Looking for the perfect London 4 day itinerary? This guide maps out your time, includes all the top sights, what order to do it in, and how to beat the crowds. Perfect for first-timers.
London is a city that deserves multiple visits. I personally find that I fall more in love with London each time I step foot in the city. You could easily spend one to two weeks here and still have sights you haven’t had time to see or day trips you weren’t able to fit in. London is a thriving metropolis with all the usual attractions that you find in other major cities like famous museums, theater, and an ever-changing restaurant scene.
What makes London unique is the mix of ancient and modern. One moment you are touring an 11th century castle and the next moment you are visiting 21st century buildings like Sky Garden and The Shard. If it’s your first visit to the UK, 4 days in London will be enough to see the top sights and get your feet wet. Like I always say, assume you will be back otherwise the size of the city and the number of places you want to see will become overwhelming.
This London 4 day itinerary includes the must visit sights without overwhelming your schedule. And of course, there will be enough time for an afternoon tea or two!
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Before we go into our London 4 day itinerary, let's discuss a few things first...
Getting Around London
Before we begin our London 4 day itinerary lets first discuss how you will be getting around the city. Buying an Oyster card is a MUST. This reloadable plastic card is your ticket to using the Tube (London's underground metro system). You can buy them at any Tube station at the vending machines. I usually load £20 at a time. The Tube and your own two feet will be your primary mode of transportation.
Even though the city looks spread out and massive, which it is, the Tube is a life saver. It’s the most convenient metro I have ever used with stops at pretty much every major sight and little to no waiting time between trains. It might be confusing at first to figure out how to read the maps, but I promise within a few rides you’ll have the system down. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I have found there are usually Tube workers at the station that are very friendly and more than happy to help. Locals have always been kind as well when I’ve looked lost.
I usually never buy city passes like this because the math never adds up to make it worth it. Once you’ve read this post and have decided what sights you will for sure be visiting during your London 4 day itinerary, go to this website and add up if the London Pass will save you money or not.
Don’t assume every sight you’re visiting is included. There is a specific list of the sights and attractions that are included on the website. The only time the London Pass made sense for me was my first trip to London when I was jamming in a lot of major tourist sights in each day. If you like to take a slow pace and only see a few attractions a day this pass probably isn’t for you.
Weather in London
Weather in London changes throughout the day. It can be freezing in the morning and require a light jacket and warm up in the afternoon to t-shirt weather. Dress in layers and always have an umbrella on you.
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Day 1 in London
Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour
I’m one of those people that sees those touristy Hop-On Hop-Off buses and laughs. London is really the only city where I truly believe it’s worth it to pay the price and feel like the average tourist as you board. London is huge and if it’s your first visit you’re going to have a hard time getting the lay of the land.
Unlike smaller cities where I recommend starting your trip with a biking or walking tour, a quick London 4 day itinerary requires a bus tour. A biking or walking tour just won’t cut it and will only be able to show you a section of the city.
BigBus London and the Original Tour are your two options. Both companies are practically identical with the same routes and similar pricing (around £30-35). Check out each website and see what specials they are running and what walking tours they offer. Currently both companies offer a free Royal Walk/Changing of the Guards tour, but I have found that these tours sometimes change.
The BigBus tour is a bigger company and has more frequent departures. The Original Tour sometimes has themed bus tours like a Christmas Tour or a Bar Bus tour where they serve drinks on the rooftop. Browse each website and see which is a better fit for you based off price, walking tours, and specialty tours.
If you want to get the basic rundown of the city and see the main sights do the red route on the BigBus London tour and the yellow route on the Original Tour. Both companies offer handy maps and apps with color coded routes to make things easy. Allow 1.5 to 2.5 hours to do the main circuit.
Westminster Abbey and Big Ben
Westminster Abbey is one of the most famous sights in London. Here you will find over 1,000 years’ worth of history. It’s been the official site of royal coronations since 1066 and is the resting place for over 3,000 British politicians, famous poets, royalty, and other notable figures. Most will remember Westminster for the royal wedding of William and Kate. If you want to see Westminster and skip touring around and paying the admission price, attend a free Evensong service held daily except on Wednesdays or a service on Sunday.
After you visit Westminster Abbey, walk through Parliament Square and down Parliament street to gaze at the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. Did you know the correct name of the clock tower is actually the Elizabeth Tower? Big Ben is the name of the bell inside the tower.
Churchill War Rooms
Walk 7 minutes from Big Ben, or Elizabeth Tower, to arrive at the Churchill War Rooms. Ranked as the #2 “thing to do in London” on TripAdvisor this sight will give you a glimpse into Britain’s war efforts in WWII. Pick up the included audio guide and walk through underground rooms that were used from 1939 to 1945. Conclude your visit learning about the life and legacy of Winston Churchill in the Churchill Museum. Book tickets in advance otherwise you’ll be waiting in line.
Take a 15 minute metro or walk 20 minutes to Covent Garden. I recommend walking along the Thames river or via Trafalgar Square. Once a produce market, Covent Garden is now a tourist and Instagrammable hotspot. Browse the shopping stalls, laugh at the street performers, stop in for a quick rest at one of the many cafes and watch the mix of locals and tourists stream by. This area is especially fun during the holidays with fantastic decorations and a giant Christmas tree.
Seven Dials and Neals Yard
Walk 5 minutes to Seven Dials and Neals Yard. Seven Dials is an intersection of seven charming streets and worth a quick walk around. Neals Yard is one of the quirkiest and most colorful streets in London that is missed by most tourists.
End day 1 of your London 4 day itinerary in a cozy pub and fill up on traditional British food like fish and chips or shepherd’s pie. This area has plenty to choose from. The White Lion, The Lamb and Flag, and Crown and Anchor are some of my favorites.
Day 2 in London
TOWER OF LONDON
A palace, fortress, and prison…the Tower of London is not to be missed during your 4 days in London. If you’re interested in Henry VIII, Ann Boleyn, or the Philippa Gregory novels highlighting the Tudor reign, this will be particularly rewarding. See where Ann Boleyn and other “threats to the throne” were beheaded. Gaze in wonder at the crown jewels…the best I have ever seen.
The history and story of this complex is fascinating. Your ticket includes an hour-long tour led by a Yeoman Warder in full regalia. These tours are worthwhile and a fun mix of entertainment and history. Book your tickets in advance for the first time slot of the morning and arrive 15 minutes early to beat the crowds.
Girl with a Dolphin Fountain
Walk 6 minutes from the Tower to one of my favorite viewpoints in London. The Girl with a Dolphin fountain offers stunning, and often empty, views of Tower Bridge.
Once you’ve got your perfect picture with Tower Bridge in the background, walk up to the bridge to admire it up close.
Walk along the water and make a stop at Coppa Club. Book online ahead to reserve one of the igloos that change theme with the season. This is a popular spot for brunch, lunch, and cocktails.
One of the newest additions to the London scene, this is a must during your London 4 day itinerary. Not only is it free, but you’ll enjoy spectacular views of the city below and find famous landmarks in the distance. Wander through the greenery in London’s highest public garden, find St. Paul’s in the distance on the terrace, or sip a cocktail at one of the restaurants or bars. Book your spot in advance here.
Walk 14 minutes across London Bridge to get to Borough Market. This colorful and always busy market is the perfect spot for lunch. Whether you’re craving tradition British fare like scotch eggs or fish n chips, or an international dish like curry or pad thai, you’ll find something to please every taste.
St. Paul’s Cathedral
Walk 18 minutes or take a 15 minute tube to the fourth largest church in Europe. St. Paul’s Cathedral is an impressive sight that’s not to be missed during your 4 days in London. A church dedicated to St. Paul has stood on this very spot since 604…so there’s quite a bit of history here. The church you see today features a 365-foot dome and an elaborate baroque styled interior.
Climb up to the *whispering gallery at the base of the dome. The design is perfectly rounded and will take your whisper all the way along the wall to your friend on the other side. Try it, it’s fun and you won’t the only one whispering into the wall. Continue climbing past the whispering gallery to the top of the dome, 528 steps, for sweeping views of the city.
*Check the website before you visit to see if the whispering gallery is open. It’s currently closed and expected to open on Easter 2020.
Dinner at the Queens Head
Walk or take the Tube to the Piccadilly Circus stop, the Times Square of London. This is the perfect spot to grab an early meal before you hit a show. The Queens Head is one of my favorite spots in this area for a hearty British meal. This cozy upstairs restaurant takes you back in time and is known for their steak and ale pie.
Musical or Play
Finish day 2 of your London 4 day itinerary with a show. The Lion King and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child are my favorite. If there is a specific musical or play you’d like to see, buy tickets in advance…as in the moment you book your plane ticket.
If you’re looking for a deal and aren’t picky on what you see, visit the TKTS booth in Leicester Square to get discounted same day tickets. Go first thing in the morning when they open; 10:00am every day except Sunday which opens at 11:00am. See this website for all the current musicals.
Day 3 in London
Changing of the Guard
4 days in London will pretty much guarantee you will be able to partake in the Changing of the Guard. Typically this ceremony takes place every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Check the dates here. I strongly recommend doing a tour if it’s your first time. Fun London Tours does a wonderful job at explaining what you’re seeing and the history behind it and getting you to the correct spots to watch each segment…it’s a moving ceremony.
If you do like most tourist do and just hang out at Buckingham Palace you're actually missing most of the ceremony. Plan on ending around 11:15. Once you finish watching the Changing of the Guard stroll through Buckingham palace gardens and continue walking down The Mall. This is a lovely walk and will take you to Trafalgar Square…a picturesque spot that offers some great views of the city around you.
*If you have to swap dates because day 3 falls on a Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday, swap this with the Tower of London on Day 2 and do the Tower today.
Harry Potter London
If you’re a Harry Potter fan, visiting the Warner Bros Studio Tour London to see the Making of Harry Potter is an obvious activity whether you have 4 days in London or only 2. Even if you aren’t a big HP fan and just appeasing someone else in your group, it still makes for a fun visit. Plan on carving 3-4 hours out of your day for this visit. Take your time and wander the sets used in the Harry Potter films, see the props and costumes, and visit the back lot with the night bus and Privet Drive while sipping a butterbeer. I recommend taking the bus, see information here, to get to the studio. Buy tickets in advance as days sell out quickly.
*If you’re a muggle who could care less about Harry Potter, use this morning to visit one of the many spectacular museums. The British Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, National Gallery, and British Library are the most popular ones.
Walking or Bike Tour
Book a walking or bike tour to spend the rest of your afternoon exploring London. There are so many different areas to explore and plenty of themes to choose from. Join a Jack the Ripper or ghost tour for a spooky take on London, make friends on a pub crawl tour, or burn some calories on a bike tour of the main sights. I’ve done several Fat Bike Tours around Europe and really enjoyed their Royal London tour. Fun London Tours has a fantastic number of unique tours like Secret London, 2000 Years of London, Grime and Punishment, and Fire Plague & Execution tour.
I left day 3 pretty open so you could easily flip flop the Making of Harry Potter (or a museum visit) with your walking or biking tour depending on available tour times.
If the weather is nice during your 4 days in London consider a trip to Hyde Park. This is a great way to winddown end your day before dinner. Hyde Park and Kensington Park are actually connected and filled with statues, monuments, biking and jogging trails, ponds, and gardens. If the weather is warm, you’ll see swan boats being paddled in the water, children playing in the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, and rentable lawn chairs filled with locals and tourist enjoying some sun.
SEE ALSO: THINGS TO DO IN LONDON IN THE RAIN
End your day with a late afternoon tea. It’s traditional to take tea around 3:00pm but when you only have 4 days in London your afternoons will be filled. I prefer to save my “afternoon tea” for my dinner for several reasons. First is that afternoon tea isn’t cheap and I feel a bit less guilty paying the price when it takes place of my dinner. Second is that it’s less crowded later in the day. Many places like Fortnum and Mason, the Ritz London, Claridges, and my personal favorite Rosewood London, serve afternoon tea until 5:30pm or even as late as 7:00pm.
Day 4 in London
A 4 day London itinerary leaves just enough time for a day trip outside the city. There are so many spectacular day trips that have a completely different look and feel from London right around the corner and easily accessible by train or tour company. Some of my favorite day trips from London that you can do on your own via train are Windsor, Oxford, Cambridge, and Bath.
If you want to fit a lot into one day, consider doing a bus tour. My last trip to London I did The English Bus Tour to Bath, “a secret place”, and Stonehenge. It was a VERY filled day with lots of driving but TOTALLY worth it. I would do it again in a heartbeat. They also have a tour that combines the Cotswold, Oxford, and Stratford upon Avon.
Decide what city or sight is most important to you and if you want to navigate on your own or book a guided tour.
If adding a day trip sounds exhausting, the first 3 days of this London 4 day itinerary can easily be stretched into 4, or even 5 days. I fit a lot into the first 3 days and it’s a pretty quick pace. This option would also allow time for several museums if that’s your thing.
If you’re headed to the UK I hope this itinerary helps get your planning started on how to spend 4 days in London. This city really is one of my favorites. I find myself revisiting often and loving London more and more each time. I have a feeling you will be planning your return trip sooner than you thought.
See my other UK blog posts!