London has been the first European capital I have ever visited, outside of Romania. A place that has captured me and impressed me with its vibe and colors. Still to this day one of the most cosmopolitan places in Europe, spending 2 days in London might be enough to scratch the surface.
Throughout the years I have returned several times, but I don’t think I would ever get bored of visiting the National Gallery, admiring the fountains in Trafalgar Square, or shopping at Portobello Road Market.
If this is your first time, or if you are looking for an easy-to-follow 2 days in London itinerary, you have come to the right place.
In today’s post, I will cover everything there is to know: from how to get around London to daily schedules and most important attractions.
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2 days in London itinerary: everything you must know
How to get to London
Depending on where you are traveling from, there are a few airport options for arriving in London.
From Heathrow Airport
Heathrow Airport is the largest and most important airport, and also the easiest to reach from the city center. Located in the city’s western part, Heathrow is linked to the city center by fast train or subway.
The Heathrow Express is a great option if you want to save time, something you might want to consider when you only have 2 days in London. It is the fastest option to get from Heathrow Airport to Paddington Station, in just 15 minutes.
The train only stops at the airport’s terminals, and at the final destination. Also, you will have more room for your luggage, since this is a special train for those traveling from the airport to the city.
Of course, this means you should expect to pay a higher price, but when you book online ahead of time, you can save up to 75%.
The London Subway Piccadilly Line links Heathrow airport to some of the most central places in the city.
You can pay contactless with your phone, card, or Octopus, and you can change lines at various stops. The downside of using the underground is the fact that it stops at every station, making the ride much longer. On top of that, you won’t have much space for your luggage, since this is a normal subway train.
However, if you are mindful of the price and are traveling on a budget, this is the best option for you.
A third option would be the Private Transfer. This might be the most expensive option, but also the most comfortable one.
You can book the transfer in advance so you won’t have to worry about finding a taxi at the airport. Moreover, forget about navigating the complex public transportation system with heavy luggage. The car will drop you off directly at your hotel.
The last option, worth considering only if you are planning for a longer UK itinerary, would be to rent a car and drive to your hotel.
My go-to car rental company is always Discover Cars. It is a great aggregator that will help you find and book the best option for renting a car during your trip, helping you save up to 70% on your car rental. They have a pretty good cancellation policy that would give you options in case your flight or travel plans change. You will most probably need a car to get to most of these places, especially if you want to keep a schedule. Get your best offers here!
Before you book your car, remember they drive on the left side. Also, ask your hotel if they provide parking spaces because it might get challenging to find a parking space, or it will be expensive.
From Gatwick Airport
Many flights might land or depart from Gatwick Airport. The airport is located south of London, on the way towards Brighton.
The easiest and fastest way to get there is by Gatwick Express, a train linking Victoria Station to Gatwick Station.
The train departs every 15 minutes and the ride takes around 30 minutes. Victoria Station is perfectly located in the city center and easily accessible by public transportation.
Another option to get to Gatwick Airport is by coach. For prices and timetables, check out the National Express coaches website and book your ticket in advance.
They do offer time estimates, and a ride takes 1hour and 50 minutes from Victoria Station, but I would always take at least 30 minutes as a buffer, especially when traveling during peak times.
From Luton Airport
Luton Airport is mostly serviced by low-cost airlines, and chances are you will be arriving here when traveling from Europe.
The airport is located north of London, around 35 miles away from Victoria Station.
The other option would be to travel from London St Pancras Station to Luton Airport by train.
While the ride will take roughly 45 minutes, you will also have to take a bus from Luton Airport Parkway to Luton Airport. Don’t worry about that, because the price of the ticket is included in the train ticket price.
How to get around London
On my first trips to London, I found their public system overwhelming and complex. Now, after having lived in Hong Kong and in Seoul, everything was familiar and easy to follow.
The public transportation system is very well organized and you will find it easy to get to almost any place. It is divided into 9 zones, with fares depending on the distance you travel through.
The central part of the city is part of Zone 1, while Heathrow Airport is in Zone 6.
No matter if you use the underground or bus, you can pay by card, with your phone, or by Oyster.
If you will want to get an Oyster card, you will have to order and pay for it online, and you will have it delivered to your address.
However, if you are only spending 2 days in London, I wouldn’t go through all this hassle, since you can pay as you go with any contactless card. Depending on the zones you will be traveling through, the amount is caped every day, no matter how many rides you take.
That is how we preferred to travel during our trip since it was both easy and affordable. For example, if you travel through Zones 1 and 2, you will pay a maximum of 7.7 GBP every day. You can check out all the fares here.
The London Pass is great for those that want to take a hop-on-hop-off bus for a day but also plan on visiting some popular tourist attractions. You can choose a pass for 1, 2, or up to 10 days, and you will enjoy access to more than 80 of London’s top attractions, tours, and museums (most of which you will find on this itinerary as well).
If, however, you don’t want to see lots of places that include admissions tickets and you want to use the hop-on-hop-off bus, you can book your trip separately here.
Where to stay in London
When you only have 2 days in London, you won’t want to waste too much time commuting from your hotel to the city center.
On my first trip to London, we chose to stay in Piccadilly Square and it couldn’t have been better. Later on, I stayed with my mother around Hyde Park and Paddington Station.
Here are a few hotel recommendations worth looking into for your 2 days in London.
ibis London City – Shoreditch
The hotel is perfectly positioned in the heart of London, close to the most important tourist attractions. Moreover, the price is affordable and you will be 1 minute away from the underground, and 10 minutes away from the famous Tower Bridge. Previous guests have appreciated how comfortable and clean the rooms are.
citizenM London Shoreditch
A modern hotel with a colorful interior design, located close to the city center. Self-check-in and check-out are done on a smart pad in the hotel hall, and rooms are not too big but comfortable enough.
The Z Hotel Trafalgar
You cannot stay more central than this, you will be able to walk almost anywhere, thus it might be worth spending extra and skipping public transportation. Guests have liked the modern facilities and the hotel’s location.
This is your ultimate luxury hotel option. With an Instagrammable rooftop offering one of the most amazing London skyline views, this hotel has a luxurious interior design and is set in the perfect location. On top of that, after a long they in the city you can pamper yourself at the hotel’s SPA or with a Michelin star dinner.
The London Pass – should you get it?
As mentioned above, the London Pass is great when you want to visit a lot of important attractions and save up to 55% on the entrance fee.
The pass also includes one day access to a hop-on-hop-off bus, so you won’t have to worry about transportation for one of your 2 days in London.
What is included?
A 2-Day London Pass costs 98,5 EUR (93 GBP) and includes access to 80 tourist attractions, including places like the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge, Hop-on-hop-off bus, Uber boats on the river Thames, Kensington Palace, The Shard, and much more. All those combined add up to much more than the price of the London Pass.
Depending on how many of these places you plan on visiting, you could be saving up to 55% with the pass.
If, however, you only plan to see a few of these places, you might want to consider booking the tours with skip-the-line ahead of time, online. I will suggest for each attraction on the itinerary, where to go for such tickets.
When is the best time to visit London?
After visiting London in May, November, June, and March, I would say the best time to visit the city is during Spring or Summer.
Spring will welcome you with charming flowers and beautiful colors, while summer will offer the perfect temperatures to walk around and less rain.
If you don’t like the rain, plan your visit for June or July, and if you want to see London in bloom go at the end of March or April.
Looking for a London Tour?
If you would rather go on a tour than make your own itinerary, here are a few of the most popular and high-rated tours in London:
Harry Potter Guided Walking Tour – an original tour with thousands of reviews and happy customers. Pack some comfortable walking shoes and be ready to discover the magical world of Harry Potter hidden in the streets of London. See more here!
Changing of the Guard Tour – if you are not into magic and you would rather stick to the traditional tourist attractions, you cannot miss the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. You will learn about British history and the royal family. See more here!
Afternoon Tea Bus with Panoramic Tour of London – You cannot come to London and not have the posh afternoon tea experience. And while you could head to one of the fancier hotels in town, I suggest you choose to see the city while enjoying traditional sweet and savory treats. See more here!
Jack The Ripper Walking Tour – as night falls, follow the footsteps of one of the most famous serial killers in history. If you are a fan of true crime series you should not miss this walking tour. See more here!
Your 2 days London itinerary: Day 1
Day 1 overview
Hyde Park & St. James Park
Buckingham Palace & changing of the guard
Start your day at Kensington Palace & Gardens
Kensington Palace has been one of the royal residences in London since the 17th century.
Currently, it is the official London residence of William and Kate, among other members of the Royal Family.
Although it is one of the key tourist attractions today, there were calls for the palace to be demolished in the late 19th century. Queen Victoria eventually saved it, adamant that the place of her birth shouldn’t be destroyed during her lifetime.
You can walk through the King’s State Apartments, the Queen’s State Apartments, and the Gardens. There are also exhibitions, and if you haven’t had your coffee yet, you should try The Orangery cafe.
Tickets are covered by the London Pass, or you can book separately a 90-minute sightseeing tour.
Stroll through Hyde Park
Opened to the public in 1637, Hyde Park is one of the four Royal Parks of London, forming a chain with Saint James’s Park, Kensington Gardens, and Green Park past the entrance to Buckingham Palace.
Despite its relaxing atmosphere, the place was the scene of several famous duels, often involving members of the nobility.
For the last 150 years, Hyde Park has hosted the Speakers’ Corner, witnessing fiery speeches on many topics from religious reform to women’s rights advocates and anti-war militants.
In recent decades, the park was the venue for several large-scale free rock concerts featuring legendary groups like Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones, and Queen.
Take a picture with the Wellington Arch and head over to Buckingham Palace for the changing of the guard
Buckingham Palace is one of the royal residences and the administrative center of the British monarch. It plays a significant role during state occasions and major events.
Although it has been in use since medieval times, the current palace complex became the monarch’s principal residence during the time of Queen Victoria. After her husband died, Victoria seldom used the palace, so much so that in 1864 somebody pinned the following note to its fence: “These commanding premises to be let or sold, in consequence of the late occupant’s declining business.” English humor at its best.
One of the world-famous attractions of today is the changing of the guard. If you have time, it is worth watching it, but please don’t stand in the way—the guards are not allowed to stop or go around gawking tourists, and they’ll march over you, irrespective of your age or gender. There was a fuss about a guard trampling over a child during our last visit, so watch your steps.
Saint James’s Park
It is the most easterly of the chain of parks in Central London. It is named after Saint James the Younger, one of Jesus’ chosen Twelve.
The park is home to a family of pelicans descended from a group of waterfowl donated by the Russian ambassador in 1664. Even the birds have noble descent in the posh part of London.
Step inside Westminster Abbey
Probably the most notable religious building in the United Kingdom, Westminster Abbey is a large, mainly Gothic, church.
Since the coronation of William the Conqueror in 1066, every English and British monarch has been coronated in the building. That’s one thousand years’ worth of kings and queens.
Furthermore, there are 3300 people buried in the abbey church, primarily people of historical significance: monarchs, prime ministers, military leaders, poets, scientists, and actors. For this reason, the place is colloquially known as “Britain’s Valhalla,” after the hall of heroes of Norse mythology.
Lastly, the church witnessed no less than sixteen royal weddings. The earliest ceremony was in 1100 when King Henry I wed Matilda of Scotland, while the most recent one was in 2011 when Prince William married Kate Middleton.
If you want to step inside and marvel at the beauty of this famous London attraction, I suggest you should book your ticket in advance. There are usually huge lines and you will want to save time especially when you only have 2 days in London.
Tickets are covered by the London Pass.
Initially referring to the bell of the striking clock, today, Big Ben it’s the nickname associated with the clock tower of Westminster Palace. Since its construction in 1859, Big Ben became the most iconic British monument, instantly recognized by people worldwide.
Officially called the Elizabeth Tower, the origin of its nickname is subject to debate. Some believe it is related to Sir Benjamin Hall, who oversaw the installation of the clock’s great bell. Others attribute the name to Ben Caunt, a famous boxer at the time of the tower’s construction. Either way, the name stuck, reminding us all of the power of good marketing.
Apart from offering a nice view of Westminster Palace, its iconic tower, and several London landmarks, Westminster Brigde’s primary function is to link Westminster on the Thames river’s west side with Lambeth on the east side.
Every movie shot in London over the last two decades features a large white wheel sitting on the bank of the Thames. That’s the London Eye or the Millenium Wheel.
It used to offer the highest public viewing point in London until it was superseded by the Shard, a 72-stories tall skyscraper. Even so, it is still worth the ride.
I still think this is an experience worth having when in London, and the living proof is the huge waiting line you always see in front of its ticket booth.
Book your skip-the-line ticket in advance and forget about wasting precious time waiting in line. Moreover, you can also choose from various combo options, that would allow you to do more while saving money.
Your 2 days London itinerary: Day 2
Day 2 Overview
Start your day with a coffee and a snack at Sky Garden
Visit the Tower of London
Snap a picture with Tower Bridge
Discover a hidden gem: London Mithraeum
Admire Saint Paul’s and Millenium Bridge
Eat your heart out at Covent Garden
Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery
Leicester Square & Chinatown
The British Museum
Start your day with a coffee and a snack at Sky Garden
Boasting some of the best views in London, the Sky Garden is exactly what its name tells you: a small garden located between floors 34 and 37 in a tall business building.
Here, you can admire the 360-degree view of London and its skyline, enjoy a coffee with a snack, or even have a delicious meal at one of the restaurants. Once you had your coffee, take a stroll through the lush garden, snap a picture on the deck, and take your time admiring the city from above.
There is no time limit and the entrance is free, however you will have to book your free ticket online here.
Walk along the river to the Tower of London
Another example of British quirky naming habits is the Tower of London. While it is in London indeed, it is not a tower but a castle encircled by medieval stone walls and all.
It was used as a prison during the middle ages, so, unsurprisingly, it was associated with torture and execution for most of its existence. Some of the prisoners were kept there for years or even decades, slowly withering away in the damp and dark dungeon.
The Tower was also the host of the royal menagerie as early as the 12th century. Kings kept wild animals there, including lions and leopards. By the 18th century, the medieval zoo was opened to the public but with a grizzly twist. The admittance fee was either three half-pence or a cat or dog to be fed to the lions. Not precisely a child-friendly petting zoo.
Today, the Tower of London is an important tourist attraction, and one can gawk at the opulent Crown Jewels—if you are into bling-bling, it is a must-see destination.
Tickets are covered by the London Pass or
Everybody knows the highly ornate suspension bridge in London, the one with the two towers on it, right?
One American tycoon liked it so much that he desired to buy it and ship it back to the US. So when the English planned to dismantle the London Bridge in 1968, Robert McCulloch eagerly bought it. To his great surprise, when they reassembled his new acquisition in Lake Havasu City in the US, the bridge looked very different than he imagined it. Why? Because the bridge with the beautiful towers is called the Tower Bridge, while the American gentleman acquired the London Bridge—two different things.
Consequently, be careful what you are bargaining for when in Britain.
Tickets are covered by the London Pass or
This is a hidden gem not lots of people know of, worth visiting for those passionate by history and Ancient Rome. The museum is small and relatively new, entrance is free, and every hour they have 2 experiences taking you back to the Roman times.
The museum used to be a religious temple dedicated to Mithras, dating from the 3rd century AD, built underground.
St. Paul’s Cathedral
The earliest iteration of Saint Paul’s Cathedral was probably constructed by the East Saxons in 604 AD, although the Romans might have built an earlier temple on the site. The initial Saxon building, or a successor, burned down in 962, but it was rebuilt in the same year. Unfortunately, destruction by fire seemed to be a recurring motive in Saint Paul’s long history. It happened again in 1087 and 1135. Eventually, the Normans finalized the reconstruction, erecting a gothic cathedral by 1240, with further enlargements in the centuries to come. Today, the gothic monumet is referred to as Old St. Paul’s.
Fire struck again in 1666 as the Great Fire of London consumed the English capital. Although Old St. Paul’s could have been restored, the decision was made to erect a brand new cathedral in its place, presumably with better fire protection. Sir Cristopher Wren designed the new monument and its iconic dome, the new St. Paul’s being consecrated in 1697. In today’s money, the building costs amounted to over 167 million pounds, and it took decades to finalize. It was the tallest building in London until 1963, dominating its skyline for almost three centuries.
Should you like to take an instragramable picture, I suggest visiting the London Millennium Bridge. If you are in the proper position, you might be able to capture the much-photographed optical illusion of Saint Paul’s Cathedral resting on one of the bridge’s supports.
Covent Garden Market
Foodies will love this place and should definitely stop for a bite or to shop for some great ingredients. Apart from food, there is always some event taking place at Covent Garden Market, thus you will be entertained while eating your heart out.
Trafalgar Square is a public plaza in central London. The site has been a significant landmark since the 1200s, the initial Charing Cross being the ground zero from which distances were measured.
The square is named after the site of Admiral Nelson’s famous victory over Napoleon’s fleet. Nelson’s statue sits atop a tall column guarded by four lions.
In recent times, Londoners have celebrated New Year’s Eve in Trafalgar Square. It was also the focal point of political demonstrations, including the 1887 Bloody Sunday and women rights related bombings in 1913 and 1914. However, the identity of the square’s fiercest and most unrelenting enemies might surprise you.
The feral pigeons have moved in around the square since Victorian times. There were as many as 35.000 pigeons at their peak. Their droppings caused significant destruction to the square and its monuments, so much so that feeding pigeons was baned in 2003, with further bans enacted in 2007. Believe it or not, it cost 140.000 pounds to repair the damage caused by the avian bombing campaign to Nelson’s statue.
The National Gallery
The National Gallery is an art musem in Trafalgar Square, Central London, housing an extensive collection of paintings. The collection belongs to the government on behalf of the British public. Consequently, visiting the main exhibition is free of charge.
The British Museum hosts probably the largest collection of items dedicated to human history, art, and culture. Established in 1753 by the Anglo-Irish scientist Sir Hans Sloane, the museum grew over the years to its current impressive size. Admittance is for free except for loan exhibitions.
As a history enthusiast, I spent days and days marveling at the wonderous exhibits, and I plan to revisit them every time I have the occasion.
After we lived in East Asia for over two years, London’s China Town became one of our favorite places. If you are intoAsian cuisine, you shouldn’t miss the opportunity of seeing this European piece of Asia.
Chinese hot pot, Cantonese shrimp wonton, Taiwanese shao mai—you can find it all, and I can assure you it is as authentic as it gets. In addition to Chinese places, there are plenty of Vietnamese, Japanese, and Thai restaurants in the area. Be ready for a unique culinary experience.
Shopping in London
If you have some extra time and prefer to skip some of the popular tourist attractions and would rather head for the stores, here are the places you must head over to:
Oxford Street – located in the city center, starting from Marble Arch subway station and heading towards Oxford Circus station, here is where you will find some of the most popular clothing stores. Think everything from Zara to Primark, but also TK Maxx or Marks and Spencers.
Piccadilly Street or Regent Street– come here for high-end brands, historic libraries, and beautiful cafes and restaurants.
Harrods – even if you don’t plan to spend a fortune, one cannot simply miss a visit at Harrods.
Where to eat in London
Apart from Covent Garden Market or Borough Market, here are some of our favorite restaurants in London. You might see they are mostly Asian restaurants, but there are a few other options as well:
- Haidilao – is a Chinese hot pot chain that can be found in Europe only on London. The whole experience is interesting and you should try it at least once.
- Din Tai Fung – a Michelin star Taiwanese restaurant famous for its dumplings. Make sure to book a table in advance if you don’t feel like waiting too much.
- Lisboeta – run by a two Michelin stars chef, come here for some authentic Portughese flavors.
- Hoppers – go for a trip to Sri Lanka through your tastebuds.
- Ippudo Central Saint Giles – delicious ramen, some of the best I ever had back in Hong Kong.
Have more time? What else to do in London?
Check out our 4 days in London itinerary for more ideas