A WEEKEND IN LONDON

London changes at weekends - Londoners come out to play: the City turns into a ghost-town, but Westminster and Kensington are even more lively - weekend markets (Camden, Portobello Road, Spitalfields and Borough) are key attractions - working is restricted to those in the retail and entertainment industries. Saturday for most is shopping day - though increasingly the effects of Puritanism are wearing off and many shops are open all day Sunday too - useful for those of us who work when others are at play. If you're spending a weekend in London you'll not be so rushed and you can afford a late night on Saturday, if the cost is a lie-in on Sunday morning.
Londoners mostly stay in the centre drinking with their colleagues after work on a Friday, so it's quite busy and lively from as soon as the offices shut. On Saturdays they come into town later and stay later, so things rarely get going before 21:30 - in fact restaurants and pubs can be quite quiet in the early evening. Unless you're going clubbing, you'll want to see a show - and alas, tickets can be harder to come by at weekends, and sometimes more expensive. If it's a sine qua non of your visit then you can buy tickets on the web - or take potluck and see what the half-price booth in Leicester Square has to offer - theatreland is so vast there'll always be something good to grab. See our main planning and short visit pages for further details. As ever there are two schedules one touristy and one more 'cultural' - take your pick.


A RELAXED WEEKEND WITH THE TOP SIGHTS.

DAY ONE: SATURDAY. If you're hoping to see the Tower of London, do it first thing - it's VERY busy. See our Historic London page for further details, get yourself an Oystercard at any tube station. Even for two days it'll save you money. You should also enquire about buying a combined tube/ entry ticket to the Tower, as that may save you even more. Also check out the current Oystercard offers. If you want to do a bus tour, the tickets last 24 hours so you can commence it from the Tower once you've visited - the buses all stop right outside. However in what follows we presume you'll be doing it under your own steam - on regular London buses (remember to sit on the top deck).

From the TOWER take bus #15 to Trafalgar Square - it passes many key sights on the way: The Monument, St Paul's Cathedral, Fleet Street, The Law Courts, Somerset House, and The Savoy Hotel - look out for the road leading up to the Savoy, off the Strand (you can spot it far off as there'll be a sign for the Savoy Theatre in the bowels of the Hotel) - the only street in Britain where you drive on the right. If there's no bus - or a long delay you can take the Circle/District line tube to St James' Park station, a short walk from Buckingham Palace). Remember with a travelcard you can leap on and off the buses as you wish - but you'll need to be in Trafalgar square/St James' Tube station by 11:00 if you want to see the changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace - look out for the large arch in the bottom corner of Trafalgar Squareand go through it, and walk up the Mall - you'll see Buckingham Palace at the end. It's signposted from St James' tube.
The Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace takes place at 1130 hours on alternate days from August to April and daily in all other months. It doesn't happen in very wet weather & on certain Ceremonial Days - you'll need to get there early to get a good place. See the Army's Website for full details of this and other ceremonials.

Once the short ceremony is over, we recommend you head for Portobello Road Market - it gets very busy later on (it's only on Saturdays) - bus 148 will take you straight to Notting Hill Gate, or if there isn't one in sight jump on a 2, 16, 73 or 82 as far as Marble Arch - going up the exclusive Park Lane (we can't figure why it's such an expensive place, lying as it does cut off from Hyde Park by a busy six-lane road). From Marble Arch take a bus 12 or 94 or a Central line tube to Notting Hill Gate. From the tube station the way to the market is clearly marked, but you can just follow the crowds (see our markets section for more details)

We suggest you eat along Portobello Road itself - there are a lot of reasonable inexpensive restaurants here (or if you want to spend a bit more go to "192" - once the leading edge of new English cuisine, and much mentioned in the Bridget Jones books - see our food page, or consult Harden's for more information).

You'll continue walking along Portobello Road until you get to the large flyover - the market continues to the left under it and stops near Ladbroke Grove Tube Station. Take the Tube to Baker Street for a visit to Madame Tussaud's (if you must). Check the Oystercard offers (see above) as there may be 2 for one offers.   From there take the Jubilee line to Westminster for a visit to Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament and the London Eye if you wish - though you may need to book in advance - it's heaving in the high season.

From Parliament Square (good photos of Big Ben and the Eye from halfway across Westminster Bridge) walk round the back of Whitehall to St James Park and up it's border, past Churchill's wartime bunker (worth popping in if you've time - you can 'do' it in 30 minutes if you sprint through!). You pass the back of 10, Downing Street and if you like you can walk through to Whitehall to see the front - heavily guarded because of terrorist threats. Whichever route you take you'll pass Horseguards - either through the parade ground at the rear or past the front door (see notes on changing of the guard above) - and continue up Whitehall to Trafalgar Square at the top. In front of you on the opposite side of the Square is the National Gallery. Don't hope to see it all - just wander through -old stuff is in the modern wing to the left, the classic, famous stuff is spread around the main galleries.

After a cultural 'fix' wander up to Leicester Square, behind the National Gallery, and further up to Chinatown and Soho - remembering to get a ticket from the Half-Price theatre booth in Leicester Square on the way (see our theatre/musicals and music page for further details.) Have a meal in Soho or Chinatown (see our Food page, ibid.)or the southerly edge of Leicester Square (Panton St) then go see your show. If you've finished before 10 then hie off down the Strand to Somerset House to see the illuminated fountain displays - for times visit their website - but the courtyard's open til 11pm at least. If you're going onto a club (if you've any energy left) then visit our nightlife page for some recommendations, otherwise fall into bed - after a day of tramping you'll be tired!.






DAY TWO: SUNDAY We'll give you a bit of a lie-in - don't worry about breakfast as our first choice of destinations have food a-plenty. EITHER: Camden Market It's very busy later on so try to get there by 11:00 - it's on the Northern Line, the station gets so busy there's a one-way system in operation for tubes - but it's obvious when you get there. It's a huge market so allow yourself 90 minutes.
OR (and in our opinion better): Start out at Columbia Road flower market (it's in Shoreditch, Liverpool Street/Old St Station and walk or take a bus up Hackney Road) after brunch walk down Brick lane to Spitalfields market and back to Liverpool St. This whole area has an 'East Village' vibe on Sundays. Especially cool is the strip from the Shoreditch tube stop south down Brick Lane to Spitalfields market. Plenty of cafes with sofas where you can read the papers. Food either at Colombia Road, Shoreditch, down Brick lane (south end of the street especially if you're a curry fan) or in Spitalfields market itself. For hardcore (only) enthusiasts a circuit of: Liverpool St station - train to London Fields, walk back south to Broadway Market (good french delicatessan/cafe, good brunchy pubs and restaurants. Then continue south through Hackney City Farm (restaurant there won best family restaurant of the year 2005..) to Colombia road, along Colombia road then South to Brick Lane, Hugenot district, Spitalfields market and back to Liverpool Street station - see an AtoZ map or go HERE for mapping it out - you may need to expand the map both south and north to get the whole route.

From Camden (Northern Line) or Liverpool St (Central line) go a few stops to Tottenham Court Road, from where it's a short walk along Great Russell Street to the British Museum. It's also huge but the African, Egyptian and Babylonian galleries are essential, as are the Great Court and Reading Room.

From the British Museum take the Central Line from Holborn Tube to Monument (there's a tunnel from Bank Station to the Monument) and cross over London Bridge (good views of Tower Bridge) to the South Bank - the London Dungeon is underneath London Bridge Station if you want to visit (see oystercard offers), otherwise take our walk one back along to the South Bank Centre. If you turn left you can explore along to Tower Bridge and the docks area on the river to the east of it, but you'll have to double back to London Bridge at some point. Walking along the south bank of the Thames takes you past Shakespeare's Globe (oysterdcard offers...), the Tate Modern (do pop in),the OXO tower and Gabriel's wharf and brings you to the London Eye.

There is no theatre on Sundays, but the Comedy Store does great improv. nights with some of our acquaintances from Oxford and the Cambridge footlights. Otherwise head back to Soho for a good meal. An alternative - if you want an exotic treat would be to head for the curry houses of Brick lane (Liverpool Street tube). Finally visit St Pauls when it's floodlit at night - by bus 11 15 26 76 or 172 from the Strand or Central line tube from Liverpool Street or the centre of town. There's always a gig or concert on somewhere if you're itching for music - see our entertainment page. If you want to drink coffee and watch the world go by then head for Soho where the cafes stay open til at least 0300. If you're after the true Soho experience take a coffee at the (expensive) Bar Italia at the junction of Frith and Old Compton streets. This is the building where television was invented..look for the blue plaque. Smile, you're on a webcam...


TWO DAYS OF CARRION: A CULTURE VULTURE'S WEEKEND

We suggest that you give over the whole of Saturday morning to our WALK ONE , stopping off to visit the various attractions and museums along route - starting at the Tower in the morning and walking along to Parliament Square (taking in the galleries of Somerset House on the way) where we suggest you divert and take the Circle line round to Notting Hill and Portobello Road Market , where you have lunch. From there take #52 or #70 bus or a Circle Line tube to South Kensington (52 stops outside the Albert Hall - a short walk away, the #70 and the tube goe direct) .

Around South Kensington are three good museums: the V & A with its magnificent new galleries (visit the cast rooms and the British Galleries as a priority) as well as the Science and Natural History museums. Once you're done take a #14 bus (or a Piccadilly line tube) back to Piccadilly circus ( a short walk along the bus route takes you to Harrods where the Food Halls are a must) and get a ticket for a show at the half-price booth - or consult a newspaper (the Independent or Guardian do good free entertainment guide supplements on a Saturday) to see if there's a concert on at the Barbican or South Bank Complex.

If you're making good time take the Piccadilly line up to Holborn for the British Museum (Egyptian, Babylonian, African Galleries and the Great Court and Reading room).

It's a short walk back down to Soho and Chinatown where you can eat and wander round until your evening's entertainment - and if it's over by 2200-ish try popping along to Somerset House for the fountain display or have a coffee in Soho. You can eat very late in Chinatown (until 0500 at Wonkei's on Wardour Street) or if you fancy an authentic Indian Curry, visit Brick Lane - near Spitalfields at Liverpool St Station - there's always food here - it's where cab drivers go in the middle of the night for bagels and salt beef.



Sunday morning you have a choice: Camden Market (vide supra) or Colombia Road/Spitalfields. For the Latter take the tube to Old Street or Liverpool Street and walk to Colombia road market which is north of Liverpool Street or East of Old Street take a bus part of the way if you want, getting out either at the start of Kingsland road or by the Bingo club about 800M down Hackney road (ask the driver or look out for people with flowers) . Whichever way you go, stop in at the Geffreye Museum nearby (our museums page has details) for a brief 30 minute visit. Colombia road flower market is a great place for Sunday coffee/breakfast/brunch - but don't eat too much as we're heading for lunch in Spitalfields market - while it's still open - visit the this website has details of what the developers plan for the future... There'll always be some sort of market here but once the developers get their hands on such a prime piece of land it'll be 'luxury' hotels and malls. For the moment it's still safe. To get to Spitalfields you walk down the fascinating Brick lane and see the old Hugenot buildings in the architecturally-protected zone- the area around Folgate Street is Jack-the-Ripper territory and little changed since that time -really quite sinister and Dickensian. For more details see our CITYWALK page.

After an early lunch we recommend a visit to the Tate Britain Galleries, and the National gallery, both free - or you can pop up to Camden market (vide supra) as well if you're making good time. A bus #11 will take you a scenic route from Liverpool Street to Parliament square - a short walk from both the National (due north along Whitehall past Horseguards and 10 Downing Street) or the Tate Britain (along the river west). See our Galleries page for details. Fortunately a bus, operated by the Tate connects the two, or you can take a 77a London Transport bus, or tube using the Victoria and Piccadilly lines.

As for your evening's entertainment we suggest a comedy club (vide supra) a concert at the South Bank or Barbican or a good meal. Guidebook to what
                      to see and do in London

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