Day one:London Eye, London Duck Tour, Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Downing Street, Horse Guards and Trafalgar Square
No trip to London in five days would be complete without a ride on the London Eye. Remember to buy your tickets beforehand as the queues can get long (allow for 30-45 minutes queuing, and 30 minutes on the wheel). Read Craig’s review of the London Eye to see what he thought of it.
Now we’re going to explore London by road and river, on a London Duck Tour. These amphibious vehicles dive into the Thames for a ducks-eye view of Parliament (allow for 75 mins). When it’s over, make your way across Westminster Bridge.
Westminster Abbey is London’s most prestigious religious building – the setting for coronations, state funerals, and the burial place of many celebrated kings and queens. It is well worth a visit (allow for 90 mins).
A little further up Whitehall you will find one of London’s most popular photo spots – the sentry boxes outside Horse Guards. If your timing’s right then you might even be able to catch the Dismounting Ceremony at 4 o’clock.
At the end of Whitehall is Trafalgar Square and Nelson’s Column. But all we’re doing now is looking for somewhere to eat and drink. There are plenty of great pubs and restaurants around Leicester Square (5 min walk), Chinatown (10 min walk) and Covent Garden (10 min walk).
Day two:Tate Modern, Globe Theatre, the view from The Shard, HMS Belfast and Tower Bridge
Start at the Tate Modern and walk along the South bank. You won’t have time to do all of these attractions, so just pick 3 or 4.
The Tate Modern is home to the country’s modern art collection, and includes works by Dali, Matisse, Rothko, Pollock and Pablo Picasso. If you’d like to have a look around then allow yourself 90 mins.
Next door to the gallery is Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. If you fancy a guided tour then allow yourself 90 mins. If you come during the summer then you might be able to catch a play instead (allow for 3 hours).
Further along the South bank is HMS Belfast, a World War II battleship which saw action against the German cruiser Scharnhorst. You can walk around its decks from top to bottom (allow for 2 hours).
Our final stop will be at the world-famous Tower Bridge. They have an exhibition inside which takes you up to the top walkways and original engine rooms (allow 60-90 mins). If you’re lucky then you might be able to see the bridge open and close as well.
Now catch the No.15 bus outside the Tower of London, which will take you on a little sightseeing tour through the heart of The City. You will get great views of the Royal Exchange, Mansion House and the Bank of England, before passing St. Paul’s Cathedral. You can get off just before Trafalgar Square.
Day three:The Tower of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral and a show in the West End
Let’s spend the morning at the Tower of London. This world heritage site is home to the Crown Jewels.
Why not do a Yeoman Warder tour with one of the Beefeaters? (allow for 3 hours)
Now catch the No.15 bus again, and get off at St. Paul’s Churchyard (allow 20-25 mins).
Now you have a choice… if you’d like to experience a choral mass then stick around for the Evensong service at 5 PM (it lasts for 1 hour). Otherwise jump back on the No.15 bus again towards Trafalgar Square for a West End show.
Check out our theatre guide to see what’s on. Most of the theatres can be found around Covent Garden, Shaftesbury Avenue and Piccadilly Circus – all within 10 to 20 minutes walking distance of Trafalgar Square.
Day four:Madame Tussauds, Regent’s Park, London Zoo, ending with the view from Primrose Hill or a pub in Camden Town
You should definitely buy your tickets in advance to avoid the queues, which are huge (allow for 60 mins queue time, and 90-120 mins for the visit).
If you feel like a bit of exercise then take a long stroll through Regent’s Park to London Zoo. It’s got a huge lake and cafés.
If you don’t fancy the walk then catch the No.274 bus from Dorset Square to Primrose Hill (allow for 25 min ride, and 5-mins walking at either end)
A visit to London Zoo will take up your whole afternoon, so allow for 3 to 4 hours. Highlights include the lions and tigers, Gorilla World, a rainforest enclosure and Penguin beach.
If the weather is fine then why not spend the evening on top of Primrose Hill? It has one of the best views of the London skyline.
If that sounds a bit too sedate for your tastes, then you could try heading into Camden Town for a night down the pub. It’s especially good for the younger crowd, with lots of pubs running live music and comedy nights.
Day five:Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace, afternoon tea at The Ritz or Fortnum & Mason, Piccadilly Circus, shopping in Regent Street, Oxford Street and Carnaby Street
Now for one of the must-see sights of London – the Changing of the Guard outside Buckingham Palace. The ceremony starts at 11.15 AM but we recommend getting there by half-10 for a decent spot (or by 10 AM if you want the best spots).
The ceremony usually takes place every day in the summer, but alternate days thereafter. You can check the schedule here.
When the ceremony ends take a stroll through Green Park to Piccadilly. Why not end your holiday in style with afternoon tea at The Ritz? You will have to book up months in advance (3 months at least). If you don’t make it try the tea at Fortnum & Mason instead (book 1-2 weeks in advance).
Keep walking down Piccadilly and you will come to Piccadilly Circus. No trip to London would be complete without a photo of yourself by the Eros fountain.
We’ll spend the afternoon buying gifts for your friends back home. Three of London’s most famous shopping streets can be found near here – Regent Street, Oxford Street and Carnaby Street. If you’ve got to buy some presents for the kids, then give Hamleys a go (down Regent Street).
Day one:Trafalgar Square, Changing the Guard, Downing Street, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and London Eye
Start this five days in London with a look around Trafalgar Square, home to one of London’s most famous landmarks – Nelson’s Column. Then venture up The Mall towards Buckingham Palace (allow 15 minutes for the walk).
Now comes one of the must-see sights in anyone’s stay – the Changing of the Guard. The ceremony starts at 11.15 AM but we recommend getting there by 10 AM for a spot up against the gates. Bear in mind that that it sometimes operates every other day, so check the schedule.
After the parade is over have a leisurely stroll through St. James’s Park towards the restaurant for a bite to eat (allow for 60 mins).
At the eastern end of the park is Horse Guards Parade. If you walk through the central arch you will emerge into Whitehall, where you can take your photo standing next to one of the sentries (allow for 30 mins).
You have a choice of two things to do now. You can either go inside Westminster Abbey for a tour, followed by a Choral Evensong service at 5 PM, or you could head over Westminster Bridge towards…
Day two:Tower Bridge, the Tower of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Covent Garden or a movie in Leicester Square
We’ll start the day taking photos of Tower Bridge. They have an exhibition inside which takes you up to the top walkways, but we suggest that you give it a miss because we’re going to spend the morning at the Tower of London instead.
This world heritage site was built by William the Conqueror in the 11th-century, and is home to the Crown Jewels. Why not do a Yeoman Warder tour, with one of the famous Beefeaters? (allow for 3 hours in total)
Now catch the No.15 bus outside the Tower of London, which will take you on a little sightseeing tour past the Royal Exchange, Mansion House and Bank of England. Get off at St. Paul’s Churchyard (allow 20-25 mins).
If you decided to skip the Choral Evensong yesterday, then you might prefer the service at St. Paul’s instead (5 PM to 6 PM). Otherwise we’ll jump on the No.15 bus towards Covent Garden.
There are plenty of great pubs and restaurants at Covent Garden, and you can also sit back and enjoy a bit of street entertainment. Alternatively, you could walk 10 mins to Leicester Square and go to the cinema. This is where all the big film premieres take place.
Day three:Natural History Museum, Science Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum, some shopping at Harrods, and a concert at the Royal Albert Hall
Take the train to South Kensington and then pick two of the following three museums. Our recommendation would be the Natural History Museum followed by the Science Museum.
The Natural History Museum is called the “dead zoo” because it is full of stuffed animals from all around the world. The most popular exhibits are the dinosaur bones (allow for 2-3 hours).
The Science Museum covers everything from the earliest computers and cars to the Apollo moon landings. They’ve also got an IMAX cinema and a floor full of airplanes (allow for 2-3 hours).
The Victoria & Albert Museum explores the history of art and design. You will see fabulous furniture, jewellery and clothes, and the world-famous Cast Room (allow for 2 hours).
All three of those museums are free, so you should have plenty of money left to splash out at Harrods – the world’s most famous department store. You’ll find it a short walk down the Brompton Road (allow for 1 hour shopping time, or more if you use the restaurant).
Day four:Boat to Greenwich, Cutty Sark, National Maritime Museum, the Royal Observatory in Greenwich Park
Your 5 days in London is nearing the end, so let’s have a nice relaxing boat trip to Greenwich. The 60-minute ride from Westminster Pier (by Big Ben) will give you great views of The City before passing Tower Bridge and Canary Wharf.
There are a lots of things to do in Greenwich, so we are going to give you a choice. Bear in mind that you won’t be able to do them all – so choose 2 out of the next 4. The first one is the famous old Cutty Sark clipper ship (allow for 90 mins).
If you’re into naval history then you might like to visit the National Maritime Museum. One of the highlights is the actual jacket that Nelson wore during the Battle of Trafalgar (allow for 2 hours).
You could also have a look around the Old Royal Naval College. Don’t miss the famous Painted Hall and Chapel (allow for 60 mins).
If you haven’t already had a spot of lunch, then we recommend walking into the historic town centre with plenty of traditional old pubs and tea rooms.
Now take a stroll up Greenwich Park, for some fantastic views of the skyline. Then check out the Royal Observatory. There is a large planetarium on site with several shows a day (allow for 3 hours in total).
Day five:British Museum, shopping in Oxford Street and Regent Street, Piccadilly Circus, ending with a big theatre show in the West End
The British Museum has exhibits from ancient Egypt, Greece, Italy, Africa and the Orient, including colossal works by the Romans, Greeks and Persians. Highlights include the Rosetta Stone and Parthenon Marbles (allow for 2 hours).
The rest of the day will be dedicated to shopping, to give you plenty of time to buy some gifts for your friends back home. Then we’ll finish up with a theatre show in the West End.
At the end of Regent Street are the bright neon lights of Piccadilly Circus. No trip to London would be complete without a photo of yourself standing underneath the Eros fountain.
You are right in the heart of the West End now. Have a look through our theatre guide to see what’s on. Most of the theatres can be found around Covent Garden, Shaftesbury Avenue and Piccadilly Circus.
London: A Visitor’s Guide
Have you seen our guidebook? Honest reviews of 200 London attractions with money-saving tips, opening times, prices and maps
Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and more