With its eclectic mixture of gothic architecture, brick town houses and contemporary skyscrapers, London is a historic city with plenty of modern features. Many of its top attractions – like Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and the Tower of London – are instantly recognisable worldwide, while its gargantuan sprawl offers plenty of cosy bars and independent eateries for avid foodies. If you’re planning on dropping into the multifaceted British capital for a short visit or a quick afternoon, it’s a good idea to organise your time to make the most of this global metropolis.

Here are our top tips to enjoy your flying visit to London.

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Hunt for treasures at Camden Market.

1 hour: Buy vintage clothes at Camden Market

This massive, winding market place of cobbled alleyways and stalls in North London has long been a hub of alternative fashion, art and music-lovers alike. For intricate homeware items, check out the ethical Indian clothing and material shop, Araucaria, or take a colourful lamp or lantern away with you from Turkish Delight. If you’re seeking clothes that take you back in time, try browsing the racks at Funky Town or The Vintage Collection – Britain’s largest vintage store.

Camden Market is also the perfect spot to grab quirky gifts or memorabilia: Monkey’s Emporium has a range of retro collectibles, while Suck UK offers useful items like pencils and bottle-openers in novel shapes and sizes. With your shopping complete, make sure you take a quick pit-stop to refuel at one of the many street food stalls. Rainbo in Stables Yard makes zesty takeaway Asian food with healthy ingredients in mind, while Mr Piadina on Camden Lock Place creates artisan flatbreads packed with meats and cheeses. Their brie and pesto option is a particular favourite for the local regulars.

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Taste delicious cakes and pastries at Richmond market. Credit: Getty Images/​Grant Rooney.

1 hour: Sample homely delights at Richmond Farmers Market

If you’re in leafy West London, stop by Richmond Farmers Market for a taste of the city’s multicultural palate. The produce here is all locally grown, reared or caught, and you might even stumble upon a live musical performance while you shop – especially if you happen to visit the market at around 5pm on a Friday.

Give yourself a welcome energy boost with some strong Reel Farmers Coffee while you wander from one stall to another. You’ll find succulent British staples like hog roasts, smoky local bacon and fresh pies as well as spicy South African biltong droëwors meats (think dried and cured beef snacks). For dessert, there are sweet and subtly aromatic Portuguese custard tarts to try. The market’s cuisine is as multicultural as the city itself.

2 hours: Taste traditional Neapolitan pizza opposite Ealing Studios

There’s no shortage of pizzerias across London, but for exceptional quality, head to Santa Maria in Ealing. This small ristorante on St Mary’s Road (which inspired the establishment’s name) is also a stone’s throw from the renowned Ealing Studios, the television and film production company that created Casino Royal, Dorian Gray and Notting Hill.

In the belly of their wood fired oven, which they transported all the way from Italy back in 2010, this restaurant makes classic Neapolitan pizzas with fresh bases and flavourful toppings like prosciutto, sun-dried tomatoes and bufala mozzerella. If you finish your meal early (which is entirely possible given the moreishness), then pop to the Red Lion pub next door – an old haunt of many prolific actors like Alex Guinness from the golden age of British cinema.

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Step back in time at the British Museum. Credit: Getty Images/​VisitBritain/​James McCormick.

2 hours: Explore the British Museum

For a brief journey through history, head to the British Museum via Russell Square Station. This extensive collection of artefacts is free to see and is open to the public every day from 10am to 17:30 (or 20:30 on Fridays). While you have very little hope of seeing everything in two hours, you have more than enough time to pick an area to leisurely peruse: how about the ancient Spartan carved figurines, or the elegant porcelain elephants from Japan’s tumultuous Edo period?

There are a number of tours available, too. The Around the World in 90 Minutes circuit is short enough for your time limit and takes you past prestigious relics like the Rosetta Stone and Parthenon Frieze. You’ll even have a few minutes left for a spot of souvenir hunting and a coffee in the Court Café where you can sit in Europe’s largest covered public square under the impressive glass dome.

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Soak up jazz at Ronnie Scott’s famous jazz club. Credit: Ronnie Scott/​David Sinclair.

3 hours: Catch some jazz at Ronnie Scott’s

Nightlife and music lie at the very core of London’s cultural scene, and there’s no better place to see top-quality live sets than at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club. This table-service venue is perfect for a juicy late night steak, or a Smoking Vespa or two with colleagues.

Opened in 1959 to the sounds of Miles Davis and Count Basie, this legendary underground club now welcomes the likes of Kurt Elling and Cassandra Wilson to its stage, as well as a varied mix of artists from other genres like samba and soul. Jazz might be the house speciality here, but with dishes like delicate pan-fried sea bream and juicy honey glazed duck leg, it certainly isn’t the only star of the show.

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Escape the streets of London at the Roof Gardens.

3 hours: Spoil yourself at Kensington Roof Gardens

One of West London’s most lavish locations, the Kensington Roof Gardens are great for both a lazy afternoon of lounging or an opulent evening with friends.

Covering one and a half acres of space on the seventh floor of 99 Kensington High Street, this oasis of greenery (complete with its own pink flamingos and fluffy ducks) is home to a high-end restaurant – the Babylon – lush gardens, and a member’s club. The club is open to the public Friday and Saturday evenings, with the restaurant serving both dinner and lunch menus, which include the salty delights of a slow-cooked duck egg with a truffle dressing. The gardens are free to enter but check ahead if you can, as they’re sometimes booked for weddings or events.

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