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 you only have 2 days in London and it is your first time there, 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, when you have more time in the city.
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. During my time there, family and friends would visit me and I always took them around town, trying to squeeze in as much as possible in a short time. This is to say that I have a lot of experience in crafting itineraries to see London in a short amount of time.
In this post, I provide a carefully crafted itinerary to make the most of London in 2 days – so it is perfect if you are spending a weekend in the city, or if you want to include it in a longer UK or even Europe trip. I will also be sharing some practical information that will help you plan your trip.
In a rush? Check out these guided tours of London:
- London In a Day: Tower of London tour, Westminster Abbey & Changing of the Guard – this great tour of London takes you to some of its best sights, including Tower Bridge and Westminster Abbey. It seems expensive but it actually is great value for money if you consider you are out for more than 8 hours.
- London walking tour with Westminster Abbey and Changing of the Guard – similar to the one above, minus the Tower of London so it is a good solution if you are not interested in that.
- London top sights: fun tour with a local guide – you get to see many of London landmarks. It’s the most budget friendly option.
How To Use This London In 2 Days Itinerary
Before I get into the details of this itinerary for 2 days in London, let me underline that 2 days are really not enough to see all that the city has to offer. If you want to save some time at tourist attractions, you need to get skip the line, timed entrance tickets to the attractions you want to visit.
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, such as the Tower of London, London Eye or The Shard must be booked in advance. If you forget to do so, you may find yourself stuck in a line at the ticket counter – not the best way to spend your time when you are trying to see London in 2 days, really!
Don’t worry though. Keep on reading this post as I will guide you through the city, suggesting which places are free to visit and which require advanced bookings.
This 2-days itinerary is based on the assumption that you are spending 2 days in London – in other words 2 full days and 3 nights. You can try to squeeze everything in even if you only have 2 nights, as long as your flight or train gets in very early in the morning on your first day, and leaves very late on your way out of the city.
This itinerary is based on long personal experience – I know London can get to you, so I tried not to pack it too much, and mix in some museums and exhibit with open air attractions that are also free.
TIP: If you are coming from the other side of the world, you will be exhausted and jet lagged. Make sure to drink lots of water, take some melatonin drops to help you regulate your sleep, and go to bed early!
If you are too thrilled to sleep, you may want to join a guided food tour of London for a fun introduction to the city. I know Britain hardly has the reputation of a foodie destination, but honestly it does not deserve it. You can find good food in the country, and especially traditional food is truly tasty and comforting. This Secret British food tour has 3 daily departures and lets you taste some of the local staples. It also goes to Borough Market, which happens to be my favorite market in London (and where I used to shop for real delicacies). You can book it here.
Here are some extra tips to help you make the most of your 2 days in London:
- Leave as early as possible in the morning.
- Have lunch on the go. This is never an issue in London – there are plenty of places where you can grab a sandwich or a salad. Pret-A-Manger is a popular sandwich chain you will find all over town. If you can’t find anything to suit your tastebuds, a grocery store such as Marks and Spencer, Tesco, Sainsbury or Waitrose will have a good selection of ready made sandwiches and salads.
- Get an Oyster Card if you intend to use public transportation (more about that below).
- Check out the opening times of museums – if they are open late, leave them for the end of the day.
- Wear comfortable clothes and shoes.
Follow this itinerary and I guarantee you will enjoy seeing London in 2 days.
A Fantastic Itinerary To See London In 2 Days
The first of your London in 2 days itinerary will be quite intense. You will visit some places that require pre-bookings and others that are free. I have left those as the last stops as they can be visited at any time of day and – in my opinion – they are much more interesting in the evening.
Map of day 1
You can download a map of your day 1 itinerary here, so that you can have an idea of the walking distances and – if necessary – rearrange it to use public transportation. Feel free to ignore any attraction that doesn’t suite your interests or budget.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The opening times of London Eye vary depending on the season. It usually opens at 10:00 am and closes between 6:00 and 8:30 pm.
NEAREST METRO STATIONS: Westminster, Charing Cross, Embankment and Waterloo.
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 real fun thing to do.
GOOD TO KNOW: At just one minute walk from the London Eye, London Dungeon is one of the most interactive attractions in town. You can get joint tickets that will allow you to visit both attractions for a discounted price here. If you visit both, you’ll have to opt for the London Dungeon first. The tour lasts 90 minutes.
Check out my post “How To Get London Eye Tickets.”
Houses of Parliament and Big Ben
The Houses of Parliament and the Big Ben are among London’s most iconic buildings. You have definitely seen them many times on TV, if anything on the news. As the name says, the Houses of Parliament is the seat of the British Parliament, and where all political decisions are taken in the United Kingdom.
If you want to take a tour, you may opt for this Exclusive Houses of Parliament Tour & Skip the Line Westminster Abbey Tour – however, keep in mind it lasts almost 4 hours which is not ideal when you are trying to visit London in 2 days. Just snap a few photos from the bridge and then move on to the Abbey.
GOOD TO KNOW: Big Ben is currently being restored so the views is a bit obstructed at the moment.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The Abbey is open Mondays to Fridays from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm, Saturdays from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm. It closes at 6:00 pm on Wednesday. Closed on Sundays
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.
Factor in at least one hour for your visit, and keep in mind there may be a line at the ticket counter so you may be better off getting a ticket in advance. These are the best options:
- Westminster Abbey entry ticket and multi-media guide – a good self guided tour of the abbey that gives you flexible entrance.
- Westminster Abbey skip the line ticket with audioguide – a good no frills option that comes with an audioguide so you can go around at your own pace.
National Gallery and Trafalgar Square
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The National Gallery is open every day from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. It closes at 9:00 pm on Fridays.
The National Gallery is at 15 minutes walk from Westminster Abbey. If you are not up for the walk or if the weather is bad, you may hop on the subway. It’s just one 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. I can’t even remember how many times I have been there! First of all, it is free – so even if your budget to visit London in 2 days 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, and I am sure you will. For a more complete experience you may want to opt for an audio-guide. You can get it from the Sainsbury wing for £5 (around $5.2 USD).
TIP: Check out the website of the National Gallery for special exhibits as those may require advance bookings.
Your itinerary to see London in 2 days has to include Piccadilly Circus, as this is as London as it gets. 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 is very close to Piccadilly Circus. Home to cinemas and once popular clubs (back in the day, it was where the Hyppodrome and the Equinox were located – I remember spending a night or two there!), it is as touristy as it gets but honestly a cool place to walk by. There are a few take away places and restaurants but honestly they are way overpriced so don’t stop there to eat!
This used to be one of my favorite places in London – so I inevitably have to included it in your itinerary to see London in 2 days. 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. This is a place packed with street artists. Look down from the balcony and there almost certainly will be someone playing some music 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. Mind you – it can get extremely crowded!
The second of your London in 2 days itinerary will be pretty much as intense as day 1. 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 one from the other and I have made sure to include a scenic walk too.
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.
The Tower of London is an absolute must see when you visit London in 2 days. Again, this is a place I have visited many times. 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 eyes 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.
TIP: Plan your visit to the Tower of London as soon as it opens, so make sure to be there a bit before 9:00 am.
The Tower of London is one of the most popular attractions in the city – advanced bookings are required. These are some of the best options:
- Tower of London and Crown Jewels exhibition ticket – a basic skip the line option but it includes access to all areas.
- Early Access Crown Jewels with Opening Ceremony and Complete Tower of London Guided Tour – a great option for an early guided tour. It’s a bit pricey but keep in mind the tour lasts almost 3 hours!
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: You can walk along the bridge at any time of day and night, but if you want to enter the exhibit, this is open from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm.
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 – you can get tickets here. Otherwise, continue walking to the other side until you reach the South Bank.
A walk along the South Bank
Walking along the South Bank is probably my favorite thing to do in London since I grew up (while I was young, it was hanging out in Covent Garden). 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 last time I was in 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.
GOOD TO KNOW: 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. I once enjoyed sitting and calling the police, just to see how fast these scammers would react once they realized police was coming and let me tell you, they were quick!
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The Shard is open every day from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm in the summer time. During the winter, it is open from 10:00 to 7:00 pm Sunday to Wednesday and from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm Thursday to Saturday.
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 storey tall). The views from there are phenomenal. Make sure to book it in advance as there generally is a line at the ticket counter. You can get your tickets from the official website or here (the price is the same).
This is one of the most popular attractions in London, especially if you are curious about the Windsor royal family, so I thought I should include it in this London in 2 days itinerary.
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, make sure to 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. These are the best guided tour options:
- Buckingham Palace: The State Room entrance tickets – a budget friendly audio-guided tour of the Palace that lasts around 3 hours.
- Changing of the Guard and Buckingham Palace tour – a good guided tour, it lasts about 3 hours and you get to see the ceremony and the palace.
- Buckingham Palace tickets with Royal walking tour – a good tour of the palace, starting at 1:30 pm (so perfect if you want to follow this itinerary just the way I have drafted it) and lasting 2.5 hours.
This is London’s most famous park – and the largest one – and a great addition to this 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.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Harrods is located in Brompton Road, in Knightsbridge (that’s also the closes metro station).
I guess I shouldn’t be calling Harrods a free attraction as you will inevitably end up shopping there, and spending some money. I guess what I mean to say is that there is no admission fee and once you are inside you are free to browse on all the floors. The hats and gowns section is a lot of fun to see for girls – you can’t take photos though. While living there, I loved going to the deli section in search of some Sardinian delicatessen. I still remember how excited I was when I realized I could get Sardinian Pecorino there.
All in all, this is a fun place to spend an hour or so hence a nice addition to this itinerary to see London in 2 days.
Guided Tours Of London
This London in 2 days itinerary is completely doable 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. The ones I have selected below go to all the most famous attractions, so you only have to worry about wearing comfortable shoes and bringing your camera.
- London In a Day: Tower of London tour, Westminster Abbey & Changing of the Guard – a great tour of London that goes to some of its best sights, including Tower Bridge and Westminster Abbey. Considering it lasts 8 full hours, it is great value for money.
- London walking tour with Westminster Abbey and Changing of the Guard – similar to the one I have just mentioned, but a bit cheaper because the Tower of London is not included.
- London top sights: fun tour with a local guide – the most budget friendly option of all.
Using A 48 Hours London Pass
I must admit I am not really a fan of city passes. I find they are hardly money savers, and they definitely aren’t time savers as once you get them you still need to book all attractions you want to visit separately. Having said so, many find them convenient because they have all the tickets they need in one place, so it may be a good idea to invest in one when you are planning to visit London in 2 days.
These are the 2 best London Pass options:
- The London Pass with access to over 80 attractions – you can pick the duration of your pass. If you opt for the 2-days one, it costs little over $125 USD.
- London 5 attractions pass – a more budget friendly option but you only have 5 attractions and you have to visit them in one day.
Practical Tips To Make The Most Of 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, when visiting London in 2 days, location is essential so that you can minimize the time you spend commuting from one area to the other. Keep in mind London is massive, so you should pick areas such as Kensington or Westminster Borough for your stay. I don’t recommend staying in areas such as Covent Garden unless you want to pay an arm and a leg – besides, it can be chaotic.
On the other hand, Shoreditch, which is not as central as other areas, is a truly cool area with many good restaurants and gastro-pubs and well connected to the main attractions via public transportation – but perhaps not central enough when trying to see London in 2 days.
These are some good places to stay in London – I picked something for all budgets:
- 41 is a fabulous hotel in central London with plush rooms with classic style furnishing and vintage looking bathrooms. It’s very expensive, but worth it you have the budget. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- The Duke Rooms London is a nice bed and breakfast in an excellent location. Rooms are small but perfectly equipped. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- The Darlington Hyde Park is a nice guesthouse with simple but clean rooms and in a great location. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- Locke at Broken Wharf offers small but well equipped apartments in a central location. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- SoHostel offers private rooms and well equipped dorms. It’s in a very convenient location. Perfect for travelers on a budget. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
Stay tuned as I will be writing a more detailed guide on where to stay in London.
When to visit London
London is a great destination year round and – no matter which time of the year you go – it is packed with tourists. I personally find it beautiful when the Christmas decorations are up – which doesn’t necessarily mean around Christmas time. You will find the city already adorned at the beginning of November. Keep in mind that the city can get bitterly cold in the winter, and terribly hot in the summer. If you are hoping for good weather, April and May or September and October may be your best choices.
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 all located at the outskirts of the city and well connected to the city center 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, I recommend opting to take the train as it is faster and more comfortable. Buses may be cheaper, but they are significantly slower and between the speed-bumps, roundabouts and the way drivers think they are in for a race, you will likely end up with motion sickness.
Heathrow Express runs to Paddington Train Station, with trains departing every 15 minutes and taking just 15 minutes to get there. You can get your train tickets here. The metro (Piccadilly Line) is cheaper, but – depending on where you have to get off – much slower, way more crowded and significantly less comfortable.
Gatwick Express runs to Victoria Station, with trains departing every 15 minutes and taking around 15 minutes to get there. You can get your train tickets here.
Stansted Express runs to London Liverpool Street Station, with trains departing every 15 minutes. The journey takes 47 minutes. You can get your train tickets here.
Alternatively, these are some good transfer options
How to move around London
I wholeheartedly suggest moving around London by subway (called underground or “the tube”). Between the 11 metro lines and the light-rail ones, 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.
The main issue with London Underground is the fact that it is extremely old, with some lines with truly narrow tunnels requiring trains to frequently stop and let others pass before moving on. Because they are so old, most 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. Last but not least, 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.
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, I recommend making use of the 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 guide book
Make sure to carry a good guidebook for information about the best places to visit in London in 2 days. Make sure to get an up-to-date one with a good map!
These are some good guide books:
Get a data plan for your smartphone
Make sure to get a data plan for your phone to make sure you can use it. It will come in handy even when you are planning on visiting London in 2 days. Being able to have data to use Google Maps or Uber will be definitely handy.
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.
Mind the scams
Like any other city that is crowded with tourists, scams are common in London, as well as pickpockets in crowded places such as metro station or the subway. 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. For example you can get your tickets to Mamma Mia the musical here. Fake charity collectors are another nuisance – if you want to do good, you can definitely give money to a charity online!
Get a good travel insurance
Further readings about London
For more ideas about London, read these other posts:
- A Perfect Itinerary To See London In 3 Days
- An Easy To Follow Itinerary For 4 Days London
- The Best 5 Days London Itinerary
- 15 Amazing Day Trips From Paris
- 5 Easy Ways Of Getting London Dungeon Tickets
- 5 Stunning London Hidden Gems
- How To Get Madame Tussauds London Tickets And Skip The Lines
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