How to Make the Most of 2 Days in London
Is two days enough time to get to know a place? Some might say no – but I say yes. I fell in love with London on my very first trip – on my very first day! I believe that 2 days in London is enough time to get to know the city and decide whether you love it too and want to return for a longer trip someday. (Or move there, as I did!)
In putting together this two-day itinerary for London, I tried to balance putting in as much as possible with not making you so tired each day that you don’t remember it fondly. You’ll see that this itinerary does pack a lot in – and many of the top sights are included – but there’s still so much more to explore (as you can see if you browse longer London itineraries I’ve written).
If you only have two days though, don’t despair. You can certainly enjoy a lot of the best London has to offer, and see more than you think. You might be footsore and ready for a vacation after your two-day London trip, but you’ll also have tons of memories and may even want to visit again. Let’s get into my itinerary for 2 days in London!
London Travel Tips
Before jumping into my London two-day itinerary, here are a few quick trips to help you plan:
- How to Get Around London for 2 Days: The easiest way to get around London is using public transportation (the Tube and the buses). I provide recommendations for that in this post, and I have a whole guide on how to ride the London Underground to help you navigate the system.
- Invest in the London Pass: With just 2 days in London, you want to make the most of it, right? The London Pass is a great way to save some money on admission costs so you can actually enjoy your trip and not be stressing about pounds and pence. The two-day London Pass costs £100 and using it for my suggested 2-day London itinerary saves you £23.
- What to Pack for this Jam-Packed London 2-Day Itinerary: Packing is always tricky! Luckily, London is pretty easy to pack for: it’s European smart, and you can never go wrong with black basics and colorful accessories. Be sure to keep the weather in mind during your trip and consult my list of 10 essentials to pack for London, too.
Let’s dive into this itinerary for 2 days in London already!
Day 1: The London Essentials
- Main Sights: Wellington Arch, Green Park, Buckingham Palace, St. James’s Park, Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliament, Embankment, St. Paul’s, Tower of London, Tower Bridge, London Eye
- Tube: Start at Hyde Park Corner (Piccadilly); End at Waterloo (Bakerloo/Northern/Jubilee)
- Distance on Foot: 3.1 miles
For Day 1, the goal is to see most of London’s top sights, so you can explore a bit more leisurely on Day 2 in London. This is definitely a full day of sightseeing – and a lot of it is walking, so you’re not surprised! – but you’ll have a good sense of London by the end of the day and plenty of pictures to spark your memories once you’re rested and recovered from this long day.
It might seem like an odd place to start, but Wellington Arch is right near Hyde Park Corner Station – and actually works well for starting impressively and pointing you in the right direction for the rest of the day.
Wellington Arche is in the northwest corner of Green Park where it meets Hyde Park. It’s a massive triumphal arch to commemorate Britain’s victory in the Napoleonic wars. If you’re still full of energy at the start of the day, you can climb the Wellington Arch for a view of the nearby London parks.
Green Park is a former royal garden that’s now open to the public. The park was enclosed in the 16th century and landscaped in the 1820s; now it’s a great spot for a stroll – and perfect to get your legs used to the amount of walking you’ll do today!
You can walk through Green Park on the southern border along Constitution Hill toward Buckingham Palace.
As you arrive at the southeast end of Green Park, you’ll see Buckingham Palace; this is the official location for the seat of the Monarchy in the U.K. You can try and spot the Queen’s flag – the “Royal Standard of the United Kingdom” – if Queen Elizabeth is in Buckingham at the time.
You can pay* to go inside but this isn’t necessary to admire the view and opulence. There are always crowds outside the gate, and it’s a beautiful place for photos.
If you time it right, you can visit Buckingham Palace and time your visit to see the Changing of the Guard, which occurs at 11am each day.
*There’s a discount for Buckingham Palace with your London Pass.
St. James’s Park
Next, continue exploring London’s green spaces – I was definitely surprised when I first visited and discovered how many parks (read: former royal gardens) there are in London.
The land that became St. James’s Park dates back to Henry VIII in the 16th century, and it was remodeled by George IV during his time as Prince Regent in the 19th century. It’s a nice walk with beautiful flowerbeds in the warm months.
In my opinion, Westminster Abbey is one of the most beautiful buildings in London. It’s an incredible example of Gothic architecture and is most well-known as the building where the majority of royal weddings take place. Almost everyone has seen at least one of the royal couples married there (Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, or Prince William and Kate). (Harry & Meghan were married in Windsor, outside London.)
You can choose to go in and see the interior (included in your London Pass), or just stroll around the outside and admire the view. Personally, I’ve always only stayed outside and never feel like I’ve missed an experience by not going in.
Houses of Parliament
From Westminster Abbey, it’s a short walk to the Houses of Parliament, also called Westminster Palace.
My favorite view of Parliament is actually across the river, so make your way over the Thames on the west side of Westminster Bridge, then turn and go down the stairs. There you’ll find the view that gives you the photo angle like mine above.
Cross back over the Thames on Westminster Bridge (either side!) and turn east along the north bank of the river. There’s a nice riverfront trail here – part of the 184-mile long Thames Path – that will take you to an area called Embankment. This is a great spot for lunch!
Heading north from Embankment Station, there are a number of restaurants and takeaway spots on Villiers Street. My favorite is Herman Ze German which does the best currywurst this side of Berlin!
St. Paul’s Cathedral
Next, it’s time to head east! After lunch, head up Villiers Street to the Strand and catch the #15 bus east. It will take you to St. Paul’s Cathedral.
St. Paul’s Cathedral is my most favorite building in London, which is my most favorite city on earth – that sets a pretty high bar, eh? There’s an admission fee to enter the cathedral (included in your London Pass), which includes access to climb the dome. I highly recommend this if you’re able to ascend the 528 steps to the top. You’ll have incredible views of the City of London.
Tower of London
Next, hop back on the #15 bus and continue on to the Tower of London.
I always loved going for a run around the Tower of London when I lived in the area; it always put my temporary discomfort in perspective of over 1,000 years of human history. After all, the White Tower inside the Tower of London dates to 1097 CE!
If this is your first trip to London, queue up for tickets and take the tour inside the Tower of London (included in your London Pass!). You’ll learn a ton about English history up through the modern era, and have a great appreciation for the history literally right under your feet. Oh – you can also see the crown jewels which are outrageous and beautiful.
You might be starting to tire, but keep at it – only a few stops left today. And luckily the next stop from the Tower of London is within sight: Tower Bridge!
Tower Bridge was built between 1886 and 1894 during the reign of Queen Victoria. There are two ways to cross it: at street level, or by paying to climb the towers and cross at the support (it’s enclosed, in case you’re afraid of heights!). While admission is also included in the London Pass, I recommend just crossing at street level – since you’re probably getting footsore – unless you’re an engineering buff.
The most scenic way to get from Tower Bridge to the London Eye is on a Thames River Cruise (included in your London Pass depending on timing). You can do this one of two ways:
- Cross back north on Tower Bridge to Tower Pier near the Tower of London and take the cruise to London Eye Pier
- Stay on the south side of the Thames and pay for a cruise (excluded from London Pass) from Tower Bridge City Pier to London Eye Pier.
In either case, try and time your arrival and London Eye tickets for about 45 minutes before sunset. There’s a 15-minute experience before you board, and there may be a queue to load onto your London Eye pod, so the idea is that you’ll get to ride on the 30 minutes before and after sunset. You’ll be able to see London ‘by day,’ and the sun will set during your ride, giving you a view of London from above during the golden hour, and at night. In particular, you’ll be coming around the side of the eye facing Westminster as it gets dark, and can see all the buildings lit up.
This is the best way to make the most of the cost to ride the London Eye!
Dinner & Drinks
Okay, now you can start to relax… What a day! For dinner and drinks, I recommend making your way back to whichever part of London you’re staying in to find a pub and tuck in there. If you need specific suggestions for your area, let me know in the comments and I’ll give you a recommendation!
Day 2: The Southbank + One Neighborhood Excursion
- Main Sights: Borough Market, The Shard, Queen’s Walk, Neighborhood of your Choice (Notting Hill/Camden Town/Shoreditch)
- Tube: Start at London Bridge (Northern/Jubilee); End depends on neighborhood
- Distance on Foot: Variable depending on neighborhood
After what was hopefully a restful night’s sleep, it’s time to get back out and make the most of your second (and final!) day of this London 2-day itinerary. Start by catching the tube to London Bridge station.
Once you disembark the train, you’ll be in the vicinity of Borough Market; this is a great spot for breakfast and generally exploring around to get a sense for London’s different markets. Borough is considered the “foodie’s” market, so you’ll find incredible food and ingredients here.
Mr. V and I found our favorite Romanian eggplant sauce and a delicious truffle balsamic oil at various grocers here, and have noshed on both Scotch Eggs (a must-try London food!) and Venezuelan arepas from the food vendors.
Next, make your way to the Shard – you can’t miss it: it’s the BIG one. There you can ascend to the 69th-72nd floors for the View from The Shard (included in your London Pass). This is obviously one of the best London viewpoints and well worth the time for the 360-degree views.
The Queen’s Walk
Back on ground level, you can stroll along the Queen’s Walk toward Westminster, depending on your choice for the remainder of the day. The Queen’s Walk extends from Tower Bridge to Westminster in a meandering, mostly-riverfront path and offers lovely views of the other side of the river and city. You’ll also pass iconic sights like the London Bridge, Golden Hinde, Millennium Bridge, and Tate Modern museum.
But as I said, depending on which neighborhood you choose to explore this afternoon, you may want to cut this stroll short in favor of catching the tube to your desired destination.
Take a Neighborhood Excursion
For this afternoon, I recommend going out to explore one of London’s neighborhoods. Each has its own personality, so you can choose one that sounds interesting to you! I also recommend grabbing lunch in your chosen neighborhood once you arrive, then setting out on foot to explore.
You may recognize Notting Hill, a West London neighborhood, from the 1999 movie starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant… or you may know it from the Instagram photos of colorful houses and overflowing flowering gardens.
Notting Hill is perfect if you want to snap a few Instagram shots or browse for blooms at Columbia Road Flower Market.
Camden Town, located in North London, is where punk lives on. It’s definitely the edgiest neighborhood I know, and is perfect if you love wearing black and still think dog chokers should be more mainstream.
While in Camden you can explore Camden Market, where you’ll find band memorabilia alongside patchouli incense holders and plenty else too.
Possibly my favorite neighborhood on (admittedly short) list, I lived near Shoreditch in East London. And I did so for a reason! I love this neighborhood’s combination of gritty edges, fantastic food, and street art. It’s a place where the unexpected and artistic are always popping up in surprising ways.
Shoreditch is a perfect afternoon option if you want to explore and make your own discoveries in London.
Dinner & Drinks
After finishing your afternoon in one of London’s distinctive neighborhoods, it’s time to refuel and wind down your 2 days in London. I recommend dining in the neighborhood you chose to explore – surely you’ve spotted somewhere that looks interesting or delicious during your afternoon adventures.
Otherwise, make your way back to the part of town where you’re staying for dinner so it’s an easy walk back to your hotel to pack and depart the next day. (Again, let me know if you need specific recommendations!)
Where to Stay in London for 2 Days
A lot of people will advise you to stay in Central London on your first trip… Normally I advise against that, but if you only have one day in London, you don’t want to spend them all on the Tube getting to and from your hotel! If you have your heart set on staying in Central London, look at neighborhoods like Hoxton or Clerkenwell. These neighborhoods are away from the crowds but within walking distance of attractions like Covent Garden, the West End, and the British Museum, which you can squeeze into this itinerary.
Otherwise, if you need to save or are open to staying in another part of town, look at:
- West London, like Kensington, Chelsea, or even Brompton, is still the poshest part of town. It’s a bit more spendy but has a more residential vibe.
- North London, or should I say near-North London like Angel or King’s Cross, is in close proximity to Central London but often quieter and a bit cheaper.
- East London, including Brick Lane, Shoreditch, and Aldgate East, is the place to be especially if you love nightlife, street food, and street art.
- South London, like Bankside or Bermondsey, is a lesser-visited part of the city, but still has an urban feel and great public transit access (mostly bus).
Need more advice on where to stay in London? Take my quiz for a specific neighborhood suggestion:
Other London Itineraries to Consider
Do you actually have more or less time to spend in London? Here are other London itineraries I’ve written to help you plan:
- How to Make the Most of One Day in London
- 3 Days in London: A Jam-Packed Itinerary in the Best City on Earth
- 4 Days in London: A Perfect Long Weekend Itinerary
- 5 Days in London: How to Plan a Short Week Itinerary
- 6 Days in London: A Perfect First-Time Itinerary
- 7 Days in London: The Best Things to Do for a Week
- 8 Days in London: A Lovely Long-Week Itinerary
- 9 Days in London: How to Plan a Perfect, PTO-Maximizing Itinerary
- 10 Days in London: How to Plan Your Itinerary
- 11 Days in London: A Lovely, Leisurely U.K. Visit (+12 Day-Option)
- 2 Weeks in London: The Ultimate Itinerary for 13-14 Days
Have other questions about spending 2 days in London? Let me know in the comments and I’ll help you finish planning your trip!
Margaret De Laney
Thank you for your very informative website.
A little fact check: Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer were married at St Paul’s Cathedral, not Westminster Abbey, as mentioned in Day 1. The London Essentials.
Thanks so much, Margaret – I don’t know how I missed that. St. Paul’s is my favorite place in London!