London is one of the most historical and culturally rich cities. It has a vast variety of world renowned attractions as well as unique hidden gems. Five days in this amazing city is just enough to get a feel for it and see a few of its lesser known sites. Here’s a suggested itinerary to get the most out of your trip by combing tours, parks, famous sites, tours and local’s secrets.
Day 1 – Friday
If you’ve never been to London, you should spend your first day exploring main sites and getting a general feel and orientation for the city.
- London Walking Tour: The best way to see London is with a local guide and on foot. This tour will take you past all the main sites including Buckingham Palace, the Changing of the Guard, the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square, St. James’s Palace, St. Paul’s Cathedral, The Tower of London, London Bridge, Tower Bridge and much, much more.
- The Monument Viewing Platform: Not far from the Tower Bridge is The Monument, A permanent reminder of the Great Fire of 1666. What a lot of people don’t know is that for a very small fee you can climb up to the top for some great views, it’s a great experience.
- Explore and Dine: From The Monument you can catch the tube to any London destination you want to explore and grab some food at, for your first day I would suggest heading to Piccadilly Circus. It’s got plenty worth exploring, it’s fun in the evening and there are plenty of food options even if it is a bit touristy.
Top Tip for Day 1
One of the best ways to spend your Friday night is by going to the theatre. There is no city in the world that can offer more musicals; Phantom of the Opera, Cats, Wicked, Billy Elliot, The book of Mormon, the list goes on.
Day 2 – Saturday
So you’ve seen some of London from the street, lets get a view from above.
- View from London Shard: if you’re choosing between London Eye and The View from the Shard, I would recommend the later, you’re higher up and have more time to soak in the view.
- Borough Market: The best food market in London! It’s within walking distance of The Shard and a delight for your taste buds.
- Tower of London: You saw the Tower of London from the outside, but now is your chance to go and explore it behind the walls. It’s a simple walk across The London Bridge.
- Covent Garden: Catch the tube to Covent Garden and explore the area, it has a famous market, lots of street performers, and an array of restaurants to choose from.
Top Tips for Day 2
- If you don’t spend much time at attractions, you can easily fit in The London Bridge Experience and London Tombs, it’s a lot of fun and a good way to dive into some of London’s history.
- Right around the corner from Borough Market is Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, if you have a fascination for Shakespeare than its worthwhile adding it to your trip. The tours are meant to be a great way to get behind the scenes. This area is known as Southbank, it runs along the River Thames and is worth taking a stroll through.
Day 3 – Sunday
London is well known for its parks and green areas. What better way to spend a Sunday morning than to exploring one?
- Greenwich Park: A beautiful park surrounded by heritage and history. Greenwich is home to the famous meridian line where longitude is zero. This serves as the reference point for GMT (Greenwich Mean Time). The park is also home to the famous Royal Observatory, The Queens House and more.
- Greenwich Market: Just a stones throw away, explore London’s only historic market set within a World Heritage site. There are lots of stalls selling food, antiques, art and crafts, fashion, jewelry and much more. And during the holiday season, this area is one of the best Christmas markets in London, too. So if you’re visiting in the winter, it’s even better!
- Churchill War Rooms: I highly recommend not to look past the Churchill War Rooms, it’s a fascinating destination located in an underground complex beneath the streets of Westminster. There you will find the Cabinet Rooms from which Winston Churchill fought WWII. What’s fascinating is that the War Rooms have been left untouched from when they were last in action.
- Buckingham Palace: You saw it on day one, but now its time to get a closer look and explore more of its surroundings; Green Park, Hyde Park and Speakers Corner.
Top Tip for Day 3
The Cutty Sark is also in Greenwich, you won’t miss this lovely British tea trawler. If you have a fascination for old British Maritime it’s worth going into the museum.
Day 4 – Monday
Let’s split day four into museums and shopping!
- Natural History Museum and Science Museum: these two museums are geographically right next to each other. They are both great museums! The Natural History Museum has an amazing range of specimens from various segments of history, whereas the Science Museum is more of an interactive museum exploring the universe, physics, the sea and much more. You could easily spend your whole day in these two museums!
- Oxford St Shopping: Head over to Marble Arch and walk along Oxford St until you reach Regent St. Follow Regent St down all the way to Piccadilly Circus. This route will take you past a vast variety of stores from fashion to toys, you will easily be able to satisfy any shopping urges you may have.
Top Tips for Day 4
- The museums you visit in the morning are in Kensington, a very prestigious area with stunning architecture that’s worth having a look around.
- If you have time at the end of the day, there’s plenty of things to do around Trafalgar Square where you will find the famous National Portrait Gallery and The National Gallery. If you prefer art over science, consider spending your day here instead of the Science Museum or Natural History Museum.
Day 5 – Tuesday
Day 5 is all about back tracking and doing something that really interests you, here is what I would suggest:
- Royal Botanical Kew Gardens: This is London’s largest World Heritage site. Explore 130 hectares of stunning gardens and landscapes, stroll along the treetop walkways, and wander through a tropical greenhouse. If you’re in London around Christmas, consider visiting in the evening when the garden is lit up in a magical way.
- The London Dungeon: It may sound touristy but it’s a lot of fun! London Dungeon is a theatre experience where you will journey through 1000 years of history. You won’t forget this experience.
- The Old Operating Theatre Museum: For something completely different but fascinating, discover Europe’s oldest surviving operating theatre!
Top Tips for Day 5
- There are also some great day trip options from London if you would like to explore some other cities. The Stonehenge, Windsor Castle and Bath Day Trip is a great option.
- This itinerary is a bit light on museums, so if you would rather dive into London’s history and culture, perhaps exploring some of London’s finest museums is more for you; Museum of London, Victoria and Albert, Tate modern, National Maritime Museum are all great options.
Hopefully this blog has given you some inspiration and got you excited about going to London. The key to getting the most out of a short visit to London is planning ahead, try this London Trip Planner to easily tailor an itinerary based on your interests, you’ll also find all the attractions mentioned above there. Planning will also save you money and give you more spare time to explore off the beaten track areas that peak your interest while you are there.
Bryan has visited exactly one more country than his wife, and she won’t let him forget it! Also an avid photographer, he enjoys entrenching himself within the local culture in order to learn more about the people of a place. He is the co-founder of Budget Your Trip and loves a good adventure, an exotic meal, or a passionate conversation about global events.