A weekend in London: where to eat, stay and play in the capital

How do you make the most out of a weekend in London? Here’s a guide on what do to, what restaurants to visit and where to sleep

Updated on 17 July 2019 • Written By Tonje Odegard

A weekend in London: where to eat, stay and play in the capital

London is amazing. We know it, you know it, everybody knows it. But London is huge and there are endless things to do in the capital, endless sights to see, and endless restaurants to discover. So how do you cram it all in into one beautiful weekend?

Below, we’ve gathered a few things that we consider to be some London essentials that you can pick and choose from. This includes the best hotels in London for you to stay at, what to do in London and the best restaurants in London for you to try.    

Where to stay: The best hotels for a weekend in London

London's streets are full to the brim with amazing hotels, ranging from high-end, five-star ones to quirky and design-driven ones. Below are some of our favourites, all centrally located, which we think will work a treat for a weekend in London. 

The Curtain, Shoreditch

Why: The Curtain hotel in Shoreditch is a design-driven place that reflects the edgy and industrial look of east London – think exposed brick, factory windows and funky lighting. It also has no less than four restaurants, most notably the Red Rooster, a New York Harlem-inspired soul food eatery serving up mouth-watering poultry dishes. The rooftop pool is another plus, which provides amazing views, cooling waters and delicious drinks.

Price: From £160 per night

Where: 45 Curtain Road, EC2A 3PT

Rosewood London, Holborn

Why: If it’s luxury you’re after, look no further than the Rosewood London with its elaborate design, five-star service and notoriously comfy beds. It’s also in a great location, only being a few minutes’ walk away from Holborn underground station - need we say more? If we do, we can mention that there is a fantastic bar (Scarfes Bar) on site that serves top-notch cocktails in a quirky living-room-styled space with colourful works by Gerald Scarfe on the walls. Besides, the hotel restaurant, Holborn Dining Room, boast an all-day menu of delicious food and impressive Martin Brudnizki design.

Price: From £469 per night

Where: 252 High Holborn, WC1V 7EN

Corinthia Hotel London, Embankment

Why: Only a minute’s walk away from Trafalgar Square (a great place to start your day of sightseeing) is this luxury hotel housed in a grand Victorian building. From The Corinthia's impressive Crystal Moon Lounge (great for an Instagram shot), to the renowned basement spa, this five-star hotel will tick all your boxes. What’s more, the afternoon tea at this place is very sought after, and chef Tom Kerridge has recently opened a new restaurant here, Kerridge’s Bar & Grill, which serves up absolutely sublime food.   

Price: From £627

Where: 10 Northumberland Ave, WC2N 5AE

Great Northern Hotel, King’s Cross

Why: Located inside King’s Cross St Pancras International station, Great Northern Hotel is a fantastic option if you’re arriving by the Eurostar or if you're planning travelling onto other UK or European destinations following your stay. The swanky boutique hotel also has a lovely restaurant, Plum + Spilt Milk that serves the likes of Cornish fish soup, blushing pink lamb chops and chocolate mousse with cherries and honeycomb. Head to Anthracite, the hotel’s cocktail bar, for some fabulous drinks.    

Price: From £172 per night

Where: King’s Cross St Pancras International Station, Pancras Road, N1C 4TB

Nobu Hotel Shoreditch

Why: The uber-trendy east-London Nobu Hotel Shoreditch has style in spades, an Asian-led spa and an outside three-tiered courtyard garden. As if that wasn’t enough, it obviously features a Nobu restaurant, bringing Japanese-Peruvian food by Nobu Matsuhisa to hungry visitors – you simply have to try the miso black cod.

Prices: From £155 per night

Where: 10-50 Willow Street, EC2A 4BH 

Where to play: Things to do during a weekend in London

Deciding what to do in London can be quite overwhelming, what with there being such a plethora of activities to get up to. The obvious task for a weekend in London is sightseeing, of course, but there is so much more to the caital than The London Eye, Tower of London and The Shard. Below are some suggestions from us, including neighbourhoods to explore, activities to try out and cocktail bars to visit.

Watch a musical in the West End

London’s musical theatre scene is up there with the best in the world, with productions such as Lion King, Wicked and Les Miserables drawing huge crowds night after night. It really is a special experience and an easy way to spend an evening. Check out our list of the best pre- and post-theatre menus here to make sure you don't miss out on dinner.  

Visit Harry Potter Studios

Royal Family, who? Harry Potter must be more popular than the Queen by now, right? Magic-obsessed muggles can visit Warner Bros. Studio Tour London - The Making of Harry Potter, AKA the Harry Potter Studios in Watford.

Here, you can see all the props and costumes used in the making of the eight Harry Potter films, including built sets of the Great Hall, Harry’s bed in the cupboard under the stairs, and Diagon Alley, among others. The most recent addition is the new Gringotts Wizarding Bank, where a giant 3D dragon can be seen. 

Go Instagram-hunting

If you’re one for putting epic photos on Instagram of the new cities and countries you visit, there are a million caption-ready places in London. Yes, there are cool restaurants that would work, as well as many rooftop bars for some good views, but have you checked out our list of London’s most Instagrammable restaurants? If you’re into this kind of stuff, we also have some must-visit pink restaurants in London as well as London’s most Instagrammable loos.   

Go for afternoon tea

Afternoon tea is a British staple and London has some of the very best places to go for it. Traditionally, it is a meal consisting of tea, finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, plus a selection of sweet pastries and cakes. For an even more indulgent experience, you can enjoy a bit of Champagne or Prosecco with it. Find the best ones in London here.      

Go for bottomless brunch

As much as afternoon tea is a British staple, bottomless brunch has become somewhat of a London staple. Londoners literally cannot get enough of (usually) two hours of free-flowing drinks (typically Prosecco) alongside delicious brunch dishes.

In an effort to stand out from the millions of restaurants that offer them, there is now an overabundance of differently themed bottomless brunches – you can explore them all here.  

Visit a museum

London is full of museums that can tell you about the history of the capital (such as The Museum of London, London Transport Museum or The Postal Museum), the history of Britain (Tower of London for instance, or perhaps The British Museum), and worldly things, such as The Natural History Museum and The Science Museum (pictured above).    

Go sightseeing

There are so many sights to see in London, and one of the best and most efficient ways to do that is to hop on a bus and let it whisk you around. But admittedly, this can quickly get a bit boring, and you can quickly get hungry. So why not pick an option that allows you to do both – see all the sight while having a spot of lunch? Bustronome is a luxury double-decker bus with a glass roof on the top deck, where you can enjoy a meal while it drives you around London – win, win.

Go for cocktails

London has some of the world’s best cocktail bars, so we highly recommend you find one to enjoy a drink or to in. Not only is it a perfect insight into the vibrant nightlife London has to offer, but it’s also a great way to meet new people.  

You can check out the best cocktail bars in London here and the best late-night bars here, or if G&Ts are more your thing, here’s a list of the best G&Ts in London. More of an Espresso Martini person? Fear not, you can find the best coffee cocktails in London here.    

Explore London’s best neighbourhoods 

If you really want to capture and experience the culture of London first-hand, your best bet is to visit one of the capital’s many vibrant neighbourhoods and go for a little wander. Then you’ll see the locals faffing about and discover cute little boutique shops, neighbourhood restaurants and bustling food markets. Below are some of our top picks.

Stroll through Notting Hill

You might know Notting Hill from the famous film with the same name, but there’s more to this London area than blue doors and bookshops (although these are attractions too). It is a lovely and picturesque neighbourhood with pastel-coloured houses, a fantastic antiques market on the Portobello Road every Saturday and handfulls of class-A restaurants. You can also kick off your morning here with our list of the best breakfasts in Notting Hill.

Explore Shoreditch

Shoreditch has been bearing the crown of ‘the cool part’ of London for quite some time now, thanks to its wide array of street art and graffiti; its many hip and trendy restaurants and bars; and its cool-cat clientele. It’s worth taking your camera with you and do some people-watching while taking in the colourful art and industrial architecture. If you want to start the day here, too, here are 18 brilliant brunches in Shoreditch to choose from.  

Discover Covent Garden

Covent Garden is definitively a more tourist-heavy area of London, but it’s also where a lot of the action is, both in terms of shopping, sightseeing, entertainment and food. If you’re looking to escape the tourist traps, here are nine wonderful restaurants in Covent Garden that we think are well worth exploring, and if you’re looking to fuel up on some grub before an afternoon of taking in the city, start with these 10 places to go for brunch in Covent Garden.  

Where to eat: The best restaurants for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner to eat at during a weekend in London

The London food scene is one of the most exciting in the world, with cuisines from all over the planet represented. Craving some good old-fashioned BBQ? We’ve got it. Thinking fried chicken instead? Fear not, we’ve got some of the best fried chicken there is. Sushi? That too. The list goes on to burgers, Mexican food and steak restaurants, not to mention vegan and vegetarian options.

But with so much to discover, we get that you can feel a bit overwhelmed. We’ve therefore gathered the best food for different occasions below, and know that you can also explore restaurants by area here too.    

Breakfast in London

Just as your mother’s always told you, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and with (surely) such an activity-filled weekend in London ahead of you, this is a meal that needs to be taken with the outmost seriousness. We have gathered the best restaurants for breakfast in London to help you along.

Brunch in London

If you thought breakfast was a big affair in London, you haven’t met brunch. Londoners take brunch very seriously, and here are the restaurants providing the best ones. Areas such as Shoreditch, Brixton, Chelsea, Camden, and Hackney are also good places to try out.

Lunch in London

When lunch-time rolls around, why not try out one of the restaurants we have tanked to be in the top 100 in London? If not, we’re sure we can tempt you to a good sandwich! The lunchtime sandwich is an institution in Britain, especially in London, and we have gone to the lengths of tracking down the 13 best sandwiches London has to offer for you. London also have some wonderful coffee shops that have small bites (and great coffee) to see you through the rest of the day.

Dinner in London

For dinner, there are endless options for what restaurants you can choose. Browsing our Top 100 London Restaurants is a great place to start.

Have kids with you? Our list of child-friendly restaurants will guide you on the best London restaurants where you can bring your children with you, without worry. From dedicated kid’s menus, to cuisines that work well for little tummies, you can find it here.   

If you’re looking for somewhere to go with your other half, we’ve got some epic date restaurants lined-up for you, including cheap restaurants date ideas in London.   

On the topic of cheap, if you’re doing a weekend in London on a budget, these cheap eat-restaurants should make you happy.

Sunday lunch in London

You might know that having a roast dinner on a Sunday is quite the ritual here in Britain. If you want to join in on this tradition, here are the restaurants serving the best Sunday roasts in London. We guarantee you, you will be utterly smitten with the enormous Yorkshire puddings, the crunchy roast potatoes, the unctuous meat and the lashings of gravy.

Fish and chips in London  

Another food staple in the UK is the renowned fish and chips. Deep-fried battered fish is served with chunky chips drenched in salt and vinegar. Finish it with some tartare sauce and mushy peas and Bob’s your uncle – here’s where to find the best fish and chips in London.  

Still want more for your weekend in London? In our Best Lists, you can find restaurants based on areas of London, different occasions, different vibes and different cuisines. Enjoy!