If you are taking your first or second trip to London, there are probably 1,001 blog posts and articles about what to do. It can be overwhelming. So we’ve rounded up our recommended ‘must-dos’ to get to know our favorite city. To enhance the itinerary, I always follow Secret London, Visit London and TimeOut London for the latest exhibitions, concerts and special events. If you already know London and want to get off the beaten path, check out this blog post. And, if you are coming around Christmas, check this out.
Day 1: (arrival day with jet lag)
- London Double Decker bus tour – Hop on and off at places of interest to walk around a little. Sit up top in the fresh air if the weather permits.
- Have dinner early in a traditional pub near your hotel.
- We prefer the neighborhoods of Kensington, Westminster, Mayfair or St. James for hotels.
*Try not to nap, get to bed early.
- Ride the Tube or walk to Westminster to see Big Ben, Parliament and Westminster Abbey.
- Walk across Westminster bridge to the South Bank and go left (you’ll see the London Eye). Go all the way to Borough Market, passing the Tate Modern museum, Shakespeare’s Globe theatre and viewing St. Paul’s cathedral across the Thames river.
- Lunch at Borough Market.
- If it’s a clear day, visit the Sky Garden (make a free reservation a few weeks in advance).
- Visit St. Paul’s by either buying a ticket for the tour or attending afternoon Evensong for free. The ambience is lovely.
- If you have any energy left, ride the Tube to Covent Garden and have dinner at Seven Dials Market or something fancier at Petersham Nurseries.
- Visit Notting Hill and Portobello Road for cool antiques. Brunch or lunch at Farm Girl Cafe. Pick up some beautiful cookies at Biscuiteers.
- Visit Kensington Palace and don’t miss the Diana Memorial statue in the beautiful sunken gardens.
- Walk from the palace through Hyde Park seeing Albert Memorial and Royal Albert Hall.
- Visit one of the museums that most interests you (Natural History, Science or jewelry and other antiquities at the Victoria & Albert).
- Walk through Harrods food hall and ride the fancy Egyptian elevators.
- Stop for an Instagram pic and bite just outside Harrods at El&N on Hans Crescent.
- That night, see a West End show (some of our favorites are SIX, Come From Away, Mamma Mia, Lion King and Wicked). I book most tickets on the TodayTix app.
- Here are some recommended pre-theatre dinners. If you like modern Indian, we highly recommend Dishoom (several locations, need a reservation).
- Have a large breakfast (we love a “Full English”) and then head back to Westminster to see:
- Buckingham Palace and the changing of the guards.
- Walk through St. James Park to visit the Churchill War Rooms.
- Have a late lunch in Chinatown (Dumplings Legend, Plum Valley or Garrard’s Corner).
- Backtrack through to Trafalgar Square and pop into the National Gallery (Impressionism section is lovely).
- Walk through Piccadilly Circus to shop on Regent Street (Zara, Mango and H&M are my favorites) and Carnaby Street. Visit historic department store Liberty.
Other sights to fit in if they are of interest: Tower of London, British Museum, Imperial War Museum or a tour of Westminster Abbey. A memorable afternoon tea can be reserved at Fortnum and Mason, The Ritz or The Savoy. We also love the neighborhoods of Chelsea, Kings Cross, Little Venice and Camden Lock to spend an afternoon exploring or shopping.
We are big fans of walking tours—usually a couple of hours and very insightful. London Walks is worth the money, but we have also really enjoyed free walking tours from Free Tours by Foot.
If you have extra time and want to visit an area outside of London (some further than others but all by train), we recommend for a half day: Richmond, Windsor or Greenwich. For a full day/overnight, we love Bath, Cambridge, Oxford or the Cotswolds.