‘Ello mate, and welcome to the Big Smoke. In this five day itinerary for visiting London, we’ll certainly show you the iconic sights. Big Ben. Buckingham Palace. Tower Bridge. But the city is so much more than just those old buildings. So have a gander (a look) at our guide, and see what else it has to offer!
As a base for starting our London holiday plan, we chose the historic areas of Wapping and Whitechapel in the East of the city centre. Because, frankly, staying right in the middle of town is very expensive.
Wapping is a quiet former docking district on the banks of the Thames. It has a lovely tight-knit village feel for how close it is to the centre of London. You’ll find winding brick lanes, local cafes, and small parks everywhere.
Although it’s worth it, Wapping is still not a cheap area and there’s not too many hotels. So, Whitechapel (just 10 minutes to the north) is another option. This super historic district is not quite as picturesque as Wapping, but it’s still got a lot of charm. And more hotel choices!
Wherever you stay while visiting London for five days, the city has excellent public transport. So nothing in our guide should be too far to get to.
Table of Contents
- Day 1
- Day 2
- Day 3
- Day 4:
- Day 5:
Go for a stroll
Start your first day in London with a riverside stroll heading West down the picturesque Wapping High Street, where there’s plenty of places to grab a British tea to go. Londoners genuinely love coffee just as much as tea nowadays. But you’ll still find the traditional British caffeine option at every coffee shop on these narrow streets.
If you can, we suggest saving yourself for a late but big breakfast after the walk. Just you wait! Anyway, the Western end of Wapping High Street comes out by your first big London landmark of many – the Tower of London. You could also start your day here if you chose to stay elsewhere in the city.
Morning: Tower of London, Tower Bridge & Terry’s Caf
The Tower of London was built in 1078 by William the Conqueror. The inner tower, the main one everyone recognises, has barely changed since. In over 1000 years!
It’s variously been used as prison, a storage spot for the Crown Jewels, and a Royal Residence. You can tour The Tower if you like. It’s open from 9am to 3.30 pm every day. Your tour will be conducted by a Yeoman, or Tower Guard, in full uniform.
If you do take a Tower tour, there’s a whole row of cafes and restaurants along the river, to the West, for afterwards.
If you don’t do the tour this morning, we suggest a lovely stroll across nearby Tower Bridge (you can’t miss it) and into Southwark. Tower Bridge, despite its iconic gothic look, is nowhere near as old at the Tower of London. The Bridge was built some 800 years later in 1886.
Once in Southwark, head to Terry’s Café on Great Southwark Street. It’s one the best examples of a traditional Full English Breakfast in the city.
A full English is a big, satisfyingly greasy plate full of fried foods. Be warned! If you’re not that hungry, try a traditional Tea and Two Slices. Two slices of dripping buttery toast and a mug of golden tea. Classic!
A Cool Afternoon on the South Bank, and the Leake Street Graffiti Tunnel
The South Bank area is an artsy district with river views. You can’t miss the famous Tate Modern art gallery with its massive former industrial cooling towers. Right by that, literally underneath Waterloo Bridge, is a massive open-air book market. Plus, here you’ll find the British Film Institute, The National Theatre and the famous London Eye!
There’s also loads of street performers, and a super cool skating spot. People have been hanging out skating (and graffitiing) in the Undercroft area of the South Bank Centre since the 2000s.
From there, let’s end our first evening out in London with some food and a drink. Continuing the arty theme, we suggest heading to Leake Street Graffiti tunnel.
This train tunnel under Waterloo station is packed with hip bars and restaurants, serving international cuisines. Plus it’s also an urban art spot, with legal graffiti plastered up and down the tunnel.
No worries if that sounds too intense. The Waterloo area has loads of typically cosy London pubs too. Try a sit-down fish and chip dinner and pint of local ale for a traditional choice. And one that can be surprisingly cheap in a pub. Things can get loud after 9pm on the weekends though!
Go up a skyscraper and visit Borough Market
For our second day we suggest starting out in the London Bridge area. You can hop on a tube or bus or walk along the river from Wapping (or wherever you’re staying).
London Bridge itself is not that impressive. Definitely not as nice as Tower Bridge you saw yesterday! But, in the modern day it has been overshadowed, literally, by the Shard. You can’t really miss The Shard, seeing as it’s Europe’s tallest building. It towers directly above the shiny new London Bridge station.
Why not head up there for a breathtaking view to start your day? The Shard viewing deck is on the 79th floor and is open to the public from 10 am on weekends and 11 am on Thursday and Friday. It’s closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
After that, Borough Market is a great place to grab some breakfast. London is hugely multicultural city today, and there’s amazing street food from all over the world to be found here. All in a Victorian building, with the market’s history going back to the 1200s!
Try Maria’s Market Café (opened 1961) for another full English and mug of tea. Or, try one of their more upmarket Breakfast sandwiches with British ingredients.
Tour A City in an Afternoon
After breakfast or brunch, lets head North. To the City of London proper! Many people get this confused, and understandably, but the City of London is actually a specific mile or two square area around St Paul’s Cathedral. The main tube station for the area is Bank.
You can also take a short 10 or 20-minute walk here across London Bridge, if you had breakfast at Borough Market. Once in the area, take a leisurely afternoon between the main attractions among historic streets.
This part of town can get quite confusing – but in a good way. There are loads of tiny one-way alleys by old churches, overhead walkways, and courtyards to explore.
Be sure to check out Monument, a *monumental* column built to honor the victims of the Great Fire of London way back in 1666. You can buy a ticket to climb inside it up to the viewing gallery. It’s open on weekends, from 9.30 am until 6pm.
From there you can see the fantastic dome of St Paul’s Cathedral, your next stop, and then the financial district with the Bank of England. Both of which are not far away.
Spend an Evening overlooking St Pauls, or onto a Hip Night Out
Once evening time settles in, try the Roof Terrace by St Paul’s for a brilliant free view of the sunset and the Cathedral Dome. There’s even a rooftop bar to have a chill drink before heading home to the hotel. Of course, Londoners love a party too – so you could head out further North for the night.
If it’s a weekend night, and you like to dance, we had to mention Fabric. This former meat-packing warehouse is a party like no other in London. Fabric is open from 10 until 5 or 6 am on weekends with revellers cutting shapes to the latest sounds. It does get busy though, so consider buying a ticket beforehand.
If all-night dancing isn’t your thing but you still want some London nightlife, try Shoreditch. This somewhat-gentrified area is just to the North of the City of London. Interesting bars, clubs and street food vendors here are open from the evening until late on every night.
Poetry slams. Live bands. Food markets made from old containers at Box Park. You could even up your hipster cred by sipping a pint in Vice Magazine’s very own pub, The Old Blue Last.
Whatever time you’re out until, if you get hungry – visit Beigel Bake on Brick Lane. An iconic London spot, they’re open 24 hours and they serve heavenly Jewish style bagels with all kinds of fillings. And only five minutes’ walk from Shoreditch High Street station.
When you take a five-day visit to London, you might think you’ve seen a lot of sights in two days. But there’s always more on the itinerary!
Today we’ll start out by heading to famous Westminster. And who could have guessed, it’s slightly to the west of the city centre. You could take the tube, or an iconic red bus (Route 100 to St Pauls and then a number 11).
A Morning Boat Trip to Westminster
But for a casual morning trip you won’t forget in a hurry, we recommend taking a TFL Uber Boat. These water taxis run up and down the Thames, starting from 8.30 am to pm each day.
You can hop on one every half an hour from Tower Bridge, all the way down to Westminster.
This is where you’ll see the iconic London landmark everyone knows – Big Ben’s Tower and the Houses of Parliament. Or maybe you think of Buckingham Palace, but we’ll get to that.
Anyway, hop off the bus, tube or boat at Westminster, and you can stroll right on by the glorious old Palace of Westminster. From there, you can take a quick detour to look at the nearby Westminster Abbey, which is an imperious and majestic sight to behold for sure.
If you do take a detour, try Victoria Tower Gardens for a quick sit down on the grass (if the weather’s nice). This quaint little park is tucked quietly away from the main parliament square, on the riverbank. It has great views of the south tower and can often be surprisingly empty!
Either way, next on the list is to continue down the wonderfully named Birdcage Walk from Westminster Bridge. Which, will take you all the way to one of the most famous royal residences in the world – Buckingham Palace.
Palace Parks and Royal Pub Haunt
The Palace, as locals say or Buckingham Palace, was first built in the 1700s, for a private owner. King George III bought it from the Duke of Buckinghamshire in 1761, and it remains the main royal house in London to this day. Try and catch the ceremonial Changing of the Guard at 11 am for bonus tourist points!
This part of town gets very busy so be warned. Nearby St. James’ Park always has some more secluded parts, if the crowds become too much.
After being a real tourist for a bit around the Palace, it’s probably time for a sit down and a pint eh?
Head up Grosvenor Place towards Hyde Park Corner and take a left by the imposing duke of Wellington Arch and you’ll be in the beautiful Belgravia district. This area has loads of super posh squares to stroll through, with amazing houses hosting foreign embassies. And some very nice pubs to boot!
Chief among them is The Grenadier. This unassuming red-doored pub is on a quiet one-way street just behind Luxembourg’s Embassy. But don’t let that fool you – they’ve been a busy spot for locals for hundreds of years.
Rumour has it that when Prince Harry and William were younger, they used to pop in here for a drink! It’s also one of London’s most haunted pubs too with a ghost of a card-playing soldier supposedly haunting its upstairs rooms.
(Check out this guide for just a few more of London’s legion of unusual attractions!)
A Rainy Night in Soho – Historic Shopping Streets and Classic Jazz
The famous Oxford Street and Regent Street might have all the biggest and fanciest shops. But London’s coolest shopping area is no doubt Soho, and Carnaby Street. Well known as an area of *ahem* countercultural activities from the 60s onwards, Soho today is a warren of narrow cobbled streets with cool vintage clothing boutiques, hyped fashion stores like Supreme or Palace, unique bars and – yes – risqué shops aplenty. Lovely!
Plus, if the shopping here isn’t enough for you? The bright lights of Regent and Oxford street are very close by too. There they have all the main stores you’d expect from an international city like London. That includes luxury goods retailers, tech stores and much more.
Once you’ve shopped out for a few hours, you could probably do with some food. One of the best places to eat in Soho is British racing driver Lewis Hamilton’s award-winning vegan burger chain, Neat Burger. They opened their first location here in 2019.
After your meal, Soho is also great place to grab a few drinks before heading out or back to your accommodation. As well as lots of bars for both gay and straight patrons, there’s the world famous and sophisticated Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club or the vintage local vibes of the Coach and Horses pub – for just a few ideas.
Check out some museums:
London is of course, for better or worse, famous for its museums. This city really does pack them in. There are two main areas for museums. First is Bloomsbury and Russel Square, to the East of where we spent last night in Soho. Secondly, to the West slightly in Kensington.
Personally, having been to all of them, I recommend a morning visit to the British Museum in Bloomsbury. It hosts some of the most amazing and important historical artefacts in the world, including the Rosetta Stone. And it’s free!
Nearby is the Hunterian at the Royal College of Surgeons, which is sadly closed until mid-2023. But if it’s open when you read this, fans of weird (and possibly slightly disturbing) historical exhibits will find it a unique experience. There’s also the Dicken’s Museum, for you literary heads, and the fantastic National Gallery which are both not far away.
The other museum area is the Kensington district, just a short tube or bus journey away. These posh leafy streets host the Science Museum, the V&A, the Design Museum and the Natural History Museum – all within walking distance of each other.
An Afternoon in Countercultural Camden
After all that high culture in Kensington, let’s try another side to London in the Camden area. Slightly to the North, we suggest getting a tube or bus to Mornington Crescent or Chalk Farm. These stations are either end of Camden High Street, and you can walk inwards from there.
Take a slow afternoon’s stroll down through this iconic musical area, including Camden Market and the gorgeous food court on Camden lock. There’s a tonne of places to get food or drink, ranging from high class restaurants to pub food or street vendors, and it’s crowded with people, buskers and street performers day and night.
If you like rock and metal music, don’t miss out on the The World’s End pub. This legendary haunt of musicians and pre-gig goers is rough and ready as they get, but is steeped in music history.
If you’re not tired out from walking already, finish the afternoon with a super-scenic 20-minute stroll along the Camden Canals to the also famous King’s Cross Station.
An Evening’s Fine Dining in Belgravia
Hop on a train or bus back to the Belgravia district to finish your day out in London with a boujie meal. This area is home to a good share of London’s 60-plus Michelin starred restaurants.
Try The Dining Room at the plush Goring Hotel near Victoria Station for real British food, prepared par excellence. Think English lamb or Scottish wild salmon, plated in up in ways so aesthetic you might not even want to eat it..
Alternatively, celebrate London’s long multicultural history with an upmarket take on traditional Indian food at Amaya. Us Brits do love a curry, and these ones use some of the finest ingredients (and chefs) in the world. Plus, lots of vegetarian options too if that’s your thing.
A Typical English breakfast
To start the last day of our five day London itinerary, what else but another typical English caf?
We suggest Peter’s Café in Aldgate, which is about half an hour walk from Wapping or 5 minutes on the tube. This unassuming but classic London eatery will be busy with locals in the morning, for an authentic experience. If you’ve had one too many big old fry up breakfasts already, try breakfast bap for something a little lighter.
See Some Live Sport in the Afternoon
Us English love the football for one. There are no less than six Premier League teams in London, all with their own impressive stadiums. They play games every weekend and some weekdays from August to May. The closest team to the centre is Chelsea, in West London, although they are the most expensive tickets too.
Try to catch a Fulham game at the wonderful Craven Cottage stadium, also in West London. And right on the banks of the river! Neutral tickets are often available on the day, but we’d advise to check online first.
If you don’t like football, there’s loads of other options too. Rugby at Twickenham. Cricket at Lords. Various international sports like boxing at Wembley Arena or Stadium. Us Londoners do love a good crowd chant, and the atmosphere is nearly always lively wherever you go.
Skyline Views and Healthy Foods
If you don’t like sports and/or crowds, we can of course recommend a calm alternative – a serene afternoon exploring Hampstead Heath. One of London’s biggest parks, head to Parliament Hill viewpoint in the south for stunning skyline views. To get there hop on an Overground line train to Hampstead Heath or Gospel Oak.
Whatever you choose to do in the afternoon, we’ll recommend some healthy food for your last day. Balance out all those fried breakfasts and pints, yeah? Many Londoners do like to keep fit, and there’s plenty of good options about.
For example, Megan’s in Balham in the South west of the city. The place looks absolutely gorgeous to start, and offers super healthy dishes at a good price.
Alternatively, nothing says how multicultural London is like the way the city adopted Falafel. For one of the best takes on this Middle Eastern vegetarian snack in the city try Hibox in Fitzrovia – right by Goodge Street station. Perfect for a quick lunch, or grab a wrap for a fuller dinner before your last night.
So that’s it for our whistle-stop five day itinerary for a London visit. You certainly will see the historical sights. Sample some amazing international food and traditional British cuisines. Sweeping skyline view, and try local drinks in some authentic London pubs.
But of course, this city has way more to see do. As Samuel Johnson famously said “when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.” We hope to see you back again soon!
Or, for some alternative city destinations around the continent, check out
our guide to the best European City breaks.