London's Calling: Your quintessential guide to a short stay in Europe's greatest city

By , October 2, 2015

Like so many of the world’s major cities, taking everything in as a tourist in just a week or so in London is virtually impossible. So if you’re heading there for a shorter stay and want to pack in as much as possible, here’s our guide to give you the quintessential London experience without breaking the bank.

Stay at the Ibis Earl’s Court

Ibis-Earls-Court-room

Book yourself into a budget to mid-priced accommodation like the Ibis Earl’s Court, which offers spacious rooms in a location that’s reachable from the London underground. There’s no hefty price tag attached, so you can spend all your hard-earned cash on what this impressive city has to offer instead. You’ll also get free WiFi that’s quick and reliable.

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See the sights

[caption id="attachment_788" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]tower of london Photo by Derek Winterburn CC BY-ND[/caption]

Start your first full day in London with a Hop-On-Hop-Off style tour; yes, it’s touristy, but worth it. Not only will it save you a lot of time locating popular city landmarks, it’ll also give you a sense of direction in the city and allow you to scout the areas in which you’re keen to return to later. Also, the on-board commentary is always useful for those interesting extra bits of trivia. You’ll tick off the major landmarks in a matter of a just a few hours and if there’s a particular attraction where you’d like to spend more time, such as the Tower of London or Shakespeare’s Globe, you can dedicate a half day to it later on.

Afternoon tea

Scoff-and-Banter-high-tea

Anyone up for afternoon tea? The Radisson Blu Edwardian, Bloomsbury Street Hotel is just a stroll from many of the city’s theatres so it’s handy to enjoy a matinée and high-tea experience. Located just a stone’s throw from the Cambridge Theatre and on the ground floor near the hotel in Covent Garden, Scoff & Banter offers afternoon tea experiences that are often themed to accompany the performance taking place at the theatre.

The current ‘Matilda’ afternoon experience offers a menu both adults and children will adore with the traditional tea sandwiches, scones, jam and cream and decadent sweets.

After tea, enjoy a bit of shopping in the popular Seven Dials shopping district loaded with a heavy mixture of international brands as well as smaller boutique shops.Matilda-menu, afternoon tea

See the unseen

unseen tours london

Now that you’ve seen the usual sites and landmarks of this great city, spend the remainder of the day seeing what most don’t with Unseen Tours. This award-winning, not-for-profit social enterprise offers walking tours through some of the city’s most vibrant areas, led by homeless and formerly homeless guides (they earn at least 60 percent of the £10 ticket price).

Not only will you get a unique insight into London life – while giving visibility and a voice to people who often feel unseen and unheard – you can also experience the Camden Rock and Roll Walking Tour. Here, your guide will share first-hand knowledge of the local music scene from Brit Pop to reggae to the late Amy Winehouse, as well as what it was like to be one of just 300 people at Prince’s Intimate Electric Ballroom gig in 2014.

unseen tours, london

The Brixton Tour gives participants the opportunity to explore Brixton’s hidden gems, from the hidden river to a restored windmill and Brixton Prison, former home of more than a few notorious inmates. Learn about the area’s varied history, from the riots of the 1980s to its reinvention as a Transition Town with its own currency – the Brixton Pound. You can also join the Brick Lane Tour to explore the sights and sounds of multicultural Brick Lane, from its street art to the food markets.

Enjoy the fare

Brick Lane food market desserts

If a tour isn’t your thing, the Brick Lane food market is a street food paradise where a large section of the streets fill with every type of cuisine imaginable. Truly one of London’s finest locations for getting the best street food around, you’ll find this market a short walk from Aldgate East and Shoreditch stations.

And if street food isn’t your thing, you can visit boutique food shops, bars, restaurants, cafes as well as a cereal bar called Cereal Killer (yes they serve boxed cereal only and yes people queue to eat it). Virtually as far as the eye can see and spilling out over several streets are hundreds of markets stalls selling clothing, artwork, handmade items, vintage and collectibles. It’s essentially more shopping than you’d likely be able to do in a day.

street food, brick Lane

At the end of the day, head back to your hotel for a well-deserved dinner and drink. For a typical London pub experience, The Ibis Earls Court has not only the expected in-house restaurant, but also a local pub, George & Dragon. Here you’ll find the pub fare to be exactly as you’d expect. It’s welcoming and makes a great place for a pint and for relaxing your travel-weary feet over a hearty pub meal.

George and Dragon pub, london

What are your top tips for a quick visit to London? Let us know below!