London in 1 Week

See London's best bits. If you've got an entire week to spend in London then we've got a great itinerary for you...

Day 1

Start the week by visiting two of London’s most recognisable landmarks, Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus. Piccadilly Circus is home to an iconic statue of Eros and a huge neon billboard, as well as the Trocadero, an amusement arcade. Despite its fame, it’s actually the streets around Piccadilly Circus that are the most interesting. Regent Street stretches north to Oxford Circus and has upmarket shops; Haymarket, which leads south to Pall Mall, was once a den of prostitution, but is now known for its theatres and chain restaurants, and Jermyn Street, which runs parallel to Piccadilly, is handy if you need to have a suit made to order. The White Cube gallery, famous for patronising Young British Artists, is located on Mason’s Yard, just off this road.

You can head west down Piccadilly for the Royal Academy of Arts or for a wander around Green Park, for Leicester Square walk in the opposite direction. On the way, make a point of passing through Gerrard Street and Lisle Street, in other words the area known as Chinatown. Although there are few Chinese residents here these days, there are still plenty of restaurants offering dim sum and other specialities, as well as supermarkets selling products from China, Thailand, Japan and Korea.

It’s hard to believe that Leicester Square was once a favourite hangout of London’s aristocracy. Today is it framed by a large Burger King and several big name cinemas where British film premieres are often held; it remains hugely popular with tourists. While you’re here, if you do fancy a trip to the movies there is the art-house Prince Charles Cinema. The films shown here are often a few months old, but it’s worth the wait for the comfort of the auditoriums and the cheap ticket prices.

From Leicester Square, head south down Charing Cross Road towards Trafalgar Square, where Nelson’s Column is situated. The National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery are here, both of which are free. The National Gallery has Western European Art from 1250 to 1900, and the National Portrait Gallery focuses solely on portraiture throughout the centuries. Several hours are required for either gallery. For a bite to eat, the National Gallery has a great restaurant, alternatively French eatery Terroirs is nearby.


Day 2

On day 2 we continue exploring the West End, this time starting in Covent Garden. This was London’s first ever planned square, once home to a large fruit and veg market. Nowadays the < href="http://www.allinlondon.co.uk/covent-garden-piazza.php">Covent Garden Piazza has shops selling beauty products and accessories. There are also numerous cafes with seating outside, from where you can watch the street entertainers perform. You will also find the Royal Opera House and the London Transport Museum here. The Piazza gets very busy at weekends, as do the surrounding shopping streets. Long Acre and Floral Street have high street clothing stores, and for vintage clothes head to Rokit on Shelton Street. Health conscious foodies can pop into Neal’s Yard, where exceptionally good raw vegan food is served at the Wild Food Café. On the opposite side of the spectrum is Neal’s Yard Dairy, heaven for cheesophiles.

From Covent Garden head towards the Strand. This busy street is populated by offices and coffee shops, however from here it’s a short walk towards the river Thames. If you head down Lancaster Place, Somerset House is to your left, a beautiful neo-classical building which has exhibitions, London Fashion Week, and in the summertime film screenings and live concerts. If you continue walking across the river via Waterloo Bridge you will come to the Southbank, a complex of buildings comprising live music halls, the National Theatre and the Hayward Gallery. Spend the evening here or catch a play at one of the many theatres around Covent Garden, the Strand and Drury Lane, an area colloquially known as Theatreland.
Day 3

Start the day by viewing the Houses of Parliament, where politicians gather to debate. Visitors are welcome to watch the sessions for free, and tours of the building are also possible on Saturdays. The iconic Big Ben stands proud just outside Parliament, and Westminster Abbey, where many a royal wedding has taken place, is here too. It is open to the public from Monday to Saturday, tickets are £16 at the time of writing.

A number of government buildings as well as 10 Downing Street, where the Prime Minister lives, are located around here, but you’ll only be able to see them from the outside. You can visit the Churchill War Rooms if you have an interest in World War II, but if not walk past this building and along Birdcage Walk till you arrive at Buckingham Palace, the most famous of all British attractions. Although the Royals still reside here parts of it are open to the public between June and October.

Walk along Grosvenor Place to Hyde Park, and spend the rest of the day relaxing in London’s biggest royal park. If the weather is good, take advantage of the deckchairs or boating on the lake. The Serpentine Gallery, which specialises in contemporary art, is situated here, and the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial is in the adjacent Kensington Gardens.


Day 4

On day 4 explore the chic neighbourhoods of South Kensington and Chelsea. You’ll find plenty of designers shops, upmarket restaurants and swanky wine bars in South Kensington, however Kensington High Street on the other hand has more affordable high street shops. In terms of refreshment, French bistro Cassis is a good option that won’t break the bank. It’s not all high-end shopping however, as South Ken is home to the Science Museum, the National History Museum, and the V&A, which has a fantastic collection of musical instruments and fashion through the ages.

Take the tube or bus to Sloane Square and walk down Chelsea’s King’s Road. While this is no longer the epitome of ‘Swinging London’, there are still interesting shops and eateries here, as well as the Saatchi Gallery and the Taschen Store, the bookshop of the famous publishers who specialise in art.

Chelsea Harbour, down by the Embankment, boasts luxury yachts and the Design Centre, where top furniture brands showcase their products. If by now you haven’t had enough of London’s wealth head to Knightsbridge, where you will find the Harvey Nichols and Harrods department stores.
Day 5

East London, in particular Shoreditch and Hoxton, has been London’s epicentre of cool for over a decade, however its popularity means that the boho population is moving on (and further East) and the area is more reminiscent of the West End than the arty neighbourhood it used to be on any given Friday night. Despite this there is still plenty to see if you’re interested in browsing art galleries and vintage fashion.

Take the Bishopsgate exit out of Liverpool Street and turn left. This will lead you directly to Shoreditch High Street, which is filled with bars. This area is also a hotspot for live and electronic music, clubbers should check out venues like XOYO and Plastic People. But before you explore the delights of the local nightlife, take a right and walk along Brushfield Street, which leads to Spitalfields Market. The market is open seven days a week (at weekends it gets uncomfortably busy) and has fashion and food, two of the best eateries being Galvin LaChapelle and Canteen. Cross over Commercial Street with its plethora of pubs and take one of the narrow roads that leads onto Brick Lane. You’ll notice street signs are in English and Bengali here, as this is the heart of London’s Bangladeshi community. Brick Lane is best known for its numerous curry houses and the touts that stand outside them hassling you for business, although for a decent curry you’re best getting off this road and going to Tayyabs. Brick Lane Market opens on a Sunday and sells pretty much everything, from food to furniture. There are several popular bars on this road too, including 93 Feet East, Vibe Bar and Big Chill Bar. Before you embark on a bar crawl, other places of interest include Redchurch Street for its fashionable boutiques and Leonard Street for art galleries. It’s hard to believe the area was a slum up until the1980s.


Day 6

Spend the first half of the day in the British Museum, the city’s most popular and best-loved attraction. The museum has often courted controversy over claims of pilfering artefacts from other nations, the Elgin Marbles being the most famous, with campaigners in Greece requesting they be returned to their country of origin. On the plus side the British Museum has an impressive wealth of collections, with ancient objects from all over the world as well as contemporary exhibits. An entire day can easily be spent here, and best of all admission is free.

After the museum, head to Regent’s Park, either via bus or if you still have the energy, by walking up to the Euston Road and turning left. Relax in this beautiful green space, which boasts the Open Air Theatre (concerts and plays take place here in the summer months, check listings). Afterwards head into nearby Camden for a drink or to catch a band at one of the many pubs in the area.


Day 7

If you haven’t picked up enough gifts yet on your travels, tackle London’s busiest shopping street, Oxford Street, on your last day. You’ll find all the major high street stores here, as well as designer clothing at Selfridges.

Towards the north end of the street, near Tottenham Court Road tube station, take one of the roads on the right into Soho, where you’ll find shops of a more independent nature. As London’s capital of sex, you’ll find sex shops alongside book stores and quirky souvenir shops. Comic book fans can head to Forbidden Planet, and music fans will be delighted to find a few actual record shops, such as dance music specialists Phonica on Poland Street and BM on D’Arblay Street. Soho is packed full of bars (both gay and straight), cheap eateries and opportunities for people-watching. Try Copita for tapas, Polpo for Italian tapas, Yalla Yalla for Lebanese and Spuntino for American comfort food; for cocktails check out Barrio Central, where the signature drink is served in a huge Mexican luchador mask. We can’t think of a better way to end the week.

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Looking for other things to do in London? Be sure to check out the best events in London every year, month by month.
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