November 30, 2018

City Guide: An Ideal Itinerary for First-time Visitors to London

London, England’s capital, is one of the world’s most popular travel destinations. It has long been recognised as a haven for art, entertainment, and culture enthusiasts, especially with its fine collection of palaces, galleries, museums, ancient and historic structures, and entertainment venues for tourists to visit and explore.

If you’re visiting the city for the first-time, it is best to stay for more than three days. London offers a wide range of attractions and you can spend days exploring the most popular ones without barely scratching the surface. So you have to stay for at least 6 days so you can cover the most important tourist spots and still have time to uncover hidden gems that are neatly tucked away from the usual tourist trail. And of course, it would also be great to get out of the bustling city for a few hours to see more of the United Kingdom.

But before you pack your bags, we want to remind you that London is one of the largest and busiest cities in Europe. Therefore, it might be challenging to navigate it on your own. So consider getting a London City Pass or booking a Hop on Hop off Sightseeing Tour. Both options are also cost-effective because you can check all the major attractions and experience more without breaking the bank. London, after all, is not the most affordable city to travel in. Plus, getting a city pass will also grant you skip-the-line access to many attractions so you don’t have to waste time queuing up and jostling massive tourist crowds.

To help you make the most of your first trip to London, here’s a 6-day itinerary that includes all the best sights and things to do.

Day 1 – The Shard, Tower of London, Tower Bridge, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the London Eye

City Guide - An Ideal Itinerary for First-time Visitors to London - The Shard

Spend your first day in London visiting some of the most popular tourist sights. On top of your list should be The Shard, one of the world’s most spectacular skyscrapers. The 95-storey glass-clad tower punctuates London’s iconic skyline and has an open-air observation deck that provides unparalleled views of the city.

City Guide - An Ideal Itinerary for First-time Visitors to London - Tower of London

From The Shard, you can proceed to the Tower of London. At more than 900 years old, there’s so much to discover about this historic building. Who would have thought that the very palace that houses the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom was once a prison and place of execution? The Tower of London is hard to miss because it sits right on the River Thame’s north bank.

ower Bridge in London - City Guide - An Ideal Itinerary for First-time Visitors to London

City Guide - An Ideal Itinerary for First-time Visitors to London - Tower Bridge

Afterwards, check out the Tower Bridge, London’s most iconic bridge. Visit there Tower Bridge Exhibition if you want to learn more about the bridge and also conquer your fear of heights by crossing the 42-metre high glass walkway.

City Guide - An Ideal Itinerary for First-time Visitors to London - St. Paul's Cathedral

Next, head to St. Paul’s Cathedral, a stunning religious building that’s within walking distance from the Tower of London. The Anglican church, done in English Baroque architectural style, is a sight to behold.

City Guide - An Ideal Itinerary for First-time Visitors to London - London Eye

City Guide - An Ideal Itinerary for First-time Visitors to London - London Eye - London Cityscape

The London Eye is one of the most photographed attractions in the capital. Located on the south bank of the river, the gigantic ferris wheel – one of the tallest in the world – offers some of the best views of London’s cityscape, especially at nighttime.

Experience the best views of London and at the same time enjoy fast-track entry to two of London’s most popular attractions by getting the The View from the Shard Tickets and the Coca-Cola London Eye – Fast Track Ticket. The ticket to The Shard also comes with an audio guide.

Day 2 – The Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Notting Hill, and the Churchill War Rooms

City Guide - An Ideal Itinerary for First-time Visitors to London - Westminster Palace by the River Thames

City Guide - An Ideal Itinerary for First-time Visitors to London - Big Ben

The Houses of Parliament & Big Ben are two of the most iconic attractions in London. Also called the Palace of Westminster, the Houses of Parliament is the seat of the United Kingdom’s bicameral Parliament. The Big Ben, officially named St. Stephen’s Tower, is the equally famous clock tower of the Palace of Westminster.

City Guide - An Ideal Itinerary for First-time Visitors to London - Westminster Abbey

Just a stone’s throw away from the Houses of Parliament is the Westminster Abbey, a stunning piece of Gothic architecture. It is London’s most popular church  and the venue for ceremonies of great significance, such as coronations and funerals involving the British monarchy. The abbey is inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

City Guide - An Ideal Itinerary for First-time Visitors to London - London Buckingham Palace

The next stop in your itinerary is the Buckingham Palace, the official residence of Queen Elizabeth II. Situated on the east end of London’s St. James’ Park, the palace is one of the most world’s most historic buildings, being the administrative headquarters of Her Majesty The Queen.

City Guide - An Ideal Itinerary for First-time Visitors to London - Notting Hill

Just a few miles from Buckingham Palace, Notting Hill is a charming neighbourhood in West London. It is one of the most visited parts of the city, given that it is a filming location for “Notting Hill,” the 1990 romantic comedy featuring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant.

City Guide - An Ideal Itinerary for First-time Visitors to London - Churchill War Rooms

City Guide - An Ideal Itinerary for First-time Visitors to London - Churchill War Rooms Museum

If you still have time, we suggest you also visit the Churchill War Rooms. It consists of the Cabinet War Rooms and the Churchill Museum. The Cabinet War Rooms is the secret underground bunker where Winston Churchill and his staff and military strategists planned the course of WWII. The Churchill Museum, on the other hand, is a large museum devoted to the life of Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

Explore the Westminster Abbey, one of London’s  landmark attractions, with the Westminster Abbey Tickets. You have one whole day to admire the church’s architecture and see its most important features as you learn more about its history through the provided audio guide. You can also make the most of your second day of sightseeing by getting the Churchill War Rooms Ticket. Aside from providing entry to the Cabinet War Rooms and the Churchill Museum, the ticket is also inclusive of  a free audio guide. 

Day 3 – St. James’ Park, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, The National Gallery, Brick Lane, and Abbey Road
City Guide - An Ideal Itinerary for First-time Visitors to London - St. James' Park

It would be great to start your day with a visit to St. James’ Park, one of the oldest and most beautiful of London’s Royal Parks. The 50-acre park is famous for its lake and the birdlife it supports, especially the pelicans that have lived in the park since the 1600s. If you need a bite to eat, you can have refreshments or a light meal at the St. James’ Café and enjoy spectacular views of the lake.

City Guide - An Ideal Itinerary for First-time Visitors to London - Trafalgar Square

From the park, you can proceed to Piccadilly Circus, a popular and very busy intersection in London that’s famous for its neon signs, bright lights, and advertising displays. It is a short walk to Trafalgar Square, a public square named to commemorate the British’s victory in the Battle of Trafalgar during the Napeolonic Wars. Right in the middle of the square is the 52-metre Nelson’s Column and the four lion statues that surround it.

City Guide - An Ideal Itinerary for First-time Visitors to London - National Gallery

Still within the Trafalgar Square is The National Gallery, one of the world’s most popular museums. The museum is famous for its collection of artworks by Leonardo da Vinci, Vincent van Gogh, Michelangelo, Raphael, Francisco de Goya, Rembrandt, and Monet, among others.

City Guide - An Ideal Itinerary for First-time Visitors to London - Brick Lane

City Guide - An Ideal Itinerary for First-time Visitors to London - Abbey Road

After exploring The National Gallery, you will be heading to two of the most picturesque spots in London. Both are quite a distance from Trafalgar Square so it is best if you take a car or a cab to get there. Head first to Brick Lane, one of the most lively places to visit in London’s East End. While you’re there, admire the vibrant street art, check out the street food markets, and browse through the shops to score lovely vintage finds. Next, proceed to Abbey Road in the city of Westminster. Have your photo taken as you walk across the iconic zebra crossing featured on the Beatles’ “Abbey Road” album.

The Beatles London Walking Tour is a wonderful to try even if you’re not a Beatles fan.  For two hours, you will embark on an informative tour that will take you to the Abbey Road Crossing and other locations that played significant roles in the Fab Four’s music career.

Day 4 – Harrods, Covent Garden, Hyde Park, and Unique London Tours

On your 4th day, you will spend a few hours shopping and exploring another Royal Park.

City Guide - An Ideal Itinerary for First-time Visitors to London - Harrods

If there’s a can’t-miss shopping destination in London, it has to be Harrods. Check out the scene at this world-famous department store that boasts more than a million square feet of glorious shopping space.

Afterwards, you can head to Covent Garden, a district popular for its collection of stores, theatres, and restaurants. It used to be the location of London’s finest fruit and vegetable market before it was relocated in 1974. The current Covent Garden, now filled with high-end dining, shopping, and entertainment options, is one of the city’s biggest tourist magnets.

City Guide - An Ideal Itinerary for First-time Visitors to London - Hyde Park

Soon after, it is time to visit another Royal Park, Hyde Park. The expansive park covers 350 acres of green space that’s perfect for relaxing strolls and cycling. It also has a lake, a sprawling playground for kids, and sporting facilities like courts for tennis, football, hockey, and even rugby. You can even rent a boat to cruise through Serpentine Lake. Popular attractions within Hyde Park include the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, the Serpentine Bridge, and the Holocaust Memorial. There are also a number of restaurants and cafes with provisions for outdoor seating, should you want to dine at Hyde Park.

City Guide - An Ideal Itinerary for First-time Visitors to London - London Unique Jack the Ripper Tour

Before the day ends, experience something extraordinary by venturing beyond the usual tourist trail. You can explore London on a ghost bust tour, cemetery tour, go on a race through the Thames Barrier, or even join a morbid tour to get to know London’s notorious serial killer, Jack the Ripper.

Your London vacation just got more exciting with the Jack the Ripper Walking Tour. For 1.5 hours, you will walk the streets of London with a professional guide who will take you to the sites of the grisly Jack the Ripper murders and share with you interesting details about the world’s most notorious serial killer. 

Day 5 – Day Trip to Oxford and Cambridge

On the 5th day of your trip, take time to step away from London’s hectic pace by travelling to rural England to explore the historic university towns of Oxford and Cambridge.

Oxford and Cambridge are two of the world’s oldest and most prestigious universities. Established in the 12th and 13th centuries, both have developed immensely and have added colleges over the years, thanks to their generous benefactors.

City Guide - An Ideal Itinerary for First-time Visitors to London - Oxford - Radcliffe Camera

When touring Oxford, check out Christ Church college. Famous students of Christ Church include Lewis Carroll, John Locke, and British prime ministers. A must-see when visiting Oxford, is the Christ Church college’s chapel which is the city’s cathedral. Other attractions within the university are Ashmolean Museum and Britain’s biggest university library, the Bodleian Library. The Radcliffe Camera, a landmark building in Oxford, is part of the Bodleian.

If you’re up for it, you might also try punting, a quintessential Oxford activity. You can rent a flat-bottomed boat called a punt and sail upstream or down the River Cherwell.

City Guide - An Ideal Itinerary for First-time Visitors to London - Cambridge University

Cambridge University, on the other hand, is also famous for its top-notch colleges, particularly Trinity College and King’s College. Trinity produced 33 Nobel Prize winners out of the total 116 winners from Cambridge University. Trinity alumna include Sir Isaac Newton, Niels Bohr, Lord Byron, Ernest Rutherford, and several prime ministers.

Cambridge also houses the Fitzwilliam Museum where you will find artworks by Monet and Titian. Visitors can also ride a punt in Cambridge University, just as they can in Oxford.

Visit and explore the world’s most popular university towns with the Oxford and Cambridge Tour. A luxury air-conditioned coach will allow you to travel in comfort as you enjoy the free onboard WiFi. The package is also inclusive of a walking tour around Oxford and Cambridge, the services of a professional guide, and a free packed lunch.

Day 6 – Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and the Roman Baths

For your last day in London, you will embark on not one but three tourist attractions just outside the city. You will visit the Windsor Castle, see the ethereal Stonehenge, and also travel to the city of Bath to see the ancient Roman Baths.

City Guide - An Ideal Itinerary for First-time Visitors to London - Windsor Castle

The elegant Windsor Castle, a royal home for more than 900 years, is one of Her Majesty the Queen’s residences. Housed inside the castle are artworks by Leonardo da Vinci and Rembrandt as well as Queen Mary’s ornate doll house. You will also see St. George’s Chapel, the final resting place of monarchs and the intended burial site for the Queen.

City Guide - An Ideal Itinerary for First-time Visitors to London - Stonehenge

After Windsor Castle, go to Salisbury Plain to admire its most popular antiquity, the Stonehenge. Marvel at the ancient and perplexing formation of towering rocks that are believed to be over 5,000 years old.

City Guide - An Ideal Itinerary for First-time Visitors to London - Bath - Roman Baths

The last stop is Bath, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Explore the city’s top attraction, the well-preserved ancient Roman Bath complex built above natural hot springs. The Roman bathhouse was once used for public bathing.

Enjoy a spectacular day of sightseeing with the Windsor Castle, Bath, and Stonehenge Tour. The tour is inclusive of free admissions to Windsor Castle and the Roman Baths and Pump Rooms, packed lunch, walking tour, and the services of a professional guide. You will also travel by luxury air-conditioned coach and enjoy free WiFi access from the comforts of your seat for the duration of your trip.

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