my cousin is going to paris for a semester on a study abroad, and i couldn't be more jealous. she asked me what she should do in london if she were to spend a weekend there. this is a hard task, but i'm going to try it. i'm going to split london up in to 3 days, a friday, saturday and sunday (the specific day is important because of the markets which are only open on certain days). mind you, my favorite things are not typical first-time-in-london suggestions, they are what i found to be my favorite things while i lived there. (also, i did not take any of these pictures, click on them to see where they came from)
on a friday...
i will first take you to my very favorite museum in london. the art historian in me could send you to galleries all day long, but i won't. because i know you might get sick of it after a while just as jarman does (he is great for the first hour a day of museums, but then it hits the fan). the courtauld gallery is a small museum located on the banks of the thames. it is an enchanting place that has amazing impressionist and post-impressionist works. i am a major fan of small museums because they are so do-able. the museum opens at 10, so leave your hotel at 9, get some breakfast, and make your way over (i'm not an early morning person, so i won't force anything crazy on you. if you would like to get up early, this would be a good time to do the london eye, make sure you get reservations). be sure to see the bar at the folies bergere, it is the main attraction of the museum and arguably the most important work of art, ever.
from the courtauld, talk a walk along the thames and cross the london bridge (preferably singing fergie, you just have to). from the london bridge check out the more glamorous tower bridge, and see the tower of london (which is not worth your time nor money, unless you sneak a seat in queen elizabeth 1's chair, which the guards will yell at you for).
from the london bridge head to heaven, namely, the borough market. you guys, you don't even know how happy you can be until to go there. it is an outdoor food market that has the most delicious food in the whole world. i recommend the chorizo+rocket sandwich, the ostrich burger, and the caprese+fruit salad, but take your time walking around and finding what's best for you. please eat as much as you can. once you have your food head to the church nearby, southwark cathedral and eat it on the grass, hopefully the bells will be playing.
at this point, you should probably do some touristy stuff. which is the greatest touristy stuff ever, so you'll survive the hoards of people who are doing these things with you. take the tube to the westminster abbey stop (you can walk if you're brave). head to the houses of parliament, get a good pic of big ben, visit westminster abbey, etc. these are all great things that you really do have to see
from here, head down whitehall st. towards trafalgar square. if you need a break, there is a great little bookstore on one of the corners- london bookstores are the greatest. take in trafalgar square and then head in to the national gallery. the national gallery is massive and overwhelming. it took me probably 7 days to get through the whole thing, and i forced myself to do it. some of the highlights are: jan van eyck's the arnolfini portrait, van gogh's sunflowers, and hans holbein's the ambassadors (be sure to look from the right hand side). luckily for you, the gallery is open until 9 pm on friday nights. you can spend as long or as little as you'd like there.
you have a few options for your friday night. plan ahead if you want to see a show because getting tickets the day of may be a bit risky. it's usually worth a try though. if you have an international student card you can get last minute tickets for super cheap, just go to the box office about an hour early to see if there are any left. piccadilly circus is always fun to walk around at night, but it always seemed to me that the shops closed too early. you could also visit kings cross and get a picture at platform 9 3/4, i know some of you are harry potter nerds and this is a good time to get that out of the way. the one thing you must do is find a nandos and eat there. you just have to.
from this list you should have a fairly full day, but i think i have given you enough time to enjoy everything rather than rushing from event to event. make sure you take lots of pictures! enjoy your first day in london! part two will be posted next week!