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.
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.
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.
Make sure to also read my post What To Wear In London.
A Fantastic Itinerary To See London In 2 Days
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.
I first rode the 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?
Measuring 135 meters (about 443 feet), this is the third tallest ferris wheel in the world. It was designed by David Marks and Julia Barfield to celebrate the new millennium. Construction took seven years, and it took a whole week to lift it up. Meant to be a temporary attraction, as you can see it remained to become an important part of the city landscape.
The London Eye has 32 pods. Up to 25 passengers can get on each pod, on ride that lasts around 30 minutes and during which you get to see the Houses of Parliament, the Big Ben and Westminster Abbey from above, and much more. Some may suggest not going on a rainy day, but I disagree: it still is a lot of fun!
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.
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.
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, London’s iconic clock tower, has just been restored so you can admire it in all its glory.
The Houses of Parliament can be visited on guided tours but you will hardly have time for that if you are only spending 2 days in London. Simply admire the magnificent building from the bridge and snap a photo.
If you insist on visiting, I recommend this tour here that also goes to 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. You can do that here.
National Gallery and Trafalgar Square
The National Gallery is a 15 minutes walk from Westminster Abbey, and one metro stop from Westminster – to get there, 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. Check out the works of impressionism’s most prominent artists, or admire the golden tones of religious art. 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.
A major crossroads in town, and a meeting point for (mostly, but not only) tourists, Piccadilly Circus is 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 – a mere 5 minutes walk. 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, and a nice garden in the center where you may sit for a while.
This used to be one of my favorite places in London. It’s 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, but admittedly the restaurants outside the market itself are actually quite good.
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!
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
The Tower of London is an absolute must see. Built in the 11th century by William the Conqueror, it has served many purposes. Throughout history it’s been used as a royal palace, an armory, a treasury, a menagerie and even as the Royal Mint. Yet, it remains famous for being the place where political prisoners were held and executed – the most famous being Anne Boleyn and Guy Fawkes.
In use until WWII, during which 12 execution of men accused of espionage took place – this is 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!).
Other notable sights include the Beauchamp and Salt Towers, where you can spot prisoners’ graffiti; the Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula, near the execution site; and the Norman Chapel of St John’s in the White Tower wall.
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.
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 (which is suspended at 40 meters (131 feet) from the ground) 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.
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!
If you have already been on the London Eye, you can probably skip The Shard, which with its 300 meters (1,000 feet) tall, is the tallest building in Britain.
Otherwise, make sure to go up to its viewing deck on the 72nd floor, which was opened in 2013 (the skyscraper was inaugurated in 2012 and designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano) – it’s the highest viewing platform in Western Europe and 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.
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 which takes place at 10:45 am, 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 and exploring the palace, you will have to join a guided tour. Here are the best options:
Buckingham Palace: The State Room entrance tickets – This audio-guided tour is one of the most budget friendly and actually comprehensive options for visiting Buckingham Palace. There are two time slots – at 3:15 and 4:00 pm.
Changing of the Guard and Buckingham Palace tour – This tour is the best overall option if you want to visit the Palace and see the Changing of the Guard Ceremony. However, it starts at 10:15 am so Buckingham Palace would have to be your starting point for the day.
Buckingham Palace tickets with Royal walking tour – another good option. The tour starts at 1:30 pm.
This is London’s most famous and largest park – 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.
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).
Useful Tips To Help You Plan Your Trip
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- The Darlington Hyde Park is a nice guesthouse with simple but clean rooms and in a great location. Click here for the latest rates.
- Locke at Broken Wharf offers small but well equipped apartments in a central location. Click here for the latest rates.
- SoHostel offers private rooms and well equipped dorms. It’s in a very convenient location. It’s perfect for travelers on a budget. Click here for the latest rates.
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.
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 connected 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.
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.
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 mobility issues 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 the 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.
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. I
n 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.
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. 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.
For more ideas about London, read these other posts:
- Where To Get The Most Impressive Views Of London
- The Best Sunday Markets In London
- Should You Visit London In Winter?
- 10 Cool Things To Do In Covent Garden
- A Perfect Itinerary To See London In 3 Days
- An Easy To Follow Itinerary For 4 Days London
- The Best 5 Days London Itinerary
- How To Make The Most Of London In A Day
- 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
- 15 Great Day Trips From London
- The 20 Best Museums In London
- 20 + Great Things To Do In Oxford