London is a large city with museums, history, and pubs. I’ve had a few friends visit and I keep going back to similar things to do or see. Below are good self-walking routes in order to see the most of the iconic London sights in roughly two to three days.
Are you a fast and efficient traveler?
These are ambitious schedules. If you answer yes to some of the below questions, consider the below itineraries.
- Can you walk briskly for miles dodging tourists and locals?
- Can you walk 4 to 6 miles and be on your feet all day?
- Can you navigate Underground or metro systems with ease?
Getting Around: Oyster Cards
You don’t have to walk everywhere. An Oyster card can be used on buses and the Underground.
- What airport do you fly into? – Flying into London Heathrow, the Underground takes you straight into the city. If you’re flying into one of the other five airports, consider taking a train to an Underground station.
- Where are you staying? – Staying a little outside of the city can save you money, but it means you’ll spend a little time trying to get to central London to see the major sights.
An Oyster Card can be loaded at the airports or any of the stations. A £5 deposit is made to receive the card but is refunded when returning it at the end of your trip, including any balance less than £10.
Day 1 – Walking between sights in Westminster
Start your day with an English breakfast. You’ll need energy for all the walking.
1. Buckingham Palace and Changing of the Guards
2. United Kingdom Parliament
Walk along St. James Park and head to Big Ben (2017 under construction) and Parliament. You may want to see if you can go inside ahead of time as tickets sell out or they don’t allow tourists when Parliament is in session. Back-up options is to check the debates schedule and see if you can go to the House of Commons.
3. Lunch and walk along River Thames
After Parliament, consider a quick stop at Tesco Express (a London grocery store) and pick up sandwiches to eat by the river. Cross Westminster Bridge and walk the South Bank of the River Thames. Here you can find food stands for beer or late lunch.
4. Trafalgar Square
Continue to the Hungerford Bridge and Golden Jubilee Bridges just past the London Eye. Walk to Trafalgar Square and sit on a fountain to people watch. Spend a few hours in the National Gallery (free) housing thousands of paintings. Make sure to check your watch since the museum closes at 6 pm.
*Option: If you have more than 2 days, consider a museum day with the National Gallery, the British Museum, and/or the Natural History Museum.
5. Date night at the Theatre
Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus can be added to the day if you still have energy left. You’re now in the heart of the theatre district. If you’re not up to relaxing at a show for a few hours, consider ducking into a pub for a pint and maybe order fish and chips or a pie for dinner.
Day 2 – Towers and Market
Depending on where you’re staying, you may get to sleep in a little. Have breakfast and slowly make your way to Tower Hill.
1. Tower of London
Start your morning (10 am) by visiting Tower of London. Walk the fortress walls and see some royal gems. Make sure to allot 2 to 3 hours of visiting with its history and size, you won’t want to miss anything.
2. Tower Bridge
After, walk across Tower Bridge and pay to enter one of the towers if you wish. The bridge provides good views and if you’re lucky, a red double-decker bus will cross as you are or the draw bridge will halt traffic as it lifts to permit boats to sail through. What gets more iconic than that?
3. Borough Market
Walk along the water towards London Bridge and eat lunch at Borough Market. Borough Market is one of my favorite markets I’ve visited. From fresh produce to many food stands, you’re eye and interest never dulls. Taste some fudge, buy some fresh, cold oysters or just continue to walk around finding honey or saucissons.
4. Theatre, museum, or cathedral?
All located near Millennium Bridge, consider one of the three places to spend the afternoon. Challenge: Keep your eye on the clock and depending on opening hours, you may be able to fit in more than one.
4a. Shakespeare’s Globe
If you fancy a play, the outdoor theatre of Shakespeare’s Globe is close by. Buy tickets now or pay the minimum of £5 to stand in the Yard. If you don’t have time for a full theatre experience, consider a tour of the Globe instead.
4b. Tate Britain Museum
Continue to walk to the Millennium Bridge, which is a pedestrian only bridge to cross the river towards St. Paul’s Cathedral. Consider visiting the Tate Britain Museum for famous Britain art collections.
4c. Saint Paul’s Cathedral
Go into the cathedral and climb the stairs of the dome for excellent views of the city. Pre book your tickets for a small discount. I’ve found few food options in the area, so head to a new part of London to taste London’s best pies and fish and chips while chasing it down with a pint poured from a cask.
5. Walk across Millennium Bridge
Cross the Millennium Bridge with caution in case Death Eaters zoom past on brooms snapping the cables and dumping Muggles into the River Thames. Millennium Bridge has beautiful views from south to north with its metal architecture guiding walkers to the large dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Please use the above as a guide to help you start planning your trip to London. Spread it out to four days and take your time traveling through the city. Did I miss a must-see? Please share your tips in the comments below.