London has a ridiculous number of sights, activities and events to enjoy. You can’t possibly cram it all in to a short visit, so it's best not to try. Instead, take it one neighbourhood at a time. If you just have a weekend to spend in this fantastic city, follow Lonely Planet’s guide to making it perfect.

The London Eye is lit up red, the Thames is at low tide and in the background, the Palace of Westminster is lit up against a moody sky
River Thames and the London skyline at night © Tony C French / Getty Images

Day one

West End

Start your day in Trafalgar Sq, gaze upwards at Nelson standing on his column and downwards along Whitehall to the Houses of Parliament, then head straight to the National Gallery, which holds a huge collection of European art. Pause for lunch at Portrait on the top floor of the gallery.

South Bank

Stroll down towards the Thames, crossing at Hungerford Bridge, before taking a ride on the London Eye (book ahead online). Walk the South Bank – home to Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre and the National Theatre – enjoying the buskers performing along the riverside and the skateboarders practising under Queen Elizabeth Hall. Tate Modern, a former power station, is home to a huge modern art collection. The views of the city from the 10th floor are spectacular, particularly of the Millennium Bridge across to St Paul’s Cathedral.

Take a tour of Shakespeare’s Globe or head straight for drinks and dinner in Borough Market near London Bridge. Try Arabica Bar & Kitchen for modern Middle Eastern sharing dishes, or join the people waiting patiently for a seat at popular pasta restaurant Padella.

Day two

The City

The Square Mile is the finance centre of London, and also home to the Tower of London. Meet the ravens and have a chat with the Beefeaters before going in to the Jewel House to admire the spectacular Crown Jewels. When you’re done with the Tower, take a moment to admire the icon that is Tower Bridge, either from the riverside or on a visit that takes you up to a glass floor, 42m above the Thames. Stop for a pub lunch at The Ship.

The central hall of the British Museum in London is a large round white space flooded with light from the glass ceiling
The magnificent Great Hall of the British Museum © chrisdorney / Shutterstock

West End

Back to the West End we go, either on the tube or by bus, allowing you to see more of the city. Go to the British Museum and follow the object trails or hire an audio guide to help you get the most out of this collection of world treasures and culture.

Stop by the Museum Tavern for a well-earned drink. An evening in Soho, Chinatown or Leicester Sq beckons. Here you can find any kind of food, drink or entertainment to suit your mood. If it’s theatre you’re after, try your luck for last-minute tickets at the booths in Leicester Sq.

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