Anyone who follows me on Twitter or Instagram will probably know I’ve been back and forth to London several times in the last month for university interviews. Thanks to the awkwardness of flight times from Belfast, I stayed at least one night each time, and as a result I had plenty of free time!
It was really cool getting to explore London as it was my first time there travelling solo, and it had been a few years since I had last visited. I’ve narrowed down the best parts of my free time around London to bring you a guide on how best to spend 48 hours in London!
The whole time I was in London I took a bus once, and the rest of the time relied on the tube. With a day ticket costing under £9 with my 16-25 year old rail card it was an absolute bargain for the amount of journeys that I took, and it made London really easy to navigate for me.
However, I began to notice whenever I had my suitcase just how inaccessible the whole system is for anyone with a disability that means they are in a wheelchair or struggle with steps – many stations were not step free from platform to street, and some didn’t have any lifts at all. And ever fewer stations were stepfree from train to street, meaning there was a sizeable gap between the train and the platform. I think the tube system really needs some investment to make it more accessible for everyone!
My first bit of free time in London had me take a trip to the iconic Brick Lane and surrounding Shoreditch, which I instantly fell in love with. The street art around Shoreditch is incredible! I was initially only in that part of London to visit Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium but loved the area so much that I went back on my next trip to London.
If you’ve read some of my other travel posts of seen my social media feeds, you might have realised that any time I visit a country or city I immediately search for cat or other animal cafes. As an animal lover it really makes my day, and so far I’ve visited cat cafes in China, Thailand, Poland, and Amsterdam.
While there have been several pop-up cat cafes around London, Lady Dinah’s Emporium is the original London cat cafe and it’s honestly the best I’ve ever visited. The cats seem extremely well taken care of, and the cafe is so well designed to give them plenty to do! There are two floors (street level and an underground level), which the cats have free run of – giving them loads of space. Plus the staff really know each cat personally, and I’ve never seen cat cafe staff so enthusiastic to play with and talk about the cats.
On my next trip to London I returned to Shoreditch to get more photos of the street art – which includes everything from promotional murals for new album releases to political statements – and to do some shopping.
There’s quite a number of vintage and other quirky shops around Brick Lane, and I managed to nab a couple of bargains! The best part of Shoreditch for shopping, however, it the Boxpark.
Made entirely of re-purposed shipping containers, the Boxpark features well known brands such as Deceim, small, local retailers, restaurants, and services like piercers and a beauty salon. I had so much fun going in and out of all the different shops, and I loved the whole concept of re-purposing shipping containers. I unfortunately didn’t get any photos of the shops or the Boxpark itself because it was so busy, but I would definitely recommend visiting the area, if only to window shop and see the street art!
On my next visit to London I used my free time to walk across London Bridge to soak up some really cool views of the city, and also to visit Borough Market. The market wasn’t particularly busy when I visited as it was quite early, but it was nice to walk around. As a vegetarian I was a little disappointed by the food stalls as I had seen some people recommend it, but I felt it was a bit lacking in veggie options.
I also took a trip to the Natural History Museum, which I visited as a child and was desperate to go back to. When I got there I was really disappointed as the museum was so jam packed with other tourists and school children of any age that I could barely move in any of the exhibits and eventually got so claustrophobic I had to leave. I felt as if the museum could cope better with its large numbers of visitors by coming up with a recommended route through the different exhibits, and I felt a lot of the problem resulted because people were going in every possible direction from the main hall.
What I did see in the museum was really fascinating, and I would definitely try to go back when it’s quieter! And the Natural History Museum is located right around the corner from the Science Gallery, which is also free and, although less famous, is definitely worth a visit!
The Science Gallery features loads of different exhibits, including a replica of the American Lunar module from the first moon landing. There’s something for all ages, and loads to interact with.
My favourite part of London was definitely Shoreditch, but there are plenty of art galleries and other museums that I want to visit next time I’m there. I would definitely recommend Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium for any cat lover, and walking across London Bridge gave me a fantastic view of the city, including many recognisable buildings and tourist attractions so I would say if you’re anywhere near it you should stop for the photo opportunities!
I was lucky enough to be offered an unconditional place to study Adult Nursing at King’s College, which is right in the heart of the city, so I’m sure I’ll have plenty of follow up posts with more cool things to do in London!
Until next time, Dani x