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With thousands of years of history, world-class museums and attractions, every kind of food imaginable, and a never-ending list of things to do, it’s no wonder that London is one of the most popular cities to visit in the world.
I personally got hooked on London after my first visit in 2012, and in the last decade have spent cumulative months exploring what is easily my favorite European capital.
But London is a massive city, and there’s so *much* to do there that planning a trip can be overwhelming. I know this because I’ve been daunted myself by the knowledge that it’s impossible to see and do everything in one visit.
It’s also why, up until now, I haven’t tried to tackle a London itinerary at all on this blog!
But I know London well, and have now planned solo trips, couples trips, and trips with friends/family members to London. I feel like I’ve done all the must-dos (most of them multiple times), and can now help YOU plan a more stress-free first trip to London.
5 days in London: A first-timer’s itinerary
The following itinerary represents the perfect 5-days in London if you’ve never been before (in my opinion, at least). Feel free to use it to help you plan your own London trip!
Where to stay in London
First things first: let’s talk about where to stay in London! I’ve been to London many times (I’ve actually lost count) and have stayed in several different neighborhoods. Neighborhoods I personally enjoy staying in include Kensington, Paddington, and the South Bank, though I’ve stayed all over!
For a short-ish trip, it’s probably easiest to pick one hotel and stay there the whole time. The below list is (loosely) grouped based on where in London you’ll find each hotel.
- Northern London hotels – Great Northern Hotel, Royal Lancaster London, Point A Hotel London Paddington
- Central London hotels – Park Plaza Westminster Bridge, The Resident Covent Garden (top London hotel on TripAdvisor), Sea Containers London, The Hoxton Southwark, Bankside Hotel
- East London hotels – The Tower Hotel (some rooms with Tower Bridge views), Clayton Hotel City of London, The Montcalm Royal London House, The Hoxton Shoreditch, The Corner London City
- Western London hotels – The Ampersand, 11 Cadogan Gardens Hotel & Apartments, The Chesterfield Mayfair, Georgian House Hotel (this one has Harry Potter-themed rooms!)
- Luxury hotels in London: Shangri-La The Shard, Claridge’s, The Lanesborough, The Savoy, One Aldwych
Some things to consider when looking for accommodation in London include: how close hotels are to a Tube station, whether the rooms have air conditioning (a requirement for me, personally, in the summer), and what’s included in the room rate (such as wifi, breakfast, etc). Also note that some hotels are in old buildings, and not all have elevators that reach every floor.
Okay, on with the itinerary now!
Day 1: Iconic London
Highlights of Day 1 include: Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and Parliament, London Eye, the South Bank, and St. Paul’s Cathedral
If you’re traveling to London from anywhere in North America, then chances are you’ll be arriving early in the morning after an overnight flight. I’m not going to suggest you pack in *too much* today, because chances are you’ll be quite tired. (But try to avoid napping/sleeping all day if you can, as it’ll help you adjust to the time change better!)
Getting from London Heathrow to the city can take some time. My biggest tip is to NOT take a taxi all the way from the airport. You can take the Piccadilly Line (Tube) right from Heathrow if you’re on a budget. Or you can opt for the new Elizabeth Line, which currently will take you as far as Paddington Station, where you can transfer to other Tube lines or grab a taxi outside. The Heathrow Express also goes from Heathrow to Paddington with no stops.