If you are wondering how many days in London you need – look no further. As a native Londoner, I know the city very well – what is worth visiting and what you should skip if you are short on time.
For a quick answer, I would say you should aim for at least 3 days when visiting London, but you could easily fill up more time if you have it available.
It’s a big city, so 1 or 2 days will only give you a very limited taste. You might be able to see the exterior of several London landmarks, but you won’t have time to explore them properly.
So, here is a guide to help different types of visitors find out how long they need in London. I’ve kept it relatively short on purpose – once you have decided on the days you need I have other guides to help you plan in more detail.
Here we go…!
Section 1: London for First-Time Visitors
If you are a first-time visitor to London, then you’ll want to hit the main landmarks. To avoid getting overwhelmed it’s important to plan in advance and make sure you use the time efficiently.
You don’t want to be rushing back and forth between different parts of the city, especially if you have booked any timed events.
If you are alone in London, don’t worry. It’s a busy enough city that people won’t look twice at you doing things on your own.
Day 1 – Westminster and the South Bank.
You can see a lot of the most famous landmarks in a walkable area. Start at Buckingham Palace. Once you’ve seen London’s most famous building, head east along Birdcage Walk towards Westminster.
Cross Westminster Bridge, walk north towards the London Eye, and keep going until you reach Tower Bridge. You’ll pass by landmarks such as Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, the Shard, and Borough Market, and you’ll see St Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London on the other side of the river.
Choose how you want to spend your time along the way – visit the Churchill War Rooms in Westminster, view art at the Tate Modern or head up to The View From The Shard. It’s the perfect route to see the sights and is flexible for you to choose where to spend more time.
Day 2 – Museums and West End
London has many incredible museums, and most of the famous ones are completely free. Spend the morning in a museum of your choice.
I would recommend the British Museum for history enthusiasts, the National Gallery for art lovers, and the Natural History Museum for pretty much everybody.
These are all fairly big museums so you can easily fill an entire morning. In the afternoon explore Oxford Street, Covent Garden and then go to see a musical or play in the West End.
Day 3: The Tower and The City
Start with a visit to the Tower of London, and make sure you see the Crown Jewels while you are there.
Head over towards Sky Garden (pre-book your free ticket) to get more views of the city. Walk through Leadenhall Market, see The Gherkin, and end up at Spitalfields Market.
Section 2: London with Kids – Family-Friendly Itinerary
London is a surprisingly child-friendly city. There are lots of activities that are free and perfect for younger visitors. Ideally, families would have at least 4 days in London.
Days 1 and 2
I would recommend the same itineraries for Days 1 and 2 as in the first-time visitor section, with a few additional recommendations.
On Day 1, take a ride on the London Eye, and you’ll also walk past the London Aquarium which they will enjoy, or perhaps the London Dungeon. On Day 2 I would recommend that you pick the Natural History Museum for the morning, as the dinosaur exhibition is always a hit with children.
Day 3: Harry Potter
Start at King’s Cross Station to see Platform 9 ¾. If you want to take a photo with the trolley heading into the wall you’ll need to get there early before the queues build up.
And for the main event, a trip to the Warner Brothers Studio Tour. It’s a fairly easy train journey from Euston Station, and you can easily spend an entire day there.
Day 4: Parks and Playgrounds
London has several large parks with activities and playgrounds that children will love. I would recommend Regent’s Park and the nearby London Zoo, or Hyde Park with pedalos and the playground. In the afternoon head towards east London, and the Young V&A – it’s not in the same part of the city as the primary V&A site.
Section 3: London for History and Culture Enthusiasts
If you want to see the best of London’s art and history I would recommend a 5-day trip. In addition to the Days 1-3 itineraries for first-time visitors, you’ll enjoy a second museum day.
Perhaps including the Victoria and Albert Museum (typically referred to as the V&A), the National Portrait Gallery or Tate Britain, and another evening at a theatre.
I would also suggest a day trip from London on Day 5 – perhaps a coach tour to Stonehenge and Bath, or a train trip to Oxford or Cambridge.
Book a tour to Windsor, Stonehenge and Bath here!
Section 4: London for Repeat Visitors
For repeat visitors, I would suggest 3 days away from the main landmarks.
Day 1: Kew Gardens and Richmond
Day 2: Hampton Court Palace
Day 3: Greenwich, Cutty Sark and Old Royal Naval College.
Section 5: London on a Quick Layover
If you only have 1 day in London, then you probably are best off joining a hop-on hop-off bus tour. It’s not something I would usually recommend to visitors to any city, but if you are short on time it is one of the best options. You’ll be able to pass by the main landmarks in central London and pick one or two to explore in detail.
Section 6: Practical Tips for All Travellers
Navigating London’s Transport
London has an excellent public transport system, so you don’t need to rely on taxis or Uber. I have a complete post dedicated to getting around the city which you may find useful.
I would recommend that you try and be strategic with your planning. The itineraries above groups activities into days which don’t require a lot of time on public transport during the day.
Choosing the Right Accommodation
If you have a limited amount of time in the city then you’ll want to stay pretty central and close to a Tube station. Book in advance, especially for visits in summer, Christmas and New Year.
This hotel is very central and reasonably priced. That does mean that the rooms are not very big, but as you’ll be exploring the city you don’t need more than a comfortable place to stay in a great location.
You can get away with just WiFi and offline maps in London if you want to avoid data charges. Download an offline version of Google Maps, and you’ll be able to access WiFi in your accommodation, cafes and museums that you go to.
Just make sure you download any tickets or passes you might need onto your phone.
You could also get a local SIM if you want to remain connected at all times.
Safety and Local Customs
London is a very safe city. I have a dedicated post addressing common safety concerns that visitors may have.
Generally, exercise the same common sense as you would in any other big city, make sure you have travel insurance, and remember that the emergency number in the UK is 999.
Conclusion: How Many Days In London Do You Need
This guide aims to be your starting point, helping you decide how long you need in the city to be able to enjoy it.
For more detailed information I have other relevant guides, but the first step before making other plans is to decide on the number of days.
Try to leave time to explore the places you encounter by chance, and remember that part of a great London adventure is just to walk and see where you end up. You’ll always be near a Tube station or bus stop, so you would have to wander very far to have any problems getting back to the city centre.
If you want time to walk around the city but would rather have a guide, then a walking tour might be ideal.
So, as you set off on your London adventure, keep an open mind and heart. Let my home city show you its charms, and enjoy every moment of your discovery.