A WEEK IN LONDON

If you've got a week to spend in London you're lucky - you'll have time to just wander, time to go outside central London, even explore London's immediate neighbours. As accommodation is very expensive in London you may want to consider a night or two away, unless you've got a deal with your hotel. One thing to bear in mind is the change in rhythm that occurs at weekends in London: if you like markets, both 'swinging sixties' style like Camden and Spitalfields or the more and antiquey sort like Portobello road then these only happen at weekends - if you hate markets it's a good time to get out of London for a bit. We love London's markets and every weekend sees us visiting at least one - as much for the buzz as for the business.


Things only happening at weekends (see also our markets section):

Portobello road market: SATURDAY ONLY - lovely 1960's feel to this antiques/vegetable/bric-a-brac market only held on Saturday - it's a happening place and though on a purely antique level it can't compete with Paris' Clignacourt - it is a great place to spend a couple of hours exploring and good for lunch. The general area is very upmarket - loads of filmstars, popstars and old money lives round here. In the film 'Notting Hill' it was painted in very bourgeois, WASP-ish colours - in reality it's also a very black area (though where the black upper classes live) - featured in the novels of Martin Amis, Colin MacInnes (of 'Absolute Beginners' fame) and as a trendy watering hole in the Bridget Jones series (a very accurate portrayal). It's also VERY crowded so unless you're going for the crowds, try to go in the morning.

Camden Market: - only weekends, Saturday is generally quieter. Again very busy, huge expanse of markets - it's an attraction in its own right for the punks, new romantics, goths and clubbers who hang out here, often in outrageous costumes. We love it, though it can also be a bit overpowering. Everything on sale from books to boob tubes (lots of the latest clubwear as well as rock nostalgia), furniture to foccettia, tapestry to torques - well, just everything under the sun. There's a lot of tat but some genuine bargains - if you like african or Indian arts and crafts, paintings or kelims then it's probably the cheapest place to buy it. (If you're looking for African art Email us for some further ideas). You can take a canal trip (or walk down the canal, through the zoo) to 'Little Venice' (best not to do it when there are no leaves on the trees), or combine it with a walk via Parliament Hill (great panorama) Regent's park and down to Baker Street.

Greenwich Market - you can visit the attractions of Greenwich any time, but it's best at weekends when in addition to the Naval Academy, Painted Hall, Observatory, Maritime Museum (now free) and Observatory, there's a lively central market and a good atmosphere on the river with some great pubs. At any time Greenwich is not a good place to eat though.

Columbia Road Flower market/Brick Lane: SUNDAY ONLY - you won't be buying flowers, but it's a trendy place for Sunday Brunch (it's only open Sunday mornings til about 1400 - when a special tube station opens also just to cope with the crowds) it's traditionally followed by a stroll down Brick Lane, through the old immigrant section, settled by Hugenot weavers after the St Bartholomew's Day massacre in Paris - with totally unique architecture. The South End of Brick Lane could be in Bangladesh, the north end could be New York's East Village - the Old Truman's Brewery (walkway across street and large chimney) markes the frontier. The architecture around Brick Lane/Spitalfieldsis unique for Britain, from the 18th century Princelet St to 19th century Spitalfields Market - a huge Victorian fruit market, now a slightly hippy Sunday market, under threat from developers - and where a lot of top artists have their studios. Gilbert and George (see illustration to 'Tate Modern' in our Galleries section) hang about here. The nearby Petticoat lane market is really not worth visiting - it's the sort of tawdry goods you can find in any street market in the world. The word 'tawdry' in fact comes from St Audrey's fair - which was notorious for its shoddy goods. The Geffreye Museum (good vietnamese restaurants nearby) is near Colombia Road and Spitalfields is a good place to explore the City from - a must is the very well preserved area around Folgate Street (very often a filmset) which is exactly as it was when Jack The Ripper was a lad about town. There's an outdoor skating rink (a miniature Guggenheim) in the Broadgate Center, above Liverpool St Station - in winter obviously.
For hardcore 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.



Rest of the Week: use our Planning page to work out what you're going to do - we've grouped attractions that are close to each other and can easily be done in 2-3 hour chunks, leaving time for aimless wandering/lunch/pubs. If you're adventurous you could just spend three to four days doing our Walks, where we plot a route around the best attractions and sights - if you've done our walks you won't have missed anything much.

We also recommend you look at our trips page and consider a half day or whole day away from London. Our Ultimate Daytrip, though it involves hiring a car for a day, gives you a host of other attractions from the hallowed cloisters of Oxford to the ancient stones of Stonehenge and some lesser-known (but better) old parts of England, including the place where St George slew the dragon. It's one of our favourite days out.

If you're more adventurous, you can spend a night away from London and see Cambridge and some of the oldest and weirdest parts of Olde England on our Norfolk Overnighter trip. Involves hiring a car again, but we recommend it because we love it and do it ourselves. Guidebook to what to see and do
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