London 2 Day Itinerary

Quite Possibly the Best City in the World

As Samuel Johnson said in 1777, “When a man is tired of London, he’s tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” This statement remains true over 240 years later, for there is still so much to like in London. There’s the West End with its array of shows and theatres, countless galleries and museums, which rank alongside the finest anywhere in the world, and history on each street and around every corner. You can add to this mix of fantastic restaurants and nightlife, plus a huge number of world-renowned sports teams and stadiums.  Voted number one in the 2021 World’s Best Cities Index, London is a destination that should be on everyone’s bucket list. This London 2-Day Itinerary guide focuses on the best sights and attractions London offers. So read on to find out what the “Big Smoke” offers. 

Where should I stay in London?

The answer to this question depends primarily on your budget and what you’re looking for. As you would expect, hotels in the center of London cost considerably more than those in Greater London. However, even within these different regions, there can be considerable variances in cost. Hotels in the West End typically are the most expensive, especially those situated in Mayfair or Knightsbridge. For a central and cheaper option, you might like to consider the Earl’s Court area or Pimlico and Vauxhall. While areas outside are well serviced by bus, train, and tube, we’d highly recommend staying centrally to make the most of your time.

A view of Tower Bridge with the Shard in the background
Tower Bridge at sunset with the Shard, London's tallest building in the background

Getting Around London

London is a big city, and while walking between the most significant sites and attractions is possible, you’ll need to use the public transport system at some point. Managed by Transport for London, you can find full details on the network, schedules, and coverage on the TFL website. Probably the most helpful map of all is the tube map, which connects all of London via 12 different lines.

The transport network is simple and inter-connected once you know where you’re going. You can pay via contactless card on all trains, buses, and tubes or via an Oyster Card, which works as a pre-paid travel card. The system will charge you per journey until you reach the cost of a daily travel card, at which point there will be no further costs. Note international cards are usually accepted for contactless payment but may incur international charges.

Weekend in London Itinerary

Day 1 – Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and Tower Bridge


You’ll be starting your visit to London, right at the heart of the City in Westminster. As you exit from the tube station, you’ll be greeted by the impressive site of Big Ben and Westminster Palace, more commonly known as the Houses of Parliament. Subject to extensive rebuilds, a palace has stood on this site since the 11th century and has been home to parliament since the 13th century. It’s best to start by walking around Parliament Square to take in the different views and see some other impressive buildings, including Westminster Abbey, the venue for many a Royal Wedding. There’s a large number of attractions nearby, so you can choose the one that appeals the most:

  • Tour of the Houses of Parliament (only available on Saturdays and during summer recess)
  • Tour of Westminster Abbey, including the nave, Royal Tombs, and Lady Chapel
  • Churchill’s War Rooms, the site of British planning and resistance during World War 2
  • Statue spotting in Parliament Square, including Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, and Winston Churchill
Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament in London from above
The famous Big Ben clock tower and the Houses of Parliament in London, UK

Southbank and Tate Modern

You’ll come to the Southbank when heading south over the River Thames and across Westminster Bridge. This is one of London’s premier locations and the setting for many Hollywood movies filmed in London. The Southbank is an eclectic location with street vendors, entertainers, artists, and various characters. It’s also home to some of London’s premium attractions:

  • The London Eye – A huge big wheel that gives breath-taking views across London
  • London Aquarium – Home to an abundance of sea life
  • London Dungeons – A trip back in history through some of London’s macabre past
  • Tate Modern – A free-to-enter exhibition of all kinds of modern art
  • Shakespeare’s Globe – An authentic Shakespearean theatre designed based on the original. This is the place to see one of his plays.


While all of the above are fantastic options, the Tate Modern stands out for many reasons. Not only is it free to visit, it also ranks as one of the most visited art museums in the world. Boasting over 5 million visitors annually, it contains a mixture of British and International modern art you’re unlikely to find elsewhere. Distinctive in its architecture, it’s situated by Millennium Bridge and is a 1-mile riverside walk from Westminster Bridge, where you initially cross the Thames.

The Tate Modern Gallery situated on the Southbank of the River Thames in London
The Tate Modern Gallery on the Southbank boasts an enviable collection of modern and contemporary art

Lunch Ideas and Borough Market

There are several great spots along the waterfront to grab lunch and a drink. The Doggett’s Coat and Badge and the Founders Arms are highly recommended. Once you’ve refueled, you’ll continue your journey along the Southbank towards Tower Bridge. As you approach London Bridge, it’s worth taking a detour just away from the riverside walk to visit Borough Market. The site of a market since the twelfth century, you’ll find an eclectic mix of market stalls selling all manner of food and produce. Browse at your waistline’s peril with numerous delicatessens and sweet stores! For those wishing to sample some traditional London cuisine, jellied eels are sold, although it’s fair to describe them as an acquired taste. Borough Market is also a great location to grab lunch if you’ve not eaten alongside the river.

HMS Belfast and Tower Bridge

Continuing the journey east along the Southbank, you can’t but fail to notice The Shard skyscraper. Named after closely resembling a piece of broken glass, it’s the tallest building in London at 72 floors high. You’ll pass the HMS Belfast moored up upon the river as you continue along the Southbank. A Royal Navy cruiser built in 1939, the ship has been situated on the Thames since the 1970s and is a popular attraction. If you’re interested in naval history or just intrigued by naval life, it’s well worth a visit.

From around the location of HMS Belfast, you’ll start to have uninterrupted views of Tower Bridge. One of London’s most iconic sites, it remains a working bascule bridge, raising twice a day on average to allow large vessels to pass through. Constructed in 1886, the bridge retains its original design despite the overhaul in the technology that raises the bridge.

View of Tower Bridge from the Southbank in London
The impressive view of Tower Bridge from the Southbank in London

Crossing the bridge by foot alongside the road is possible, or you can take a short tour of the bridge. The tour commences in the North Tower, which you ascend before crossing the walkway to come down the South Tower. Fantastic views are afforded over St Paul’s Cathedral and Central London from the walkway. There’s also a small museum covering the bridge’s history and the original machinery.

Tower of London

As you set foot on the north side of the River Thames, you’ll see the impressive Tower of London to your left. Built by William the Conqueror in 1078, it is famous as a palace, prison, and the home of the Crown Jewels of England. The site is a treasure trove of history, perhaps the most infamous event being the beheading of Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard (both wives of Henry VIII). The Tower of London is a World Heritage site and worthy of the last few hours of your afternoon. Tours of the site are included within the price of admission and are highly recommended.

Tower of London
The Tower of London set on the Thames and famous as a prison palace and place of torture.
St Paul’s Cathedral & Dinner

Just north of the Tower of London is Tower Hill station. It would be best to catch the tube here on the Westbound Circle or District Line to Mansion House. As you exit Mansion House tube station, head west towards St Paul’s Cathedral, London’s other great church.

Situated in the highest part of the city, the current St Paul’s Cathedral is over 300 years old. The site itself has been home to a cathedral since 600 AD. It’s possible to walk around the whole perimeter of the cathedral, although access to the interior is only possible as part of a tour. Tours of the cathedral can be a bit pricey at £20, but it does include access to the roof, which affords fantastic views across London. As an alternative, worshippers can attend a scheduled ceremony within the cathedral for free.

St Paul's Cathedral with a red London bus in the foreground
St Pauls Cathedral is a treasured national monument

After a pretty intense day, some dinner is in order, and some great options are near St Paul’s. The Italian restaurant Rucoletta is an excellent choice for a wide range of Italian cuisine. Alternatively, the Paternoster Chop House is another fine choice. It’s a British restaurant offering fine, ethically sourced meats and produce. It comes highly recommended. There are numerous bars and pubs within the St Paul’s vicinity should you wish to stay out past dinner.

Day 2 – Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park and the V & A Museum

Breakfast and Trafalgar Square

You’ll be starting day two off at Trafalgar Square, and just round the corner, there’s a fantastic breakfast place. The Café in the Crypt offers self-service breakfast options with the twist that the café is situated in an underground, brick-vaulted church crypt. Providing the gravestones doesn’t put you off your breakfast; you’ll have a great time!

Trafalgar Square and Nelson's Column, London
Trafalgar Square and Nelson's Column in Central London

Heading round the corner to Trafalgar Square, you’ll be immediately struck by the vast Nelson’s column. Named after Admiral Nelson and bearing his statue on the top, the column measures over 66 meters. Four enormous bronze lions guard the column. A word of caution: Trafalgar Square is inundated with pigeons, feed them at your peril!

Picturesque buildings surround the square, notably the National Gallery, one of London’s most authentic and aesthetically pleasing sites. It’s well worth a visit to the National Gallery. Access is free, and there are over 2,000 paintings dating from the 13th century to the present day.

Buckingham Palace

From Trafalgar Square, you’ll be heading west on Pall Mall (normally referred to as ‘the Mall’) towards Buckingham Palace. Heading through the Admiralty Arch, you’ll see a wide tree-lined boulevard with Buckingham Palace at the end. To the left of ‘the Mall’ is St. James Park, a lovely and tranquil park worth exploring should you have the time.

The view of Buckingham Palace as you approach from the Mall
The view of Buckingham Palace as you approach from the Mall

As you walk the 1 kilometer along ‘the Mall,’ Buckingham Palace increasingly comes into view, and you can begin to make out the details of this vast palace. The sheer number of windows is often the first thought that comes into your mind, and we can reliably inform you that there are 760 windows in total! The other discernible things that come into focus as you approach are the Queen’s Guards in their distinctive red uniforms and tall black bearskin hats.

For most of the year, the front gate is the closest you’ll get to Buckingham Palace, although visiting the gardens and State Rooms during the summer months is possible. As a much more engaging alternative, try to time your visit with the changing of the guard ceremony. This happens daily during the summer and every other day during the rest of the year. The changing of the guard ceremony dates back to Henry VII in the fifteenth century and represents the ceremonial passing of responsibility for the protection of the palace and Royal Family.

Hyde Park, Wellington Arch and Lunch

Heading to the right of the palace and following Constitution Hill, you’ll walk about 1km through Green Park until you reach Wellington Arch. The arch was designed and built in the early nineteenth century to commemorate the Duke of Wellington and his victory at the Battle of Waterloo in the Napoleonic Wars. It’s a fine sight worth seeing on the way to Hyde Park.

After passing through Wellington’s Arch, you’ll come to the southeast corner of Hyde Park. It will be time to grab some lunch, and there are excellent options around, given the proximity to Mayfair, London’s most exclusive district. A high-end but excellent choice is COYA Mayfair, which offers Peruvian sharing plates. The Grenadier Pub receives frequent positive reviews and is a more traditional and cheaper option. If you want to eat in Hyde Park, the Serpentine Bar & Kitchen offers views across the lake and Hyde Park.

After lunch, it will be time to explore Hyde Park, probably the most picturesque of London’s parks. Several notable London landmarks surround the park. Wellington Arch is on the southeastern corner, Marble Arch is on the northeastern corner, the Royal Albert Hall is to the south, and the Dorchester Hotel is to the east. The park is also home to many attractions, including the Serpentine Gallery and Serpentine Gallery North, the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, and Kensington Palace. The park offers a little bit of everything and a welcome break from the bustling city.

The leafy paths of Hyde Park in central London during summertime
There's few better spots in London to spend a summers day than Hyde Park

Knightsbridge, Harrods and the Victoria and Albert Museum

Exiting Hyde Park near Knightsbridge underground station, follow the Brompton Road southwards. You’ll enter Knightsbridge High Street, home to some of London’s most iconic and attractive shops, including the world-renowned Harrods department store. Established almost 200 years ago, it’s worth a visit to experience the vast premises, and as you would imagine, with a store with over 1 million ft2, there’s something for everyone!

Continuing down the Brompton Road, you’ll see the Victoria and Albert Museum on your right. Named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, the museum is home to over 2 million pieces of art. Self-proclaimed as ‘the world’s leading museum of art, design and performance,’ it’s hard to dispute this claim. Admission to the museum is free, and it is worth taking a few hours to explore. Full details on open time and collections can be found on the Victoria and Albert Museum website.

Exploring South Kensington & Dinner

Exiting the V & A museum, you’ll be in a beautiful location for the remainder of your afternoon. Next door is the Natural Science Museum, a wonderful experience for those young and old (if you’ve not already had your fill of museums). Alternatively, you should make the most of your proximity to Kensington to explore one of London’s wealthiest and most picturesque areas.

Kensington has abundant beautiful white Georgian terraced buildings, quaint cul-de-sacs, and private estates built around a central square. This is the London you see in Hollywood movies and the media and is the London you always imagined. Taking the time to wander through this wonderful part of London is well worth it, not least because you might spot one of London’s famous blue plaques. Designed to link the people of the past with the buildings of the present, there are over 950 of them denoting where famous people of the past once lived. To find out how to locate them, visit the English Heritage website.

Kensington is also a great spot for dinner, with many excellent dining options. The Ivy is a well-established restaurant that regularly attracts A-list clientele. For something slightly lower-key and informal, Maggie Jones’s offers a farmhouse-style British menu in a restaurant themed like an old barn. For a slightly alternative cuisine, try Dishoom, Kensington, for some modern Indian cuisine. If you’re keen to continue your night, Kensington High Street has many bars to suit all tastes, many of which go on until the early hours.

Why not try some of our other guides?

We hope you’ve enjoyed our London weekend trip guide. Why not try some of our other guides for the UK or perhaps other long weekend destinations?

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