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5 Day London Itinerary: How To Spend 5 Days In London 2024

Have you been looking for the best itinerary for 5 days in London? I’ve got you covered!

Hey there! As someone who was born and grew up in London, I know the ins and outs of this incredible city like the back of my hand. From the iconic landmarks to the lesser-known gems, I’ve had my fair share of London adventures.

If you’re a first-time visitor feeling overwhelmed with planning your trip, fear not! It is a big city with an almost endless list of things to do and see, but don’t let that overwhelm you. I’m here to share my expertise and help you make the most of your 5 days in London.

If you want to make changes to the itinerary, my top piece of advice is this: group your activities by location. This itinerary is designed for you to see as much as possible, as efficiently as possible without spending lots of time on the Tube.

So, let’s make sure your trip is not just good, but absolutely unforgettable!

Day 1 London Itinerary: Westminster and the South Bank

Begin your London adventure with a visit to Westminster and the South Bank. This route will take you past some of the city’s most famous landmarks.

You can take this at your own pace – stroll past the sites if you are taking it slow, or pack it in and head inside as many of these sites as you want.

View from the South Bank of the River Thames across to Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament with boats on the river

Westminster

For first-time visitors to London, exploring Westminster is a must-do. Some of London’s most famous buildings are in this area – Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Houses of Parliament and more.

Witnessing the iconic Changing of the Guards ceremony at Buckingham Palace is an experience that showcases the pomp and pageantry of the Royal Family. The ceremony takes place on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays (the other days of the week are done at Windsor Castle), at about 11am.

Check the Household Division’s website in advance to see if there are any amendments to the normal schedule. It’s very popular so get there early to secure the best spots.

Head back through St James’s Park towards the Houses of Parliament, with the famous Elizabeth Tower housing that London icon – Big Ben.

On the way you’ll pass by Westminster Abbey, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The abbey is a magnificent gothic church where for centuries monarchs have been crowned and famous figures laid to rest.

Westminster Abbey is the location of national events such as Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral, King Charles’ coronation and several royal weddings. If you want to step inside the abbey, you can attend a service for free or buy a ticket to explore inside.

For those interested in British history, add on a visit to Churchill War Rooms. This underground museum offers a fascinating look into Winston Churchill’s life during World War II as Prime Minister of Great Britain.

Once upon a time I worked in Westminster, and it’s still one of my favourite areas in London because of its beautiful architecture.

🤩 If you want to let someone else do the navigating, check out this tour of Westminster and the Changing of the Guard.

South Bank

When people mention the South Bank, they are typically referring to a specific section of the pedestrian path along the River Thames between Westminster Bridge and Tower Bridge. It’s also known as the Queen’s Walk.

P.S – we don’t refer to the north side of the river as the North Bank – if you say that, no one will know what you mean.

London is a fantastic city to explore on foot, and walking along the South Bank of the River Thames in London takes you past more of the city’s famous landmarks. Once you’ve seen the landmarks around Westminster, cross the bridge and walk north – directly past the London Eye.

A ride on the London Eye is always a popular activity for first-time visitors, but the queues can be very long. If you do want to take a trip, I recommend booking in advance.

As you continue on you’ll pass by several major arts venues – the Royal Festival Hall, the British Film Institute and the National Theatre. If performing arts are your thing, check to see if there are any performances on that you might be interested in.

Further on you’ll see the Oxo Tower, which has a free viewing platform on the same level as its restaurant – one of London’s lesser known locations for seeing the skyline.

Keep going and you’ll reach the Tate Modern, one of London’s best art museums and it is also free to visit. And if you look across the bridge by the Tate Modern, the Millennium Bridge, you’ll get a perfect view of St Paul’s Cathedral. Next to the Tate Modern is Shakespeare’s Globe, an icon of British theatre.

Next up is Borough Market – the most famous of London’s many food markets and a perfect place to stop for a snack, and a short distance away by London Bridge is The Shard.

I’ve spent a lot of time around the South Bank – it’s always a popular place to meet friends for dinner thanks to the range of restaurants around Waterloo. I never get bored of walking around that part of the city, and I highly recommend it to first time visitors – so much so that I wrote a dedicated guide to the South Bank.

It sounds like a trek, but these landmarks are all relatively close together on a flat, easy pathway. You can walk the whole route in about an hour without stopping, or you could easily spend 4 or more hours stopping in at whichever attractions take your fancy.

The Shard

London’s tallest building is unmistakable – towering far above the buildings around it. If you want to go inside and see the city from the sky you have a few options (although unfortunately, and unsurprisingly, none of them are cheap).

You can buy a ticket up to the viewing levels – The View From The Shard. These viewing floors reach the very top of the skyscraper – the sky deck is partially outdoor with those last shards of glass open to the elements on level 72.

Alternatively, you can book a meal at one of the building’s restaurants and bars. The main restaurants are between the 31st and 35th floors, and GONG cocktail bar is on the 52nd floor.

I’ve had dinner at Oblix West on the 32nd floor, and although it was expensive the food was very good. They don’t rely on the views to make up for mediocre food at high prices – it was a genuinely excellent meal (black cod, followed by the pecan and chocolate bar). Yum!

🤩 For a room with a view, book the Shangri-La Hotel in The Shard – one of my bucket list items!

Day 2 in London Itinerary: Soho, Museums and Covent Garden

Liberty London

Oxford Street and Soho

Start day 2 by exploring one of London’s most famous roads – Oxford Street.

A word of warning – Oxford Street is enjoyable on weekdays and absolute chaos on weekends, especially near Christmas. If Day 2 of your schedule falls on a weekend, switch around the itinerary and choose a different day’s activities. Seriously – I avoid Oxford Street at all costs on Saturdays and only visit during the week.

Take the Tube to Marble Arch station and walk east. You’ll pass by flagship stores such as Selfridges and John Lewis as well as many high street favourites.

Take a detour down Regent Street to see Saville Row, historically famous for its tailors, and Liberty London – an iconic and quirky London department store.

Around the corner (literally) from the entrance to Liberty is Carnaby Street, another famous street for London fashion. Meander through some of the other small streets of Soho as you head back up towards Oxford Street and towards the British Museum.

British Museum

The British Museum is a must-visit destination for first-time visitors looking to immerse themselves in history and culture. And best of all – it’s free to visit.

It’s a big museum with a lot to see, so it’s advisable to plan your visit strategically by focusing on specific areas of interest.

The museum’s exhibits are divided into departments, each dedicated to a particular region or civilization. From Ancient Egypt to Greece and Rome, Africa to Asia, and America to Europe, visitors can explore a wide range of cultures and histories.

The museum also houses collections from other significant civilizations such as Mesopotamia, China, and Japan.

One of the most famous artefacts at the British Museum is the Rosetta Stone. Discovered in Egypt in 1799, this ancient stone slab was instrumental in deciphering hieroglyphics and unlocking the mysteries of Ancient Egyptian writing.

Another must-see exhibit is the Parthenon Marbles, also known as the Elgin Marbles. These sculptures once adorned the Parthenon in Athens but were later removed and brought to Britain by Lord Elgin in the early 19th century. Debate surrounding their rightful ownership continues to this day.

Speaking of which, I won’t ignore the controversial nature of some parts of the British Museum’s collection, specifically how it came to house those items.

Over the last few centuries, British explorers and archaeologists have discovered items around the world and then brought them back to museums in the UK. Whether or not they had the appropriate permission to do so is not always clear. Museums throughout Europe face the same issue.

Putting the debate aside, the museum undoubtedly houses one of the finest collections in the world, and I do think it is worth visiting.

Covent Garden

Covent Garden is another popular area for anyone exploring London (and also best explored on quieter weekdays. The vibrant market offers a wide range of stalls and shops selling everything from unique souvenirs to delicious food.

Don’t miss St. Paul’s Church, also known as the Actors’ Church, with memorial plaques dedicated to many icons of stage and screen, including Vivien Leigh, Peter O’Toole, Helen McCrory and Diana Rigg.

As you wander around the market area, you’re likely to encounter talented street performers adding to the lively atmosphere of the area. These performers are licensed by the council and display a variety of talents from music to magic.

Covent Garden showcases some of London’s creativity, making it a favourite among visitors and locals alike.

National Gallery

The National Gallery is another free attraction, located next to Trafalgar Square. You’ll find many famous masterpieces here Vincent van Gogh’s “Sunflowers,” Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Virgin of the Rocks,” and J.M.W. Turner’s evocative seascapes. The gallery’s collection spans centuries of artistic genius, making it a truly enriching experience for all who enter.

The National Portrait Gallery is next to the National Gallery and is much smaller, but it’s a popular alternative or addition to a visit to the National Gallery.

Focused, unsurprisingly, on portraiture, the galleries are arranged with the oldest works from the Tudor period on the top floor, working your way down to contemporary works. This gallery is also free to visit.

West End Theatre

London has a huge variety of theatres, with performances ranging from opera and ballet to modern musicals and small independent productions.

As you are already in the right place for a theatre visit, this is the best day to do it. If there is a specific show you want to see then you should book in advance.

If you are open to a variety of shows, then you can often find last-minute tickets via London Theatre Direct. As I write this, on a weekday afternoon, there are still tickets available tonight for Hamilton, The Lion King, the Merchant of Venice and more.

Booking last minute probably means that you won’t get the best seats, but there will almost always be tickets available for something amazing.

Day 3 in London Itinerary: The Tower and The City

One of London's many famous landmarks is worth visiting - the Tower of London

The Tower of London

The Tower of London stands as a historic fortress and iconic landmark in the heart of London. For visitors seeking a glimpse into the city’s past, a visit to this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a must. Steeped in centuries of history, it has served as a royal palace, a prison, and even a treasury.

As you wander through its ancient walls and towers, you’ll encounter the Crown Jewels, hear tales of intrigue and betrayal, and explore this British landmark that has withstood the test of time.

Next to the Tower of London is Tower Bridge – visually the most famous bridge in London, but sometimes confused with London Bridge (famous but ugly). You can get a good view of the bridge from the Tower of London, or walk across it if you want to get a bit closer.

The City of London

When locals talk about the ‘City of London’, or just the City, they usually mean a specific part of London, also known as the Square Mile. It is one of the primary business districts of London, especially for financial institutions.

On the surface, this doesn’t sound particularly interesting for tourists, but several London landmarks that are worth visiting can be found in this area. It’s also an area that displays one of my favourite things about London – shiny, modern skyscrapers next to buildings that are centuries old.

It also means that this part of London can be very quiet at weekends – very few people live in this area and many of the shops are closed at the weekend as they primarily cater to people working in nearby offices during the week.

Leave the Tower of London and head over to Sky Garden, and its free public garden on Level 35 with views over the city. Although it is free, you should book in advance. Spaces are limited and if you turn up on the day you may not get in.

Next up is Leadenhall Market, a beautiful indoor Victorian marketplace with shops and restaurants, used as a Harry Potter filming location.

Slightly further north, you can pass by 30 St Mary Axe – more commonly known as The Gherkin. It’s not a building that you can go inside, but if you are meandering through the City it’s a fun one to see up close.

Keep going until you reach Spitalfields. It’s a good area to stop in for dinner. You’ll find a variety of restaurants in the area around Spitalfields Market, as well as food trucks selling all sorts of international cuisine.

Spitalfields Market focuses on clothing, souvenirs and decorative items – it isn’t one of the food markets. Wander around the market area, and see how many of the elephant sculptures you can spot.

You’ll also find a lot of bars in the area, so it’s also a good area for a post-dinner drink.

Day 4 in London Itinerary: History and Harrods

London's Natural History Museum is one of the best in the world. Definitely worth visiting.
Natural History Museum

Natural History Museum

I think this might be London’s best museum, and that’s saying something given the quality of the competition. I also think it is better than many of its international equivalents – far superior to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington DC.

From towering dinosaur skeletons to sparkling gemstones, this museum covers an enormous range of exhibits showcasing the history of our planet. The total collection includes more than 80 MILLION items!

I highly recommend some comfortable shoes, and a plan of which halls you want to visit. It’s an enormous place.

Victoria and Albert Museum

The V&A isn’t about Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, but rather decorative arts, textiles and design. There are several museums sites but when people talk about the V&A, they almost always mean the South Kensington location, the largest and most famous of them.

It is across the road from the Natural History Museum, which is why I’ve grouped them together on day 4.

The main collection is free to visit, but they also have frequently changing, excellent temporary exhibitions, especially on fashion and photography. The museum houses the world’s largest collection of post-classical sculpture, as well as paintings, photography and textiles.

Harrods

Harrods

London’s most famous department store, and a fun place to wander around. I’m not a big spender so I’ll admit to window shopping without buying, but that’s pretty common at Harrods.

You can find some affordable things to take home as a souvenir, or go and buy a treat from the Food Hall.

Or if you have the funds to do some real shopping, you’ll find a wide range of designer brands to fill up your suitcase when you head home.

Harvey Nichols is just around the corner and is also good for a quick browse, but Harrods is the better bet if you only have time for one.

Day 5 in London Itinerary: Parks and Camden

Regent’s Park

Hyde Park

Hyde Park, one of the biggest London parks, is a 350 acre green space near the centre of the city. Visitors can explore its vast grounds, enjoy a leisurely stroll around the Serpentine Lake, or marvel at the iconic Speaker’s Corner where public speeches and debates take place.

Start your morning here, before heading up Baker Street towards Regent’s Park, through the Marylebone neighbourhood (pronounced more like mar-le-bun, not mary-le-bone). If you are a fan of Sherlock Holmes, you can stop on at the Sherlock Holmes Museum.

Or perhaps head a few streets further east and pop in to Daunt Books, one of the city’s most Instagrammable bookshops. Then keep heading north, to another London park.

Regent’s Park

Regent’s Park is perhaps my favourite of London’s many green spaces, especially in spring and summer thanks to the rose garden. It’s much prettier than some of the other parks.

You can also find London Zoo at the north end of the park. It’s run by the Zoological Society of London which does a lot of conservation work and research.

Ticket sales help support their conservation efforts, including protecting rhinos from poachers, and participation in breeding programmes for endangered species.

Camden

The canal pathway just outside the northern end of Regent’s Park takes you over to Camden. Camden is an eclectic neighbourhood, known for its market and music scene.

There are a variety of food stalls in the market area, but the focus is on clothing and homewares. It’s full of independent shops and stalls, selling vintage clothes, cool artwork and unique gifts and souvenirs.

After spending a few days exploring some of the city’s older areas, Camden shows a different side of the city. The quirky side of London.

Additional Days in London

Hampton Court Palace – visit this Tudor palace, once the home of Henry VIII. If you are visiting London in winter there’ll be an open-air ice rink, but it’s beautiful all year round.

Oxford – If you want to take a day trip from London, Oxford is a great choice. It’s a beautiful city and easy to get to on the train.

Warner Brothers Studios – if you are a Harry Potter fan, this is a must-visit attraction. Spend a day with original props and sets from the films. Walk through Diagon Alley and have a butterbeer.

Getting Around London On Public Transport

London is a very well-connected city, and you can get to all of the major landmarks easily on the Tube or buses. Take a look at my complete guide to getting around London.

The tube is a great way to get around the city and is also very safe.

Safety in London

While London is generally very safe for all types of visitors, like any major city it’s essential to stay vigilant and aware of your surroundings. For more information about staying safe, check out my safety guide to London. By staying informed and taking common-sense precautions, you can have a safe and memorable visit to London.

Final Thoughts: 5 Days In London

So there it is, your itinerary for a 5 day visit to London. It’s a big city with loads to do, but this guide will help you get to see all the major attractions. Just remember, you can always come back if you miss anything out!

Happy Travels!

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