London is without a doubt one of the best places in the whole world to spend a weekend! It boasts some of the most iconic architecture in Europe as well as world-class theatre, sport, shopping and music. Basically there’s so much stuff going on that a single weekend in London is not enough and you’re guaranteed to return!
One bonus of spending a weekend in London is that many of the best attractions are free! So, despite the hefty exchange rate of the pound, a London weekend can be very reasonably priced.
With so many indoor activities on offer, it’s actually a fantastic city to visit year-round so don’t let the infamous British weather put you off. The museums are some of the best in the world housing global artifacts and technologically driven research. Public transport in London is also great so you can easily get to all of London’s iconic landmarks in a single weekend!
Whether you’re a theatre-goer, a sports fan, a foodie or a raging partier, there’s lots to love about London.
Insider Tips for an AMAZING Weekend in London
These tips will help you enjoy London at its best and help you avoid any unnecessary headaches, struggles or concerns. In this guide we’ll look at the best hostels in London, what to do in London and how to find the best food in London!
With only a weekend to spare, you’ll want to stay somewhere in central London in order to minimise travel time. London’s a large city, and some of the best things to do in London are spread out. It is therefore worth taking a look at the various different neighborhoods and working out which one is best for travelers with little time!
Covent Garden is possibly the ideal neighborhood for first-timers in the city. It’s close to some of the top London attractions, with a great dining and cultural scene. Public transport goes everywhere from here, and you can comfortably spend the day walking around.
Another great place to stay is Soho particularly if you’re into London’s party scene.
Our Favorite Hostel – Meininger London Hyde Park
Meininger London Hyde Park is our favorite hostel in London!
- Great location with easy access to public transport
- Vibrant, colorful and clean rooms
- Fun, comfortable general spaces
Located right next to Hyde Park, this hostel is perfect for those looking for something well-priced and comfortable. If you are looking to meet people then get yourself a drink in the bar or lounge and make some friends! The staff are friendly and helpful, and the vibrant rooms are clean with comfortable beds.
Our Favorite Airbnb – Private room in central location
This massive room is great for travellers who visit London for the first time. The apartment is located in central Leicester Square. There are lots of great places, cafes and restaurants around. You’ll also get free breakfast every morning. The main bathroom is shared, however, you’ll have a private toilet. If you’ve seen enough of the city, you can enjoy the free Netflix and Amazon Prime Video on your TV.
Our Favorite Budget Hotel – The Z Hotel Shoreditch
The Z Hotel Shoreditch is our favorite budget hotel in London!
- Quaint, boutique hotel with handcrafted beds
- Located in the hip, heart of London
- Great amenities and buffet breakfast available
This treasure is a quaint, lovely little hotel, reminiscent of 18th century London, set in a perfect location! The staff are great, and the beds are comfortable. The breakfasts, at a small extra cost, are incredible, and there’s unlimited coffee available to fuel your busy weekend. Basically have everything you need and more!
Our Favorite Splurge Hotel – Montcalm Royal London House
Montcalm Royal London House is our favorite splurge hotel in London!
- Spectacular views over the city, with rooftop bar
- Restaurants, bars, spa and indoor swimming pool
- Luxurious rooms with 24-hour room service and concierge
With large rooms and all the amenities you can dream of, this 5-star hotel combines modern luxury with old-school class. It’s terrific for couples and the views over London are perfect. The staff are helpful and friendly, and the food is some of the best in the city.
Know How to Get Around in London
Getting around London is easy, despite the city’s size. Many of the attractions are close together, and walking between them allows you to get a real feel for the city! However, there are also many public transport options should you need them.
You can catch the London Underground, the tramlink, busses, railway, river services or the overground. With so many options, you’re able to get anywhere you want from wherever you are, fast.
Transport is quite expensive in London. It is a good idea to take some time to check if it’s going to prove cheaper to buy single tickets, or a weekend ticket, depending on your London itinerary.
If you’re spending most of your time walking around and occasionally catching a tram or train then single tickets are probably your best bet. If on the other hand your itinerary means you’ll be needing a lot of transport get an Oyster Card; an Oyster card allows you to load money onto it, and use it on all of the public transport systems.
The bright red London busses are iconic and are a great way to get around and explore London. The trains are incredibly efficient, but if you try to catch one during peak hours (between 8 and 9 am, and 4 and 6 pm), you’ll be packed like sardines against impatient strangers.
London has some amazing nightlife options!
Despite a number of high profile club closures, London still has some of the best nightlife in the world. Check out these awesome options for some inspiration.
- Go pub-hopping until the early hours of the morning (many stay open until 4 am on weekends)
- Guaranteed great night out with some of London’s best nightspots and a vibrant atmosphere
- You can also go to an after dark museum, musical, or casino, for great alternatives to clubbing
Iconic enough during the night and day, Piccadilly Circus is an absolute must-see at night time! Neon lights contrast with historical buildings, and everyone is having a great time. For bar hopping, visit Irish-themed bar Waxy O’Connor’s, and Graphic, a gin palace with great DJ’s every weekend. For glitz and wild dancing, go to Cafe de Paris.
- A historic hub of London’s famous entertainment scene throughout the ages.
- Bars, pubs and clubs line the street, catering to an incredibly wide variety of party styles
- Explore some of the area’s flamboyount gay bars or circus-themed clubs, like Cirque le Soir, for something totally out of the ordinary (but don’t bring your Mother!)
Soho is certainly one of the best nightlife scenes in London, if not the world! With a rich history and a diversity of clubs to match, you are bound to have a brilliant time. Ronnie Scott’s has some of the world’s top jazz and blues musicians performing in its basement club and other great options are Swift, and the gay pub Admiral Duncan.
- Enjoy lively bohemian nightlife and night markets for something different
- Great place to find live music, quirky bars, and some very unusual people
- A long history of counterculture entertainment and alternative rock make for a night unlike any you’ll find elsewhere
Camden is a more offbeat but equally vibrant London nightlife destination. Leading the alternative rock & Indie scene, you’ll find great music and unique hair-styles in abundance here. For an old-school rock club experience, go to KOKO or Underworld. For a unique combination of night market, club and casino, try out Electric Ballroom.
British food has a pretty bad reputation which is both undeserved and outdated. As you will see for yourself, London actually has one of the most diverse, cutting edge culinary scenes in the world. Yep, with so much to choose from at these stops, you’ll want to eat everything! And maybe you should…
Sunday UpMarket at Brick Lane
- A very different kind of Sunday Roast, with both street vendors and classic pubs like the Old Truman Brewery to dine with
- Great organic food options and authentic international cuisines
- Vendors let you try tasters, so you can taste everything before you decide on one option
Be sure to arrive with an empty stomach as you’re going to want all the space you can get! Here you can find traditional ethnic foods from across the globe, and quaint craft and vintage stalls to explore while you eat. A lively market with a fun vibe, this is the perfect place for adventurous foodies.
- Not only for the night-time crowd, Camden is also one of London’s best foodie scenes
- Camden’s famous market features an eclectic mix of cuisines from around the world
- Prices range from street food to gourmet, and you can find a taste of everything to either eat on the spot or take home. I recommend trying the Indian Paneer burger.
Truly, there is something to quench every craving and curiosity in Camden Market! Leading the race in vegan innovations is Nora and Nama, and providing delightfully meaty options to the punks and alternatives, is Roadkill. Come to Camden Market to try tonnes of food and stroll through the market, admiring the weird and wonderful wares on offer.
Bob Bob Ricard
- Iconic Soho restaurant serving delicious British-Russian cuisine and amazing cocktails
- Dining takes place in luxurious old-school booths with Art Deco style
- Every booth has a ‘press for champagne’ button, which is the absolute epitome of British class
With a dress code of ‘elegant’, uniformed staff and art-deco surrounds, this restaurant is a one of a kind foodie stop! This luxury dining experience needs to be booked well in advance but it is well worth it. Try either their Russian specialties or local favorites, and be sure to enjoy the glamor and great atmosphere.
With famous stadiums hosting popular British sports, there’s some great choices for sport lovers.
See a Game at Wembley Stadium
- England’s national Football team is one of the most famous in the world – if you can, watch a match at the famous Wembley Stadium
- The venue for many memorable events, it’s incredible just to see Wembley stadium, never mind watching a match in it
- Wembley stages sports events and live performances every weekend with teams and performers from around the world.
There are several other football stadiums across London so be sure to pick up a ticket and come cheer on your favorite team!. You can even plan your London visit around your favorite sport and team! Just check out Wembley Stadium events.
Play Tennis at Regents Park
- Enjoy a game or two of tennis on beautiful courts across from a London park
- One of England’s few great pay-and-play tennis centers where you can book with minimal advance
- Fun, great exercise and perfect for couples, families, and friends
While you can’t play at the private Wimbledon arena, Regents Park is the next best thing for tennis enthusiasts!
Play England’s most elegant and popular sport on this lovely public field. You can book a drop-in session a day in advance. And of course, equipment is available to rent or buy, if you didn’t bring your own.
(Note – In the UK tennis is largely confined to the months of May – August when the weather is fair)
Try Flying Trapeze at Gorilla Circus
- Try something new and learn to fly trapeze in a two-hour lesson
- It’s a great outdoor activity and an opportunity to learn something new while you take a break from the stadiums
- Fun and great for all ages, it’ll get your blood pumping and you’ll leave with a sense of achievement
Do something a little different! You’ll find them at Kensington Gardens and Regents Park, so you’ll have great views while you fly through the air., This sport is a great way to soak up the sun if you are lucky enough to visit during the summer season.
You should always have emergency cash hidden on you – pick up this awesome security belt with its hidden pocket before you travel, it’s perfect for hiding money, a passport photocopy.
Musical theatre and talent-filled plays are a popular pastime in London! Join the locals, and watch something incredible.
The O2 Academy, Brixton
- You can find the perfect performance at one of London’s leading music venues, nightclubs, and theatres
- Raised floor so everyone has a great view, and experiences fantastic acoustics
- Beautiful architecture and incredible live acts every weekend make it a very worthwhile stop
For some of the best international bands and coolest gigs, book a spot at the O2 Academy! The slope of the venue accommodates everyone, and the vibe is always brilliant. The Academy caters to all music tastes, as well as comedy, so be sure to check what’s on and book in advance before your weekend in London.
Apollo Victoria Theatre
- Beautiful old theatre with lots of character and beautiful decor
- Lovely campy fun, with bar service to your seat if requested, binoculars provided
- Great international acts every weekend (and during the week) – like the long-running musical Wicked
Opening as a cinema in 1930, the Apollo has a rich and interesting history in entertainment. With vibrant art-deco architecture and decor, there’s much to see without even watching a performance! But that’s not to say you shouldn’t – the musicals performed here are legendary, and there’s no better place to watch them than here.
English National Opera
- Experience something truly grand with a visit to the opera in one of London’s oldest theatres
- Modern versions of classic operas make them accessible to a wide audience, in English
- Enjoy performances bringing to life stories you’ve known since childhood, with incredibly talented casts and beautiful acoustics!
For another different experience (London is full of them), watch a show at the ornate and classic London Coliseum. One of London’s most luxurious theatres, it opened in 1904 and continues to awe its audiences today. The English National Opera brings classic opera to the modern audience. Experience London at its finest!
10 Other Awesome Things to do in London This Weekend
There is so much more on offer in London! If you have more time, then try to squeeze in as many of these amazing attractions and landmarks as you can.
#1 – Buckingham Palace
When visiting London, I guess you have to see Buckingham Palace! Home to the British Queen, the palace is massive, opulent and beautiful. Be sure to come and watch the changing of the Guard at 11am to experience a long-standing, British royal tradition.
You can also explore the palace if you have more time, with either a guide or audio-guide to learn more about the palace’s curious history. There’s quite a collection of artefacts and gifts from foreign dignitaries acquired over the centuries!
Arguably the most important landmark in England and a national treasure, this is a must-see.
#2 – National Gallery
Whatever your preferences, visiting the National Gallery will be one of the best things you do on your weekend in London! The gallery houses England’s great collection of art from the 13th to the 19th century.
They have most of the artworks you learned about in school, and it is an absolutely magnificent experience to be able to see so many masterpieces in one day. As an added bonus, it’s also free!
You can spend hours here without getting bored marvelling at the changes in art through the centuries.
#3 – Hop on the London Eye
This giant Ferris Wheel is Europe’s biggest, and one of England’s most popular tourist stops! Take a ride on it to see a brilliant view over London and the Thames river, or just take a photo with it.
The best way to see the city and all your favorite stops, you’ll have 30 minutes up in the air which is plenty. The surprisingly large and roomy capsule moves around, so you can get all the perfect angles from your seat, or you can walk around!
It’s open daily from 10 am to 9:30 pm. e suggest you book early as it’s an extremely popular attraction.
#4 – Oxford Street
The biggest shopping street in the world, Oxford Street is a must-see when you’re spending a weekend in London! Go window-shopping, or find those brands you’ve always wanted to try on. It’s a shopaholic’s dream, but great fun for everyone.
Aside from shopping, the street is enjoyable for it’s beautiful architecture with a few modern buildings contrasting beautifully with the many old ones. There are also a fewl theatres and pubs.
Find something to snack on while you walk, and take in all the happy people and the activity. Our advice is to visit in the morning or late afternoon to avoid rush hour as it can get packed. This is one of the most popular things to do in London.
#5 – St Paul’s Cathedral
This immense, colorfully decorated cathedral is an important British site and one of the best places to visit in London. Built in 1666 after a fire destroyed its predecessor, the working Cathedral is an architectural marvel.
Visit one of the daily services, or with a tour, it’s five levels to experience the unique acoustics of the Whispering Gallery, and the panoramic views over London. The cathedral has staged many historic, state occasions, including royal weddings and the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill!
The church has a peaceful atmosphere that sets it apart from much of London. Be advised that there are a few areas you cannot explore though.
Book your full St Paul’s Cathedral tour here.
#6 – Leicester Square
Laid out in 1670, the pedestrian square is a cultural hub. One of the best parts of London’s West End, there’s something great for everyone including unique restaurants, vibrant musical theatres, and family fun. Stroll through the brightly lit streets at night to get the best of Leicester Square!
There are always street performers, and a great vibe.. Whether you watch a play here, have dinner at one of the charming eateries, or just walk through the streets, it’s a great place to be. Do be mindful of pickpockets and keep your wits about you.
#7 – Natural History Museum
Discover scientific discoveries, exhibitions and research at the incredible Natural History Museum where entry is free! For those even vaguely interested in nature, science or history, this is an amazing opportunity to learn more about life.
Some of the most interesting exhibits you’ll find in the classic museum are the dinosaurs (with real skeletons and facts galore), as well as exhibitions about human evolution and space exploration.
There are also lots of really cool night-time options, like a silent disco, murder mystery, or sleepover inside the museum! These are, of course, adults only (over 18) allowed.
#8 – Take a Cruise on the Thames
Cruising down the Thames is one of the best ways to see London’s sights! You can choose between different types of cruises, but our favorite is the hop-on-hop-off day pass. This is simply the best way to fit it around your own schedule, allowing you to stop at any of the landmarks you see.
On the tour you’ll see Westminster Abbey, Greenwich, the London Eye, and Tower Bridge, all from the water!
Enjoy lively commentary, and a relaxing sightseeing experience. Be sure to bring your camera and a raincoat.
Book Your Thames River Cruise here!
#9 – The British Museum
This national museum exhibits over two million years of human history and culture! It holds world-famous ancient artefacts, such as Egyptian mummies, and the Rosetta Stone.
With so much to see here, be sure to set aside a good few hours, and definitely wear comfortable shoes. The exhibits are extensive and educational, with a wealth of antiquities from around the world.
There’s nothing like seeing it in person to bring human history to life.
#10 – Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge is one of London’s best-loved icons! The beautiful suspension bridge is a feat of Victorian engineering, with great views of London. Stroll along it’s pedestrian sides and marvel at the castle-like turrets.
This one is perfect for Instagram so get someone to take a photo of you at this iconic London landmark. You can also take the stairs or a lift to the top of a bridge tower where you’ll walk on glass floors and watch the action below you! You can join a tour to learn more about the bridge, or you can do it yourself.
#11 – Madam Tussauds
For even more epic Instagram shots, you should put Madam Tussauds on your list. Snap some pics with the Queen of England, your favourite Star Wars characters and so many more celebrities.
The exhibition is made up of 14 interactive zones (you’ll need special tickets for certain ones). Each zone is unique and has a different theme. Make sure to check out the busiest times online, so you don’t accidentally end up in a fight with a stranger over who’s allowed to stand next to Darth Vader.
Don’t forget to pack a good book! The London Book: Highlights of a Fascinating City is our top recommendation for an awesome and inspiring read on this magical city.
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about traveling to London. If you know where you’re going and what you’re doing, it’s a great city to explore. But it can be a bit much for people who have no game plan! So check out these helpful FAQs.
#1. What should I pack for a weekend in London?
- A sturdy raincoat and a warm jacket. London can get chilly and rainy all year round, and when you wake up you never know how the day will end. Yes it may be bulky but a good thing to pack for your London weekend is some protection from the elements!
- Comfortable walking shoes. This may seem like an obvious one, but many people visiting the great city focus on style over comfort. However, when you’re walking around and moving between some of London’s top attractions, you’ll want your feet to feel cozy and comfortable. Ditch those blisters!
- A camera! If you have one, be sure to bring your camera along with you on your London weekend. The city is so full of beautiful and historic sights, you won’t want to miss an opportunity to capture them. And there are many friendly people you can ask to take a quick photo of you and your favorite landmarks.
- Check out our packing list for London more info about how to pack.
#2. Can I get an apartment in London for the weekend?
You certainly can! London is an expensive city to live in and many of its residents rent out their homes over the weekend or during the week to make rent. So if you book early (preferably a few months in advance), you can find a place in the center of the city for a good price! There are also loads of London bed and brekies available if that’s more your scene!
Apartments often feel more private, comfortable and ‘homey’ than a hotel. So if you’re looking for a party atmosphere or new friends from around the world, definitely find a hostel or laid-back hotel. But if you’re into your personal space, then an apartment is great!
For families in particular, an apartment is ideal London accommodation. You can find one with a washing machine, a proper kitchen and multiple beds. This can help minimise eating costs y and is certainly less stressful than at a hotel not specifically kitted out for children and families.
#3. Is London safe for a weekend trip?
London is considered reasonably safe for all genders and cultures. That ‘reasonably’ is due to its being a typical large city with the usual crime issues. Stay alert for scams aimed at tourists such as selling fake tickets to different landmarks. Always make sure your ticket is from a trusted and well-known source!
Pickpockets are also quite common, and usually work in very busy places. So while you’re exploring popular landmarks, make sure your belongings are safe and in sight or under hand.
You can comfortably walk around busy areas at night, with the same considerations around pickpockets. Violent crime is a rare concern in London and as long as you take the usual city precautions mentioned here, you’ll have a great, safe trip!
And remember to consider whether you need travel insurance! I have been using World Nomads for some time now and made a few claims over the years. They’re easy to use and affordable. Also, this is the only company I know of that lets you buy travel insurance after leaving on a trip.
If there’s one insurance company I trust, it’s World Nomads. To find out why I use World Nomads, check out my World Nomads Insurance review.
Final Thoughts on a Great Weekend in London
While more time in this great city would be excellent, even spending a weekend in London will leave you with a mind full of memories and a big smile for weeks. There are just so many cultural and historical hubs, and great fun for everyone of all interests and ages. You cannot go wrong!
Be sure to book accommodation in the city center, and work out you favorite way to get around! Like with everything else in London, you have a wealth of choice.
So, find a cheap flight to London with your friends, or plot the perfect solo trip. With our London weekend ideas, you’ll be able to fill up your time with whatever your heart desires!
(Psssst – If you’re planning a weekend in London as part of a wider England or the United Kingdom trip, then be sure to check out our backpacking UK travel guide.)
Yay for transparency! Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation through the site, The Broke Backpacker will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Your support helps me keep the site going.