Itineraries

6 Days in London: A Perfect First-Time Itinerary

One of the toughest parts about being an American who wants to visit Europe is the time constraint. Most of us only get two weeks of paid vacation per year – and it’s easy to burn a few days of each trip just in travel time! The reality is that when you take a week to visit London or other parts of Europe, you really only get to enjoy six days in that destination. For this reason, many people who think they’ll have a week find themselves cramming seven days’ worth of activities into 6 days in London. Instead, just plan ahead and use my perfect 6-day London itinerary!

Actually, six days is the perfect amount of time to explore London. You won’t feel rushed as you might during 5 days in London, and you don’t have an extra day for a day trip as when spending a week in London. Your six-day London itinerary focuses exclusively on the must-see sights within London; it packs a lot in – but it also doesn’t overdo it. (If you discover you want to take more PTO to visit London, I also have London itineraries of other durations too!)

After living in London for a year and visiting at least once a year since moving away, I feel confident that I can put together an itinerary for the perfect first-time trip to London. Over 6 days in London, you’ll have incredible experiences and make unforgettable memories in my favorite city!

Day 1 – Arrival, Westminster & the Southbank

You’ll probably arrive in London in the morning and your first day will likely be hard. All you will want to do is lay your head on a pillow and recover from a pretty uncomfortable airplane seat and jet lag. Don’t succumb to your body yearning for a bed, though! Grab your comfiest shoes, a bottle of water, and get going to know some of the most iconic sights of this amazing city. It’s all about squeezing as much as you can into your 6 days in London!

  • Main Sights: Houses of Parliament, Southbank, London Eye
  • Tube: Start at Westminster Station (Jubilee), End at Waterloo Station (Jubilee)
  • Distance on Foot: 0.7 miles 

See the Houses of Parliament

You’ll start day one of your London six-day itinerary in one of London’s most iconic landmarks, the Houses of Parliament.

Many people know this historic building thanks to The Houses of Parliament’s iconic clock tower (you already grasp what we are talking about, right?) Yes, it’s Big Ben. Technically, Big Ben is the name of the bell inside the Elizabethan Tower, which is also part of the Palace of Westminster. However, the name has been extended to name all three buildings. 

Today, all three are among London’s most iconic landmarks and must-see sites.  

How do you get to the Houses of Parliament? The tube, obviously. Once you exit Westminster tube station, it is right there. Have your camera ready for you are about to see one of the city’s most Instagrammable spots. Once you’re done, cross Westminster bridge on the western side of the road, and head down the stairs to the riverfront path. 

Explore the Southbank

The cultural heart of London, Southbank sits just across the river from the Houses of Parliament, stretching between Westminster Bridge and Blackfriars bridge on the south side of the River Thames. In this lively area, you’ll find everything from street performers to art and foodie treats to old book stores. Take your time to explore this part of the city since there’s so much to do and see. 

Pro tip: Don’t fall for tourists traps like the London Aquarium and the London Dungeon – there are plenty of other experiences more worth your vacation budget.

Ride the London Eye

Now that you’re in the Southbank, you can’t miss the London Eye. The city of London is just as beautiful from above and the best way to appreciate it is to book a ride aboard the London Eye.  

Try to get your tickets for the London Eye as soon as you arrive in the Southbank and book them so that you’re on The Eye 30 minutes around sunset; this means your ticket should have a start time 45-60 minutes before sunset. Scheduling your ride around this time is the perfect way to have panoramic views of London by day and night! 

Besides the tickets, another thing to keep in mind is the weather. If you see the weather is a little unpredictable, you can try to include this sight another day so as to get the best views. Or just take your chances and book the tickets anyway. Whatever you decide, make sure to include The Eye somewhere along your 6 days in London.

Phew, it’s been a long day, right? Get off The Eye and head to your hotel. If you’re feeling hungry, you can grab a quick bite in some of the pubs scattered around the Southbank or just eat back at your hotel. 

Day 2 – Royal London & the Parks

It’s time to start the second day of your London 6-day itinerary. Hopefully, you’ve had a good night of sleep because today involves a lot of walking!

It’s undeniable that the monarchy and the Royal Family are a huge attraction of the UK (sometimes, even foreigners love them more than the locals.) As such, many travelers have a great desire to be part of the hype and visit the residences and parks that the Royals call home.

  • Main Sights: St. James’s Park, Buckingham Palace, Green Park, Wellington Arch, Hyde Park, Kensington Palace
  • Tube: Start at London Victoria (Victoria line); End at High Street Kensington (District/Circle) 
  • Distance on Foot: 2.2 miles 

Stroll Through St. James’s Park

St James Park

Also known as the Queen’s front garden, St James’s Park is beside Buckingham Palace and is one of London’s eight Royal Parks. Locals love it because of its manicured gardens and the charming variety of birds who call its large lake home. There’s awesome scenery all over, and the park makes for a nice break from all the buzz of yesterday’s spots. 

Visit Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace is a stone’s throw away from St. James Park. You just have to walk through the park and reach Spur Road to the west to arrive at the impressive home of The Queen. 

While you can admire the opulent facade of the royal residence all year round, the tours to explore the lavishing interiors can only be booked during the summer, when the Queen is not in residence. If you can, time your visit around 11:30 am, when the changing of guards ceremony occurs, and you’ll be treated to a spectacle of troops and band marching about.

Pass Green Park

Another of London’s royal parks is Green Park. It stretches along Constitution Hill, and you can walk past it to reach your next destination: Wellington Arch.

Like most of London’s royal parks, you’d expect Green Park to showcase wonderful flower beds all over. However, this is not the case. But do you know why? Rumor has it that back in the seventeenth century, King Charles II’s wife demanded all the flowers be removed from Green Park after she caught him picking flowers there for another woman.

Climb Wellington Arch

6 Days in London - Wellington Arch

Right at the end of Constitution Hill, you’ll find Wellington Arch, a historical landmark originally built as the entrance to Buckingham Palace. To climb up Wellington Arch, you can book your tickets in advance or buy them in situ. If you have a London Pass, you can visit the site for free. The view from five stories up will show you the sprawling green spaces all around you – including Hyde Park, your next stop.

Wander in Hyde Park

All of the parks in London are charming in their own way. This said, the gardens of Hyde Park are just immaculate; there are not enough words to explain how beautiful they are and how much effort has gone into creating and up-keeping the flowers, trees, and bushes. 

Hyde Park is a good place to recharge your batteries. There are a number of cafes and restaurants dotted around, and you’ll never be short of places to get ice cream. The Serpentine Lake in the middle of the park is a great spot to start your tour around the park. Then you can visit The Hyde Park Rose Garden, The Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, Queen Caroline’s Temple, and The Peter Pan Statue. 

Tour Kensington Palace

Best London Parks - Kensington Gardens

Located in the southwest corner of Hyde Park is Kensington Palace. Originally built in 1605, Kensington Palace is the official London residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (William and Kate), along with a number of other royal family members. 

Kensington  Palace is situated within Kensington Gardens, a royal park that is seamlessly joined to Hyde Park. So, you just have to walk in a westward direction to find the royal residence. You can visit the site for free if you have a London Pass. Still, get your tickets in advance as it’s based on timed admission.

Day 3 – Top Sights in Central London

Day 3 will be a long day of walking, too. It’s just that London has so much to do that it is not enough to spend only six days there! Today you’ll explore other iconic sights and areas of London, such as Piccadilly Circus.

  • Main Sights: Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square, Covent Garden, West End
  • Tube: Start at Piccadilly Circus (Central); End at Covent Garden Tube Station (Piccadilly Line)or Leicester Square Tube Station (Northern Line). 
  • Distance on Foot: 1.1 miles

Visit Piccadilly Circus

6 Days in London - Taxi in Piccadilly Circus

Just the name, Piccadilly Circus, argues this spot is going to be an amazing place. Located in London’s West End, in the city of Westminster, Piccadilly Circus has several notable sites and attractions and is one of the busiest junctions in London. Most people know it for the small statue of Cupid and flashy lights from giant screens displaying various advertisements. 

If you’re looking for the place to snap your next profile picture, Piccadilly Circus is the perfect spot!

Admire Art in Trafalgar Square

London Itineraries - Trafalgar Square

From Piccadilly Circus, head South of Leicester Square to reach the second most popular square in London, Trafalgar Square. Designed in 1830 to commemorate the British victory against the French and Spanish fleets in the Battle of Trafalgar, Trafalgar square features a variety of statues, monuments, and memorials amid two very large fountains at the center. You’ll also find both the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery, whose admission is entirely free.

Trafalgar Square is also the home of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, a historic church where you can enjoy free concerts at various times throughout the week.

Pass through Leicester Square

The National Gallery is flanked by St. Martin’s street. Just follow that street to the east, and you’ll find right at the end of the road, Leicester Square. The most iconic attraction is the statue of William Shakespeare at the center of the square. However, scattered around the green space, there are also lots of pop culture iconic figures immortalized as statues, like Mr. Bean, Mary Poppins, and many more. 

Shop at Covent Garden

London Itineraries - Covent Garden

Covent Garden is a district in London, on the eastern fringes of the West End, between St Martin’s Lane and Drury Lane. Filled with restaurants, bars, markets, and boutiques, Covent Garden is all things to all people.  

Besides the eclectic mix of entertainment, Covent Garden is an excellent neighborhood to splurge a bit. We say splurge because Covent Garden is home to mostly world-class fashion, beauty, and lifestyle stores.

Attend a Show in the West End

The last stop of day three, the West End, is for the theater lover.  For those who don’t know, the West End is the Broadway of London, and you can find thirty-eight theaters there, among which some are the most important in the English-speaking world.

You can get discount tickets in areas like Covent Garden and Leicester Square once you arrive and know what you want to see. 

Day 4 – Bankside & The Tower of London

Wow, you’ve covered four out of your six days in London already! Time does fly when you’re in such an amazing city like London. Today you’ll be walking too –sorry, feet– but the good news is that once you reach each spot, you can take a break and explore them at your own pace. Let’s see what London has in store for you today! 

  • Main Sights: Borough Market, Bermondsey, the Shard, Tower of London, Brick Lane, Shoreditch
  • Tube: Start at London Bridge (Jubilee/Northern); End at Tower Hill or Tower Gateway
  • Distance on Foot: 1.9 miles 

Brunch at Borough Market

Skip breakfast at your hotel and head right away to Borough Market. This foodies market is perfect to grab a generous brunch, with influences from many places around the world, such as France, Italy, Turkey, India, Thailand, and Mexico.

The market’s history is pretty fascinating as well. Dating back to the 12th Century, Borough Market has never stopped evolving. A few decades ago, it was a wholesale market serving the greengrocers of south London; now, it is a hub for sustainable food production, short supply chains, and social connection, drawing visitors from far and wide.

Stroll through Bermondsey

Now that your belly is full, head towards the east. The neighborhood near Borough Market is called Bankside. The coolest spot in this area is Bermondsey Street. In earlier centuries, Bermondsey was big on food production (being near the Thames, where the imports came in) as well as leatherwork and tanning. Today, it is a street with a wealth of restaurants, bars, galleries, and art studios.

If you fancy a hot beverage to keep your energy levels up, you can grab a coffee at Fuckoffee. Then you can visit the Fashion & Textile Museum. Don’t worry about finding the building, its hot pink, burnt orange, bright yellow, and baby blue facade make it easily spottable for tourists. 

Ascend the Shard

Where to Stay in South London - Southwark

The Shard also referred to as the Shard of Glass, is a 72-floor glass skyscraper with a jagged peak. You can access the 69th-72nd floors for some stunning views of the city. The admission fee is a bit steep: £25 if you book online via the Shard website and £32 on the day. It may seem expensive on the face of it, but something like this is generally a once-in-a-while experience. Good news if you have a London Pass since this visit is included in it. 

Cross Tower Bridge 

After snapping all those pictures of London from above, make your way toward the Thames and walk east along the river. This promenade is called the Queen’s Walk and is located between Lambeth Bridge and Tower Bridge, one of London’s most famous symbols. 

This remarkable drawbridge was built between 1886 and 1894 and boasts a gorgeous Victorian style. It’s well worth a visit if you love history and engineering; you can walk across the bridge, or purchase admission to climb the two bridge towers and cross the span above street level.

Visit the Tower of London

6 Days in London - Tower Bridge

Located near Tower Bridge is another fantastic place with an amazing history! A thousand years old, The Tower of London dates back to 1066 and has fulfilled many roles throughout history, from a royal palace to a fortress and prison to a menagerie (or zoo). Today, it is home to the priceless Crown Jewels of England.

Touring the inside of the tower is highly advised. You can book your tickets online or get them on the day from the group ticket office on Tower Hill. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to visit the Tower of London as there’s a lot to see and a lot to learn.

Day 5 – Camden & East London

You’ve made it to your last full day of fun in London! Today, you’ll be exploring the more local side of London and its laid-back spots.

  • Main Sights: Camden, Camden Market, Tower of London, Brick Lane, Spitalfields
  • Tube: Start at Camden Town Tube Station; End at Aldgate East Underground Station (close to both Brick Lane and Spitalfields Market)
  • Distance on Foot: 3.9 miles 

Explore Edgy Camden

Considered the capital of music in the UK, specifically rock and punk music, Camden is the funky area where Londoners go for eating, people watching, hearing some good music, and partying.

The quirkiest neighborhood of London is packed with brilliant places to see. A good way to start is to stroll along Regent’s Canal. Along the way, you’ll find an eclectic mishmash of markets, cuisines, and live music venues. 

Lunch at Camden Market

You’ll find food from around the globe at Camden’s many eateries and street vendors at Camden’s, in particular at Camden Lock Market, which has a range of cheap and tasty eats for all eating styles. 

For vegans, try the Young Vegans, who sell plant-based pie and mash. Another popular venue is The Cheese Wheel, which sells pasta swirled around a wheel of cheese. If you want a more standard menu, snag a table at Poppies and enjoy the classic British fare with fish and chips

See Street Art on Brick Lane

Brick Lane Market - People Walking Past Vendors

Brick Lane is a historic street with a past that dates back approximately 450 years. Known for its multiculturalism and youngster vibe (lots of vintage/quirky shops here), Brick Lane is also home to the most astounding street art in London. You’ll find awesome street art immortalized on the walls, some made by famous artists such as Banksy and Belgian street artist ROA. So keep an eye open and your camera ready!

Shop for Souvenirs at Spitalfields

London Markets - Spitalfields

For a unique souvenir, go to Spitalfields market. Thanks to the great mixture of high-end shops and quirky market stalls, there truly is something for everyone in this market. Many people love exploring the independent sellers’ stalls for great and one-of-a-kind finds. 

Dine on Ethnic Food

Leave behind the classic fish and chips and open yourself to new culinary experiences in London (your taste buds will thank you.) 

Both Spitalfields and Brick Lane have pretty exotic food joints to sit and enjoy a good dinner. However, our top recommendation is that you dine in Brick Lane. 

Home to a large Bangladeshi community that has brought the flavors of their country, Brick Lane is bursting with curry houses that offer cheeky Indian cuisine. Many of them are good, but an all-time favorite for East Londoners –who take curry very seriously, by the way– is The Monsoon, a four-floor restaurant in Brick Lane that has been serving up Bangladeshi and Indian cuisine since 2001.

Day 6 – Pub Lunch or Sunday Roast & Departure

All good things must come to an end, they say, and so have your 6 days in London. Most flights to North America leave in the afternoon, which means you still have time for a last view of the city and enjoying a rich meal a la British before you depart. 

  • Main Sights: River Thames, Pub Lunch
  • Tube: Start at Westminster Underground Station; Your tube station will depend on where you are along the Thames (check google maps to see the nearest one)
  • Distance on Foot: depends on how much you walk along the Thames.

Stroll Along the Thames

Taking a stroll along the river Thames is the best way to have one last look at London as well as of those buildings we didn’t include in this itinerary– at least from afar. 

You can start your stroll at the Westminster Pier, right outside the Westminster Underground Station. To your right, you’ll find the banks of the River Thames. You can also use as a guide the Thames Path, the 184 miles of national trail that stretches from the source of the River Thames in the Cotswolds to the sea.

As you walk, you’ll again see a lot of iconic buildings dotted along the river: Statue of Boudica, The London Eye, Big Ben, Tower Bridge, London Bridge, and many others. However, don’t go crazy trying to get a glance at the sights you couldn’t visit. Save this time to just walk alongside the riverside and absorb all the beauty London has to offer.

Head to Your New ‘Local for Lunch (or Sunday Roast)

While Fish & Chips is a staple of British cuisine, there’s also another good meal you can enjoy before concluding these amazing six days in London,  a Sunday Roast. This works particularly well if you’re, in fact, leaving on a Sunday. To find a nice restaurant, browse online possible options and call ahead to make sure they’re serving it, especially if you’re going another day than a Sunday. 

Departure

Time to go home! Make sure you have your passport and luggage ready for it’s time to go to Heathrow Airport or Gatwick and catch the plane back home. Hopefully, you now have an idea of how much of London you can see in six days. If you don’t fancy some of the spots we included in this itinerary, you can change it for another one of London’s amazing places based on your likes, time, and convenience. 

Where to Stay in London for 6 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 have six 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).

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:

Have any other questions about planning your six-day London itinerary? Let me know in the comments!

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