London City Break Guide: Attractions and Sightseeing in the UK’s Capital
A trip to a deluxe London spa resort is a treat in itself, but why not make it all the more special by teaming it with a visit to one of the capital’s iconic attractions, a spot of shopping, a delicious meal or a spectacular West End performance? While organising such an itinerary may appear a daunting task for those that have never visited the Big Smoke or Greater London, SpaSeekers’ London City Guide can help you decide which areas, activities and attractions are of interest.
If you’re visiting London for one day only, check out the information in the Day Stay tab. Those planning a longer, overnight spa-hotel or health farm holiday, meanwhile, will find the information in both the Day Stay and Overnight Stay tabs useful.
If you require help choosing a London spa venue, call the friendly and informed SpaSeekers team on 08444 77 44 77 today.
If you’re planning a day trip to London to indulge with a pampering half-day spa package or an individual luxury treatment, it is likely you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy other delights the city has to offer too. Why not make a day of it by enjoying some shopping and a delicious award-winning meal, and paying a visit to some of London’s most iconic tourist attractions.
London was declared ‘Shopping Capital of the World’ in 2011, impressive considering the city’s rivals for the accolade: Tokyo, New York and Paris. Boasting Europe’s largest selection of major global retailers, 70+ shopping centres, annual sales exceeding £70 million and flagship stores for a huge number of designer brands, London is an ideal location for shopaholics and fashion aficionados alike.
Regardless of where you choose to stay in London for your spa break, it is highly likely you’ll find both high end and more affordable shops close by. However, a quick hop on the Underground can get you to any of London’s most popular shopping districts. Perhaps Europe’s busiest (and most fashionable) shopping street, Oxford Street in Westminster, takes your fancy? Or maybe you’d like to explore the neighbouring elegant and boutique-filled Regent Street? Or why not lose yourself within the wares of the vintage and subculture-embracing Camden Market after enjoying your facial or deep muscle massage?
Other popular shopping areas in London include:
Notting Hill: Fans of the unique and quirky will feel right at home among Notting Hill’s array of vintage boutiques, rarity-filled antique shops and organic food stores. Notting Hill is also home to the enormous, artisan stall-laden Portobello Market
Covent Garden: Home to the Royal Opera House and endless eateries, the bustling Covent Garden is abundant with handicraft flea markets and many busking street performers. It is a very popular spot for lunch and photo-opportunistic tourists
Canary Wharf: This modern major business district one of London’s quieter shopping areas (outside of the lunchtime rush). A colossal underground shopping mall offers 250+ chain and designer stores to tempt your pocket
Boxpark: Based in the heart of Shoreditch, Boxpark is the birthplace of pop-up shops and, suitably, is the home of the world’s first ever pop-up mall, featuring stores from both established and emerging fashion and lifestyle retailers
Both the capital’s high street shops and deluxe shopping centres are open until late (usually 8 or 9pm) but those who like to spend many hours browsing should consider an overnight spa break – there’s so much to see and buy!
Those looking for a quick bite on-the-go while exploring London have plenty of options: an array of cafes, diners, bistros, buffets, afternoon tea shops, food stands and ever-present fast food chains can be found in nearly all boroughs of the city. What’s a trip to London without experiencing a meal at one of its award-winning fine dining restaurants, though
Why not treat yourself and your partner to a meal at one of London’s romantic, premium restaurants, such as The Ritz, The Ivy, L’atelier de Joel Robuchon, or Zuma? If this sounds appealing, you should consider an overnight stay at a spa hotel, so alcoholic treats from the wine or cocktail menu can be enjoyed guilt-free – you can organise detoxifying treatments to help cleanse your mind and body the next day.
Like London’s population, the cuisine offered by the city is diverse, allowing visitors to enjoy their favourite foods or expand their pallets with something new.
These are just a few of the much-loved London restaurants:
- Nobu Berkeley St
- Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester
- Galvin at Windows
- Restaurant Gordon Ramsay
- Pied a Terre
- Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
Be sure to book you table ahead of your London visit to avoid disappointment.
10 must-see London tourist attractions
· The London Eye: A giant 443 foot tall Ferris wheel on the South Bank of the River Thames, providing spectacular panoramic views of the city
· Big Ben: London’s iconic clock tower, erected in 1858 and boasting the world’s largest four-faced chiming clock
· Tower of London: This historically-rich (and allegedly haunted) palace, built in 1078, was once a royal residence and was later used as a prison. You can enjoy an interactive prisoners exhibition and see the Crown Jewels in all their glistening glory
· Madame Tussauds: Mingle with the stars at this world-famous wax museum, featuring wax castings of iconic A-listers and historical figures
· National Gallery: Founded in 1824, this art museum features classic works by the like of Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet and Leonardo da Vinci
· Houses of Parliament: Originally erected during the Middle Ages (the original building was lost to fire in 1834), some of the UK’s most significant political decisions have been made within the walls of this palace
· London Zoo: The world’s oldest scientific zoo, first launched in 1847, housing 750+ species of animal
· Tate Modern: Britain’s national museum of modern and contemporary art, featuring works by the likes of Picasso, Cezanne, Warhol and Pollock
· British Museum: Documenting over two million years of human history, this museum (founded in 1753) comprises world-famous artefacts like the Rosetta Stone, and many items dating back to Ancient Egypt – including real, embalmed mummies
· Science Museum: A plethora of ‘edutainment’ fills the walls of this popular museum, featuring interactive exhibits, as well as an IMAX cinema.
If you’re visiting London as part of a longer overnight spa break, you’ll be well positioned to enjoy the city’s bustling nightlife. The following information details some of the things you can enjoy after sundown.
Bars and pubs
London boasts over 7,000 bars and pubs so you’re really spoilt for choice when it comes to places to enjoy a tipple or two! Rather than recommending specific venues, we suggest you explore the streets neighbouring your spa-hotel or health farm to find one best suited to your tastes. Consider using Google Maps Street View to do this ahead of your spa break.
Alternatively, many spa resorts feature their own cocktail and wine bars, as well as room service and mini bars so you can enjoy drinks in the comfort of your bathrobe.
If you’re feeling really energised after a day of pampering at the spa, or you’re enjoying a spa weekend as part of a hen or stag do, you might like to dance the night away at one of London’s nightclubs, of which there are many, catering to different audiences and music tastes. While it is difficult to recommend specific venues to SpaSeekers’ customers for this reason, these are some of London’s most famous nightclubs:
· Ministry of Sound: Legendary for its influence in the house music scene and its nights featuring world-renowned DJs like Pete Tong and Paul Oakenfold, the weekend-only MoS has three dance floors, three bars and an unrivalled hedonistic reputation
· Fabric: Featuring London’s first bass-loaded ‘bodysonic’ dance floor, Fabric also boasts a 24-hour licence to sell alcohol, five sound systems, three bars and a 2,500 capacity
· Club Aquarium: The UK’s only nightclub comprising a swimming pool and Jacuzzi (towels are provided free of charge). The club also features two dance floors, a VIP lounge and a chill out room. The venue’s capacity is just 500, so queue early!
· Herbal: A converted warehouse regularly welcoming legendary DJs such as Goldie, Groove Armada and Fabio. This is a popular venue for UK celebrities, but with a capacity of just 250 you’d be wise to arrive long before the doors open. Alternatively, you can book tickets in advance.
Comedy clubs and musical performances
London has a population exceeding 8.3 million and welcomes 15.3 international tourists annually – that’s a lot of people requiring night time entertainment! As such, literally hundreds of different comedy nights, open mic events, concerts, gigs and more are held on any given date.
Theatre and West End shows
London’s tourism-centric West End is home to an array of attractions and points of interest, but it is perhaps best known for its spectacular sell-out musicals and theatre performances, popular with those seeking an evening of high culture or feel-good fun. You’ll have to book your tickets far in advance of your London trip to avoid disappointment though, and to ensure you get a good seat.
While many people book tickets for evening performances in the West End as part of a visit to London, it is possible to enjoy an afternoon matinée instead. In fact, matinée tickets are often cheaper so they’re a great option for those looking to save money. Obviously, matinees are most suitable for SpaSeekers’ customers who have arranged a spa package or individual treatments that occupy a morning or evening only.
Click here to see details of all current West End shows and theatrical performances.
If you decide to visit London, you’ll likely find the following resources helpful:
Visit London: The city’s official website for visiting tourists, containing information about things to do and places to stay
Transport for London’s Underground site: Travelling by Tube is the most efficient way to get around the city. Here you can check departure times and download a helpful map
2 for 1 London offers: Save yourself some money by enjoying these ‘buy one get one free’ entry offers
- The Guardian’s Guide to London: A fantastic interactive map plotting the locations of bars, restaurants, shopping centres, tourist attractions and accommodation options