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south bank restaurants, southbank centre market

How to spend 48 hours in London

Everyone knows a weekend isn’t nearly long enough to experience our magnificent capital, but if you only have 48 hours in London, here are the things to do and see

By Time Out editors

How to spend a weekend in London? The possibilities are endless, so we’ve distilled the best the city has to offer into a Friday-to-Sunday itinerary, which can either be followed slavishly or used as a jumping off point for your own adventures. We’ve suggested places to eat, drink, dance, laugh, wander and chill in the capital’s sweetest central spots and coolest local districts. You’ll be entertained by London’s greatest cultural experiences and wowed by its iconic architecture. But most importantly you’ll have enormous fun. Welcome to the best 48 hours of your life.

RECOMMENDED: Alternative attractions in London

The best comedy clubs in London: Soho Theatre
© David Tett

Friday evening

Theatre Off-West End Soho

Comedy at Soho Theatre

If ever there was a place in London to get a year-round taste of the Edinburgh Fringe it’s here, because comedy is an integral part of the bill at this vibrant theatre that boasts multiple rooms, late shows and a buzzing bar. On any Friday night you’ll have several stand-up performances to choose from, including both established and up-and-coming comedians from the UK and international circuits. And if you're peckish afterwards, kick-ass Peruvian Ceviche Soho and innovative smokehouse Temper are mere minutes away.

Find out more about comedy in London


CLF Art Cafe [Block A, Bussey Building]

Friday late night

Nightlife Nightlife venues Peckham

Clubbing at the Bussey Building

Head across the river to the CLF Art Café (Block A, Bussey Building), to use its proper name, a multi-floored concrete block in cool neighbourhood Peckham that has thrived as a warehouse-style club. Top promoters consistently bring in some of the best names on the cutting-edge, underground and alternative dance scenes, leaning primarily towards house, deep techno, garage and disco, but it’s also one of the best venues in London for funk and soul club nights.

Find out more about clubbing in London

©Ming Tang-Evans

Saturday morning

Shopping Markets and fairs Bermondsey

Maltby Street Market

A foodie revolution has been quietly rumbling under the railway arches in Bermondsey, which have become a popular destination for a Saturday morning wander with a bit of grocery shopping or a spot of breakfast along the way. This thriving street market has expanded to nearby Ropewalk and Spa Terminus with many new traders getting involved, plying coffee, gin and all kinds of gourmet food. Arrive hungry.

Find out more about street food in London

Saturday midday

5 out of 5 stars
Art Galleries Bankside

Tate Modern

You can explore the dazzling permanent collection of this world-class gallery of international modern and contemporary art for free, as well as the vast basement Tanks (given over to performance installations), the cavernous Turbine Hall and the new tower, Switch House. The Tate café’s river views make it the ideal place to rest and refuel. And if you want to do the double, you can take a boat across the river to Tate Britain.

Find out more about art in London


Saturday afternoon

Things to do Cultural centres South Bank

Stroll along the South Bank

This riverside promenade is a two-mile hub of cultural activity concentrated on the Southbank Centre, a campus of arts centres and public spaces. The main venues include the Hayward Gallery and the Royal Festival Hall, which hosts numerous indoor and outdoor free events alongside its vast programme of festivals and classical and contemporary concerts. Next door is BFI Southbank, London's best arthouse cinema, and tourist favourite the London Eye is a short walk away.

Find out more about London walks

Saturday evening

Theatre Public and national theatres South Bank

National Theatre

Another icon of the South Bank is arguably the greatest theatre in the world and this country’s foremost example of brutalist architecture: the National Theatre. Some of the most exciting new productions and dynamic interpretations of classic drama debut in one of the theatre's four auditoria, and many transfer to become huge West End hits. If you’re more inclined towards musicals, head to London’s Theatreland where the streets are lined with venues belting out showtunes.

Find out more about theatre in London


Saturday late night

5 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Hotel bars South Bank

Cocktails at Dandelyan

Ryan Chetiyawardana, aka bartender Mr Lyan, is a London cocktail dignitary whose second venue, Dandelyan, was named best bar in the world in 2017. The bar, which sits in the fabulous Mondrian hotel, has a groundbreaking menu – ingredients include ‘chalk bitters’, ‘crystal peach nectar’ and the archaic-sounding ‘dandelion capillaire’. Everything is surprising without being show-off, and most of all, inherently drinkable. Dress up before you drink up; it’s that sort of place.

Find out more about drinking in London

Sunday morning

4 out of 5 stars
Restaurants Global Clerkenwell

Brunch at The Modern Pantry

The East-meets-West cooking here is a delight. Everyday brunch dishes are set off with the use of unusual ingredients: the salmon is tea-smoked, the sausages are chorizo – even the out-of-this-world cereal is laced with garam masala. And don’t miss the signature omelette of sugar-cured prawns, with its runny middle and tangy chilli sambal. Sitting outside here on a sunny day is just dreamy, but if the weather isn’t playing ball, cosy up in a grand brasserie like The Wolseley or Balthazar.

Find out more about brunch in London

Natural History Museum whale
NHM London

Sunday midday

5 out of 5 stars
Museums Natural history South Kensington

Natural History Museum

This Romanesque cathedral of nature houses myriad free-to-visit wonders. Since 1905, Dippy the Diplodocus, a 26-metre-long plaster-cast replica of a dinosaur skeleton, reigned in the grand Hintze Hall, but in 2017 a diving blue whale skeleton took his spot. Elsewhere you’ll find creatures of land, air and sea as well as fascinating displays on geology, biology and evolution. Prepare to be humbled in awe. If you’re hungry for more museum action, the Science Museum and V&A are just along the street.

Find out more about museums in London

Sunday afternoon

Attractions Sightseeing Hyde Park

Hyde Park

Hyde Park is one of the largest of London's Royal Parks and, along with its neighbour Kensington Gardens, is full of attractions. The Serpentine boating lake is home to ducks, coots, swans – and brave swimmers. For kids there’s the Diana Memorial Playground to explore and Fountain to splash about in; there’s culture to discover at Kensington Palace and the two Serpentine Galleries; and if you want politics with your parklife, head to Speakers’ Corner on a Sunday for some pure soapbox oratory.

Find out more about parks in London


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