London, like many of the world’s big cities, is best seen on foot. Wandering through side streets and meandering off the main tourist paths will allow you to see some great hidden gems that many visitors miss when visiting this fabulous city. Here is my suggested itinerary for enjoying a weekend wandering around London away from the typical tourist sites.
Start your Saturday morning a little early on one of London’s iconic shopping streets, Oxford Street. One of the busiest shopping streets in the world, the best time to visit is as the shops are just opening on a Saturday morning.
Wandering along Oxford Street without the crowds allows you to really enjoy the beauty of the window displays, and the mix of old and new stores along this old London Street.
Walk along the road to the famous Selfridges & Co. Store. A modern department store still housed in the grand old original building that was opened in 1906 by the famous Harry Selfridge who had arrived from Chicago to open his modern dream of a store. The store still continues to amaze with the most spectacular window displays and forward thinking interior decorations. Check out the largest shoe hall in the world with over 4000 shoes on display or for some exclusive elegance try the famous Wonder Room, Selfridges private space housing their most exclusive jewelry items.
After exploring this spectacular store, catch an elevator to the roof to the famous Rooftop bar and restaurant and take a relaxing morning tea with fantastic views out over the city just like the ladies and gentlemen of more than 100 years did when the store first opened.
From Selfridges it is an easy walk to the beautiful green space of Hyde Park. If the weather is fine this is a fantastic place to wander for a few hours and a location that many tourists fail to fully explore. Check out the many sculptures and memorials, including the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain. Find a seat by the Serpentine Lake at The Lido Café to enjoy lunch with a view of the fountain and the lake.
In spring and summer you can rent paddleboats and lazily float around the lake. Or for a few pounds, you can rent a green and white striped folding chair to lay back and rest your feet for an hour.
If you continue walking down through the park you will come to Kensington Gardens and Palace. You can explore the gardens or buy a ticket to see inside the palace where Princess Diana lived.
By now your feet might be ready for a rest back at your accommodation to refresh and be ready for exploring London a little more by night.
In the evening for a real experience of the darker side of London join a Jack The Ripper Walking Tour run by Free Tours By Foot (www.freetoursbyfoot.com). Starting at 18.30 on Saturday nights and going for around 2 hours you will follow a tour guide through small lanes, crooked back streets and numerous Jack the Ripper murder locations, all guaranteed to give you a different view of London.
After all that excitement, you will have earned a relaxing dinner and a few drinks. Take your pick from the local pubs and restaurants at the end of the tour and relax your tired feet while indulging in some great British pub food.
Start your Sunday morning with a trip to one of the many city markets. The hustle and bustle of the Old Spitalfields Market are one of the best markets to see; a lively East End market full of artist stalls, ethnic food, and crafts. Wander around with the morning crowd and try to haggle a bargain or two.
Enjoy a lunch at one of the market stalls or in one of the interesting ethnic restaurants that line the streets. There is no shortage of choice for food and drink in this diverse and lively area of the city.
After lunch, the best way to really make the most of a Sunday afternoon wandering London is to join another free walking tour, this time of London’s East End on the London Graffiti and Street Art Tour. The tour will take you to an alternative and artistic side of London. Unfolding hidden art treasures and the vibrant history that makes up the East End. Expect to see many hidden art locations that you would not see on a usual tourist tour of the city. The free walking tours start at 14.30 on Sunday afternoons. The tour takes approx. 2.5 hours and finishes at the Whitechapel Gallery.
After the tour, it is perfect timing for you to enjoy the late afternoon and evening with a wine or beer and some great food at St Katherine Docks on the edge of the Thames. The Dickens Inn located in an 18th Century pub is a classic location to enjoy relaxing in their large beer garden with views of Tower Bridge. Finish your wandering weekend here taking in the river views from this classic location on the docks.