It’s nearly as close as the West Coast, steeped in history, romantic and rustic, and with Brexit around the corner, the American dollar’s going gangbusters in London. So why not consider a weekend away? A non-stop overnight flight’s the only obstacle, but wake up to a wonderful playground that’ll satiate your inner history buff, glam scene peeper, and just general wanderlust. And an evening return flight will get you home with enough time for a full night’s sleep before hitting the office again Monday morning (thank you, time zones!).
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If you weren’t already a fan of oysters, now’s the time. An “Oyster Card” is the tap-on/tap-off payment system for the tube, which will get you everywhere you need to go. These are available at a small cost, and you can top them up as necessary. Black cabs, though traditional and fancy-feeling, will set you back a pretty pile of pounds, so save that for a special outing. And the Heathrow Express is a train that links your likely airport to the center of town (and is so tidy and swift your trip’s start and end will be very impressive).
You’ll no doubt want to have a wander near Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London and grab a selfie in front of Big Ben, but do allow some time for an exhibition at the Tate Modern for a bit of fresh culture after you’ve visited the staid standouts. You can journey there on the Thames by taking the Tate Boat, which connects the Modern and the Britain museums.
Eats and outs
The culinary scene in London is overwhelming, with nook-and-cranny mum-and-pop shops to the finest dining imaginable, but if it’s your first-time trust the crowds at gastropubs, which abound, and go for a British staple like a meat pie with mushy peas. When your thirst gets the better of you and a room-temp ale just won’t do, visit Mr. Fogg’s — an awesome ye-oldey-worldy cocktail bar with modern concoctions that’ll knock your socks off.
You don’t need to be a retail obsessive to enjoy a stroll through Portobello Market. It’s the world’s largest antique market, but also is home to all sorts of noshes and knick-knacks. No “my friend went to London and all I got was this lousy t-shirt” for your family, and you’ll be fed well as you duck in and out of different shops and stalls.
Tea for toons
High tea at a fancy hotel’s an institution in London, and there are at least a dozen Downton-esque destinations that offer a $50ish spread that’ll make your morning joe routine look absolutely barbaric, but if you’ve brought the kids along be sure to hit up The Ampersand — inspired by their neighbor, The Science Museum, they put on an extravagant, not-at-all stuffy, kid-friendly afternoon experience where you’ll encounter dino-themed treats and test tube toppings for the scone of a lifetime.
London may have a bad reputation when it comes to the weather, but it’s not at all deserved. And on a sunny, summer’s day, Hampstead Heath is the place to play. There are public pools for a swim, twilight concerts and you’ll enjoy the park’s prime position as one of the highest vantage points in town. While you’re there, pop by The Garden Gate, an atmospheric pub with an inviting outdoor beer garden.
Keep calm and carry on (longer)?
If you’ve got an additional day you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to day tripping. Brighton is London’s seaside getaway, just about an hour away. Not for salty breezes? How about a Bath? The enchanting small town is only about an hour and a half away. Windsor Castle and Stonehenge are also options worth considering. So really, even though you can, why ONLY go for a weekend?