Drafting a London itinerary can be a daunting task. This is a spread out city, with more than 9 million people living there and with lots and lots to see. Don’t worry if you feel at a loss not knowing where to start.
Although 5 days in London are just about the right amount of time to fully enjoy the city (though I must say, if you had more time there’d still be a lot to see), I recommend not to swing it.
First of all, some attractions required advanced bookings and if you show up without having previously purchased a ticket, you may end up stuck in a line at the ticket counter – not a very good way of spending your time in the city. Besides, in a city that is so large you either go with a good itinerary and a plan to visit places that are close to each other on the same day, or just waste precious time commuting.
As I have lived in London for 8 years (that’s where I got my education and academic experience from), I thought I should spare you from the task of coming up with a London itinerary that makes sense and prepare one for you. Inevitably, this London itinerary will reflect my taste – but rest assured that you will discover the very best of London, including some gems and off beat places.
Continue reading for a perfect ready-made 5 days London itinerary and for helpful tips to plan your trip.
A 5 Days London Itinerary
Day 1: Settle down; guided food tour; London Eye.
Day 2: A walk around Westminster, the National Gallery, Piccadilly Circus and Covent Garden
Day 3: London classics
Day 4: British Museum and the best sights of London
Day 5: Off-beat London
Day 1 London Itinerary
Settle down into your accommodation
If you are just getting in from the other side of the world, you should take it easy on your first day in town. Make your way to your hotel (I will explain how to get from the airport to the center of London in the practical information section at the end of this post), take a shower and a power nap, then head out for some easygoing activities.
Option 1: Guided food tour
Start your London itinerary with a food tour. I know, food in the United Kingdom has a reputation for being flavorless and not interesting but I – the number one of all picky girls in the world – dissent. You can get good food in this country, especially if you stick to traditional dishes.
I recommend this Secret British food tour which has 3 daily departures – it’s a great way to taste some local food and to visit places such as Borough Market, one of the coolest ones in London. You can book it here.
Option 2: Hop-on hop-off tour
If you don’t feel like eating, you may want to opt for a hop-on hop-off tour. It’s probably the most touristic thing you can imagine doing in London, but you are a tourist, aren’t you? Besides, this is a good way to take in some of the highlights of the city and it really is a no-brainer. Just make sure to bring your camera along and photo opportunities will be many!
Being London the incredible city that it is, you actually have two choices here. Either go for the classic hop-on hop-off bus tour which you can book here or here or opt for a hop-on hop-off cruise along the river Thames for even better views – you can book it here.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: London Eye observes different opening hours depending on the season. The usual opening time is 10:00 am and it closes between 6:00 and 8:30 pm.
Finish off your day 1 London itinerary with the most incredible views of London from the London Eye. Once again, this is a rather touristy thing to do but even I won’t ever get tired of it. The sight of the Houses of Parliament and the Big Ben and Westminster Abbey are just out of this world!
Make sure to get skip-the-line tickets in advance either here.
GOOD TO KNOW: Close to the London Eye, London Dungeon is a truly fun place to visit. You can get joint tickets to visit both attractions for a discounted price here. Visit the London Dungeon first. The tour lasts around 90 minutes.
Day 2 London Itinerary
During the second of your 5 days in London you will visit some of the city’s most iconic attractions. It will be a long day of walking – though the distance is only 2 miles. Some of the attractions mentioned require advanced bookings. Other are completely free.
Map of day 2
Download your London itinerary for day 2 here.
Houses of Parliament and Big Ben
NEAREST METRO STATION: Westminster
Your London Itinerary will inevitably include two of the most iconic sights in town. The Houses of Parliament, seat of the British Parliament, is usually seen from the outside – but there are guided tours of it if you want. Take care to note that tours last 4 hours, so factor that in against the rest of the day. Otherwise, just do what most people do and take some nice photos from the bridge! Keep in mind that the Big Ben is currently under restoration so the view somewhat obstructed.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Westminster Abbey is open Mondays to Fridays from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm, and Saturdays from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm. It remains open until 6:00 pm on Wednesdays and it’s closed on Sundays.
This is probably the most beautiful church in London. Founded in 960 AD, since 1066 it’s been where most coronations and royal weddings have taken place. It’s also the burial ground of notable historical figures of Britain.
It will take you between 1 and 2 hours to visit, and you are better off getting tickets in advance. Here are a couple of options:
- Westminster Abbey entry ticket and multi-media guide.
- Westminster Abbey skip the line ticket with audioguide.
Churchill War Rooms
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Churchill War Rooms is open every day from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm.
This is a nice addition to a London itinerary for history geeks. It consists of two museums – one is dedicated to the life of Winston Churchill; the other (the Cabinet War Rooms) is the bunker where Churchill hid and directed WWII efforts during the London Blitz.
The museum can be visited independently (get your tickets here). If you prefer, this WWII Westminster Walking Tour and Churchill War Rooms is a good guided tour option. You can book it here.
National Gallery and Trafalgar Square
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The National Gallery is open every day from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. Friday closing time is 9:00 pm.
Any proper London itinerary will include the National Gallery. This fantastic art gallery is at about 10 minutes walk from Churchill War Rooms. Chances are you will be tired by the time you make it there but – good news – it’s free to visit. So make sure to pop in even just for one hour, and grab a map so you can go directly to the section you are interested in. If you want, you can get an audio-guide for £5 (around $6.2 USD) at Sainsbury wing.
TIP: Check out the website of the National Gallery for more and if there is one that grabs your attention make sure to book it in advance.
Chances are you will pass by Piccadilly Circus more than once during your 5 days in London. The way I have placed it in this day 2 London itinerary is such that – depending on the season you are visiting – you will get there in the evening, just in time to catch the flashy lights of all the advertising signs. Hope you can catch that on photo!
Another truly easy addition to this London itinerary is London’s former nightlife hotspot. Home to the Hyppodrome and Equinox, two very popular clubs in the 1990s, Leicester Square is at a stone’s throw from Piccadilly Circus. It’s surrounded by movie theaters and touristy restaurants, but there also is a nice small garden in the center.
Last but not least, your first day London itinerary will take you to Covent Garden. Once a covered flower market, it now is a place for street performers with some nice shops and a few stalls, pubs and cafés. You will see someone playing on the ground floor pretty much at any time of the day. Lovely any time of year, if you happen to be in London at Christmas make it a point to go, as it is truly splendid with the decorations up!
Make sure to check out my post “The Best Christmas Markets In Europe.”
Day 3 London Itinerary
The third of your 5 days in London is all about the most famous attractions.
Map of day 3
Download a map today’s London itinerary here.
St. James Park
NEAREST METRO STATION: Green Park or (a bit further) Hyde Park Corner.
You will be able to pop into this beautiful park just before heading to Buckingham’s Palace. Your experience will depend on the season – go on a sunny day in the spring or summer time and it will be packed with families, children, and people having a good time.
No London itinerary is legit if it doesn’t tell you to go to Buckingham Palace. Residence of her majesty the Queen Elizabeth II, this is one of the city’s most famous attractions. Most people go there to observe the Changing of the Guard ceremony, but give it a miss if you are not a fan of crowds.
You can visit Buckingham Palace inside, but it’s best if you go on a guided tour. Here are some good options:
- Changing of the Guard and Buckingham Palace tour – a good 3 hours guided tour starting at 10:30 am and including he Changing of the Guard ceremony.
- Buckingham Palace tickets with Royal walking tour – a good tour that starts at 1:30 pm.
- Buckingham Palace: The State Room entrance tickets – a budget friendly 3-hours audio-guided tour. There are two departure options: one at 3:15 and one 3:45 pm.
St. Paul’s Cathedral
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: St. Paul’s Cathedral is open Mondays to Saturdays from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. Admission is £17 British Pounds (little over $21 USD) and includes an audioguide. Get your tickets in advance here.
NEAREST METRO STATION: St. Paul’s.
HOW TO GET THERE: From Buckingham Palace, head to Green Park metro station. Get on a northbound Victoria Line train and change at Oxford Circus (beware it is just one stop), and from there get an eastbound Central Line train. Get off at St. Paul’s
Destroyed by the Great London Fire in 1666 and soon rebuilt, this church is one of the most famous in London. Inside, you can visit the church, the crypt and the dome. Personally, I don’t find it as nice as Westminster Abbey so if you are pressed for time or not a fan or churches feel free to skip it.
Tower of London
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The Tower of London is open Tuesday to Saturday from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm and Sunday and Monday from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm.
NEAREST METRO STATION: Tower Hill on the District and Circle lines.
A former prison – this is where political prisoners were executed (the most notable one being Anne Boleyn), the Tower of London remains one of the most famous attractions in London. Inside, you will find the Crown Jewels exhibit.
I recommend getting advanced skip the line tickets here.
Check out my post “How To Get Tower Of London Tickets.”
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Walking on the bridge is free. There is a fee for the Tower Bridge Exhibit, which is open from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm.
Turn left once you exit the Tower of London and you will get to Tower Bridge. Simply walk across it for photos, or visit the Tower Bridge Exhibit – you can get tickets here – for a chance to walk the glass walkway.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Open Mondays to Fridays from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm; Saturdays from 11:00 am to 10:00 pm and Sundays from 11:00 am to 9:00 pm. Free to visit but book your time slot here, unless you plan to go after 6:00 pm, in which case reservations aren’t necessary.
A short walk from Tower Bridge, this new attraction offers great views of London and is 100% free. If you plan to go for sunset, make sure to wear something nice as there is a dress code. Keep in mind that drinks are expensive!
Day 4 London Itinerary
Pick between the two options for an incredible day. At the end, you can go see a show.
Map of day 4
This is your map for your London itinerary for today (option 1). Take the metro to commute from the British Museum to Borough Market.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The British Museum is open Wednesday to Sundays from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm. It closes at 8:30 pm on Fridays. Free admissions. The audioguide costs £7 GBP (around $9 USD)
NEAREST METRO STATIONS: Tottenham Court Road, Holborn, Russell Square, Goodge Street.
The British Museum has one of the most incredible collections of antiquities and art you can imagine, and it would be a pity to miss it. My favorite piece there is Rosetta’s Stone – it’s just stunning how much history and culture can hide behind one simple piece.
You can browse around on your own with or without an audio-guide, or opt for a guided tour such as these two:
- British Museum guided tour – it lasts 2 hours and starts at either 10:00 am or 2:00 pm.
- The British Museum Tour: the ideas that made our world – a bit of a longer tour that starts at 2:00 pm.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Open from Monday to Saturday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.
NEAREST METRO STATION: London Bridge
You will wonder why I am not including Camden Market in this London itinerary, and the reason is simple: I truly dislike it! Crowded, far from the center and a hassle to get to, terribly touristy: Camden Market has lots its charm many years ago. If you want to see a really nice market, opt for Borough Market. You’ll find food from around the world. It can get crowded at weekends.
GOOD TO KNOW: Feel free to skip this market if you have already visited during your London food tour on day 1.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Open daily from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm in the summer time, and from 10:00 to 7:00 pm Sunday to Wednesday and from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm Thursday to Saturday in the winter time.
TIP: Only go on the Shard if you have skipped the London Eye and / or the Sky Garden.
A walk along the South Bank
The South Bank is one of my favorite places in London. It’s a popular place on sunny days and during the summer – you will find lots of cafés, bars and pubs to stop for a drink. The views of the city from there are stunning!
St. Katherine’s Dock Marina
If you want to check out a truly nice hidden corner of London that is hardly known to tourists, head to St. Katherine’s Dock. I visited the first time when I went to see a friend that lives nearby and fell in love with it. There are some bars, restaurants and cafés and an overall relaxed vibe you will definitely enjoy.
Harry Potter tour
Harry Potter fans will appreciate a guided tour that goes to the best places they may have spotted in the movies. The tour lasts 2.5 hours, it starts at 10:00 and goes to places such as Borough Market and Trafalgar Square and ends at Palace Theater, near the British Museum.
The British Museum
Done with the tour? It’s a 10 minutes walk to the museum!
Once you are done exploring for the day, head to the area of Covent Garden / Leicester Square or Charing Cross for a show. Take a look online before flying to London to know what’s on while there and try to get tickets online. If you are a fan of Abba, Mamma Mia! is the show for you. You can book it here.
Day 5 London Itinerary
Your last day in London will take you to some of the off-beat places, but I promise you they are fun.
Map of day 5
You can get a may of the itinerary for day 5 here.
Shoreditch and Brick Lake
Shoreditch is one of the coolest up and coming neighborhoods in London. During my recent visits I have always stayed there – I enjoy the local atmosphere, the many fantastic pubs and restaurants, and the nice shops. It’s a cool place for street art so many sure to add it to your London itinerary is that is one thing you like.
Brick Lane is another truly cool part of town. Known for the many Bengalese restaurants it is a very artsy area, with nice new designer stores and an easygoing vibe. Make sure to stop at Beigel Bake for a snack – that place has been open forever and a real local institution!
These guided tours will take you to Shoreditch and Brick Lane:
- Alternative London 2-hour street art walking tour – a cool tour that goes to all the main places that shaped this part of town historically.
- London street art walking tour – it starts in Liverpool Street Station.
- Discover Shoreditch – a cool tour of London most fun neighborhood.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The market is open every day from 10:00 am. Closing time varies – it’s open until 8:00 pm Monday to Friday and until 5:00 or 6:00 pm at weekends.
This is another really cool market in London, where you can have a taste of street food from around the world, explore art galleries and antique and vintage shops. There are stalls and shops that you can browse.
Jack the Ripper Walking Tour
One really cool, quirky thing to do you may want to add to your London itinerary is a visit to Whitechapel with a Jack The Ripper Walking tour. These tours usually start in the afternoon or evening – I guess it’s so that you can have more of an eerie atmosphere. They are lots of fun and they take you to a truly unique part of town.
These are the two best guided tours:
- Jack the Ripper walking tour – this tour lasts almost two hours and will take you back to the time Jack the Ripper was terrorizing London.
- Jack the Ripper interactive walking tour – another recommended tour; it’s a GetYourGuide Originals so you are guaranteed quality.
Using A London Pass
For the purpose of this itinerary, you may want to get a London Pass. I have grouped all the mainstream attractions in two days so I think a 2-day pass would be your best option. Keep in mind that a city-pass only included skip the line tickets, but not guided tours. You will have to book each attraction separately.
These are the 2 best London Pass options:
Some Tips On How To Follow This London Itinerary
For this itinerary, I have assumed you have 5 days in London – and 5 nights. You can adapt it and spread out if you have more time. For example, if you have an extra day you can visit Kensington Palace and Gardens, Hyde Park, Harrods following the itinerary I have outlined in my post “An Easy To Follow Itinerary For 4 Days London.”
You are obviously free to skip places you are not interested in and add others that I haven’t mentioned – but keep in mind that I have grouped together attractions that are close to each other.
Here are some extra tips to help you make the most of this London itinerary:
- Go to bed early, and rise early. Going out early means beating the crowds.
- Eat lunch on the go – this itinerary often mentions markets where you will likely be just around lunch time, ready to grab a bite.
- If a museum is open late on the day you are visiting, leave it as the last attraction!
- Wear comfortable shoes!
- Skip any attraction that doesn’t fit in your budget.
Where to stay in London
There are plenty of good places to stay in London, but be prepared to spend if you want to stay somewhere central and clean. My advice is to stay in areas such as Kensington or Westminster Borough. Definitely avoid Camden.
I have selected a few good places for you:
- 41 – great hotel and excellent location; only if you can splurge. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- The Duke Rooms London – small rooms in a central location. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- The Darlington Hyde Park – clean and central, and budget friendly. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- Locke at Broken Wharf – small fully equipped apartments. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- SoHostel – dorms and private rooms for budget travelers. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
Make sure to read my guide on Where To Stay In London: The Best Areas And Hotels and my post The Best Airbnbs In London.
When to visit London
Any time is a good time to visit London. I love it around Christmas when the lights are up, but it does get cold. For longer days and better weather, opt to go in April and May, or September and October.
How to get to London
There are 5 airports in London. London Heathrow, London Gatwick and London City are all served by main airlines; Stansted and Luton are by budget ones.
London City is in the Docklands so close to the center of London; the others are further away but well connected by public transportation. The best way to get from either airport to town is by train – faster, easier, more comfortable than the bus or metro.
From Heathrow: express train to Paddington every 15 minutes. You can get your train tickets here.
From Gatwick: express train to Victoria every 15 minutes. You can get your train tickets here.
From Stansted: express train to London Liverpool Street every 15 minutes. You can get your train tickets here.
Here are some good shuttle options:
Make sure to check out my post “How To Get From Heathrow To London.”
How to move around London
The metro in London is called Tube or Underground and is the best way to get around.. There are 11 lines, plus all the light-rain ones, so you can easily reach the various places in town. I personally don’t recommend the buses: they are mostly late, and they drive like mad!
Unfortunately, London Underground is very old so the trains are a bit slow and some stations closed for renovation works. Stations are generally not wheelchair friendly and the metro doesn’t run 24/7.
At night, you can use the night buses or Uber.
You will need to get an Oyster Card to use public transportation. It’s a touch in – touch out system you can top up when you need. You can get yours here.
Luggage storage in London
You will find luggage storage at all train stations in London. Stasher is a good reliable company but you need to book in advance.
Other useful tips
Get a guide book
A guide book may come in handy with information and maps.
These are some good ones:
Get a data plan
If you think you will need to use Google Maps or Uber, a data plan is essential – make sure you can use your phone in England!
Water in London is safe to drink but tastes bad. Using a foldable bottle like this one makes you save on plastic.
Mind the scams
Scams and pickpockets are common in London. The latter “work” mostly at crowded metro stations. Common scams in London are the 3 cups or card game – you will notice it on the South Bank; the fake theater tickets – especially see in Leicester Square; and the fake charity collectors – around all major tourist attractions.
Get a good travel insurance
Further readings about London
For more ideas and itineraries for London, make sure to read these posts:
- How To Make The Most Of London In A Day
- How To See London In 2 Days
- A Perfect Itinerary To See London In 3 Days
- An Easy To Follow Itinerary For 4 Days London
- 10 Cool Things To Do In Covent Garden
- The Best Sunday Markets In London
- 15 Great Day Trips From London
- 5 Easy Ways Of Getting London Dungeon Tickets
- 7 Easy Ways Of Getting London Eye Tickets
- How To Get Madame Tussauds London Tickets And Skip The Lines
- Where To Get The Most Impressive Views Of London
- My Favorite Secret Destinations in London
- 15 Amazing Day Trips From Paris
- The 20 Best Museums In London
- 20 + Great Things To Do In Oxford
- 19 Fun Things To Do In Cornwall
- The Best Villages In The Cotswolds