For me, London is a city I could explore for a lifetime and never see it all. Though I’ve made many trips to London through the years, of varying length, I always want to visit again, to see a different area, or to visit favorite haunts from past trips.
Some of us know exactly how long we have to plan a trip – others have a bit more flexibility. If you’re in the latter category, you might ponder questions like “how many days should I spend in London?” and “is there a right number of days to see London?” You’re not alone if you’re wondering this – many travelers before you have done the same. (If you already know exactly how long you plan to visit London, you might want to check out my list of London itineraries from 1-14 days in length.)
In this post, I’ll provide some guidance to help you answer those questions. I look at a number of different scenarios surrounding your London trip, and give suggestions for how many days to spend in London for each one. Whether you’re visiting for work, planning a trip to Europe, or considering a move to London in the future, this post will help you determine the right number of days to visit London. I
How Many Days to Spend in London?
When it comes to answering the question about how many days to spend in London, the answer is: it depends! (Yes, I know that’s an annoying answer, but it’s true about many things – just as it’s true about the ideal number of days to visit London.)
The reality is that the “right” number of days to spend in London depends on several factors:
- Why you’re visiting London
- What you hope to experience in London
- How much PTO/time that you have to visit (an unfortunate reality we all face!)
- Your budget for visiting London
You have to balance all of these factors to determine your own ideal amount of time to spend in London; it may help to refer to my London Cost Calculator if your budget is particularly relevant.
In any case, there are some general guidelines for how many days to spend in London depending on what brings you there. Below you’ll find some of the most common reasons for visiting London and my suggestion for how many days makes sense for each one. You can always reach out in the comments for additional advice based on your specific travel plans, too.
If You’re Visiting London for Work: 1-2 Days
Many people visit London for work every year – if you have this on your calendar and are curious about extending your trip to see more of London than some conference center, you’re in luck. One or two days is a perfect amount of time to extend your trip to London and see the city before returning back to the office.
To maximize your time in London, add this extra day/these extra days onto the beginning or end of your trip depending on the days you need to work in London – then you can potentially visit London on the weekend and not burn any PTO days!
With just one or two days in London, you won’t be able to see it all; you will however get a taste of the city and can advocate with your boss for future work trips!
Here are two itineraries to help you enjoy your short leisure time in London:
If London is part of Your Eurotrip: 2-3 Days
Planning to hop around the UK and/or Europe as part of this trip? Give yourself 2-3 days in London to see the sights, then head on to the next place you want to visit. Some people might try and squeeze London into just one or two days on this kind of trip, but I recommend giving yourself that extra day to ensure you see all the sights and decide if you want to plan a dedicated trip back. (This is what happened to me – and then I ended up moving to London a year later! 😅)
With 2-3 days in London, you’ll have time to see all the major sights, spend a night or two in the pub, and still have the energy to explore more of Europe afterward. Actually, I recommend either starting or ending your Eurotrip in London – so it’s the first or last city you visit – since flights in and out of London are much easier to North America, and there are plenty of low-cost carriers to get you to other European destinations (like Ryanair and EasyJet).
(Pro-tip: When planning a Europe trip that includes a stop in London, be sure to check out the different airports around London to find flight deals!)
For itineraries to help you plan this stop on your Eurotrip, check out:
- How to Make the Most of 2 Days in London
- 3 Days in London: A Jam-Packed Itinerary in the Best City on Earth
If You Only Want to See the Sights: 3-4 Days
While most people are right that you can see all of London’s main sights in two or three days, I recommend giving yourself an extra day to ensure the long international flights are worth it – and to discover a bit of the city for yourself beyond the major attractions.
3-4 days is the perfect amount of time to see all of London’s top sights plus a few extras that are of particular interest to you, whether that’s museums, markets, parks, or pubs. Best of all, you can potentially fit it into a long weekend – meaning you might only need to take one or maybe two days of PTO to make a London trip happen!
I’ve got itineraries that cover all the basics, but in short, here’s how you can see all of London’s top sights in three or four days:
- Spend Day 1 exploring Westminster, the parks, West London, and the Royal sites
- On Day 2, head to the City of London and East London
- For Day 3, either explore North London or South London
- Finally, on Day 4, head to Greenwich, which is within London but feels like a great day trip
Sounds great, right? Here are some itineraries with a lot more detail:
- 3 Days in London: A Jam-Packed Itinerary in the Best City on Earth
- 4 Days in London: A Perfect Long Weekend Itinerary
If this is a Dedicated London Trip: 5-7 Days
For those of you who are planning to visit just London on this trip, I recommend spending 5-7 days to get a complete sense of what the city has to offer – both the major tourist sights and the local, off-beat places.
If you’re short on PTO, five days is a great amount of time to spend in London. You can fly across the pond on a Friday evening, arrive Saturday, and only take three days of PTO (the following Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday). You won’t need to cram everything in like on a shorter itinerary, but can still see the top landmarks in London and explore a few neighborhoods too – like Shoreditch and Brick Lane in the east or Camden up north.
With an extra day or two, you’ll have even more opportunity to get to know London – plus could potentially squeeze in a half-day or day trip from London to places like Brighton, Bath, or Oxford. Honestly, having 5-7 days is perfect for your first trip to London when it’s the only destination on your itinerary.
If this sounds like your trip plans, here are my complete itineraries:
- 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
If You Already Love London: 8-10 Days
Even if you’ve never visited, you might just know it in your soul: London is the best place on earth. That’s how I feel, so I totally get it if you think, “I don’t need to visit anywhere else in Europe, and I want plenty of time to explore – just gimme plenty of time in London!”
In this case, I recommend planning an 8- to 10-day trip to London. With 8 days, you’ll only need to take five days of PTO; 10 days might require taking a sixth day of PTO to give yourself two weekends plus the week between to see many of London’s sights, explore a few neighborhoods, and even take a couple of day trips. Any amount of time in this range is pretty much perfect for a leisurely London trip, in my opinion.
Curious how to spend that time exploring London? I’ve got itineraries, of course!
- 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 Perfect Itinerary
Before Starting London Expat Life: 12-14 Days
If you want to move to London – as I did, following my first trip – I recommend planning an extended trip to see all that the city has to offer and ensure that it’s a good fit for you. Since most people only visit London for a few days on their first trip, it’s helpful to have longer than a week to really understand how the city works, how to get around, and what life could be like for you living in London. It will also give you a chance to explore other parts of the U.K. should you choose to, such as a few days in Cardiff or Edinburgh.
While this might be a big expense, it’s worth it to ensure you’ll be happy. Expat life is tough everywhere, even in London where most things make sense to North American visitors; moving without taking this extra time may add additional long-term expenses since you might arrive and discover it’s not quite the right fit. (I knew lots of folks who only lasted 1-2 years in London – and international moves are expensive!)
In any case, give yourself plenty of time to visit – either you love it and had extra time to enjoy London or you realize it’s not perfect for you and save yourself additional stress and expense later.
Here are some itineraries to help you plan an extended trip to London:
- 11 Days in London: A Lovely, Leisurely U.K. Visit (+12 Day-Option)
- 2 Weeks in London: The Ultimate Itinerary for 13-14 Days
Are you traveling to London with some other plans or goals in mind? Need help deciding how many days to spend in London? Let me know in the comments and I’ll provide you with personalized advice!