As one of the largest cities in Europe and the capital of the United Kingdom, London is a massive, diverse and dynamic city that is one of the most-visited in the entire world. With an endless amount of incredible things to offer visitors from trendy hangouts to historic haunts to world-class theatre and everything in between, figuring out how many days in London to spend if you’re planning a trip to the British capital can be an absolutely daunting task.
Whether you’re looking to visit London as a stand-alone city break or as part of a longer itinerary through England, Scotland or even Ireland, figuring out how many days to spend in London is essential to feel like you got enough out of the city while not eating into all of the other things to see in do in the UK. While travellers could easily spend months in the British capital and still barely scratch the surface of this multifaceted city, most visitors only have time for a 7 days in London itinerary at the maximum.
If you’re wondering how many days to spend in London, whether you should spend 4, 5, 6, or 7 days in London, or are just trying to put together the perfect London itinerary, this guide is meant to help make sure that your trip to one of the world’s most iconic cities is a great one.
How Many Days in London?
First and foremost, I’m sure your most pressing question before we get into an itinerary is how many days to see London are needed? Well, that question is incredibly complicated and it’s worth knowing that, unless you have years to spare, you’re not going to be able to see all of London during any short trip to the capital city. Even after living in the city for a number of years, I haven’t been everywhere and there are certain neighbourhoods that I’ve never even stepped foot in.
So once you’ve come to the conclusion that it is absolutely impossible to see everything that the UK capital has to offer within the span of one week in London or less, you need to figure out how long you should plan to spend in the city at all. And while everyone has different travel preferences and wants to get different things out of this incredible city, I would say that you should plan to spend three days in London at an absolute minimum,
3 days in London will allow you to see a good portion of the city’s most iconic sites and visit some of the capital’s most famous museums. While it likely won’t be enough time to really dig deep, visit local haunts, and get a bit off the beaten tourist path, it is still enough to get a good feel for the city and to make a list of other places to visit when you inevitably feel the desire to return.
Spending 4 days in London or more will give you far more time to get past the main tourist sites and allow you to actually explore some of the more local neighbourhoods (just make sure you pack good shoes for London!), interesting markets, and really get to know London beyond Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey.
Ideally, if you have time, I would recommend planning for a 7 days in London itinerary. This will give you plenty of time to explore numerous areas of London and get to know how diverse and varied the city is. It will also allow you to, perhaps, take a day trip outside of the capital should that tickle your fancy.
1 to 7 Days in London Itinerary
Now that I’ve covered all of the logistics when it comes to figuring out how many days to spend in London and how to get around once you’re there, it’s time do dive right into the perfect London itinerary. Whether you’ve only got time for fewer than 3 days in London or you can budget for up to a 7-day London itinerary, this is how you should spend your time day by day if you want to have the best time in the British capital.
Day 1 – Iconic Sites in Central London
On your first day in London, make sure you spend it seeing all that makes the city iconic and famous. Much of the sites on this first day are actually within easy walking distance of each other, so it’s unlikely you’re going to need to use much public transit other than getting to Central London from wherever it is you’re staying.
Start your day in the iconic Trafalgar Square and snap some photos of Nelson’s Column and enjoy the energy of Central London. It’s worth noting that the National Gallery is located here and is free of charge to enter should you wish to browse the museum.
From Trafalgar Square, it’s time to take a leisurely stroll through the lush and peaceful St James’s Park or along the Mall to another of London’s most famous attractions: Buckingham Palace. Though many visitors want to come here for the changing of the guard, if you actually want to see the palace and not battle through massive throngs of tourist crowds, we recommend timing your visit to the Queen’s residence within an hour on either end of 11 AM. If you want to go inside to see the State Rooms, make sure to buy your ticket in advance.
From the Palace, take the time to stroll through another of London’s glorious green spaces in the lovely Green Park before heading toward the River Thames and visiting some of London’s most iconic landmarks: the Palaces of Westminster, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. To avoid waiting in line, you can purchase your tickets in advance for Westminster Abbey here.
If you want to get great views of the Palaces of Westminster and the Elizabeth Tower (home to Big Ben), then make sure to walk across the Westminster Bridge in order to get some incredible photos.
If you’re interested in visiting a great museum, the Churchill War Rooms are quite close by, as well. Though this museum isn’t free like most other London museums, it is well worth the entry fee in order to learn more about London’s role during WWII.
Now it’s time to walk across the Westminster Bridge and visit the Southbank neighbourhood of central London. If you happen to be visiting on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday, make sure to stop by the Southbank Centre Food Market for a bite to eat from some of London’s best street food vendors.
However, if you want to see London from above in an integral part of the city’s modern skyline, it’s time to get in the queue to ride the London Eye. Like many other popular attractions in London, it’s best to book your time slot in advance to avoid the massive queues and higher fees.
And there you have it, the perfect first day in London!
Day 2 – Tower of London, Borough Market, Tate Modern & St Pauls
On your second day of this 7 days in London itinerary, it’s time to explore some top London attractions that are located a little bit further east from where you were the day before. Begin your day at the Tower of London, one of the British capital’s most famous museums. Here you can learn about the history of medieval London while also being able to see the incredible crown jewels. Again, this is one of London’s paid museums and it can save money to book tickets in advance.
After visiting the Tower of London (which should take most of your morning), walk a bit further west to the London Bridge. While this bridge itself really had nothing of note to speak of (it looks mostly like a boring concrete slab), you can get fantastic views of both the iconic Tower Bridge from here and also of the ultra-modern Millennium Bridge. Once on the south side of London Bridge, it’s time to grab a bit to eat and browse one of London’s biggest, oldest, and most historic markets: Borough Market.
Open every day but Sunday, Borough Market is both a place to purchase gourmet foodstuffs from every corner of the globe, sample some of the city’s best street food, and even find yourself in a trendy eatery. Though it is extremely popular and can get VERY busy on Saturdays, Borough Market is a must-visit destination for foodies in London.
After gorging yourself at the Market, walk a bit along the south bank of the Thames until you reach the Tate Modern. This modern art museum is one of the best in the world and is home to some truly extraordinary works of art. Entry into the museum is free, though some visiting museums may require an entrance fee. If you’re interested in early literature or the history of theatre, make sure to plan a visit to the nearby Shakespeare’s Globe. You can book advance entry here.
After exploring the sites on the south bank of the Thames, it’s time to walk across the Millennium Bridge and head to the beautiful St Paul’s Cathedral. By this time, it will likely be getting dark in London and you will see how magnificent this cathedral looks when it is all lit up. You can enjoy its exterior splendours for free, however, if you wish to go inside, you will need to pay to enter. Skip-the-line tickets are available here.
Day 3 – British Museum, Oxford Street, Covent Garden & Soho
On day three of this one week in London itinerary sees you heading back to Central London, but this time exploring some of the more modern and happening neighbourhoods. Start your day at the inimitable British Museum, which is arguably one of the greatest history museums in the entire world. Rather than try to see the entire museum in the span of a day (which is borderline impossible), have a glance at the map and pick the exhibits that are of the most interest to you. I, personally, love the Ancient Egypt exhibit. Entry into the British Museum is free and plan to spend a number of hours here.
After enjoying the thrills of the museum, head into bustling Central London for some shopping and people watching. Take a stroll along Oxford Street, which is London’s main shopping drag and is home to countless high street brands. If you want to find some more independent shops, cute boutiques and maybe catch a great street performer or two, then make sure to wander through Covent Garden.
After exploring these areas, head to the vibrant Soho neighbourhood and take in the neon signs, and even see some of the West End theatres showcasing world-class and renowned shows. This is a great time to plan to purchase tickets for a West End show, whether you choose to see a matinee or an evening performance. The TKTS booth in Leicester Square is a great place to purchase last-minute theatre tickets.
Soho is also known for its nightlife and, while it’s going to come with a heftier price tag than other areas of London, there are some excellent cocktail bars and nightclubs in this area that you could easily spend the night hopping between.
Day 4 – Regents Park, Madame Tussauds & Camden
If you have over three days in London and have 4 days to spend in London, then this day its time to head to the north-central part of the city and explore some more “alternative” areas of the British capital. Begin your day in the gorgeous Regent’s Park and explore the lovely tranquil things here. If you want to experience some great views over the city, make sure to climb up the nearby Primrose Hill to see some great vistas over Central London.
Just to the west of Regent’s Park lies Lord’s Cricket Ground, which is known as the “home of cricket” and home to a museum that is sure to thrill fans of the sport. Alternatively, you could head to the iconic Madame Tussauds wax museum to the south of Regent’s Park to snap some photos of yourself with wax figures of various celebrity figures. Advance tickets are available here.
North of Regent’s Park lies Camden Town, the centre of London’s alternative culture and music scene. Home to some of the city’s best open-air markets along with some fantastic music history, it is worth taking the time to browse through the market stalls and reading up on the musical legends that used to pound Camden’s streets. Look out for the statue of the late Amy Winehouse, who was a Camden native. Alternatively, you can just gorge yourself on some delicious street food at Kerb market.
Day 5 – Shoreditch, Brick Lane & Angel or Greenwich
If you have 5 days in London to spend, it’s time to head further from the city centre than we’ve been before to the cool and artistic neighbourhoods in the Eastern part of the city.
So on day five, it’s time to head to hip Shoreditch. Once one of the most economically disenfranchised areas of London, Shoreditch is now hipster central and is filled with incredible street art (you can take a street art walking tour to see all the great spots!), edgy eateries, cool boutiques, and great nightlife and bars.
If you happen to be visiting on a weekend, make sure to head to the Brick Lane markets where you can find everything from street food, local artisan crafts, and a subterranean vintage clothes market. You could easily spend the entire day browsing these markets and then heading out for a night on the town later — Shoreditch has some of the best nightlife in London, after all.
If you’re looking for something a bit more mellow, think about heading to the Angel area of the North London neighbourhood of Islington. You can spend your morning strolling along the chilled-out and romantic Regent’s Canal before taking the afternoon to browse the antique stalls and cute shops of Camden Passage.
Alternatively, you could spend this day heading to the Greenwich neighbourhood of London. Here you can take in the Royal Observatory where you can straddle the Prime Meridian and get incredible views over London from Greenwich Park. Greenwich is also home to many markets and to the Royal Maritime Museum and the Cutty Sark.
Day 6 – Notting Hill & More Museums
If you have six days to spend in London, it’s time to head to the northwest of the city to another quaint and iconic neighbourhood, Notting Hill. Made famous for the Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts movie of the same name, Notting Hill is known for its quaint, colourful houses and village-like feel — it is lightyears away from the hustle and bustle of Central London. You can also take a walking tour of the neighbourhood.
If you’re interested in antiques, then make sure to time your time in Notting Hill to a weekend when the famous Portobello Road market is running. This is arguably the biggest antique market in the city and, while it can be full of a lot of junk, you are likely to find some treasures in there as well.
Take the rest of your morning and early afternoon to explore the charming streets of Notting Hill, pop into some of the eclectic boutiques, grab a coffee in a trendy cafe, or experience British pub culture in a local tavern.
In the afternoon, head south to Kensington where some of the capital’s best museums are located. Here you will find the Natural History Museum, which is great if you’re travelling with young kinds interested in dinosaurs and other natural wonders. The Science Museum is a great option for those interested in modern-day discoveries that impact our daily life. And the iconic Victoria & Albert Museum is a world-renown design museum that is a great place to spend your time. Entry to all three museums is free of charge.
Day 7 – Day Trip to Nearby City
If you have an entire week to spend in London, set aside your seventh day for a sojourn outside of the city! There are innumerable fantastic day trips from London that you really are spoilt for choice. Some of the most popular include spending a day in historic Cambridge, exploring the charms of Oxford, alternative city of Bristol or visiting Shakespeare’s birthplace of Stratford-upon-Avon.
If you’re a more active type, then consider going on a day hike to a place like Epping Forest, New Forest, Richmond Park or heading south to walk along the iconic and beautiful white cliffs of the Seven Sisters.
You can even head as far north as cities like York, Liverpool or Manchester for a day trip, though you will be rushed and these cities (especially the latter two), are better explored over the span of a couple days.
Where to Stay in London
As I’ve mentioned earlier, there are countless places to stay in London and different neighbourhoods have different things to offer visitors. However, if you’re looking for a great place to stay in London for your first time in the city, I would recommend looking to stay in a central neighbourhood like Soho or Kensington to be as close as possible to the majority of the attractions listed in this 7-Day London itinerary.
If you’re wondering where to stay in London, have a look at these top suggestions:
SoHostel – A hip hostel offering both dorm beds and private rooms. Perfect for solo and budget travellers, it has good common areas, breakfast included and a bar on site. Click here to see their latest prices
Sanderson Hotel – A chic luxury option for those while higher budget, located within a few hundred metres of bustling Oxford Street. Equipped with numerous amenities including a gym, spa, and restaurant/bar, they have a range of plush rooms available. Click here to see their latest prices
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more London hotels!
Getting To and Around London
Now, before I get into all there is to do in London in up to 7 days, we need to talk about how you’re planning on getting to and around London. As one of the biggest cities in Europe, London is also a major transport hub and home to six international airports that directly serve the city. These include the London Heathrow, London Gatwick, London Stansted, London Luton, London City and London Southend airports.
While this may seem like a comically large number of airports, it will give you some peace of mind to find out that all are quite well-connected to central London via public transit and there are numerous trains and buses that you can take, relatively affordably, from any of the above airports to the city centre in around 1-1.5 hours.
While there are countless different options for getting from any of London’s 6 airports into the city centre, I’m going to concentrate on the two airports that visitors are most likely going to fly into: Heathrow and Gatwick.
Heathrow is one of the world’s highest-traffic airports and it is also one of the most affordable to reach from central London. You can reach the city centre from Heathrow numerous ways, however, the two I would recommend would either be the Heathrow Express or the good, old fashioned London Underground. The former option only really makes sense if you’re staying in or close to the Paddington neighbourhood of northwest London, however, it is the fastest way to get into the city. The journey on the Express to Paddington station takes around 20 minutes and prices for tickets can actually be quite affordable if booked in advance.
The other option would be to take the London Underground, commonly referred to as “the Tube.” Heathrow sits on the Picadilly Line and, without any line changes, you can make it to central London in under an hour on the Tube. This is going to be the cheapest option and will cost you, at most, £5.10 at peak hours using an Oyster Card (more on that in just a few paragraphs!).
If flying into Gatwick, keep in mind that there is no tube stop there, so you are stuck with the traditional train. Depending on which neighbourhood you’re staying in London, you can opt to take the Gatwick Express to London Victoria station or a commuter train to a station closer to your accommodation.
I recommend using the app CityMapper in order to find the best route for you before you arrive at the airport. Also, it is worth noting tickets for the Gatwick express will almost always be cheaper if you book in advance rather than on the day.
Once in London centre, it is highly unlikely that you’re going to be able to get everywhere in this up to 7 days in London itinerary while just relying on your own two feet. Therefore, you’re going to need to get comfortable using London public transit unless you want to take a significant portion out of your London travel budget. Luckily, London is incredibly well-connected by bus, tube, and train networks and the transit system is incredibly easy to navigate.
If you want to save money and make sure that you don’t overpay on public transit, you’re going to want to get an Oyster Card. These cards cost an initial £5 deposit (that you can get refunded upon returning the card when you leave London) and then you can top it up at tube stations or convenience shops throughout the city with the amount of money that you need.
The benefit to an Oyster Card is that they’re subject to daily caps, meaning that if you’re travelling between zones 1-3 — and you’re unlikely to leave those zones, especially if following this itinerary — you will pay a maximum of £9 per day. It is also possible to use a contactless credit or debit on public transport in London and is subject to the same daily caps.
Don’t think that the tube is the only way to get around London and there are plenty of neighbourhoods in the British capital where modes of transport like the iconic Routemaster bus are the best option. Again, I recommend downloading and using the app CityMapper to find the best route for you to wherever you want to go in the city.
Figuring out how many days are needed to visit London can be a bit of a daunting task. However, if you know how to navigate the city and structure your time, you are sure to have a great time in the British capital no matter how long you stay for!
When travelling in London, it’s always a good idea to make sure you have a travel insurance policy so you’re covered for any unfortunate events! We like WorldNomads and always use them for our trips – click here to get a quote from WorldNomads
Are you wondering how many days to spend in London? Have you visited the city before? Let us know in the comments!