2 days in London: The ultimate guide

View over London for a 2 day trip to London
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2 days in London is just about long enough to see some of the most important sights and get a feel for the diverse and vibrant culture in England’s capital city.

Here you can take a morning stroll next to the Queens palace, spend the afternoon visiting the dinosaurs and have dinner in a landscaped garden 38 storeys high. London is one of those places that most people only dream of visiting, so it’s vital that you make the most of your time there and experience as much as you can of what this city has to offer.

Having grown up only half an hours train journey from London I have spent many days wondering the capital and seeking out the best things to do there. I have learnt how to see London on a budget and had drinks at the Ritz, and I’ve condensed my many wonderful experiences down to make sure you have the best 2 days in London possible.

I’ve started with a suggested itinerary, including as many iconic sights as possible, and then included tips on transport, accommodation and other important must knows before you visit London. This is an itinerary purely for London’s most iconic and impressive sights, and doesn’t include London’s ‘hidden gems’, which there are also hundreds of! If this is your first time in London then this is the itinerary for you.

Getting the most from your 2 days in London: The London Pass

A 2 day London pass is currently £99, and deals change regularly so keep an eye out and get yours in advance here. If you want to get the most out of your visit to London then this is an absolute must have, making many of the unaffordable sights possible to visit. I worked out that if you visit just four of the top sights in London then this pass will have saved you money.

In your 2 days in London you will likely visit many more attractions, so don’t let the sometimes steep entry prices put you off and consider buying a London Pass to save you time and money.

Day 1 in London

Hopefully you’re well rested, because it’s going to be a busy day! Make sure you wear comfortable shoes as so many things in London are within walking distance, and you’ll see a lot more than if you go everywhere on the tube! I’ve made this itinerary with walking in mind, so I’ve clumped together the sights that are near each other to make it easiest for you to get around.

Tip: If walking all day isn’t an option for you then I highly recommend taking buses rather than the tube. You will get to see so much more. You can even combine your travel with sight seeing by taking London’s Hop-on, Hop-off bus tour. I would recommend getting a London Pass for this, as you’ll pay a little bit extra but get loads of tickets to the famous attractions too, saving you lots of money overall.

The Natural History Museum

The natural history museum in London FOR A 2 DAYS IN LONDON TRIP
NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM

Start early and catch the tube to South Kensington-it’s time to visit the dinosaurs! The Natural History Museum is, in my opinion, one of the best museums in London. Here you can uncover the history of life on Earth, from the smallest insects to the largest mammals. But the main attraction is obviously the dinosaur section, where they have a huge collection of dinosaur bones and ‘real life’ looking reconstructions.

If you have kids then this place will keep them entertained for hours! I took several class loads of children here as a teacher and the six year olds were fascinated by every exhibition.

The impressive interior of Londons natural history museum in london
THE IMPRESSIVE INTERIOR

Top tip: If you’re taking kids why not take some paper and a pen so they can sketch or write about the animals that interest them the most.

If you visit over winter time then there is an ice rink just outside where you can skate under the fairy lights with the incredible Natural History Museum building as your backdrop. Look no further for a romantic date idea! The ice rink will be back up and running in October.

Opening times and prices

Entry is free. There are some exhibits that you’ll have to pay for, check them out on the website here before you go as they change regularly.

The Natural History Museum is open every day from 10.00-17.50 and closed 24-26 December.

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham palace in london, the perfect place to visit for 2 days in london
DAY 1 IN LONDON-BUCKINGHAM PALACE

Head towards Knightsbridge tube station. Along this road you will find the famous Harrods department store. It’s worth a look inside-you are passing after all!

Pass Hyde Park Corner tube station and you will see the Palace gardens. Enjoy the scenic walk through the gardens towards Buckingham Palace.

Tip: If you don’t mind crowds then try to get there for 10.45, when you can watch the Changing the Guard ceremony. It lasts around 45 minutes and is quite a spectacle, but expect to jostle a bit for a good view! If crowds aren’t your thing then you can take your time and enjoy the surroundings!

Changing of the guards in buckingham palace on 2 days in london
CHANGING GUARDS

Buckingham Palace, in some form or another, has been around for centuries, finally becoming the principal royal residence in 1837. It is where the Queen stays when she is in London. You can tell if she’s home by looking at which flag is flying (though I have never been invited in for tea). The Royal Standard is flown at royal residences only when the sovereign is present. If the Union Flag flies above Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle or Sandringham House, it signals that the Queen is not in residence.

Big Ben and The Houses of Parliament

The houses of parliament in london
HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT

It’s a 20 minute walk to The Houses of Parliament (or Palace of Westminster as it’s officially known), so if your feet aren’t aching too much already then stroll on down. The Houses of Parliament have a long and interesting history, you can read about it here before you go. But whether you’re into history or not, the building is quite something and shouldn’t be missed!

Big ben in london: somewhere to visit on your 2 days in london trip
BIG BEN IN LONDON

You’ll pass the iconic Big Ben on your way. The name Big Ben is often used to describe the tower, the clock and the bell but the name was first given to the Great Bell which was first struck on the 7 September 1859.

Westminster Abbey: Fit in a trip here on your 2 days in London

WESTMINSTER ABBEY IN LONDON ON A 2 DAYS IN LONDON TRIP
WESTMINSTER ABBEY

The Abbey has been the coronation church since 1066. It is the final resting place of 17 monarchs and where some of the most important people in British history are buried. The church was begun by Henry III in 1245 and is one of the most important Gothic buildings in the country. Even if you aren’t interested in the history, Westminster Abbey is a fine example of Gothic architecture and you could easily spend an hour or two gazing at it’s beautiful carvings and stained glass windows.

Entrance to Westminster Abbey is included in the London Pass.

Lunch

I’m on a budget

Stop off at a local supermarket and grab a picnic. There are some lovely spots along the river for you to eat a sandwich or three and take in the atmosphere.

Top tip: Cross over Westminster Bridge and head towards The London Eye. There are plenty of street performers around here to keep you amused while you eat!

I’m splashing out!

Get the tube to Oxford Circus and head to Sketch, one of the classiest places to enjoy the traditional English Cream Tea. It isn’t cheap, but it’s certainly interesting. Make sure you explore every room while you’re there, they all have a very different and very interesting design theme (including the toilets!)

The London Eye: A must visit if you have 2 days in London

The london eye in london
THE LONDON EYE

Now that you’re well fed you’re going to want to have a few hours relaxing and taking in the views. Take a trip on the London Eye, where you’ll be able to spot all the famous sights of London from the air. Don’t worry if you’re scared of heights, the London Eye is way more stable than your standard fairground Ferris wheel and there are benches in the middle so you can sit away from the window if it all gets too much!

Thames River Boat Tour

The river thames in london
THE RIVER THAMES

You’ve seen London from the sky, now you can see it from the water. The River Thames is the longest and most famous river in England and has had a very interesting past. Many of London’s most beautiful and famous attractions are situated along it, so sight-seeing by boat is interesting and a little different. The Thames River boat tour is included in your London pass and you can use it on either of your 2 days in London.

Dinner

For pre-dinner drinks head the The Ritz and get a taste of luxury.  If you’re on a budget you can still head here, and opt for the cheapest drink on the menu!  You’ll still be treated like royalty! And if you want a picture with the doorman, be sure to smile sweetly and ask politely!

I’m on a budget

Check out one of London’s many Indian restaurants offering incredible food at very reasonable prices. Hankies has a pre-theatre three course menu for under £20!

I’m splashing out!

The Ivy restaurant has been a firm fixture on London’s dining and social scene since 1917. The Covent Garden restaurant and private room upstairs are the epitome of glamour and you never know who you will be dining next to!

Make sure you book ahead if you want a table, or the central bar is open to diners who haven’t reserved if you’re unorganised like me!

Evening entertainment for your 2 days in London

London has a vibrant nightlife scene and with a little hunting you will be able to find the perfect thing for you. Even if you aren’t one to party, taking in London’s sights under the cover of darkness is a must do, as buildings are lit up and there is a great atmosphere. Some options to consider are listed below, or you may want to look into a trip to one of London’s many cinemas, a ghost walk tour, a relaxing boat cruise or an open mic night.

The West End

sign in londons west end
SHOW TIME

As you’re in the area, it would be criminal not to go and see a West End show. From ‘The Lion King’ to ‘The Book of Mormon’, there is something for everyone. You should book tickets in advance if you want a good seat or have a particular show in mind.

If you’re on a tight budget, or like to live dangerously, you can head to Leicester Square and visit one of the many last minute ticket booths. Tkts has an excellent reputation, so try here first. Sometimes you can get discounted last minute tickets at the theatre box office, so this might also be worth a try. If you go for last minute tickets you should be prepared to stand!

Comedy

If theatre isn’t your thing then why not check out a comedy night. There are tonnes of comedy theatres scattered around London, all of them offering excellent shows. Check out Leicester Squares ‘Comedy Carnival’ for some big names or head to any of the smaller (and cheaper) establishments for just as many laughs.

Day 2 in London

Old Spitalfield Market

A market in london
2 DAYS IN LONDON-VISIT A MARKET

You’re probably pretty tired this morning so treat yourself to a bit of a lie in before you head for breakfast and some retail therapy at Old Spitalfields Market. London markets are world famous and there are lots of good ones around, so if you don’t make it here you should try and see out another before you leave! They range from flower markets to food markets and everything in between, so there really is something for everyone!

The Tower of London

THE TOWER OF LONDON

One of London’s most famous sights and a definite must visit if you have 2 days in London. The Tower of London is just as impressive from the outside as it is from the inside, so if you can’t afford the steep entrance fee then it’s still well worth a visit. Or, with the London Pass, entry is included.

Tower Bridge: Don’t miss one of London’s most photographed sights on your 2 days in London

TOWER BRIDGE

Another incredibly impressive sight, Tower Bridge is one of the most photographed spots in London, and you’ll see why when you get there! You can walk across it and take it all in from both sides.

If you have the London Pass then you should visit the exhibition here, with history on how it was built. And the main attraction, the glass floors that give breathtaking views over London and the cars below!

Lunch

For lunch head to a traditional British pub. We don’t get much right, but I think we’ve got to be given credit for the good old English pub. Fish and chips or a big beef burger and a pint of British ale will go down a treat in any of the traditional English pubs you find on your travels. If you’re stuck for ideas why not try The Minories, hidden under a railway bridge and only a few minutes walk from Tower Bridge. Remember, the darker and harder to see into, the better!

HMS Belfast

HMS BELFAST IN LONDON FOR 2 DAYS
HMS BELFAST-2 DAYS IN LONDON

Now you’re on the other side of the River Thames, you should take a look at HMS Belfast, the famous Second World War Royal Navy warship. You can explore all nine decks of HMS Belfast to discover what life was like on board for the crew at war and at sea. It’s pretty cool inside, with depictions of what life would have been like and stories to go with. It’s HUGE with a lot to explore, even the view of Tower Bridge from the water is worth the ticket price.

Opening times and prices

Open every day from 10am to 6pm every day with last admission at 5pm. Closed 24, 25 & 26 December.

Adult tickets are £16.20 online and child tickets are £8.10.

If you buy the London Pass then entry is included.

The Shard

VIEW OF THE SHARED IN LONDON ON A 2 DAYS IN LONDON TRIP
THE SHARD

London’s tallest building offers spectacular views of the city. At 95 storeys high there won’t be much you can’t see from up here! Book your tickets in advance here, or tickets are included in the London Pass. Make sure you bring your camera, this building offers views you won’t want to forget.

If you’d rather visit at night, The Shard boasts the highest cocktail bars in London and the view of the cities lights from this high up is well worth the cost of a cocktail (or three).

St Paul’s Cathedral

ST PAULS CATHEDRAL IN LONDON
ST PAUL’S CATHEDRAL

Cross the bridge again and head for St Paul’s Cathedral. The Anglican cathedral was re-built after it was burned down in the Great Fire of London, and has since become once of the most iconic buildings in London, housing the weddings and funerals of many prestigious people. This impressive building is definitely worth an hour or two of your time.

Dinner

I’m on a budget

Wahaca does Mexican food in bucket loads. It’s cheap and easy, think street food with a roof. And the best bit-they are eco-warriors, making their restaurants as sustainable as possible.

I’m splashing out!

More incredible views, but this time in a garden. Sky garden is exactly what the name suggest, a garden in the sky. Watch the sun set over the city in one of the most beautiful locations imaginable. Sky garden really is a special place to enjoy dinner, and they do amazing cocktails too!

Getting Around London on your 2 day trip

LONDON ALL LIT UP WITH STREET LIGHTS AT CHRISTMAS
LONDON AT CHRISTMAS

There is very little need to get public transport in London, as most things are within walking distance. Hopefully this guide has demonstrated that! However, if you are limited on time here you may want to take buses or the underground to some of London’s further out attractions. Transport is generally reliable and frequent.

If you plan on using the underground to get around London then you should definitely invest in an Oyster card. This will give you cheaper travel on the tube.

You just have to load it up, and then tap in and out as you go through tube stops. It also works on London buses and river boats. For one off journeys you may be better just buying a single ticket, but for more frequent use then an Oyster card is the way to go.

Accommodation for your 2 days in London

A LONDON RED BUS AND BIG BEN
2 DAYS IN LONDON

From hostels, to self catered apartments and top end luxury hotels, London really does have it all. Unfortunately London accommodation isn’t the cheapest, so if you’re on a really tight budget then we would suggest staying slightly outside the main city centre and getting public transport in. If you can afford to though, staying centrally will really help you to get the most out of your trip, and you won’t have to spend so much time staring out of a train window.

Here are some examples of places you could stay that are within different budgets:

Have a search for the best deals on websites like booking.com and airbnb. These sites are bound to have something to offer, and like we said, try searching the outskirts of London for some far more reasonably priced options.

Tips for visiting London

Make your visit to London go much smoother with these insider tips.

British currency

BRITISH 5 POUND NOTE FOR USING ON A 2 DAYS IN LONDON TRIP
THE BRITISH POUND

London uses the British pound, which is accepted across the whole of the British Isles. You can get Pounds from ATM’s, banks and currency exchanges, although credit cards are accepted pretty much everywhere.

If you do use a credit or debit card, be careful of the foreign exchange fees and watch out for poor conversion rates. You can avoid these problems by signing up for a Revolut card before you go. They will let you withdraw up to £200 a month from ATMs for free, and when you spend using their card you will spend with the interbank exchange rate. You can sign up here for free.

Getting online in London

There is WiFi all over London so you shouldn’t have trouble finding it. If you need the internet urgently for long periods of time (ie. for work), then it may be worth investing in travel router, which will help you to extend a weak WiFi signal and share it across multiple devices.

Water 

Water is perfectly safe to drink in London, and by law, restaurants and cafes have to serve it to you without charge. Take a reusable water bottle like this one to save on buying plastic ones-this will help your pocket and the environment!

Safety in London

London is a city, and although I have always felt safe here, you should always keep your wits about you when travelling in a foreign city. It’s a good idea to keep your valuables in a zipped bag, in sight or under your clothing. Something like this anti-theft bag is perfect and will serve you well for all your travels (we love ours for flying too).

Further reading for your 2 days in London

PEOPLE READING A MAP IN LONDON
YOU’LL WANT A MAP FOR YOUR 2 DAYS IN LONDON

We don’t travel anywhere without a copy of the Lonely Planet Guide. This book has everything you need and more to help you make the most of your trip to London, including lesser known tourist hot spots and some excellent restaurant and cafe recommendations. The detailed maps are also really handy when you’re exploring the city, and condensed down into this handy sized book.

Day trips from London

DURDLE DOOR IN DORSET
DURDLE DOOR IN DORSET

London is so well linked to everywhere in England that it would be shame not to venture outside the capital city. Consider taking a trip to another of England’s historic cities such as Cambridge or Oxford.

If the weather is nice then a trip to the stunning coast of Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door will show you some of the natural beauty on offer in England.

Your London Pass includes entry to several fantastic places to visit outside of London. Hampton Court Palace is just a short train ride away, and Legoland in Windsor will be a huge hit with the kids (and the big kids too!)

HAMPTON COURT PALACE NEAR LONDON
HAMPTON COURT PALACE

I hope this post has come in handy, and that you have the most amazing time on your 2 days in London. Make sure you comment below if you found this useful, and let me know if you think there are any more ‘must see’ attractions that I’ve missed out!

 

 

 

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