Vacation time is a great thing – and often the biggest bummer. No matter where you live or who you work for, nobody has unlimited PTO before retirement (even if your company policy say you do, y’all know what I mean…); most of us have to make trade-offs to see the world with what days we have – without losing any at year’s end or going over into unpaid territory.
So if you – like most Americans – only have two weeks of vacation and you’re choosing to spend all of it in London, I admire your choice. London is a great city with a ton to offer – you can experience so much here you won’t need to feel like you need another vacation after spending two weeks in London. Also, unlike folks who take their sparse PTO and break it up into many trips, you’ll get to enjoy more of your time off by reducing travel time overall. All this to say, spending 2 weeks in London is a great choice.
However, two weeks is quite a long time to spend anywhere, and you might wonder if there’s enough to do in London to fill an entire 14 days. Oh yes, there’s enough – London offers more than enough for an entire lifetime – and this post will show you how. Read on to discover how to spend 13-14 days in London… and a few days out of the city in another destination that might be on your bucket list too!
Quick Glance: 2 Weeks in London
Before diving into the many, many details you need to know to plan your London two-week itinerary, I like to share a table that covers the basics of each day and what you’ll do. While this might seem repetitive, it lets you know right away if this itinerary offers what you want to do in London. So take a peek – if you like what you see, read on!
|1||Westminster & the Southbank|
|2||The City & Tower of London|
|3||Greenwich Day Trip|
|4||Borough Market, Bankside & The Shard|
|5||Royal London: Westminster, Buckingham & Kensington|
|6||East London: Shoreditch & Brick Lane|
|7||Explore Harry Potter’s London|
|8||Markets & Museums|
|9||North London: Camden, Regent’s Park & Baker Street|
|10||Travel to Edinburgh, Scotland|
|13||Travel to London|
|14||Sunday Roast & a Final Pint|
Looks great, right? Let’s dive into the details of each day in this two-week London itinerary.
Day 1: Westminster & the Southbank
So, you’re one of those lucky travelers who get to spend 2 weeks in London. While there are many fantastic ways to kick off your 13-14 days in London – London has more iconic places than you can count – I always like to start any itinerary by visiting Westminster and Southbank. These two areas are home to some of the most iconic London sights. Plus, they’re just a bridge away from each other.
Westminster is one of London’s historic areas. As such, you’ll find many landmarks, like Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, and St. James Park. Today, however, we’ll focus on only one building, the Houses of Parliament (Palace of Westminster.)
An architectural masterpiece, the Palace of Westminster is a crucial component of British democracy. The building has been the meeting place for the House of Common and the House of Lords since the 13th Century– hence the informal name Houses of Parliament. The building’s facade is equally important, creating one of the most iconic sights in London, with its gorgeous stonework and Gothic style.
The Palace of Westminster is also home to Big Ben –the bell inside the Elizabethan Tower. For some unknown reason, people worldwide use Big Ben to refer to the whole building. While the Palace of Westminster welcomes visits and offers tours to explore its interiors, their schedule and availability depend on the parliamentary sessions.
Once you’ve taken in the beauty of Westminster, you’ll go to Southbank. As I said before, it’s only a bridge away, so all you have to do is walk across Westminster Bridge. Southbank is London’s cultural and artistic hub and has a lot going on, although the most known attraction here is the London Eye. Going on a spin on the London Eye is one of the best ways to see the city from above.
So, before you explore Southbank, get to the Eye and buy tickets for a spin. My advice is that you book your tickets to start 45-60 minutes before sunset to make the most of your ride. By booking your tickets around sunset, you’ll get to see London by day and experience how the city lights up as the night falls.
Once you’ve bought your tickets, you’re free to explore Southbank and its attractions. The area has something for every taste, including an aquarium, book stores, street performances, book stores, and trendy pubs and eateries.
Keep an eye on the clock and as soon as you see sunset approaches, make for the London Eye. Remember, your ride will start 45-60 minutes before sunset. A London Eye spin takes a half hour. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to capture London with your camera, but I also suggest you take time to appreciate the views at the moment. After disembarking the pod, you can stay at Southbank for dinner eateries or go back to your hotel’s restaurant.
And just like that, the first day of your 2 weeks in London is officially gone! Time flies when you’re in a city as magical as London. Now, it’s time to get some good sleep and prepare for your next adventure.
Day 2: The City & Tower of London
The second day of your two-week London itinerary will involve lots of walking. We’re covering more landmarks, and while they aren’t far from each other, they aren’t as close as Westminster and Southbank.
To avoid any confusion, I always like to clarify a difference travelers might not be acquainted with: there are two Londons in England: Greater London and the City of London. Greater London refers to the city’s capital, whereas the City of London is the tiny (only 1.12 sq. miles) historic heart and central business hub.
Now that we’ve cleared all doubts, it’s time to see what the City has for you to explore.
St. Paul’s Cathedral
St. Paul’s Cathedral is a gorgeous Anglican cathedral and is my favorite building in London. Sir Christopher Wren, one of the most prominent English architects Sir Christopher Wren, designed it in the 17th century. The cathedral and its marvelous dome are an iconic sight of London’s landscape. It also has an important place in history, being the burial place of notable British people, including Sir Christopher Wren, John Donne, Arthur Wellesley, and the 1st Duke of Wellington.
The cathedral is open for visitors, and you can purchase tickets to explore the interiors. Those who are content with admiring its facade can grab lunch at Madison Rooftop Bar & Restaurant at One New Change shopping center and enjoy panoramic views of St. Paul’s dome.
While not as imposing as St. Paul’s, The Monument is another masterpiece by Sir Christopher Wren. Only thirteen minutes away from St. Paul’s Cathedral, The Monument is a fluted Doric column commemorating the Great Fire of London in 1666. Many people visit the landmark because it is one of the best viewpoints in the city, with a height of 202 feet. You have to pay a £5 fee or present your London Pass to access the top.
Tower of London
Your next stop is the Tower of London. While the Tower of London is an iconic landmark, travelers don’t seem to reach a consensus on how you should visit it. For some, it’s enough to admire its exterior. For others, you should definitely pay to explore its grounds.
If you ask me, I suggest you take a tour of the Tower of London, especially if it’s your first time in the city. Touring the Tower of London is an excellent way to learn more about British history. Founded in 1066, the Tower of London has held a pivotal role through the years, serving as a royal residence, armory, a treasury, a menagerie, and now the home of the famous Crown Jewels of England. Plus, you get to talk to real Beefeaters since they are the guides who conduct the tours.
Throughout your 2 weeks in London, you’ll see Tower Bridge many times as you explore other parts of the city. Nonetheless, I suggest you visit it today as it’s super close to the Tower of London and it fits the themes of the buildings we’ve seen so far.
Once again, it’s up to you how you want to explore Tower Bridge. Those who want a superficial view can simply walk across the bridge. If you’d like to have a deeper understanding of the bridge and its structure, you can book a ticket to get to the glass walkway on top and explore the Victorian Engine Rooms.
Day 3: Spend the Day in Greenwich
As a space nerd, visiting Greenwich was a must for me. In fact, on my first short trip to London, I took a day trip to Greenwich. Unlike other destinations, Greenwich isn’t far away from London, which saves travelers long commuting hours, and has many attractions to explore. To get to Greenwich, you’ll need to take the Docklands Light Railway (DLR), which connects to the tube system at Bank (Central/Northern Lines).
The Royal Observatory
The Royal Observatory is Greenwich’s biggest attraction. When it comes to astronomy, The Royal Observatory has a huge heritage behind it, having made primary contributions to astronomy and navigation. It is home to the Prime Meridian, which marks the divide between the eastern and western hemispheres and Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). While you need to pay a fee to see the Prime Meridian and museums inside the observatory, the observatories are open and free.
National Maritime Museum
I know, visiting the National Maritime Museum doesn’t sound very appealing unless you love navigation. However, this quirky museum surprises most travelers as its exhibits are fascinating. The museum is free and has galleries devoted to Britain’s naval history. By far, the displays covering the Tudor period and Admiral Nelson are the best ones. There are exciting exhibits for little ones, too.
In case you didn’t know, London loves markets, and Greenwich is no exception. The borough has the namesake Greenwich Market, which dates back to 1737. The lovely market has one of the most diverse offers., with stalls selling everything from food to antiques to vintage clothing. The market opens seven days a week from 10 am- 5:30 pm.
After so much exploring, you’ll probably be a victim of gnawing hunger. When that happens, you want to go to Trafalgar Tavern. The Victorian riverside pub is a staple where locals enjoy delicious British recipes, including fish and chips, bangers and mash, and, of course, a good pint. Today, the pub has a maritime theme, displaying naval memorabilia, that speaks of Greenwich’s maritime and naval history.
Day 4: Borough Market, Bankside & The Shard
I hope you’ve enjoyed Greenwich’s laid-back atmosphere because today we’ll dive into some of London’s busiest attractions: Borough Market, Bankside, and The Shard. The good part is that the three of them are super close to each other, so you can devote plenty of time to explore each one.
Londoners love Borough Market, especially those with love for food. Considered the foodies market par excellence, Borough Market, is one of London’s largest and oldest food markets, dating back to the 12th Century. You can find food from every corner of the world here. No matter what exotic flavor you are looking for, they have it. You’ll be visiting Borough Market in the morning, which gives you an excellent opportunity to sample their delicacies. There’s no shortage of breakfast options, but if you’re looking for a safe bet, go for Maria’s Market Cafe, whose English breakfast is the best town.
Bankside is a popular neighborhood near Borough Market and south of the Thames. Since it sits south of the Thames, many locals argue it offers excellent riverside views. Like most of London, Bankside is rife with places to discover, but I suggest you head directly to Bermondsey Street. Once the hub of London’s tanning industry, Bermondsey Street houses most of Bankside’s attractions. You’ll find tons of excellent restaurants and sites in this area, including art studios and the old London Leather Hide & Wool Exchange.
You’ll finish off day four of your two weeks in London with a spectacular view of the city. Designed by Renzo Piano, The Shard is a 72-floor glass skyscraper that holds the title as the tallest building in the UK and Western Europe. Even though it opened in 2013, it quickly became an iconic sight of London’s skyline. The building welcomes visitors on its 69th and 72nd floors, which offer bird-eye views of London.
While London has many free attractions, The Shard isn’t one of them, and its entrance fee is quite pricey. You can get tickets for £39 booking in advance via the Shard website or find cheaper tickets booking from Tuesday to Thursday (£25.) If you have the London Pass, admission to The Shard is free.
Day 5: Royal London: Westminster, Buckingham & Kensington
No London itinerary is complete without visiting the royal buildings. As you might know, the Royal Family is a big deal in Britain, and surprisingly, it has gained a legion of fans globally. While you might not be one of them, visiting royal buildings is a must given their importance in British history and culture. And, to be fair, their architecture is just breathtaking.
Today, we’ll explore three royal attractions: Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, and Kensington Palace.
As the name suggests, you’ll find Westminster Abbey in the Westminster area as the name suggests. It is adjacent to the Houses of Parliament (Day 1,) so you won’t have difficulty orienting yourself in these surroundings. To get to Westminster Abbey, you can take three lines; Jubilee, District, or Circle lines; which one you choose depends on where you’re staying in London. Once you reach the tube station, head south on Parliament Street.
Westminster Abbey is a royal church. Its construction started in the 11th Century under King Edward the Confessor, ruling and was the first English church built in Romanesque style. Since the beginning, the church has been close to the monarchy, having played host to coronations and other ceremonies since 1066. While burials haven’t taken place here since 1760, the Abbey houses the tombs of thirty English monarchs and many Prime Ministers. However, most people recognize the building for hosting Prince William and Princess Kate’s wedding in 2011.
The Abbey welcomes visitors who want to explore its interiors. The admission fee costs £5.00 to explore the Abbey’s interior, or you can use your London Pass to access it for free.
Buckingham Palace is one (of many) Queen Elizabeth’s residences. The lavish building is open to the public during the summer months between July to September, when the Queen flees to Balmoral Castle in Scotland for her summer vacations. Admission is £20 per person, and you’ll need to book a tour online in advance.
Like most royal buildings, Buckingham Palace is enormous, featuring 775 rooms. However, the tour doesn’t include a visit to all of them. Instead, the palace opens 19 magnificent State Rooms, used during the year for official entertaining and ceremonial functions, for the public to explore.
If you’re in for a protocolar treat, try to schedule your visit around 11:30 to witness the Changing of Guards. The military tradition lasts approximately one hour.
Kensington Palace is another royal residence. The only difference is that it serves as the home for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (William and Kate) and other royal family members. The residence is a two-story Jacobean mansion built in 1605, and, unlike Buckingham Palace, you can visit it year-round. When in there, take a tour around Kensington Gardens, one of London’s eight Royal Parks, to witness the gorgeous flower beds and manicured lawns.
Day 6: East London: Shoreditch & Brick Lane
Once famous for being the scenario where Jack the Ripper committed his crimes, today, East London is a haven for vintage bargains, street-art viewing, and Indian food.
Being the city’s creative and artistic hub, Shoreditch is arguably London’s most colorful corner. The area’s eclectic vibe has appealed to London’s artistic types since the 1980s, when young British artists, fashion designers, and other creatives made Shoreditch’s Victorian factories their new homes and studios.
Later in the 1990s, street artists came over to Shoreditch and covered its walls with provocative drawings and messages. Entering the millennium, Shoreditch established itself as a hotspot for culture, startups, and nightlife, with hipsters and trendsetters from all over the world flooding its streets.
Brick Lane is the centerpiece of East London, running south from Swanfield Street in Bethnal Green and crossing Bethnal Green Road in Shoreditch. The street has over 450 years of history and is the place where Londoners go when they are hunting for a bargain and looking for a hefty portion of curry.
Both curry houses and quirky shops define Brick Lane’s essence. The street is overflowing with vintage fashion boutiques, antique shops, second-hand furniture stalls, and art galleries.
There’s a reason why Londoners come here to get their curry; Indian food is one of those must-try London foods. Brick Lane experienced a huge Bengali settlement during the 20th century. It turns out; these communities brought their exotic flavors with them. Most Indian restaurants concentrate in the stretch going from Aldgate East to Whitechapel. Still, according to EasyJet Traveller magazine, the top three curry houses on Brick Lane in 2021 were Aladin, Sheba, and City Spice.
If spicy Indian food isn’t your cup of tea, Brick Lane is also home to Chez Elles Bistro (French food) at the south end or Sichuan Folk (one of the most authentic Chinese restaurants in London) at the intersection of Hanbury Street.
Day 7: Explore Harry Potter’s London
If you’re anything like me, part of what makes London so special is its connection to the Harry Potter saga. The book and its characters are quintessentially British and introduced many people to British places, customs, and traditions.
Whether you’re a Harry Potter fan or not, paying a visit to the Harry Potter Studio in Leavesden is a fantastic way to do something different, and you get to escape the hectic city briefly.
The Harry Potter Studio Tour sits outside of London in Leavesden. While it’s only one hour away from London, you’ll have to plan how to get there. First, when it comes to purchasing your tickets, there’s no time to spare. The HP studio is extremely popular, and some people book their tickets months in advance. So, if you intend to visit at some point during your two weeks in London, make sure you book your tickets sooner rather than later. The tickets are quite pricey, with standard tickets costing £47 for adults and £38 for children, although there’s a £150 family ticket option for two adults and two kids or one adult and three kids.
Moving on to the transportation logistics, the best way to reach Leavesden is by taking the London Midlands train from Euston Station to Watford Junction station and then a transfer shuttle bus to reach the studio.
There’s no need to say that visiting the HP studio is a magical experience for Potterheads. Here you can satiate your Wizarding World cravings in every possible way. You’ll see iconic sets from the movie, including the Cupboard Under the Stairs, Dumbledore’s Office, and the Great Hall. The tour also displays original props and costumes. Regarding the technical parts, there are incredible exhibitions explaining how the crew brought the films to life and the special effects they used.
There’s also a café, The Backlot Cafe, which, in my opinion, has the best and creamiest butterbeer recipe. They also have other British and American comfort food to choose from on the menu. When you finish the tour, stop by the gift store. Their prices might bring a tear to your eye, but I assure you you’ll never find such unique HP memorabilia anywhere else.
Day 8: Markets & Museums
As a cosmopolitan city, London has many attractions and of the most diverse kinds. However, two seem to flourish like no other on every corner of the city: markets and museums. The bustling capital is home to 162 markets and over 170 museums. Impressive, right?
Unlike other days, you can organize day eight of your 12 days in London as you please. I’ll give you a few suggestions regarding popular markets and museums you might enjoy, but it’s up to you how and when you visit each one.
Markets to Consider Visiting…
- Broadway Market – Beloved by hipsters, Broadway Market is a local farmers, artists, and craftspeople market located in Hackney. You’ll see that Broadway Market stalls mainly sell food. However, you can also find vintage shops, bookstores, and flower shops. The market opens seven days a week, whereas the Saturday street market (the old-fashioned market) opens every Saturday from 9 am to 5 pm.
- Spitalfields – Are you looking for that unique vintage garment? Old Spitafields Market is your place. The covered market sits opposite Liverpool Street station and is the number one venue to indulge in vintage shopping. You can easily spend hours browsing the funky clothing stalls. The market is open seven days a week. On Thursdays from 8 am to 5 pm, they host the Old Spitalfields Antiques Market, home to over 80 antique specialists and dealers who offer collectibles and objets d’art.
- Portobello Road Market – Despite its (misleading) name, Portobello Road Market isn’t one of London’s foodie markets. Instead, it’s the world’s largest antique market. The market opens every Saturday from 8:30 am, and features five different sections. Each section sells various goodies, like second-hand clothing, household essentials; fruit, vegetables, and other food; and antiques. Portobello opens on Fridays too, although you’ll find the greatest range of antique stalls on Saturdays.
There are loads of other London markets too, if you want more variety.
Museums to Consider Visiting…
Before I dive into the list, I strongly suggest you take time to google London museums and find one that suits your interest. While there are a few iconic museums you shouldn’t miss, it’s better to spend your time exploring one that covers topics you’re actually interested in.
- Tate Britain – If British art and its evolution are within your scope of interest, then Tate Britain is a must-visit. Formerly known as the National Gallery of British Art, the Tate Britain is home to the most extensive collection of British art from 1500 to the present day. It opened in 1897 and is the oldest gallery in the Tate network. The museum is free, and it always hosts a modern art exhibit in the main hall.
- Tate Modern – Another from the Tate network, the Tate Modern, focuses on contemporary art. The national museum houses the nation’s collection of modern art from 1900 to the present day. Here, you can see works by Picasso, Rothko, Dali, and Matisse. It’s also free! If seeing London from a cruise sounds appealing, the Tate network has its own water vehicle, the Tate Boat. The lovely boat travels between the Tate Modern and Britain, carrying passengers who want to explore both venues while giving them a quick peek of the River Thames.
- The British Museum – The British Museum is one of London’s iconic museums. Founded in 1753, the museum has a huge history behind it, being the world’s oldest national public museum. Its collection is as impressive as its history, home to over eight million works and artifacts from every corner of the world. Entrance is free, although temporary exhibitions might require purchasing tickets.
This barely scratches the surface of London’s many museums, if you want other options.
Day 9: North London: Camden, Regent’s Park & Baker Street
North London is one of London’s upmarket postcodes. Instead of hipster and trendsetter Londoners, expect to see many magnates, actors, academics, and politicians roaming around its streets. Still, like most London areas, North London is culturally diverse, and you’ll find a significant number of attractions.
Camden Town is one of North London’s most popular neighborhoods, famous for its nightlife, markets, and musical heritage.
London has given birth to excellent musicians and bands throughout history that have led to new cutting-edge music and influenced the world music scene. Camden Town has a special place in London’s musical background, being the city’s breeding ground for punk music in the 60s. Besides the punk scene, Camden Town is also popular among bargain hunters and foodies, who visit its massive market with over 1000 shops and stalls.
Camden Town can be pretty chaotic, so it’s a good thing that Regent’s Park is so close to it when you need to escape the crowds. One of London’s royal parks, Regent’s Park, is a gorgeous 197-hectare green space designed in 1811. Named after Prince Regent, it used to be a royal hunting ground. The park is a landscaping masterpiece and is home to Queen Mary’s Garden, London’s most extensive collection of roses, with approximately 12,000 roses.
The park also houses the London Zoo on the northern edge. It has many animals, including lions, tigers, gorillas, and penguins, among many others.
221B Baker Street
Besides excellent musicians, London has its fair share of fantastic writers who chose the city as the background to many of their stories. Such is the case, Arthur Conan Doyle and his infamous Sherlock Holmes.
In 1990, a Sherlock Holmes museum opened in a Georgian house located at 221B Baker Street. The museum is a replica of the detective’s house. The first floor recreates Sherlock’s bedroom and study, where he and Doctor Watson solved crimes. On the building’s second floor, you’ll find other rooms with the characters’ personal items, Victorian furniture and décor. There’s also a lovely gift shop, selling Sherlock Holmes souvenirs and memorabilia.
Day 10: Travel by Train to Edinburgh
The best part of staying two weeks in London is that it gives you enough time to pay a visit to neighboring UK countries. On day ten, pack your bags – you’re heading to Scotland!
You’ll want to get up early today to catch the first train to Edinburgh, for what the Brits call a “city break” from London. So, pack your bags the night before, grab breakfast at your hotel, and head to the train station. Pro-tip: pack just a few items into a smaller weekender bag, and check your main luggage at a luggage storage service at the train station that morning.
The average journey time by train between London and Edinburgh is 5 hours and 39 minutes, with the first service leaving at 05:15 am… You don’t need to leave that early, but it’s worth considering how long it takes to reach Edinburgh by train as you plan your day. Most trains depart from London Kings Cross and arrive at Edinburgh Waverley station. Average tickets start from $21.19 when you book in advance. The Train Line is a good site to browse for tickets while you’re organizing this day trip.
Depending on the time you arrive at Edinburgh, you might have time to explore your surroundings and catch a glimpse of the landmarks you’ll be visiting the next day. If you’re too tired from the trip, just find a local pub, grab dinner and a pint, and call it a day.
Day 11: Explore the Edinburgh Castle & Royal Mile
Rise and shine! You only have two days in Scotland, so better make them count. Today you’ll explore more in depth a few of the buildings you passed by yesterday. The good news is that they all are close to each other, giving you enough time to see each one without rushing. Ready? Let’s start!
Edinburgh Castle is a must-stop for everyone who visits Scotland. It sits right in the heart of the Scottish capital, and it’s a fascinating place to learn about the history of the Scottish monarchy.
One of the highlights of visiting the castle is witnessing the gun salute. The firing of the gun dates back to 1861 and takes place at 1 pm every day. A visit to the castle isn’t free, and you’ll need to purchase tickets. I suggest you book them in advance through their website to save you some time and money.
Travelers into photography and families will love the Camera Obscura. Located in the Outlook Tower, Camera Obscura is Scotland’s oldest purpose-built attraction with five floors full of interactive, hands-on optical illusions. There’s also a vortex tunnel, mirror maze, and shrinking room. The building is also a fantastic place to get panoramic views of the city, thanks to its rooftop terrace. Located on top of the historic Royal Mile, Camera Obscura is close to Edinburgh Castle.
St. Giles Cathedral
Located on the Royal Mile, St. Giles Cathedral is a gorgeous parish church built throughout the 14th and 16 centuries. Its facade and interiors are breathtaking, with its fine late-Gothic nave and 15th-century crown tower.
However, the true gem in this cathedral is the little Thistle Chapel added as an extension in the 19th century. The Thistle Chapel is the chapel of the Order of the Thistle, a group of sixteen Knights and Ladies and the British Royal Family, set up by James II of England in 1687, who was the Sovereign of the Order.
Real Mary King’s Close
In the Old Town, Real Mary King’s is a historic close. It takes its name from Mary King, a merchant burgess who resided in the Close in the 17th century. The building held a special place in Scottish history, especially during the bubonic plague. Mary King was a warren of underground passageways below the Royal Mile where less-privileged Scots lived and worked. During the 16th and 17th C, authorities isolated the Close to prevent the spreading of the pandemic. They would send infected people to quarantine and (sometimes) die there.
Scotch Whisky Experience
Scottish whisky, or Scotch, is famous worldwide for its excellent quality. It doesn’t come as a surprise given that Scotland reunites all the conditions needed to make fantastic scotch: the water is perfect, the air is perfect, the climate is perfect, everything is perfect.
If learning about the whisky-making process and tasting a few samples is within your plans, head out to the Scotch Whisky Experience. The whisky company traces the history and evolution of Scotch whisky. The regular tour is a barrel ride through the distillery and includes a tasting at the end. Although, I encourage you to check out their website to learn about all the tours they offer.
Whether you’re looking to grab a bite, buy a few souvenirs, or simply do some window-shopping, the Grassmarket is where you have to go. Set in the heart of Edinburgh’s historic Old Town just behind Edinburgh Castle, the Grassmarket is a lively, bustling area where designers, independent merchants, and artisans offer their best creations. The area is also home to some of Edinburgh’s best pubs and restaurants.
Day 12: Climb Arthur’s Seat & Edinburgh’s New Town
Your second day in Scotland won’t be as jam-packed as your first one, given you’ll be visiting fewer landmarks. Nevertheless, you still want to start your day early to make the most of each location you visit.
Let’s start your day with a little bit of nature. Arthur’s Seat is an ancient volcano located in Holyrood Park- it doesn’t look like your average volcano, though, as grass covers its surface. The magnificent mountain is the main peak of the park, being 823 ft high. Despite its height, it’s a relatively easy and short climb. Plus, the volcano is only a few minutes away from the city center and offers splendid views of Edinburgh from above.
Located on Prince Street Gardens, the Scott Monument and the Edinburgh castle are two of Edinburgh’s most recognized buildings. The monument pays homage to Sir Walter Scott, arguably the most famous Scottish poet and storyteller.
Built about 150 years ago, the building’s gorgeous Gothic architecture will awestruck with its beauty. You can visit the monument’s interior and take a tour to learn more about the author. Although due to the ongoing pandemic, The Scott Monument is not accepting visitors currently.
Scottish National Gallery or Scottish National Portrait Gallery
You’ll find the Scottish National Gallery right between the Scott Monument and the Scotch Whisky Experience. Designed by William Henry Playfair and opened in 1859, the Scottish National Gallery comprises three galleries holding the nation’s collections of portraits and the Scottish National Photography Collection.
Like other British museums, the Scottish National Gallery has a fantastic building. The outside features a characteristic red sandstone Gothic revival style with beautifully sculpted figures decorating it.
Take a Walking Tour
Edinburgh is a culturally rich city with enormous literary and historical heritage. One of the best ways to discover it is to take a tour. You can find tons of options when it comes to city tours. However, here are my two suggestions for something a bit different:
Literary Pub Tour
Literary buffs can sign up for the famous Literary Pub Tour. The tour is a combination of a pub crawl and literary performances. It’s probably the only tour where you can drink and learn simultaneously. Fantastic actors impersonate fictional characters who take you to discover the best of Scottish literature and writers.
Harry Potter Tours
Harry Potter fans will know the influence Edinburgh had on J.K Rowling when she was writing the saga. In fact, she wrote sections of her Harry Potter saga in a lovely Edinburgh café, The Elephant House. You’ll find Harry Potter tours galore in Edinburgh. Some are focused on film locations the crew used to shoot the scenes, whereas other tours focus on the sites that served as an inspiration for the author when creating the Wizarding World.
Day 13: Travel by Train to London
Once again, you’ll want to rise and shine early to catch one of the first trains back to London, or at least an early morning one.
Depending on where you’re staying, you can grab breakfast at your hotel. However, I recommend finding a nice spot in Edinburg to enjoy your meal. This way, you’ll also be able to take one last look at the Scottish capital.
The first train departs from Edinburgh Waverley at 04:40 am. The journey also takes an average of 5 hours 40 minutes. However, it’s unlikely for people to book train tickets so early; you can catch a mid-morning train rather than losin gout on sleep. As usual, remember always to book your tickets in advance to save some money and unnecessary headaches.
By the time you arrive in London, it’s likely to be dinner time. You’ll be familiar with your surroundings, so you can choose to have dinner at eateries close to your hotel, unless you’re flying home tonight (in which case, skip Day 14 on this itinerary!).
Day 14: Live like a Londoner: Sunday Roast & Your Local Pub
Can you believe it’s your last day in London already? Don’t be sad, though. We’ll finish your two weeks in London with a flourish. On your last day, you’ll indulge in some British culinary traditions: eating a Sunday roast and drinking beer at your local pub.
British cuisine doesn’t exactly enjoy a good reputation. However, like Sunday roast, their culinary traditions are lovely and pretty delicious. Sunday roast is a traditional British, and Irish meal served on Sundays. The dish is a mix of roasted meat, roast potatoes, and accompaniments such as Yorkshire pudding, stuffing, gravy, and condiments such as apple sauce, mint sauce, or redcurrant jelly. Its richness has made the dish a staple in Britain’s cold months.
Most pubs serve Sunday Roast on – you guessed it – Sundays, however, you can find restaurants that serve it on weekdays as well. Make sure you ask your hotel to give you a few pub options in your area.
Once you finish your meal, find a cozy pub and grab a pint. The British take great pride in their pubs and beer. These two elements combined give birth to the famous British pub culture, where pubs are the friendly meeting point, and beer is the bubbly companion of football matches, after-work meetings, and family gatherings. You’ll find pubs everywhere in London, but here are a few suggestions you might want to try.
To experience tradition at its best, head out to The Guinea in Mayfair, Hoop & Grapes in Aldgate, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese on Fleet Street, three of London’s oldest pubs. The Pembury Tavern in Hackney or The Crooked Billet in Clapton will do for more trendy options.
Where to Stay in London for Two Weeks
Two weeks is a long time to visit, so you should budget accordingly for your London trip. You’ll need 10 nights of London accommodation, and 3 nights in Edinburgh.
A lot of people will advise you to stay in Central London on your first trip; 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).
I also have a list of the absolute best areas to stay in London, if you want even more choices.
Other London Itineraries to Consider
Do you actually have 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
- How to Make the Most of 2 Days 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)
Aaaand, that’s a wrap! Two weeks is a long time to spend in London – but it’s also a lovely amount of time because you have zero rush and can really dig in deep to explore all that London has to offer. Do you have any questions about how to spend two weeks in London? Let me know in the comments, or join the conversation in my London Travel Tips Facebook community.