This itinerary is designed for lovers of history, popular English fiction, architecture, and scones. It includes a lot of walking and using public transit, but is lighter on food recommendations (but that is easy to customize). Some of the attractions may have different opening hours depending on the day of the week; please double check all business hours.
After you drop off your bags at your accommodation (we loved our stay at London House Hotel), head back out to Leadenhall Market. This area was used briefly for a scene in Harry Potter.
St. Dunstan-in-the-East is nearby for some more photos. It was a church built around 1100 and mostly destroyed in World War II. It’s a tranquil little patch of greenery now, in the middle of the busy city.
Stop by Fenchurch Street Railway Station nearby for your 2-4-1 Travelcard (or you can look up some other places that sell them). Next up is the Sky Garden. It’s free to enter, but they only give out a certain number of tickets, so make sure to book your time slot well in advance. There are a few light options for lunch on the various floors.
Finish up your first afternoon by hopping on the Tube and stopping by the Natural History Museum, The Victoria and Albert Museum, and/or the Science Museum. They are all right near each other.
Rise early and head straight to Hampton Court Palace by way of Waterloo Station for a full morning of history. There’s enough here that you could stay all day if you really enjoy this kind of thing (I certainly do!).
If you are done in time, head to Kensington Palace for afternoon tea (check times; I had checked the beginning time but not the end time, and so we missed it our second day and had to slot it in later that week). Despite it being a “tea,” you should leave feeling pretty full.
Finish the evening on the London Eye. Going at night is cool, but it’s way harder to get pictures. The year I went at sunset, I got much better shots (although both times I got glass glare). Depending on how long you stay at Hampton Court Palace and how late sunset is when you’re there, this could go either way.
The Three Tuns Pub is a nice place for dinner and rest before heading back to your accommodations for the night.
Start this day with a tour of the Tower of London. Start with the Crown Jewels and then the Yeoman Warder’s Tour. Isn’t history fascinating?!
If it’s lunchtime when you get done, St. Katharine Docks has a food market nearby on Fridays (double check times). Then head across the city to see Regent’s Park.
From here, it’s not a long walk to the Sherlock Holmes Museum at 221B Baker St. If you’re a fan of the BBC version, it’s amazing to see the similarities!
If you want more literature fun, King’s Cross Train Station is not too far away, where you can stand in a long line to pretend to be a wizard and run through Platform 9 3/4. There is also a little Harry Potter shop now.
If you’re ready for more scones, make your way to Number 12 Restaurant for afternoon tea.
If it’s a Monday, Wednesday, or Friday, check out Dennis Severs’ House. It is a cross between a historical museum and live art installation that I regret we didn’t make it to. Make a reservation in advance.
This would be a good day to go out and experience a true English breakfast, followed by witnessing the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. Again, their schedule can change, and this may not occur every day, so check the website in advance. There will be tons of people, so get there early enough if it’s important to you to have a good spot to view from.
After the crowds have dispersed, enjoy some time with nature in St. James’s Park nearby.
For an interesting bite to eat nearby, Momo is a Moroccan restaurant that I really wanted to go to but we didn’t have time for (tell me how it was if you go!).
What trip to London is complete without a visit to Westminster Abbey? The age of this place is amazing, and the energy of its many historical events and burials is palpable as you walk around the huge space. They don’t allow photos inside the main area, but the outside and courtyards are grand as well.
For a bit newer history, visit the Churchill War Rooms and/or the Imperial War Museum next.
In between, you’ll pass the famous Big Ben, symbol of London itself, and the Houses of Parliament.
If it’s still light out, cross the city to Camden Town Market and some people-watching and a brewery tour at Camden Town Brewery.
Ready for another day trip on the train? It’s time for Windsor Castle, Queen Elizabeth’s weekend digs!
Unfortunately there are no photos allowed inside, but it is magnificent. It’s amazing to see a castle that people still live in today after seeing so many that are shown more historically!
If you’re still up for more standing and walking after you get back to the center of London, the British Museum is a great place to visit!
If you still have energy and time after all that, this might be a good place to slot in anything you ran out of time for in the previous days.
Are you up for one last day trip? Does Stonehenge pique your interest?
Because of the lack of abundant public transit options for the area, I’d recommend you book this one with a tour company so you can get the most out of your day. Stonehenge can be combined with the Cotswolds area and maybe Bath as well. The Cotswolds is gorgeous and charming, and I’d love to go back.
It’s Harry Potter Day! Make sure you have your tickets that you so smartly booked long in advance, and take the muggle train to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter. If you are a Potterhead like me and in London, there is absolutely no question; you must go. It is ahh-mazing.
You can spend all day here if you like. There is even a cafe with Butterbeer and food halfway through!
Back in London, visit St. Paul’s Cathedral (another one that doesn’t allow inside photos). It helped inspire the architecture for the U.S. Capitol building. If you’re there at the right time, you might be able to get another scone at the Crypt Cafe (they were sold out for us).
Right next to St. Paul’s is the Millennium Bridge for pedestrians only (and also featured in a Harry Potter film).
For your last London dinner, stop by Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese Pub for bangers and mash and some sticky toffee pudding with custard. There’s been a pub in the spot since 1538 (it needed to be rebuilt after the great London fire), and Charles Dickens and Mark Twain enjoyed coming here. The basement is a sight to see!
And there you have it, one jam-packed week in London and the surrounding areas. Since it was my first international trip and the place I studied abroad for 4 months my freshman year of college, London will always have a very special place in my heart. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!