When it comes time to plan your trip to London, you’re probably feeling like I did before my first trip: you want to squeeze as much time as possible into this fascinating city while you’re there. Most people opt to spend a week or 10 days in London, but if you’re somewhere in between with your travel dates, you might wonder what to do.
With an extra day longer than a week, those 7-day London itineraries leave you wanting, whereas a 10-day London itinerary means you have to cut some things out. But you’re in luck: what you’re reading right now is an itinerary specifically designed for you, for 8 days in London. (I also have one for 9 days in London if you have an extra day.)
So take those full eight days you have, and make the most of them. 8 days is certainly not enough time to see all that London has to offer – but heck, I’m not even sure a lifetime is enough time for that! With this itinerary in hand, you’ll see London’s most iconic sights, explore its alleys and off-beat areas, and even strike out to explore beyond the city. Ready? Let’s dive in!
8 Days in London: A Quick Glance
Having eight days in London might not feel like a lot of time, but it’s actually plenty to see all the main sights plus strike a bit further afield. Before going into the details, I thought it might be helpful to give a quick overview; here are my suggestions (briefly) for how to spend 8 days in London.
|1||Westminster & the Southbank|
|2||The City & Tower of London|
|3||Borough Market, Bankside & The Shard|
|4||Royal London: Westminster, Buckingham & Kensington|
|5||Day Trip from London (Brighton, Greenwich, or Windsor)|
|6||East London: Shoreditch & Brick Lane|
|7||Day at the Museum(s)|
|8||North London: Camden, Regent’s Park & Baker Street|
If that all sounds good – great! Read on to dive into this itinerary in detail, including how to get from place to place, and some meal suggestions too.
Day 1: Westminster & the Southbank
After arriving in London, catching up on sleep, and maybe shaking off that jet lag, it’s time to get out and explore the city. My favorite starting place is one of London’s most iconic areas: Westminster. Once you step off the tube, you’ll immediately see why…
There’s a high chance that all the images London conjures in your mind are in Westminster, which is why you’ll start your first of 8 days in London here.
The first stop in Westminster is The Houses of Parliament (aka Westminster Hall). It’s hard to miss as you’ll find it as soon as you step out of Westminster tube station. While The Houses of Parliament is a historic building, it’s Big Ben; its iconic clock tower has made it an unmistakable London landmark. Many people don’t know that Big Ben is actually the nickname for the Great Bell in the Elizabethan tower. However, Big Ben has become so iconic that everyone uses the nickname to refer to the clock and the Elizabethan tower.
Take as much time as you need to appreciate the stunning building. The exterior boasts impressive stonework and Perpendicular Gothic style that was gorgeous enough to make Tsar Nicholas I of Russia call the palace “a dream in stone.”
If you’d like to explore the building’s interior, you can also book a guided or self-guided audio tour through the Commons Chamber and the Lords Chamber. While the tour is worth it, it can be a bit of a hit or miss since its availability depends on the parliamentary sessions. If available during your trip, make sure to book the tour in advance to save a bit on admission and ensure you get the day/time you’re hoping to tour.
Before you set off to explore the Southbank, the first thing you’ll do is head to the London Eye and get your reservation. Try to time your ticket to start about 45-60 minutes before sunset. This way you’ll be able to take in panoramic views of London by day and night!
Now let’s head back to Southbank. The area of Southbank lies across from Westminster. So, you’ll need to walk across Westminster Bridge on the western side of the road to get there. When you get to the Southbank, walk down the stairwell near the gift kiosk to your right. Right there is my favorite viewpoint of Westminster.
Southbank extends from Westminster Bridge to Blackfriars Bridge and is among the coolest places to visit in London. Its ever-evolving history is fascinating; it went from being a slum potter’s field, marshy outpost, and prostitution center to the hub of London’s cultural and creative scene.
You’ll find many things to do and see in the Southbank: street performers, musical gigs, food stalls (great for lunch!), and old book stores. The South Bank is also home to London’s top kids’ attractions, like the Aquarium and The London Dungeon.
You’re close to finishing your first day of the London 8-day itinerary, and you’ll end it on a high note.
You’ll reach the London Eye before the sun goes down. As I mentioned above, your tickets should have a start time 45-60 minutes before sunset. The ride lasts thirty minutes and is an excellent opportunity to take pictures of the iconic sights you visited today. Seeing how London buildings light up is a magical experience you’ll always cherish.
Now it’s time to call it a day. Once you finish your ride on the London Eye, head out to Waterloo or Embankment, and return to your hotel, depending on which line you need. For dinner, you can grab something near your hotel, or at any interesting-looking pub you pass.
Day 2: The City & Tower of London
A new day, a new adventure! On your second of 8 days in London you’ll explore a different part of London: the City of London.
Before you give me a puzzled look, let me explain. There are two Londons: Greater London and the City of London, which sound the same but are not. Greater London is the city’s capital, whereas the City of London refers to the historic center and primary central business district in the eastern part of Central London. You might hear some Londoners refer to it as ‘the Square Mile.’
St. Paul’s Cathedral
You’ll start day two by visiting St. Paul’s Cathedral, my favorite building in London. You’ll get there by riding the tube to St. Paul’s station on the Central Line. An Anglican cathedral, St. Paul’s is the masterpiece of Britain’s most famous architect Sir Christopher Wren. You’ll know what I’m talking about when you find yourself wanting to spend hours admiring the fascinating details of this building. However, try to spend no more than 60-90 minutes. You have to pay a fee to enter; although you can book your tickets online in advance if you want to avoid queues.
If you’d like to stop for a bite, head across the street to One New Change. You’ll find a lot of decent restaurants in the mall. However, my top recommendation is the Madison Rooftop Bar & Restaurant, where you’ll enjoy lunch with a fantastic view of St. Paul’s.
From One New Change, head east on Watling St and turn right to find Cannon Street. Then, continue straight until 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.
Also built by Sir Christopher Wren, The Monument is a fluted Doric column that commemorates the Great Fire of London in 1666. You can climb up to the top of the building paying a £5 fee, or present the London Pass if you have one. A narrow winding staircase of 311 steps takes you to the top of the building, where you enjoy views of the City of London and London Bridge.
Tower of London
When you step back on solid ground again, walk back to Monument station, and continue east on Eastcheap to find the Tower of London. Many people choose to admire the building from afar only. However, I think The Tower of London is one of those you-only-need-to-do-it-once-but-you-gotta-do-it sights in London, especially to understand the city’s history. The Tower of London is almost a thousand years old, dating back to 1066, and the White Tower inside the Tower of London dates to 1097.
To get the whole experience, I suggest you take the tour with one of the famous Beefeaters. It’s your best chance to learn about English history in detail, from ancient times to the modern era. Their historical accounts also make it easy to appreciate the building and how it served London at different periods. Oh! I forgot to mention the Tower is also home to the gorgeous Crown Jewels of England, and you can see them on display.
You’ll get the first glimpse of Tower Bridge from the Tower of London. So, once you finish the Beefeater tour, head out to Tower Bridge, our last stop today.
You can experience Tower Bridge in two ways. Either you just cross the bridge and admire it from both sides of the Thames, or you can buy a ticket to explore the inside. The fee is a bit pricey, £10.60 (also included in your London Pass), but you’ll be able to climb the towers, cross the span above street level, and see magnificent Victorian Engine Rooms. I highly suggest you do the tour if you can appreciate sound engineering.
Day 3: Borough Market, Bankside & The Shard
For day three, it’s time to complete the square. You’ve already visited Westminster, the City of London, the Southbank; the final quadrant is Bankside, which includes Borough Market (the best London market for food!) and the towering Shard.
London’s most iconic food market, Borough Market, overflows with gastronomic gems. As soon as you step inside, the exotic smells surround you, luring you into sampling everything you see. There’s an impressive portfolio of restaurants from all over the world and all prices. So, it’s an excellent opportunity to try new flavors, from France all over to Japan. Those who want to stick to classics should go straight to Maria’s Market Cafe. You’ll enjoy hefty portions of the best English breakfast.
The market has a history as fascinating as any place in London. It dates back to the 12th Century; Borough Market has seen bright and dark days throughout its history, with bans, fires, relocations, and renascence along the way. Today, it’s the beating heart of London’s food scene with street food traders, restaurants, and pubs.
Once you’ve paid the check, head towards the east to visit Bankside, the neighborhood near Borough Market. Bankside stretches along the south bank of the River. So, it’s an excellent place to wander around. However, my prime suggestion is Bermondsey Street. The incredible street is ripe with pubs, restaurants, and art studios. However, like most places in London, it wasn’t always like this.
Back in the day, Bermondsey was the center of London’s tanning industry. You can still see vestiges of its industrial past, like The Leather Hide & Wool Exchange. There are tons of things to do and see at Bermondsey. A few are grabbing a coffee at Fuckoffee, visiting the Fashion & Textile Museum, and exploring White Cube Gallery.
Moving on to the last visit of the day, The Shard. The Shard isn’t far from Bermondsey Street. In fact, there’s a high chance you’ve already seen it while roaming around. Head north on Bermondsey towards Tyers Gate. Then turn left onto St. Thomas; The Shard will be on your right.
Also called the Shard of Glass, The Shard is a 72-floor glass skyscraper with a jagged peak. While most floors are full of offices, visitors can access the 69th-72nd floors. If you’re fortunate to go on a clear day or night, you’ll enjoy panoramic views of the city. The Shard is a posh location, and its admission fees testify to it. Visitors will have to pay £39 if they book in advance via the Shard website or, to save money, book in advance for a weekday saver (Tuesday-Thursday) priced at £25. A visit to The Shard is free with the London Pass.
After enjoying sunset at the Shard, make your way back to ground level to seek out dinner.
Day 4: Royal London: Westminster, Buckingham & Kensington
I’m sure many of you will consider this day your favorite of the 8 days in London. The British Monarchy is not only an essential piece within Britain’s political sphere. It is an institution that draws visitors from far and wide. Today, it’s all about the British Royals, their history, and residences.
Start day four by getting to the Westminster tube station. You can take the Jubilee, District, or Circle lines depending on where you’re staying in London. As soon as you step out of the tube station, head south on Parliament Street.
Westminster Abbey is a gorgeous Anglican Church, which has played host to ceremonies of national importance. For centuries, it has been a burial place of English monarchs and the traditional place of the coronation ceremony. Most of us remember Westminster Abbey as the location where Prince William married Princess Kate back in 2011.
Its exquisite High Gothic style nods to contemporary French cathedral architecture. The interior is equally deserving of praise, with vibrant stained-glass windows, intricate stone and woodwork on walls, and its carved fan-vaulted ceiling. Admission to Westminster Abbey is £5.00. Once again, you can use your London Pass to enter Westminster Abbey for free. Of course, you can always confine your visit to exploring the building’s architecture from outside.
Buckingham Palace lies fourteen minutes away from Westminster Abbey. You just have to walk west on Tothill Street and then turn right onto Spur Road.
Buckingham Palace is one of the most famous buildings in London. It acts as the London residence and administrative headquarters of the monarch of the United Kingdom. Simply said, it’s the impressive home of The Queen. Visitors can explore the building’s opulent façade and its immaculate surroundings all year round. However, they can only book tours to explore the splendid rooms of the Queen’s residence during the summer.
Pro tip: Try to schedule your visit around 11:30 am to witness the changing of guards ceremony. Afterward, you can grab lunch en route to Kensington Palace.
Another famous royal building, Kensington Palace, sits on the southwest corner of Hyde Park. Sir George Coppin built Kensington Place in 1605 as a two-story Jacobean mansion. Since then, it has been the residence of several members of the British Royal Family.
Today, Kensington Palace is the official London residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (William and Kate) and several other royal family members. You can visit the site for free if you have a London Pass. Still, get your tickets in advance as it’s on a timed admission.
Kensington Gardens and its beautifully manicured lawns surround Kensington Palace. This royal park has certain areas open to the public, which makes it a lovely spot to rest your legs a bit before going back home.
After the afternoon at Kensington Palace, my suggestions for the day are complete. May I recommend a pub for dinner? (Can you tell that’s one of my favorite ways to enjoy London’s dining scene?)
Day 5: Take a Day Trip from London
It’s not hard to notice London’s privileged location in the country. As such, London makes an excellent base to explore other parts of England, the U.K., and even Europe. In just two hours, you can be in a completely different city with a completely different vibe. Whether you want to explore the English countryside or see English Roman’s past, there’s a bunch of excellent day trip destinations outside of London.
I’ve put together an entire article on all the amazing day trips you can make from London. Some I’ve done myself,returningmakingLondon’swhile others are still on my bucket list. Here are a few ideas to get you going.
Cambridge and Oxford are two insanely popular day trips from London. These University cities are great to explore England’s rich academic past. Unsurprisingly, Stonehenge is another favorite day trip for travelers and locals alike. There’s something enigmatic about the Neolithic monument on Salisbury Plain. So much so that I prioritized visiting Stonehenge over other places during my first trip to London.
For those who find the monarchy fascinating, Windsor is a must-visit – where the queen’s official residence is located. If more modern pop culture is yoru thing, there’s also a day trip for Harry Potter fans! The Harry Potter Studio Tour is in Leavesden, 53 minutes away from London. The studio is impressive, and it takes a whole day to explore it in depth.
If you’re willing to overcome language and frontier barriers, you can also take day trips to other European cities, such as Paris or Brussels. Thanks to the Eurostar train, London has a connection to a lot of European cities. The London-Paris journey only takes 2 hours, 15 minutes.
Day 6: East London: Shoreditch & Brick Lane
I’ve devoted the sixth day on the itinerary to explore East London, home to some of the hippest neighborhoods and spots in London.
Shoreditch is one of the best-known East London neighborhoods. In the 1980s, Shoreditch had become a hotspot for young British artists like Tracey Emin. By the 1990s, Shoreditch had become the playground of street artists who immortalized their artwork on random walls across the neighborhood. Shoreditch’s walls even saw the first traces of world-renowned artist Banksy. The growing artistic movement attracted locals who wanted to escape Central London and the uptight workers who walked down its streets.
Today, Shoreditch is still loyal to its artistic ethos. It’s ripe with art galleries, pop-up food and music venues, vintage shops, and, obviously, street art. You’ll also find plenty of incredible restaurants and bars in Shoreditch to stop for a quick bite.
There is cool graffiti all over the neighborhoods of London. However, if you want to explore the best street art, Brick Lane is the place to go.
A historic street with over 450 years of history, Brick Lane runs south from Swanfield Street in Bethnal Green and crosses Bethnal Green Road in Shoreditch. There’s literally no blank space along the street walls, with overflow in color and controversial drawings. You can see the work of globally-renowned street artists, including Banksy, ROA, and my favorite artist DALeast. By the way, there are free walking tours if you’d like to learn about the history of the street.
Brick Lane is also a paradise for bargain hunters and foodies. Vintage shopping is also big in Brick Lane. Head to the Brick Lane Vintage Market in the Truman Brewery – brimming with garments from the 1920s to the ’90s.
You’ll find excellent eateries in Shoreditch, but you’ll find the best curry in London in Brick Lane. The historic street is home to the largest concentration of Bangladeshis in England and Wales. These communities have brought the flavors of their countries and filled the street with curry restaurants.
To wrap up your second day of this London eight-day itinerary, enjoy a dish of fine curry, and then head to Shoreditch High Street Overground station to catch a train back to your hotel.
Day 7: Day at the Museum
You can’t visit London and not explore at least one of its fantastic museums. The bustling city is ripe with world-class museums that cater to everyone’s interests. London has more than 170 museums. With that impressive amount, there’s arguably at least one museum that will grab your interest with its exhibitions. Want to learn about London’s transport history? There’s a museum for that. Want to explore the evolution of the animal kingdom? London has you covered. Want to marvel at European art? There’s a museum for that, too.
You can check my article on the best London museums for in-depth information about each one. In the meantime, here’s a brief overview of three of London’s most famous museums.
The British Museum oozes history from every angle. Opened in 1759, the British Museum was the first-ever national museum open to the public. It houses eight million objects, which makes its collection one of the most extensive in the world. You’ll need several visits to glance at each of its artifacts. However, if you show up early, you might be able to get a glimpse of the most important ones, like the Rosetta Stone and Parthenon sculptures. On top of being a world-class venue, the British Museum’s main galleries are free!
A former oil-fired power station, Tate Modern is a sister gallery to Tate Britain. It houses the best modern and contemporary art collections. You can see masterpieces by Picasso, Dali, Warhol, and Rothko, hanging on the walls. Tate Modern has grown to become one of London’s most beloved museums. Besides its beautiful collections, Tate Modern also has a fantastic architectural design, which retains many of the station’s original features, with the Turbine Hall as the most famous.
Natural History Museum
Like I said before, London has a museum for everyone. If taxonomy is your thing, then visit the National History Museum. Established in 1880, the museum is home to around 80 million plants, animal, fossil, rock, and mineral specimens. Many of the specimens you find here previously belonged to the British Museum’s natural history collection. The dinosaur skeletons exhibitions and the building’s architecture never ceases to leave visitors in complete awe. The building’s facade is an ode to nature, featuring details that pay homage to the abundance of life on Earth.
Day 8: North London: Camden, Regent’s Park & Baker Street
For your last day in London, we’re going to explore a more traditional side of the city. North London is one of the oldest residential districts in London and is a good representation of the city’s diversity. You’ll find an interesting mixture of wooded suburban streets and neighborhoods with a more urban vibe.
Camden Town is one of the most popular neighborhoods in North London. While it has something for everyone, it’s particularly special for music lovers.
Camden has held a deep connection with the music scene since the 19th Century. London’s rock and punk music took their first steps in Camden, following a 1976 performance by The Ramones at the Roundhouse, a gig that heralded a new punk era in the UK. Since then, London punks have loved Camden, and some of them still stroll down their streets with leather jackets and edgy mohawk hairstyles. Throughout the ’70s, Camden Town increased in polarity, becoming a hub of counterculture and a mecca for artists, rebels, and dropouts worldwide.
While they’re not what they used to be, iconic music venues, such as the Roundhouse, Underworld, and Electric Ballroom, still host local shows and international acts.
Today, Camden is the quirky area where young Londoners go when they want a lively night out. Its thriving nightlife includes old-school pubs, nightclubs, and world-class live music- Amy Winehouse once played at the Jazz Cafe. Camden is also popular for its namesake market. A warren of stalls, Camden Market, sells everything from handmade gifts to retro antiques.
Camden is close to Regent’s Park, one of the largest parks in London. A royal park, this 197-hectare green space historically served as one of the royal hunting grounds around the capital city (hence its name.) The park’s gardens and landscapes are gorgeous. If you have time, visit Queen Mary’s Garden, London’s most extensive collection of roses with approximately 12,000 roses. It’s also an excellent spot to escape the sometimes overwhelming hustle and bustle of the city.
Within Regent’s Park is the London Zoo. Located on the northern edge of The Regent’s Park, the London Zoo is the oldest scientific zoo. It’s a good option if you’re traveling with kids since the zoo has many animals, including lions, tigers, gorillas, and penguins, among many others.
221B Baker Street
Exit Regent’s Park at the southernmost point in the park, and you’ll be right at the top of Baker Street.
Whether you’re a long-time fan of the books or you’ve recently discovered it through the Netflix series, visiting 221B Baker Street is a must for Sherlock Holmes fans. According to Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, Sherlock Holmes and John Watson lived at 221B Baker Street from 1881 to 1904.
The Sherlock Holmes Museum has recreated the famous detective’s London flat and its Victorian surroundings. The staff has designed the rooms following the exact description Doyle gives in the book. The Museum also has a lovely gift shop, boasting the most extensive collection of Sherlock Holmes gifts and memorabilia in the world.
Where to Stay in London for 8 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 ten 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 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
- 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
- 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 any other questions about how to spend 8 days in London? Let me know in the comments, or ask any questions in my London Travel Tips Facebook Community.