Right, you’ve decided to spend a couple of days in one of the world’s greatest cities. Your tickets are booked, bags packed and mobile phone fully charged. But just how are you going to occupy yourself for the next 48 hours?
London is bustling, vibrant and full of things to see or do. However, the sheer amount on offer can be overwhelming, so it’s best to be reasonable about the amount you can achieve in just two days. For this reason, it’s worth remembering that you can always come back – Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London and Kew Gardens have been around for hundreds of years and are unlikely to disappear anytime soon.
So, once you’re in the right frame of mind, decide what interests you most. If it’s seeing the sights, then the London Eye, St Paul’s Cathedral and the British Museum are all within a short walk and Tube ride. If the arts are more your thing, then the Tate Modern and the National Gallery are well worth a visit, especially as, along with the British Museum, they’re free too.
On the other hand, if you’d prefer to hit the town straight away, there’s plenty on offer. In the centre, the Ten Bells on Commercial Street is a great traditional East End pub, and famous for its association with Jack the Ripper. It was even featured in From Hell, the film adaptation of Alan Moore’s Ripper-themed graphic novel.
A little further on is Spitalfields, home to the famous market and numerous food stalls and restaurants. There’s something here for most tastes and budgets, with the upmarket fast food chain Leon and the classy Galvin La Chapelle both popular choices. If that’s not your thing then Brick Lane, the heart of the city’s Bangladeshi community, is just round the corner with its many fantastic curry houses.
Getting to London by train from the rest of the country is pretty straightforward. Once you’ve arrived though, it’s worth buying a Travelcard, which allows unlimited travel within specified zones. These tickets range in price from £7.30 to £8.90, and are a good option if you are planning on making lots of journeys in a short space of time.
Alternatively, you can pretend to be a real Londoner and pick up an Oyster card from the station. This is a smart card you can use instead of paper tickets, and is designed for those that make frequent journeys, usually a commute to work or school. There’s a refundable £5 deposit for each card, and you need to top it up, but the balance doesn’t expire if you are planning another visit in the future.
Along with making sure you have the right tickets it is worth investing in a journey planning app for your phone, or at least a map of the underground. There are loads of choices available, but these iPhone and Android versions are pretty good. Both are also updated live which means you can keep up to speed with and delays or closures and plan an alternative route.
After 48 hours though, this will all feel like second nature. And by that time, you’ll be preparing a list of things to do on your next visit.