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I just returned from London after doing 48 hours on the ground. Yes, I flew from San Francisco to London for just 2 nights in the city. So I’m sharing the best things to do in 2 days if you have 48 hours in London as I covered some serious ground.

This was my first trip back to London in over 10 years, and I was eager to return. To be completely frank, my first trip to London left a bit of a sour taste — I think it was the time of year (winter), where we stayed, and what we did. I had no desire to revisit but since it had been a decade, I wanted to give it a shot again as I had been invited to visit as part of a work project.

My second time in London this spring completely changed my mind. I think it was in large how I spent my time, where I went, and some incredible spring weather. It was better than expected. I fell in love with the city, so much so, that I want to plan a return trip back to see it for a proper deep dive. My approach to London on this trip was to do all the classics, with a touch of an elevated experience.

So if you’re visiting the city, I’ll say this — a bit of planning ahead of time, makes a great deal of difference. All of the best restaurants, tea rooms, museums, and proper sights require reservations in advance (pretty much year-round.). You can always snag last-minute reservations, but it will be limited.

48 Hours in London

There is a lot you can fit in over 48 hours in London. I walked 9 miles on my full day and took 3 Ubers to maximize time, as well as my arrival afternoon and departure morning. I felt like I SAW London if you know what I mean!

Read on for the best things to do in London for 48 hours, everywhere I went, and a sample itinerary!

Short on Time? Here Are My Top Picks for the Best Hotels in London:

  1. The Henrietta Hotelfor the best central London hotel
  2. Cheval Gloucester Park at Kensingtonfor the best hotel for families
  3. The Hoxton, Holborn, for the best design central London hotel
  4. Dorset Square Hotel, for best neighborhood quaint stay

For my complete list of London hotel recommendations, don’t miss my in-depth guide to where to stay in London!

How To Spend 48 Hours in London


Where to Stay in London For a Quick Trip

48 Hours in London

If I could make one suggestion, it’s to base yourself as central as possible. London is a large city, and being close to a tube stop and near some sights can enhance your trip. My local expert guide on where to stay in London will get you in the right direction. On this trip I was by Tower Bridge, I would personally opt to stay more central like Covent Garden. These are my top choices:

  1. The Henrietta Hotelfor the best central London hotel
    This puts you right in the heart of Covent Garden. You’ll be close to all of the best restaurants, can walk to the Thames River, and a quick tube ride to museums.
  2. Cheval Gloucester Park at Kensingtonfor the best hotel for families
    For those traveling with littles, don’t skip this hotel as it will put you in earshot of the free museums and parks. It’s well located and in a quiet area.
  3. The Hoxton, Holborn, for the best design central London hotel
    One of the better designs for dollar stays in London, The Hoxton always delivers an exceptional experience. This is one of my trusted hotel groups across Europe.
  4. Dorset Square Hotel, for best neighborhood quaint stay
    Set in Marylebone, if you’re looking for a charming neighborhood stay, this is where I’d go. I met some friends who were staying here and they raved about the experience of the hotel.

Where to Eat & Drink in London

I truly don’t know how you narrow down the endless lists of incredible restaurants, cafes, and bars in London. The dining scene is constantly changing, so I took a “tried and true” approach to London food. I wanted to visit the mainstay restaurants of London, which paid off immensely as every meal was a hit.

Dishoom Covent Garden

I don’t know how you go to London and not eat at least once at Dishoom. You could do any meal of the day here, and it will be a win. I opted for their breakfast, loved the design of the Covent Garden, and booked ahead. I ordered their naan roll which was so delicious.

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese

While in London I wanted to do a classic pub experience. I do like fish & chips, and after researching several pubs, I landed on Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. It’s roughly around 500 years old, give or take a few years, and one of London’s oldest pubs. I did walk in and was lucky to snag an early table, but reservations are recommended. As you enter, you’re transported back in time with its low ceilings, dark wooden beams, and cozy nooks and crannies — it was the perfect way to start the London trip.

Watchhouse Tower Bridge

The Watchouse group has several locations across the city, and they’re most known for their coffee, housemade pastries, and brunch menu. I came in twice during the trip, I loved it so much. You can walk in for this one.

Norma

There are so many Italian restaurants in London that are very fancy and upscale. My friend who lives in the city recommended Norma in Fitzroy and it was great. Their Sicilian-Moorish-inspired menu had dishes I had never had before and loved getting a taste of Italian while in London. *Reservations required

Chiltern Firehouse

Chiltern Firehouse is a classic London spot and quite the scene. Like a major scene. I felt slightly underdressed but the it crowd was here to hang and I met up with some friends for a late-night espresso martini. We walked in and snagged a seat at the packed bar, and everyone else was just sitting down to their dinner (that was most certainly reserved in advance.)

Monmouth Coffee Company

I started my entire first day at Monmouth Coffee Co. for good reason. It’s such a quaint spot in (order a canaille), and love the communal tables. I met a local who gave me a ton of tips for my solo day out.

The Monocle Cafe

48 Hours in London

The Monocle Cafe is another great coffee shop in Marylebone and is done by the iconic Monocle Group (known for their travel magazines). The space is tight but if you can snag a seat then it’s good. Be sure to check out their shop a few doors down.

Bob Bob Ricard

One of my favorite meals from the first trip, Bob Bob Ricard is still a classic London restaurant so I wanted to include it. You’ll find the famous “press for champagne” button, but this spot is known for its Beef Wellington.

On My List:


Quintessential Things to Do in London

Do a River Cruise

The first thing I did when I arrived in London was hop on a river cruise to take in the sights. The fresh air and the ease of sitting down made it quite enjoyable. I opted with City Cruises as I loved their ability to hop on and off at stops, so I got on at Tower Bridge and got off at Westminister. I grabbed the last one back afterward, they nearly all depart every 30-40 minutes through the day. Book the river cruise here.

Book in for Afternoon Tea

I waffled several days over which spot to have an afternoon tea, asked all of my friends, and read all the lists. I wanted something sophisticated, not over 100 British Pounds, and something I could walk in not overly dressed. It’s a tall order in London, which is why I landed at The Drawing Room at Brown’s Hotel. I had a smart jacket on but my trainers on too, and was gladly welcomed in. The afternoon tea was fantastic, rather than “trad,” and the food was delicious and endless. I lasted about 1.5 hours by myself until I could no longer stuff my face with scones and tea. They even offered a to-go box.

Eat Your Way Through Borough Market

It’s a classic thing to do in London and for good reason. There are several amazing bites to be had at Borough Market. I’d start with coffee at Monmouth and then get the filled doughnuts at Bread Ahead Bakery Borough Market. Afterward, stroll through and shop everything because it has it all. One last bite that I recommend is the raclette at Kappacasein Dairy.

Stroll Covent Garden & Soho

Covent Garden through to Soho is one of my favorite neighborhoods for a stroll. You can make your way through the iconic Neal’s Yard, stop by the famous Crown & Anchor pub, pop into stores, and such. I’d come with the intent of coffee and a meal, and pop around the neighborhood.

Hit the Museums

48 Hours in London

One thing that many don’t realize is that most museums in London are free to enter. Some do require a pre-reserved ticket like the Natural History Museum, but some do easy walk-ins. I opted for the Victor & Albert Museum. The V&A has a vast and diverse collection spanning over 5,000 years of human creativity, including art, ceramics, fashion, furniture, jewelry, photography, sculpture, textiles, and theater and performance. It’s a one-hit wonder for those looking for a bit of everything.

Do an Iconic Walk With Major Sights

I so happened to time everything pretty well one morning after breakfast as I walked on foot from Dishoom Covent Garden to St James Park. I went first to Trafalgar Square to see the iconic fountains in front of The National Gallery. From there I strolled down Whitehall and made in time for the changing of the guards at the Horse Guards Parade.

I crossed over to St James Park for a leisure stroll and made my way to Buckingham Palace. When I arrived, everyone lined up as it was time for the changing of the guards at the palace again down The Mall! So it was quite the perfect time to see two changing of the guards and get to see some of the sights.

Shop in Marylebone

48 Hours in London

Marylebone is home to some of the best boutiques and cafes. You’ll find every name brand from Sezane to Mejuri jewelry. One of my favorite spots was Daunt Books Marylebone for a chance to pick up some books for my daughter. Loved an old-time style book store!


My 48-Hour Itinerary

*View the notes above for all of these things mentioned in the itinerary. This is exactly what I did, you could easily delete some of this or add to it.

Arrival Afternoon

  • Arrive/check-in to Hotel
  • 2 pm Hop on a Thames River Cruise (get off at Tower Bridge)
  • 3 pm Walk London Bridge to WatchHouse Tower Bridge for Coffee
  • 4 pm River Cruise Back to Hotel Location port
  • 6 pm Early Dinner at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese

Full Day

  • 8 am Head to Covent Garden for a coffee at Monmouth Coffee Company
  • Stroll through Covent Garden & Neal’s Yard
  • 9 am Breakfast at Dishoom *reserve ahead
  • 11 am Do the Sights Walk from Covent through St James Park
  • 12:30 pm Early Afternoon Tea at Brown’s Drawing Room
  • 2:30 pm Uber over to South Kensington to Museum Row
  • 2:45 pm Do a Museum (Victor & Albert is my choice)
  • 4 pm Stroll up through Hyde Park, then walk/uber to Marylebone
  • 4:30 pm Stroll/shop neighborhood, coffee at Monocle
  • 7 pm Dinner at Norma *reserve in advance
  • 9 pm After Dinner Drinks at Chiltern Firehouse

Departure Morning

  • 9 am Head to Borough Market (2 hours)

What I Wore For 2 Days in London

I did this entire trip in a carry-on and wanted to have a “smart” but comfortable look for my big day in the city. I find myself always wanting to balance both stylish and durable for a big day of exploring. And as always, I never leave the house without my Longchamp Le Pliage backpack. It folds flat into the suitcase and fits my camera during the day.

Outfit 1: Crop-flared Madewell Jeans + The Great T-Shirt + Oversized Blazer + Black Sambas

Outfit 2: Crop-flared Madewell Jeans + Oversized Button Down + Green Shirt Jacket + White Sambas

Airplane Outfit: Zella Yoga Pants + The Great T-Shirt + Gap Zip-Up hoodie


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Xx,
Jessica

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