London is an incredible city, yet there are so many different things to do in London it can be overwhelming! How do you choose what to do in London? The first thing is to decide how long to spend in London, then work from there when you know how much time you have. I’ve put together this guide to help you figure out how many days in London you need to make the most of this amazing city.
How Many Days Do You Need in London?
How much time do you have? It is really difficult to explore a city like London in just a few days, but if you only have a day or two to spend in the city then that is better than nothing! However, the longer you can spend in London, the more you will enjoy your time here. You will be able to not only visit the top attractions but also explore some of the lesser-known areas and experience London like a local, without rushing around.
How to Enjoy London in a Short Time
Trying to see everything in London is impossible, so be sure to plan your visit before you arrive so you don’t waste any time. However, don’t try to cram in too much, as getting from one side of the city to another can take a lot longer than you think!
For me, the key is to decide what is important for you – and that will vary for everyone. If it is your first visit to London your priorities will probably be different from someone who has been before, and if you love art, museums, architecture, Harry Potter, the Royal Family or tasty British food, then you can choose to theme your visit around that.
When planning a London itinerary, the location of the attractions can also play a big part in choosing what to do – you may prefer to focus on one or two areas of the city instead of running around all over the place.
I’ve tried to choose the most popular things to do in London, mixed with some of my own personal favourites and some hidden gems to inspire you with your planning. No matter how many days in London you have, I am sure you will enjoy it!
One Day in London
Wow, you really like a challenge! If you only have one day in London, then you need to be picky about what to do. For your first visit to London, it might be easier to take a guided tour or a bus tour which will allow you to see a lot of London in a relatively short time.
Alternatively, choose a few of the key sites which are really important to you which you can prioritize. Most first-time visitors to London will go to see Buckingham Palace, the Horse Guard’s Parade and Big Ben, then maybe throw in a trip on the London Eye and a theatre show in Covent Garden or a visit to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.
Afternoon tea is a quintessential London treat or head to Borough Market for lunch; either is a tasty option to enjoy for lunch on a day trip to London.
Two Days in London
With an extra day in London, you have a little more time to make the most of the city and enjoy a weekend in London without missing out too much! With your two days in London, as well as Buckingham Palace and the Royal activities, you could visit The Tower of London (which needs at least 3 hours to enjoy) to see the Crown Jewels and take a Beefeater Tour with one of the famous red-suited Beefeaters.
READ MORE: How to Fall in Love with London in 2 Days
On your second day, you could also check out a couple of London’s best museums, like the Tate Modern Art Museum or the Natural History Museum, both of which are free. The Tate has panoramic views of London from their viewing terrace, and from there you can walk across Millennium Bridge to the iconic St Paul’s Cathedral or walk along the Thames to Tower Bridge.
Three Days in London
Spending 3 days in London is a better length of time to get under the skin of the city. You’ll have time to take some specialised tours, maybe a Harry Potter tour to see some of the filming locations and inspirations behind the books, or a food tour to taste some of the best British food on a London food tour.
Brick Lane is an awesome spot for street art, and the Sunday street market is legendary. If you do go to Brick Lane on a Sunday, don’t miss the Columbia Road flower market which is a short walk away. On the other side of the city, Camden is a fabulous neighbourhood to explore, and another hotspot for street art.
London also has some beautiful parks to visit, so if the weather is good you could take a picnic to Regent’s Park or Hyde Park and enjoy the sunshine, or go up to Greenwich Park to visit the Royal Observatory and the famous Prime Meridian where Greenwich Meantime begins.
Four Days in London
If you’re able to spend 4 days in London, that’s probably more than most visitors to London so you’re doing well. Check if there are live music concerts or other events like the Notting Hill Carnival or an outdoor cinema showing during the summer.
If you like gin then visiting the Beefeater Gin distillery for a tour and tasting is about as English as you can get, or for a unique experience why not climb up the roof of the O2 arena? London Zoo is popular with families, or football fans might want to visit Wembley Stadium or the home of one of London’s top football clubs at Arsenal or Chelsea.
For some of the best views in London, you could go up The Shard for an organised tour or for a drink in the bar, while the Garden at 120 on the other side of the Thames River is a lovely place to enjoy the sunshine without having to spend a penny!
5 Days in London to a Week in London
With more than 5 days in London, you’ve got time to relax and enjoy. Take a day trip or two, perhaps to Stonehenge, Oxford or Bath, or even head up north to visit the home of the Beatles in Liverpool or visit the Warner Bros Studio Tour for a Harry Potter experience like no other!
You’ll have time to do more of the non-touristy things to do in London like breakfast at the Sky Garden or spend time in the traditional London pubs for a Sunday lunch or classic fish and chip supper. There are so many things to do in London, even with a week in London you’ll barely scratch the surface but will still leave feeling satisfied.
How Many Days in London Are Enough for You?
London is one of those cities where you could spend a year here and do something different every day. If it is your first time visiting London, I’d say you need at least 3 days in London to be able to tick off some of the best things to do here. However, if you only have a day or a weekend in London then you can still enjoy a taste of this vibrant city – and have a good excuse to come back and make a return visit another time!
The key to enjoying London is to not try to fit in too much, as trying to rush here makes it incredibly stressful. Make sure you have time to be able to appreciate simple things like a stroll along the Thames or admiring beautiful architecture, art and culture. Choose a few things to focus on and spend enough time in London to do them justice. And the next time you come back to London; you can do more!
Where to Stay in London
There are so many different options for where to stay in London it can be overwhelming to choose! I love the area around Tower Bridge as it is walking distance to a lot of the attractions such as the Tower of London and Tower Bridge, while not being crazy expensive.
It is also well connected by the Tube to the rest of London, being close to the underground stations Tower Bridge for the Circle and District Lines, and Aldgate East for the Hammersmith Line.
Hostels in London
I stayed at Wombat’s City Hostel London, a fabulous hostel close to Tower Bridge, and I have to say this had a massive impact on my enjoyment of London. The hostel was spotlessly clean, the staff were friendly, and the location was unbeatable.
Wombat’s London is about 10 minutes’ walk from Tower Bridge, the Tower of London and Tower Hill underground station, and is walking distance from Shoreditch, Borough Market and plenty more places to see in London.
Dorm rooms are great for backpackers or visitors on a budget, or you can treat yourself to a private room for all the perks of being in a hostel, with the privacy of your own room.
Hotels in London
There are thousands of hotels in London to choose from, and you can find something for every budget, although getting the balance between good quality and good value isn’t easy! Staying outside of the city centre is cheaper, so if you are staying in London for several days you could save money that way, but if you are short on time then somewhere close to central London is a must.
CitizenM Tower of London is right next to Tower Bridge underground station, and the rooms have great views of the Thames and Tower of London. Guests loved the comfy bed, friendly staff and the views!
Hotel Indigo Tower Hill also gets great reviews for the friendly staff, comfy beds and quiet rooms.
Search for more hotels in London here:
Airbnb in London
Airbnb could be a great option for you in London; there are options for every budget if you just want a private room, or you can find some lovely apartments to rent too.
If you prefer to have your own place you could try this lovely cozy flat in St Katherine’s Docks, or this well-presented flat which is also great value. Alternatively, you can check out all the options for Airbnb in London.
If you have never used Airbnb before, use this link to sign up & get up to $52 credit to use on your first trip! Read more about the Airbnb first time discount code and my full Airbnb guide or click below for your Airbnb coupon.
If you’re looking for travel insurance for your trip to London, get a quote now from World Nomads.
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Just to let you know, this post may contain paid or affiliate links, which help to maintain Tales of a Backpacker and give me the chance to keep travelling, and to keep creating awesome content for you! I only recommend goods and services I believe are useful and reliable.Last updated: July 22, 2020