminster, otherwise you can walk there in around 15 minutes. The iconic Big Ben and the grandiose Westminster Abbey, where Charles and Diana were married, are located here.

By crossing over the river via Westminster Bridge you will come to the Southbank Centre, a complex that encompasses the Hayward Gallery, and music venues the Royal Festival Hall and Queen Elizabeth Hall. Check their schedule for free lunchtime concerts. Youíll also find the 3D IMAX cinema a few minutesí walk away by Waterloo station, as well as the Tate Modern, a free museum filled with 20th century art, and a great place to spend an afternoon. Its sister museum, the Tate Britain, focuses on British art and is located in Pimlico. Next take the bus or the tube to the West End. If you fancy a spot of shopping, head to Oxford Street, Londonís busiest retail street. There are four tube stations serving this lengthy road; Tottenham Court Road is at the eastern end and Marble Arch is the furthest west. The shops at the Tottenham Court Road end mostly sell souvenir and electrical goods, but overall this street is where youíll find the highest concentration of high street stores in inner London, as well as department stores like Selfridges and Debenhams.

From Tottenham Court, if you head down Oxford Street and take a right down Soho Street you will come to a teensy patch of greenery called Soho Square that gets filled with after-work revellers on sunny evenings. Soho is the gay capital of London, and the bars on the surrounding streets, particularly Old Compton Street, are either gay or gay-friendly. There are also plenty of interesting places to eat on Frith Street, Wardour Street and Dean Street, from Michelin-starred food at Arbutus to cheap and cheerful Asian fare such as at Koya.

Soho is a short walk from Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus, two hugely popular tourist spots. The former has cinemas that host British film premieres, while the latter is where youíll find the famous statue of Eros and the illuminated neon signs advertising Coca-Cola and other well-known brands. Expect to find a multitude of visitors having their photo taken at both these sites.

Once evening sets in, stay in the area for drinks. The Absolute Ice Bar off Regent Street offers the experience of sipping vodka in below zero temperatures, but for a more relaxing experience there is Cafť Boheme, which boasts a great cocktail list, or for thriftiness, Bar Soho, where all drinks are half price from 5 pm to 8 pm. There are plenty of nightclubs in this area too, mostly of the glitzy, commercial music kind, the most famous being Tiger Tiger, Shadow Lounge and celebrity haunts Punk and Cafť de Paris. For something a little different, thereís The Bar, which opens every night of the week and plays a mixture of 60s and 70s soul, funk and reggae.
Day 2

As long as youíre not too tired from dancing the night away, set off early for Notting Hill, a chic neighbourhood in West London thatís packed with designer shops. If youíre there on a Saturday Portobello Road Market will be on, with stalls selling antiques and jewellery; be aware that this is not a cheap market and it gets very busy. On other days there are still plenty of quirky boutiques and furniture shops to browse on this road, as well as admiring the rows of brightly coloured terraced houses in the area. The high end shops are located on Ledbury Road, where youíll find Anya Hindmarch and Diane Von Furstenberg among others.

From Notting Hill you can catch the Circle Line down to South Kensington, which along with neighbouring Chelsea are two of Londonís wealthiest areas. Youíll find plenty of upmarket delis, restaurants and designer stores here, however Kensington High Street on the other hand has more affordable high street shops. In terms of affordable refreshment, French bistro Cassis and BQ Brasserie wonít hurt your wallet. There is no tube station in Chelsea, therefore you can either follow Onslow Place and Sydney Street down to the Kingís Road, or take the tube/bus to Sloane Square, where more uber-expensive clothes await. But itís not all fashion; Chelsea Harbour, down by the Embankment, also boasts luxury yachts and the Design Centre, where top furniture brands showcase their products. If by now you havenít had enough of Londonís wealth head to Knightsbridge, where you will find the Harvey Nichols and Harrods department stores.

Spend the latter part of the day in Camden, north London, where there is more shopping but of the bohemian kind. Camden Lock Market sells artworks, crafts and jewellery, while the Stables Market on Chalk Farm Road (so-called due to its past incarnation as horse stables, as evidenced at Proud) has vintage clothing and shops where you can get your anatomy pierced. There are also food stalls and restaurants like the opulent Gilgamesh and the somewhat infamous Shaka Zulu. During the day Camden is brimming with tourists, and itís equally busy at night when pubs fill up with punters who turn up to watch an indie band or three, for Camden is still very much the go-to place for guitar bands. There are many pubs in the neighbourhood; we recommend The Colonel Fawcett for food and The Black Heart for atmosphere. For live music, head to Barfly or Blues Kitchen, the latter often has free entry. For dancing check out the legendary Electric Ballroom for industrial, techno and metal, The Cuban for Latin rhythms and Proud for electro and indie, all stay open till 3 am at weekends and get very busy, so you may need to sharpen your elbows.


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