How to Survive 48 Hours in London

London, with its unpredictable weather and historic landmarks, is the perfect addition to any Eurotrip. Its location makes it the easiest (and one of the cheapest!) hubs in Europe to fly into, and with many low cost carriers flying in (Icelandair, Wiz!, and Ryanair) there really is no excuse for not visiting the British Capital.

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It truly is possible to see most of what this city has to offer in 48 hours! And guess what? If you don’t get to see everything, you have the perfect excuse to come back again!

When flying in to Heathrow/Gatwick, or taking the Eurostar over from Paris, I recommend getting in as early in the day as possible (as I would recommend with any city you travel to). From my personal experience, I suggest staying in a hotel or hostel near Piccadilly Circus, as it is pretty central to most things you want to enjoy in London.

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My must-see/do list in London includes:

  • A 24-hour hop-on hop-off bus tour through The Original London Tour Company (they are usually offering a free second day) – they offer a great live tour and can help you book discounted tickets to any other attraction you may want to visit nearby.

This pass also includes:

    • Three Walking Tours
      • Changing of the Guard
      • Jack the Ripper
      • Rock & Roll Music Tour
    • A River Thames cruise – a one time hop-on cruise with three options of where to hop-off
  • Riding The London Eye
  • Eating Indian Food
  • Visit Notting Hill before 5 pm

Jet-setting Spirit’s 48-hour London Itinerary:

Day 1

Start your morning by redeeming your hop on hop off ticket at the bus office, located between Piccadilly and Trafalgar, then join the tour at the nearby bus stop. If you arrive at the office when it opens, you will also have the opportunity to participate in a free walking to the changing of the guard.  The guide will Explain the history of the ceremony in the walk over to the ceremony, and you will witness one of the city’s most magical experiences. After the changing of the guard, hop on a bus and do a full loop of the YELLOW line.

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Continue and do the blue line as well. I recommend getting off at Kensington palace and exploring the gardens there.  Nearby, Notting Hill and Chelsea are also worth the visit.  If you visit Notting Hill before 5pm you will see a beautiful market place filled with vendors… I made the mistake of arriving at 6pm… and while the neighborhood is adorable, it was not worth spending too much time there. Find a cute cafe or restaurant and enjoy a quick lunch.

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From Chelsea, a ride on the tube (or your hop-on/hop-off bus) can quickly get you back to Piccadilly.

Dinner recommendation: The Punjab is London’s first Punjabi restaurant. My favorite dish? The delicious chicken tikka masala deserves to be tried by everyone… It is, after all, the National Dish of Great Britain.

Use your time on the hop-on tours to decide what else you would like to do or see in the city. Mark the stops you would want to get off at on your map.. When you get back to your hotel/hostel make your plan for the next day based on these decisions.

Day 2

Eat breakfast – it’s one of the most decently priced meals in the UK.  We enjoyed the several places include Soho Joe’s and The Breakfast Club (it has several locations around the city and features signs and artwork based on the cult-classic film).

A bacon and egg sandwich with cheese from The Breakfast Club

Use the hop-on hop-off tour to travel between any of the sights you would like to visit. My recommended stops include:

  • Westminster Abbey/Big Ben
    • This stop also allows you to walk across the bridge, over the River Thames, to the London Eye
      • Take a ride on the iconic ferris wheel and get a panoramic view of all of London
    • From the London Eye stop, you can easily hop on to the river cruise mentioned above and ride down to the Tower Bridge and Tower of London
      • This cruise  (depending on your crew) will either feature a pre-recorded tour of the buildings along the river, or will be lead by a crew member
  • On a nice day (meaning not pouring rain) any of the Hyde Park stops are worth a visit
  • If you ride the blue line, a picnic near Kensington Gardens may result in a royal spotting, if William and Kate are in town…

Jet-setting Spirit’s Packing Tips:

Now this is why this post is called “SURVIVING 48 Hours in London.” I was very unprepared coming to the city in early June. I figured a light rain jacket and an umbrella would be enough to keep me dry… It wasn’t enough!

My friend Patricia and I at the gardens at Kensington Palace

No matter what season it is, the London weather can be very confusing. Come prepared. (I didn’t!)

Make sure you have a rain coat, umbrella, warm jacket (if the weather says anything below 70 degrees), extra socks (yours will get soaked in that bloody rain), and any warm weather essentials you may want.

I ended up having to buy overpriced souvenir socks and a hat just to stay warm and not get sick…  My socks were drenched through after an hour in the rain. I also ended up buying a men’s sweatshirt at H&M in Paris (it’s less expensive there than in the UK), but that is a story for a different post.

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Also, remember that the outlets in the UK are not European. Pack a multiway converter if the UK is not your only European destination.

Jet-setting Spirit’s Foodie Suggestions

For a pub atmosphere, with good fish & chips (and unbeatable mac & cheese), a visit to St James’ Tavern is a must. Their cappuccinos are also unbeatable. If you want something a bit stronger, they have an extensive beer selection.

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My favorite foodie spot however (which I have been dying to visit since returning from my first trip to London in 2004) is Mr. Pancake, a little crepe stand on the bridge over the River Thames between Big Ben & the London Eye. Just take a look at these crepes:

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Lastly, as previously mentioned, a trip to the British Capital is not complete without some good spicy Indian food. The Punjab is just one of many scrumptious Indian restaurants London has to offer.

Jet-setting Spirit’s Hotel/Hostel Suggestions:

DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel London- Westminster

Hotel in Westminster

$$- Average price: $150-200 per night

Thistle Kensington Gardens Hotel

Hotel in Kensington Gardens

$$- Average price: $146-190 per night

SoHostel

Hostel in Soho (10 minute walk to Piccadilly Circus)

$- Average price: between $40-$120 depending on if you are reserving a dorm or private room

SoHostel is where I stayed during my trip. I had a great experience at this hostel, where I spent two nights in a double private room. The room was simple, it came with a double bed (with sheets and thin pillows), two towels, and a sink. We were able to safely leave our belongings in the room.

Due to the thinness of the pillow, I did sleep on my neck pillow just to have some extra neck support. The hostel has GREAT amenities including a free WiFi, a computer lab, a beauty room with salon style mirrors and hair dryers, and a bar/restaurant. Just a for-warning, there is no elevator and the private rooms are located on the second and third floor.

*All prices in USD.

Well there you have it, my guide to London (and how to spend 48 hours exploring it.) If you still have any questions regarding the rainy and historic city, please do not hesitate to comment below.

Have you already visited? Have any other suggestions? Please share them below!

HOW TO SURVIVE 48 HOURS IN LONDON