If you’re planning a lightning break in London and want to get the essentials in during your trip, planning is everything. Making sure you have an idea of what you want to see is the first part, then plotting out where things are in relation to each other will make sure you spend your time seeing the sights instead of looking at the inside of a tube train.
Take a look through our suggested itineraries for a guide on how to make the most of your brief time in the city.
If you have one day
If you’re really limited on the time you have to spend in the city and want to see the most iconic sights that London has to offer, your best place to start is Westminster.
First up on your tour is the iconic Palace of Westminster, also known as the Houses of Parliament. With the Queen Elizabeth clock tower soaring up on the south side of the building housing the famous Big Ben bell, the gothic structure with its intricate columns and imposing façade it is one of the most well-known symbols of London around the world.
The houses themselves are open to members of the public to visit on organised tours at the weekends, or to UK citizens by contacting their MP. Tourists visiting from outside the country are only able to visit during the summer recess and can join one of the organised tours of the house.
Once you’ve taken in the Palace, a quick walk across the road will bring you to Westminster Abbey. In 2011, the vast abbey was the venue for the British wedding in over 20 years when Prince William married Catherine Middleton, making her the Duchess of Cambridge and future Queen of England. Tours depart regularly taking visitors around the cavernous interior and give a comprehensive history of abbey and the site on which it stands.
Once you’re done in Westminster, head for the Thames and walk down the embankment away from the Houses of Parliament. The length of the embankment makes up the last mile of the London Marathon and has often been seen on television. You’ll be able to see Westminster and Waterloo Bridges, as well as the London Eye on the south bank of the river.
Walk to Embankment Tube station and jump on the Northern Line northbound and hop off at Tottenham Court Road. From there, it’s a short walk west to Oxford Circus, where you’ll be able to see some of London’s famous theatres, cinemas and get a feel for the beating heart of the city’s West End.
Two days or more
If you have a little more time in London, there are plenty of things to fill your time. For lovers of museums, a trip to South Kensington brings you to the middle of the main museum district and allows you to visit the Science, Natural History and Victoria and Albert Museums in one trip. Take a packed lunch with you and walk by the Royal Albert Hall to Hyde Park. Just the other side you will find Knightsbridge, with some of the most famous and prestigious shopping in London.
For culture, the South Bank Centre has much to offer. The Royal Festival Hall has some wonderful restaurants that offer beautiful views over the Thames, and from there it’s not far to walk to the Tate Modern or Shakespeare’s Globe.
There is more than enough to keep you busy in London for weeks, but if your time is limited it’s possible to prioritise and see the most important sights. Think ahead about what you most want to see and get your Tube map out to make sure you’re not losing time travelling when you could be seeing the sights you want to see.