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  • Allyson Rychlak

A Long Weekend in London: The Best Restaurants, Day Trips, & Must-See Spots

When my family and I brainstormed where to go when we visited my brother, who is currently studying abroad in a town outside of Milan, London first came to mind. I was lucky enough to visit London briefly when I studied abroad in 2019, but I spent a speedy 48 hours in the Big Smoke. We had a fantastic trip filled with delicious meals, sightseeing, and exploring outside the city with incredible day trips. If you're planning a London adventure and need recommendations, please do not hesitate to reach out.


Any London guide may advise you to stay in a different area of the city given your interests, but the Underground, aka the Tube, is incredibly accessible anywhere in London Town. As long as you're near a Tube station, you can't go wrong to access the rest of the city. We stayed at the Leonardo Royal London St. Paul's, a fabulous hotel near St. Paul's Cathedral, the Blackfriars Tube stop, Millennium Bridge, and more. The staff and concierge were super helpful and informative, and we were happy to drop our bags after my and my parents' early flights landed from the East Coast. There was a pool and gym with a sauna and steam room, as well as restaurant options and a bar open in the morning for coffee and well after dinner for drinks. 



Perhaps the most iconic London view: Big Ben and the double-decker red buses


Restaurants:

I joked that I spent more time researching and deciding on restaurants than anything else when planning this trip, but it was a testament to the incredible variety of food in London. I had the misconception that London's food would be similar to Ireland's - bland, apologies for the shade, Ireland - but boy, was I in for a surprise! London is a cultural hub and a foodie's paradise, offering a plethora of fantastic options. I wish we had more time just to eat. In this guide, I've included the spots we tried, as well as others from trusted travelers who sent me their own recommendations. Bon appétit!


  • Dishoom (Carnaby): What an experience we had at Dishoom! My favorite Indian dish has always been Chicken Tikka Masala, but Dishoom expanded my palette exponentially. I'd recommend making a reservation, although plenty of walk-ins were waiting near the bar when we left the Carnaby location. I chose Carnaby because of its proximity to the theater district, and we loved walking around here! Favorite dishes included the garlic naan, Masala prawns, Dishoom Chicken Tikka, the House Black Daal, the Chicken Ruby, and the Okra fries. You can't go wrong with anything on the menu. It was delicious! Finish the meal with a House Chai, one of Dishoom's many specialties. 



Dishoom's plates come out together - make sure to pair with basmati rice, of course!


  • La Goccia (Covent Garden): Apart from the incredible food, the service at La Goccia was top-notch. Owned by Petersham Nurseries of Richmond, this Italian spot in Covent Garden boasts an ever-changing, farm-to-table aperitivo and small plates menu known as "cicchetti." Start with the Coccoli, signature Tuscan dough balls, stracciatella di burrata, and the Organic Haye Farm coppa and culatello. Our favorite dishes were the La Goccia Signature Organic Chicken, the Paccheri (Organic Braised Beef Ragu), and the Caciocavallo Impiccato, which is like a grilled cheese on toasted Sourdough with chili honey. We sat outside in the front garden with heaters and blankets, which was lovely.

  • Jacuzzi (West London): Italian, and fabulous at that. Jacuzzi is owned by Big Mamma Group, which has five famous Italian restaurants in London and even more elsewhere in Europe. I highly recommend making a reservation at this four-story spectacular spot, where you may feel like you've stepped into a White Lotus episode. Favorite menu items included the Rabarbaro Spritz and the Golden Age for cocktails, Bel Paese Pizzetta under focaccias to start, and the Truffle Spaghetti for two served in a Pecorino wheel. I mean... come on. I'll return to London to try Big Mamma Group's other restaurants. 



Jacuzzi's truffle pasta for two - convince a friend to try it, even if they're not a truffle fan!


  • Casa do Frango (Piccadilly): This Algarve-inspired Portuguese spot is as beautiful as it is delicious. We ate in the large dining room filled with plants and ceramic accents. We're a red wine family, but the Boa Pinga Vinho Verde, or "green wine," was effervescent and dry. The piri-piri chicken is their most famous plate, but also remember to try the casa rice, grilled chorizo, charred cauliflower, and the Iberico pork & potato croquettes.

  • Granger and Co. (Notting Hill): This Notting Hill gem doesn't take reservations, but we were able to get in for lunch. Aussie-influenced and located conveniently on Westbourne Grove, a short walk from Hyde Park and Notting Hill, you can't go wrong with a yummy brunch or dinner here. The spot is famous for its sourdough, but try the grass-fed burger with tomato chili jam. 

  • Sticks n Sushi: I came here while studying abroad before we saw Wicked, and it was some of the best sushi I've ever had. Their Soho and Covent Garden spots are conveniently located for a pre-show dinner. 


Other recommendations:

  • The Libertine: Bar and restaurant in a vault beneath the Royal Exchange

  • The Wolseley: If you want tea and scones, not sandwiches, come to this Piccadilly spot's abbreviated "Cream Tea" instead of the entire affair. 

  • Barrafina: Spanish tapas in Covent Garden, with several other locations around the city

  • Honey & Co.: Several locations of this Middle Eastern-inspired spot are scattered throughout the city; my mom and I met an English woman at the table next to us before our trip, and she raved about this spot!

  • Farmacy: Vegan and farm-based and sourced in Notting Hill

  • Brat: A Michelin-starred restaurant with Spanish influences in Shoreditch.

  • Eggslut: Breakfast, cheekily named in Notting Hill, but there are a few locations

  • Eggbreak: Another famous breakfast joint, also in Notting Hill

  • 26 Grains: Healthy breakfast and lunch to go in Covent Garden


Things to Do:

You could spend weeks in London, wandering around the quintessential neighborhoods, exploring the city's vast museum collection, and eating your way through the different cuisines. I highlighted some favorites, but this is by no means a complete list.

  • Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and the London Eye: Check off all three landmarks in one stroll. Tours of Big Ben are booked out several months in advance; check them out here. Tour Westminster Abbey, where over 40 British monarchs were crowned, and 16 royal weddings have occurred, including Kate and Will's. Finally, if you're not afraid of heights, ride the London Eye for £30 pre-booked and £42 walk-up. 

  • Buckingham Palace: Self-explanatory and extra-fun if you're a fan of Netflix's The Crown. Elusive tours are allowed during the summer and on select dates at other times.

  • Kensington Palace & Hyde Park: Stroll through the city's largest green space to Kensington Palace, home of many famous royals and the location of an extensive museum, including the King and Queen's state apartments, the Jewel Room, an exhibit on Queen Victoria as a child, and special alternating works.



Don't forget to hop inside London's classic red phone booths!


  • London's West End: A trip to London is incomplete without a visit to London's renowned theater. On our most recent adventure, we saw Hamilton and The Phantom of the Opera, which were both fabulous and very reasonable compared to Broadway prices. 

  • Tower Bridge, the Tower of London, and the Crown Jewels: Visit London's iconic landmark and the castle sitting on the River Thames, and see the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom that have been Jewel House since the reign of Henry III.


Visitors can traverse the Walkways of the bridge and tour the famed Engine Room


  • Borough Market: Check out this fresh food market in Central London, which is open daily except on Mondays.

  • National Gallery and London's slew of incredible museums: Since there are many to choose from, we could only fit one in - I pre-booked our tickets online. Other phenomenal museums include the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington. The British Museum and National Portrait Gallery are just as renowned.

  • Shakespeare's Globe Theater: While we didn't go inside, I loved walking across this area and crossing the Millennium Bridge (Harry Potter fans will recognize this one). Enjoy lunch and a pint (or two) at Swan London on the river next door.

  • Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus Tours by Big Bus Tours: We didn't do this since we planned many day trips, but they have 24-hour options, and it's a great option to see the city.

  • Explore London's lovely neighborhoods, which are all so different. My favorites included Notting Hill, Covent Garden, and Mayfair. You can wander for hours!


Another lovely London street on our walk from Notting Hill back to Hyde Park to catch the Tube

Day Trips:

As big Harry Potter and Ted Lasso fans, two of these tours were must-sees for our trip to the UK. Stonehenge was just as exciting, and it could've been paired with a tour of Windsor Castle, but we ran out of time!


  • Harry Potter Studio Tour at Warner Bros.: Even if you're not a fan, any movie lover will enjoy this tour. We took the train from London, but buses are an option with an entry ticket. A shuttle runs every 15 minutes from the Watford train station. Get the audio guide for many fun facts and stories about the 10+ years of filming in Leavesden. Tickets must be booked in advance and start at £53.50.



Harry Potter fans will recognize these costumes from the third film, The Prisoner of Azkaban


  • Stonehenge: We booked a tour with a bus shuttle to the historic, ancient site around 2 hours west of London. Pack umbrellas, especially if you visit in the spring (this goes for all of London)

  • Ted Lasso Tour in Richmond-upon-Thames: Book this tour if you're a fan of the show! Richmond is beautiful, upscale, and quieter than London, but you can Tube there! Emmy, the tour guide, is so informative and friendly. We can't recommend this tour enough! Tickets are £26 per person. Eat at The Prince's Head, which posed as The Crown & Anchor in Ted Lasso. Hint: their Sunday roasts are a classic British dish!



The pub where many Ted Lasso scenes are filmed, along with Ted's street


Transportation Tips:


  • Heathrow ExpressEasiest option from Heathrow into Central London (Paddington), with access to the rest of the Tube lines to get elsewhere in the city. Book in advance for around £15, with standard tickets running £25. The journey is only around 15 minutes into Central London. 

  • Stansted Express: My brother used this option after flying into Stansted on his flight from Milan. The trip takes about 48 minutes, and prices range from £9-23 online. 

  • Gatwick Express: We didn't use this system, but it operates similarly to the other two. Book online for a slight discount - tickets are around £20.

  • Underground (Tube) day passes: The best option for getting around the city. We snagged these passes each day, and they paid for themselves.

  • Airport Tips: Be wary of the earlier, cheaper flights. We opted for an earlier flight on EasyJet to have a full day in Milan. Still, we had to be at Gatwick earlier than the trains from the city would've allowed. We took a taxi, which ended up being incredibly expensive (Uber would've been a better option, but the concierge had already called us for the taxi). I recommend checking the timetables for transportation to airports. 

  • Additionally, all London airports are infamous for being strict with security, especially regarding liquids. Place all liquids in one quart-sized clear toiletry bag, and remove them and your laptops or iPads. 



It's believed that some of the rocks were carried over 300 miles - quite a mystery!


Thank you as always for reading, and see you across the pond for your next trip to London Town.

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