It’s been a while since I’ve visited London – August 2014, to be exact. That’s nearly two years! In fact, it’s been a long while since I’ve visited anywhere. My life since moving back to England from Dublin has basically been travelling between Sheffield and Grimsby. So exotic. And, since I don’t currently have a passport (long story) it looks like my two weeks off work this summer are to be spent in the UK, too. So it goes without saying that I’ll have to squeeze in a London day out at some point. The great thing about living in a country so small is that day trips to the capital are definitely a thing, and can definitely be done. One or two nights spent in beautiful London would, of course, be fab, but when you’re travelling on a tight budget and/or schedule, sometimes day trips are the only option. So, if you’re prepared to set your alarm for around 6am to jump on the train or drive, here is the essential guide on how to have the perfect London day out.
How to Have the Perfect London Day Out
9:00am – Breakfast
Providing you’ve travelled into London via train, take the Underground from Kings Cross to Kensington, where you’ll find the amazing Kensington Square Kitchen. Open from 8am, this deluxe eatery serves a wide range of delicious breakfast options. Choose from homemade granola, the renowned porridge or, of course, a proper Full English. The all-day brunch menu features hearty frittatas, fish specials, and homemade Aberdeen angus beef burgers. If that doesn’t sound tempting, I don’t know what does.
9:45am – Victoria & Albert Museum
Because you’ll already be in Kensington, the Victoria & Albert Museum, one of London’s top museums will only be a short walk away. And just so you know, it’s definitely a wise idea to set aside a good 2 or 3 hours to really see what the V&A Museum is all about. I must have spent at least 4 hours there and I’d say it’s the best museum I’ve ever been to. The museum opens at 10am, so getting there early is a good idea. Entry is completely free, which means it’s the perfect place to go if you’re on a tight budget. Join the Britain 1500-1900 Tour which runs until the end of the year, or check out the Theatre & Performance Tour which runs until next February. At the V&A there really is something for everyone.
13:00pm – Leicester Square
There is no denying that the die-hard shoppers will appreciate a trip to Leicester Square. Take the Underground from Kensington, and take advantage of all the stores and boutique shops. If you’re travelling on a budget, it is possible to enjoy Leicester Square without actually spending any money. I mean, what’s a trip to London without a snap of the famous flashing ads at Piccadilly Circus? There are lots of fast food restaurants nearby, so it’s more than possible to have lunch for less than a fiver. If you fancy something a tad nicer, though, eat at the Angus Steakhouse. I’ve been there a couple of times and it’s not actually that expensive – plus the ribs are to die for!
14:00pm – Hyde Park
After all that walking from pillar to post and a huge lunch, it’ll be about time to relax a bit. Hyde Park is huge and is therefore easily accessed from all parts of London – it only takes around 10 minutes on the tube from Leicester Square to Hyde Park corner. If you’re visiting London in the middle of summer, it’ll likely be a sunny day. I can’t remember a time I was ever in London and it was bad weather, and I’ve been 5 times in the middle of summer. So, if you’re a planner, you probably brought your sunglasses, sun cream, your iPod, and something to lay back on, like a scarf or towel. Spend an hour relaxing on Hyde Park and watch the world go by – there really is nothing better. You’ll likely get some of your energy back, too!
15:30pm – Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace from Hyde Park takes about 20 minutes. If you’re heading into London after the 23rd of July, you’ll be pleased to know that you can go on a tour around the palace’s State Rooms. I did this in 2014, and it was honestly the best thing I’ve ever done in London. I’m a bit of a royalist, though, so maybe that’s why I liked it so much. Nevertheless, it’s such a privilege to be able to set foot into the Queen’s house and see it in person and not from a television screen. To celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday, there’s currently a special exhibition titled ‘Fashioning a Reign’ which demonstrates 90 years of style, straight from the Queen’s wardrobe. When the tour’s over, visitors can enjoy tea and scones in the Buckingham Palace gardens. It’s so, so worth it.
17:30pm – Big Ben
Even if you’ve seen it 100 times before, there’s nothing quite like seeing Big Ben towering above you as you exit the tube station. Lean against the railings, watch the boats sailing along the Thames, and snap a few pictures of Big Ben. If you want to be extra touristy, walk along towards the London Eye and buy some proper British souvenirs for your friends from one of the stalls. Just down the road from Big Ben you’ve of course got the London Eye, the aquarium and the London Dungeons, but all I can say is don’t waste your money. I was expecting the Dungeons to be fab but I wasn’t that impressed. The queues are too long for what it’s actually worth. Stick to the important stuff!
18:05pm – River Cruise on the Thames
The river cruises on the Thames depart throughout the day, so hop on the 18:05 one that departs from the London Eye dock. There are lots of different river cruise types available, all of which can be booked online beforehand to guarantee the best price. It’s the perfect way to end an amazing day out in London.