London: the highlights

Why visit London for your weekend away

There’s something for everyone in England’s well-loved capital, with hundreds of attractions, thousands of restaurants and a pub practically on every corner. All this makes it one of the world’s top tourist destinations, with nearly 20 million visitors each year all wanting to experience the notorious buzz of the city.

London is an all year round destination, although it's especially popular during the summer months when temperatures reach around 23 degrees. But, you should never be surprised to see rain - London’s famous for its changeable weather and even in the summer it rains here a lot. The city also remains popular in the colder winter months, as you can easily warm up in one of the city’s well-loved watering holes.

The city is a vibrant metropolis, bustling with culture and oozing style. There’s something going on 24/7 in London - so you’ll never get bored. In this lively capital, you’ll find everything from famous superclubs and intimate backroom gigs, to fabulous theatre shows and Michelin-starred restaurants. Whatever you’re looking for, it’s here.

Top London Activities

James Bond Thames RIB Blast

If you want to be shaken (not stirred), speeding down theThames in a RIB Blast boatis the ultimate activity for you. Your mission will start outside the London eye, stopping at MI5 and MI6 where scenes from loads of the classic Bond movies were filmed. Your driver will ramp up the engine and belt down to Canary Wharf in 007 style, throwing in sharp twists and turns to really get your heart pumping.

Play with a legend

This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to play alongside one of yourfootballing heroes. With over 100 top players to choose from, you’ll get to have a kickabout with the likes of England superstar Emile Heskey, Manchester United’s Teddy Sheringham and even West Ham’s notorious Razor Ruddock. After playing a full match, you can end your unforgettable day with a few drinks with your legend in the pub.

Classic afternoon tea cruise

Ah,afternoon tea, that wonderful cornerstone of British society. Climb aboard this relaxing cruise for a civilised afternoon on the River Thames enjoying a selection of tasty teas, dainty cakes and fresh pastries. You’ll enjoy passing views of the Houses of Parliament, St Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London.

Nightlife hotspots

Undoubtedly, London is one of the best nights out in the world. There's so much to discover in this vibrant capital, with countless bars and clubs spread across the city, from the trendy hangout spots to the notorious superclubs. Although, with so many great London venues to choose from, it can be hard to know where to start.

Below are some of London’s best nightlife options, but we’ve also made a list of London’s best bars in theNorth,South,EastandWestof the capital, so you can be out enjoying the city’s nightlife in every part of the city.

Ministry of Sound

One of the best-known clubbing venues in the UK, Ministry of Sound has defined the soundtracks for dance music lovers for years. Laid out across four dancefloors and various bars there's so much to experience, from the state-of-the-art sound system, outdoor courtyards, VIP suites and world-class DJ lineups.

The Lock Tavern

This Camden institution is renowned for its sunday roasts, great DJs and live music nights, as well as its massive selection of beer. With a terrace, 3 bars and an ever-busy dance floor, it has become one of the most popular in North London. Despite its popularity, it still feels authentic and definitely has a different vibe to the many touristy bars in Camden.

Thames disco cruise

There’s no better way to spend a night out in London than on a Thames Disco Cruise. After boarding your boat, you’ll start your big night with some drinks and get some group snaps in front of the famous sights of London. Then, as the night goes on you can hit the dancefloor and enjoy the club classics blasted out by the resident DJ. It’s one of the classier events on offer and will definitely make the most of London’s amazing skyline.

Lap dancing

Experience the London the right way and have an unforgettable night at the infamous Spearmint Rhino club. Entry is taken care of, so simply head in to enjoy a night of unadulterated fun. Relax in the low-lit rooms of this premium adult entertainment establishment, where you can revel in the sight of beautiful women during your intimate night of fun.

Eat like a local

London is one of the most multicultural cities in the world, and this is reflected in the capital’s incredibly diverse food scene - you can find dishes from almost every country in the world in this vibrant cosmopolitan city. With endless dining options, you’re sure to find something to your taste.

Food markets

Head to one of London’s famous food markets to have a taste of the capital’s fresh food scene. Borough Market, Portobello Road Market and Covent Garden Market are some of the most popular local hangouts. Or, head to the notorious Brick Lane Market for some well-loved curry dishes.

Pub grub

There’s nothing more authentic than some typical English pub grub, and you’ll be spoilt for choice in London, with thousands of pubs spread across the city. Whether you're after a classic Sunday roast with all the trimmings or some classic burgers - you’ll never be far from a hearty pub meal in the British capital.

Pie and Mash

There’s nothing more British than pie and mash. This cockney favourite is a staple of London and has been around since at least the Victorian era. You might not be up for trying jellied eels but while in London, you’ve got to give the pie and mash a go. There’s lots of cafes across the city but try M. Manze near London Bridge for a properly authentic experience - it’s the oldest in London!

Beer tasting masterclass

Try an entertaining beer tasting masterclass. A beer expert will introduce you to some intense flavours during a beer & food matching experience. Taste a delicious selection of chocolatey stouts and hoppy ales perfectly paired with street-food style small dishes for a taste explosion. After you’ve digested all the samples, wash them down with a delicious burger and a pint of your favourite beer - nice!

Where to stay

On a tight budget? It’s no secret that London is an expensive city so if you’re just looking for a cheap place to dump your bags, a dorm room in a hostel is your best bet. Or, if you want to splurge on somewhere a bit more impressive, you’ll find hundreds of affordable hotels spread across the city. Anyway, London has an excellent public transport system, so you’ll have no problem getting around wherever you choose to stay.

Explore the city

Be a tourist for the day

The city is packed full of iconic tourist sites and attractions that everyone should experience at least once - with Big Ben, The Tower of London and the historic Windsor Castle to name a few. Plus, you can take advantage of the cities huge cultural scene and visit museums like The British Museum, The Science Museum and the portrait galleries located all over the city.

Southbank

This riverside walkway is usually buzzing with activity, filled with street food stalls, skateboarders and talented street performers at all hours of the day. It’s also host to a ton of London’s top attractions, with the famous London Eye, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and The Tate Modern all found along the river bank.

London’s parks

Escape the buzz of the city at one of the Capital’s many green spaces. Rent a boat in London’s central Hyde Park or take a day trip to Greenwich Park for some epic views of the capital’s second-tallest building Canary Wharf and a trip to the famous Greenwich Meantime brewery.

Shop til you drop

No matter what you're shopping needs, London will deliver. Oxford Street is the beating heart of city's shopping, home to Selfridges and all off the high street favourites, while Camden is famed for its trendy markets. Covent Garden is buzzing with boutiques and independent shops, plus loads of great cocktail bars, perfect for a quick drink to rest your legs.

Your guide to the weekend in the capital of cool

London is awash with people but it’s remarkably easy to slip through back streets and get about, with many attractions in close proximity. The big ‘tourist traps’ are not to be missed, yet there’s so much more to London than the London Eye, Big Ben and Oxford Street’s shopping. Outside of the centre, there are boroughs and neighbourhoods filled with hidden gems.

London at a glance:

  • From Michelin-starred restaurants to tiny café bistros, whatever you want to eat and whatever your budget, it’s here.
  • Huge must-see West End blockbusters are a big draw, but delve a bit deeper and you’ll find smaller quirky shows and crazy comedy, at affordable prices.
  • London buzzes like no other city in the UK, with something going on 24 hours a day, seven days a week
  • Offering the best of everything, you’ll find entertainment to suit all tastes from mainstream super-clubs to intimate backroom gigs, cutting edge art to world famous attractions
  • Packed full of iconic tourist sites, from the London Eye to Buckingham Palace

Local knowledge:

Bankside - London’s cultural hub Centuries ago it was a real seedy area of the city, today Bankside is something of a cultural hub, thanks in part to the arrival of Tate Modern in the former power station. The UK's largest museum of modern art, this is where you need to go if you want to see Picasso, Dali, Matisse, Warhol and the 20th century masters, plus the rising stars of the international art scene. The area is also home to Shakepeare's Globe Theatre (a faithful reconstruction of a 16th century open air playhouse), a replica of the Golden Hinde ship, the (no longer wobbly) Millennium Bridge, The Clink Prison Museum, The London Bridge Experience and The London Tombs, and a variety of foodie hotspots.

Camden Town - showing off London’s alternative side Home to the famed markets, including Camden Lock Market (crafts, books, clothing, jewellery), Camden Lock Village (clothing, accessories), Camden Market (fashion), Inverness Street Market (clothing, footwear, souvenirs) and Stables Market (household items, antiques, clothing). The perfect location for a mooch. Notable pubs and restaurants include The World's End and Dublin Castle, Hache (for burgers) and Gilgamesh (Pan-Asian). For music, check Koko, Underworld, Electric Ballroom and Jazz Cafe. Meanwhile, nearby Regent's Park is home to the zoo and Open Air Theatre (during the summer).

Covent Garden - buzzing with boutiques, cafe culture and nightlife The once bustling market that dominated the area for 800 years has gone and today, Covent Garden is famed for its collection of shops, boutiques (especially around Neal Street, Seven Dials and Floral Street) and more up market covered stalls/units. Lots of interesting eateries, cafes and boozers (Beaufort Bar, Battersea Pie Station, The Ivy, Delaunay, Hawksmoor, Jamie's Union Jacks) mean the area is still buzzing into the early hours, while culture-wise, there's the Royal Opera House and trendy Donmar Warehouse.

Hoxton - chockablock with hipster hangouts Twenty years ago Hoxton was best described as a little rough around the edges. But then the artists and the cool kids crept in, attracted by the low costs, and before you knew it Hoxton had become cool. Damn cool. Hoxton Square and The White Cube gallery are ground zero for this cultural rebirth, and there are plenty of hip bars and clubs around Old Street. F Cooke is a good old fashioned pie house while Jamie Oliver's Fifteen serves a selection of rustic/honest dishes designed for sharing.

Soho - seedy underbelly turned stylish cultural hotspot The heart of London's gay community and still home to plenty of sex shops, Soho is awash with countless fine boozers, unique restaurants, one-off boutiques and, as part of London's Theatreland, plenty of cultural hotspots. Media professionals zip around during the day and actors hide in pub corners during the later hours. Barrafina serve some of the best tapas in the city while Dean Street Townhouse is open for breakfast and throughout the day. Popular drinking establishments include French House, Argyll Arms, Dog and Duck, and Crown and Two Chairmen.

South Bank - riverside artistic hotspot Home to the Southbank Centre, a concrete complex comprising of The Royal Festival Hall and Hayward Gallery, where you'll find challenging fine art exhibitions alongside classical and more left field music events. Next door are art cinema BFI Southbank and the National Theatre. Great starting place for a brief wander along the river, with Tate Modern within walking distance.

Oxford Street - the beating heart of London shopping The heart of London shopping with more than 300 shops, including designer outlets and department stores such as Selfridges, John Lewis and Debenhams. Slope off down the side streets for more interesting finds.

Best bars and pubs in London:

Experimental Cocktail Club, Gerrard Street, Chinatown -www.chinatownecc.com/Speakeasy-styled venue spread over three floors of an old Chinatown townhouse. Given the cocktail explosion and near scientific concoctions constructed at other venues around the UK, the term 'experimental' might be pushing it a bit, but there's no doubt that ECC know how to mix a sophisticated, classy cocktail. Half the capacity is kept for walk-in guests, but reservations are accepted (though large bookings are not taken during the weekends).

Queen of Hoxton, Curtain Road, Shoreditch -www.queenofhoxton.com/If you want a drink with a view, the Queen of Hoxton provides. The drinks selection may be relatively mainstream but the music is fantastic and decorative art lines the walls to give an air of gallery cool. Spread across three floors, head to the top with drink in hand to admire the city skyline. Get there early to avoid the queues.

Strongroom, Curtain Road, Shoreditch -www.strongroombar.com/This gem of a boozer is tucked away off the main streets of Shoreditch. With an assortment of different beers on tap and in bottles, you’ll find something to satisfy your tastebuds. The prized possession though is a fantastic copper tank full of unpasteurised Pilsner Urquell, driven from the Czech Republic every week. Combine this with some fantastic DJ sets and a little outdoor terrace and this is a one way ticket to a great night.

Vinopolis Wine Wharf, Stoney Street, Bankside -www.winewharf.co.uk/Regularly popping up in ‘best wine bar’ lists, Vinopolis Wine Wharf boasts a selection of some 200-plus wines, culled from all the major wine-making regions of the world and many more in between – so expect to see full-bodied and light tipples from Slovenia, Britain, Morocco and Uruguay alongside bottles from Spain, France, Italy and the US. Inside, it's an informal mix of solid wooden chairs and leather sofas, with a reasonable main and bar menu selection.

Guanabara, Parker Street, Holborn -www.guanabara.co.ukA late night restaurant, bar and club presenting the best of Brazilian-inspired music and dance, including capoeira performers, percussion artists, samba schools and DJs. The cocktails lean (naturally) towards Brazilian flavours, with a highlight being the punchy Caipirinha de Cachaca – sugar cane rum mixed with lime, sugar and crushed ice. Food-wise, check out feijoada (black bean, chorizo, smoked pork and beef stew) or the vegetarian moqueca (spiced coconut milk based roasted vegetable stew).

69 Colebrooke Row, Islington -www.69colebrookerow.com/AKA ‘The Bar With No Name’, 69 Colebrooke Row is a one-room cocktail bar tucked away in a backstreet with a 1950s Italian-meets-film noir vibe. There is not a massive number of cocktails available, but what they do they do very well indeed, using quality ingredients. And if you like what you've tasted, grab one of their signed drink recipes books to take home for some cocktail DIY.

Shochu Lounge, Charlotte Street, nr Goodge Street, Fitzrovia -https://www.rokarestaurant.com/shochu-loungeBasement cocktail lounge with a Japanese theme tucked away underneath the award-winning Roka restaurant. Shochu is Japan's most popular spirit, similar to vodka, though remains relatively obscure in the West. The lounge customises its own from barley and is the first venue in Europe to infuse it with a variety of ingredients. These range from fruit and herbs to chocolate.

Ye Olde Mitre, Chancery Lane -www.yeoldemitreholborn.co.uk

Fuller’s is known for its fine selection of ales and well situated pubs and Ye Olde Mitre is no exception - in fact, this boozer was CAMRA’s East London and City branch pub of the year 2014. Expect a traditional atmosphere, reasonably priced drinks and hearty pub grub: all of the key ingredients for a good old fashioned knees up.

Newman Arms, Tottenham Court Road -www.newmanarmspub.com/

Fitzrovia is a top place to enjoy a drink in town, but if you’re looking for something without the pretentious price tag, The Newman Arms is the place to go. There’s plenty of decent grog within these four walls and if you want a bite to eat, the food is sourced fresh from the South West thanks to the pub’s innovative culinary venture, The Cornwall Project.

The Green Man, Berwick Street

You don’t get many cider houses in London, but if you like those apples, you can’t go wrong with a group trip to the Green Man. The bar area is bright and spacious, the staff are spot on and you won’t find a better choice to ciders in or around the area – just make sure you check the percentages before you get stuck in!

Graphic Bar, Soho -www.graphicbar.com/

Deep in the heart of Soho’s Golden Square sits Graphic Bar, a watering hole that you’re unlikely to forget. Not only does this little gem offer more gin than you can shake a stick at, its interior is clad from head to toe in ground-breaking urban art. So sit back, sip your gin, have a natter and take in your surroundings, this could be your new favourite drinking spot.

Coach and Horses, Soho -www.thecoachandhorsessoho.co.uk/

On the corner of Soho’s bustling Greek Street stands the Coach and Horses, a London boozer with a longstanding history. Once the haunt of some of the UK’s most prolific journalist, this pub is now a beer house oozing with personality. If you go there on a Saturday night, you might even get to join in with the Coach and Horses’ famous piano sing-along, so make sure you’ve got those vocal chords warmed up!

The Queen’s Head, King’s Cross -www.queensheadlondon.com/

There are countless Queen’s Heads pubs in town, but this has got to be one of the best. This lively little Bloomsbury pub is a top spot for a few pints and bar snacks and if you like your beer, a trip here will go down a treat. Ales, lagers, stouts, porters, whiskies, wines - the choice is yours. Also, if you trek down there on a Thursday night, you’ll connect with some live music.

Fox and Anchor, Farringdon -www.foxandanchor.com/

No trip to London would be complete without a wander around the Smithfield Market area and while you’re there, it’s definitely worth diving into the Fox and Anchor. This recently refurbished ale house has been restored to its former glory and there are many snugs in the bar area for a cosy group drinking situation.

Best beer gardens in London:

The Carpenters Arms, Whitfield Street, nr Tottenham Court Road -www.thecarpentersarmsw1.co.uk/Vibrant pub with a 'beer garden’. But with this being London, and space a premium, they’ve gone and stuck it on the roof. Heated and partially covered for those cooler months, you can peer over and check out the busy city streets. Beer-wise, they take their tipples seriously with a variety of local cask ales and seasonal choices as well as some 'homemade' hangover cures, such as a spiced Bloody Mary – ideal for those bleary Sunday mornings.

The Gipsy Moth, Greenwich Church Street, Greenwich -www.thegipsymothgreenwich.co.uk/Right by the Cutty Sark, the Gipsy Moth's oversized patio can seat up to 200 making it somewhat more than a beer garden. A great location for a G&T, craft beer or continental lager, as well as alfresco dining. The menu is very much 'modern classics' with such dishes as fish'n'chips, sausage’n’mash and burgers. There are also Sunday roasts, monthly seasonal specials and summer BBQs. Gets busy in the summer.

The Avalon, Balham Hill, Clapham South -www.theavalonlondon.com/Voted one of the best beer gardens in the capital, The Avalon has not one, or two, but three outdoor spaces: The Summer Garden, Courtyard and Terrace. The Summer Garden is one of London's largest pub gardens, and features raised beds (not for sleeping in for plants, you dummy), mature trees, umbrellas, fountain, mixed seating and wifi. Something of an oasis, it can get lively, with various menus spanning street food, pizzas, modern English, BBQs and more formal nosh.

The Eagle, Askew Road, Shepherd's Bush -www.eaglelondon.com/They're pretty proud of their beer garden, describing it as 'most glorious' thanks to its own bar, BBQ, bunting, brightly coloured bean bags and giant lawn Jenga. There's also more conventional seating and some neat little open sheds. Great for lounging about in the sunshine.

Edinboro Castle, Mornington Terrace, Primrose Hill -www.edinborocastlepub.co.uk/A short stroll from Regents Park, this Camden pub has a buzzing beer garden that comes alive with twinkly lights (and heaters) during the evenings. With room for about 300, there are loads of tables and sheltered areas, plus regular BBQs and hog roasts and a summer bar.

Best clubs in London

Village Undergound, Holywell Lane, Shoreditch One of the most unique arts and clubbing spaces anywhere in the country, let alone London. Village Underground boasts a converted warehouse space for up to 1,000 revellers, while recycled train carriages above have been turned into artists’ studios. The hub of a bustling creative community, you just know the music policy is going to be at the very cutting edge, covering the full spectrum of high quality dance, electronic and experimental music.http://www.villageunderground.co.uk/

XOYO, Cowper Street, Shoreditch Another Shoreditch favourite, XOYO has no discernable music policy, other than a strong emphasis on quality. A popular live gig venue, clubbing is still its bread and butter, with top class DJs keeping things going until 4am at weekends.http://www.xoyo.co.uk/

Fabric, Charterhouse Street, Clerkenwell One of the most famous names for discerning clubbers in London, Fabric has earned a reputation around the world for showcasing the most cutting-edge soundtracks in house, techno, electro and dub. Popular resident DJs and guests plucked from the coolest dance labels across the globe make sure that every weekend is something special.http://www.fabriclondon.com/

KOKO, Camden High Street An indie kid favourite, this popular Camden haunt is housed in a stunning building, with its plush interiors giving some old school cabaret charm to your night out. A popular live music venue, Koko also knows how to keep people entertained late in the night, with Club NME on Fridays keeping the indie disco anthems going until the early hours.http://www.koko.uk.com/

Ministry of Sound, Gaunt Street, Elephant & Castle A bonafide clubbing super-brand, Ministry of Sound has defined the soundtracks of recent generations of dance music lovers. And its flagship club in south London is still pulling in the punters with its world class DJ lineups.http://www.ministryofsound.com/club

Studio 338, Boord Street, Greenwich Bringing a little bit of Balearic spirit to south east London all year round, Studio 338 boasts a capacity of up to 3,000, making it one of the capital’s biggest – and perhaps most feel-good – nightclubs. The huge heated terrace is the headline attraction, for alfresco partying whatever the weather.http://studio338.co.uk/

Food: eat like a local:

You name it, it’s here, from award-laden, excruciatingly priced, celebrity chef constructed creations you’d need a science degree to cook (and an overdraft to pay for), through to all-you-can-eat, pile-it-high Chinese and Indian buffets – and everything in between.

If it’s Chinese you’re after head to Chinatown, where there’s an array of cafes and restaurants offering quick-fill buffets for set fees to more refined dining.

For breakfast, The Delaunay (https://www.thedelaunay.com/) in Aldwych is the place for pains au chocolat, muffins, eggs, kippers, waffles, pancakes, full English plus some more specialist European options (bircher muesli, pretzels, wiener kaffee, or the Viennese breakfast with salami, boiled eggs and figs).

Koya Bar (https://www.koya.co.uk/) on Frith Street, offers a Japanese twist on breakfast with morning udon dishes such as hot noodles with raw egg and soy sauce, plus English breakfast-inspired egg, bacon and shiitake mushroom udon.

Great in the summer when you can sit outdoors, The Modern Pantry (www.themodernpantry.co.uk/) in St John's Square, offers up interesting early morning meals such as sweetcorn, feta, green chilli and curry leaf waffles with smoked streaky bacon, and raspberry and ricotta pancakes.

Elsewhere, there's Japanese (Dining’s, Harcourt Street), Korean, (Cah Chi, Durham Road), Peruvian (Ceviche, Frith Street), Russian (Erebuni, Lancaster Gate, Bayswater), Indian (Painted Heron, Chelsea; Cinnamon Kitchen, Devonshire Square; Masala Zone, Covent Garden), Greek (The Real Greek, Bankside, Marylebone, Westfield, Spitalfields, Covent Garden), Nigerian (805 Bar Restaurant, Peckham), Mexican (Mestizo Mexican Restaurant & Tequila Bar, Hampstead Road), French (Les Trois Garçons, Shoreditch)...you name a country and someone is cooking its favourite dish.

If it's great views you want, there are loads of options, including the rooftop OXO Tower Restaurant, Brasserie and Bar (www.harveynichols.com/restaurant/the-oxo-tower/) . Looking out across the Thames to Charing Cross and the City of London, it serves modern British food with a global influence. For something a little more novel, try Dans le Noir (london.danslenoir.com/) in Clerkenwell Green, where your dining experience takes place in complete and utter darkness and served by blind waiters, or Circus (circus-london.co.uk/) in Covent Garden, where cabaret and circus acts entertain you while you dine.

The best view of the city:

There are so many, but top of the list has to be The London Eye. The giant ferris wheel (at 135m high, the largest of its kind) is situated on the South Bank and offers spectacular views across the River Thames, The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. On a clear day, traveling at a stately 26cm per second, you can see Windsor Castle 25 miles away.

For something a little less spectacular (though clearly London), the Millennium footbridge sits between the Tate and St Paul’s Cathedral, while Westminster Bridge is close to the Houses Of Parliament, or nip over to Trafalgar Square for pics featuring Nelson’s Column (with lions), The National Gallery, pigeons and tourists.

And not all the best views cost money. Head over to Primrose Hill in Camden for a great view of London’s skyline. Bring a picnic and people watch – you may even spot a few celebs. Another great option is Parliament Hill in Hampstead Heath. A more rugged park with lots of greenery, you can unwind as you take in the panoramic views of the city.

Getting about:

If you're basing yourself in the centre of London, getting about on foot may be the quickest option, but you're never too far from a bus stop or tube station.

Buses are frequent, as are tubes (with the city divided into fare zones and colour coded routes). But you'll want to pick up a pre-loaded Visitor Oyster Card (a travel smartcard) to get about.

If you're unfamiliar with London's bus, train and tube network, plan journeys in advance as once you're wandering through a maze of tunnels looking for platforms, it's easy to jump on the wrong one.

Black cab taxis are in plentiful supply, but fares can add up. Book private minicabs in advance (we'd suggest booking via your hotel if you're staying over) and ask about costs before you set off.

For alternative forms of transport, London operates a self-service, bike-sharing scheme for short journeys. Pick up (and pay for) your bike from a docking station. Or there are schemes to rent an electric car in a similar way.