London is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, and if it’s your first trip to the city, I recommend that you spend at least 5 full days exploring.
This gives you a chance to see some of the best of what London has to offer, including museums, shopping, landmarks and architecture.
In order to make the most of your time in London, pick up an Oyster Card (or a Visitor Oyster Card). You can purchase one before your trip, at the airport or at one of the London tube stations.
I also recommend wearing comfortable shoes — this is a must when visiting London.
While most museums are free to enter in London, there are a few paid attractions that are worth checking out. Take advantage of London’s 2 for 1 offer on these attractions to make your trip more affordable.
If you’re traveling alone or with a group, you may want to consider using The London Pass. This includes free entry to over 60 London attractions, a free Hop on Hop off bus tour, an optional Oyster travelcard and more.
Each day’s activities are relatively close to each other, or can easily be reached using London’s public transit. Print this list and mark these points of interest on a map to help you locate each one.
Day 1 in London
St. Paul’s Cathedral
Why visit? It’s an iconic feature of the London skyline and boasts incredible views from the top of the dome. Visitors can also go down below to see the crypts.
Tip: It’s 528 steps up to the Golden Gallery. Make sure you’re wearing comfortable shoes because it’s worth the climb to enjoy the view from the top.
Why visit? This pedestrian footbridge is one of the coolest bridges in the city. It was also featured in the Harry Potter movies.
Tip: Take photos on the bridge with St. Paul’s in the background for an interesting perspective. The bridge is worth a visit both during the day and at night.
Why visit? The Tate Modern is free to enter and is home to an extensive collection of modern art dating from the 1900s to present day.
Tip: The restaurant at the Tate Modern offers a beautiful view of London. The museum is also open later on Fridays and Saturdays.
Why visit? This is the third theatre, which was reconstructed based on the original Shakespeare’s Globe from 1599. While it’s a bit smaller than the original Globe, this is the only Globe theatre still standing today.
Tip: Visit during the regular season to see a Shakespeare play performed here. Also, don’t forget to take a tour of the theatre to learn more about its history.
Why visit? Borough Market is one of the London’s most popular food markets consisting of more than 100 stalls and stands.
Tip: Pick up fresh produce, breads and cheese to have a delicious picnic or make a meal if your accommodations have a kitchen. Hot meals for take-away are also available.
Day 2 in London
Why visit? Home to Nelson’s column and the iconic stone lions, this is a must-visit square for any first-timer in London.
Tip: Get here about 20 minutes before the National Gallery opens as it can get quite busy later in the morning.
National Gallery (free)
Why visit? That National Gallery is among one of the most visited art museums in the world, after the Louvre in Paris and the MET in New York City. It’s also free to enter so there is no excuse not to visit.
Tip: Arrive here when the museum opens as it can get quite busy with tour groups later in the morning. It is also open late on Friday evenings if you prefer to visit at night.
Why visit? This popular market in London has a variety of shopping, restaurants, theatre and free street performers.
Tip: Enjoy the beautiful atmosphere by visiting here for lunch.
British Museum (free)
Why visit? The British Museum has an amazing collection that spans over two million years of human history. It is also home to the largest collection of ancient Egyptian material outside of Cairo.
Tip: Don’t miss seeing the Rosetta Stone, Egyptian mummies and Pantheon sculptures.
Shopping on Oxford Street, Regent Street and Carnaby Street
Why visit? These streets have some of the best high-street and luxury shopping in London.
Tip: Even if you’re not into shopping, it’s worth a visit just to browse and explore the streets.
Why visit? This is a popular public space among tourists in London and often shown in movies. Relax here and people watch after shopping.
Tip: Visitors can easily explore Regent Street, Piccadilly or Soho from here.
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Day 3 in London
Big Ben and Houses of Parliament
Why visit? If you’re visiting London for the first time, chances are visions of Big Ben come to mind. A visit to London is not complete without a trip to Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.
Tip: Big Ben is the name of the bell inside the clock tower. The tower is actually known as the Elizabeth Tower.
Why visit? The London Eye provides an incredible bird’s eye view of London, particularly of Big Ben.
Tip: Plan to visit here early in the morning or at around the lunch hour. I went here during the week just before noon and there was only a 5-minute wait.
Why visit? With over one million visitors per year, this beautiful 700-year old building is a must-visit in London. This is also where Prince William and Kate Middleton had their wedding.
Tip: There are a number of burials and memorials at Westminster Abbey, including the monarch Mary, Queen of Scots.
Why visit? Buckingham Palace is the official residence of Britain’s sovereigns since 1837. It is also the administrative headquarters of the Monarch.
Tip: Arrive early (at least 15 minutes prior) in order to get a good spot to see the changing of the guards.
Victoria & Albert Museum (free)
Why visit? The Victoria & Albert museum is the world’s largest museum of decorative art and design.
Tip: Enjoy afternoon tea at the museum’s Garden Café.
Natural History Museum (free)
Why visit? One of the best natural history museums in the world, here you can discover information about mammals, dinosaurs, minerals and the earth.
Tip: Perfect museum for families and people of all ages.
Day 4 in London
Tower of London
Why visit? Despite its grim reputation, the Tower of London holds over 1,000 years of history that is worth exploring!
Tip: Visit early on a weekday morning. I went on a November morning and was the only one in the Crown Jewels room.
Tower Bridge Exhibition
Why visit? Learn about how this famous bridge works, walk across the glass floor and enjoy beautiful views from the top of the bridge.
Tip: Don’t forget to visit the engine room which is included in the price of admission.
St Dunsten in the East
Why visit? Built around 1100, the church was severely damaged by both the Great Fire in 1666 and the Blitz of 1941. Today visitors can walk around the ruins in this city garden.
Tip: It’s not uncommon to see people enjoying their lunch on one of the benches. Worth a visit if you like ruins.
Why visit? The monument commemorates the Great Fire of London of 1666.
Tip: After climbing the 311 steps up to the top, you will be treated with a nice view of the Tower Bridge.
Why visit? Built in 1881, this Victorian covered market is a must see in London. Have lunch or shop around here in the afternoon.
Tip: Harry Potter fans may recognize Leadenhall Market from the movies, as it was also the filming location for some of the exterior Diagon Alley scenes.
Why visit? One of London’s most popular attractions, browse stalls that sell a variety of clothing, crafts or fast food.
Tip: A fun mixture of cultures and delicious street food.
Day 5 in London
Portobello Market in Notting Hill
Why visit? One of the most popular markets in the world, this is a fun destination for both tourists and locals alike. You may recognize it from the movie Notting Hill.
Tip: The main day to visit is on Saturday, although you can explore the antique shops during the week as well.
Why visit? One of the largest in the city and also a royal park, this is a beautiful place to visit year round in London.
Tip: During the Christmas season, visitors can enjoy the Winter Wonderland.
Why visit? Structured and designed by John Nash, this 19-century marble arch is a London landmark.
Tip: The arch was originally located near Buckingham Palace and only members of the Royal family could pass through, as well as the Royal Horse Artillery and King’s Troop. However today, visitors can freely walk through the arches.
London’s King’s Cross Station / St Pancreas Station
Why visit? King’s Cross Station is home to Platform 9 ¾ which is a must-visit for any Harry Potter fan.
Tip: Arrive early to avoid waiting in the queque.
Have dinner at a London pub
Why visit? London is known for its pubs and it would be hard to imagine the city without them.
Tip: I highly recommend the Black Friar pub (just across from Blackfriar Station). They offer a delicious vegetarian pie.
See the London Eye lit up at night
Why visit? How else would you spend your last evening in London? I recommend heading to the London Eye where you can see it lit up at night and Big Ben.
Tip: If you have time, walk across the Hungerford Bridge which is also lovely at night and has a great view of the London Eye.5-day London itinerary for first-time visitorsClick To Tweet
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