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2 Days in London: An Easy Itinerary for First-time Visitors

This 2 days in London itinerary for first-time visitors covers many of the highlights and more than a few iconic London experiences.

There are certain things first-time visitors to London just can’t miss. If you’ve got 2 days in London, this itinerary covers some of the highlights and most iconic London experiences.

This guest post comes courtesy of Nicolette, who shares money-saving packing hacks and other tips on her blog, Semi-Budget Travel.

There are certain things first-time visitors to London have to tick off their list. If you've got just 2 days in London, this itinerary covers the highlights and iconic London experiences.

Please note: This post contains affiliate links, meaning I may earn a commission if you make a purchase by clicking a link (at no extra cost to you). Learn more.


London essentials

Find cheap flights to London using Kiwi.com, a third-party booking site that lets you mix and match fares with different airlines to find the best deal.

Do you need a visa to visit the UK? Check your visa requirements for free on iVisa.

London car hire: If you plan on exploring beyond the city, use Discover Cars to find the best price on a rental car.

London airport transfers: Pre-book your Heathrow train tickets online or organise a private transfer from the airport to your hotel. Arriving at Gatwick or Stansted? Organise an affordable shared transfer to Central London instead.

Where to stay in London: Generator Hostel (budget); Georgiana’s Guesthouse (mid-range); Artist Residence London (boutique); Shangri-La Hotel at The Shard (luxury).

Staying connected: Order a portable WIFI device to pick up at your first hotel (works in the UK and EU).

When is the best time to visit London?

Yep, I’m saying it – the best time to visit London is spring!

London in spring (late March through May) is a fabulous thing. Can’t you just picture it now? Lush greens. Hot tea. Warm scones. Fewer tourists. Cheaper airfares… Woot!

Be ready for rain, but don’t let it stop you. Oftentimes, London is cloudy but the rain stays at bay. Other days, the sky opens up to a sunny crispness.

I’m telling you, spring is where it’s at in London town!

Finding affordable accommodation in London

Ever heard of Travelodge? They can be found all over the UK, and London proper has countless Travelodge accommodations to choose from.

Why Travelodge? Well, while it might be fun to stay at the Wellesley, Berkeley, Ritz, or Savoy, it might not agree with your travel budget. Most of the time, those places don’t fit into the semi-budget travel framework I follow, either!

Travelodge, however, offers budget accommodations in many popular neighbourhoods, and they often have springtime deals starting at £29/night!

Browse Travelodge properties here or find a London hotel on Booking.com.

Sunlight on the streets of London.

Getting around London

One word: Underground.

London’s subway system, the Underground (also known as the Tube), will get you almost anywhere you want to go in the city and its surrounds.

There are a number of different payment options available to visitors:

  • Pay per use
  • Visitor Oyster card
  • Visitor card
  • As part of a London Pass

With just two days in London, I recommend one of the prepaid cards. It will save you having to purchase tickets every time you need to move around the city.

I also highly recommend downloading the Citymapper app on your smartphone. You can literally type in where you want to go and the app will tell you exactly which route to take, timetables, and how long the trip will take. It’s fantastic!

Tickets & passes to purchase in advance

Bird's eye view of London.

London day 1 itinerary

Morning

Load up with a hearty brekkie, as lunch will be mid-afternoon today (unless you choose an early tea time). An affordable option with a large menu to choose from is Pret a Manger (commonly known as Pret).

With dozens of locations in the greater London area, there’s bound to be a Pret not too far from your lodging. Perhaps try Pret’s Proper Porridge or a Bacon and Egg Brioche or for something truly British, a Poached Egg & Baked Beans Power Pot. You can’t say you’ve been to London if you haven’t at least tried baked beans as part of your brekkie!

After breakfast, start your day at Marble Arch at the northeast corner of Hyde Park. The Marble Arch Tube station is right there, so it’s quite easy to get to.

Hyde Park is a massive swath of green in the middle of Central London. It’s so large and the sites are so numerous that it makes sense to choose one path for your visit. Here are three options that take you in different directions, all starting at Marble Arch and ending at Kensington Palace:

  • Option 1: Marble Arch – Speakers’ Corner – Reformer’s Tree – Hyde Park Holocaust Memorial – Serpentine Waterfall – The Albert Memorial – Princess Diana Memorial Garden – Kensington Palace
  • Option 2: Marble Arch – Speakers’ Corner – The Arch by Henry Moore – Princess Diana Memorial Fountain – Round Pond – Princess Diana Memorial Garden – Kensington Palace
  • Option 3: Marble Arch – Speakers’ Corner – Italian Gardens –Peter Pan Statue – Diana Memorial Playground – Princess Diana Memorial Garden – Kensington Palace

If you have time before afternoon tea, a tour of Kensington Palace is the perfect way to round off your first morning in London.


Afternoon

A special treat awaits you this afternoon: Tea at The Orangery at Kensington Palace. It’s the only royal palace grounds in London where you can partake in a Royal High Tea.

Note: Due to renovations, food and drink are currently served in the Kensington Palace Pavilion, next door to The Orangery.

Afternoon tea is served between 12 noon and 4pm. Don’t make the same mistake we did and waste your time waiting in line! Secure your reservation prior to your trip – or better still, book a tour of the Palace Gardens with Royal High Tea included.

It’s a bit of a splurge at £34 per person, but it includes a lot – sandwiches, scones with jam and cream, tea cakes, and of course a cuppa.


After a leisurely afternoon tea, make your way to Buckingham Palace. Buckingham Palace at dusk is magical – everything seems to sparkle when the lights are turned on.

Directly in front of Buckingham Palace is the Victoria Memorial, and just a bit further is The Mall. The Mall, that iconic long thoroughfare that British royalty has traversed time and again, leads your gaze all the way to Admiralty Arch.

In just 15 minutes, you can walk from the Victoria Memorial to Admiralty Arch (and pretend the throngs of people are waving at you in your chauffeured carriage!). From there, make your way to Trafalgar Square and The National Gallery, which showcases multiple centuries of masterful artwork from all over Western Europe.


Evening

Iconic British chain restaurant Wagamama has a branch close to The National Gallery. Grab a spot on the bench seat at one of the shared tables and enjoy the ambiance.

For another dose of fabulous architecture and maybe some dessert (although Wagamama has that too!), take the Tube to St. Pancras Station. One of the most beautiful stations in London, St. Pancras is a sight to behold both inside and out.

Dum Dum Donuts, Ladurée and Patisserie Valerie are all present to tempt your sweet tooth.

A row of pastel-coloured houses in London.

London day 2 itinerary

Morning

The Breakfast Club (with a dozen “cafs” throughout London) will make your mouth water, whether your brekkie is savory or sweet. Full English breakfast? They’ve got it. Something sweet like banana and salted caramel pancakes? They’ve got that too.

Depending on your timing and/or personal preference, you may wish to attend a church service at either St. Paul’s Cathedral or Westminster Abbey on your second morning in London. Several years ago, my husband and I attended one of the morning services at Westminster Abbey on Palm Sunday, and it was majestic!

If mass doesn’t work with your schedule or preference, both houses of worship are open to tourists at other times.

The Tower of London isn’t just a prison from the past. It’s also a famous castle, fortress, holds the Crown Jewels, and houses the ravens (you’ll have to find out!).

Just outside, another London icon, Tower Bridge, spans the Thames. Many call it London Bridge because of its recognisable design – but you can be sure that the actual London Bridge is a little ways away.


Afternoon

You can’t leave London without having at least one meal of fish ‘n’ chips with mushy peas. And yes, you have to include the mushy peas part! Seasoned to perfection, they’re the perfect accompaniment.

Off the beaten path a little is The Golden Hind. You’ll need to do a bit of walking to get there and back from the underground, but it’s well worth it. Pair your fish ‘n’ chips with a ginger beer and you’ll be ready for the rest of your afternoon.

Next stop is the London Eye. It’s a tourist attraction, to be sure. However, it affords a great panoramic vista of London town. From your observation pod, you will have 360-degree views, including the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the Shard, the River Thames, Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, St. Paul’s Cathedral, London parks, and more.


Evening

As your afternoon comes to a close, make your way to Regent Street at dusk. As with Buckingham Palace, Regent Street comes alive with beautiful lights as the day dims. Hamleys toy store (famous for Paddington Bear) can be found on Regent Street, making it a great place to do a spot of shopping for the kids in your life.

Dinner should be a pub meal, the ultimate comfort food tradition in London. Steak and ale pie or bangers and mash… You might have to try them both! Finish your two days in London with a sweet treat of sticky toffee pudding.


Next time you’re in London…

While two days in London is a great way to warm up with many highlights, your next trip to London might include…

  • The British Museum
  • TATE Modern
  • Churchill War Rooms
  • Theatre
  • Harry Potter WB Studio Tour
  • Chelsea FC Stadium Tour
  • And more!

2 days in London: Pin it

There are certain things first-time visitors to London have to tick off their list. If you've got just 2 days in London, this itinerary covers the highlights and iconic London experiences.

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