London Drum

Spend Five Days In London – Example Holiday Itinerary

An example itinerary with the best places to visit during your five-day stay in London

Day #1 – Sightseeing bus, lots of landmarks, Shard, London Eye

Big Ben
Westminster Abbey
Downing Street
Horse Guards Parade
Trafalgar Square
National Gallery
Sightseeing bus
The Shard
London Eye
What you will see:
Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, No.10 Downing Street, Horse Guards, Trafalgar Square, National Gallery, Sightseeing bus, The Shard, London Eye

If this is your first trip to London then you’ll probably want to spend the first day visiting some of our famous landmarks. So let’s start off in Parliament Square and take some photos of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.

Westminster Abbey is England’s version of the Valley of the Kings and contains the tombs of Edward the Confessor, Henry V (Battle of Agincourt), Edward V (War of the Roses), Elizabeth I (Spanish Armada), James VI (Gunpowder Plot) and Charles II, as well as many famous figures from history (allow for 2 hours).

Now walk down Whitehall and stop when you reach the black gate across Downing Street on the left. If you look past the policemen then you should be able to see the famous front door of No.10 down the righthand side.

Further along is one of the most popular photos in London – the soldiers outside Horse Guards. You’ll probably see a big crowd of tourists taking it in turns to pose for a photo. Don’t get too close because the soldiers will shout at you!

Have a walk through the central arch and into the impressive parade ground behind. This is where they hold big military parades like Trooping the Colour.

Keep walking down Whitehall until you reach Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square.

You might like to spend a couple of hours looking around the National Gallery on the north-side of the square. This is London’s best gallery and contains works by the likes of Rembrandt, Renoir, Titian, Turner, Da Vinci and Van Gogh.

We’re going to continue our tour of London’s most popular landmarks on the top-deck of a sightseeing bus. The three biggest bus companies are Golden Tours, Big Bus London and Original Bus Tour, but for this particular itinerary we recommend catching Golden Tour’s ‘Blue route’ outside the National Gallery.

When the bus drives over London Bridge get off at The Shard. This is London’s tallest skyscraper and the view from the observation deck on floors 68-72 is the best in the city (allow for 1 hour).

While you’re here you might like to have quick look around Borough Market – a food market selling artisan breads, meats, cheeses and sweets. It’s quite a nice place to stop and have something to eat.

Now jump back on the Golden Tours sightseeing bus and enjoy the ride over Tower Bridge and past the 1,000-year-old Tower of London. It will then cross back over Southwark Bridge and end up by the Southbank Centre.

You want the first day of your holiday to end on a high, so how about an evening ride on the London Eye?

The great thing about the London Eye is that it stays open quite late so you should plenty of time left – there’s nothing worse than having to rush around on your first day when you’re already knackered from the flight (allow for 30 mins on the wheel and 30-45 mins queueing).

Day #2 – Tower Bridge, Tower of London and St. Paul’s Cathedral

Tower Bridge
Tower of London
The Monument
Sky Garden
Royal Exchange
St. Paul’s Cathedral
What you will see:
Tower Bridge, Tower of London, The Monument, Sky Garden, Royal Exchange, St. Paul’s Cathedral

The second day of your holiday will give you a closer look at some of the landmarks we drove past on the sightseeing bus. Let’s start at Tower Bridge. We don’t recommend going inside because the exhibition is a bit dull, but you might want to check the lift times to see if you can catch it when the drawbridge opens.

Spend the next 2½ hours inside the Tower of London. Normally we’d suggest at least 3-4 hours for this, but we’ve got a lot of great places to visit today. Maybe you could start with the hour-long Yeoman Warder Tour which you can join at the entrance gate, and then nip inside the White Tower and Waterloo Barracks to see the Crown Jewels after.

We’re going to give you a choice of two different attractions now – they’re both tall towers so there’s not much point doing both.

Option 1 – The Monument

Head down Great Tower Street and then Eastcheap, and turn left when you see Pudding Lane. This was where the Great Fire of London began in 1666, and The Monument was put up by Christopher Wren to mark the spot. The view from the top isn’t all that great, if we’re being honest, but it’s certainly good exercise getting up there! (allow for 45 mins)

Option 2 – Sky Garden

If you’d rather choose somewhere with a lift then how about the Sky Garden? This skyscraper has got a tropical garden with jungle palms and plants at the top – it’s a bit like the Palm House at Kew, but 35 floors up. Bear in mind that you need to book a time slot on their website in advance – you can’t just turn up whenever you like (allow for 1 hour).

After you’ve finished find Leadenhall Market and then walk along Cornhill towards Bank. Take some photos of Mansion House and the Royal Exchange.

If you walk down Cheapside you’ll end up at St. Paul’s Cathedral. If you’ve stuck to our timings then you should still have around 1½ hours to look around and climb up the domes. If it’s too late then don’t worry, because we heartily recommend attending the choral Evensong service at 5 PM instead.

It’s been a busy day and you’re probably knackered from all the walking, so let’s catch the No.23 bus from the south side of the cathedral and try and find somewhere to eat. There are lots of nice pubs and restaurants around Covent Garden. Or you could stay on the bus to Trafalgar Square and then walk 5 mins to Leicester Square. This is the heart of London’s West End, where all the bright lights, nightlife and pubs are.

Day #3 – Kensington Palace, Museum and shopping at Harrods

Kensington Palace
Albert Memorial
Natural History Museum
Science Museum
Victoria & Albert Museum
What you will see:
Kensington Palace, Albert Memorial, Natural History Museum, Science Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum, Harrods

Start the day by catching the tube to Queensway or High Street Kensington and then walking across the park to Kensington Palace. It’s best-known these days as the home of Princess Diana, but its historical importance lies in the fact that it was once home to William III and a young Queen Victoria (allow for 2 hours).

Now stroll across Kensington Gardens for a look at the amazingly ornate Albert Memorial opposite the Royal Albert Hall.

We’re going to give you a choice of three different museums now, but you’re only going to have time to do one (or two if you don’t mind rushing).

Option 1 – Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum is known as the ‘dead zoo’ because its cabinets are full of stuffed animals. They’ve got everything in here from lions, tigers, zebras and elephants to monkeys, gorillas, birds, fish and insects… everything! They also have a huge collection of dinosaur bones (allow for 2½ hours).

Option 2 – Science Museum

If you’re more interested in technology then try the Science Museum, which traces the evolution of everything from planes, trains and spaceships to computers, clocks and cars. Highlights include the Apollo moon lander and a hangar full of airplanes (allow for 2½ hours).

Option 3 – V&A Museum

The Victoria & Albert Museum is good for people with an interest in art and design. It contains beautiful old furniture, fashion and jewellery, and artworks by the likes of Turner and Raphael. The Cast Room contains models of some of the world’s greatest monuments (allow for 2½ hours).

Now walk up Brompton Road for some shopping at the world’s most luxurious department store – Harrods. Even if you can’t afford to buy anything it’s still worth a quick look inside the food halls to see the decor (allow for 45 mins).

You might like to spend the evening around Sloane Square in Chelsea. Catch the C1 bus from Harrods and pick one of the pubs or restaurants.

Day #4 – Boat trip to Greenwich, Cutty Sark, Royal Observatory

City Cruises
Old Royal Naval College
Cutty Sark
National Maritime Museum
Royal Observatory
What you will see:
Boat trip to Greenwich, Old Royal Naval College, Cutty Sark, National Maritime Museum, Royal Observatory & Planetarium

Day four of the itinerary begins with a trip to Greenwich. There are three sightseeing boat companies in London: TRS, Thames Clippers and City Cruises, but Thames Clippers don’t have very many outside seats (not much use on a sightseeing trip!) and City Cruises always seem to be packed with tourists, so we recommend TRS.

The 60-min journey from Westminster pier will take you past lots of iconic landmarks like St. Paul’s, the Globe, Tate Modern, Tower of London and Tower Bridge, before passing the skyscrapers at Canary Wharf.

When you pull into Greenwich check out the impressive facade of the Old Royal Naval College – that’s where you’ll be heading next.

Tourists are only allowed inside Christoper Wren’s chapel and the Painted Hall, but the Painted Hall contains one of the most fantastic artworks in London (allow for 45 mins).

There are three more attractions nearby, but you’ll only have time for two of them:

Option 1 – Cutty Sark

You will have seen the tall mast of the Cutty Sark when you pulled into the pier. It’s been suspended above a dry dock so you can walk underneath it and then explore all of the cargo decks and the crews’ cabins (allow for 1½ hours).

Option 2 – National Maritime Museum

The National Maritime Museum tells the story of the British navy and the spread of the British Empire. It also has a very good exhibition about the Battle of Trafalgar which contains the actual jacket that Nelson was wearing onboard HMS Victory (allow for 1½ hours).

Option 3 – Royal Observatory

The Royal Observatory stands on top of Greenwich Hill. The museum contains a load of old clocks and telescopes, but if you’re interested in the stars and planets then you’ll enjoy the movies in the state-of-the-art planetarium next-door (allow for 3 hours in total).

When it’s time for lunch we recommend the Gipsy Moth pub next to the Cutty Sark.

Note: depending on the date and which boat company you chose, your return boat might leave as early as 4 PM or as late as 9 PM – so remember to check their timetable first! If you miss the boat then you can always catch the tube from Cutty Sark to Westminster instead.

Day #5 – Changing the Guard, Afternoon tea, shopping & show

Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace
Afternoon tea at the Ritz
Piccadilly Circus
Leicester Square
West End
What you will see:
Changing the Guard, Afternoon tea at The Ritz or Fortnum & Mason, shopping, theatre show in the West End

Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace was probably on your London bucket list, so we’ve saved it for the final day.

You need to get there by 9.30 AM if you want a decent view, and even earlier if you want a perfect one, which means you don’t really have much time to do anything beforehand (most of the attractions don’t open until 10 AM) – so maybe you could just take some photos around Trafalgar Square and then walk to Buckingham Palace (10-15 min walk).

After the soldiers march away at around 11:30 AM walk through Green Park and you’ll see the Ritz Hotel on Piccadilly.

Seeing as it’s your last day in London how about treating yourself to one of their famous afternoon teas in the Palm Court? You should be able to make the 1.30 PM sitting easily enough, but you need to book a table at least 2-3 months in advance (seriously!). You’ll also have to dress smartly or they won’t let you in, so remember to check the details on their website.

If you’re unable to reserve a tea at The Ritz then try the one at Fortnum & Mason instead. This is the second-poshest shop in London after Harrods, and it’s also where Buckingham Palace buys its groceries from. You usually only have to book 1-2 weeks in advance for this one.

When you finish at about 3 PM keep walking down Piccadilly until you reach Piccadilly Circus (10 min walk). We’ve reserved the next 3 hours for you to do some gift shopping for your friends back home.

Regent Street is one of London’s busiest shopping streets – that’s where you’ll find Hamleys. Liberty is at the end of Carnaby Street. You’ll find Selfridges at the Marble Arch end of Oxford Street.

If you want to end your holiday on a high then how about a West End musical on your final night? Most of the big shows start at 7 PM or 7.30 PM and are within walking distance of Piccadilly Circus. If you want some last-minute discount tickets then try the TKTS booth in Leicester Square.

View this itinerary on the planner

London Squire bookThe owns and has spent the last decade reviewing the capital’s landmarks, attractions and hotels. His guidebook is available from Amazon

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