My perfect weekend in London, United Kingdom
I’ve lived, studied and worked in London for 9 years and I like to think I know it pretty well (although it continues to interest and surprise me!) Maybe you’ve visited before and have seen the main tourist attractions, you’ve ridden the Eye, seen Big Ben and crammed yourself up to the fences to watch the changing of the guard. Well, here are my recommendations for a perfect weekend in my city combining culture, live music, great food and fitness.
Londoners like to party on Fridays and the weekend definitely starts here. London is so vast and busy that there is always an event happening somewhere that will be of interest to you. If you can plan ahead try to get tickets for an opera at the Royal Opera House (tickets from £12) or English National Opera. Or if opera isn’t your thing try a bar with live music. The Porterhouse in Covent Garden has a live band on Fridays. Before heading to your show grab dinner at Tibits (vegetarian buffet restaurant with good vegan choices) or Vantra Vitro (vegan and largely raw with buffet, al la carte menu and amazing smoothies). If you’re not ready for bed, after the show head to Players Bar in the arches under Charing Cross Station which is open til 3am and often has a live musician singing and playing.
Find your nearest ParkRun. If you haven’t encountered ParkRun yet then you must live in a cave. It’s a hugely popular and still expanding free, timed 5k run in local parks all over the world organised and managed by volunteers. My local is in Gunnersbury Park (nearest tube Acton Town) which regularly hosts as many as 300 runners at 9am every single Saturday. London has more parkruns than any other city in the world so wherever you’re staying you won’t be very far away. Sign up online, print your barcode and turn up to run at 9am.
There are so many options for this. How about tofu scramble at Vegan Hippo in bustling Soho or pick up fresh fruit and veggies or something artisan at Borough Market (closed Sundays).
Walk off your brunch on the way to Tate Modern on the South Bank of the Thames. It has recently opened a new building but the former power station is a great space to explore. If I am short on time then I like to make my visit into a treasure hunt. I look up a particular work I want to see, pick up a map and search the various floors and galleries to find it. Alternatively it’s possible to visit the whole of The National Portrait Gallery in an afternoon. Start at the top with Tudor kings and queens and work your way towards modern times as you descend through the floors. If after all the art you need some refreshment, try a soya cappuccino at Notes cafe on St Martin’s Lane or a pint of organic larger at the Chandos pub, both of which are practically opposite the gallery.
There are so many plays, musicals and other shows on at venues right across London. If you can’t get tickets for a favourite West End show like Phantom of the Opera or The Lion King then head out of the centre to a fringe venue. The Tabbard Theatre (nearest tube Turnham Green) in Chiswick is tiny and has a varied schedule of comedy, theatre and musicals. Also in Chiswick you’ll find a branch of the sourdough pizza chain Franco Manca. You may have to wait in line but the cheap prices, quick service and customisable vegan pizza make it worth it.
Drag your head off your pillow, you’re in London and there’s so much to do! Sunday morning is the perfect opportunity to hear professional music-making for free. Go to church. Even if you’re not religious, a church service is a great cultural experience. For very special choral singing visit All Saint’s Margaret Street (nearest tube Oxford Circus) or the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Farm Street (nearest station Bond Street or Green Park) where the professional choirs are made up of singers from the BBC Singers and Royal Opera House Chorus. Otherwise, a walk or jog in Hyde Park will afford the opportunity to see herons or black swans. While you’re there you could have a swim in the Serpentine (not for the faint hearted except in the height of summer), or for the less adventurous the Serpentine Galleries. These galleries always have something interesting on display. There are two building. The main collection and the Sackler Gallery, the latter being a converted gunpowder store.
For some lunch, if you don’t want to travel too far you can always pop into a branch of Pret a Manger which now has good choices for vegans and cheap coffee. If you’re prepared to travel a bit further head north to Camden, grab some street food from the Stables Market and sit by the canal watching the barges navigate the locks.
You can’t really visit London and not at least see St Paul’s Cathedral. If you don’t want to pay to visit the cathedral then go to a service or free organ concert. Evensong is at 3:15pm on Sundays sung by the world famous Cathedral Choir. It is followed by a free organ recital most Sundays at 4:15pm. The organ is one of the best in the world and you can have a quick look around before and after the performance.
Finish off your weekend with something special. Bonnington’s Cafe in Vauxhall is a community cafe which serves vegan food on Sundays and Tuesdays (vegetarian the rest of the time but with vegan options almost always available). There are two sittings, 6:30pm and 8:30pm and you must book ahead with the chef of the day (details of who to text or email are on the website). Prices are fixed per course, bring your own bottle (Sainsbury’s at Vauxhall station is convenient). The vibe is relaxed and friendly and the food is always varied and amazing.