5 day London itinerary | How to spend 5 days in London

London is a huge, diverse and exciting city, with so much to see and do that trying to organise a visit may be a little daunting as a first-time visitor.

Luckily for you, I have spent the majority of my life calling this amazing city home and have put together this detailed 5 day London itinerary to help you make the most out of your visit.

Unlike many other itineraries, this one is specially designed to show you how to spend 5 days in London with absolute minimal time wasted travelling around on public transport.

So I hope you enjoy my ultimate London 5 days itinerary…

Day 1

5 day London itinerary

Buckingham Palace

The first stop of your day should be at one of London’s top attractions, Buckingham Palace, to see the daily Changing of the Guards.

The Changing of the Guards is the historic ceremony in which the current patrol of Queens Guards is replaced by new Guards. The Guards are led by a full marching band, the keys to Buckingham Palace exchange hands and the Guards hand over responsibility for protecting Buckingham Palace.

The Changing of the Guards is completely free to watch. Try to arrive at the Palace around 10:30am to get a space to watch the ceremony which starts at 11am (10am on Sundays).

 

St James Park

St James Park London UK

From Buckingham Palace take a stroll through St James Park, the oldest of London’s eight Royal Parks.

Wander through the lush green space and don’t forget to stop on the bridge over the central lake to look around and take in the great views back over Buckingham Palace, St James Palace and the London Eye.

The walk should take around 20 minutes before you reach Whitehall on the eastern side.

 

10 Downing Street & Whitehall

Whitehall is a road in the City of Westminster full of important political and historical buildings, including Banqueting House, Winston Churchills former War Office, Dover House, Admiralty House, The Household Cavalry Museum and the Horse Guards Parade.

Just off of Whitehall is one of London’s best known roads, Downing Street, home and office of the British Prime Minister.

Unfortunately you can’t get right up close to 10 Downing Street as the street is blocked off with extensive security, however, you can take a peep at its famous front door from a distance.

Tip: If you do want a picture outside 10 Downing Street, head just around the corner to 10 Adam Street where you’ll find an almost identical black door which has become a hotspot for tourists taking photos.

 

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey in London

Westminster Abbey, which was originally founded in 906 AD, is a large gothic-style church which has played host to many of Britains most important events, including the coronation of every King and Queen since William the Conqueror in 1066 and numerous royal weddings including, most recently, Prince William and Catherine in 2011.

It is also the burial site of many past royals, prime ministers and other notable British persons such as famous poets, writers, scientists and military leaders.

The impressive Westminster Abbey can be admired from the outside or if you’d like to see more you can take a tour of much of its interior with a paid entrance ticket.

 

Houses of Parliament & Big Ben

4 day London itinerary

Another absolute must on any London itinerary is the Houses of Parliament (Palace of Westminster) and Big Ben, which are among the most iconic images of the English capital.

The thousand-year-old Palace of Westminster is the meeting place for both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, the two houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Whilst Big Ben is the name of the grand bell which sits inside the palace’s Victoria Tower – although many mistakenly believe it to be the name of the clocktower itself.

Cross over Westminster Bridge for some of the best views back towards the Houses of Parliament and its world-famous clocktower.

 

Southbank & the London Eye

South Bank and the London Eye

Once you’ve crossed Westminster Bridge, take a stroll down Southbank, one of London’s busiest areas and main tourist hubs.

Along Southbank, you’ll find attractions including The London Eye, SEA LIFE Aquarium, The London Dungeon, Wonderground Fairground, the Southbank Centre, the National Theatre and the BFI film theatre.

Tickets for the London Eye should ideally be booked a few days in advance. If you’re planning to go to more than one of these attractions, it might be better to buy a combination ticket.

 

Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square London

Photo credit: Wikimedia.

From Southbank, cross over the Golden Jubilee Bridge to Embankment then walk up to Trafalgar Square, an important pedestrianised square built around the area formerly known as Charing Cross.

As well as being the location of the National Gallery, London’s major free art museum, Trafalgar Square is home to Nelson’s Column, which is protected by four large bronze lions, two impressive fountains, the ‘Fourth Plinth‘ which displays contemporary artwork from around the world, and London’s smallest police box.

 

Covent Garden

Things to do in Covent Garden London

Finally, end the day in Covent Garden, another large pedestrianised piazza in London’s West End, with plenty of shops, street performers, restaurants with alfresco dining, pubs and bars.

Head down Covent Garden’s side streets to find some of the less touristy restaurants and local pubs regularly frequented by nearby workers.

 

Day 2

5 day London itinerary

221b Baker Street

221B Baker Street, London

Photo credit: Wikimedia

221b Baker Street in London is an address easily recognised by people all across the planet, and has even been referred to as ‘the world’s most famous address’.

And just in case you don’t know, it was the home of fictional detective Sherlock Holmes between 1881-1904, according to the famous stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

So if you’re a Sherlock Holmes fan, dropping by 221b Baker Street is a must.

The very real address of the fictional detective is now a privately run museum dedicated to everything Sherlock Holmes, with exhibits including items from several different adaptations of Sherlock Holmes, as well as recreations of famous scenes.

Plus don’t miss the Sherlock Holmes statue right next to Regent Street tube station, just a few minutes walk from the museum.

 

Regents Park

Flowers leading to fountain in Regents Park in London

Once you’re done on Baker Street, head straight next door into Regents Park, one of London’s eight royal parks.

Regent’s Park is the largest grass area for sports in Central London so you’re bound to see teams training or games taking place. Plus, there are also plenty of other cool things to do in Regents Park:

  • Queen Mary’s Rose Garden – a world-famous garden which has over 12,000 roses of every colour
  • The Avenue Gardens – elegant fountains surrounded by beautiful ornamental flower displays
  • A large boating lake with boat and pedalo hire from the boathouse
  • Several children’s playgrounds with play equipment
  • An Open-Air Amphitheatre which hosts regular performances

 

ZSL London Zoo

Meerkats at London Zoo

Next head to the world-famous London Zoo, which is conveniently located in the north-east corner of Regents Park.

London Zoo is one of the largest collections of animals in the UK, with nearly 20,000 individuals spanning almost 700 species, including lions, tigers, giraffes, Galápagos giant tortoises, wallabies, numerous primate species, a colony of Humboldt penguins and plenty more.

The Zoo is a great London experience for families, animal-lovers or anyone looking for a fun way to spend a few hours.

Did you know that London Zoo is the world’s oldest scientific zoo, having opened for scientific study in 1828? Today, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), which runs the zoo, is highly devoted to the worldwide conservation of animals and their habitats.

 

Regents Canal

Regents Canal London

From the zoo, leave Regents Park by following Regents Canal towards Camden Lock.

The charming canal-side walk will take you past plenty of houseboats, the occasional group of kayakers or paddleboarders, ‘The Pirate Castle’ (a boating and outdoor activities charity based inside a unique castle-like building) and St Marks Church, which during the warmer months has a stall serving drinks and ice creams.

 

Camden Town and Market

Camden Market London Itinerary

Spend the afternoon in one of London’s most lively and bohemian neighbourhoods, Camden, with its colourfully decorated buildings, quirky shops, great food and the famous Camden Market.

Camden Market is the sprawling indoor and outdoor market which consumes much of the area, with over 1,000 stalls selling everything from clothes and homeware to food and alcohol.

Camden is also the meeting point of many of the city’s more alternative subcultures and you’ll notice that many of the stalls and shops in Camden cater for the areas unconventional clientele, with plenty of alternative fashion such as cybergoth, steampunk and grunge.

Make sure to pop by Kerb for a late lunch or early dinner (it shuts at 6pm). Kerb is Camden’s popular street food market with multiple traders serving up delicious dishes from all around the world.

Read more about visiting Camden Market here.

 

Primrose Hill

People sitting on Primrose Hill overlooking the London Skyline

Finally, end the day by heading back down Regents Canal towards Regents Park, then heading to the northern area of the park known as Primrose Hill.

Primrose Hill is one of the best free viewpoints to take in the beautiful London skyline as the sun sets over the city.

 

Day 3

5 day London itinerary

Tower of London

Tower of London

The Tower of London is a historic castle on the banks of the River Thames, which since its founding in 1066 has been used as a fortress, royal residence and even a prison.

Nowadays the Tower of London is primarily a popular tourist attraction which visitors can take a tour with a real Yeoman Warder (the ceremonial guardians of the Tower) while learning about its long and interesting history.

The Tower does still have some ceremonial use and is home to the all-important Crown Jewels, which have been housed there since the 3rd century AD and are on display for visitors to see.

 

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge London

From the Tower of London, head to the south side of the river by crossing London’s most famous suspension bridge by foot.

Don’t forget to snap a few photos of the iconic landmark on the way, and if you’re lucky, you might even catch the bridge opening for a passing boat.

 

Borough Market

Borough Market London

Just a short walk down the river, past the HSM Belfast, you’ll reach London Bridge tube station and one of London’s most famous foodie hotspots, Borough Market.

The huge indoor covered market has a mix of produce traders selling fresh fruit and veg, meats, cheese, bread, alcohol and more, as well as many speciality traders with a range of tasty and unique products for you to sample.

Borough Market is also a great place to grab a delicious cooked lunch, with many food traders on site serving dishes from all across the world.

 

Globe Theatre

Globe Theatre London Itinerary

Shakespeare’s Globe is a reconstruction of the original Globe Theatre located just around the corner, for which British playwright William Shakspeare wrote his world-famous plays.

As well as being able to visit the excavation site of the original theatre which unfortunately burnt down in 1613, visitors can take a tour of the reconstructed round wooden building and learn about its history, as well as being able to watch productions of Shakspearean classics (standing tickets for as little as £5).

 

St Pauls Cathedral

Where to Stay in London, St Pauls and Millennium Bridge

St Pauls is a large Anglican cathedral in the City of London.

The Grade I listed building was designed by acclaimed British architect Sir Christopher Wren and is one of the most recognisable landmarks in London, with its famous domed roof dominating the city skyline for over 300 years.

You can either take a stroll around the Cathedral’s gardens and admire its impressive architecture from the outside or pay to enter and take a tour of St Pauls equally impressive interior.

To get from the Globe over to St Paul’s Cathedral you’ll have to cross over Millennium Bridge. Stop on the southern side of the Bridge for one of London’s most iconic photo spots.

 

The City of London

The Shard and the Gherkin Skyscraper in London at night

After you’re finished at St Pauls, spend the rest of your day exploring the City of London, the historic centre and the primary central business district (CBD) of the capital.

Around the city you’ll find plenty of reminders of London’s long and diverse history, such as the cobbled medieval streets, Victorian Leadenhall Market, segments of the old Roman City Wall and the impressive 300-year-old Bank of England building.

But the absolute highlight of the City of London has to be the many modern skyscrapers which dominate London’s skyline, including the Shard, the Gherkin, the Cheesegrater and the Walkie Talkie (London skyscrapers are conveniently given nicknames based on the way they look).

Living in London for Cheap

The Sky Garden

Many of the skyscrapers have their own viewing platforms, bars or restaurants which you can visit to admire their amazing views over the city below.

Where to get the best views in the City of London:

  • The Sky Garden (my personal recommendation) – Sat within the Walkie Talkie is London’s ‘highest public garden’ which is completely free to visit (but you do need to book a slot in advance). There are also a few restaurants and bars within the Sky Garden you can visit for dinner or a drink.
  • The View from The Shard – A public viewing platform on levels 69-73 of London’s tallest building.
  • Oblix – Restaurant and bar on the 32nd floor of The Shard.
  • Duck and Waffle – Iconic 24 hour restaurant on the 40th floor of 110 Bishopsgate.
  • Sushi Samba – A unique blend of Japanese, Brazilian, & Peruvian cuisines on the 38th and 39th floors of 110 Bishopsgate.
  • Helix Restaurant – A modern British restaurant on the 39th floor of the Gherkin.

 

Day 4

5 day London itinerary

The British Museum

The covered square of the British Museum London

Start day 4 of this London 5 day itinerary with a trip to the British Museum.

Founded in 1753, the British Museum was the first national museum in the world to cover all fields of human knowledge. The museum’s fascinating collection of artefacts spans over two million years of human history, art and culture.

And if the museum’s extensive free collections aren’t enough to draw you in, then its architecture certainly will. At the centre of the British Museum sits the largest covered public square in Europe, known as the Queen Elizabeth II Great Court, a two-acre space enclosed by a spectacular glass roof.

Love museums? Just a 10 minute walk around the corner from the British Museum you’ll also find the fascinating Grant Museum of Zoology.

 

Oxford Street & Regent Street

Shoppers and a red bus on Regent Street London

Once you’ve got your fill of history and culture for the day, it’s time for a spot of shopping on two of London’s busiest and most famous shopping streets.

First head down Oxford Street where you’ll find all the main high street stores as well as huge department stores including Selfridges, House of Fraser, John Lewis and Liberties.

Then from Oxford Circus, walk south down Regent Street, the curved road best known for being home to many high-end, luxury and designer brands, as well as the famous Hamleys Toy Store.

 

Soho & the West End

Piccadilly Circus in London

For the rest of the day, spend some time exploring London’s iconic West End.

First discover the area of Soho, one of London’s most lively and vibrant neighbourhoods, with plenty of quirky independent shops, cafes, restaurants, bars and nightclubs. It is also where you’ll find the majority of London’s sex shops, burlesque shows and LGBQT+ bars.

Soho is also a great place to grab dinner. Try Kingly Court for some of the coolest, tastiest and most budget-friendly restaurants in Soho.

Then head south to the real heart of the West End where you’ll find the many theatres of Shaftesbury Avenue, the bright lights of Picadilly Circus, the cultural hub of Leicester Square and London’s exciting Chinatown. 

Things to do in the West End at night:

 

Day 5

5 day London itinerary

Notting Hill

Portobello Road Notting Hill London

Start your final day of this London itinerary in the charming neighbourhood of Notting Hill, filled with rows of colourful houses and the world’s largest antique market.

The area has featured in a number of films and tv shows over the years, most famously Julia Roberts and Huge Grants 1999 movie ‘Notting Hill’.

Head to Notting Hill in the morning so you can visit Portobello Road Market, which has over 1000 traders selling a range of amazing antiques and collectables. And for those aren’t particularly interested in antiques, the market also has plenty of other traders selling clothes, jewellery, tourist nicknacks, household goods and lots of food.

 

Kensington Gardens & Hyde Park

Statue of Queen Victoria outside Kensington Palace London

From Notting Hill, it’s just a short walk to reach Kensington Gardens, the large public park surrounding Kensington Palace.

While the majority of Kensington Palace is still a royal residence and home to some of the younger members of the royal family, currently including TRH The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Will and Kate) and family, parts of the historic Palace are open to the public every day – including the rooms which were once home to Queen Victoria.

Connected to Kensington Gardens you’ll then find Hyde Park, the largest park in central London.

There’s plenty to do in Hyde Park, including hiring a boat to go out on the Serpentine boating lake, visiting the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, stepping inside the Serpentine Art Gallery or simply taking a leisurely stroll through the lush green space on a sunny day.

 

South Kensington Museums

Natural History Museum in South Kensington London

Below Hyde Park is the high-end neighbourhood of South Kensington which, as well as it’s many luxurious townhouses, is home to some of London’s most important cultural and scientific institutions.

South Kensington’s Exhibition Road is where you’ll find three of London’s best free museums; the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum (art & design).

All three museums are huge, fascinating places and you could easily spend a few hours exploring each one. They’re also all completely free to visit, so depending on your personal interests you could also take a slightly shorter visit to all three.

 

Knightsbridge & Harrods

Harrods in Knightsbridge London

Next, head to South Kensington’s swanky neighbour, the upscale area of Knightsbridge.

Home to many of London’s wealthiest international residents, Knightsbridge unsurprisingly has numerous 5* hotels, high-end restaurants, stylish clothes shops and the iconic Harrods department store.

Being one of London’s most prestigious areas, most places do come with a substantial price tag, however even if you’re not looking to drop a large sum during your trip, Knightsbridge is still an interesting neighbourhood to take a walk around.

 

Shoreditch

If you still have the time and energy, spend the final evening of your 5 days in London ticking off one more of London’s most exciting neighbourhoods.

Shoreditch is located in East London and is particularly popular with the capitals young hipster crowd and is covered with beautiful and colourful street art.

It is a hub for the creative industries, start-ups and co-working spaces where young entrepreneurs and freelancers spend their days working and nights mingling in the areas many cool restaurants, bars and clubs.

Where to eat in Shoreditch:

  • Indian – Dishoom
  • Italian – Gloria, Homeslice, Pizza East, Pizza Pilgrims
  • Steak – Blacklock, Hawksmoor
  • Burgers – Haché, Burger & Beyond, Dirty Bones
  • Chicken – Absurd Bird

Unique places for a night out in Shoreditch:

  • BallieBallerson Ball-Pit Bar
  • Bounce Ping Pong Bar
  • Junkyard Golf Club
  • All-Star Lanes Bowling Alley
  • Alcatraz Prison Bar
  • Blues Kitchen

 

What to see in London in 5 days – Alternate ideas

If any of the days or stops in this 5 day London itinerary don’t sound like your cup of tea, its easy enough to make a swap and replace it with something else instead.

Here are a few other alternate ideas for spending 5 days in London…

All of these activities can be done in a day or half-day.

 

Where to stay in London for 5 days

There are so many options for where to stay in London that it’s hard to narrow it down in a small section like this.

If you’re not worried about money, central areas such as the West End, Westminster or Kensington are great places to stay, however if you’re more budget conscious then you might want to try Shoreditch or Camden instead.

For a more detailed area rundown and hotel recommendations for every budget check out my ultimate London accommodation guide.

 

How to get around London

While the majority of this 5 day London itinerary is doable by foot, you’ll likely still need to travel to and from your accommodation each day.

The tube (London Underground) is the cheapest and most convenient way to travel around London, with multiple lines connecting the whole of the city.

Just remember to plan your route in advance, try not to travel during rush hour on weekdays, and use your contactless card or oyster card to tap on rather than buying paper tickets.

 

When to visit London for this itinerary

Much of this itinerary involves walking around neighbourhoods, parks and markets, meaning the best time to visit London would be during the warmer and dryer summer months.

However, London does get particularly busy during the school holidays in peak summer, so visiting during the fringe months of May, June and September will be your best bet.

 

Should I buy a London Pass?

A London pass is a ticket which you purchase in advance for a certain number of days and gets you free access to many of the city’s tourist attractions.

If you’re planning to pay for entry to many of the attractions on this London 5 days itinerary, then buying the London Pass will provide better value than buying the tickets separately.

Attractions included in the pass: The Tower of London, Globe Theatre, St Pauls Cathedral, HMS Belfast, Westminster Abbey, London Zoo, Kensington Palace, The View from The Shard and many more.


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