London Bridge is a must see on your 5 Day London Itinerary
I had dreamt about seeing some of London’s tourist spots. Buckingham Palace was top of the list along with Big Ben, Tower Bridge, Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London. And I wasn’t disappointed either when I finally got to see them. A good thing about many of the tourist sights in London is they are clumped together. This means the things to see and do in London are easy to get to and you can spend a whole day exploring the one area. With this five-day London itinerary, I take you to all of London’s biggest sights which is why you came to London in the first place! Without further ado, here is my suggested 5 day itinerary for first timers to London. This post updated August 2022.
5 Day London Itinerary at a Glance
1: Royal London – Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace, St James Palace, Piccadilly Circus
2: Westminster area – Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliament and Big Ben and Southbank
3: History of London – Tower of London and Tower Bridge and financial London – Royal Exchange and St Paul’s Cathedral
4: Kensington area – Kensington Gardens and Palace, High Street Kensington Shopping
5: Your Choice – Madame Tussaud’s, Harry Potter Experience and Kings Cross Station, The Shard.
Before expanding on this London itinerary, you will want to know how to get around London.
How to Get Around London
Purchase a Travel Card to travel around London on the Tubes and Buses
London’s transport system is great. This is because of the number of transport options to get you around this metropolises. London is serviced by London Underground (The Tube), London Red Buses and taxis. To use the The Tube and the buses get yourself an Opal Card and get going.
There are many free attractions to visit in London like The National History Museum and The V&A. However, there are many ticketed attractions (which are included in this itinerary) so it makes a whole lotta sense to purchase the London Pass / London Explorer Pass. With a pass, you won’t have to line up each time to purchase a ticket as your entry is included in the pass. Grab yours here.
If you are limited for time or want to see London’s sights quickly then consider going on the hop-on hop-off tourist bus. They will take you to all the major attractions. There is London’s Big Bus or the Hop-on Hop-Off Bus. I often go on a hop-on hop-off bus in all the cities I visit. They take me to all the major sites, provide commentary and I can then choose which ones to go back to to spend more time.
TIP: I suggest you have a broken in pair of good walking shoes to wear as you will be on your feet a lot. And if visiting London during the colder months wear layers and have a jacket you can take off when indoors as England has fabulous central heating to keep you warm when it is cold outside!
London’s transport system is great because of the number of options available to get you around this metropolises. London is serviced by London Underground (The Tube), London Red Buses and taxis. To use the The Tube and the buses get yourself an Opal Card and get going.
Where to Stay While in London for Your 5 Day Visit
London has loads of accommodation on offer. Ranging from hostels to B&Bs to 5-star hotels that you may have heard their name on the Monopoly Board. If this is your first time in London I recommend you stay in the centre of London, particularly in Zone 1. This way you are close to the tourist attractions and can easily get around on the Tube and buses. To see the zones, look at a Tube Map, the yellow Circle Line is the boundary of Zone 1, so try to stay as close to Tube stations on this line.
If hostels are your choice of accommodation style then you are in luck because London has around 150 of them. I recommend checking out HostelWorld to help you make your choice cause hostels range in comforts. They have varying number of beds in rooms ranging from single rooms, double and/or twin rooms to a bed in a dorm of 21 people. So have it in your mind what you would prefer. Here are some I have stayed in and recommend.
If you are wanting a budget hotel then consider:
Earls Court Garden Hotel which is in Earls Court and is easy to reach from the airport and has lots of transport into central London.
Lord Jim – I have stayed in this one and it was enjoyable.
Mayflower Hotel and Apartments
You could consider house sitting for your 5 days in London. Check out Trusted Housesitters for options. The problem here is, finding a housesit at the time you want it and it being close to London. Or consider an AirBnB.
Your London adventure starts today when you alight at Hyde Park Corner Tube Station. Hyde Park Corner is one of the busiest corners in London. Walk through Hyde Park, arguably the best park in London. Pass by Wellington Arch which was built as an original entrance to Buckingham Palace. It later became a victory arch after Wellington defeated Napoleon. You can climb to its balconies for views over London. Then proceed down Constitution Hill which is a very pleasant walk with Green Park on your left and high Buckingham Palace walls with their spikes and barbed wire on the right. At the end of Constitution Hill you will come to the Queen Victoria Memorial in front of Buckingham Palace – a must see on your visit to London. If the flag is flying, the Queen’s home!
During summer you may tour some of the Buckingham Palace State Rooms. You could also see the changing of the guard which occurs at 11.00am but check the times if you really want to see it. It is worth it for the pomp and ceremony. If you continue walking around the palace you will come to the Queen’s Gallery which is an art gallery and the Royal Mews, which is where the carriages and horses are. Sometimes these are open to the public.
If you back-track (or ‘turn back on yourself’ as they say in the UK) from Buckingham Palace and walk up The Mall, you will see St James’s Palace. On your right and in the distance, there is Westminster Abbey and the Horse Guards (which is on tomorrow’s suggested day). To your left you will pass Clarence House, once the residence of the Queen Mother and now the London home of Prince Charles. Almost at the end of The Mall you will encounter the Duke of York statue at the top of some stairs. If you climb the stairs and continue walking up the street you will reach Piccadilly Circus, home of the Eros Statue and perpetually buzzing with activity.
Or you could head to Harrods, London’s most luxurious department store. A trip to London without a trip to Harrods, in my opinion, is a no-no. You could actually spend hours in Harrods, the food halls on the bottom floor will blow you away, and don’t leave without a ‘Harrods Bag’!
You may wish to end Day 1 in London in a nice restaurant or eatery in this exciting area. If your feet are tired you may want to head back to your accommodation. Or spend the evening in a bar in the area.
Today, your second day in London take the Tube or bus to Westminster. Here you will find Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. From here walk across the Westminster Bridge to Southbank where you will find the London Eye or Millenium Wheel. This wheel is the largest observation wheel in the world standing some 135 metres high. You could take a ride on The Eye which offers stunning views over London. It is a bit of a gimmick, but the view was worth it. You can jump the queue and purchase your ticket here.
You are right near Waterloo and this area is bursting with cafes, restaurants and quirky bars where you could enjoy a meal before crossing over the Westminster Bridge to Westminster Abbey which is across the road from Big Ben. This stunning gothic building is the country’s coronation church since 1066. Westminster Abbey is where many a royal wedding and coronation has taken place. The most recent being that of Prince William and Kate. Since the 11th century this abbey has been steeped in history and you may find yourself spending hours walking around inside. I know I did. If you do go inside you will see the burial site and Coronation Chair of Edward the Confessor, founder of the abbey. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is there, along with the graves of poets, playwrights, and many kings and queens. It is extremely interesting and steeped in history. You can purchase your ticket here.
After leaving the abbey, walk around Parliament Square and see the statues. If you’re hungry, head along Victoria Street where there are many eateries. You could also visit Westminster Cathedral. Alternatively, after viewing Parliament Square turn up Parliament Street and follow the signs to the Cabinet War Rooms. At the underground wartime headquarters visit the rooms used by Winston Churchill during WWII. The War Rooms are very interesting and have been recreated to look how they looked during the war. Purchase your ticket here.
Returning to Parliament Street, turn left and continue to 10 Downing Street, which is unfortunately cordoned off from the public by a large wrought-iron fence. You will have to crane your neck to see anything worthwhile. This is the London residence of the Prime Minister. Continuing along the street The Cenotaph is located in the middle of the street where you could pay your respects to the fallen. You could then visit the Horse Guards. Watch for the changing of the guard and take a photo of those who protect the Queen.
Parliament Street becomes Whitehall and along here you will find Trafalgar Square with Nelson’s Column taking pride of place. You might want to feed the pigeons. Perhaps visit the St Martin-in-the-Fields Church or the National Gallery (which some say takes a day or more to explore). You could also walk through the magnificent Admiralty Arch and glimpse Buckingham Palace in the distance. End your day around Piccadilly Circus or Leiceister Square and maybe catch a show at one of the theatres on the West End. Or enjoy a meal in Soho or Chinatown nearby. Check out buskers the in Covent Garden. All these places are so close together you are spoilt for choice with food options and bars to enjoy a drink.
So after 2 days of sightseeing you will have discovered there is plenty to see and do in London. And there is still plenty more. Today take the Tube to Tower Hill Tube Station, situated on the Circle and District Tube lines. By following the signs you will find yourself stepping back in time to macabre English history. You will discover areas of London Wall dating back to Roman times. Across the road from Tower Hill is the Tower of London where you’ll see Traitor’s Gate. You’ll also be able to visit the Bloody Tower where two princes, Edward V and his brother, were murdered. it’s also the place where King Henry VIII had a couple of his wives beheaded. If you love history, you could spend many hours in this place. These days you will find friendly Beefeaters conducting tours and you will be able to view the Queen’s priceless Crown Jewels. Do arrive early to beat the crowds.
Leaving the Tower of London, you could cross the Thames via Tower Bridge. There are plenty of photo opportunities as you walk across this famous landmark often seen on the tourist brochures. You can walk this Gothic structure, which gives great views of London. Or you can climb parts of it for fabulous views.
Once across the bridge, turn right into Tooley Street. If you are interested in battleships, board the HMS Belfast or continue up this street to the London Dungeon. Here your senses will work overtime as you see, hear and smell the gruesome tortures that were practised throughout England’s long history.
If you have had enough touring after London Dungeon, London Bridge Station is there to take you home. If you haven’t had enough, visit Southwark Cathedral or cross over the Thames via London Bridge, (which is near the site of the original medieval bridge). Once across, you will arrive at a really tall, 202Ft to be exact, column structure known as The Monument. This structure was built as a reminder of the Great Fire of London of 1666, which apparently started in a bakery not far away in Pudding Lane. The fire burnt a great deal of London and is a significant event in London’s history as London had to be rebuilt. The Monument was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and Dr Robert Hooke. You can climb to the top via the spiral staircase inside. Be warned, the spiral staircase consists of 311 stone steps, which I found a little scary at times, but the view is worth it.
From The Monument either head up King William Street to the Bank of England and the Royal Exchange or head along Cannon Street to Ludgate Hill. Here you will find St Pauls Cathedral, which was made famous by Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer’s wedding in 1981. I worked in the area for a while and would often sit on the steps of the cathedral to have my lunch. The cathedral has been built and rebuilt some five times with the current design by Sir Christopher Wren, a name you will hear often as he was behind many of London’s landmarks.
Finish your day with dinner at Leadenhall Market. Tucked away in the heart of The City, on the edge of the financial district It is wonderful wandering through the market with over 700 years of history. It actually stood in for Diagon Alley in the first Harry Potter film. I would often spend my lunch breaks here as I worked in the financial district while on my working holiday in the UK.
Today is day 4 on our what things to see and do in London. I suggest you head to Knightsbridge for some shopping at Harrods. You might spend the morning here or possibly longer depending on how long you like to shop. Then catch a bus up Kensington High Street or walk through Hyde Park and in to Kensington Gardens. Whilst strolling through the parks see the squirrels. Visit the Princess Diana Memorial and then take a tour of Kensington Palace where you can see the State Apartments. You are near High Street Kensington Shopping area so you could go shopping or enjoy a meal in a cafe. You never know who you might see out shopping or sitting in a cafe – while I was in a cafe on High Street Kensington the drummer from Queen walked in with his wife!
Kensington also has a lot of shops to visit. If you don’t feel like shopping, head along Cromwell Road to visit the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A as it is affectionately called) and The Natural History and Science Museum. Both are worth a visit. To see everything in the museums may take a few hours or even a full day if you really love visiting museums.
I haven’t given an itinerary for today of things to see and do in London. Use it as a day to go back to the places you want to see again or other things to see. Here are some other possibilities.
Alighting from the Tube or bus at Baker Street Station, you could visit Madame Tussauds wax museum. See many famous people immortalised in wax including the Royal Family. Also in this area discover the haunts of Sherlock Holmes, or take a pleasant walk through Regents Park to London Zoo.
Harry Potter fans may wish to visit Kings Cross Station and go to Platform 9 and 3/4. Or take a day tour to Warner Brothers Studios to see many of sets used for the movies.
Go up The Shard, London’s tallest building for fabulous panoramic views over the city and some 40 miles away. Then head to Borough Market for some fabulous food. Not to far away is Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre where you could enjoy a show. Spending the rest of your day on Oxford Street – shopping.
Another possibility today could be to visit the iconic Portobello Road Market. And finish exploring Notting Hill area and see ‘that door’ from the movie.
Checklist for Travelling to London
Now you know things to see and do during you London holiday, it’s time to prepare for your trip to London. Here are my suggestions on how best to prepare for your 5 day London trip.
- 9 Months Before Travelling to London – Organise Your Passport, Visa and Travel Documents.
- 3-6 Months Before Travelling to London – Research and Book Flights, Accommodation and Tours and Travel Insurance.
- 1 Month Before Travelling to London – Even in 2022, the most important thing to know before travelling to London is if there are any COVID- related restrictions. Keep up to date with them. Visit this UK government website for details.
- 1 Month Before Travelling to London – Start doing things such as exchanging some currency to British Pounds and research how you will get from the airport into London. Buy an Oyster card.
- Week leading up to your trip to London – Start Packing
Things to Pack for Your Visit to London
It will depend on what season you a visiting London as to what to pack. If visiting London during the summer months then you can get away with summer clothes with one set of warm clothes including a jacket, jumper and long pants. If visiting during the winter months it is best to take layers to wear as it can be extremely cold outside and hot inside from the central heating. Some essentials to pack for your London holiday should include – clothes appropriate to the weather. Power adaptor and Powerbank to ensure your devices are charged. Good walking shoes and a Cross Over Bag for safety of your documents.
Are You Ready to Spend 5 Days in London?
You will see and do many things in London on my 5-day itinerary for first timers to London. I hope I haven’t worn you out! I do hope you enjoy London. It is a fabulous city to live, work and play in.