Experience the best of London in 5 days
London is a fascinating and vibrant city that’s full of things to see and do. In fact, it’s so packed with amazing sights and experiences that it can be quite difficult to fit everything you want to do into one trip. And there’s nothing worse than leaving a city behind with the feeling that you missed out on something special.
But don’t worry — we’ve got you covered! Keep on reading to learn how you can see and do all of the best activities in London in 5 days.
Itinerary for five days in London
Full disclosure: we lived in London for almost two months and, while we’ve done just about everything on this itinerary, we definitely didn’t do it all in five days. But if you’re determined, you can! Or you can pick and choose the activities and attractions that are the most important to you and fit in a little relaxation time. The choices are all yours, but we’ll guide you through all of our top recommendations!
Day 1: Stroll along the Thames
On your first day in London, we’re going to learn some of the city’s history (in one of the most fun ways), take in the sights along the River Thames, and enjoy some of London’s iconic food.
Day One Morning: Tower of London and Tower Bridge
Head to the Tower of London first thing to explore this historic castle and admire the Crown Jewels — we spent three hours there and could have easily stayed longer if we hadn’t gotten so hungry! Be sure to take the Yeoman’s tour to get the full experience and enjoy some laughs along the way.
Exit the Tower of London toward Tower Bridge (you’ll see it). If you have time before lunch, you might want to take a stroll across Tower Bridge or even take the tour and walk across the top level. If not, it’s perfectly fine to just enjoy the view of such a statuesque structure. You might even get lucky and see the bridge open to let a ship pass by!
Day One Lunch: Fish & Chips
If you’re ready for some food, it’s time for that London staple, fish and chips! Josef Fish & Chips, near the Tower of London, was very tasty and filling!
Day One Afternoon: North & South Bank
After you’ve gotten your fill of fish and chips, it’s time to walk along the bank of the Thames and take in some of the iconic sights. As you head west along the North Bank from the Tower of London (away from Tower Bridge) look for the Gherkin, the Walkie Talkie building, and the Monument to the Great Fire of London (you’ll have to walk two blocks away from the river bank to visit the latter).
If you plan well, you might try booking a visit to the Sky Garden at the top of the Walkie Talkie building. This calm oasis gives you a chance to relax and rest your feet and offers an incredible view of the London skyline. It’s free to visit but you have to book pretty far in advance to get a spot.
Walk across London Bridge to get to the South Bank. If you didn’t visit the Sky Garden and want to see a great view, consider heading to The Shard’s viewing gallery.
Otherwise, if you’re ready for a snack or maybe some ice cream, make your way to Borough Market and peruse the many stalls of yummy food offerings.
Heading further west along the South Bank, you’ll come to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, a replica of the original Globe Theatre, very near the original location.
Consider joining a tour of the theatre — tours run about an hour and are very informative and entertaining. If the timing is right, come back after dinner or later in the week to catch a show. The productions are absolutely top-notch (says this theatre professional)!
From the Globe, you might want to cross back on the Millennium Bridge (featured in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince movie). You’ll enjoy fantastic views of St. Paul’s Cathedral heading north on the bridge.
Day One Dinner: English Pub
For dinner, pick a pub, any pub! Enjoy some classic English fare like bangers and mash, Scotch eggs, cottage pie, a toastie (melt), or a good ol’ burger.
Day One Evening: Relax or catch a show
After a full day of walking around town, possibly after a lengthy flight and dealing with a time change, you may be ready to call it! If so, definitely head back and get some rest. The next four days will be equally full!
Otherwise, if you can catch a show at the Globe, or if the timing works to go to a West End show on Day One, go for it. Just make sure you’ll be able to keep your eyes open!
Day 2: Explore Westminster
Day Two Breakfast: Go Full English
Our first big activity on Day Two is attending the Changing of the Guards, and since that normally doesn’t start until around 11am, you can start your morning with a big breakfast. And by “big breakfast” I mean a Full English!
The Full English breakfast traditionally comes with eggs, bacon, sausage, fried tomatoes, fried mushrooms, toast, baked beans, and black pudding. It’s a lot of food. Enough that it inspired a new phrase in our household: “Going Full English!”
Day Two Morning: Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace
Be sure to check updated days and times for the Changing of the Guards and get to Buckingham Palace in plenty of time to grab a good spot. We found that standing in front of the Victoria Memorial, facing the palace, gave us a great view of the guards marching in, and we could see most of what was going on inside the gates, albeit from further away than if we had staked out a spot right against the gates. If you get the chance to go twice, I’d try both spots.
For the full experience, you’ll probably be at the palace for about an hour or so. The highlight is hearing the band play both classic and modern songs, so be sure to stick around for that!
Day Two Lunch: The Original Hard Rock Cafe
Yes, it’s a semi-cheesy, Americanized theme restaurant, but it’s the original! And personally, I can’t get enough of their Twisted Chicken Mac & Cheese (well, yes I can, the portions are huge). If you’re someone who “collects” Hard Rock Cafes (*raises hand*), then you won’t want to miss the original HRC.
Day Two Afternoon: Explore Westminster
If you went to the Original HRC, you’ll be close to Hyde Park and Harrod’s, so have a nice stroll through the park on your way to a shopping spree, if that’s your thing (*raises hand again*).
Then, make your way back past the palace, to Westminster Abbey where you could take a tour, or (expert tip) you can always attend a service for free! We made it there for the Evensong service and hearing the choir sing in such a gorgeous place was a pretty cool experience.
Day Two Dinner: Cinnamon Club
If you can handle a bit of a splurge, head to the Cinnamon Club near Westminster Abbey for some fantastic Indian food in a converted library.
If you prefer a quick, cheap option, just look for any takeaway spot or even grab a ready-made meal option from any grocery store! Sainsbury’s, Tesco, and most other stores offer a meal deal that includes a sandwich or other “main”, a bag of crisps, and a soda, for just a few pounds.
Day Two Evening: Iconic Westminster Sites
After dinner (or before, depending on your timing), take a stroll along the Westminster Bridge for views of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.
When you get to the other side of the river, head north toward the London Eye and enjoy a sunset ride. The giant wheel may look imposing, but it’s a slow, smooth ride that takes 30 minutes to go around. You can save money by booking your tickets ahead of time, but you’ll get a better experience and see more if you go when the sky is clear!
Day 3: Museum, Tea, and a Show
Day Three Morning: Pick your museum
London is full of incredible, free museums! You really can’t go wrong, but you also probably can’t see them all if you only have five days. So on the morning of Day 3, pick the one that sounds the most interesting to you and spend a few hours checking out all the exhibits.
Here are some of the London museums that are free to visit (though you may need a timed ticket and to book ahead of the day you want to go!):
- British Library (yes, it’s a library but you can’t access the books without a card, and there is a museum of cool, historical artifacts within the library)
- British Museum
- Natural History Museum
- National Gallery
- Victoria and Albert Museum
- Science Museum
- Museum of London
- Tate Modern
Day Three Lunch: Afternoon Tea
When we booked our stay in London, my 10-year-old daughter told me her number one priority was attending a tea party. And I mean, when in England, right?!
But “tea” doesn’t just mean a hot drink. Oh no. Afternoon tea is a luxurious spread of sandwiches, scones, and all the pastries you can handle. You will not need lunch as well — make this your lunch plans!
Many hotels offer an afternoon tea, some of which are themed, or you could go the quirky route and do afternoon tea on a double-decker bus!
We chose the whimsical afternoon tea at the Chesterfield Mayfair for our tea party, and it did NOT disappoint! They started us off with smoking pink lemonade and things just escalated from there. Bottomless milkshakes, plates of finger sandwiches, scones of all kinds, pastries of all kinds, and of course, tea!
Day Three Afternoon: Relax or second museum
If you don’t need a 2-hour nap after your extensive afternoon tea, head to another museum! I admire your determination.
Day Three Dinner: Dine in the Theatre District
If you’ll be taking in a West End show tonight, consider booking a table at a restaurant in the theatre district before or after your show. You’ll find a variety of price points throughout the area, so choose based on the current status of your wallet or your stomach!
Covent Garden is only a five-minute walk away, and you can find a variety of dining options there as well. This beautiful building and square used to house a fruit-and-vegetable market, but now it’s an upscale shopping center. Even though it’s changed a lot over the years, it’s still a fascinating place to visit.
Day Three Evening: See a show on the West End
A visit to the West End is essential on any trip to London. West End shows are Broadway caliber and sure to delight. With so many plays and musicals to choose from, there is something for everybody.
If you have little ones, musicals like The Lion King, Frozen the Musical, or Wicked are a lot of fun! Most productions usually have a matinee and evening show, so you should be able to find something that fits with your plans.
Or, if you haven’t yet attended a show at the Globe, this could be your night to head there. You can book covered seats in the bleachers or choose to stand in “The Yard”, but keep in mind that the theatre roof is open above The Yard and performances happen rain or shine! I recommend booking a seat in the back row of any level so you have a wall to rest your back against.
Day 4: Pop culture day
I’m giving you two tracks to choose from today, and if both sound amazing to you, then you might want to follow the alternate track on Day 5. The choice is yours!
Track One: Wizards welcome, muggles allowed
If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you’ll definitely want to spend most of a day at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter. Book an early entrance time, but make sure to leave yourself enough time to drive or take the train and shuttle bus there (instructions on their website).
When we visited, we spent over five hours walking through all the exhibits, and we could have easily stayed longer. About halfway through the tour you’ll come to the cafe which serves good food and Butterbeer — a must-have!
Track Two: A very famous crosswalk and other iconic London sites
If you’re a Beatles fan, this track is for you! In the morning, head to St. John’s Wood where you’ll find Abbey Road Studios and the famous Abbey Road crosswalk.
I’m a huge Beatles fan and almost cried when the crosswalk came into view. Like a personal pilgrimage. You’ll have to dodge a bit of traffic to get that perfect pic, but you should be okay if you go early.
If you’re a really big Beatles fan, there are other locations in the area you’ll want to see. Head to Marylebone Station to see where they filmed the opening chase scenes for A Hard Day’s Night. Did I make my kids recreate part of this? Yes, yes I did.
Another Beatles location I had to see was Saville Row, where they had their Apple Corps offices and played their rooftop concert.
If you make your way here, you’re perfectly positioned to check out Picadilly Circus, just down the street. And once you’re there, it’s not far to Leicester Square (check out the bronze homages to pop culture icons) and Trafalgar Square (with the famous lion statues).
To round out your pop culture day, be sure to take a ride on a double-decker bus! Your Oyster card or contactless bank card work on these, so it’s no hassle. Use the City Mapper app to see bus routes.
Day Four Dinner: Go international
In London, there are always lots of options for dinner. You could try a new pub, enjoy some peri-peri chicken at Nando’s (my personal favorite — try the sweet potato fries and enjoy the free refills and crunchy ice), or go international. London has a huge international food scene, so try an Indian, Middle Eastern, or Turkish restaurant.
Day 5: Greenwich Park and catching up
Day Five Morning: Greenwich Park
It’s your final morning in London! I hope you’ve had a fantastic time so far and been able to see and do all the things. This morning I strongly recommend taking the tube or the Thames Clippers water taxi over to Greenwich Park in east London.
Stand on the Prime Meridian, explore the Royal Observatory, go to the Plantarium, visit the Queen’s House and take pics of the Tulip Stairs, or just wander around and enjoy being outdoors in a lovely park. There’s also a fun playground for the kids.
Pro tip, you do not have to pay to enter the Observatory for the experience of standing on the Prime Meridian! Head through the black gate next to the clock (see the pic above), and you’ll see a small patch of pavement where they’ve extended the gold line outside of the Observatory walls.
Day Five Lunch: The Golden Chippy
If you’re in Greenwich, head over to The Golden Chippy for another round of fish and chips. Or try any of the other many options in the area!
Day Five Afternoon: Catch-up
On your final afternoon, take time to do whatever you haven’t been able to fit in yet! Head to another museum, take a boat ride on the River Thames, go shopping for souvenirs — whatever you’d like!
Day Five Dinner: Sunday Roast
Obviously this dinner option assumes Day 5 is Sunday, which is a pretty big assumption. But adjust your dinners accordingly so you can enjoy a traditional Sunday Roast at just about any pub in the city. You’ll get a plate of meat, potatoes, veggies, and a Yorkshire pudding (still trying to figure out exactly what that is).
Day Five Evening: Anything else you missed
Just like the afternoon, your final evening should be spent doing anything you really want to do that you haven’t had the chance to do yet. Make sure you wrap up your London experience with a moment to remember!
London in 5 Days Map
Here’s a map showing every place I mentioned in this post and where to find it in London:
Ready to go? I hope this 5-day London itinerary got you good and excited about heading to this great city. We truly fell in love with London when we visited and hope to visit again and again.
So, what are you waiting for? Start planning your dream London trip today!