Kelly, Laura, Noelle, and Sam’s ideal itinerary for 5 days in London to see everything from British Royal history to The Beatles to Wimbledon!
DAY 1 : Tower of London
The Tower of London is an iconic London tourist stop, but worth the visit if you have 5 days in London. It’s a historic castle located on the River Thames, near the Tower Bridge. It’s a former royal residence, but also a former prison. We saw collections of Royal Armour, King Henry VIII’s toilet, and saw a changing of the guard ceremony. My favorite part was the crown jewels. It’s an amazing collection of jewelry and crowns still worn by the royal family today. They also do a performance called Defend the Tower, which is a costumed, live historical re-enactment. It sounded interesting, but we weren’t there at the right time of day to see it.
DAY 1: London Eye
The iconic London Eye is the huge observation ferris wheel that offers spectacular views of the city. It’s about a 30 minute rotation around. Each pod fits about 10 people in it and there was plenty of room to see all angles. It’s located right on the River Thames, so we got an excellent view of several iconic spots, such as Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. We bought out tickets earlier that day to come back at a certain time, however I would recommend buying your tickets ahead of time online. You can pick your desired day and time then. You will have to go through security, so don’t have any large bags/backpacks on you. It’s iconic and should be a stop on any London itinerary.
DAY 1: The West End
London’s version of Broadway is the West End, and it was every bit as spectacular. We saw Les Miserables at the Queen’s Theater and it was fantastic. They have a TKTS booth in Leicester Square, similar to the one in NYC, where you can buy same-day show tickets for half off, for any shows that still have open tickets that night. It’s not good if you’re looking for a specific show, because it may not be available that day, but good if you’re up for seeing whatever is available. We actually got pretty good seats, on the floor, and not too far back from the stage, for a reasonable price. This was a weekday in October, so not sure if you’d get that lucky if you’re doing 5 days in London in peak travel season.
DAY 2: St Paul’s Cathedral
St Paul’s Cathedral was where Princess Diana got married. It was so beautiful! Definitely worth a visit as it’s one of my top favorite churches in Europe. (And I’ve been on some of the big ones – St Peter’s Basilica (Rome), Notre Dame (Paris), etc.) You will have to go through security, so don’t have any large bags/backpacks on you.
DAY 2: Houses of Parliament
We went into the galley and listened to some of the government proceedings – similar to how you can do that in Washington DC. Public viewing areas are in both the House of Commons and House of Lords chambers to view public committee meetings or debates, when Parliament is in session. Anyone can go in for free – it was so cool! The building was beautiful inside too! It’s not something on the typical London itinerary, but it’s worth seeing. Have your passport on you. We had to go through security and get a badge. There was a bag check where we had to leave all our belongings behind; you’re not allowed to bring anything in the chamber. The Houses of Parliament website has more information about how to attend. You can’t book ahead of time; you just arrive and wait in line.
DAY 3: Changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace
This was a long time London Bucket List item of mine, and it was so cool to see the guards in person. The precision and discipline they adhere to is amazing to see up close. We got there about 30 minutes before and it was already crowded, but we were able to get close enough to the gates to see. I wouldn’t arrive after this point if you want to be able to see. It’s currently scheduled at 11am on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, so if you’re spending 5 days in London, you should definitely be able to see it. See the schedule here. If you’re traveling in the summer, you can reserve tickets ahead of time to take a tour inside Buckingham Palace. I would have loved to do that, but the tours were not offered when we were there in October.
DAY 3: Hyde Park
Hype Park is pretty to walk through. I really liked the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain. It was a beautiful fountain, across from the Serpentine Lake. We read that since Diana was a contemporary and accessible princess, the goal behind the design of the memorial was to allow people access to the fountain for wading and introspection. We did not see anyone in it while we were there since the weather was cool. There are a lot of other activities in Hyde Park, such as boating on the lake, horseback riding, a kids playground, a senior playground, and rose garden.
DAY 3: Kensington Palace
Kensington Palace was good, but probably not in my top list if you have less than 5 days in London. The room with Princess Diana’s dresses was really cool to see, but the rest of it was take it or leave it, in my opinion. The gardens are pretty to walk through. The area accessible for tours was smaller than I expected, probably because much of it is still livable space by the Royal Family. Princess Diana lived here until she died, and William and Kate live here now. Buy your tickets ahead of time because certain days/times are sold out.
DAY 4: The Beatles Walking Tour
We took a 2 hour walking tour to several different spots around the city notable to The Beatles. I would definitely recommend this for your London itinerary! There are several different companies, but we did the Magical Mystery Tour, with London Beatles Walks. It was very interesting, especially for someone who doesn’t know a lot of history about the band. We saw Paul McCartney’s publishing company, MPL Communications, Abbey Road Studios, and of course got to walk across the famous Abbey Road crosswalk. We also saw 3 Savile Row, which is where The Beatles’ record label, Apple Corps, was headquartered and home of their last live performance on the rooftop. Our tour guide was great; he is very passionate about The Beatles so he was perfect.
DAY 4: Notting Hill
Notting Hill was a cute neighborhood that I’ve wanted to see ever since I saw the movie. It has a cute street filled with cute shops, boutiques and cafes. The Tavel Bookshop is the famous bookshop that the book and Julia Roberts movie, Notting Hill, is based on. If you have an extra afternoon, this a cute area to wander, but I wouldn’t put it high on your list, if you have limited time during your 5 days in London.
DAY 5: Wimbledon
I took a day trip outside the city to see Wimbledon. Definitely worth the trip, if you’re a tennis fan! They do a great tour of all the courts, the BBC broadcast room, and the press room where they take the players for interviews after matches. There’s also a big museum with a lot of tennis memorabilia. It’s all really well done and the tour guide was very interesting. The All England Lawn Tennis Club is located outside of the main part of the city. Lookup the specific directions from your hotel, but I believe I took a subway ride to a commuter train ride to a bus ride. It took over an hour to get there, but it wasn’t difficult. Plan at least a solid half day for this on your London itinerary.
Generator Hostel London
Since we were 4 girls, we stayed in a 4-person dorm room at Generator Hostel London. We had 2 bunkbeds and a small sink in our room. It was fine for your average hostel stay. The only downside was the shared bathroom down the hall, but it’s definitely doable if you’re trying to do 5 days in London on a budget. There was a restaurant onsite for breakfast and they offered free wifi. It’s very centrally located, near Russell Square, near a metro stop.
If you’re doing 5 days in London on more than a hostel budget, here are some highly recommended hotels:
Motel One London-Tower Hill
Motel One London is a great 3-star hotel located only a few minutes walk from the Tower of London and Tower Bridge. Rooms have air conditioning and free wifi, and a breakfast buffet is available. There is also a large bar/lounge on site. Hotels.com guest rating: 4.4/5
Apex Temple Court Hotel
Apex Temple Court Hotel is a beautiful 4-star hotel located an easy walk away from St Paul’s Cathedral. Adjoining rooms are available, as well as air-conditioning and free wifi. Breakfast is available at the onsite restaurant, and they also offer a fitness center and laundry service. Hotels.com guest rating: 4.7/5
Cheval Three Quays
If you’re looking for a splurge, Cheval Three Quays is a beautiful 5-star apartment hotel overlooking the River Thames. It’s a 5 minute walk to both the Tower of London and London Bridge. Apartments offer a mini kitchen with a stovetop, microwave and full sized refrigerator – perfect if you’re staying 5 days in London. The river view from some of the rooms is spectacular. They also offer a fitness center and pool. Hotels.com guest rating: 4.9/5
We took the Tube (subway) or walked everywhere. There is no need to rent a car if you’re staying for 5 days in London. The subway system was very easy. Purchase an Oyster Card (subway pass) for the number of days that you’ll be in London, rather than paying per trip. We got pretty much everywhere we wanted to go on the subway. The Oyster card can also be used for buses. We did have to stand in line to buy ours at the first station, so it may be faster to order one before your trip on the London Transport website. When we arrived, we flew into Heathrow Airport and took the Blue Piccadilly line into the city. When we left, we flew out of Gatwick Airport, and took the Gatwick Express line into the city to connect to a subway. It’s very easy!
5 Days in London Itinerary – Travel Tips:
Timing – I highly recommend giving yourself 5 days in London. It’s a huge city and there is a lot to see, and we found plenty to do to fill all 5 days. If you try to cram your London itinerary into fewer days, you’ll be waking up early, rushing around, and not taking the time to take it all in properly.
Weather – We were there mid-October and it was already pretty chilly. We wore scarves and coats, especially in the morning and evenings. Despite this, October was a good time to travel to London. We did not experience the crowds or wait times that you hear about from travelers going in the summer.
Voltage – You’ll need a voltage converter/adapter, and it’s a different adapter plug than the one used in the rest of Europe.
Tipping – Tipping is not mandatory, like it is in the States. You can leave a small 10% tip at a restaurant, but you don’t have to. Tips are never necessary at a bar or when hailing a cab, but people normally just round the change up to the nearest pound.
Walking – Cars drive on the left!! Look right when crossing the street, and walk on the left side of the street.
Other Travel Guides You Might Like:
London, England – Must See Spots in London
Dublin & Galway, Ireland – The Ultimate Dublin to Galway Road Trip
Paris, France – 3 Days in Paris: Experience Paris City Life
Rome, Tuscany, Naples & Sicily, Italy – 2 Weeks in Italy: Rome, Tuscany, Naples & Sicily
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