How To See London In 2 Days

Seeing London in 2 days is definitely ambitious.

The British capital is a massive, spread out city that requires a lot of time to be properly explored. If it is your first time there, and you only have 2 days in London, you will be glad to know that you can see some of its main sights (definitely not all of them). However, you won’t really be able to get off the beaten path – leave that for another visit.

Don’t worry if you don’t know how to plan your time in London. I have lived there for 8 years (yep, that much), and London is probably the city I know best after my hometown and Rome. My family and friends would visit me and I always gave them a tour of the city, trying to squeeze in as much as possible in a short time.

Continue reading for a well crafted London itinerary which is perfect if you are spending a weekend in London, or if you want to include it in a longer UK or even Europe trip. I will also be sharing some practical tips to help you planning.

London in 2 days
Piccadilly Circus is one of the most popular places to visit in London

How To Use This London In 2 Days Itinerary

Before I get into the details of this itinerary, let me stress that 2 days are really not enough to see all that London has to offer. To maximize your time, you need to get skip the line, timed entrance tickets to all the attractions you want to visit.

This 2-days itinerary is based on the assumption that you are spending 2 full days in London. It’s strictly based on my personal experience – that of a regular (well, sort of) traveler that may get tired when a day is too packed with activities, and that likes a mix of museums and open air attractions.

London is one of the most visited cities in the world and it can get crowded with tourists. Though some attractions are free to visit (quite welcome news in a city that is so expensive) and don’t require pre-bookings, others must be booked in advance. I will tell you whenever advanced bookings are necessary.

market in London

If you are flying in from the other side of the world and feel jet lagged or can’t sleep, you are probably better off taking it easy. In this case, a food tour may be a good option – and trust me there’s lots of interesting food to try in London.

I recommend this Secret British food tour: it has 3 daily departures and lets you taste some of the local staples. It also goes to Borough Market. You can book it here.

Here are some extra tips to help you make the most of your time in the city:

  • Leave as early as possible in the morning. 
  • Have lunch on the go. There are plenty of places where you can grab a sandwich or a salad.
  • Get an Oyster Card to use the metro (London Underground) or buses.
  • Double check the opening times of museums – if they are open late, leave them for the end of the day.
  • Wear comfortable clothes and shoes.
London Eye
The iconic London Eye

A Fantastic Itinerary To See London In 2 Days

Day 1

Your first day in London will be packed. You will visit some places that require pre-bookings and others that are free.

Map of day 1 

You can download a map of your day 1 itinerary here. Check out the walking distances and make sure to ignore any attraction that doesn’t suite your interests or budget. 

View from the London Eye

London Eye

I first went on London Eye in 2010 and loved the views from it. This is probably the most touristy thing to do in London, but who cares when the views are so incredible? You will get to see the Houses of Parliament, the Big Ben and Westminster Abbey from above, and much more. Even on a rainy day, it is a fun attraction. 

The opening times of London Eye vary depending on the season and day of the week. It is open from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm Monday to Friday and 10:00 am to 8:30 pm Saturday and Sunday. It stays open from 10:00 am to 8:30 pm every day in July and August. The nearest metro stations are Westminster, Charing Cross, Embankment and Waterloo.

London Dungeon Tickets

The lines to get on London Eye can get quite long make sure to book it in advance. You can get your tickets here or here.

Check out my post How To Get London Eye Tickets.

London Dungeon is one of the most interactive attractions in town and it is very close to the London Eye. You can get joint tickets that will allow you to visit both places for a discounted price here or here. If you visit both, go to the London Dungeon first. The tour lasts 90 minutes.

views of London
The Houses of Parliament and the Big Ben as seen from London Eye

Houses of Parliament and Big Ben

The Houses of Parliament and the Big Ben are among London’s most iconic buildings. The first is the seat of the British Parliament, and where all political decisions are taken in the United Kingdom. The Big Ben has just been restored.

Westminster Abbey
Photo by Marco Rubino @shutterstock

Westminster Abbey

Quite possibly the most famous church in the country, Westminster Abbey was founded in 960 AD and since 1066 it’s been the place where royal weddings and coronations take place. It’s also the burial ground of British personalities such as Isaac Newton. Other than that, it is a very beautiful church to visit. 

The Abbey is open from 9:30 am to 3:00 pm, Monday to Saturday. It’s open for services on Sundays. Factor in at least one hour for your visit. You are better off getting tickets in advance for your visit. You can do that here.

National Gallery

National Gallery and Trafalgar Square

The National Gallery is a 15 minutes walk from Westminster Abbey, and one metro stop from Westminster – you must get off at Charing Cross. The gallery is located in Trafalgar Square, one of London most famous squares.

This is my favorite museum in London, by a long shot. It is free to visit – so even if your budget is limited, you have no excuse not to go. But most importantly, it has an incredible art collection and it is so well organized that it is easy to navigate. You can spend hours there.

The National Gallery is open every day from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. It closes at 9:00 pm on Fridays. It is free to visit. Check out the website of the National Gallery for special exhibits as those may require advance bookings.  

Piccadilly Circus
Photo by Claudio Divizia @shutterstock

Piccadilly Circus

A major crossroads in town, it’s within easy walking distance from Trafalgar Square. The square actually is smaller than you imagine (in fact, so small that my mom was quite disappointed when she finally saw it, and exclaimed: “that’s it!?”). I still think it is a fun place, with all the neon lights, the commercial signs, the chain shops and the traffic and noise. Make sure to at least pop by for a photo or two. 

Leicester Square
Photo by Claudio Divizia @shutterstock

Leicester Square

Leicester Square is very close to Piccadilly Circus. Home to cinemas and once popular clubs (back in the day, it was where the Hippodrome and the Equinox were located), it is as touristy as it gets but honestly a cool place to walk by. There are a few – admittedly overpriced – take away places and restaurants.

Covent Garden
Covent Garden

Covent Garden

This used to be one of my favorite places in London. It’s at just 5 minutes walk from Leicester Square. Once a flower market, it now has some nice shops, a few restaurants and some market stalls – all of them equally overpriced. 

What you will surely love about it is the festive atmosphere: it is packed with street artists. Look down from the balcony and there will almost certainly be someone playing an instrument or singing. Walk to one end and there will be more than one performer entertaining children and adult alike. 

Covent Garden is especially charming around Christmas time, when all the decorations are up and you can drink mulled wine and eat pasties from one of the pubs to keep warm. However, be advised as it can get extremely crowded!

Tower of London
A view of the Tower of London from the South Bank

Day 2

You are in for another intense day. Some of the places mentioned in the itinerary require advanced bookings, but there are a few which are also free! 

Map of day 2 

You can download the map of your day 2 itinerary here. Most places are within easy walking distance and I have made sure to include a scenic walk too.

Tower of London
Photo by Xann Marketing @shutterstock

Tower of London

The Tower of London is an absolute must see. It’s where you’ll get to see the Crown Jewels – and quite a sight they are (I can still remember my dad’s expression as he eyed a giant amethyst on one of the crowns!). This is also where some key events in British history took place – it’s here that Anne Boleyn execution took place. 

The Tower of London is open Tuesday to Saturday from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm and Sunday and Monday from 10:00 am to 4:30 pm. Plan to be there as soon as it opens. The nearest metro station is Tower Hill on the District and Circle Line.

This is one of the most popular attractions in the city – advanced bookings are required. You can book your ticket here.

Make sure to read my post How To Get Tower Of London Tickets.

Tower Bridge
You can’t miss the Tower Bridge if you have 2 days in London!

Tower Bridge

Once you exit the Tower of London, walk to your left and go up a short flight of stairs to find yourself on Tower Bridge, the most famous bridge in London. If you want to learn more about the history of the bridge or walk the glass walkway that connects the two towers, you will have to visit the Tower Bridge Exhibit. Otherwise, continue walking to the other side until you reach the South Bank. 

You can walk along the bridge at any time of day and night, but if you want to enter the exhibit or see the engine room, this is open from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm. To get tickets for the Tower Bridge Exhibit, click here.

London Eye

A walk along the South Bank

Walking along the South Bank is probably my favorite thing to do in London. Since I have left the city, I make it a point to head there any time I visit, as the views are absolutely stunning. The photo of Tower Bridge above was taken from the South Bank during a trip to London. Along the banks of the river you will find a multitude of pubs, bars, cafés and restaurants where you can stop for a bite or a drink – or else, just continue walking and enjoy the views. 

Beware of touts and scams along the South Bank. This is the kind of place where you’ll spot the 3 cups or 3 cards game. Don’t fall for it!

London in 2 days
The Shard, London’s most famous skyscraper

The Shard 

If you have already been on the London Eye, you can probably skip The Shard. Otherwise, make sure to go up to its viewing deck, which was opened in 2013 (the skyscraper was inaugurated in 2012 and it is 95 floors tall). The views from there are phenomenal. Make sure to book it in advance as there generally is a line at the ticket counter.

The Shard is open every day, but opening hours vary throughout the year and even throughout the week. Make sure to visit the official website to book your tickets and revise the opening times. You can do that here. Otherwise, you can use a third party site and the price is the same. For more information, click here.

2 days in London
Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace

This is one of the most popular attractions in London, especially if you are curious about the Windsor royal family. Most people go there to see the Changing of the Guard ceremony, but if you are not a fan of crowds you’re better off avoiding it and go in the afternoon, when most people will have dispersed in St. James Park in front of it. If on the other hand you are keen on seeing the ceremony, start your day there and then proceed with the rest of your day in the city. 

If you want to get inside, you really should book in advance and join a guided tour – you won’t be allowed to roam by yourself. You can book your tour here or here.

Hyde Park
Photo by I Wei Huang @shutterstock

Hyde Park

This is London’s most famous park – and the largest one – and a great addition to this London itinerary to see London in 2 days. Go in the summer, and you will find people laying in the sun – make sure to grab a chair and do the same for a while! Visit in the winter, and it is a great place for a walk, and you will spot lots of people running, biking and exercising. 

Harrods
Photo by I Wei Huang @shutterstock

Harrods

The most famous department store in London is a fun place to browse around for an hour or so, especially for shopaholics – and fits nicely in this London itinerary. The hats and gowns section is a must see for girls – you can’t take photos though. The deli section has food from all over the world and you can often try what’s on offer.

Harrods is located in Brompton Road, in Knightsbridge (that’s also the closes metro station). 

London in 2 days
The main hall of the British Museum

Useful Tips To Help You Plan Your Time In London

Guided Tours Of London

You can easily follow this itinerary independently. If you are not confident enough to explore on your own, or if you are a hassle free person, you may want to join a guided tour at least for a day. This one goes to all the most famous attractions, so you only have to worry about wearing comfortable shoes and bringing your camera.

Using A 48 Hours London Pass 

Many travelers find city passes convenient because they have all the tickets they need in one place, so it may be a good idea to invest in one for your 48 hours in London. The main downside, if you ask me, is that once you get it you still have to reserve the various attractions separately.

For the best London Pass options, click here or here.

London in 2 days
You will be using the subway if you visiting London in 2 days

Where to stay in London

Good news! London has no shortage of good accommodation options. Bad news! If you want something decent in terms of location, cleanliness, services, you have to be prepared to spend. Hotels in London are truly expensive.

Anyways, if you only have 2 days in London, location is essential so that you can minimize the time you spend commuting. I recommend staying in Kensington or Westminster Borough and avoiding areas such as Covent Garden unless you want to pay an arm and a leg – besides, it can be chaotic. Shoreditch is not as central as other areas, but it is truly cool and has many good restaurants and gastro-pubs and it is well connected to the main attractions via public transportation.

These are some good places to stay in London:

Make sure to check out my guide on Where To Stay In London: The Best Areas And Hotels and my post The Best Airbnbs In London.

2 days in London

How to get to London

London is served by 5 international airports – London Heathrow, London Gatwick and London City are all served by main airlines; whereas Stansted and Luton are served by budget airlines. London City is actually in the Docklands and you can get there by bus from Central London. The other airports are at the outskirts of the city and by either bus, train or metro. If you are flying from the other side of the world, chances are you will be landing in either Heathrow or Gatwick. 

Whichever airport you are flying into, take the train to get to town as it is faster and more comfortable. Buses may be cheaper, but they are slower and between the speed-bumps, roundabouts etc, you may get motion sickness.

London Eye tickets

Heathrow Express runs to Paddington Train Station, with trains departing every 15 minutes and taking just 15 minutes to get there. The metro (Piccadilly Line) is cheaper, but – depending on where you have to get off – much slower, way more crowded and significantly less comfortable. 

Make sure to check out my post How To Get From Heathrow To London.

Gatwick Express runs to Victoria Station, with trains departing every 15 minutes and taking around 15 minutes to get there.

Stansted Express runs to London Liverpool Street Station, with trains departing every 15 minutes. The journey takes 47 minutes.

You can book your private transfer from the airport to the city center via Welcome Pickups here.

London in 2 days

How to move around London

If you are visiting London in 2 days, I wholeheartedly suggest moving around London by metro (called underground or “the tube”). Between the many metro lines and the light-rail, all areas of the city are easy to reach and well connected. The also are many buses, but traffic is terrible, and the buses hardly on time so you can’t really rely on them. 

One thing you may want to consider is that many metro stations are not accessible at all – making moving around a real nightmare for people with disabilities or if you are carrying a heavy suitcase. Also, the underground (as well as buses) doesn’t run 24/7 so you have to rely on night buses after 11:30 or midnight, and these are not very frequent or efficient. 

The cheapest way to use public transportation in London is if you have an Oyster Card. You can touch in and out every time you get on the subway or the bus, and top it up at any metro station. You can buy it as soon as you get to town (they sell them at the airport) or have one delivered to your post address. You can get yours here

My overall recommendation is to move around by metro during the day, and using Uber once public transportation stops at night. 

St Paul's Cathedral London

Luggage storage in London

If your flight isn’t scheduled until the evening but you must check out of your hotel, you may still take advantage of your time in London to continue exploring. In this case, use one of the many luggage storage facilities you will find scattered around town – there always is one at a train station, so you can pick up your bags on your way to the airport. Stasher is a good company that offer luggage storage and you can book it online. 

Other useful tips 

Get a data plan for your smartphone

Having one will allow you to use apps such as will Google Maps or Uber, which is particularly convenient even when you are seeing London in 2 days. 

Drinking water 

Tap water is safe to drink in London – but it honestly tastes bad. You can probably get some filtered water at your accommodation before leaving and fill up at fountains in places like museums. 

Charing Cross London

Mind the scams

Like any other city that is crowded with tourists, scams are common in London, as well as pickpockets. Beware of the fake theater tickets that are sold in places such as Leicester Square – if you want to see a show, you can probably get tickets online. Fake charity collectors are another common scam – if you want to do good, you can definitely give money to a charity online! 

Get a good travel insurance

Whether you are visiting London in 2 days or more, you will need a good travel insurance.

Check out my post Why You Need A Good Travel Insurance. And get your travel insurance here.

Further Readings

For more ideas about London, read these other posts:

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