See the Best of London – Things to Do in London in 4 Days – an Itinerary

London. One of the busiest cities in the western world, it is always changing, but always fun.

Rumors about the bad weather are not just rumors. But despite it being gray and rainy so often, it is one of the most interesting and fun places in the world.

London was the first metropolis I ever visited. I was just 15 and on a class trip. Coming from a smaller city in Germany with only 500,000 inhabitants, I was blown away by this crazy city.

Its busyness, all of its sights, its history, and its extremely friendly residents made me fall head over heels in love with London, and it became my favorite city at the time. While I have been to more cities and London isn’t my all-time favorite place anymore, about 20 years and ten visits later, London feels a bit like home.

There are a few things I do regularly when I visit, but I always add a few new London sights to my itinerary. So, this list is carefully curated by me – and this post should help you get a good overview of the top things to do in London. It is great for first-time visitors or those who visited London years ago – thus, it includes a lot of typical sightseeing places.

This 4-day itinerary is quite busy, and it depends, of course, on how much time you actually spend at each London attraction, but it is doable if you are out and ready to see the best places in London in a few days.

London Travel Information

How to Get Around

Though many sights are within walking distance, you might need to take the bus or underground once in a while. It is bigger than other European cities, like Paris, and I always use public transportation in addition to the many miles I walk.

Public Transportation

The underground works fine, but I prefer taking buses. The underground gets extremely busy, especially at rush hour. At times, the stations are so busy, they don’t even allow people in (I saw this with my own eyes at stations around Oxford Street after work). People standing on the entrance stairs couldn’t move at all and these images have burnt themselves into my brain. However, if you use it at other times, it works fine, and is quite cheap and fast.

Oyster Card:  Buying an Oyster Card makes sense if you use public transportation often. You can load it up with credit and just swipe it in/out at every bus and underground station. In the end, it finds the best rates and calculates the cheapest tickets (so, no need to worry beforehand if a day ticket will be cheaper than single tickets).

Some of the red double-decker buses are actually regular buses and not sightseeing buses, which is pretty cool and I recommend using them at least once.

Hop-on and Hop-off buses

I use the buses whenever I have a limited amount of time in a new city and want to get an overview. The buses in London have several routes and if you cannot walk long distances, these are super handy to use. You can get to most of the mentioned London points of interest by bus, and you can save some money on a few attractions, too.

Bikes

I actually have rented bikes several times. There are many stations throughout London where you can swipe your credit card and pay a small fee to rent a bike. Once you have paid that general fee, you can use the bike for 30 minutes with extra charge. After a max. of 30 minutes, you need to drop it at a bike rental station (any). You could then take another bike and use that one for another 30 minutes – if you don’t want to pay extra and just pay that one-time fee.

I just used it to get from one place to another when my legs got tired. So, I dropped it at the next rental station and took a bike whenever I needed one again. If you don’t want to use my very budget-friendly system, you can also use the bike for longer by paying an extra fee in addition to the general 24-hour fee.

Taxis 

The black cab is iconic in London and maybe a must-do for some London visitors. I have never ridden one, and with such good public transportation, it probably isn’t really needed.

Ubers are also available.

Keep in mind that traffic in London can be crazy, so the underground is probably one of the best means of getting around if you don’t want to spend too much time in vehicles.

Cars

In the UK you drive on the left side, I have never ever considered renting a car or driving by myself. Fo most people in the western world, driving on the left side isn’t standard but of course you could rent a car and explore the city this way. But honestly, I do not really recommend it as London is busy and attractions are clustered so a car isn’t needed (and, traffic and parking can be insane in London). If you still aren’t convinced, you can check out rates for renting cars here.

When to Visit

Weather in London can be challenging – summer doesn’t guarantee sun and nice weather. July and August are popular months for visitors, and December is great for shopping.

Though weather prediction in England is difficult, I recommend visiting between May and September. If you aren‘t visiting for a specific event, I also suggest checking to see if a big event (like Fashion Week or a Royal Celebration, etc.) is going on, as accommodations can be even more expensive at those times.

People

London´s inhabitants used to be some of the friendliest people in the western world. English people in general are very polite, which makes it easy to ask questions (whether you ask for directions or whatever). I still think that the people are great, but I realized that people seemed a bit more stressed after the Brexit decision was made. Maybe it’s because the majority of the people in London aren’t happy with the decision, but normally, you will find lots of friendly and polite people in England. So, while the weather isn’t always friendly, the people at least are!

London 4-Days Itinerary

Day 1

Hyde Park and Speaker´s Corner

One of the most famous parks in the world can be a perfect starting point for exploring London. 

Hyde Park also hosts events and concerts, and is the biggest royal park in London. Despite special events, it is a place that allows you to breathe and enjoy the green lounge of the city.

The Speaker´s Corner, a part of Hyde Park, is famous for people giving free speeches and demonstrating there – if you are lucky, you might experience some of those speeches yourself.

Start early (around 9 am) from the Kensington Palace entry and stroll the area, relax, or meditate before heading, via Wellington Arch, to one of the best places to see in London.

Prepare for busy, but fun, days as you head to one of the biggest tourist attractions in London. 

Extra Tip: If you are into museums you could visit the Victoria & Albert Museum, which is close to the palace. 

Buckingham Palace

Whether you like the Royal Family or not, visiting the home of the Queen, Buckingham Palace, is a must.

Buckingham Palace in London @shutterstock
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More than 200 years ago, it was built for the Duke of Buckingham before it was acquired by the king in 1761. Now, it is the home of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip.

If you are lucky, and are one of the 50,000 invited annual guests, you can peak at the inside interior. If you aren’t you have to content yourself with a look from the outside. Don’t be sad though, I have never been a lucky guests and still managed to like London nevertheless. 

With 775 rooms, it surely is impressive, but don’t mourn. It is still interesting to look at from a distance.

Also, you can see the Changing of the Guards from there. Personally, I wasn’t too impressed, but it is on the bucket list of many, so check out the times in advance, as it isn’t very frequent.

St. James´ Park

From there, head to St. James´ Park, which is another royal park with a lake, fountain, pelicans, and some cute squirrels who would like to meet you. You can also rest before heading to the next main tourist attraction of London.

Extra Tip: For museum lovers, the Tate Gallery will be an interesting stop.

Westminster Abbey

London has several beautiful churches and cathedrals worth visiting. One of them is Westminster Abbey.

It is a popular church for royals to get married in and you can visit the Lady Chapel, the Royal Tombs (Westminster Abbey is the final resting place for 17 monarchs), the Coronation Chair (a 700-year-old piece of furniture that is on display), and the Abbey Gardens.

Attending the services is free, but seeing the other places requires tickets, which you can book in advance.

From there, you are just a stone‘s throw away from the next gorgeous place in London.

Houses of Parliament and Big Ben (Elizabeth Tower)

The Palace of Westminster (also known as the Houses of Parliament) and Elizabeth Tower (also known as Big Ben) have such distinctive architecture that they‘re beautiful whether it‘s day or night. Its important role in England’s political life as a parliament (it is home of the two houses) is almost unimportant – at least from the outside.

London on a budget- 21 free things to do in London
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But if you would like to visit the Palace of Westminster, some parts are open to the public, like the House of Lords. It just requires some advance preparation.

I have never visited, but the architecture was enough to have me falling for it.

And here we are: at my favorite building in England. The Elizabeth Tower (formerly known as the Clock Tower) is the impressive tower at the Palace of Westminster and one of the most iconic landmarks in the world. Most people refer to it as Big Ben, though Big Ben is actually only the largest of the five bells of the clock.

Unfortunately, there are some restorations going on (until probably 2021) and the clock is covered. 

Westminster Bridge

Cross the Westminster Bridge (from there, you will also have the best free views of the Elizabeth Tower and the Houses of Parliament) and you are already at the next London attraction.

London Eye

I have a thing for great views – one of the first activities on my list (for any destination) is looking for the best vantage point. 

London Eye at night - what a beauty.
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Looking at London Eye at night – picture taken by @cocoetfraise Instagram

London Eye is the biggest ferris wheel in the world and located right on the Thames. There are 32 capsules with glass windows, offering great views over the city. One ride takes about 30 minutes – it is not a wild ride, but goes very slowly. People suffering from a fear of heights might be scared though. At its highest point, London Eye is 135 meters high, so it might feel like a thrill ride for them.

London Eye opened in 2000, so I did not visit during my first trip to London, but eventually, I did. I loved the amazing view of my favorite London building: The Elizabeth Tower (aka Big Ben).

The ride is not cheap, but if you are into great views and ferris wheels, it is worth the money and time (it normally includes some standing in lines, so getting a fast-track ticket might be a good option).

Lunch and Dinner: There are many options for dining along the Thames. You will find something for every budget and taste, ending your day at a restaurant at the Thames River is a perfect idea!

Day 2

One of my favorite activities in London is to stroll the Thames and see the most beautiful places along the way. 

Tower of London

I recommend starting at the Tower of London, which is located at River Thames. The UNESCO World Heritage site is extremely popular and one of the most visited landmarks in London.

London where to visit in four days
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While I only visited the inside once, I always love strolling the area. The Tower of London is one of the best places to visit in London, though its history is actually rather violent and tragic.

It is a historic castle that was used as a prison for the longest time (1100-1952), and was also a royal residence (weird how those go together). Now, it is a museum and open to the public. The Crown Jewels are probably the most famous attraction, though you can also learn more about England´s past while there.

If you visit the inside, you should know that it can be very crowded. Buying a ticket does include a guided tour though (either audio guides or guided tours). For anyone interested in history and royalty, this is a great place to see in London.

Tower Bridge

The Tower Bridge, just next to the Tower of London, is one of the most popular – and photogenic – bridges in the world. Its unique shape and design reminds me of a large toy. It was built in the late 19th century and has two pathways – a lower one for pedestrians, cyclists, and vehicles, and an upper one with a glass floor that is only for pedestrians. 

London Tower Bridge point of interests
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The one below opens for ships and boats, adding a bit more spectacle to it. Crossing it is free, but the upper one can only be walked across by paying an entrance fee. You can also visit the exhibition and learn about its mechanics.

Stay on the other side (so, not on the Tower of London side) and walk for about 1.8 km and you will see another unique bridge.

Millennium Bridge

This Millennium Bridge is a steel suspension bridge that opened in 2000 and is one of my favorite bridges. 

James Padolsey Unsplash London sights
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Given that it is only for pedestrians, it is a safe place to take Instagram shots. The views all around are beautiful and the bridge is one of a kind.

If you walk that bridge slowly, you will have a beautiful, and kind of surprising, view of St. Paul´s Cathedral.

St. Paul‘s Cathedral 

As mentioned above, the best way to approach this beautiful cathedral is by crossing the Millennium Bridge – it almost feels dramatic (see picture above).

For more than 200 years, it was London´s highest building. It was rebuilt several times and this one was completed in 1710.

It is now the seat of the Bishop of London, and the Anglican church is popular for royal weddings (Lady Diana and Prince Charles were probably the most famous couple who were wed there).

You can visit the church for free (Sundays it is only open for worshippers), but if you want to see the galleries, cathedral floor, and crypt, you have to get tickets (audio guides included).

Sky Garden

A popular and free option to see London from above is the Sky Garden.

Sky Garden @shutterstock
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You have to book tickets in advance (about three weeks earlier), but it is free to visit, and you have fabulous views over the city. It is located close to the Tower of London, so if the tickets are booked out, you can make a reservation for one of the restaurants in the garden (but, of course, you would also have to consume something).

It is the highest public garden and has several dining options. It is nice to visit at any time of the day, but could also be a great way to end the evening!

Shakespeare´s Globe

Okay, it really depends on where you like to end your day, so you could swap Sky Garden with this tip.

Globe Theater in four days with Arzo Travels
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For those of you interested in theater, why not visit the Shakespeare‘s Globe? It will probably be one of the most unique theater locations you see!

It was built in the 16th century by Shakepeare´s playing company, and after it was closed in 1642, it reopened more than 350 years later – just a few hundred meters from the original theater.

You can watch plays by the famous William Shakespeare (Romeo & Juliet is just one of his famous scripts) or book theater “lessons.“ Believe me, after an exhausting day, it is refreshing to take part in such interactive lessons. 

It is located in the Bankside´s Cultural Quarter – a very lovely and charming neighborhood by the Thames, with many restaurants and cafes. It is a great way to end the day (if you aren’t too into heights and prefer culture over great views at the Sky Garden).

Day 3

Oxford Street 

London´s main shopping street is home to 300 shops and restaurants – if you are a shopping addict, you´ll love it there.

Sabrina Mazzeo Unsplash
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Sabrina Mazzeo @Unsplash

From super budget to super fancy, you´ll find all kinds of retail shops and restaurants. If you cannot be bothered to walk the two-kilometer-long street, you can just walk a part of it and then head to Regent Street toward the next main attractions.

Regent Street 

This is another main shopping street. Just head from Oxford Circus Underground station to Regent Street and you´ll have more places to shop.

If you walk along this street, you will experience one of the best tourist places in London.

Piccadilly Circus

Piccadilly Circus is a road junction, connecting the abovementioned Regent Street and Piccadilly, and is a main hotspot in London.

Empty Piccadilly Circus @shutterstock
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It is a smaller version of New York´s Times Square and a popular meeting point with many neon billboards.

In the middle of the junction, there is an option to sit and just watch the busting activity around. If you prefer sitting in a more comfortable environment, you can just choose one of the cafes close by and watch the craziness around you.

Trafalgar Square

The next station is Trafalgar Square, which is just a stone‘s throw from Piccadilly Circus and one of the top places to see in London. 

Trafalgar Square @shutterstock
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You might have heard of the “Battle of Trafalgar.“ The Nelson Column was named in honor of Admiral Nelson, who fought in the aforementioned battle. The lion statues are probably the most distinctive attraction there (and the lions are my personal favorite). 

You have many museums and galleries around!

Extra Tip: If you are into museums you could visit the National Gallery next to Trafalgar Square. The art museum houses more than 2,300 art paintings from around the world.

Covent Graden

After exploring Trafalgar Square, it is time for the next (and probably last) stop for the day: Covent Garden.

This district is just one kilometer from Trafalgar Square and makes a perfect walk.

Part of Covent Garden is covered and so it is a perfect location if the weather is bad. Stroll the cobblestone square of Covent Garden Piazza, shop in one of the numerous shops and markets, and visit the museums. These are just a few things to do in London‘s Covent Garden.

Given its many cafes, it is also a great way to end the day!

Day 4

Whenever I visit a place for more than two or three days, I give myself some free time so I can spontaneously do and see what I like. You never know about the weather, how you‘ll feel, and so on.

If you are in London for four days and have managed to see all of the recommendations mentioned above, I have a few more tips. If you haven’t checked them all off, I suggest visiting them (if you are interested) and using this itinerary for the fourth day as an extra.

Notting Hill

If you are looking for an extremely Instagrammable place in London, then Notting Hill is it.

The colorful houses of Notting Hill @shutterstock
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This district is behind Kensington Place (at Hyde Park) and known for its fun and colorful houses and its markets – especially Portobello Market (check out the times of the markets beforehand as they aren’t every day). You can buy fresh food and vegetables, antiques, and all kinds of fun souvenirs.

There are museums, cafes, and restaurants. There is so much to do that you could easily spend an entire day there.

Churchill Arms 

If you are in London (actually in any part of England), you will notice the beautiful pubs and cafes. There are flower pots everywhere and I think this adds extra charm to this fun city and lovely country.

Admiring London´s pretty pubs - picture taken of me by @bearcef (Instagram)
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Picture taken of me by @bearcef (Instagram)

But the Churchill Arms, close to Notting Hill, is special. I am not a fan of pubs, so I did not go in, but looking at this stunning piece display of flowers was breathtaking.

It is definitely the creme de la creme of amazing-looking pubs, and a feast for the eyes – yours and for the Instagram addicts!

If you like to end your day in a pub, then this is probably the most iconic!

Four days of London can be busy, and you could spend weeks or even months in London without getting bored, however, I think that four days gives you a good overview of London. I hope this post helps you focus on the best places to see!

Safe Travels, Arzo
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