If you’re planning a first trip to London, this 5-day itinerary for London will help make the most of your time. From iconic landmarks to cultural experiences, and all the best stay and dining experiences, this itinerary covers it all to create an unforgettable trip. Let’s dive into the details day-by-day to help you plan a great trip to London. If you’re traveling with kids we’ll give you all the best attractions, free things to do, and the best playgrounds in London.

Some attractions will require advance tickets or reservations, which will be noted. There are also attractions only open on certain days of the week so pay close attention to this as you might need to switch the order around to accommodate. We hope this 5-day itinerary for London gives you everything you need to plan an amazing trip.

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How to spend 5 days in London? Let’s go!

Day 1 in London

For arrival transportation, stay ideas and luggage storage options see the FAQ section at the end.

On this first day in London consider there could be flight delays so keep things flexible when planning. If you’ll be battling jet lag try to plan an activity that’s engaging to keep everyone awake but that is not overly strenuous or expensive in case plans need to change. 

Hop-on-hop-off buses in London

Explore London aboard an iconic red double-decker hop-on-hop-off bus that hits all the major sights. Most buses have covered and uncovered spaces that are flexible with weather changes. London has particularly great tours that can help provide a good overview of the city early in your visit. Book in advance or wait until the day of at the first stop. There are many options available so advance booking is not required for this one.

City Sightseeing offers a comprehensive tour of the city’s landmarks and note the free cancellation is before 24 hours so would not help on the day of.
Big Bus Tours offers various tour options including a river cruise add-on and night tour options. Save by booking online.
*Note we first booked with Toot Buses but they came so infrequently we switched to City Sightseeing and had no problem.

The bus gives you a taste of all the major sights in central London such as Trafalgar Square, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Tower Bridge, Tower of London, Houses of Parliament, Jubilee Garden, Buckingham Palace, Downing Street, Borough Market, Graffiti Tunnel, and more. 

If you’re trying to keep everyone awake, getting off the bus near these fun stops will ensure a home run for day one. Check out the Jubilee Gardens playground and London Eye which provide a great glimpse of what London has to offer. The Graffiti Tunnel is also a fun stop for day one. Unless you’re tight on time save the tours and longer visits for other days.  

Other options for the first day in London

  • Enjoy a culinary excursion in Chinatown for lunch or dinner. 
  • Immerse yourself in the wonders of science at the Science Museum (free)
  • Delve into the history of transportation at the London Transport Museum (kids under 17 are free not adults)

Conclude your day by checking into your accommodation, whether it’s a hotel or an Airbnb, and settle in for the adventure ahead. Jump to our accommodation ideas here.

“Sure, London can be exhausting. It constantly badgers you to keep up, teasing you with the constant gamble of what to do, and what to miss. But that’s what I love most about London – you can never get bored.”

– Olivia Pass

Day 2 in London

Day two is filled with great culture and art while sightseeing along the River Thames in the Bankside Cultural Quarter.
The Globe Theatre can be found at the tube stop, London Bridge on the Northern line (9-minute walk) or Blackfriars on the District and Circle Lines (10-minute walk).

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre

This theatre was originally built in 1599 with a unique open-air stage that was the primary venue for Shakespeare’s plays. They offer guided tours that are great for families but you must book in advance as they do sell out. If you’re lucky enough to catch a performance they offer them spring-fall. A reminder that the theatre is open air so dress for all weather as tours and events go on in all conditions just like in Shakespearean times. Learn more and reserve here.

After the tour take the 5-minute walk along the River Thames catching views of the Millennium Bridge. Since the Tate Modern is free and doesn’t require reservations fit this in around the Globe which is trickier to schedule.

Globe Theatre London 5 day itinerary
Globe Theatre
Globe Theatre London 5 day itinerary

Tate Modern Museum

This is an incredible modern art museum (did I mention it’s free!) with great programming for families with children. They frequently have different events and activities for kids and a Play Studio space for families to make art together. Learn more

boy at Tate Modern london
Tate Modern London 5 day Itinerary

Lunch or Dinner Options Nearby

Borough Market is a local market with great street food options and so much to explore. Closed Sundays and Mondays. Catch a Borough Market food tour through Viator.

‘O ver Restaurant in Saxon House serves the best wood-fired pizzas, fresh pasta, and salads.

Burger and Beyond Borough Yards creatively done burgers and sides.

Catch an afternoon spritz or an evening drink at the London Bridge Rooftop Bar which comes with amazing views.

Other stops in this area if you have more time

  • Take the Millennium Bridge across the River Thames to see St Paul’s Cathedral on the north bank.
  • Thames River Cruise – see the city from the best view possible on a Thames River Cruise.
  • The Shard is a pyramid-shaped 72-story skyscraper with a viewing platform and fun afternoon tea sessions. Both require advance tickets (1-2 weeks out) and can be spendy. We do recommend the Sky Garden (free tickets) later in the itinerary but include the Shard as another option that’s nearby.
  • Mint Street Adventure Playground – a small neighborhood playground that’s fun for a break in the action.

Day 3 in London

Day three invites you to explore London’s regal heritage. Begin your day with a visit to Buckingham Palace, witnessing the grandeur of the monarchy. Start at the Westminister Tube stop. Walk through St James Park to The Mall (15min walk)

Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace

Experience the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. This is free of charge and no tickets are needed but it can be crowded so arriving early is a good idea.

The Changing of the Guard ceremony takes place between St. James’s Palace and Buckingham Palace. The ceremony begins at 10:30 am at the Friary Court, St James’s Palace (Marlborough Road). Recommend taking a peek through the gates of them lining up as you walk by en route to Buckingham Palace but if you wait for this you miss a good spot for the main event. At 10:45 am the procession enters The Mall and walks toward Buckingham Palace and it’s best to beat the crowds following them. Then at 11 am the official Changing of the Guard ceremony begins at the Buckingham Palace gates and takes just under an hour.

We arrived at Buckingham Palace gates by 10 am to find the best viewing spot. This was perfect to be able to take photos and find a good viewing spot. Note: it gets very crowded and can be difficult to stick together with a group, so have a plan and limit bulky backpacks or strollers.

The entire ceremony path and best viewing spots are on the website with maps. Check the schedule as things frequently change.

Buckingham Palace indoor tours are limited to when the King is not there and dates can change but previously were July-September. In addition, there are some family-guided tours as well as other theme-specific tours that happen throughout the year.

Changing of the Guards tours 

St James Park

If you’re with kids or just want a nice place to relax check out the St. James playground and gardens on the way back. It’s a wonderful garden to explore and for kids to play. Walk back down Birdcage Way to get lunch at the Cellarium Cafe in Westminister Abbey or somewhere nearby.

St, James Playground and Garden

Lunch nearby

Enjoy lunch at the Cellarium Cafe in Westminster Abbey before a tour. It has simple modern fare with beautiful architecture and cloistered ceilings of the Abbey. Reservations weren’t needed when we visited in March but may be in the summer months or holidays.

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey is the royal church of London and is a World Heritage Site with over a thousand years of history. There have been many royal weddings and coronations and more than 3,000 people are buried in Westminster Abbey. It is an incredible place of history and beauty and our kids loved this stop more than I thought they would.

The Abbey is busier during the months of May-September, Easter, and Christmas/New Years time periods when advance online tickets are needed but otherwise purchasing tickets onsite is possible. We always recommend purchasing tickets online in advance to avoid waiting in line. The Abbey is not open for tours on Sundays only services. 

Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries are a worthwhile add-on for £5 to gain access to the beautiful 13th-century triforium space which includes views of the Nave and the Abbey floors. The audio guide is included with the entrance price and is very good. 

Learn more

Photo Op

When walking Westminster Bridge along Great George Street/A302 there will be several red phone booths where you can photograph the phone booth with Big Ben in the background.

Additional things to do nearby with more time

The Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace is a great way to see the historic royal carriages and working stables. Learn more

Big Ben – recently reopened up for tours so it’s been popular but you have to be up for a workout to climb the 334 spiral staircase steps to see the clock face that is known as Big Ben, the tower itself is the Elizabeth Tower. Advance tickets are required and often sell out three months in advance. Tickets are released on the second Wednesday of every month at 10 am local time. Visitors must be 11 years or older.

Visit the Houses of Parliament, including Westminster Hall, the Central Lobby, and the House of Commons Chamber.

Churchill War Rooms – secret underground headquarters where Churchill lived and worked during WWII.

See 10 Downing Street, the official home of the British Prime Minister.

Walk across the Westminster Bridge and ride the London Eye. 

Theatre

Using TKTS allows discounted same-day theatre tickets for London’s West End shows. The TKTS booth is in the heart of Leicester Square open seven days a week (check times) as well as online. Seeing a show in London is not to be missed!

Theatre in London's West End
Theatre in London's West End

Day 4 in London

On day four discover the storied halls of the Tower of London, unlocking secrets from centuries past including the Crown Jewels. Catch the best views of London and dine along the Thames.

Tower of London

The Tower of London is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the top attractions in London.

Advance tickets are needed (1+ months in advance is best) and you can buy them directly. We recommend scheduling for first thing in the morning for fewer crowds. Make sure to add the audio guide when booking as this gives you access to five different tours including the popular Yeoman Warder tour. The Yeoman Warder who lives onsite will share what it’s really like to live inside a Royal Fortress. 

When you enter the castle head straight to see the Crown Jewels first to save on the lines that will soon follow. Then go back and catch the next Yeoman Warder tour. These tours are mostly outdoors so dress accordingly.

Learn more and reserve tickets

If you prefer to visit in the evening consider trying for the hard-to-get tickets for the 700-year-old ancient Ceremony of the Keys.

Lunch Nearby

Coppa Club Tower Bridge is a great restaurant within a 2-minute walk of Tower London. Situated along the River Thames Coppa Club offers modern European fare in beautifully designed igloos or indoor seating. Reservations are recommended. An easy 10-minute walk from lunch to Sky Garden.

Coppa Club Tower Bridge London
Coppa Club Tower Bridge

Sky Garden

London’s highest public garden sits atop a skyscraper with 360-degree panoramic views of the skyline. There are restaurants and bars to relax and take in the amazing indoor and outdoor terrace views of the city. Tickets are required, although free, they open for weekly availability three weeks prior (often Mondays between 9-10am local time) and go quickly. Visitors need to bring ID along with mobile tickets and there is a security bag check and no beverages allowed up.

Additional things to do nearby

  • Tower Bridge – Discover the high-level glass walkways with unforgettable views from the Tower Bridge. To get tickets and find timing for the bridge lift times check here.
  • Horrible Histories Boat Tour is a fun way to learn about history while taking in the views on the Thames.
  • Leadenhall Market is a Victorian indoor marketplace with apparel, gifts, and restaurants.

Day 5 London

This last full day includes some arts and outdoor time before a travel day, all while seeing any last stops you didn’t get to yet. Today starts at Kensington Palace and then heads to explore everything that the West End district has to offer.

Kensington Palace and Diana’s Playground

Venture to Kensington Palace to get in a morning walk and explore the gardens. There are also tours offered to see inside this royal residence. Find a pavilion near the gardens that offers food and traditional tea. Continue your way to Diana’s Playground, a great outdoor space for kids to play, and don’t miss Hyde Park nearby as well.

Explore Covent Garden and Neal’s Yard

Next, check out the lively Covent Garden shopping and entertainment area in London’s West End. The historic market building and surrounding streets are known for some of London’s best outdoor dining and pop-up experiences. There are often street performers on the pedestrian piazza near the 17th-century St Paul’s Church entrance. Explore the colorful alleyways of Neal’s Yard, there are great places for lunch or a relaxing cafe visit.

Today is a great option if you haven’t already taken in a show in this famed West End theatre district.

Other stops nearby if you have more time:

  • Transportation Museum 
  • The Royal Opera House
  • The British Museum

What to do in London with more time

As you can see there is so much to do in London. If you have more than five days for your London itinerary, below are additional ideas. 

  • Windsor Castle which is only open every Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday 
  • The Stonehenge Circle tour experience requires a very early start and due to limited reservations, tickets go quickly. 
  • Catch an Arsenal F.C. game
  • Harry Potter studio tour
  • The British Museum
  • TKTS get discounted tickets to a show in the West End. Catch Back to the Future, Matilda, Six the Musical, and so many more. The smaller intimate theatres were great with kids and the discounted tickets allowed for greater access to great theater.

Free things to do in London for Families

While London and any major city can be quite expensive, there are so many great things to do in the city that are free. The city of London has an amazing amount of museums and activities that are free to visit. This can be an incredible savings for families with kids looking for free things to do in the city.

9 ¾ platform in Kings Cross Station – for any Harry Potter fans, Kings Cross train station is where the Hogwarts Express begins. Get photos taken near the iconic luggage trolley disappearing into the wall. There are professional photographers with props, but they also allow you to take your own photos. The line for photos here can take time so we recommend doing this stop not on a travel day. The Harry Potter shop is also in this station.

Young V&A  is part of a collection of creative museums across London that spark creativity, learning, and imagination. including the Admission is free. 

Tate Modern is an amazing modern art museum that is free and open to all. It offers interactive activities and spaces for families. Tate Kids is an online experience where kids can learn about art, play games, and take quizzes.

National History Museum Some family favorites in this museum are the beloved Dippy the Diplodocus dinosaur, whales, and volcanoes but there is so much to see. The space itself is incredible, make sure to look up! Free admission but reserve your visit time online.

Science Museum This incredible museum offers seven floors of science and educational fun. Free⁠ but pre-booked tickets are required.

The Wallace Collection is free and offers monthly Hands-On Armour sessions where families can see and touch the real armour. They also have creative workshops, storytelling, and a swordplay cupboard.

Harry Potter London Tours

Unique things to do in London

If you’re looking for other unique things to do in London check out some of these ideas.

  • Sherlock Holmes Museum
  • House of Dreams Museum
  • Catch one of these fun, themed afternoon teas
    Peter Pan tea at the Shard – a creatively done afternoon tea inspired by a Peter Pan theme.
    Sketch London does afternoon tea right in a pink explosion Art Deco dining room.
  • The Thames Rocket speedboat experience from the London Eye and Tower Bridge.
  • Herd of Hope is a family of 20+ life-sized bronze elephants which each represent a different orphaned elephant story. The sculptures move to different locations across London and aim to raise awareness of the mistreatment of elephants thanks to the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

The Best Playgrounds in London for kids

We love finding cool and unique playgrounds when we travel. It’s also a great way to meet locals or other families traveling with kids. Here are some great playgrounds in London to check out during a visit.

  • St. James Park Playground
  • Diana Memorial Playground
  • Holland Park Adventure (close to Diana’s Park)
  • Kilburn Grange Adventure Park
  • Prospect Park at Battersea Power Station 
  • Jubilee Park
  • Wembley Park Play Park (covered)
  • Finsbury Park Playground
  • Gloucester Gate, Regent’s Park

    If Paris is part of your larger itinerary check out the best playgrounds in Paris.
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Frequently Asked Questions on Planning a 5-day Itinerary for London

What are the best stay options for families in London?

London hotels are known for being small and strict on the number of guests and this can make traveling with kids or a large family challenging.

We loved this AirB&B in Little Venice. Centrally located in the beautiful Little Venice area a 7-minute walk to Paddington Station. Great restaurants, shops, and canals are all within walking distance. Note: the link may not work if they’re not currently accepting new bookings.

Family/Suite Options in London

Doubletree By Hilton London Kensington – has larger rooms and a great central London location.

Jubilee Hotel Victoria – budget family room options within walking of Buckingham Palace

Park Plaza Westminster Bridge – very walkable near the London Eye with family room options.

The Langham is an iconic luxury hotel in London. Five stars in the heart of the West End with family room options.

Luxury Hotels…because it’s London!

Radisson Blu Mercer Street this luxury hotel is close to Covenant Garden and within a 10-minute walk to Trafalgar Square.

St. Ermin’s is a luxury hotel tucked in a quiet neighborhood near Buckingham Palace but walkable to main attractions within central London.

Ruby Zoe Hotel – referred to as “lean luxury” with a design focus but many self-service offerings. A bit outside central London near Notting Hill Gate station but easy access on the Tube. Smaller rooms.

Where to eat in London?

Café in the Crypt A coffee shop and cafe in the crypt under St. Martin’s in the Fields near the edge of Trafalgar Square.

Dishoom – is a popular Indian food restaurant and they have various locations throughout London.

BrewDog Waterloo – pub food within a microbrewery, live music, outdoor seating, duckpin bowling, an ice cream truck, and did I mention there’s a slide?

How many days should I spend in London?

With five days in London you can see so much of what it has to offer. Catch all the best attractions from the Changing of the Guards, Westminster Abbey to the London Eye, and theatre in the West End. Try to plan travel days on either end so you have five full days in London. If you have seven to ten days there is always something more to do in London.

How do I get from Heathrow Airport to central London?

There are a few options but the Heathrow Express is our preferred option.

Take the Heathrow Express for an easy 15-minute journey to London. Purchase tickets at the train station for convenience. Non-stop trains run every 15 minutes from all terminals to Paddington station, where you can transfer to the London Underground or the Elizabeth Line. ~£15 Children 15 years and under travel free when accompanied by a paying adult.

London Underground ( ‘the Tube’) will take you from Heathrow to central London in under an hour. Trains run every 10 minutes and the cost is ~£6 and children under 11 years old are free. The easiest way to pay is using a contactless “tap” credit card or Oyster card but you can also buy single tickets at the station.

Elizabeth Line is London’s newest rail line. Heathrow to central London in under 45 minutes, with trains every 30 minutes and the cost is ~£13, and children under 11 years old are free. The easiest way to pay is using a contactless “tap” credit card or Oyster card but you can also buy single tickets at the station.

Welcome Pickups
A personalized car transfer service with great customer service and reviews. This is a nice option if traveling with large luggage or kids after an international flight. They help with luggage and can coordinate based on your needs. We’ve used them in the past and have been very happy with the level of service.
Book your London Airport Transfer

What is the easiest way to handle public transportation with kids in London?

The public transportation is very good in London and kids under 11 years of age ride for free with paying adults see details here. The easiest way for adults and those over 11 years to pay is using a contactless “tap” credit card or Apple Pay setup on a watch or phone. You need a separate card or device (even if it’s tied to the same account that’s ok) per person as you tap in and out. Children traveling for free do not require tickets and station staff will let them through the wider luggage gates. The accompanying adult will use the ticket gates as normal.
More info on rail travel with kids in London.

Where can I store luggage in London?

Left Luggage offers bag storage in Paddington Station but there are others like Bounce, Transfer Bags, and Stasher.

Is the London Pass worth it?

The answer is different depending on your itinerary. If you follow this itinerary exactly I’ll share we did not get the London Pass for our family of five. Build your itinerary and then compare entry costs for the things you’re interested instead in doing. It can also lead to packing in too many activities into fewer days to make it worthwhile. 

What are the best apps to download for a trip to London?

Google Maps, Tube Map, TfL Go, Gett (black taxis), The Fork, Visit London, Welcome Pickups (if airport transfers are needed), Rick Steve’s Audio Europe (great audio guides).

Reminder: setup Apple Pay if you don’t have a contactless credit card as it will make tapping in/out for the Tube easier and most establishments use contactless payment.

Lastly, we hope this 5-Day Itinerary for London helps you plan an amazing trip. Perfect for first-timers, it balances must-see attractions with local experiences for an unforgettable London adventure. Share with us what your favorite things to do in London! Follow us on Instagram and check out our saved story highlight for this trip to London.

If Paris is also in your plans check out the best playgrounds in Paris with travel tips. Check out our guide on How to Plan Budget Family Travel without Sacrifices.

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5-Day Itinerary for London
5-Day Itinerary for London: A First-Timer’s Essential Guide

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