48 Hours in London
48 HOURS IN LONDON
If you’re bending into this great city for a minute (or a month, bless you), there are so many musts that it may feel overwhelming. The 48 hours I had in London were sadly fleeting, but royally action-packed. We ate at two fabulous locales, toured some magical sites, and walked some of the best roads.
Now, if you’re me, all the modern stuff isn’t your favorite. I couldn’t have cared less about Abbey Road or the Arsenal stadium (which, of course, were two places I went to… live and learn). My main priority is history, architecture, and London kitchens. So, even amidst our sparse hours, we found ourselves at some pretty shimmery places.
What to do with 48 Hours in London
Breakfast: The Borough Market / Caravan Bankside
We thoroughly enjoyed a blueberry scone and Turkish delights as we made conversation with a local parmesan maker, and gulped fresh-squeezed London orange juice from a grocer and his mighty juice press. The breadmaking at the Borough Market is phenomenal (you can hardly go wrong). Our choice was a savory crepe stop with ham, gouda, and spinach, and a packet of strange berries from a local grocer. We loved it so much, we made our rounds for day 2 (but convinced ourselves to try something new, cue Caravan Bankside).
Caravan Bankside (lowest left photo) has the ambience where Italian vino meets British Vogue. The clean, dark architecture in the bustle of the Height district was beautiful. Abby and I were perched on the window, just minutes shy of the breakfast hour, so we ordered up a sourdough toast with the house peanut and miso butter, a blackberry preserve, and basked in the front window for some people-watching and sparkling water. Good morning, London!
What to See:
The Arsenal Stadium (Sports Arena)
As I said, we waltzed through a few places that - despite being cool hubs crawling with milennials - weren’t my cup of tea. If you’re a soccer fan, the full-campus tour of the Arsenal stadium was sweet. A well done museum can always warm me up. This, met with the locker room tour, and a pace to the field, was neat enough to inspire. And, since Winston lived in Surrey for several years, being a devout Arsenal fan, I snagged an exclusive jacket for the upcoming birthday (best gift ever).
What I would’ve changed:
I would’ve liked to roam Windsor Castle instead (although we did traverse outside of Buckingham Palace). Being a big studier of British literature, and having a few ancestors up in the royal ranks, the history of England has always fascinated me. While we were in Ireland, a cute woman begged us to go to Windsor. We unfortunately failed her. BUT! I will be back!
Westminster Abbey (Cathedral)
This place was stunning. Since they have a no photo policy, we failed to nab a great picture of the coronation venue of Queen Victoria. But, like many abbeys, this place is piled high with the memorials and burials of famous faces, including Queen Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots (buried parallel to each other, which is ironic, since they were enemies for the English crown. Oh, how my history buds tingle. Gah!). If you walk in the right places, you may see an entourage of famous English poets, writers, playrights, and composers. Call it an English major’s dream world.
Time: 1 hour 30 minutes (at the least)
Tate Modern (Museum)
If you walk the beautiful Milennium Bridge, two structures west of the London Bridge, you’ll find yourself face-to-face with London’s most prominent modern museum. This was a good investment, befit with an incredible overlook, views of the river, a gift shop to die for (this is very important to me), and quite a lucid collection of modern art.
Monet’s Water Lilies, the Rothko exhibit, The Lady of Shalott by John William Waterhouse (special since I studied it this year), the Georgia O’Keefe exhibit (if it’s still on display).
Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
If you’re expecting to stand in a sixties-esque recording studio, lips pressed to the same mic where Paul McCartney has left spit and breath in equal measure, think twice. Abbey Road is a small section of a residential neighborhood with only a gift shop to its name - although, it’s a pretty cool gift shop. We only felt a little downtrodden that the Beatles beating legacy was shorthanded by nothing but an unreachable studio and some t-shirts. Unfortunately, we didn’t end up doing the short museum tour, so we hung out outside, nabbed a classic crosswalk photo, and explored the rambunctious gift shop. C’est la vie, right?
Travel time (from London Bridge): 30 minutes
Explore time: 30 minutes
What I would’ve changed:
Our Airbnb was close to the Tower of London, so I was heartbroken to skip out on seeing the Crown Jewels. Many a person told me how fascinating they are, and since vintage jewelry is just as exhilarating to me as a Matisse painting (and a crown that’s sat on royal heads gives me a rush), I would have rather spent our time revving up an excuse to walk inside this magnificent tower.
Dining: Rabbit in Chelsea
Oh, boy. If you’re in the Chelsea area (or if you’re not, get there), priming up your credit card with some threads from French Connection, stop everything and head to Rabbit for dinner. This farm-to-table delicacy was our favorite bite in the UK. Start your serving with one of their Mouthful options (like the confit rabbit, with sablé and lovage), and move toward the braised and marinated meats. I opted for a nutborne lamb with poached fennel and minted yogurt, and my taste buds have never forgiven me for exposing them to such heaven and retreating back to In n Out. Bless this beautiful restaurant, and the window seat we snagged. It was the meal that inspired my farm-to-table Google searches.
This is the biggest yes I have to offer you. If you’re going to skip out on paying big dollars for some known sights (like the London Eye, which I was strongly advised against), take a boat taxi downriver. We boarded at the Tower of London and ended up at Big Ben, viewing huge sites, government buildings, the Eye, you name it. Grab a ticket at sunset, and make sure you accurately check the times (we were told the last tour was at 11:00, but this information was wrong. Check with an actual worker so you don’t get stuck Uber-ing home).
The street in front of Big Ben is bustling with tourism, but the walk across that large bridge, fixed with old-fashioned cabs, a view of the Eye, and a long river, is a perfect spot to dawdle and relax the legs. We fell in love.
Thoughts: go at sunset, when the light is perfect and the actual lights on the clock tower start flickering to life.
London is alive with art, culture, and a language that I know. Besides skipping out on some big gulps in history, we hit the heart of its lovely, telephone-booth culture without a second of despair. How can I feel anything but love for a city that's home to Chris Martin, Harry Styles, and a long list of my favorite Vogue captains?
Viva la London!