London Itinerary: How to Spend Your First Week in London
Looking for the perfect London itinerary?
You’re not the only one. The UK capital is one of the most visited cities in the world, seeing around 20 million people step foot in it a year.
The biggest problem with London, is that there’s soooo much to see and do and quite a lot of it is worthwhile. Pretty much everyone has a London bucket list of some description, although they vary by size and taste.
I lived in the city for two years and feel like I barely scratched the surface of what London has to offer. What does that say about the place? (Or more likely, my can-do attitude which can be seriously lacking some days).
Regardless, here is a London itinerary, which covers a week spent in the city.
This itinerary is ambitious, but you should be able to tick off most of these activities within a week, or less if you really hustle. And a week really is a good length of time to spend in the city… you simply won’t be doing it justice, otherwise.
And remember, it isn’t only London that’s full of neat things to do! Here are some other hidden gems around the UK.
Your One Week London Itinerary
Here is a loose itinerary you can play around with. You can mix up the days, do as much or as little as you like.
I have a lot of content on London after living there for awhile. So, I’ve provided links throughout this post of other fun things to do in London. Consider throwing some of these options into the mix, or alternatively, stick to the London itinerary provided.
Here’s what you’ll find on this particular London itinerary:
- Day 1: Get acquainted with the city
- Day 2: Dive into London’s rich history
- Day 3 Take a day trip to Richmond
- Day 4: See the icons
- Day 5: Get into a bit of culture
- Day 6: Explore Greenwich
- Day 7: London like a local
|London Trip Tip: Consider grabbing a London pass, which will give you free entry to more than 30 attractions. Depending on what activities you plan on doing, this could save you a heck-tonne of cash (plus you can get a visitor’s Oyster Card on the pass). Passes are available for one, to three days.|
Book your London Pass here
London: Some Need Know Information
Read more: The Best UK Attractions for Families
Where to Stay in London on your Trip
Check out other hotel options in London
With all the logistics out of the way, let’s get on with the fun part – planning your London itinerary!
Day One – Get Acquainted With the City
Your first day should be all about getting acquainted with the city. I am of the opinion that this is best done either from the air, or by water.
Luckily, London has both options available.
Things to do on Day One of your London Itinerary
Do a Cruise Down the River Thames
This has to be one of the nicest ways to see London, particularly if you luck out and get a day with brilliant sunshine.
I… didn’t. I took this particularly cruise during a thunderstorm. I got severely rained upon. Yet, on the upside, I had the whole upper deck to myself and walked away with some pretty amazing photographs of the deluge.
There are four piers from which to embark upon the boat. Westminster, London Eye, Tower and Greenwich pier.
I highly recommend starting at Greenwich. It’s a nice place in itself to explore (more on that later) and far less people get on the boat here than at the other piers.
The City Cruises boats are also the best to catch. There’s a catamaran which traverses the length of the Thames, but it’s more for commuters – plus it doesn’t have an outside top deck to sit upon.
Ticket prices start at £10.25.
Book your cruise on the Thames here
Check out London from above
Or, you can alternatively ogle this immense city from a bird’s-eye view.
You have a few options for this.
London’s tallest and pointiest building is located in the city’s south, right near Tower Bridge. Visitors can travel up to the 72nd floor and take in a 360 degree view of the city, which is best done at either sunrise or sunset for fairly obvious reasons.
You’re better off booking tickets in advance, online. It’ll save you around six quid, over the at-the-door prices.
Book your ticket for the Shard here
|London Trip Tip: You can take in this view for free, if you head to Aqua Shard, the bar on the 31st floor. Well, almost for free as I suppose you have to buy an exorbitantly priced drink. Still. Better than naught.|
If you’re on a bit of budget or simply don’t like spending money, the nearby Sky Garden located in the building known colloquially as the “Walkie Talkie” is gloriously free. Yep. Zero pounds for entry. Pretty neat, huh?
On the upside, you can hang out there as long as you like and marvel at the indoor gardens to boot.
I rep this activity so hard, mostly because I find the Walkie Talkie hideously ugly. It’s nice to gaze upon the city of London, without having to look at this building’s ugly mug.
Read more: The Best Christmas Markets in Europe
Duck and Waffle
For something a little different, head to Duck and Waffle – a website with both an interesting menu and delightful views.
You can order the eponymous duck and waffle dish, or many other strange food items off the menu. I highly recommend the pig’s ears.
The best thing about Duck and Waffle is that you can go essentially any time of the day or night, as it’s open 24/7. I went at around 11:00pm at night with a couple of pals and it was loads of fun.
Visit the Tate Modern
You can’t go to London and not take advantage of its many wonderful and more importantly FREE museums and gallery.
The Tate Modern is one of the best, or so is the actual Tate as well. It’s hard to pick a favourite, but I personally like the area the Tate Modern is in better.
|London Trip Tip: Try to time your visit for late at night, if you’re in the city on a Friday or Saturday. The gallery closes at ten.|
Tour the Globe Theatre
Close to the Tate is The Globe Theatre, a reconstruction of the open-air playhouse from 1599, where many Shakespearian plays were performed.
You can check out their programme if you want to catch a play there (the standing tickets are fine, trust me as I’ve stood through two Shakespearian plays, once in the pouring rain!), or alternatively take a tour through the theatre itself.
Book your tour of the Globe Theatre here
Grab some food at Borough Market
Borough Market is one of London’s oldest food and retail markets. There are both pop-up and more permanent stalls worth exploring and lots of delicious options for a lunchtime meal.
It’s open from 10am to early evening, every day bar Sundays.
Day Two – Dive into the City’s Rich History
So you’ve seen the city itself from multiple angles – now it’s time to explore London’s rich and diverse history! This isn’t hard to do, as it’s the kind of city where you can find history pretty much around every corner.
For history buffs, this will probably be the most exciting day of your London itinerary.
Things to do on Day Two of your London Itinerary
Visit the Tower of London
Let’s start by heading to the Tower of London, which has been knocking about since the 11th century. You can learn a bit about its past as a prison, fortress and palace, as well as check out the Crown Jewels for yourself.
Entry tickets are priced at £26.80. Skip the line by pre-booking tickets online.
|London Trip Tip: You can skip the very long line by booking your tickets in advance, online. Getting there early will help, too.|
Book your ticket for the Tower of London here
Tower Bridge is only a stone’s throw away from the Tower of London (the names might give that fact away), so you may as well head there next.
Simply walking across the bridge itself is nice, but you can check out the exhibit which tells of its history and gaze upon London from the tower’s top.
Book your ticket for the Tower Bridge here
HMS Belfast is a wartime ship, turned museum, located in between Tower Bridge and London Bridge. It happens to be the most significant Second World War Royal Navy warship, so it’s great that it’s been preserved like this for all to experience.
You can explore all nine decks to find out what it was like for crews at sea, during wartime and otherwise.
Book your ticket for HMS Belfast here
Walk across London Bridge and the Millennium Bridge
You could spend all day strolling along the Thames and crossing London’s various bridges, but beyond Tower Bridge, I think these two are best to check out.
The eponymous London Bridge is probably the city’s most famous bridge, by name alone – in fact, many tend to confuse it with the rather more grand Tower Bridge. There’s been bridges spanning that site for centuries, although the current was built in 1973, its predecessor sold off to an American. Rumours flew around that he believed he was buying Tower Bridge, but he denied that fact adamantly.
The Millennium Bridge is a pedestrian bridge, leading straight to St Paul’s Cathedral.
It was opened in June 2000, and closed on the same day it was opened, as it swayed something shocking when pedestrians tried to cross it. Londoners were quick to nickname it the “Wobbly Bridge” and it re-opened in February, 2002 as a much sturdier bridge.
Potterheads will recognise it from the movie Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince , where it’s blown up by Death Eaters.
St Paul’s Cathedral
Stroll alongside the Thames until you reach St Paul’s Cathedral.
The original structure burnt to the ground during the Great Fire of London in 1666, but the replacement building is pretty darn nice.
Entry to the cathedral is around £16.
Buy your ticket for St Paul’s here
Natural History Museum
From here, hop on the Tube and head to the Natural History Museum.
This is probably my favourite museum (besides the Horniman in south London), because I have a weird obsession with taxidermy.
As with all of the big museums in London, entry is FREE.
If you’re there in the wintertime, you can skate on the ice rink that’s set up outside. That’s actually more fun than the museum, believe it or not.
See a West End Show
And why not end the night with a West End Show? It’s touristy AF, but hey – that’s for a reason.
Some of my favourite seemingly-never-ending shows include The Phantom of the Opera, Mamma Mia and Les Misérables.
I also flipping loved Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, although it’s quite difficult to get tickets to. There is the Friday Forty, where 40 tickets are released at 1pm on Fridays at a discounted price. Try your luck – you never know.
|London Trip Tip: You can buy heavily discounted tickets to most shows either on the day, or 30 days in advance using Today Tix|
Day Three – Take a Day Trip to Richmond
I dunno about you, but I reckon it’s time for a day trip. Let’s get out of the heart of the city and head west, to see the delightful village of Richmond.
Things to do on Day Three of your London Itinerary
It’s pretty easy to get to Richmond from central London, which is why it’s a must-do on any London itinerary. The easiest way is by train.
Catch a train from Waterloo Station to Richmond Station. The average journey time is around 35 minutes, but an express train will get you there in 16 mins… should you be so lucky!
And what should we do once we get there? Well, there are a few options.
Check out the park
Richmond Park is the largest of all the royal parks, so big that it’s hard to imagine that you’re still fairly close to the city.
If you time it right, you might even see deer hopping around, which makes for a pretty special experience.
Have lunch at a pub
Richmond is also home to some pretty cosy and very British-esque pubs. Grab some grub or have a pint and soak up the local ambience.
Visit Hampton Court Palace
If you like palaces, Richmond is home to one of the best – Hampton Court.
Known for housing the infamous Henry VIII, you can wander around the gardens, check out the massive maze and view the works in the Cumberland Art Gallery.
Buy your ticket for Hampton Court Palace here
Day 4: See the Icons of London
Next stop on your London itinerary is braving the part of the city most popular with the city, but a must-see for any London trip – Westminster.
We’re going to go full tourist for this part of your London trip. Some things in London aren’t worth doing, but these options most certainly are.
Things to do on Day Four of your London Itinerary
Houses of Parliament and Big Ben
When you think of London, one of the icons that readily comes to mind is probably the clock tower of the Houses of Parliament, known colloquially as Big Ben.
Except that’s not entirely correct – Big Ben is actually the name of the bell encased in Elizabeth Tower.
You can tour the Houses of Parliament, alongside Churchill’s secret war rooms.
Buy your ticket to tour the Houses of Parliament here
From there, you can go on to view magnificent Westminster Abbey.
The first Westminster Abbey was allegedly constructed in the 11th century (it’s been a site of religious importance since 960) and the present building has been standing there since the 13th. All coronations of English and British monarchs have been held there since 1066, the most recent being Queen Elizabeth the II.
Over 3,300 people have been buried or commemorated at the Abbey, including King Henry V, Charles Dickens, Isaac Newton, Elisabeth Gaskell, Jane Austen and Stephen Hawking and Diana, Princess of Wales.
The Abbey is beautiful inside and out, but at least on the inside you get a nice, close look at the gorgeous stained glass windows.
Entry price is £20.
Buy your ticket to Westminster Abbey here
Buckingham Palace is worth an ogle once – if you’re lucky you might be able to spot one of the royals through the gates.
This is one of London’s most popular public squares, the site of many parades and celebrations. Don’t be surprised if you head down there and find something going on.
Covent Garden is a food and entertainment district. There are plenty of shops, restaurants and colourful corners to poke around in.
My favourite restaurant there is a Spanish Tapas place called Barrafina. I recommend getting there shortly before opening time, if you don’t fancy queueing.
Piccadilly Circus and Regent Street
This is one of those areas of London that you have to check out on your first trip (and then feel free to never go back, because it can be quite busy!).
Within Piccadilly Circus, several streets join at the base of a roundabout, on which the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain stands. f you’re into people watching, perch on the steps to watch the world go by. Behind you, will be giant neon signs, displaying various changing advertisements. It’s a bit like Times Square in New York.
One of the streets you can continue up is Regents Street, which has Hamley’s, one of the most famous toy shops in the world.
The London Eye
I feel rather ambivalent about the London Eye – yeah, it offers a good view, but I think you get more value for money via the Shard or Sky Garden.
However, I suppose it’s worth doing once.
|London Trip Tip: Make sure you book your ticket to the London Eye in advance, as the lines on the day can be really upsetting. If you want to see as much of London as possible, it’s best to plan ahead!|
Buy your ticket for the London Eye here
Have a spot of afternoon tea!
This seems like an awfully British thing to do, although it’s something that’s more for tourists (you have no idea how many Brits I’ve met who’ve never had afternoon tea).
However, it is generally a little bit fancy and a lot of fun.
I’ve consumed a fair bit of afternoon tea during my time in London. You can read some of my reviews below.
Read more: Afternoon Tea in London: 6 Honest Reviews
Day Five: Soak Up Some Culture
You’ve seen the main icons and you’ve experienced a little bit of history. Let’s deep dive a little bit further and soak up some more of the city’s culture.
Things to do on Day Five of your London Itinerary
National Portrait Gallery
This gallery is host to, well, portraits of many important and famous Brits and is the first of its kind to open anywhere in the world.
Well worth spending an hour or so wandering through here.
Continuing to take advantage of these free museum admissions, let’s now head to the gorgeous British Museum.
Make sure you get there early, as the crowds can be phenomenally painful to get through. I stood near the Rosetta Stone, yet I can’t actually say I really saw it, over the throngs of people.
The British Library
From the museum, head onto the library, which is home to some amazing exhibitions. I went to the Harry Potter A History of Magic exhibition and I have to say, it was one of the best I’ve ever seen.
You can see what’s on here.
London is home to some truly beautiful cemetery’s and Highgate might be one of the best.
The graveyard is divided into two sections – the East and the West.
You can stroll around the East, but the West can only be seen as part of a guided tour, which enable you to stroll up the Egyptian Avenue, through a pair of giant obelisks to the Circle of Lebanon cedar tree, which is older than the cemetery itself.
The West tour is priced at £12. You can pay £8 to tour the East, or simply pay the £4 entry fee (if you book a tour in the West side, the East entry is included in the ticket price).
Read more: Some Unusual and Unique Tours in London
Jack the Ripper Tour
I find anything to do with Jack the Ripper (okay… murderers in general) fascinating and so, really enjoyed this tour when I did it.
Learn about the theories behind the true Ripper, his poor victims and the history of this area of London he terrorised, before tucking into a traditional British dinner of fish and chips.
Book your place on a Jack the Ripper tour here
Day Six: Explore Greenwich
Your last day in London will take you to one of my favourite corners of the city – beautiful Greenwich.
Things to do on Day Two of your London Itinerary
Let’s start with the Cutty Sark, just a casual giant ship sitting on land, by water’s edge.
The ship has been converted into a museum and you can climb aboard to explore its deck.
Tickets cost £13.50.
Buy a ticket onto the Cutty Sark here
The Royal Observatory and Prime Meridian
From there, head up the path to the Royal Observatory where you can see the world-famous meridian line in the flesh. You can then line up to straddle the line, effectively standing where East meets West.
The Line’s path is determined by the location of an historic telescope, the Airy Transit Circle, which ensconced at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich.
Peter Harrison Planetarium
From there, onto one of my favourite sights – the Planetarium.
It’s mega cool due to the screening of shows which take you on a tour of the stars, galaxies and universe. Ideal for any astronomy nutter, like myself.
National Maritime Museum
Greenwich is very nautically themed and it is here that you can check out the National Maritime Museum to learn about Britain’s history on the seven seas.
Entry is… you guessed it. FREE!
Stroll around the shops
It helps that the town centre of Greenwich is quite gorgeous. There are plenty of boutique shops to poke around in and often markets to explore.
I considered it sacrilegious to journey out to this corner of London without stopping for a pie with a side of jellied eels at Goddard’s. Oh man, so good.
Take a ride on the Emirates Air Line
The Emirates Air Line is both a way to get across the river and a fun, touristy thing to do on your first trip to London. It definitely allows you to see some sights of the city from a different perspective!
Buy a ticket for the Emirates Air Line here
Day Seven – London Like a Local
By this point, you probably know the city better than I do! This is your chance to experience London from a local’s point of view.
It’ll involve getting out of the city itself and travelling to some of its more residential areas. Rest assured – there’ll still be plenty to do.
I’ve given you two options to choose from, consisting of the city’s two funkiest areas (in my opinion) – the east and the south east.
Things to do in East London to add to your London Itinerary
Here are some options for East London fun times.
Visit Old Spitalfields Market
Here you’ll find art, crafts and fashion, among some other truly odd things. Open every day.
Pet animals at the Spitalfields City Farm
Have a hankering to pet some farm animals? Head to this farm, which brings a bit of the countryside to the inner city. The farm has an array of friendly animals and also sells fresh produce.
Read more: 11 Fun and Unusual Ideas for Dates in London
Take a street art tour of Shoreditch
Shoreditch is one of the most colourful areas of the city and it’s well worth walking around, to take in the local urban art. Alternatively, you can jump on a tour and learn not only what the art represents, but the artists behind them.
Book your place on a Shoreditch street art tour here
If you want to delve a little deeper, here are some of the best things to do near Shoreditch High Street.
Grab a bagel from the Beigel Bake
You don’t need to go to NYC to grab a decent bagel. This shop sells Jewish-style bagels, of many different fillings. Their salt beef bagel is a London legend.
Check out the Columbia Road Flower Market
This is a very visually appealing market, held every Sunday. Locals flock here to get their weekly dose of blooms, but it’s quite fun to stroll around and take the array of colour and scents in.
Things to do in South East London to add to your London Itinerary
Peckham is a funky suburb, one of my favourite areas of London. Visit Frank’s Café for views of the city, or watch a flick at the rooftop cinema on top of the Bussey Building. Catch a cheap flick at the Peckhamplex. Grab a cocktail at Peckham levels and check out the vinyl at Rye Wax. The food is unreal too, I’ve had truly excellent meals there from jerk chicken, to Iranian food. It’s the best, just writing the above couple of sentences made my heart ache for it.
Read more: 19 Awesome Things to Do in South East London
Visit the Dinosaurs in Crystal Palace Park
Within Crystal Palace Park, you’ll find various statues of dinosaurs, from the Victorian era.
They were constructed based on scientific knowledge at a time before the theory of evolution even existed (only by six years, but still). It’s quite impressive how on the mark the designs were, when you see them in the flesh!
Ogle Severndroog Castle
Severndroog Castle is a tower that can be found in Oxleas Woods, within the Royal Borough of Greenwich.
It was saved from private developers for the use of local community and now functions as a mini-museum and a space for private events (such as weddings).
Check out the Horniman Museum
The Horniman Museum is one of London’s big and so, free museums.
Once the personal collection of Frederick Horniman, tea trader and traveller, it has an impressive collection of cultural artefacts, musical instruments and taxidermy, particularly its gigantic stuffed Walrus, which has been on display at the museum for over a century.
Grab a drink in a toilet bar
There are a few old toilets littered around London, which have been converted into small bars. You’ll find one in Bermondsey, at the Bermondsey Arts Club.
Possible Day Trips From London
Your London itinerary will keep you busy, but if you have a few days spare, why not consider a day trip from London?
England is a particularly small country and so long as the trains are running, it’s fairly quick and easy to get to places outside the capital (plus there’s always the option of catching a coach, which is oftentimes a lot cheaper).
Here are some options for day trips that you could tack onto your London itinerary.
It sounds like a lot, but believe me – this itinerary is barely scratching the surface of what London has to offer.
However, I believe this London itinerary is a good introduction, guaranteeing you see most of the best known sights, with a few other delights thrown in for fun.
Last Tidbits of Information
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