How to Spend a Fabulous 4 Days in London

Travel writer Michelle Joy quit her job at a magazine to start a blog and explore the world. Now, she helps other women to adventure independently and publishes detailed travel itineraries for destinations in Europe and the U.S. Find out more

From historic castles and cathedrals to modern skyscrapers and observation wheels, London is packed with bucket-list landmarks and experiences. With so much to see, piecing together the perfect first visit to the city is always easier with recommendations for the best things to do. 

This 4 days in London travel guide will help you book museum and attraction visits, find the best city views, and even plan a day trip to the countryside.

Table of Contents

Day 1: London highlights and views

Your first day in London is the perfect intro to the city, with postcard landmarks and epic views.

Start your 4 days in London with a city tour

Sightseeing buses and cruises are a great way to see London

London is a big city with so many incredible landmarks you don’t want to miss. An overview tour on your first day is a great way to make your way around to the best spots and get familiar with the city’s layout. 

A hop-on, hop-off bus tour will move you around the city with guided narration, and you can look out the window (or from the top of the double decker) to see Trafalgar Square, Westminster Abbey, Hyde Park, Big Ben, Tower Bridge, and so much more.

Stop by Buckingham Palace

Stop by Buckingham Palace

You can’t visit London without visiting Buckingham Palace, the monarch’s home in London since 1837. In summer you can tour the State Rooms inside or you can watch the Changing of the Guard ceremony year-round at the palace gates. No matter when you visit, you can almost always snap photos in front of the giant golden-topped gates and stroll through the peaceful neighboring St James’s Park.

Cruise the Thames

Take tea on the Thames

The River Thames weaves through central London, and boat tours are a fun way to see the city from the water. You can indulge in a British tradition with an afternoon tea cruise that floats by Shakespeare’s Globe and the Houses of Parliament, or ramp up the thrills with a James Bond-style speedboat ride on the Thames

Sunset from the London Eye

The London Eye

The London Eye is one of the tallest observation wheels in the world, and soaking in the 360-degree views at sunset is extra special. As you lift up from the banks of the River Thames, you’ll be able to see Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, and other famous landmarks. It’s best to reserve a ticket ahead of time to skip the line since the wait times can get long.

Day 2: Historic City of London attractions

Head to the old City of London on day 2, where historic castles sit alongside modern skyscrapers.

Visit St Paul’s Cathedral

St. Paul's Cathedral

The current St Paul’s Cathedral was built just after the Great Fire of London destroyed much of the old city in 1666. Entry is free for worship, but you can grab an entry ticket to see the ornate details inside the cathedral, tour the crypt, and climb the dome for panoramic views.

Tour the Tower of London

Tower of London

Carve out half a day or so on your 4 days in London for the Tower of London, a medieval castle that has served as a fortress, prison, and palace. Inside you can tour the Royal Armories, covet the crown jewels, and meet the famous Beefeaters, or Yeoman Warders, who guard the castle. It’s best to reserve tickets in advance so you don’t waste time in line.

Walk across Tower Bridge

Walk across the Tower Bridge

Not to be mistaken for the less impressive London Bridge nearby, Tower Bridge is the oft-photographed suspension bridge on the River Thames built in the late 1800s. You can cross on the pedestrian sidewalks for free to get to Southwark District landmarks like the Tate Modern museum, Shakespeare’s Globe and the Shard tower. With a Tower of London and Tower Bridge combo ticket, you can also access the old engine rooms and a glass walkway about 140 feet over the water.

Take in the views from the Shard

The view from The Shard

Resembling a jagged piece of glass, the Shard is the tallest building in the UK and juts high above the skyline, providing some of the best city vistas from about 800 feet up. Reserve a ticket to the viewing platform on the 72nd floor, the highest one in Western Europe, and you’ll be able to see for 40 miles in each direction on a clear day. If you want to stick around, the building also has a champagne bar and several restaurants with floor-to-ceiling windows.

Day 3: Day trip from London

While it’s tempting to spend all 4 days in London, there are so many incredible things to see outside the city, too. Use your third day to check off one of these bucket list day trips and see more of England in the process.

Tour Stonehenge, Windsor, and Bath

Stonehenge near Salisbury in South West England

Three epic destinations can be combined into one London day trip when you book a full day excursion to Stonehenge, Windsor Castle, and Bath. Rolling out into the countryside to the west of London, bus tours stop in Windsor, where you can tour another royal residence- Windsor Castle- before continuing on to Stonehenge, the site of the mysterious monolith rocks. Tours wrap up in the ancient city of Bath on the River Avon, where you can visit the old Roman baths before returning to London.

Visit the Cotswolds

Castle Combe in the Cotswolds

The villages of the Cotswolds are everything you picture when you think of the idyllic English countryside- stone cottages with thatched roofs, antique shops on an old town square, sheep grazing in lush green fields. A guided day trip to the Cotswolds is the most relaxed way to get there, so you can sit back and enjoy the charming countryside. 

Say hi to Harry

The Making of Harry Potter tour

Harry Potter fans can’t miss a chance to tour the Warner Bros Studio, just a quick train ride or bus from London. Tours of The Making of Harry Potter include behind-the-scenes experiences, a chance to see the sets and props up close, and a photo op at a recreated Platform 9¾. This experience lasts about half a day, so you’ll be back in London in time to do some shopping or catch a show on the West End.

Day 4: Palaces and museums

This final day of your 4 day London itinerary is packed with culture, including some of the best museums in the city. 

Wander around the British Museum

The Great Court inside the British Museum

London’s British Museum is one of the best in the city, and that’s saying a lot for a city with over 100 museums. The permanent collection has over 8 million pieces of preserved art and culture from Egypt, Greece, Rome, and the Middle East. It’s nearly impossible to see it all in one visit, but make sure you stop by the Rosetta Stone, Easter Island statue, and Parthenon sculptures while you’re there. 

Admission is free but it’s best to book a timed entry slot in advance. Donations are also highly appreciated to keep the institution going. Booking a guided tour is a great way to make sure you see all the highlights in a limited time.

Tour Kensington Palace

Wander the Kensington Palace

Another official royal residence, this time Prince William’s, Kensington Palace neighbors the stunning Kensington Gardens and massive Hyde Park. Book an entry ticket to Kensington Palace to see the State Apartments, admire elaborate Victorian costumes, and learn more about royals like Queen Anne, William III and Mary II, and Diana, Princess of Wales.

Picnic in Hyde Park

Picnic at the park

Hyde Park is one of the best outdoor spaces in the city, with about 350 acres and a lake to explore. Walking and cycling paths weave around the park, and there’s also a playground, sports club, and monuments dotting the landscape. It’s the perfect place for a quiet afternoon picnic (pick up gourmet supplies at Harrods a few blocks away) but you can also hop around sightseeing at the triumphal-style Marble Arch, the famous Speakers’ Corner, and the gilded Albert Memorial.

Museum hop in South Kensington

The Natural History Museum

South Kensington is home to the Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum, Science Museum, and Natural History Museum. While you probably won’t have time to visit them all fully with 4 days in London, admission to the museums is free, so you can pop in to check out a few exhibits while you’re in the neighborhood. The V&A has a massive collection of decorative arts, the Science Museum has an IMAX theater and hands-on exhibits, and the Natural History Museum has over 80 million different specimens, including dinosaur and whale bones.

Tour London by night

London by night

The final evening in London is the perfect time for a night tour of the city. From an open-top bus you can witness the city buzz as you cross by the neon lights of Piccadilly Circus, watch the dancing fountains of Trafalgar Square, and witness landmarks like Big Ben and Tower Bridge in the twilight glow.

Travel writer Michelle Joy quit her job at a magazine to start a blog and explore the world. Now, she helps other women to adventure independently and publishes detailed travel itineraries for destinations in Europe and the U.S. You can read her London guides on her website HarborsandHavens.com.

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