Having lived in London for 7 years I never thought I’d write about it in my blog from a travellers point of view, but despite considering myself a Londoner I’m not actually a local, and I enjoy a touristy sightseeing day in London as much as anyone. I get a lot of questions from people that want to visit London in a weekend, so this London 2-day itinerary focuses on all the best things you can do in London in 2 days. It’s a packed itinerary with lots of walking but for anyone wishing to maximise their time in the British capital, this guide has all the information you need to make the most of your 2 days in London.
- 1 How to get into London
- 2 How to get around London
- 3 London 2 day itineary: Day 1
- 4 London 2 day itinerary: Day 2
- 5 Cool things to do in London not included in this London 2 day itinerary
- 6 What to pack for two days in London
- 7 Where to stay in London
- 8 Where to eat in London
How to get into London
First things first, how do you get into London? If you’re flying internationally from a long-haul destination you would usually arrive at Heathrow, if you’re flying from a European destination with a low-cost airline you would usually arrive at Luton, Gatwick or Stansted. All these airports have train services that take you directly into Central London. Don’t bother with a taxi as these are very overpriced and you run the risk of getting stuck in traffic. If you only have two days in London you don’t want to waste time getting into the city!
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If you want to save money I recommend getting the normal train service as opposed to the express airport ones. For example Gatwick Airport has the Gatwick Express that takes you into Victoria station in half an hour for around 20 GBP. Instead if you get the normal Southern trains service this usually stops at London Bridge, City Thameslink, Farringdon and then St Pancras International and only costs around 10 GBP. I prefer this option because it saves me money and time, since even if the train is a bit slower it does more stops in central London where you can get off and be ready to see the city without having to take public transport from Victoria.
Similarly the Heathrow Express costs around 20 GBP and takes you to Paddington, which is pretty far from all the main attractions. If you get the Piccadilly line you will pay around 6 GBP and it takes you straight into central London. To find the most convenient train I always check online on the Trainline.
How to get around London
Ok so you’ve arrived in London, how do you actually move around this huge city? You might think me crazy but the best way to get around London is actually walking! All the main attractions in central London are fairly close to each other, and walking from one to the other actually allows you to see the beautiful architecture around and take in the London atmosphere.
Transport for London actually put together a map with the walking times between tube stations in London (tube – that’s what Londoners call the underground system here). Admittedly some are pretty far but look at the centre of zone 1, some stops are only 3 minutes away from each other!
If you don’t want to walk London has a very efficient public transport system. Both the tube and buses run super regularly and cover pretty much every corner of central London. You can get an Oyster travel card or if you have a contactless credit or debit card you can tap that to get on buses and in the tube. Per journey you pay 1.50 GBP for the bus or from 2.40 GBP upwards for the tube depending what zone you travel to. TfL put a daily cap in place at 7 GBP, which means after three tube journeys you’re not paying anymore for additional trips.
You can also find black cabs and ubers everywhere in London but I personally only take them in evenings if I’m going home late. Getting in a car in central London during the day basically means wasting your whole day given the traffic situation. Ubers are also generally cheaper than black cabs.
London 2 day itineary: Day 1
Now that we’ve got some of the fussy logistics out of the way, time to jump into the first day of our 2-day London itinerary!
We’re starting our first day in London at the famous Oxford Street. You want to start your day here fairly early because as time goes on it will get considerably busier. By considerably busier I mean basically hell on earth for anyone that hates crowds like me. So get there nice and sharp in the morning and you’ll be able to do some high street shopping without having to queue hours for a changing room.
From Oxford Street you can walk to Oxford Circus, down Regent Street and to the popular Piccadilly Circus. This is London’s equivalent of Times Square in New York. With the big bright advertising billboards, multiple road crossings, street buskers and crowds it’s quite the sight. An alternative road you can take is the colourful Carnaby Street, it’s just parallel to Regent Street and while it’s always busy, it’s completely pedestrian so it’s a bit more pleasant to walk along.
From Piccadilly Circus it’s a very short walk over to Leicester Square. Leicester Square is that place you always see on TV when they do movie premieres in London. There are a number of very cool cinemas here but if you’re only in London for 2 days, you probably don’t want to spend a couple hours of your time locked up in a dark room. There are loads of quick takeaway food places in Leicester Square but they will most likely be over priced and not that great.
Covent Garden is a short 5-minute walk away from Leicester Square and one of the most famous spots in London. The central covered area of Covent Garden, known as the Apple Market, is full of cool shops, bars and restaurants, and also a few touristy but quirky market stalls.
After Covent Garden you can walk down to Trafalgar Square where you can visit the National Gallery. Entry to museums in London is generally always free, you only pay for the exhibitions that are on at that specific time. If like me you’re not a museum person (I’ll admit I’ve only been inside the National Gallery once) Trafalgar Square is still a nice and famous spot of London that you can admire, and from there walk on to your next stop.
Westminster Abby, Houses of Parliament & Big Ben
From Trafalgar Square it’s a short walk down to the river, where you will see two of the most iconic London sights. Big Ben is under restructuring works at the moment but you can still visit Westminster Abby and the Houses of Parliament.
Just across the river you will see the London Eye, it’s hard to miss. In 7 years of living in London I have only been up the London Eye once but I can say it’s really something. Yes it’s super touristy but the view is very good, if you have the time I would recommend going up the London Eye. You should book tickets beforehand to save time and jump some of the queue.
After seeing the London Eye I suggest walking all along the river to Borough Market. You could also take the tube from Waterloo to London Bridge, which would save you some time, but the walk along South Bank is one of the most beautiful spots in London in my opinion. Especially if you’re visiting London in summer or on a sunny day, walking along the Thames and seeing the skyline of London is pretty epic. You will see some main landmarks along this walk including the Tate Modern, Shakespeare’s Globe and Millennium Bridge.
Borough Market is a great place to try some of London’s famous street food. There are tons of different stalls that sell food from all over the world. It’s the perfect place to stop for a quick lunch on the go without wasting hours sitting down at a restaurant and waiting to be served.
Just next to Borough Market is the Shard, a skyscraper with 95 floors and one of the best views over London. There is a viewing platform on the 70thfloor, the tickets cost between 24 GBP and 32 GBP depending on how far in advance you book them. However, there are a couple bars in the Shard just a couple floors below that you can access for free. Cocktails are around 15 – 20 GBP which is expensive, but considering you’re at the highest bar in London, it could be much worst. I’d recommend going to the bar instead of the viewing platform since you end up paying a similar price but at least you get a drink while you enjoy the view.
From the Shard it’s a short walk across More London Place to reach Tower Bridge. If you’re visiting in summer they usually have a Mexican food truck down next to the river with sun bed chairs, and they often have shows on in The Scoop (the round theatre-like area along the river). From along the river you can walk right up to Tower Bridge and then you’ll see a set of stairs that you have to walk up to cross the river.
Tower of London
This is where I admit that I haven’t actually visited the Tower of London yet. I’ve walked past the Tower of London numerous times, been on river cruises that set off from Tower Pier (a lot of university student clubs do that), even been ice skating at the Tower of London, but I’ve never been inside. If you want to see the Crown Jewels and learn more about the Tower of London you will have to go inside, however if you’re happy with just seeing it walking around it is enough.
You’re probably thinking these are quite a lot of things to do in one day so don’t worry, we have arrived at the last stop of this London itinerary. From Tower of London it’s less than a 10-minute walk to Sky Garden. Similarly to the Shard Sky Garden also has epic views over London, just from the opposite side of the river. Access is always free but if you visit during the day you have to book a ticket beforehand with specific time slot, after 6PM you can visit on a free walk-in basis but there is a fairly strict smart casual dress code. Drinks are fairly pricey at the bars in Sky Garden but once again, considering the venue it could be much worst. I recommend trying to get here for sunset since watching the sun go down over London, turning everything golden, and then the skyline slowly lighting up is pretty magical.
I’ve embedded below a map of this walking itinerary, or you can click here to open it in Google Maps. As you can see this big long list of things to do only adds up to about two hours of walking time. Obviously it depends on how long you decide to spend in every location, whether you want to go on a crazy shopping spree on Oxford Street or spend hours inside the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, but roughly speaking the above itinerary can be done in one day and would make for a perfect start to your 2 days in London.
London 2 day itinerary: Day 2
I hope you’re not knackered by yesterday’s activities, because you have another full day of excitement awaits!
For your second day in London we’re moving away a bit from the hustle and bustle of central London and starting our day in Portobello. Portobello is a lovely area of London with cute colourful houses and a popular market. The market and shops in Portobello sell all sorts of cool vintage things but also the standard street food and touristy souvenirs.
Portobello is just around the corner from the beautiful white houses of Notting Hill. There isn’t one specific spot that you must see; it’s just a beautiful area of London that you can walk around for a bit and admire the Victorian architecture.
After Notting Hill you will arrive at Hyde Park, London’s most famous and biggest park (in central London anyway). If you’re visiting in summer or on a sunny day you will find crowds of Londoners basking in the sun. Even in winter it’s a very peaceful area and you can enjoy the beauty of it walking around Kensington Palace and the Serpentine.
South Kensington & the museums
Just make sure that you’re crossing the park in the right direction so that when you pop out on the other side you’re right next to South Kensington and all the museums. Walk past the Royal Albert Hall (a pretty stunning building in itself) and you’ll reach the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum. They’re all very different in style and seeing all the exhibitions inside all of the museums would take days.
Unfortunately you only have 2 days in London but its still worth popping inside one or two of the museums depending on your interests. I’m a personal fan of the Natural History Museum and their dinosaur display. Entry to the permanent exhibitions is free anyway you can just go in and wander around for a bit without feeling like you have to see everything in one go since you paid a ticket for it (or is that just me?) If you’re visiting London at Christmas they always put up a beautiful ice rink at the Natural History Museum where you can try ice-skating.
Once you’re done exploring the museums it’s time to walk on to the famous Harrods. Harrods is a huge department store founded in 1824 where they sell all sorts of things. One thing to note is that Harrods is very expensive. While I wouldn’t recommend buying anything there I still think it’s a pretty cool place to see and wander around for a bit, especially if it’s your first time in London and you only have two days.
From Harrods you can walk through Green Park and arrive at Buckingham Palace in less than 20 minutes. Buckingham Palace is the London residence and administrative headquarters of the royal family. If you time your visit right you might also be able to see the change of the guard outside the Buckingham Palace gates.
That’s all the walking I’ve got in store for you today, wasn’t that bad was it? I’ve included the map with walking itinerary below or click here to see it on Google Maps. It’s around 1.5 hours of walking but depending on how long you want to spend inside the museums or shopping inside Harrods, it can take up the whole day.
Cool things to do in London not included in this London 2 day itinerary
As I previously mentioned the British capital is pretty huge and seeing all of London in two days isn’t very realistic. There are some areas of London that I personally love but haven’t included in my London 2-day itinerary since they’re not considered the main tourist attractions and landmarks. However, if for example you want to see some markets and aren’t interested in museums you can skip South Kensington and visit the quirky Shoreditch or Camden instead. Most of these areas are very popular in evenings so you can always visit them after the itineraries I wrote above.
Shoreditch is the hipster and artsy area of London. There are tons of cool bars, restaurants, pubs, clubs and shops all over the neighbourhood. It’s a cool area to wander around during the day to explore the vintage and design shops and colourful graffiti, but it’s especially popular in evenings. The nightlife in Shoreditch never disappoints.
Camden was the hipster and edgy area of London before Shoreditch become popular. There’s a big market with lots of street food, clothes, jewellery, vintage things, home decor, souvenirs and pretty much anything you can think of being sold there. It used to be the rebel punk area (to give you a better idea, Amy Winehouse used to live in Camden) and even today there are still tons of tattoo and piercing parlours. It’s become a bit more touristy and less edgy in recent years but is still a cool area to walk around. The market is closed in evenings but there are loads of bars, pubs and clubs and there is a lively nightlife so you can always visit Camden in evenings.
Chinatown in London is actually just next to Leicester Square, but I chose not to include it in my London 2-day itinerary as it takes time to explore it properly and it wouldn’t have fit in the day 1 schedule. Also the best part of Chinatown is the food so I recommend going around dinnertime to try one of the many Chinese restaurants.
Soho is another neighbourhood very close to Chinatown and Leicester Square that I chose not to cover in your day 1 itinerary. It’s a vibrant and very cool area to explore but you can do so in the evening, discovering all the cool dining and nightlife options.
Afternoon tea bus tour
Afternoon tea is a very British tradition consisting of savoury sandwiches, cakes, scones and obviously, lots of tea. There are loads of places that do very good afternoon teas in London but inevitably will take up a large chunk of your day (if you’re a fast eater like me, you might not love afternoon tea, it’s one of those things you’re supposed to take slow and enjoy the experience…) If you only have two days in London a good solution is doing an afternoon tea bus tour. This allows you to enjoy the experience while also touring around London and seeing all the main tourist highlights.
The British Museum didn’t feature on my essential London 2-day itinerary since it’s not quite along the walking routes I’d planned out. However it’s not too far don’t worry, it’s in central London less than a 10-minute walk away from Oxford Street. Entry is free and there are loads of cool things you can see like Rosetta’s stone and more.
See a musical!
The West End of London is famous for its theatres and musicals. If you have the time I would highly recommend trying to squeeze in watching a show in your London 2-day itinerary. Over the past 7 years I’ve been to see The Lion King, Aladdin, Wicked, Billy Elliot and The Phantom of the Opera and they were all pretty amazing. There are tons of shows I still haven’t seen myself!
Regents Park is smaller than Hyde Park and a bit more of a local hangout spot. On one of the park you will find Primrose Hill, where all the Londoners go hang out and have picnics on sunny summer days.
St Pauls Cathedral
St Pauls Cathedral should have probably featured much higher on my list of things to see in London in two days, however I chose not to include it before since you will be seeing plenty of it even without actually visiting it. As you walk along the river and from all the viewpoints you will be able to see the dome of St Pauls towering over the roofs of London. If you have time you can go see the inside of the cathedral but if not, no harm done (in 7 years I don’t think I’ve ever been inside myself)
What to pack for two days in London
Not that there is a shortage of shops in London where you can buy things if you were to forget anything, however there are a couple essentials things that you might want to bring with you for your two days in London.
Umbrella: Yes, laugh as much as you want, but the stereotypes of the British capital are unfortunately largely true. It rains a lot here. You don’t want to be caught out in the rain so it’s just easier to always carry one of those tiny foldable umbrellas with you.
Power bank: After all if you’re going to be walking around all day, you won’t have time to sit down and charge your phone! Also you will need your phone to check Google Maps and that you’re headed in the right direction, or what time things close.
Comfortable walking shoes: My London 2-day itinerary has a lot of walking involved, so you wan to make sure you to do so in comfortable trainers to avoid having painful feet at the end of the day.
Where to stay in London
Despite living in London over the years I’ve stayed in a number of hotels throughout London, whether with family when they came to visit (and couldn’t fit in my tiny student halls room) or more recently with blog collaborations and I can recommend some hotels in London for every budget. However more than a specific hotel I can suggest areas of London where you can stay. If you only have two days in London you will want to stay very central or you will waste time travelling around, if you go a bit further out make sure to be within 5 minutes walking distance to a tube station. Personally I would recommend staying either in Camden, Angel or even more central around Holborn and Bank.
There are tons of hostels in London. I’ve never personally stayed in one but have heard great things of Wombats. There are also loads of hotel chains with numerous properties around London like Holiday Inn or the Travelodge that are more affordable than independent hotels. The more central ones are a bit more expensive but usually still offer good value for money.
Just like there are budget chain hostels and hotels, there are also a number of mid-range chains you can go for like Hilton or Marriott spread all over London. My parents stayed at the Hilton in Angel back when I used to live in the area and loved it, Angel is also a great area to stay as its a bit outside the tourist chaos of London but still within easy reach of all the main attractions. These options are a bit fancier than the previous budget suggestions but at more reasonable prices than the luxury properties in London.
I spent one night at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel for a blog collaboration and that was the fanciest place I have slept at in London. The property is beautiful, the service excellent and the location perfect as base to explore London, especially if you only have 2 days in London. I also spent an afternoon at Cheval Three Quays where a friend of mine was staying and can highly recommend it, the apartments are new, have a great view of the Thames and are in a great location to explore London.
Where to eat in London
When I first moved to London from Italy everybody told me how the food in London was shit. Having lived here for 7 years now I can strongly disagree with that. For Italian standards sure there is a lot of junk food out there (I’m looking at you Pizza Hut and your pizzas with burgers in the crust) but there are also a lot of amazing dining options for every budget. London is a very international city and that’s reflected in the variety of cuisines you can find. Since you’re only in London for two days I wouldn’t waste too much time sitting in restaurants, but there are cool and cheap dining options on the go.
The street food in London is awesome. There are famous street food markets like Borough Market and Camden Market but you will also find street food trucks here and there all over London, especially in the busy touristy spots. The prices vary massively depending on the cuisine, how big a portion you get, where in London it is and lots of other factors, but I’ve had meals from street food trucks in London for anywhere between 3 GBP and 10 GBP.
If you want to sit down for a proper meal without spending a fortune, worry not, there are thousands of restaurants all over London, both independent and chains. As a tourist it can be a bit hit and miss going to an independent boutique hotel, as you can’t know if they’re good or not. While they’re less authentic, with chain restaurants you’re always sure that a certain standard will be met. The ones of ethnic cuisines are also easier to eat at as the flavours are adapted for Western tastes. Some of my personal favourites are Wagamama, GBK, Wahaca, Franco Manca, Rosa’s Thai, Nando’s and Pho.
Fancy or Michelin-starred restaurants
If you want to go fancy, London can do fancy very well. London has 70 Michelin starred restaurants (and there many more fancy and delicious restaurants that don’t have Michelin stars) that you can try. I was a student in London so I can’t say I have much experience with these so you might want to check out this guide by Secret London instead.
Have you been to London before? How did you find it? Let me know in the comments below! Conscious this London 2-day itinerary turned into a pretty huge guide so if you have any questions, just let me know, happy to help if I can. Having lived in London for 7 years I consider myself a Londoner, I hope this post will help you plan your two days in London and that you’ll love this city as much as I do.
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