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Itineraries

4 Days in London: A Perfect Long Weekend Itinerary

When I lived in London, I was pretty pro at the “city break,” as the Brits call it. You take off a day or two and plan a four-day trip somewhere beautiful; during my time in London, I visited Edinburgh, Prague, and even Lisbon this way. I knew that while four days is not enough to see everything in a city, it’s enough for a great weekend trip. I had learned this from my first international trip, where I spent 4 days in London.

During that first four-day London trip in 2011, I arrived and hit the ground running. While 4 days in London is not enough to see everything – or really even most of London – it’s enough to get a taste for the city. This four-day London itinerary works perfectly if you have a long weekend to explore (Friday through Monday).

Whatever brings you to London, you’ll see that you can pack a ton into 4 days in London and discover if this is a city you want to visit again in the future. Read on for my suggested 4-day London itinerary, including practical tips on saving and enjoying every day of it.

Day 1: Westminster & Soho

V at Parliament View Square
  • Main Sights: Westminster Palace, Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square, Covent Garden, London Eye
  • Tube: Start at Westminster (Jubilee/District/Circle); End at Embankment (Northern/Bakerloo/District/Circle) or Waterloo (Jubilee/Northern/Bakerloo)
  • Distance on Foot: 3.7 miles

If you’re planning to spend 4 days in London, you have to start somewhere, right? Today’s the day to explore some of the top sights and spots in Central London. You’ll get to see those postcard-worthy iconic sights you’ve always imagined seeing in London – and this is just Day 1!

The Houses of Parliament (Palace of Westminster)

Parliament on a Cloudy Day

In a city as iconic as London, it’s hard to choose the most iconic sight – but it’s gotta be Big Ben, right? Okay technically, Big Ben is the name of the bell inside the Elizabethan Tower, which is part of the Palace of Westminster. But it’s all the same place, and you don’t even need a photo to picture it in your mind. Now that’s iconic.

Start your first day in London at this site; when you exit Westminster tube station, you can’t miss it. Take some time to stroll across Westminster Bridge on the north side, taking in the view of the Palace of Westminster, the Thames, the London Eye, and the rest of the view. When you get to the Southbank, head down the steps and cross under the bridge. Then you’ll be at my favorite viewpoint for this building! (Pictured above.)

You can then climb back up the stairs and re-cross Westminster Bridge on the south side, before continuing up into Westminster.

Trafalgar Square

London Itineraries - Trafalgar Square

Instead of exploring Westminster more today (that’s for Day 4), turn right up Parliament Street and head toward Trafalgar Square. This road is iconic in its own right: you’ll pass war memorials, cabinet buildings, and even Whitehall (where the Prime Minister resides).

You’ll know you’ve reached Trafalgar Square when you see the giant column topped with a statue. That’s Nelson’s Column, named for Admiral Horatio Nelson who died in the Battle of Trafalgar (hence the name) in 1805.

You can stroll around Trafalgar Square, or pop into the National Gallery, which is on the opposite side of the square from how you entered it. Don’t forget to look around the rotunda – you can peek through Admiralty Arch toward Buckingham Palace (again, Day 4) or up the Strand, which curves off toward the City of London and East London (where you’ll go on Day 2).

There isn’t really a “center” of London, but Trafalgar Square is definitely one of the major navigational landmarks from which you can reach a number of other sightseeing spots in the city. When you’re ready to depart, set out toward Leicester Square.

Piccadilly Circus

Taxi in Piccadilly Circus

To reach Piccadilly Circus from Trafalgar Square, head west out of the square until you hit the first big street, Haymarket. Head north on Haymarket and it will lead you to Piccadilly Circus.

Here you’ll find the surprisingly small statue of Cupid that serves as a landmark for a lot of walking tours. You’ll also be bombarded with the bright, flashy billboards in this busy intersection. Yep, there are definitely some Times Square vibes here!

This is another photo spot, but there isn’t a ton to see. As you’ll get the sense, many of the places you’re visiting today are frequented by bus routes, so you may end up passing through again while exploring other parts of London.

Leicester Square

From Piccadilly Circus, head east along Coventry Street (not bustling Shaftsbury Avenue) toward Leicester Square. You can’t miss it when you arrive: this small green space is bordered on four sides by tall buildings, many of which are Theatres. You’re now in part of London’s West End!

I didn’t include any theatre productions on your itinerary, but this is definitely something you can add; you’ll also find last-minute ticket vendors here offering some shows at a discount.

Chinatown

Leave Leicester Square to the north along Wardour Street; within one block you’ll feel like you’ve traveled thousands of miles as you enter London’s Chinatown. This isn’t a large area, but there are some fabulous restaurants and bars here.

If you haven’t gotten lunch by this point, I recommend heading into Dumplings’ Legend for an order (or two) of Xiao Long Bao. These “Shanghai soup dumplings” are one of the most delicious foods I discovered on my trip to China a few years ago.

Covent Garden

London Itineraries - Covent Garden

Legs rested and belly full, it’s time to continue onto Covent Garden. I’ll admit: I didn’t spend much time in this area when living in London because it’s always so full of tourists!

To reach Covent Garden, make your way north out of Chinatown to Shaftsbury Avenue and follow it northeast (to the right). Cross Charing Cross Road and turn onto Earlham Street. This will take you to Seven Dials, at the north end of Covent Garden. Then you can explore!

Covent Garden is known for its shopping and entertainment, so you can spend a few hours wandering the streets for souvenirs, watching street performers, and soaking it all in. Be sure to head to the Covent Garden, a covered mall with a number of shops on two levels. There are typically great street performers at either end of the building too.

I also recommend grabbing dinner in this area. If you’re up for a splurge, I ate at San Carlo Cicchetti (on Wellington Street) on one recent trip to London and it was decadent. Otherwise there are plenty of options.

London Eye

End your long first day of exploring London with a sunset ride on the London Eye! You’ll want to time your ticket to start about 45-60 minutes before sunset, so plan accordingly based on the time of year you’re visiting.

To reach the London Eye, you can walk south out of Covent Garden until you hit the Strand. Turn right (southwest) and follow it to Trafalgar Square. Turn onto Northumberland Ave and follow it until you cross the Thames. From here you can see the Eye; head down onto the Southbank and join the queue. Or, if you’re feeling footsore, hail a black London cab. Having a ride in one of these iconic cars is a unique London experience in its on right!

Based on your timing when you board The Eye, you’ll be able to see London “by day.” The sun will set during your ride, giving you a view of London from above during the golden hour, and “by night” too!

Then it’s time to return to your hotel (Waterloo or Embankment are the two closest tube stations, depending on which line you need) and rest up. This was a jam-packed first day and you’ve still got three more days in London!

Day 2: The City and East London

Tower Bridge and the City of London
  • Main Sights: St. Paul’s Cathedral, The Monument, Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Brick Lane, Shoreditch
  • Tube: Start at St. Paul’s (Central); End at Shoreditch High Street (Overground)
  • Distance on Foot: 2.3 miles, plus a Tube ride from Tower Hill to Aldgate East

For your second of this four-day London itinerary, today is the day to activate your 3-day London Pass, if you decided to purchase that for this trip. (It’ll save you money – read my London Pass review to see how!)

For lunch today, you can have it at one of two points:

  1. Between The Tower of London and Tower Bridge: there are a number of pubs and restaurants in the area, including nearby St. Katherine’s Dock.
  2. Before exploring Brick Lane: Brick Lane is full of incredible Indian restaurants, giving you a chance to enjoy this quintessential London food.

St. Paul’s Cathedral

Start at my favorite place in all of London: St. Paul’s Cathedral. This beautiful building was designed by Sir Christopher Wren, the famous English architect, and completed in 1675.

There’s a £17 admission fee (included in the London Pass) to enter the cathedral, which includes access to climb the dome. If you’re able to climb the 528 steps to the top, I recommend doing so! You’ll have stunning 360-degree views of London, and you’ll be able to see the dome up close.

The Monument

From St. Paul’s, head east on Cannon Street. When you reach Monument Tube station, turn left on King William Street, and right on Monument Street. You’ll see The Monument in front of you.

This too was built by Sir Christopher Wren, to commemorate the Great Fire of London in 1666. (Incidentally, the Great Fire started about 200 feet from this Monument, hence its’ location.) You can pay a £5 fee (also included in the London Pass) to climb the 311 steps of the Monument. From the top, enjoy views of the City of London and London Bridge.

Tower of London

Tower Bridge

From the Monument, make your way back to Monument station, and continue east on Eastcheap. This will take you to the Tower of London (you can’t miss it!).

The Tower of London is another one of those you-only-need-to-do-it-once-but-you-gotta-do-it sights in London. The Tower of London dates back to 1066 and the Norman Conquest of England over the Romans; the White Tower inside the Tower of London dates to 1097.

If this is your first trip to London, I recommend queuing up for tickets and doing the tour with one of the famous Beefeaters. 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. You can also see the Crown Jewels on display.

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge in London

From the Tower of London, you can see picturesque Tower Bridge, so make your way there once you’ve finished your guided or self-guided tour at the Tower of London.

There are a few choices for how to experience Tower Bridge: you could just cross the bridge and admire it from both sides of the Thames, or you can purchase admission to climb the towers and cross the span above street level. Admission is £10.60 (also included in your London Pass), and a great option for architecture and engineering buffs.

Brick Lane

From Tower Bridge, head north up Tower Bridge Road to Tower Hill tube station. Take a District Line train east to Aldgate East station. Head east on Whitechapel High Street to turn left on Brick Lane.

If you love street art, Brick Lane is the place to go. This street runs north from the Whitechapel neighborhood to Shoreditch. You can see work by globally-renowned street artists; at different times there have been Banksy’s here, and my favorite artist Dal East has done work here too. There are free walking tours if you want a guide.

As I mentioned, there are also incredible Indian and Bangladeshi restaurants along Brick Lane; perfect for a late lunch or early dinner!

Shoreditch

After strolling up Brick Lane, you’ll end up in the Shoreditch area. It’s full of foodie hotspots and street art and plenty of cool things to do after nightfall. (I enjoyed many nights out here while living in London!)

There are so many incredible restaurants and bars to choose from that it’s hard to go wrong here. You can use this guide from Eater London if you want to pick one or create a shortlist before you arrive and get decision paralysis.

If you’re staying at The Hoxton Shoreditch, this is a convenient end to the night; otherwise, you’ll head to Shoreditch High Street Overground station to catch a train back to your accommodation.

Day 3: South London & Greenwich

4 Days in London - Greenwich
  • Main Sights: The Shard, Shakespeare’s Globe, Thames River Cruise*, Cutty Sark, Old Royal Naval College, Royal Observatory Greenwich
  • Tube: Start at London Bridge (Jubilee/Northern); End at Cutty Sark for Maritime Greenwich (DLR)
  • Distance on Foot: 3.8 miles in two parts (1.8 miles in Central London, 2.0 miles in Greenwich)

It’s Day 3 of your 4 days in London and Day 2 of your London Pass. While it’s already saving you money – let’s keep that going and take in some of the other top sights in London. Today will also be a short foray “out” of London – to neighboring Greenwich, which is actually within London but has an entirely unique feel.

I always love recommending a day trip like this when visiting London, because there’s so much more to England than London – as great as the city is.

The Shard

Start your day by taking the tube to London Bridge station; from here you can exit and grab breakfast at Borough Market before walking to the towering Shard.

This building stands 72 stories tall at 1,016 feet, and was constructed in 2009; unlike many of the newer oddly shaped building in London, the Shard is on the south side of the Thames and there are no buildings around to compete with its dominating presence.

On the 69th-72nd floors – right at the top! – you can visit the View from the Shard (included on your London Pass). You’ll see all of London spread out below you – a real perspective-changer!

Shakespeare’s Globe

4 Days in London - Shakespeare's Globe

Once you’re back on ground level, make the short walk back past London Bridge and Borough Market to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. This is another top attraction – perfect for history and culture buffs – that’s also included in the London Pass.

Inside the Globe you can take a guided tour and learn about Shakespeare’s work and long-standing impact. There are also shows still produced on the stage; depending on the time, you may want to add one of these onto your itinerary for another time.

Thames River Cruise*

If you’re reading this before October 2021, you can take a different route to Greenwich than the standard Tube/DLR combo that Citymapper might suggest. Through that month, the London Pass includes a Thames River Cruise to/from Greenwich from either Westminster or Tower piers. A scenic Thames cruise is a far more enjoyable way to reach Greenwich than the Tube and DLR!

Based on this itinerary, I recommend crossing the Thames, walking to Tower Pier, and taking the cruise from there.

(If you are reading this after October 2021, you can walk back to London Bridge tube, catch the Jubilee Line to Canary Wharf, and switch there to the DLR to Greenwich.)

Cutty Sark

Cutty Sark

Once you step off the boat (or DLR) and into Greenwich, it’s hard to miss the beautiful Cutty Sark on her dry dock near the banks of the Thames. Admission to this museum is also included in your London Pass.

The Cutty Sark was originally built in 1869 and sailed on a regular tea trade with China through 1877, to Australia as part of the wool trade through the 1880s, and on various cargo routes through the 1890s. While this doesn’t sound like a long time, the Cutty Sark was a record-breaking ship, setting speed records for a number of routes and helping connect the world at that time.

Today you can enter the museum – which is beautifully designed to show off the ship in her entirety, and allows you to visit the upper decks. This is on my London bucket list for a future trip!

Old Royal Naval College

4 Days in London - Old Royal Naval College

Called Britain’s Sistine Chapel, the Painted Hall at the Old Royal Naval College is also part of the London Pass. This 18th-century baroque masterpiece is one of the many impressive art experiences you can have in London, but comes with access to explore the rest of this sprawling estate.

The history of the Old Royal Naval College alone is fascinating. Both Henry VIII and Elizabeth I were born here, but it bears the stamp of several other monarchs and royals too – including Charles II, William III, and Mary I. After its redesign in 1694-1696 and over the centuries since, the Old Royal Naval College was used and preserved and is now a UNESCO site.

Royal Observatory Greenwich

As if you haven’t explored enough of Greenwich, I have one more place to recommend – and arguably it is the ‘crown jewel’ of experiences here.

The name Greenwich might sound familiar due to the time zone – this is in fact the place that the Prime Meridian, the center of Greenwich Mean Time, passes through London.

The Royal Observatory in Greenwich is home to the Prime Meridian marker, and admission is included as part of the London Pass too. You can stand right on the Prime Meridian, learn about the science that was based at this facility over the centuries, and even view one of the old telescopes used for stargazing at a time when London was a much smaller city.

Day 4: Explore Royal London

  • Main Sights: Westminster Abbey, Wellington Arch, Kensington Palace, Windsor Castle
  • Tube: Start at Westminster (Jubilee/District/Circle); End at High Street Kensington (District/Circle) or Paddington (Bakerloo/District/Circle)
  • Distance on Foot: 3.7 miles (in London), 1.0 miles (in Windsor)

Four days is far too short a time to spend in London – but if you only have four days in London, let’s end it with a full day! Again today is another day to use your London Pass; I decided to create a theme for today, which is all about the royals! You’ll visit a number of royal sites across London (and possibly beyond!).

There are also a few options for which activities to do today – depending on how much energy you have by this point in this four-day London itinerary and how much you’re willing to travel.

Westminster Abbey

Start your final morning with an early visit to Westminster Abbey. This gorgeous High Gothic Cathedral is home to many a royal event. Most recently, you might have seen it as the location where Prince William (third in line for the throne) married Princess Kate, back in 2011.

You can use your London Pass to enter Westminster Abbey for free. Or, if you’re not up for exploring on your own inside, you can walk around and admire the architecture from all angles outside.

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace

From Westminster Abbey, make your way up to Birdcage Walk (yep, that’s the name of a street!). Follow it westward along the edge of St. James’s Park; this is one of several huge green spaces in London that exist thanks to the Royal Family.

At the end of St. James’s Park, you can walk up Spur Road to Buckingham Palace. This royal residence is also the official administrative offices of the monarchy; you can tell the queen is at Buckingham when her Royal Standard is flying atop the building. (I’ve never seen it!)

Here is your first option for the day: you can take a tour of Buckingham Palace, or enjoy it from the outside and visit Windsor Castle in the afternoon instead. There isn’t enough time in the day to do both.

If you’d rather not travel to Windsor today, plan ahead and book your timed tour to Buckingham Palace now. This tour takes 2-2.5 hours, so by the time you finish, it’s nearly time for lunch!

Wellington Arch

Wellington Arch

From Buckingham, continue west along Constitution Hill. This road cuts between the private Buckingham Palace Gardens and Green Park – both were originally royal grounds though. At the end of the road, you’ll see Wellington Arch.

Wellington Arch was originally built as the entrance to Buckingham Palace; today it’s an attraction on its own. You can use your London Pass to visit for free, climbing the stairs or taking the lift. The view from five stories up will show you the sprawling green spaces all around you – including Hyde Park, your next stop.

Hyde Park

If you’re starting to feel hungry, begin your exploration of Hyde Park by making your way to the Serpentine Bar & Kitchen (straight into the park along Serpentine Road). This is a picturesque spot for lunch, and appropriately popular with tourists as a result.

After refueling, you can begin exploring Hyde Park – which is a huge 350 acres and full of sights. You’ve already seen The Serpentine lake; don’t miss:

  • The Hyde Park Rose Garden
  • The Princess Diana Memorial Fountain
  • Queen Caroline’s Temple
  • The Peter Pan Statue

And just generally strolling the beautifully arranged trails that criss-cross the park.

Kensington Palace

4 Days in London - Kensington Palace

As you explore Hyde Park, continue in a generally westward direction and you’ll eventually end up near Kensington Palace in the southwest corner of the Park. This is the royal residence for William & Kate, along with a number of other royal family members. It was originally built in 1605!

This is yet another attraction you can visit for free using your London Pass. You should arrange your tickets in advance though, as it’s based on timed admission, just like Buckingham Palace.

If you chose to visit Buckingham Palace in the morning, you’re probably getting a bit footsore. In that case, it’s time to find dinner and make your way back to your hotel for your last night of London sleep. If you skipped touring Buckingham, read on for the last activity of your final day in London.

Windsor Castle

Still with me? To visit Winsdor, I recommend grabbing lunch to go now and catching the train to Windsor to tour this royal residence. From Kensington Palace, head to High Street Kensington tube station and make your way to Paddington Station. From Paddington, board a train for Slough and change at Slough for a train to Windsor & Eton Central. It takes about an hour each way to reach Windsor from London (and return). Be sure to show your London Pass at each step of the journey to staff.

It’s a short walk from the train station to Windsor Castle; you’ll also see a bit of Windsor town too.

Once you arrive at the castle, take a look: is the Royal Standard flying here instead of Buckingham? Windsor is the queen’s official home, so she’s here more often, depending on political events.

To tour Windsor, show your London Pass and you’ll receive free admission and a self-guided multimedia tour. It takes up to three hours to explore all of Windsor, so plan for that! Once you’ve completed the tour, you can grab a snack before catching the next train back to London for dinner and your final night.

Final Thoughts on this Four-Day London Itinerary

I’ll be honest: this is definitely an ambitious itinerary for 4 days in London. I feel tired thinking about doing it all, but when you only have four days in London, you have to make the most of it!

My most practical tip is to plan ahead by wearing comfortable shoes and refueling with water and food often, and you’ll have a great time, even if you do end up footsore.

Where to Stay in London for 4 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 four days 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 KensingtonChelsea, 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 LaneShoreditch, 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 more or less time to spend in London? Here are other London itineraries I’ve written to help you plan:

If you have other questions about how to spend four days in London, let me know in the comments!

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    Valerie fell in love with London on my first trip to the city way back in 2011. Since then, she spent a year living in London and visits as often as she can. Join her to explore my favorite city on earth and learn everything you need to discover the best London has to offer!

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