Seven Days – A Whole City Tour
Day 1 – Soho and the West End
With seven days in London you can really get a feel for the city, from its green spaces and historical landmarks, to the shopping and nightlife. Start your first day in the capital by launching yourself into the heart of the city and begin with a brunch at one of the restaurants in Soho. There are some fantastic establishments on Dean Street – such as the Dean Street Townhouse – where you will also find the famous Groucho Club, a favourite drinking den of the London A-list. From Dean Street, head west through the coffee shops boutiques and bars and make your way to Carnaby Street – look out for the plaque at the corner of Beak Street and Carnaby street which commemorates John Stephen, whose shop – ‘His Clothes’ – began the fashion revolution that made Carnaby Street the fashion hot spot in the 1960s and 1970s. The famous department store Liberty is also located here, as is Kingly Court, which is perfect for boutique shopping.
When it comes to lunch, the choice is endless. If you’re staying in Soho then you can choose from sandwiches, noodles, steak or pizza, or head to nearby China Town and enjoy some excellent dim sum. Take a tour of the West End, encompassing the buzz of Leicester Square, Nelsons Column and the lions of Trafalgar Square and a trip to the National Portrait Gallery. End your day with a west end show at a theatre like the Adelphi and a post show supper at the famous Ivy.
Day 2 – Kew Gardens and Richmond
On your second day in the city it’s time to head out to see the majestic horticultural splendour of Kew Gardens. One of the easiest ways to get to Kew is to take a train from Waterloo station. If you have not had time for breakfast then there are plenty of outlets at the station serving hot coffee, croissants and bacon rolls. Whilst there is no doubt that a large proportion of the gardens are better viewed either on a summer day or a crisp winter day (i.e. when it’s not raining), Kew also has a number of undercover, year round locations, including the Water Lilly House, the Palm House and the Princess of Wales Conservatory, which hosts regular annual horticultural events, such as the annual orchid festival.
When it comes to lunch, there are several restaurants on site at Kew – The Orangery serves hot food, cakes and sandwiches and the White Peaks café is designed specifically for families. Alternatively, leave Kew Gardens and take Kew Road south until you reach Richmond. Here you will find a selection of pubs and restaurants, many with very attractive riverside locations, such as the White Cross. If you are still in Richmond in the evening then Richmond Theatre is a great place to catch a play, panto or musical performance.
Day 3 – East London
London’s East End has seen an enormous amount of regeneration in recent years and has gone from something of a wasteland to a cultural centre for arts, entertainment and coolspotting. It is also an excellent location for breakfast – head to Spitalfields market to start the day with a Monmouth coffee and some British bacon. If you want to take a tour of the east, including the financial district, at a leisurely pace then the London Bicycle Tour Company offers a 3 and a half hour ‘east’ tour. If you prefer to explore on foot then head east from Spitalfields and wander via Brick Lane and the cavernous hipster mall that is the Old Truman Brewery. Whilst you’re in the east end be sure to check out some of the unique cultural hot spots here, from the Whitechapel Art Gallery, to the V&A Museum of Childhood.
When it comes to lunchtime, head for Haggerston (on the London Overground line), take Acton Road south from the station and then walk east on Dunston Row and Regents Road and this will take you to Broadway Market, which is the place for lunch on a Saturday, followed by a stroll around London Fields. If you are visiting during the week then there are lots of restaurants here too, including Buen Ayre, which serves Argentine steaks and plenty of red wine. In the evening, the east is famous for its party atmosphere with numerous bars, pubs, clubs and warehouse parties happening here virtually every night of the week. Head to Shoreditch and enjoy the hottest DJs at XOYO or live music at The Old Blue last and dance the night away.
Day 4 – Camden, Primrose Hill and Regents Park
Whether or not you enjoyed a bit too much London nightlife last night, there’s no better way to start day 4 than with the views from the top of Primrose Hill. Take the tube to Chalk Farm and walk to Primrose Hill via Regents Park Road where there are numerous breakfasting options, including the fabulous pastries and coffee of Sweet Things. This is also a great place to pick up provisions for a picnic lunch if the weather is fine. Walk up to viewing platform on the 78m high hill for one of the best panoramic views of London and then head south towards Prince Albert Road and Regents Park. Here you will find London Zoo, home to all manner of furry friends from giraffes and tigers through to penguins and gorillas.
If you are looking for slightly more sporting entertainment then a roughly 15 minute walk west along Prince Albert Road and St John’s Wood Road will take you to Lord’s Cricket Ground, where you can take a tour of this historic cricketing spot. Walk back to Regent’s Park and enjoy your picnic lunch before leaving via the northwest entrance of the park and heading to Parkway, which will take you into Camden Town. There is plenty to entertain you for the afternoon in Camden, from browsing the markets, to jumping on a canal tour with Jason’s Original Canal Trip at Camden Lock. In the evening splurge on dinner and cocktails at Gilgamesh or head to Inverness Street for cheaper but just as cheerful options.
Day 5 – A Right Royal Day
With only a few days left in London, it’s time to visit some of the sights for which London is the most famous. Start your day at Green Park station with a coffee and a take away pastry – or a full English at The Wolseley – and then stroll south through the leafy green space to Buckingham Palace. Here you can visit the Queen’s Gallery and, if you time it right, see the changing of the guard. From the palace, walk south to St James and indulge in more monarchy history at locations such as The Guards Museum on Birdcage Walk, followed by the Household Cavalry Museum on nearby Whitehall. If you walk south from here you will come to the Victoria Embankment on the banks of the Thames, where there are numerous tasty lunch spots in the vicinity of Villiers Street.
After lunch, cross the river to the Southbank – don’t forget to look back at the Houses of Parliament on the way – and make your way to the Jubilee Gardens to take a turn on the London Eye. This giant Ferris wheel is 135 metres tall and the views from the capsules are quite breathtaking. In the afternoon take a stroll down the river and stop off at HMS Belfast, the Royal Navy’s last surviving cruiser and the largest preserved warship in Europe, then end your day with dinner on the buzzy Southbank – choose one of the restaurants near Riverside Quay or go all out at the OXO Tower restaurant.
Day 6 – The West
With seven days in London you can cover virtually every area so start day 6 in west London – take the tube to Ladbroke Grove and then make for Portobello Market. Whilst the market proper only runs on a Saturday, some stalls are open during the week and there are plenty of fashion boutiques and antiques shops to browse when the market is not on. This is also a great place for breakfast – try the legendary Hummingbird Bakery for a sweet start to the day. Wander the trendy streets of Notting Hill until you come to the station and then jump on the tube to South Kensington (or you can walk via Hyde Park and Cromwell Road). Here, you are in museum central with the V&A, the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum all in the vicinity.
Enjoy lunch at one of the excellent museum cafes and then walk north up Exhibition Road and spend the afternoon exploring Hyde Park. From the sparkling serpentine to Speaker’s Corner and the opportunities for boating or simply lazing in a deckchair, this is a quintessentially British way to spend an afternoon. If the weather is bad then take the tube up to Baker Street and visit Madame Tussaud’s instead. For dinner, Edgware Road is walkable from either location and here you will find some of the best Lebanese food in London.
Day 7 – Shopping
It’s your final day in London and so it’s time to hit the shops. Whether you’re looking for souvenirs, fashion or homewares the West End is the biggest and most popular shopping area in the city. Start your day at the Selfridges Hix Restaurant Champagne and Caviar Bar and then browse the enormous store, which sells everything from designer handbags to French macarons. When you leave, head east down Oxford Street and you will find a number of huge department stores, as well as numerous shops and chains. Take a detour to St Christopher’s place if you’re in need of refreshment and if you’re looking for pure designer boutiques then walk south from Bond Street station and just wander down whichever roads catch your eye.
At lunchtime, make your way east, through Soho, until you get to Shaftesbury Avenue and Covent Garden and choose from the huge number of restaurants, bars and take-out stores around the Covent Garden Piazza. After lunch, stop to watch some of the legendary street theatre in the piazza and continue your shopping – unless you are all shopped out, in which case walk south to the Strand and then east to Somerset House on the banks of the Thames. Here you will find the Courtauld Gallery, which has a collection of art and sculpture that reaches from early Renaissance to the 20th century. End your trip to London in style with dinner at somewhere like the Delaunay and if you have any time left see what’s on at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.
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