Last Updated: 11/10/22 | November 11th, 2022
London. The Big Smoke. It’s a sprawling city, covering over 600 square miles and home to almost nine million people. It’s also one of the most popular destinations in the world.
While considered a single, sprawling city, London is actually a collection of cities. The City of London (aka “The City”) is just 1.1 square miles (and the site of old Roman settlement Londinium). Everything we think of as London today is actually other cities (Westminster, Camden, etc.) that “The City” gobbled up over the years. (Fun fact: The West and East Ends of London are so named because they were outside the ancient wall that enclosed London.)
My like for London turned into love on a visit several years ago. Maybe it was the beautiful weather that stood in stark contrast to my other visits, maybe it was the people who I suddenly felt bonded with, maybe it was all the good restaurants and bars I found. Maybe it just took a decade of visits for the city to just “click” with me. Maybe it was all of it. I don’t know.
But now it’s one of my favorite cities in the world.
With so much to see and do, planning a trip to London can be overwhelming. Where should you stay? How should you plan your days? What day trips are worth doing?
To help you make the most of your visit, have fun, and save money, here is my detailed itinerary for visiting London.
Day 1: Walking tour, Parks, Soho, & more!
Day 2: British Museum, National Gallery, & more!
Day 3: Buckingham Palace, War Rooms, & more!
Day 4: Natural History Museum, Jack the Ripper tour, & more!
Day 5: Art galleries, Tower of London, & more!
Day 6 & 7: Bath, Oxford, Stonehenge, & more!
What to See and Do in London: Day 1
Take a Free Walking Tour
Start your first day off with a free walking tour to orient yourself and learn about the history of London. They are the best way to get situated on arrival and get some tips from a local guide (you can ask the guide for suggestions about what to see and where to eat during your visit.
New Europe and Free Tours By Foot both offer tours that can show you the highlights an help you get your bearings. Just remember to tip your guide at the end!
If you’d prefer a more detailed and in-depth tour, check out Walks. They offer all kinds of cool tours around the city, including an early-access guided tour of the crown jewels.
For more walking tour suggestions, here’s a list of the best walking tour companies in London.
Explore New Neighborhoods
London is a great city to explore on foot. You can follow the ancient Roman wall (part of the wall still exists and so does an old Roman amphitheater, which was rediscovered in the 1980s) from the Tower of London through the center of the city. The city maintains a series of panels about the wall and the history of the city along the way. Visit London has a free app that lets you create personalized maps and itineraries that you can use offline as well.
For in-depth paid tours that take you around specific neighborhoods, check out Get Your Guide. They have a ton of different tours for all interests and budgets, including a Jack the Ripper tour around the East End and a Harry Potter tour around central London.
Relax in a Park
After all that walking on the first day, chill out in any one of the city’s many parks. Some of my favorites include:
- St. James’ Park (Westminster)
- Green Park (Westminster/Central London)
- Regent’s Park (Camden Town)
- Kensington Gardens (Kensington)
- Hyde Park (Central London)
- Holland Park (Holland Park)
- Battersea Park (Battersea)
I like to pack up some food, bring a book, and just relax and watch the world go by. It’s what the locals do — and you should too!
Hang in Soho
I love Soho. It has cute little parks, world-class restaurants, lots of popular bars, funky bookstores, beautiful buildings, and everything in between. I recommend you spend your evening (or many evenings) here eating and drinking and hanging out with the locals. Some recommended places include:
- Ceviche Soho – Great Peruvian food. 17 Frith Street
- Flat Iron – Simple menu featuring steak and salad and a daily special. 17 Beak Street
- La Bodega Negra – Amazing Mexican food. 16 Moor Street
- Eat Tokyo – Delicious ramen. 16 Old Compton Street
- The London Gin Club – The best gin London can offer! 22 Great Chapel Street
- The Three Greyhounds – A fun traditional pub. Fun story: I ended up drinking with Rami Malek from Mr. Robot! He was nice. 25 Greek Street
What to See and Do in London: Day 2
Take advantage of London’s incredible of museums and overload on history, art, weird oddities, and everything in between. Some of them are so big you can barely see them in a week, let alone a day. Here are some of the best ones to start with:
- British Museum – By far one of the best in all of Europe, this giant museum houses one of the most comprehensive art, cultural, and historical collections in the world. Be sure to budget at least three hours to get a good sense of the museum, though you could easily spend a whole day there. Great Russell St, +44 20 7323 8299, britishmuseum.org. Open daily 10am-5pm (8:30pm on Fridays). Admission is free.
- National Gallery – This art museum was founded in 1824 and houses a collection of over 2,300 paintings dating from the mid-13th century to around 1900. There are works by Johannes Vermeer, Sandro Botticelli, Rembrandt, and Michelangelo, among many more! It’s a really extensive and wonderful art museum. Trafalgar Square, +44 20 7747 2885, nationalgallery.org.uk. Open daily 10am-6pm (9pm on Fridays). Admission is free.
- City of London Museum – I love this museum. It gives you a detailed overview of London’s history and has an excellent exhibit on the Great Fire of 1666. 150 London Wall, +44 20 7001 9844, museumoflondon.org.uk/museum-london. Open daily 10am-5pm. Admission is free.
- National Portrait Gallery – Here you’ll find portraits of centuries of famous Brits, from kings and queens to celebrities and artists. St. Martin’s Place, +44 20 7306 0055, npg.org.uk. Open daily 10am-6pm (9pm on Fridays).
What to See and Do in London: Day 3
Wander the Westminster Area
Start off with a stroll through Hyde Park’s lush and expansive grounds, with its picturesque walkways, ponds, and ducks, before heading to Buckingham Palace, the royal residence and administrative headquarters of the monarchy, to watch the changing of the guard at 10:45am. It lasts for about 45 minutes (arrive early to get the best view). Be sure to check the website first though as the changing of the guards doesn’t happen daily (it’s usually every other day).
If you’re visiting during the summer, Buckingham Palace is open to the public. Booking in advance online is recommended and tickets cost 30 GBP. You’ll be able to explore the lavish State Rooms and see some of the crown’s treasures. Expect to spend a couple of hours.
Next, meander over to the Churchill War Rooms. Located beneath the Treasury Building in the Whitehall area of Westminster, this includes the government’s command center during World War II and a museum about the life of Winston Churchill, who served as Prime Minister of the UK from 1940-1945 and again from 1951-1955. The centerpiece of the whole place is an interactive table that enables visitors to access digitized material from the Churchill archives. It is one of the best museums in London. Book online in advance to avoid the multi-hour wait! Admission is 29 GBP.
Afterward, marvel at Westminster Abbey and Parliament. You can see the tombs of 17 monarchs dating back to Henry III (who died in 1272) in the Abbey. Other famous people buried here include Charles Darwin, Sir Issac Newton, Aphra Behn, and Charles Dickens. Westminster Abbey costs 25 GBP but you can visit for free if you go during a service. Just be quiet and dress respectfully.
On Saturdays, you can tour Parliament. This is where the government of the UK conducts its business. Tours last 75 minutes and include visits to the House of Commons, the House of Lords, and Westminster Hall. You’ll learn about the history of the building (the first parliament was held in 1265), how the government was created, and how the UK political system functions. Amongst the ornate rooms, there is all kinds of artwork to admire, including statues of Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, and Winston Churchill. Tours are 28 GBP.
Eat in Borough Market
After that, hop on the tube from Westminster to London Bridge (or walk along the South Bank) and head to the famous Borough Market to grab a meal from one of the many vendors. It’s hugely popular with locals, especially around lunchtime. The market here dates back to the 12th century while the building itself is from the 1850s. It’s open daily from 10am-5pm. Bring an appetite!
Wander South London
After you’ve satiated your hunger, wander around South London. See the site of the original Globe Theater (where Shakespeare put on his plays), visit the eerie Crossbones Cemetery that honors the working girls and lost souls of London, walk along the riverfront, marvel at Millennium Bridge, and pop into the Tate Modern for a few hours to take in some of the best modern art London has to offer (it’s free).
Then head back toward Borough Market for a drink at the George Inn, one of London’s oldest pubs and where Charles Dickens used to drink (it’s also likely that William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe drank here). The new Globe Theater is also here if you want to take in a Shakespearean play (tickets can be found for as little as 5 GBP)
What to See and Do in London: Day 4
Visit More Museums
London is a museum city. It has some of the best in the world, so I suggest you visit a few more before you go:
- Natural History Museum – There are over 80 million items in this comprehensive museum, including specimens collected by Charles Darwin. It also has a great collection of fossils, making it a fun and educational stop if you’re traveling with kids. Cromwell Road, +44 20 7942 5000, nhm.ac.uk. Open Tuesday-Sunday from 10am-5:30pm< (closed Mondays). Admission is free.
- Science Museum – Founded in 1857, this is actually one of the most popular museums in London, attracting millions of visitors each year. There are some really neat interactive galleries on flight and space, and the temporary exhibitions are usually pretty amazing (though those often cost extra). Exhibition Road, South Kensington, +44 20 7942 4000, sciencemuseum.org.uk. Open daily from 10am-6pm. Admission is free.
- Victoria and Albert Museum – Named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, this museum is home to over 2,000 works of art covering over 3,000 years of human history. Cromwell Road, +44 20 7942 2000, vam.ac.uk. Open daily from 10am-5:45pm (10pm on Fridays). Admission is free (temporary exhibits may charge a fee).
Eat on Brick Lane
Head east to the famous Brick Lane and eat your heart out — it has some amazing Jewish delis (Beigel Bake is the most famous — and delicious) and Indian cuisine. On the weekends, this street becomes a bustling flea market and a hub of activity when it fills with antique and flea market sellers, food vendors, and people eating and drinking their way down the street.
Take a Jack the Ripper tour
Jack the Ripper was a serial killer in London from 1888-1891 with at least 5 murders to his name. He’s one of the most infamous killers in the world and every night, you’ll find tons of people in the East End learning about Jack the Ripper on a ridiculous number of similar tours.
My favorite is the original Jack the Ripper Tour. Their guides are experts on the murders and really bring this dark, gruesome topic to life. While dark, the tours are fun and informative, lasting just under two hours and costing 18 GBP.
What to See and Do in London: Day 5
Wander Trafalgar Square
Stroll around and admire the fountains and the famous monuments, such as the four bronze lion statues and Nelson’s Column. The column honors Admiral Nelson’s victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. The naval battle saw over 70 ships and 50,000 men battle for control of the seas, with the English defeating the combined forces of Spain and France. Lots of people hang out here so it makes for a good place to people-watch and takes in the local pace of life.
Explore the Tower of London and See the Crown Jewels
Built in 1070 by William the Conqueror to defend his royal power, the tower is actually a castle located on the north bank. The fortification was used as a prison and palace and was expanded many times over the centuries. Until the 1800s, weapons and armor were made here and all coins were made here until 1810 under the Royal Mint.
Today, it houses the famous crown jewels (royal ceremonial objects, including coronation regalia). Admission is 29.90 GBP.
The Tower of London’s changing of the guard (known as the Ceremony of the Keys) takes place daily at 9:30pm and is worth seeing. Tickets are free but must be pre-booked because it fills up quickly.
Be sure to also head to nearby Tower Bridge, which opened in 1894 (and a lot of people confuse it with London Bridge). You can access the bridge deck to take in the view or check out the Tower Bridge Exhibition, where you can see the old Victorian engine rooms and get a sense of just how epic an engineering feat the bridge’s construction actually was. Open daily from 9:30am-6pm. Admission is 11.40 GBP.
Take in a Show
London is my second favorite theater spot after New York City. You can’t leave without seeing a show. Check out TKTS for discounted tickets for shows in the West End.
What to See and Do in London: Days 6 and 7
Stonehenge, located near Salisbury, is one of the oldest man-made structures in the world (it dates back to 2500 BCE). You can’t approach the stones anymore as they are now cordoned off, but it’s still quite a fascinating site to explore. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, each stone weighs around 25 tons and stands around 4 meters (13 feet) tall. And because Stonehenge was built by a culture that didn’t leave any written records, we still have no idea why they built it.
The audio guide is a must so you can get some historical context (it’s free to download here). Admission is 22 GBP (though it’s possible to legally visit without paying by taking the nearby pedestrian path).
Day Trip to Bath
Bath is named after its famous mineral baths and is home to an ancient Roman bath that is marvelously well preserved.
The Romans settled here when they invaded Britain because of the hot springs that bubble up from the earth. The locals thought this place had spiritual significance, and when the Romans came, they felt the same and dedicated this site to Minerva, the goddess of wisdom. Despite being on the edge of the frontier, the city grew to become a major religious and cultural center. People came from all around to pray to Minerva and use the baths, which they believed had special healing powers.
Admission costs 27.50 GBP on weekends and 25.50 GBP on weekdays. Audio guides are free. For a more detailed experience, take a guided walking tour around the city with Get Your Guide. You’ll learn a ton about the city and have a much more in-depth experience before you explore the baths.
Day Trip to Oxford
Oxford is home to one of the oldest universities in the world (it was founded in the 11th century as a hub for theological learning). Exploring all the beautiful colleges here makes for a fun day trip. The University is the main attraction here and Bodleian Libraries offers guided tours of the university, including the inside of many historic buildings. They provide a look at university life, the history of the school, the architecture, and more. Tours last a couple of hours and cost 20 GBP.
Other highlights include South Park, the Bridge of Sighs, the botanical gardens, and punting on the river (pushing a small boat around the River Thames or the River Cherwell with a pole).
Day Trip to Cambridge
Cambridge is similar to Oxford with some of the best universities, parks, museums, and theatrical productions in the country. I enjoyed the museums, wandering around the parks, and embracing the relaxed pace of life (there are only around 125,000 people here compared to the almost 10 million in London!). Visit the colleges, stroll along the Backs, visit the Fitzwilliam museum, or go punting.
Most people visit for just the day, however, I recommend staying overnight. For such a small city, there’s a lot to see and do here!
Take Another Walking Tour
During a recent visit to London I tried out over 25 different walking tours. There are amazing companies that have created some insightful, entertaining, and delicious walks for every type of interest. From Harry Potter walks to historic pub crawls, there will definitely be something for everyone. No matter your interests or budget, there is a tour for you.
Here are some of my favorite walking tours ion London to help you get inspired and plan your visit.
London is one of the biggest — and best — cities in the world, with a ton of things to see and do (I didn’t even get to mentioning Camden, Notting Hill, and all the other neighborhoods!). It’s easy to get lost in every neighborhood as you explore this bustling, exciting metropolis.
And while a week in London barely scratches the surface, it is enough to get a good overview of the city, dive into its smaller neighborhoods, and experience the local history and culture. Use this London itinerary as a guide for your next trip and get a feel for why I love this city so much. You won’t be disappointed!
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Book Your Trip to London: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Use Skyscanner to find a cheap flight. They are my favorite search engine because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned!
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the biggest inventory and best deals. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.
For suggested places to stay, check out this list of hostels.
And, if you’re wondering what part of town to stay in, here’s my neighborhood breakdown of London!
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
- Safety Wing (best for everyone)
- Insure My Trip (for those over 70)
- Medjet (for additional evacuation coverage)
Looking for the Best Companies to Save Money With?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use to save money when I’m on the road. They will save you money when you travel too.
Want a Guide?
London has some really interesting tours. My favorite company is Take Walks. They have expert guides and can get you behind the scenes at the city’s best attractions. They’re my go-to walking tour company!
Want More Information on London?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on London for even more planning tips!