When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life. That’s a heck of a high bar set for a city, right? Even though it might seem an exaggeration I have visited London a half-dozen times and lived in London for a year – and I totally agree. London is the best city in the world. Spending 7 days in London is not nearly enough…
If you’re planning your first trip to London, I’m excited for you! You’re about to experience my favorite city and begin to discover her wonders for yourself. I’ve put together this itinerary if you are planning to spend one week in London; I also have a post if you want to more time (like 10 days in London) or less time (say, 5 days in London).
With just 7 days in London, you’ve got to pack a lot into every single day. I’ve done my best to show you the city’s best sights without running you ragged, but don’t be surprised if you’re tired by the end! I’ve also got other tips for your first London trip, including transit and money-saving suggestions. Let’s get into this itinerary for your week in London!
Quick Glance: One Week in London
Before I dig into the details of each specific recommendation I have for each day of your week in London, it’s helpful to get a high level view. Here’s a quick glance in table form:
|1||Arrival, Westminster, Houses of Parliament, Southbank, London Eye|
|2||Westminster Abbey, Changing of the Guard, Trafalgar Square, British Museum|
|3||Brighton Pier, Royal Pavilion|
|4||Borough Market, Bankside, The Shard, Tower Bridge, Tower of London, The Monument|
|5||Cutty Sark, Prime Meridian, Royal Greenwich Observatory|
|6||Shoreditch, Brick Lane Street Art, St. Paul's Cathedral|
|7||Sunday Roast in Richmond, Departure|
And I also put together a map of the main landmarks and experiences I recommend. You can click the image below to get to the interactive map:
Without further ado, let’s dig into the details of my weeklong itinerary for London. As always, you you have any questions about my recommendations or the order I’ve put them in – let me know in the comments.
7 Days in London: An Itinerary & Guide
I’m not gonna lie – I never get more excited to share my travel advice than when I’m writing about London. Putting together an itinerary like this is as exciting to me as giving travel advice to a friend who’s planning their first trip.
You’ll find other bloggers recommending other activities because we all have our own travel preferences – but mine come from living in London from a year and thinking after all this time that these are still the best way to spend 7 days in London.
Where to Stay in London
A lot of people will advise you to stay in Central London on your first trip… but that’s a sure-fire way to blow your vacation budget and be located in tourist-central. Instead, get out of Trafalgar Square or Piccadilly Circus and stay in one of London’s neighborhoods:
- West London, like Kensington, Chelsea, or even Brompton, is still the poshest part of town. It’s a bit more spendy but has a more residential vibe.
- North London, or should I say near-North London like Angel or King’s Cross, is in close proximity to Central London but often quieter and a bit cheaper.
- East London, including Brick Lane, Shoreditch, and Aldgate East, is the place to be especially if you love nightlife, street food, and street art.
- South London, like Bankside or Bermondsey, is a lesser-visited part of the city, but still has an urban feel and great public transit access (mostly bus).
If you have your heart set on staying in Central London, look at neighborhoods like Hoxton or Clerkenwell. These neighborhoods are away from the crowds but walking distance from attractions like Covent Garden, the West End, and the British Museum.
You can pretty much always save by staying in an Airbnb or vacation rental instead of a hotel. Here are some of the Airbnbs I’ve stayed in, in London:
- This super-cheap private room is in a managed property, but it’s great for a solo traveler.
- This studio with ensuite is fantastic for a couple and has a kitchen if you want to cook a few meals to cut costs.
- This cozy studio is in London’s East End and has a kitchen too.
I also have a list of 12 cheap Airbnbs in London that are $150 a night (or less!). Don’t forget: you can get up to $40 off your first Airbnb booking if you click my link first!
Day 1: Arrival, Westminster & the Southbank
When you touchdown in London, it’ll probably be in the morning. You’re gonna be jet-lagged like crazy unless you’re one of those lucky people who can sleep on planes, but don’t let that slow you down. Take advantage of this first day to stay on your feet and see some of London’s top sights.
If you can drop your bags off at your accommodation early, do that. If not, consider checking your bag into a Left Luggage service at one of the train stations or using a service like Luggage Hero to drop your bags at a secure location. Once you’re free of your bags, hop on the Tube to Westminster station. We’ll start from here on this first day.
Houses of Parliament
- Nearest Tube: Westminster
- Website: parliament.uk
As you emerge from Westminster tube station, it’s impossible to miss the Houses of Parliament (aka Westminster Hall). In fact, people will kinda clog up the sidewalk and Tube station exit trying to get that first view and picture-perfect shot.
The Houses of Parliament is stunning from the outside, so it’s entirely possible to spend quite a while admiring them from many angles. The most famous part of the building is Big Ben in the Elizabethan Tower, but as of 2019 that part of the building is under renovation, so you might see a whole lotta scaffolding.
Once you’ve snapped all the photos your heart desires, cross Westminster bridge on the western side of the road, and head down the stairs to the riverfront path. This will give you my favorite view of Westminster Hall, pictured above. Many people miss this great view, so this is my #1 pro-tip if you’re headed here.
Exploring the Southbank
Through a dingy tunnel to the east, London’s Southbank is a very cool place where you can spend the rest of the day. It has developed a lot in the last decade with food stalls and trucks coming in to add some variety among the buskers and street performers, booksellers, and hordes of tourists.
Today, you can spend a few hours wandering around on the Southbank. The majority of attractions are between Westminster Bridge and Waterloo Bridge, though you can certainly explore further east along the river. You could also pay to visit the London Dungeon or London Aquarium if either of those sounds interesting; they’re also good family options, but I haven’t done either personally to recommend them.
- Nearest Tube: Waterloo
- Admission: from £25.20 online (book in advance!)
- Website: londoneye.com
The London Eye is a 30-minute ride that takes you one cycle around the 443-foot structure. It’s a hulking but beautiful structure that completely dominates the Southbank. One of the common questions I get about sightseeing in London is: “is the London Eye worth it?” And I always say, “yes, but only if you do it this way:”
Purchase your ticket for the London Eye so that you’re on The Eye the 30 minutes surrounding sunset; this means your ticket should have a start time 45-60 minutes before sunset. When you board The Eye, you’ll be able to see London ‘by day,’ and the sun will set during your ride, giving you a view of London from above during the golden hour, and ‘by night.’
I’ve been 3 times and always done it this way – and it has always been worth it.
You’re exhausted now, right? After the Eye, call it a night. You could pop into a pub for dinner on your way back to your hotel for a pint and plate of fish and chips if you’re hungry. There are a few pubs near Waterloo station which is the closest tube station to the Southbank.
Day 2: Royal London
Part of the draw to visit the U.K. is the monarchy. Brits don’t get why we Americans are so obsessed with the royals; I don’t know either but I’m guessing it has something to do with the fact we don’t have them. We don’t have palaces and that kind of wealth on display… Our royals (celebrities) live behind locked gates in Beverly Hills and we don’t see it. So yeah, if you are curious about the Royals like I was (am), this day’s for you.
- Nearest Tube: Westminster
- Admission: £10
- Website: westminster-abbey.org
Start the day at Westminster Abbey, where most royal weddings take place. From Westminster tube, you can walk around this beautiful building (love me some Gothic architecture) or go inside to admire the stained glass.
I’ll be honest: I’ve never shelled out the money to go inside, but I’ve enjoyed this building from the outside many times.
Buckingham Palace & the Changing of the Guard
From Westminster Abbey, walk through St. James’ Park to Buckingham Palace. Again, you could pay to go inside but this isn’t necessary to admire the view and opulence. There are always crowds outside the gate, and it’s a beautiful facade for photos. If you time it right, you can visit Buckingham Palace and time your visit to see the Changing of the Guard, which occurs at 11am each day.
Can I be honest? I’ve never seen the Changing of the Guard! It’s mostly just that it has never worked for the timing I’ve been in the area around Buckingham Palace. It just fits so well into today’s itinerary that I have to recommend it.
From Buckingham, walk down The Mall to the Admiralty Arch and Trafalgar Square. To me, Trafalgar Square has always felt a bit like the heart of London, the epicenter from which all streets move out in spokes. I’m not sure if that’s geographically true, but a lot of my thoughts about London are based on impressions… so this is one of them.
Trafalgar Square is great for people-watching – there’s always something going on in the Square!
From Trafalgar Square, walk or catch a bus up Charing Court Road. Then turn east onto New Oxford Street toward the British Museum.
- Nearest Tube: Holborn, Tottenham Court Road, or Russell Square
- Admission: Free with suggested donation of £5
- Website: britishmuseum.org
The British Museum is a must-see, even if you aren’t a fan of museums: it holds many of the world’s significant artifacts. (Yes, many of these were acquired through the tools of imperialism and conquest and should be returned; for now, this is the place to see them.)
One of the most popular is the Rosetta Stone, which helped historians learn to translate ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. There’s also a fantastic exhibit on ancient Egypt and others about first nations tribes in the American and Africa. It’s definitely a place you could spend a whole day – if not more than one!
The British Museum is also free to visit (donations suggested) which will make you love it even if you don’t normally do museums.
Day 3: Escape to Brighton
With just 7 days in London, why should you do a day trip? Because London is part of the United Kingdom, and it helps a lot to get a point of comparison on what life in the U.K. is like outside London. My favorite suggestion is the seaside town of Brighton. It’s got salty sea air and crashing waves and fresh seafood – need I say more to convince you?
To get to Brighton, catch a Thameslink train; the biggest station option is Blackfriars but there are stations all through Central London where you can catch one. They run regularly, every 30-60 minutes depending on the time day.
Once you arrive in Brighton, walk straight out of the station and downhill to the beach. Brighton Beach is a classic English rock beach, so don’t expect sand or surfing.
It’s still nice to sit and watch kids playing in the waves and seagulls overhead. There’s a nice sidewalk along the beach where you can stroll, shop, or stop for a bite to eat.
Brighton Pier is the main attraction along the waterfront. The pier has food, attractions, and rides, and is about as picturesque as you can imagine.
You can spend an hour or two walking out on the pier, to ride the rides out on the end of the pier, or play fair games throughout the pier. Also, it’s nothing fancy, but the fish and chips are pretty good for lunch if you’re looking for a cheap and greasy option.
If you love rides, be sure to snag a wristband in advance to save 25% over buying one on the pier. It’s £22 for adults and £12 for children, to get unlimited rides.
- Admission: the grounds are free, or £13.50 for adults and £8 for children
- Website: brightonmuseums.org.uk
History and/or royalty buffs will want to make a stop at the Royal Pavilion, even if you choose to walk around rather than going in for the tour.
The Oriental-style Royal Pavilion was constructed in 1815 by George, who was at the time Prince of Wales and Prince Regent (and would eventually become King George IV). George had been advised of the health benefits from visiting Brighton and soaking in the brisk salty seawater, and by using Brighton as a getaway from London, George inspired Londoners to make the trek as well.
After you’ve finished at the Royal Pavilion, you can head to the train station, or stop for dinner in Brighton. Pick a restaurant in The Lanes, a narrow, winding pedestrian streets with all the ethnic restaurants and little eateries you could want. If you love street art, be sure to seek out Banksy’s Kissing Coppers on the way back to the train station.
Day 4: Bankside & the Towers
On the middle day of your trip, you’re back to London’s top sights – this time on the other side of the central part of the city. If you’re feeling wiped, take this day easy; there are lots of things to see but no specific timetable so you can go at a more leisurely pace.
Borough Market & Bankside
- Nearest Tube: London Bridge
Borough Market is a foodie’s market. Located near London Bridge station, this one is great for brunch. The market opens at 10am, and most of the food vendors are open by no later than 11am for the lunch rush. My favorite one is Scotchtails, who sell the best Scotch Eggs in London.
Once you’ve strolled through the market and eaten your fill, strike out to the east. The neighborhood near Borough Market is called Bankside; my top suggestion in this area is Bermondsey Street, a street of restaurants, galleries, and art studios. You can grab a coffee at Fuckoffee to keep your energy up, then pop into the Fashion & Textile Museum.
Bonus: if you’re interested in spending a bit more, consider taking in the sunset from View from the Shard. I’ve never been, but I’ve seen the pics on Insta and it looks pretty stunning!
- Nearest Tube: Tower Hill or Tower Gateway
- Website: towerbridge.org.uk
The iconic Tower Bridge was built between 1886 and 1894 during the reign of Queen Victoria. You can walk across the bridge, or purchase admission to climb the two bridge towers and cross the span above street level. You can learn about the history of the tower and engineering feats that make it possible.
Tower of London
- Nearest Tube: Tower Hill or Tower Gateway
- Admission: £22.70 for adults, £17.70 for seniors and students
- Website: hrp.org.uk
The Tower of London is another one of those you-only-need-to-do-it-once-but-you-gotta-do-it sights in London. The Tower of London dates back to 1066 and the Norman Conquest of England; it has been used as a castle, royal residence, and prison over the centuries. Some of the most famous prisoners include Anne Boleyn (second wife of Henry VIII), Sir Walter Raleigh (of the Virginia colony on Roanoke Island), and Guy Fawkes.
Today, you can visit the Tower of London to learn about the history of London, get a tour from one of the famous Beefeaters, or see the Crown Jewels on display.
If you’ve taken your time exploring today, it’s time for dinner, a pint, and bed. The nearest tube station is Tower Hill, which has access to the Circle and District lines.
Day 5: Historic Greenwich
On my first trip to London, I actually stayed out near Greenwich. Let me tell you: it’s not close to Central London, so I recommend staying more centrally and just visiting the area. To get to Greenwich, you’ll need to take the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) which connects to the tube system at Bank (Central/Northern Lines).
- Nearest Tube: Cutty Sark for Maritime Greenwich (DLR)
- Admission: £12.15 in advance / £13.50 day-of for adults, £6.30 in advance / £7 day-of for children
- Website: rmg.co.uk
The first sight to stop by once you leave the DLR at the Cutty Sark for Maritime Greenwich station is the Cutty Sark. This clipper ship is now permanently dry-docked in Greenwich and is now a museum where you can learn about Britain’s maritime heritage.
If you’re not up for the museum, you can walk around the whole ship and admire it from the outside.
National Maritime Museum
- Nearest Tube: Cutty Sark for Maritime Greenwich (DLR)
- Admission: free
I went into the National Maritime Museum for the first time on my most recent trip, and I was pleasantly surprised – especially as I’m not a huge maritime history buff, so most of it isn’t intrinsically motivating for me.
However, the Maritime History Museum is free, like so many in London, and you can wander through the galleries to learn even more about Britain’s naval history than you do at the Cutty Sark. The design and feats of engineering are interesting for everyone, and they have some good exhibits for kids interested in the subject too.
Prime Meridian & Royal Greenwich Observatory
- Nearest Tube: Cutty Sark for Maritime Greenwich (DLR)
- Admission: £13.50 in advance / 15 day-of for adults, £5.85 in advance / £6.50 day-of for children includes access to the Prime Meridian and all of the museums at the Royal Greenwich Observatory
- Website: rmg.co.uk
The Prime Meridian and Royal Greenwich Observatory are the main attraction that draws people to Greenwich. After all, Greenwich Mean Time is based on the Meridian here, and all coordinates are too! To see the Prime Meridian and museums, you’ll need to pay admission; you can see a small portion of the Meridian for free on an outside stone wall just ‘down the hill’ from the entrance.
The Royal Greenwich Observatories are open and free, and if you’re interested in all of the astronomy experiences here, read more about what makes this destination special.
At the end of the day, you can grab dinner here in Greenwich or back in Central London. I’ve eaten at The Mitre before.
Day 6: East London & The City
Over the course of this itinerary, we’ve moved from West London to Central London and now to the City and East London. This allows you to get a slice of life through London’s different areas which each have their own personality and vibe.
I lived between The City and East London and love the area. Hopefully after today, you will too! The easiest way to start the day is by catching a bus, or by taking the Northern Line to Old Street station or the Overground to Shoreditch High Street station.
- Nearest Tube: Old Street or Shoreditch High Street (Overground)
Shoreditch is a neighborhood in East London that can probably be credited with the hipster-ization of the East End. It was the first truly ‘cool’ neighborhood in East London, with foodie hotspots and street art and plenty of cool things to do after nightfall (I enjoyed many nights out here while living in London).
In Shoreditch, you can explore, window shop, and pop into any restaurant or bar that catches your fancy here – it’s hard to go wrong. Also keep an eye out for street art, which can be spotted all over.
Brick Lane Street Art
- Nearest Tube: Shoreditch High Street (Overground) in the north or Aldgate East in the south
If you’re really looking for Street Art, Brick Lane is the place to go. This street runs south through the Whitechapel neighborhood and is lined with cool art and Bangladeshi, Pakistani, and Indian restaurants.
It’s pretty common to see work by globally-renowned street artists; at different times there have been Banksy’s here, and my favorite artist Dal East has done work here too. There are free walking tours if you want a guide.
Once you’ve finished exploring Brick Lane, work your way south to Aldgate East station. From there, catch a District Line train to Monument station.
- Nearest Tube: Monument
- Admission: £4.50 for adults, £2.30 for children
- Website: themonument.info
The Monument to the Great Fire of London is dwarfed by surrounding buildings, but it’s one of London’s earliest landmarks. It was designed by Sir Christopher Wren, who also designed St. Paul’s Cathedral, to commemorate the Great Fire of London in 1666, which started about 200 feet from this monument and leveled most of the city.
You can pay a small fee to climb the 311 steps of the Monument. At the top, you’ll have good views of the City of London and London Bridge (though admittedly not as impressive as other viewpoints). I recommend it for a different perspective and a quick history lesson.
Once you’ve finished at the Monument, head west along Cannon Street toward St. Paul’s Cathedral.
St. Paul’s Cathedral
- Nearest Tube: St. Paul’s
- Admission: £16 advance/£18 day-of for adults, £7 online/£8 day-of for children
- Website: stpauls.co.uk
St. Paul’s Cathedral is my most favorite building in London, which is my most favorite city on earth. That sets a pretty high bar, eh?
I love St. Paul’s from the outside and inside, from every angle, by day and by night. It’s the kind of place you could easily spend a few hours walking around and admiring the architecture, plus touring the inside to appreciate the religious significance.
There’s an admission fee to enter the cathedral, which includes access to climb the dome. I highly recommend this if you’re able to ascend the 528 steps to the top, as it gives several stunning views of London along the way, and you’ll be able to see the dome up close.
Before the sun goes down, pop across the street to One New Change and ascend the elevator to the top floor. You’ll get another great view of St. Paul’s and London (pictured above) – and it’s free! There’s also a bar up here if you want a drink. You can also have dinner at Madison which offers rooftop views of St. Paul’s. Watching the sunset beyond St. Paul’s is a great end to your last full day in London.
Day 7: Departure
Today’s your last day in London – how sad! Most flights to North America leave in the afternoon, which gives you time for a roast or one last pub meal before you depart.
If you’re flying out from Heathrow, head to Richmond to enjoy a slice of small-town life within the bounds of London. If you happen to be flying home from your week in London on a Sunday, be sure to try a Sunday Roast. This meat-and-potatoes style meal is hearty and will ensure you don’t starve on the plane.
If you’re flying out of Gatwick, you might try grabbing a meal in London before catching a train south to the airport. Be sure to give yourself enough time to get to the airport.
Other Great Experiences for Your Week in London
Don’t love one of the days I suggested? There’s so much more to explore. Here are some suggestions, briefly:
- Theatre in the West End – If you’re an arts and culture vulture, you have to take in a show! There are three dozen theatres in London’s West End, and you can get discount tickets in areas like Covent Garden and Leicester Square once you arrive and know what you want to see.
- Regent’s Park, the London Zoo & Baker Street – Head up toward North London to stroll in this large park, see the animals at the zoo, and ogle 221B Baker Street if you love the famous detective who ‘lived’ there.
- Hyde Park, Green Park & St. James’ Park – These three parks are also worth exploring if you love some fresh air in the city. London is full of great parks, especially in West and Central London.
- Thames River Cruise – Another fun option to get around the city beyond the tube and buses, there are ferries and boats that take you from one part of the Thames to the other.
Obviously there are countless more things you could do while spending a week in London – my itinerary and this short list of alternatives barely scratch the surface! As you plan your trip, I also have a list of must-see sights in London and tips for your first London trip. If you have other questions about visiting London, let me know in the comments!