We, architecture fans, love everything about London. Charming historic buildings, high tech skyscrapers, lively marketplaces, and first-class museums are some of London’s countless highlights. Large green parks, quirky neighborhoods, colorful street art, and an excitingly multicultural scene complete the feast.
Because of its size and importance, many compare London to Paris. I beg to differ. Its curvy streets offer unique views every step you take. Its architecture is varied, with the old and the new blending perfectly. Besides, its multicultural character is the core of its identity. What both cities have in common is the abundance of places to visit. In fact, spending 4 days in London you’ll barely see the main ones.
How Many Days to Spend in London
- 1 How Many Days to Spend in London
- 2 Best Area to Stay in London for Sightseeing
- 3 The Perfect London 4 Day Itinerary
- 4 Day 1
- 5 Day 2
- 6 Day 3
- 7 Day 4
- 8 If You Have 5 Days to Spend in London
The answer, of course, is as many as you can. There are so many things to see in London that you can spend months exploring the city. However, you are probably wondering how many days you need to spend in London to see its highlights. I’ve organized this London 4 day itinerary for you to get a good glimpse of what London is all about. Prepare to be dazzled!
Since London is big, moving from one point to another can take hours. Hence, we don’t recommend spending less than 4 days in London. We focus on 4 different areas you can mostly cover on foot. Obviously, a visit to London would not be complete if you don’t step into the tube. This 4 day itinerary is as much about the highlights as it is about the city’s incredible vibe!
Take a look at this post for tips about the best time to visit London.
Best Area to Stay in London for Sightseeing
Without a doubt, the best area to stay in London for sightseeing is the historic center. To be able to complete our itinerary in 4 days, you must stay here. Not only that, but you also have to go posh. The Royal Horseguards is a wonderful Victorian era hotel with direct views of the Thames River. Located between Trafalgar Square and the Palace of Westminster Palace, it is probably the best value for money in central London.
If you are looking for something a little bit more low profile, the O Hyde Park Hotel is a fantastic choice. This chic four-star hotel offers tastefully designed rooms. Since it is on a small street just north of Hyde Park, you can walk to loads of places. Besides, there are several underground stations nearby, such as Paddington Train Station.
The Perfect London 4 Day Itinerary
Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey
Begin your first day in one of London’s most famous landmarks, the Palace of Westminster. This impressive building homes the two houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. A fire in 1834 partially destroyed the original palace from the 11th century. Thus, they rebuild it, but this time in a neo-gothic style. The iconic Big Ben is the palace’s most famous addition.
The imposing Westminster Abbey is right next to the palace. The original abbey was from the 10th century. Rebuilt many times, its current Gothic appearance is from the 13th century. Additionally, in the 18th century, the two towers by the main façade were added. Since the 11th century, the abbey is where English and British Monarchs are crowned. Not only that, but some of our idols were buried here, including Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin.
St. James’s Park and Buckingham Palace
Exit Westminster Abbey, turn right to Storey’s Gate Street and walk towards St. James’s Park. Watch the cute ducks, swans, and pelicans that happily roam around. The lovely creatures are the only survivors of a once large animal community. The large building of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the London Eye are to the east, behind the park.
Once you cross the entire park, you’ll reach the ever-popular Buckingham Palace. This large neoclassical building is the city’s residence (they have plenty of others) and the seat of the British Royal Family. To me, it is one of the least interesting London landmark buildings. I found it overcrowded, its architecture unappealing, and frankly speaking, you can watch the change of guards in many other places around the planet. Besides, it only opens its doors in the summer.
Harrods and Victoria and Albert Museum
Once done photographing the royal residence, go to leafy Constitution Hill. You have to pass under Wellington Arch, a 19th century triumphal arch, and turn left on Knightsbridge Street. Continue along Knightsbridge and turn left on Brompton Road. After a few steps, you’ll be in Harrods, London’s most impressive department store. Even if you are not into shopping, you have to step inside this wonderful building. We are talking about the world’s largest department store!
Continue along that same street until you notice the monumental Victoria and Albert Museum. This is the world’s largest museum of applied and decorative arts and design. You’ll find more than 2 million art pieces dating back to 5000 years inside. Spend some time exploring its numerous galleries. Museum lovers should go to the Natural History Museum next doors.
Hyde Park and Oxford Street
Exit the museum and turn right on Exhibition Road. You’ll reach the gigantic Royal Albert Hall before you hit the park. The impressive historic concert hall will take your breath away. Hyde Park will be in front of you. Go inside and cross the serpentine lake. This is my favorite place in the park. Stop by the charming café in the background (Lido) and chill with ducks, swans, and pigeons.
Cross the park diagonally towards its northeastern corner. Go past Marble Arch and step into London’s most famous street, Oxford. This lively street is the world’s busiest shopping avenue and the perfect place to finish your day. Pay attention to the large historic department stores, like Selfridges. The entire place is like a catwalk, with beautiful people of all shapes, sizes, and colors dressed to kill.
Camden Town and the British Museum
Start your second day in one of London’s most authentic neighborhoods, Camden Town. Camden is home to some of London’s most vibrant marketplaces. Once again, you should visit them even if you are not into shopping. Besides, the whole area around Camden High Street is home to the city’s best Street Art. No matter where you look, you’ll find art.
Take the Northern Line at Camden Town Station to Tottenham Court Road Station. From there, it’s a 5 minute walk to the one and only British Museum. The famous museum houses 8 million art pieces from all over the world. There are artifacts from ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, Greece, Rome, Asia, Africa, Oceania, and the Americas. I’m sure you’ll wonder how did it all end up here. As cool as the museum is, can you imagine the Parthenon in all its glory where it should be, Athens?
Neal’s Yard and Covent Garden
From the British Museum, turn right to Coptic Street. Walk until the end of the street and continue along Shaftesbury Avenue until you spot the narrow Monmouth Street on your left. At the beginning of it, you’ll spot a tiny passage on your left with a box wrapped in a tow sack hanging from above. You’ve reached Neal’s Yard, London’s most colorful courtyard.
Cross the courtyard and turn left on Short Garden’s Street. Turn right on Endell Street and continue walking until you spot the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. The nice neoclassical building homes Britain’s oldest national opera and ballet companies. Exit the opera, turn right, and have a drink or a snack at the Covent Garden Marketplace.
Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus
At the marketplace, turn left on Southampton Street and then right on the large Strand Avenue. After 5 minutes you’ll get to the famous Trafalgar Square. The square commemorates the Battle of Trafalgar that Britain won over France and Spain. Nowadays, this is where protests take place. If you didn’t have enough art, enter the National Gallery.
Take Cockspur Street towards Haymarket Street and walk until the end. After a few moments, you’ll see another well-known site, Piccadilly Circus. Since this iconic little square is close to a large shopping and entertainment area, it is a popular meeting place. You’ll easily recognize it from the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain and the dazzling neon lights.
Chinatown and Soho
From Piccadilly Circus, you have to walk to Coventry Street. Walk along Coventry until you reach London’s main pedestrian area. Street artists perform in Leicester Square. Some put up quite a show. Wonderful Chinatown starts here too. If you are into Chinese food, you have a plethora of eateries to choose from. It is also a great place for people watching. All you have to do is get lost and intake the vibe.
What better place to finish your second day than nearby Soho? This is London’s main entertainment district full of theaters, restaurants, bars, and clubs. Though historical venues like the Windmill Theater and the Marquee Club closed a long time ago, the neighborhood is still popular among locals and tourists. Soho homes the majority of London’s gay bars and clubs. After walking the entire day, you deserve to have dinner at one of Soho’s chic restaurants. I recommend the superb Pho & Bun Vietnamese restaurant.
The Shard and Borough Market
Begin your third day visiting London’s tallest building, The Shard. Renowned Italian architect Renzo Piano designed the enormous pyramidal tower. The platform on the 72nd floor, The View from The Shard, offers great views, but you have to pay to enjoy them. Don’t hesitate, it’s worth it. That said, there are other places with equally nice views and free entrance (more about that later).
Once you are done admiring this glass giant glass move to nearby Borough Market. Though its location under the train lines may seem unappealing, this is the place to try some of the best food in town. Dating back to the 12th century, it is one of London’s oldest food markets. The scene is pretty cool and authentic too.
Tate Modern and Millennium Bridge
Exit the market at Park Street and walk until the end of the street. Continue along River Thames, pass under Southwark Bridge, and walk next to the replica of the old Elizabethan Theater until you get to Tate Modern. This is one of the world’s best modern art museums, so don’t rush. I fell in love with the building and the collection. Its top floor viewing platform is free and offers outstanding views.
Upon exiting the gallery, go back to the main entrance and get on the Millennium Bridge. The unique steel suspension bridge opened in 2000, and since then it has become a favorite amongst locals and tourists. It’s a pedestrian bridge with direct views of Tate and St. Paul’s Cathedral. There is no need to cross the entire bridge, but doing so is really cool!
Saint Paul’s Cathedral and Bank of England
After you’ve taken hundreds of photos of the surrounding area, go straight to Saint Paul’s Cathedral. This imposing structure is one of the most important Baroque churches in the world and the seat of London’s Bishop. It was the city’s tallest building for centuries. The temple is one of the few sites in London that survived World War II with minor damages.
Take Cannon Street until you get to Queen Victoria Street. Turn left and walk until you get to Bank junction. On your left, you’ll spot the city’s best postmodern building, No1 Poultry. On your right, you’ll see three beautiful neoclassical buildings: the Mansion House, the Royal Exchange, and the Bank of England. Stop for a quick drink at the nearby Pitcher & Piano. Additionally, this cool bar is one of the best places to have bottomless brunch in London.
Guildhall and Barbican Estate
Turn left on Princess Street and walk towards Lothbury and Gresham Streets. After a few steps, you’ll spot a pedestrian passage on your right leading to an impressive old building. You’ve reached the majestic Guildhall, London’s historic city hall. Though some parts of the building date back to the 15th century, the grand Victorian Gothic façade is from 1788.
Go back to the main entrance, turn right, and walk to Wood Street on your right. Walk until the end of the street and turn left at Saint Giles terrace. You’ll find yourself in the middle of the Barbican Estate and Centre, probably the best example of Brutalist architecture in the city. While here, try to spot the remains of the Old London City Wall. If you have more time and energy, walk to the nearby Charterhouse, another interesting historic building.
Tower Bridge and Tower of London
The one building that London is famous for is the gorgeous Tower Bridge. The late 19th century bridge is another masterpiece made in the Victorian Gothic style. If you think it looks beautiful on photos, just wait until you see it in person. I suggest walking about its western side since you get views of central London on your right and of the City Hall and Shard on your left.
Cross the bridge and go straight to the Tower of London, one of the city’s oldest sites. The large fortress, once used as a prison, is actually the Royal Palace. No other place in London tells the story of this incredible city like the Tower of London. Thus, I recommend exploring its interiors. If you are into jewels, the ones displayed in the House of Jewels will dazzle you. If you love our planet, you’ll wonder if a stone behind glass is worth blowing up a mountain.
Sky Garden and Leadenhall Market
Enough about history, it’s time to focus on the present! Walk along Gloucester Court on your right until you get to Great Tower Street. Continue straight and turn right on Root Lane, where you’ll spot the 20 Fenchurch Street tower, popularly known as the Walkie-Talkie. Its three-story Sky Garden on the 35th floor is one my favorite free things to do in London. It’s a nice green space with outstanding views on all four sides.
Once done with the views, take Philpot Lane on your right, cross Fenchurch Street, and enter curvy Lime Street. You’ll arrive at my favorite marketplace in London, Leadenhall Market. Though the marketplace dates back to the 14th century, its present appearance is from the late 19th century. Other than the food, you’ll find all sorts of shops, bars, and restaurants.
Lloyd’s Building and Gherkin
Go back to Lime Street and notice the unusual Lloyd’s Building on your left. The fantastic structure is one of the best examples of high-tech architecture and of the so-called Bowelism in the world. Pay attention to its elevators, pipes, and ducts on the façade. Architect Richard Rogers wanted to maximize the interior space, so he placed them outside.
You can’t leave London without paying a visit to another one of its famous skyscrapers. Cross Leadenhall Street and continue along Saint Mary Axe to see the famous Gherkin. This beautiful tulip-shaped skyscraper replaced the former Baltic Exchange building. As you may recall, a bomb destroyed it in 1992. World-famous architect Norman Foster designed the Gherkin.
Bricklane and Shoreditch
From the Gherkin, walk until the end of Saint Mary Axe and turn right on Houndsditch. Walk until the end of the street and continue along Saint Botolph Street until you get to Middlesex Street on your left. After a few steps, you’ll spot the clothing Petticoat Lane market in Wentworth Street. Take note that on Sundays the market is in Middlesex Street. Walk along Bell Lane towards Spitalfields Market, a great place to have a snack.
The area around Bricklane Street is street art central. Graffiti packs the entire neighborhood, especially along Fashion Street. In Bricklane Street, you have to try Indian food, the best in town. People rave about the Aladin restaurant. Go back to Commercial Street in front of Spitalfields Market and turn right. Walk until you get to Shoreditch High Street on your right. The whole area is home to some of London’s best bars and clubs. Having a drink or two in Shoreditch is the best way to say goodbye to London.
If You Have 5 Days to Spend in London
As mentioned above, 4 days are barely enough to scratch London’s surface. You will get a general idea of what London is all about and visit its main highlights. Therefore, if you have an extra day, you can for sure stay in the city. Trust us, you won’t get bored. However, if you have 5 days, you can take a trip out of London. The UK has a fantastic transport network, and you can go and come back on the same day.
Where to go? I highly recommend Oxford, Cambridge, and Bath. The three places have an impressive heritage and a relaxed atmosphere. On the other hand, Brighton is a great seaside destination. Archeology fans should head straight to Stonehenge. If you don’t want to go far, a visit to Greenwich is a great option.