“The man who can dominate a London dinner table can dominate the world.” Oscar Wilde
There is a widely understood joke that those who have completed a study abroad program never actually stop talking about it. While I certainly think any sweeping judgment about an entire group of people is misguided, this one does seem to hold up.
In any sense, it would also be a mistake that just because you once spent some time in London that a return trip would be a waste of time. London is a city of deep history and tradition but just like any major city, there is constant turnover. It’s a newness that somehow blends seamlessly into the layers of antiquity on every corner.
Recently I had 48 hours in London and in an attempt to see something outside of the normal European city norms (churches, museums, memorials, and gardens), I created an itinerary to see London in my own way.
Start the day in Notting Hill. Granger and Co is a local hot spot for breakfast and the perfect way to start the day. Cold-pressed juices, fresh baked goods, and a dynamite avocado toast are just a few of my personal recommendations. After a proper start to the day, take it easy and log some steps by walking around the neighborhood and take in some of the amazing homes and shops in the area. In particular, Westbourne Road is a great choice and home to a variety of shops, bakeries, and one of a kind book stores.
Take the tube or walk and make your way to South Kensington for lunch. London is home to some incredible Indian food and Dishoom in South Kensington is among the best of the best. It’s usually quite easy to get a table at lunch which is why I recommend heading there earlier in the day. South Kensington is an incredible area and home to several fantastic museums.
Bike shares are all over the city and fairly easy to use, so if you’re looking to burn off some of those calories from lunch, grab a bike and take the paths through Hyde Park. Regardless of the time of year, Hyde Park is quintessential London and biking through the park is one of the best ways to see the statues, gardens, and people in the garden. Grab a bench and take it all in.
Making your way towards St. James Park, you’ll be able to see Buckingham Palace among some other government buildings. End up in Covent Garden as the sun sets and you’ll find yourself squarely in a trendy, upscale area with many options for dinner and shopping, without outrageous crowds. One of my personal favorites in the area is a pizza joint called Homeslice. Unusual combinations that work beautifully together with thin crust pizza and delicious salads.
After a full day, take the tube back to wherever you are staying. It’s safe, convenient and easy to navigate. An Oyster card is a worthwhile investment and can be filled easily at the tube station kiosks.
With only one day left, there is no need to feel the pressure. London is best taken in with a certain quiet dignity and grace. Joe and the Juice (with many locations across the city) is a great spot for coffee, juice, smoothies and other quick bites. Feeling something a little heartier? Head to Ole and Steen. You can’t go wrong with the grain bowl or the chia bowl. Grab, go, and make your way over to the Sky Gardens. You can either reserve tickets ahead of time or show up early enough to get in before the crowds (8:00 AM or so). It’s an incredible view of London and an homage to the gardening skills for which the British are famous.
Walk down to the Millennium Bridge and cross the river. You’re running on empty but take in the view, the sights as you make your way over to Borough Market. Filled with kiosks, this is a great place to try a lot of different foods. Musts are the fresh juices from fruit and vegetable stands, strawberry rhubarb jams with fresh bread and the grilled cheese from Kappacasein. Now, I know my way around grilled cheese and these may just be the best ones you’ll ever have. Really.
The market is an amazing place to wander and, as I stated, try everything. Once full, you can direct your paths back towards the Thames to get a glance at Tower Bridge and the Tower of London.
From there, it’s a bit of dealers choice. If you’re craving museums, you have a number of options but the one I would recommend is the British Museum which is a treasure trove of antiquities perfectly suited for the historian within. Or conversely, if you’re looking for more of modern British flair, Soho is the spot for window shopping and, well, actual shopping.
Finish the day by heading to Honest Burger. The good news is regardless of where you end up, they have a location close by. If you’re American, you’re probably rolling your eyes, but these burgers are legit and use some local flavors to craft some extraordinary combinations. Try the mint lemonade; it’s worth it.
Wind down with an easy stroll through a park, along the Thames, or just cruise past Parliament, Big Ben, or one of the other buildings that have been around for hundreds of years.
That’s my take on London in 48 hours. What is yours?