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28 May 2021   |   2021 Trends   |   

48 Hours in LONDON with Sports Travel International

London is one of the most popular cities in the world. Home of Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge, Big Ben and countless other fridge magnet worthy attractions, the UK capital hosts some 30 million visitors per year.

From the National Football Stadium, Wembley, to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Wimbledon to Lord’s, London is a city of many a great sporting landmark. But, one particular sporting event, synonymous with England’s first city, stands out above all others. The Virgin Money London Marathon not only attracts thousands of cheering spectators, that line the streets year on year, but is also viewed by between 4 and 5 million on television in the UK, as well as being shown internationally in over 196 different countries.

In 2021, The London Marathon has ambitions to become bigger than ever. Already the world’s biggest one day charity fundraising event, and, in 2020, the world’s biggest virtual marathon. London now plans to become the world’s Biggest marathon anywhere, ever.

The 2021 Virgin Money London Marathon will not be an event to miss.

But, when you only have a short break, what else should you do with your time in London?

Here’s our guide to 48 hours in the English Capital.

London is a very easy city to get around. The extensive underground system and bikes that can be rented cheaply, for short journeys across the city, make this city a sight seeing dream. That said, lets get on with the trip!

DAY 1

An English Breakfast by the Thames.

England isn’t always known for fine dining and haute cuisine, however, to have a truly British London experience a full English breakfast, by the Thames, is a must. Terry’s Café (now run by Terry’s son) offers a uniquely traditional, family run, London dining experience. It’s complete with red and white gingham tablecloths and photos of London life in times gone by line the walls.

Got specialist dietary requirements? That’s no problem. London was recently voted Europe’s best city for vegetarians and vegans and there are plenty of options, such as Station 26 Gluten- Free Restaurant, that cater for people with allergies and food intolerance.

Start at the Beginning…

In a city with as much history as London, it would be criminal not to start with perhaps one of the oldest and most infamous prisons in Europe. The White Tower, at the Tower of London, was built by William the Conqueror, and dates all the way back to 1078. The Yeoman Warders (Beefeaters) can tell you about almost 1000 years of Tower history, and will do so in the most entertaining ways. You will hear dark tales of torture, betrayal, and even death.

But, it’s not all doom and gloom.

The tower is also home to the British Crown Jewels! You may even see the tower’s resident ravens. Legend holds that “if the Tower of London ravens are lost or fly away, the Crown will fall and Britain with it.

Inside the tower walls you will also find a quaint mini village, complete with its own pub, village green, church and doctor. We recommend getting to the tower early and taking a few hours to wander around and uncover all the secrets hidden within those 15-foot-thick walls!

Get a Selfie on Tower Bridge

Ok, so you might be able to do this one while running the marathon, but if you want to look your best, it might be best to take this iconic photo op before you get sweaty. If you leave the tower via the middle moat (also known as Traitor’s Gate) it is only a short walk to the riverside, where you’ll be treated to a stunning view of Tower Bridge. You can then head up the steps and walk over it.

All the World’s a Stage

The next historical must do has got to be Shakespeare’s Globe (although you may want to return here in the evening and actually take in a show). The Globe today is a reconstruction of the 16th century playhouse for which Shakespeare wrote his plays.

Considered fairly faithful to its predecessor, Shakespeare’s Globe can give you a real sense of what life, and more importantly entertainment, was like in London almost 500 years ago.

The Swan Bar and Restaurant (located within the theatre) serves seasonal British produce made with local ingredients, and a selection of traditional English beers. From The Swan, you can enjoy stunning views, out across the Thames towards the great dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Other sites at South Bank include Tate Modern (gallery), the Royal Festival Hall and the lastminute.com London Eye.

Lunch at Covent Garden

Crossing the river once more, you will soon find yourself in the fashionable Covent Garden district. This area is renowned for its high- end fashion houses, boutique stores, theatres, and award-winning restaurants. We think it’s the perfect place to stop for lunch (and perhaps a bit of shopping).

The Apple Market (which dates back to the 1800s) is brimming with independent market stalls, boutique shops and quirky pop ups!

This area of London is also well known for its wide array of buskers and street performers. From living statues to students from the nearby performing arts colleges; you get everything here! You never know, you could see the next big thing on your day out

Covent Garden is also home to some of the best food and drink spots in all of London. From the romantic and French inspired Clos Maggiore to the super hipster Drury 188-189 which (in my opinion, offers some of the finest sourdough known to man), there is sure to be something to quench any appetite.

If you love cocktails, Covent Garden is definitely the place to be. Mr. Fogg’s Tavern is a traditional, Victorian tavern in the heart of theatre-land that houses gins from every corner of the globe.

Oh, and while you’re on the doorstep of the West End …

Be sure to check out some of the world’s most famous theatres. The Royal Opera House, to give but one example, is a sight to behold both outside and in. If the mood takes you, and you want to come back later to see a show, wander (about 10 mins) to Leicester Square. Here, you will find the Official TKTS booth, where you can find on the day discounted tickets for some of London’s most popular shows.

Trafalgar Square

From Leicester Square, it is only a short walk to Trafalgar Square, perhaps England’s most famous public square. Here you will find both the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery. The galleries are free to enter and offer a great afternoon’s entertainment for lovers of art.

Nelson’s Column stands proudly in the centre of the square, flanked by fountains, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens. The square is surrounded by picturesque ad historic buildings, including St Martin-in-the-Fields Church and South Africa House, to the east. Facing that, across the square, is Canada House.

Each year, since 1947, a Norway spruce has been presented to London by Oslo, as a token of gratitude for Britain’s help during World War 2. It stands proudly, for about 14 days, as London’s Official Christmas tree.

To the south west of the square is the Mall, leading to Buckingham Palace.

The Mall

As well as providing an iconic finish for the Virgin Money London Marathon, the red (coloured to give the impression of a giant red carpet) road of The Mall, leading up to Buckingham Palace, is one of the most popular and recognisable streets in London. If not the world.

Trafalgar Square (via Admiralty Arch) lies to the east, while Buckingham Palace is at its western end. Visiting The Mall to see Buckingham Palace, in particular to watch the changing of the guard, is free of charge and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in all of London. Why not take a stroll down The Mall (which is closed to traffic on the weekend) on Saturday, in anticipation of your marathon finish the day after.

End the day with a Stroll in the Park

If the weather is nice, a pleasant way to end a day in London is with a stroll around St James’s Park, or nearby Green Park. In the surrounding area, you will find lots of popular and award-winning restaurants such as Nobu London, which is often frequented by A-list celebrities.

If the weather is not so great, there are plenty of other sites of interest nearby including the Churchill War Rooms, Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster, Westminster Cathedral and Abbey and Tate Britain.

Be sure to rest up and get an early night tonight. Tomorrow is RACE DAY!

DAY 2

The Virgin Money London Marathon

Today is the day. After enjoying an early breakfast at your hotel, its time to prepare for the Virgin Money London Marathon 2021!

The marathon starts from Blackheath near to Greenwich Park, the historic centre of time! The Greenwich Prime Meridian was established at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich Park in 1851!

The marathon route passes load of London’s best known and best loved landmarks. Some you will have seen yesterday, others you might not have come across yet.

Ten Highlights of the Marathon Route

  • The Royal Artillery Barracks (mile 3) – host of the pistol and rifle shooting events during the London 2012 Olympics..
  • Cutty Sark (mile 6) – historic and celebrated ship – known for being the fastest in its time.
  • The Shard (mile 12) – Standing at 309.6 metres (1,016 feet) high, the Shard is the tallest building in the UK, and the fifth-tallest in Europe.
  • Tower Bridge (12.5 miles) – almost halfway through your race, you’ll get the thrill of running through thousands of spectators on this iconic London Landmark.
  • Canary Wharf (18.5 miles) – skyscrapers and impressive glass structures will be towering all around you as you pass One Canada Square. Once the tallest building in London Canary Wharf has now been relegated to third (22 Bishopsgate opened in 2020).
  • Blackfriars Bridge (mile 24) – at mile 24, runners will pass under Blackfriars Bridge. However, it is when they emerge on the other side, with cheering crowds packed on both sides to get you through the last couple of miles.
  • The London Eye (mile 25) – after you pass Whitehall Gardens, glance back across the river. You should find yourself opposite Europe’s tallest Ferris wheel.
  • Big Ben/ The Houses of Parliament (mile 25) – with less than a mile to go, you’ll make a right-hand turn, and see Big Ben come into view in front of you. You’ll notice the crowds starting to get thicker as you make your way to the finish.
  • Buckingham Palace (25.5 miles) – after you run alongside St. James’s Park, you’ll get a stunning view of Buck House, only a few more metres now until you round the Victoria Memorial onto The Mall.
  • The Mall (mile 26.2) – the iconic red road, the cheering crowds, the stunning backdrop of Buckingham Palace. This is a moment that will stay with you forever.

After the Marathon.

Hyde Park

After your London Marathon effort, why not relax and unwind in Hyde Park? The largest of the four Royal Parks, located close to the finish of the Virgin Money London Marathon, Hyde Park dates back to 1536 when Henry VIII took the land from Westminster Abbey for use as a hunting ground. The park has strong links to free speech, politics and demonstrations. Speakers’ Corner was established here, as a point of free speech and debate, in 1872. The park has also developed a more recent reputation for hosting huge scale, free pop and rock concerts. Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones and Queen all performed there in the 20th century.

The park is divided by the Serpentine and Long Water Lakes (themselves home to many a sporting event). It is also home to some of London’s best known monuments, including the Diana, Princess of Wales memorial, London’s Holocaust Memorial, and the 7 July Memorial, which commemorates those lost in the terror attacks on London, on July 7th 2005.

British Museum

If the weather is not so great another option for a wonderful afternoon in London is the British Museum. Admission is free and with over 80,000 exhibits on display there’s plenty to explore. Dedicated to human history, art, and culture, the museum’s collection is known as one of the largest and most comprehensive in existence. Only 1 % of the museums full collection (8,000,000 artifacts) is ever on display at a time. So it’s well worth returning, whenever you’re in the city, to see what’s changed.

Among the Exhibits, those not to be missed include,
  • The Rosetta Stone
  • The Bust of Ramesses the Great
  • Hoa Hakananai’a (Easter Island)
  • The Parthenon Sculptures
  • The Sutton Hoo Anglo Saxon Helmet
  • The Egyptian Mummies
  • The Enlightenment Gallery
  • The Tree of Life
  • Olduvai Stone Chipping Tool (at around 2 million years old it is the oldest artifact in the museum

Shopping

Alternatively, for fans of retail therapy, there can be no better way to spend an afternoon in London, than browsing the many and varied shops.

Whatever takes your fancy, London is sure to have a shopping experience to suit you.

Here’s a few ideas to get you started….

Oxford Street – For Popular Brands and Fashion

Right in the heart of the city, and home to around 300 shops, Oxford Street is one of London’s best known shopping destinations. Although not the place to go for independents, you will find all your high street favourites here such as River Island, Zara, and H&M as well as flagship department stores, perhaps most notably, Selfridges.

Bond Street – High End Fashion and Celebrity Spotting

Housing names such as Louis Vuitton, Burberry and Tiffany and Co. Bond Street is home to many high-end fashion stores. This could be the perfect place to splash out and indulge yourself, or just to enjoy some window shopping. Be prepared to recognise some faces though, as this area of London is very popular with celebrities.

Notting Hill – Boho and Independent

Known around the world (in part because of the film of the same name) Notting Hill is a treasure trove of Boho fashion and independent stores. Although we’re not sure about Travel Bookshops with whimsically charming proprietors!

Camden Market – Curiosities and Culture

 

Popular with teenagers, tourists, and anyone a little off the beaten path, Camden Market is the centre for all things counterculture in London. Gere, you’re sure to find, off the wall fashion, vegan and indie cafes, and many a curio. Known for its thriving nightlife, you will also find live music in alternative clubs and old-school pubs, and major stars playing at the Jazz Cafe and the Roundhouse.

Harrods – Because it Would be Rude Not To

You can’t discuss the shopping opportunities in London without touching on Harrods (of London). The ultimate London department store, housing over 5000 brands. On its website, Harrods calls itself the “world’s most famous department store,” and it’s easy to see why. It is home to 300 departments and offers 1.1 million square feet of shop space. Making it the largest department store in Europe. At Harrods, you’ll have plenty to keep you occupied for an hour or two…or three.

DO IT ALL WITH SPORTS TRAVEL INTERNATIONAL

With so much to see, do, and discover in the UK capital, you might struggle to fit it all in. But, with ideally located hotels, and second to none staff services; you can do it all with Sports Travel International. What’s more, as the OFFICIAL Irish Tour Operator for the Virgin Money London Marathon, Sports Travel International can GUARANTEE your place on the start line of the most over-subscribed marathon in the world! Discover London the best way we know how. Run it with us in 2021!

London Marathon

Let us know your London Highlights in the comments below.

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