London is an amazing city! I’ve been a few times now and each time I go I fall more in love with the history, the architecture, the people and the never-ending sites to visit! I’ll share some of my favourite things to see in London, as well as a daytrip outing to Windsor Castle.
On your first day in London, get your bearings. A Hop-On Hop-Off Bus is a great option, but London is a very walkable city and it has an amazing transportation system with both the Tube and the buses.
Day 1: After breakfast, begin your day by wandering along the Embankment of the River Thames. Across the Thames you’ll spot the London Eye, which provides great views of the city from the capsules. Fit this attraction in wherever you can!
Make your way to the Houses of Parliament for photos of Big Ben.
Close by you’ll find Westminster Abbey. Definitely get the audio guide as there is so much history here…coronations, weddings, and funerals.
After taking your time inside the Abbey exit the church and walk down Whitehall, past the government buildings and Downing Street, making a stop at the Horse Guards building. Turn left just before Trafalgar Square, go under Admiralty Arch,
and then meander down The Mall. This is a great place to have a bite to eat if you’ve packed yourself some lunch.
Continue down The Mall to Buckingham Palace. If you see the Royal Standard flag flying on the flagpole it means the reigning sovereign is in residence. Perhaps you’ll get invited in for tea.
Walk to the right of the palace and then along Constitution Hill until you get to Hyde Park. From here you can wander through Hyde Park to the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain and Kensington Gardens, catch the Tube to Covent Garden for some shopping and a bite to eat, or continue along Knightsbridge and Brompton Road to Harrods. We stopped here and went to their food section. Wow! The whole store is something to experience and worth a peek, even though it is usually crowded! After a busy first day of sightseeing find yourself a pub and enjoy a meal of fish and chips.
Day 2: Begin this day at the Monument that commemorates the Great Fire of London. From here you can walk to the Tower of London, originally built as a royal residence, but over the years used as an armoury, a treasury, and a prison.
There’s a lot to see here…the moat, the Medieval Tower, the White Tower, Traitor’s Gate, the Bloody Tower, the Crown Jewels and of course the Yeoman of the Guard.
We spent about two hours here but you could definitely stay longer. From here you can then catch a river boat and travel down the River Thames to Greenwich. Travelling along the Thames is a wonderful way to relax and see London from a different perspective. Along the way you’ll learn about the importance of this river for trading in the past and hear about the changes that have happened along this riverfront. When you arrive walk into town for a bite to eat and then head up the hill to the Royal Observatory in Greenwich Park.
Here you can take some fun pictures of the Prime Meridian.
Head back down to the Maritime Museum and look at the displays of original expedition tools that were used to help sailors navigate.
After wandering through the park catch the boat back to Westminster passing under the city’s many bridges.
Combining both the Tower of London and Greenwich, with the river boat ride, makes for a fantastic day of sightseeing.
Day 3: Today we head out of town to Windsor Castle. There are so many options for day-trips from London and this is just one of them.
We made our way to Waterloo Station and then caught a train to Windsor Castle arriving around 10:30am. When we arrived in Windsor we walked up High Street and waited outside the castle for the Changing of the Guard.
Once inside we picked up the audio guide and started with a look around the Royal Apartments. Again there is so much to see here, and so much history, that having the audio guide is a great idea.
St. George’s Chapel, which is the church for the Knights of the Order of the Garter, is situated inside the castle grounds and is absolutely beautiful! There are many kings and queens from the past buried here including King Henry VIII. After touring the castle we stopped for a late lunch at a restaurant in Windsor called Drury House. There are still some original crown mouldings and wood panelling from when the building was constructed in the 17th century. We caught a train back to Waterloo just after 3:00pm. This trip was a perfect way to spend a day outside of London.
Day 4: Grab a coffee and a scone and start your day at St. Paul’s Cathedral. Before you enter St. Paul’s walk down to the Millennium Bridge and get some pictures of the cathedral.
Once inside the cathedral take your time appreciating the beautiful interior and the magnificent artwork found here. Walk up to the Whispering Gallery and then continue to the outside balconies for amazing views of the city.
After being up so high, head down below the cathedral to the crypt area. It’s quite a contrast from the brightness up above! Although there isn’t as much to see here as in Westminster Abbey, I found I was much more moved by the overall grandeur of this church.
For the afternoon head by bus along Holborn Street to the British Museum.
You could spend days in this museum so you might want to have a look ahead of time and plan which collections you want to see. We ended up spending most of our time looking at the Egyptian collections with artifacts dating back to 2000 BC.
Wander around here for the rest of the afternoon and check out the gift shop for some great souvenirs.
Day 5: Begin your last day at Trafalgar Square. Head into the National Gallery.
Again, there is far too much to see here in just one visit so get a map and check out the highlights. During our short visit here we saw paintings by Raphael, Da Vinci, Van Eyck, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, and Monet. The Sainsbury Wing is definitely worth checking out for it’s collection of Renaissance Art. Back outside, walk behind the National Gallery to Leicester Square where there are lots of theatres, and then along Coventry Street to Piccadilly Circus.
You can walk down Regent Street to Oxford Circus and then turn left and walk along Oxford Street back to Hyde Park. This whole area is filled with stores, both designer stores and department stores. As this is your last day, do some shopping and enjoy another meal in an English pub before you leave this amazing city.
Here are some tips while in London…
…get familiar with the Tube and carry the map with you. It can get a bit confusing once you are underground so follow directions carefully
…admissions to cathedrals will cost you money, but museums such as the British Museum and the National Gallery are free
…food and drink is expensive, even a cup of coffee may cost you 2 or 3 pounds
…London parks are beautiful and expansive, spend some time enjoying them