How To Survive A Bank Holiday Weekend in London.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

London is a busy city regardless of the season or day, it never ceases to amaze me how many people are out relaxing at cafes, snooping through art galleries, or sprinting to catch a train. While the hustle and bustle of the big smoke is enough to test the sanity of any city goer, Easter bank holiday weekend is no joke. While these much loved days off occur on a regular basis in the UK, Easter brings not one but two days off, giving working Londoners and tourists alike a four day weekend on top of students enjoying half-term break. Throw in some sunshine and you'll have about a 3ft radius of free space to sit in Hyde Park. My mom (and dad's) visit to England happened to overlap with this weekend as I am a student so it was Easter break for me....meaning I was technically part of the commotion but when you've lived here for 8 months and get the big-headed mindset that you are no longer a tourist, you pick up habits such as passive-aggressively huffing at people who stop at the top of a busy underground staircase. Seriously people, please don't stop in the middle of a busy walkway.

Book a table.
Restaurants that take reservations are increasing in London and when your stomach starts to rumble the last thing you want to do is stroll up to Homeslice and find out it's a 2-hour wait for a table – which has happened to me on multiple occasions during any ordinary weekend. Some of my personal favourites that take breakfast reservations (my most crucial meal of the day) are Tom's Kitchen in Chelsea, the Riding House Cafe a few blocks away from Oxford Street, and of course Duck and Waffle in the City if you're feeling swanky. When all else fails, pick a nearby takeaway and eat in your pajamas. Franco Manca do cheap takeaway sourdough pizzas in a jiffy and have multiple locations dotted around London.

Book anything you can, actually. 
Regardless if you're playing host or tourist, any place that offers advance ticketing should be taken advantage of. Fast Track options are worth the 10 extra quid or so and online purchases are usually cheaper to begin with, so if you know you are visiting a major tourist attraction, anticipate the crowds and get your hands on tickets beforehand so you can sheepishly smile as you stroll past the poor souls waiting in the initial queue to purchase tickets.

Follow transport accounts on Twitter.
Something has possessed Transport for London and National Rail to go about major engineering and construction works smack dab in the middle of holidays this past year. I heard horror stories about the train nightmare that happened over Christmas and groaned when I saw advertisements about the Easter weekend scheduling changes. We walked away mostly unscathed other than our train from London to Bristol getting diverted due to signalling issues (which could probably be turned into a drinking game by this point) and the Jubilee Line being down...again. I'm going to start making a tally for every time I take a visitor to Abbey Road just to get stranded in St. John's Wood. Most transportation companies have a Twitter feed full of service updates, which are usually quicker and more helpful than fighting your way through a crowd to ask an employee. Bottom line, be aware of what is closed and what's not, and keep bus info handy or know when to wave the white flag and signal a cab.

Be aware of museum demographics & go early. 
So many amazing museums in London don't cost a Anyway – they're free and a perfect day to spend the day off. However, keep in mind who likes to visit whatever museum you have in mind. For example, the Natural History Museum in South Kensington is stunning and is an easy place to spend the afternoon with their many categories and interactive activities. With half-term in full swing and parents with the day off, this was more of an indoor playground than a museum. There were hyper kids with sticky ice cream fingers and strollers running over my toes, making me just want to get in and get out as soon as possible. I took my mom to the British Museum in the late afternoon on another day as it's one of my favourites, but the Rosetta stone mosh put and ironically not being able to budge nor breathe in the mummy room chipped away at my enjoyment.

Remember it's okay to not do everything.
You're probably out enjoying the bank holiday because you're free from work or school. Finally, you don't have to set an alarm and have the whole day to yourself! Not being able to partake in daytime activities on a regular basis may instil a sense of urgency to go out and do as much as humanly possible – something I am most certainly guilty of. I have a habit of wanting to squeeze every fun activity into a single day that I wind up tearing holes in my socks. Go have a leisurely brunch, stroll through the park, peruse a museum or a shop, but try not to go overboard and end your holiday more exhausted than a day at work. Take full advantage, bounce ouuta London and take a day trip elsewhere. Or heck, stay home, order delivery, and do nothing – it's your day off!

Don't go to the Topshop at Oxford Circus.
"Show mom the flagship Topshop, I said. It will be fun, I said." Those bank holiday deals will be just as good at your local, manageable sized store as well as online.


What do you do during a bank holiday weekend or any other national holiday? Stay in or go out?

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