It’s hard to pack all that London has to offer into just one day, but we can suggest a handful of unmissable highlights to suit your budget, whether you’re counting the pennies or want to treat yourself.
There is plenty of great stuff to do in the capital for less or for free, if you only know where to look.
Start your day with a takeaway pastry and coffee as you walk through Borough Market. With its carts of incredible produce, rich smells and hustle and bustle, it radiates history. In fact, it is one of the largest and oldest food markets in London, with one on this very site dating back to the 12th century.
Fancy seeing a show? Stop at Shakespeare’s Globe, the incredible reconstruction of the theatre (originally on the same site) where The Bard’s plays were shown. Standing tickets are a mere £5 – why not catch a matinee of Much Ado About Nothing (to 23 Oct)?
Head on towards Tate Modern, which is just a short stroll away. Make your way through the vast, mesmerising space as you witness several stunning works from the free collections.
Hop on an Uber Boat by Thames Clipper up the river to Bankside and then cycle up to Piccadilly on a Santander bike for a spot of lunch at Brasserie Zédel. This grand, Parisian-style brasserie with its leather banquettes, great service and delicious classic French fare looks deceptively high-end. The set menu (including steak and French fries and chocolate and caramel tart) is priced at just £13.
Diana Fountain © The Royal Parks
Shakespeare’s Globe © Shutterstock
Work off some of that lunch with a walk through Hyde Park to the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, erected in memory of the late Princess of Wales, before heading to Kensington Palace Gardens. The gardens were initially an extension of Hyde Park and King Henry VIII’s ‘playground’, hosting deer races, among other things.
You’re in the right neck of the woods to bag huge bargains on second-hand clothes, many of them designer. Peruse the charity shops in Knightsbridge before hopping on the Tube straight up to Finsbury Park where you can pair bring-your-own booze with a really good vegetarian curry at Jai Krishna.
Finish the day off with a visit to one of the most fun places in London. Just down the road, no-frills Rowans, the retro American-style bowling alley, has an area perfect for unselfconscious dancing with a DJ pumping out belters on Friday and Saturday nights.
Start your day as you mean to go on with breakfast at The Wolseley. Once a prestigious car showroom, this incredible space in the heart of Piccadilly is now an all-day café and restaurant. Take a seat in the grand, lofty room as you tuck into classic English dishes such as kedgeree and grilled kippers.
Just up the road, Fortnum & Mason, the upmarket department store, is something of an institution. Dating back to 1707, it is famous for its food and drink, sourced from the best suppliers, as well as luxury hampers and exceptional afternoon tea. There are countless prestigious shops in the area, such as those within Burlington Arcade, home to luxury jewellery, perfume, clothes and watches.
Feeling like you need a pick-me-up? Head to Dukes London for a well-deserved midday drink. This sophisticated hotel in St. James’s is home to a legendary bar where you can sip on a creation from the cocktail trolley. The martini is known to be one of the best in the world.
For something special to soak up the booze, why not amble into Soho to Michelin-starred Sketch? The eccentric 18th-century townhouse features five themed dining rooms, each immaculately designed and adorned with art. Even the bathrooms are beautiful. Indulge in a spot of afternoon tea (served from 11am-4pm) featuring exquisite petit-gâteaux, sandwiches, scones and a selection of champagnes and teas in the artist-led space, The Gallery.
Wind your way through the streets of Soho, stopping at the luxury department store and haberdashery haven, Liberty, before ending up at The Wallace Collection. Featuring some of the world’s greatest masterpieces in paintings, sculpture, porcelain and arms and armour, it’s a wonderful place to while away the hours.
If you’ve worked up an appetite for dinner, J. Sheekey in Covent Garden is an institution for its finest quality fish and shellfish and impeccably smart and comfortable interior, adorned with pictures of actors from the 20th century, reflecting its Theatreland location. Try the grilled Dover sole or miso-glazed sea trout. Served all day, the À La Carte menu is perfect pre or post-show.
Still got some steam? Then finish your day with a real treat at the Royal Opera House. Salome, (to 1 Oct) is a story of lust, revenge and power that will have you on the edge of your seats.
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