top of page
  • Writer's pictureYllara Maia

2 Days in London Itinerary: How to Make the Most of Your Short Stay

Updated: Mar 13, 2023

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. I may receive a commission if you make a purchase after clicking on one of these links, at no additional cost to you.

When planning a trip, it can be difficult to decide how best to spend your time and what attractions you should visit – especially if your stay is short! For those of you seeking to make the absolute most out of a two-day stay in one of the world's greatest cities - London - this blog post is for you!

Below, we will provide useful tips on how to experience all that this iconic city has to offer within 48 hours. Here are some topics we'll cover:

Where to Stay in London

When it comes to choosing accommodation during your stay, there are plenty of options – from luxury hotels located near popular tourist attractions to budget hostels situated in the city center. Knowing your budget and desired location will help you narrow down your choices and determine the best option for you.

Covent Garden

Covent Garden is a vibrant and exciting neighborhood in Central London, and one of the best places to stay for first timers. It's full of character, with iconic architecture, world-class restaurants, lively street performers, bustling markets and an amazing selection of shops.

The area is well-connected to other parts of the city by public transport links, so it’s easy to explore all that London has to offer.

The locals are friendly and welcoming too, making Covent Garden a great place to meet new people and have fun. There’s lots going on throughout the year – from religious festivals to Covent Garden Market – so you’ll never be short of something to do.

Plus, with its proximity to the West End theatre district and its thriving nightlife, you’ll be sure to have a great time while visiting London.

Covent Garden is home to some of the finest hotels in London. Whether you’re looking for a luxurious 5-star experience or a budget stay, there are plenty of options to choose from. Here are some of the best hotels in this neighborhood:

The Savoy – A member of The Leading Hotels of the World, The Savoy is one of the most iconic luxury hotels in London. Located on the banks of the River Thames, this beautiful Edwardian building offers stunning views and luxurious accommodations with all modern amenities included.

The Ritz – Situated on Piccadilly Street, The Ritz is an iconic hotel that has been synonymous with luxury since 1906. From its breathtaking lobby and exquisite art deco rooms to its fine dining restaurants, The Ritz offers a truly memorable experience.

Victory House Leicester Square – This charming boutique hotel is located in the heart of London’s theatre district. With its relaxed atmosphere and well-appointed rooms, it provides the perfect place to stay whilst exploring all that Covent Garden has to offer.

St Ermin's Hotel - St Ermin’s is a 4-star hotel situated just minutes away from the fashionable stores of Regent Street. With its comfortable suites, outdoor terrace bar and beautiful views of Westminster Abbey from some rooms, this hotel is ideal for an unforgettable stay in London.

The Generator London - A modern hostel with boutique-style shared rooms. This one is not near Covent Garden, it's actually located by St. Pancras Station and King's Cross Station. Perfect for budget travelers, backpackers, and groups of young travelers.

Whether you want to indulge in luxury or save your pennies, there is sure to be a hotel that suits your needs. For a more detailed guide on where to stay in London including the best hotels, check out this blog post.

Must-Visit Attractions for Day 1

With so much to see in London, it can be hard to decide where to start – but there are certainly a few must-sees that should be at the top of your list! For day one of our two-day itinerary, we included five can't-miss tourist attractions.

If you plan accordingly and are efficient with your time, you should have no problem hitting all of these spots in one day. Here are the first five items on our list:

  1. Tower of London

  2. Tower Bridge

  3. Big Ben

  4. London Eye

  5. Buckingham Palace

Depending on where you chose to stay, find the nearest underground station to your hotel and get on the Circle or District lines to Tower Hill station. From there, it is just a short walk to the first activity on today's itinerary, the Tower of London.

Plan accordingly to calculate how much time it will take you to get from your starting point to the tower by the time it opens at 9 AM.

9:00 AM - 12:00 PM – Tower of London

To truly experience the best of the renowned Tower of London, get there as soon as it opens! Do remember to check the time on their website first; opening times vary throughout the week.

Tuesdays through Saturdays open at 9 AM while Mondays and Sundays start an hour later. Don't miss out - make sure to plan ahead for a perfect visit.

To ensure you get the most out of your visit, arrive at the entrance by 9 and start with a tour around White Tower - the giant castle located in the center. After that, move on to other attractions such as the Crown Jewels exhibition for an immersive experience.

If time is limited, prioritize these two spots for some quality sightseeing. Before leaving the Tower of London, make sure you grab a bite or snack to fuel up for your next activity! There are several places to grab food inside the attraction, so you won't even have to leave the premises.

12:30 PM - 2:00 PM – Tower Bridge Exhibition

After you're done admiring the Tower of London, enjoy a short stroll to its neighbor, Tower Bridge. Head inside and take either an elevator or the stairs to get access to the glass walkways - this activity is sure to be fun for some and trippy for others!

From this spot, you'll also get a breathtaking view of the Tower of London from above. Walk over the clear floor just above the moving cars going across the bridge, and don't forget to snap some pictures while you're there.

Afterwards, go back down the stairs and follow the signs to the engine rooms. This exhibition offers an in-depth look into how the drawbridge was constructed and still operates to this day.

Both the engine rooms and access to the glass walkways are included with the entry ticket, so you should try to see them both. To fully experience everything it has in store for visitors, you should plan on spending approximately 1 ½ hours here.

2:30 PM - 3:30 PM – Eat Street Food at Borough Market

Wrap up your time at Tower Bridge and get ready to try some of the best street food this city has to offer. No London trip is complete without a visit to Borough Market. This outdoor market is lined with food vendors of all kinds, and the dishes are absolutely delicious.

Eating street food is a must when you visit London, and it helps you save money by avoiding expensive meals. Since it's located just a 15 minute walk from the bridge, you should have no problem getting here on foot.

If you don't want to walk, however, you can get there in half the time via taxi. Once at Borough Market, consider eating at one of these amazing spots for lunch:

  • La Tua Pasta

  • Northfield Farm

  • Bread Ahead Bakery

4:00 PM - 4:30 PM – Big Ben

Borough Market is located right next to London Bridge Underground Station, which is where you will hop back on the tube to get to Westminster Station. Stepping out of the station, you will be met with a picture-perfect view of Big Ben.

Even though entrance to the Elizabeth Tower is only for UK citizens, it's still an exceptional opportunity for a Instagram-worthy photo!

Take advantage of this one-of-a-kind experience and capture some memories from up close – this is your chance to snap that iconic image with the world’s most famous clock tower.

From here, you can also admire the beautiful architecture of the Palace of Westminster, which is home to the houses of parliament.

4:30 PM - 6:00 PM – London Eye

If you're racing against the clock with only 2 days in London, visiting Big Ben and then heading over to the nearby London Eye is a breeze! Crossing Westminster Bridge is all it takes to reach the London Eye.

Unfortunately, due to its immense popularity, buying tickets for this iconic London landmark can be time-consuming - so make sure you get them ahead of time.

If you listen to us and buy your tickets online, you'll only have to wait in the line to ride the attraction, which moves much quicker. Once you're inside one of the pods, the wheel rotates slowly so you can enjoy the view of East London from high up.

The ride lasts for about a half an hour and it's one of the best attractions in Central London.

6:30 PM - 7:00 PM – Dinner in South Bank

If you're looking for a lively spot to have dinner that's just minutes away from the London Eye, then look no further than one of London's vibrant neighborhoods - South Bank.

You'll be spoiled for choice with options like South Bank Centre Food Market and an array of food trucks lined along the Thames River on the weekends. There’s something here to tantalize every taste bud!

7:45 PM - 9:00 PM – Buckingham Palace

After dinner, head over to your last stop for day: Buckingham Palace. Although it may be dark, you'll be glad you visited the royal palace at this hour. This home to the British Royal Family is much less crowded at night, and you'll be able to witness it all lit up.

Buckingham Palace is nothing short of breathtaking when viewed under the night sky, lit up by spectacular lights. Admire its beautiful gates and perfectly manicured gardens from afar, then don’t forget to capture this magical moment with some photos - an experience that you won't want to miss!

Day two of this London itinerary will be just as amazing, but it won't be as jam-packed! Make sure you get some rest so that you're ready to explore the city come morning.

Fun Activities for Day 2

On day two, you'll still do plenty of sightseeing while also experiencing some of the best entertainment that London has to offer. From strolling through the historic halls of Westminster Abbey to window shopping around Regent Street, there’s plenty to keep you busy. Below are the main attractions that we'll be focusing on for day two:

  1. Piccadilly Circus & Regent Street

  2. St. Paul's Cathedral & Millennium Bridge

  3. Dinner at Sky Garden

  4. Watch a Play at Shakespeare's Globe Theater [or Take a Thames River Cruise]

9:30 AM - 11 AM – Westminster Abbey

Head over to Westminster Abbey as soon as it opens, so you can explore all of it. This famous landmark is a remarkable sight to behold.

Situated in the heart of Central London, the palace has served as a royal church for centuries and held some of the most iconic royal weddings. When you visit, it will be a unique experience to witness the opulence of Britain's royal coronations.

You can also explore the tombs and memorials dedicated to influential people like historic kings and queens, poets, scientists, activists and more. Westminster Abbey also boasts an extensive calendar of events such as choral performances and even plays throughout the year.

An hour and half should be enough time for you to explore the Poet's Corner, the Coronation Chair, and the Royal Tombs. However if you want to explore it further, don't be afraid to make changes to your itinerary.

11:30 AM - 1:30 PM – Piccadilly Circus & Regent Street

To reach Piccadilly Circus from Westminster Abbey, you can either walk for roughly 20 minutes or take the tube and reduce your travel time to just half that. Hop on the subway at Westminster Station and get off at Green Park Station - which is only a one minute stroll away from Piccadilly.

Piccadilly Circus is the perfect place to experience some exciting street performers, great food, and fabulous culture. As the iconic center of entertainment, the famous area is lined with electric billboards, restaurants, bars and shops.

Take your time strolling around and you will undoubtedly find many exciting things to entertain you and others in your group. If you're craving a bite to eat, your best bet is London Chinatown - which is a short walk from Piccadilly.

With endless culinary options nearby, it's an ideal spot for lunch. Afterwards, take advantage of the opportunity to explore Regent Street for some shopping! If you have extra time, also check out Leicester Square.

2:00 PM - 3:00 PM – Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square is one of London's most famous attractions, known for its expansive view and fascinating monuments. Tourists can enjoy a range of activities here - they can people-watch while sitting on the steps out front, check out the fountain and lions that are popular photo ops and take in breathtaking views from Nelson’s Column.

On top of that, The National Gallery which stands on the north side is an added treat. Home to some of Britain’s finest national art collections, visitors can spend hours wandering through galleries filled with world-renowned pieces.

Entry to the National Gallery is free, but keep an eye on the clock if you decide to visit. There is plenty to see at this museum, but not enough time to experience all of it with just 2 days in London.

Do some research before you go so you know exactly what pieces you want to see within the time that you have.

3:15 PM - 4:30 PM – St. Paul's Cathedral & Millennium Bridge

From Trafalgar Square, walk over to Embarkment Underground Station and take the Circle Line towards Aldgate. Get off at Mansion House Underground station, and you'll be just a 4 minutes walk from St. Paul's Cathedral.

Conveniently, right across from the cathedral you'll find the iconic Millennium Bridge. St Paul's Cathedral makes a great day out in London, offering visitors a chance to witness over 300 years of history and architectural beauty.

The elegant St Paul's has been a key part of the London skyline since the 17th century, with intricate stone carvings adorning its walls and incredible architecture for all to admire.

Then, take a walk across Millennium Bridge for breathtaking views of London sights such as the Tate Modern, Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, HMS Belfast and more! Make sure you stop along your way to snap a few photos.

One of the best shots you can get is with the dome of the cathedral in the background, lined with the center of the bridge (like the photo above).

5:00 PM - 7:00 PM – Dinner at Sky Garden

After indulging in some culture and architecture, head on over to the Fenchurch Building - also known as the walkie-talkie building. It's located about a 17 minute walk from the cathedral, and it's home to one of the best observation decks in London: Sky Garden.

I would add this attraction to every London itinerary because it's a fun activity for travelers of all ages and interests. Not only is there an open-air terrace, several observations decks, and an indoor garden inside the space, but Sky Garden also offers plenty of choices for food.

There are three different dine-in restaurants to chose from, a café, and several bars.

Admission to Sky Garden is free, but you do have to reserve a table online to eat at any of the restaurants and bring valid identification.

To get the most out of your visit, I would advise booking dinner between 5:30-6:00 PM and arriving at 5:00 PM, so that you can marvel in the gardens and glimpse London's breathtaking skyline before sitting down to eat.

7:30 PM - 9:30 PM – Watch a Play at Shakespeare's Globe Theater

For your last night in London, why not be entertained by one of Britain's most famous writers? Experience one of William Shakespeare's timeless plays like Romeo and Juliet or Macbeth the same way they did centuries ago - in an open-air globe theater.

Such a unique experience is sure to transport you back in time as if those revered works were just written! If this sounds like fun to you, make sure to check their website for more information. Since the theater is not temperature controlled, a limited number of plays are available in the winter.

If you come during the summer, you'll have plenty of options to choose from. Book your tickets in advance, however, because they fill up quickly.

[OR] 7:30 PM - 9:00 PM – Take a Late Night Thames River Cruise

If your ideal London itinerary doesn't include Shakespeare, don't worry! London is full of things to do and you'll never run out of options. If plays aren't for you, consider taking a River Thames Sightseeing Cruise to finish off your two-day London itinerary.

This is one of the best ways to see the city at night from a different perspective. Cruising past London's iconic landmarks, including Tower Bridge, Big Ben, and the London Eye at a leisurely pace gives you one last chance to take in the beauty of this incredible city.

Why We Didn't Include Specific Landmarks

London is a huge city, and it's impossible to experience everything that it offers in just 48 hours. Although we put all of our efforts into coming up with the best London itinerary for any type of traveler, we recognize there are many noteworthy stops that were not taken into account.

Some of the iconic tourist attractions that were not included were Hyde Park, James's Park, Kensington Palace & Kensington Gardens, along with some notorious museums such as the British Museum, the Natural History Museum, and the Science Museum.

Truth is - the key to getting the most out of London in such a short time is being strategic with your location so you can spend more time exploring each attraction and less time getting from one place to the other.

For this reason, we decided to focus more on attractions situated in Central London that took less than thirty minutes to get to from the previous location. With that being said, it doesn't mean that these other attractions aren't worth visiting and if you happen to have more time, definitely check them out.

I hope you can get the most out of your 2 days in London with this detailed guide. As always, feel free to rearrange and tweak it as you wish to make it the best London itinerary for you.


If You Don't Want to Follow an Itinerary

If you're the type of person that doesn't like to plan ahead or follow itineraries, we also have some helpful advice for you. For the adventurous traveler that likes to go with the flow, I recommend that you start your journey in London by taking a bus tour.

Take a Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour

Taking a hop-on hop-off bus tour is the best way to explore London in a short amount of time - plus you can decide what to explore as you go.

The buses follow different routes, taking you around some of the most famous landmarks and attractions, such as Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, and all the other major tourist spots previously mentioned.

You can take your time exploring these places in depth before hopping back on the bus and moving on to the next destination. The buses are clean and comfortable with knowledgeable audio guides that provide interesting facts about each sight along the route.

You can also use your ticket to hop off at any of the stops for more detailed exploration. This is especially great if there’s something specific you want to see or do that isn’t included on one of the standard routes.

For your first day in London, start off by doing some sightseeing. Purchase a single-day hop-on hop-off bus tickets online here, so you can start your day right away and not waste any time. London has several options for bus tours, but I prefer Big Bus.

They offer three different routes, giving you access to more of London and a greater number of stops. Below is a map of Big Bus's Red Route, which includes stops near all the landmarks we mentioned above.

With a hop-on hop-off bus tour, you can make the most of your London stay without having to worry about driving or getting around on public transport. Plus, you’ll get an unbeatable view of the city from atop one of these classic double-decker buses!

Check out these other things to do in London:

Shopping Spots in the City

If you’re looking for an exciting shopping experience during your two-day stay, then London won't disappoint. Head to Oxford Street for some retail therapy – it has some of the best shops in town – or check out Covent Garden Market if you're after something more unusual.

For luxury goods visit Harrods or Harvey Nichols, and pop into one of the countless vintage and boutique stores in Notting Hill.

Eating and Drinking in London

Exploring all the sights that London has to offer will no doubt build up your appetite! From traditional English pubs serving up fish and chips to trendy rooftop bars with stunning views of the city, there are plenty of great places to eat and drink here. Below are some of the best places to eat in London.

• Borough Market – Located near London Bridge station. Like we mentioned before, this is one of the best and largest food markets in the city. You can find a wide variety of foods from around the world here, including sandwiches, charcuterie, fresh pasta, meats and seafood.

• Hawksmoor Steakhouse – This restaurant chain specializes in steak but also offers other amazing dishes such as bone marrow mash and slow-cooked short rib.

• The Ivy – A classic British institution which serves up traditional dishes like fish pie and shepherd’s pie with a modern twist.

• Duck & Waffle – This one-of-a-kind restaurant offers stunning views of the city and great food, like their signature dish – duck & waffles.

• Rules Restaurant – Established in 1798, this is London’s oldest surviving restaurant serving traditional British cuisine such as steak & kidney pudding, oysters and game.

Whether you’re looking for a quick bite or a leisurely meal, there are plenty of great places to eat in London!

London Transport: Getting Around the City Quickly and Easily

The best ways to get around London is either by foot or via public transport – also know as the underground or the tube. London's transport network is extensive and reliable, so it's the ideal way to get from A to B quickly and efficiently.

If you're planning on using public transport frequently during your stay, consider purchasing an Oyster card for discounted fares and unlimited travel. It'll also save you time when you don't have to keep buying single tickets to ride the tube.

If you'd prefer to get around on two wheels, there are plenty of bike hire options in London like Santander Cycles. I would definitely not recommend taking a bus or a cab during rush hour, unless you're going to and from the airport.

The reason for this is that traffic can be pretty bad, and you'll get to your destination much quicker if you take the train or walk.

Budgeting Tips

Visiting London on a budget can be daunting, but there are plenty of ways to enjoy the city without breaking the bank. Planning ahead is key to staying within your budget when visiting London. Booking flights and accommodations early is often cheaper than waiting until the last minute.

As previously mentioned, walking or using public transportation can save you a lot of money. Always check to see if there are discounts for buying tube tickets in bulk instead of separately. In terms of tourist attractions, the cost of admission can add up pretty quickly.

During you quick stay in London, consider buying a Go City Explorer pass to save some money. This pass will give you free access to 2-7 attractions of your choice (including the ones we added to the itinerary) for a discounted price.

Click the button below to find out more about the Go City Explorer Pass.

Last but not least, dining out can also be a hefty expense. To save money on food, consider eating at any of London's street food markets for breakfast and lunch. Not only will this be much more affordable, but having a grab-and-go approach will also save you time.

For dinner, there are plenty of pubs and restaurants offering delicious dishes for a reasonable price. Ultimately, being smart while you travel will help you make the most of your trip to London without blowing your budget.

With a little bit of planning and these helpful tips, you can make the most out of your two days in London! There’s something for everyone here – whether you’re looking for exciting attractions, delicious food, great shopping or fun activities. Take some time to explore this incredible city and take in all its wonders! Good luck!


bottom of page