With lockdown now firmly on its way out there’s no better time to look at a day out again. But what to do? With the whole of the south west starting to open up, it’s difficult to decide. But we think that you deserve a treat – lockdown was a challenge for everyone after all, and a day out enjoying some of the incredible treats that London has to offer is a great way to kick off the first trip of the year.
So let us take you through some of our favourite spots for your first day out in London after lockdown – from swanky brunches to intimate dinner spots and some of the best cocktail bars in the city – we’ve got you covered.
Arriving at London Waterloo (and having saved some money thanks to buying an off-peak travelcard to set you up for a day travelling round London) you can jump into brunch. London has a fantastic selection of spots to choose from when it comes to bite mid-morning – from great value views (pastry and a coffee at the remarkable Sky Garden is just £5 at 22 Fenchurch Street), to bottomless cocktails in the London skyline at Duck & Waffle in Bishopsgate.
For something at ground level, head towards London Bridge – a walk past The Globe and Borough Market will take you to The Breakfast Club on Southwark Street – a throwback to the age of mullets, perms and BMXs (though not, fortunately, the food, which is superb). Head back after dinner and tell the team you’re “here to get lucky” for access to the secret bar downstairs!
Mid-morning munchies sated, it’s off to start the day in earnest. Lovers of being out on the water will enjoy the river cruise to start the day – they’re hop-on-hop-off too so they make a great way of getting around (particularly on a hot day!). Of course, if you like life at a faster pace then the Thames Rocket is the way to go – a high-thrills tour of the Thames at speeds of up to 40mph!
If you’re more a fan of staying on terra firma, then The Classic Tour will have you covered – taking you round spectacular London in the iconic Routemaster bus. Tours leave from Northumberland Avenue – a short walk across Hungerford Bridge from Waterloo – just after midday, giving you a chance to stop off at the Southbank Book Market to pick up a bargain on the way.
A whirlwind tour of the city completed, it’s on to lunch! If you’re on a splurge then afternoon tea at the Ritz is a given – the unforgettably quintessential English experience. Serenaded by elegant music from the resident pianist and harpist, you’ll take tea in the spectacular Palm Court – complete with glittering chandeliers and all the finery you’d expect.
La Petite Maison is a spot reminiscent of the French Riviera, and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back to the Belle Epoque when you arrive. Mosaics, pale walls, marble and fine linen – but relaxed French Mediterranean dining at its core, with fresh seafood being a particular highlight.
On more of a budget? Try Padella in Borough Market – a down-to-earth modern bistro, with housemade pasta and options for vegetarians. If pasta isn’t your thing, then the entirety of Borough Market is your oyster for lunch -
If you didn’t head to brunch at one of our sky-high recommendations earlier, then you might like to start the afternoon with a flight on the London Eye. A staple of the London skyline since its opening in March 2000, it’s a must-visit (and definitely one on our bucket list!). On a clear day you’ll see all the way to North London from the top of the wheel.
If you prefer keeping your feet on the ground, then there’s still plenty to do! Seasoned museum lovers might like to head to Pollock’s Toy Museum in Fitzrovia. The oldest toy museum in Britain, you’ll find an incredible and eclectic mix of toys and games from around the world and from as far back as the Victorian ages. Fans of the macabre might like to visit the infinitely atmospheric Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret – Europe’s oldest surviving operating theatre, hidden in the attic of the early eighteenth-century church of the old St Thomas’ Hospital.
If you’re after London’s incredible history, then the Mithraeum may be for you. Tucked under the Bloomberg Offices in the heart of the city lies three floors of a Roman temple to the Eutruscan god Mithras – worshiped by Roman soldiers during the invasion of Britain. Best of all, there’s even a short sensory experience that plunges you into the mystery of worshipping in a Roman temple.
Dinner in London is always an occasion, no matter where you’re going. The sheer number of eateries is enough to boggle the mind, let alone finding the best ones.
At the top end of the budget is Sketch – which turns eating and drinking into, frankly, a whole new experience. With several Michelin stars, you’ll need to book well in advance, but it’s a unique and eccentric opportunity to dine at one of the best restaurants in London.
Friday and Saturday night visitors (and music lovers) will want to head to Farringdon where The Piano Works lives up to its name with non-stop live music – and the diners decide the repertoire. Enjoy steaks, sliders, ribs and more while listening to some of the latest song (and plenty of classics) played by the resident musicians.
Family visitors may want to try the Rainforest Café in Piccadilly Circus – probably one of the most fun restaurants in London. Tropical fish, lifelike animatronics, cascading waterfalls and even the odd thunderstorm – it’s all there (and guaranteed to keep the kids occupied!).
Into the evening
London at night is entirely another beast – one of the most spectacular cities in the world, whether it’s the sight of the Shard towering above the Thames, Tower Bridge reflecting in the water, or the bright lights of The City reminding us of London’s place as a truly international metropolis. The nightlife in London is incredible too – with things to do all around, whether it’s late-night tours or minigolf.
If you’re on a group day out then the sports venues can come thick and fast – Swingers City offers some of the best mini-golfing in London, with two nine-hole crazy golf courses, three street food vendors, no less than five cocktail bars – and a two-storey clubhouse to chill out in afterwards. Flight Club is another option for darts fans – with new-and-improved Social Darts using state-of-the-art technology to let you battle it out with your friends. Or head to Bounce – Old Street’s premier table tennis venue.
Romantics might like to head to the Chelsea Funhouse – offering an immersive cocktail experience with 1940s wartime code-cracking. Proud Embankment, alternatively, gives you an opportunity to raunch up a date night with London’s glitziest cabaret club – featuring some of the world’s most talented acrobats, musicians and fire-breathers.
Where to stay
After all this, it’s time to head home. Fortunately, London Waterloo has a host of late-night services to all parts of our region, so bedtime needn’t be too early. Of course, there’s plenty of options for staying in London, from the nearby Hampton by Hilton just a short walk from London Waterloo, to the swanky Sea Containers London near Blackfriars Bridge (complete with spa, and reminiscent of the golden era of 1920s transatlantic cruise liners).