Despite having lived and worked in London for over three years I’ve realised I haven’t really shared any useful posts for visitors heading to London. As a Londoner myself I’ve always focused on things you can do in the city that are a little more unique and obscure. Today I thought I’d share with you the perfect itinerary for first timers in London. I’ll be suggesting some of the best tourist spots to head to but I’ll add in a few quirky spots to.
To get around London you’ll be using buses and tubes so make sure you’ve grabbed yourself a day travel card or have a contactless card to pay with. The London tubes and buses are relatively easy to use but the app Citymapper will make your journey easier for you.
How To Spend 48 Hours in London for First Timers
Start your day off with a walk along the Thames and get to know the city a little better. Start from Westminster Bridge where you can take in Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament before moving on. I’d suggest walking along the London Eye side of the river and then you can switch sides later on using the Millennium Bridge. Make sure you walk as far as Tower Bridge and the Tower of London, both are iconic spots of the city and as enjoyable from the outside as in.
Your first stop of the day should be to the Tate Modern, perfect it it happens to be cold or wet but also great for the viewing deck on the top floor. This is also one of my favourite galleries in London so be sure to spend a bit of time looking at the art too.
You’ll probably be starting to get hungry by now so head to Borough Market to pick up some snacks and give your legs a well deserved rest. There are plenty of places to enjoy food and drink from depending on what you fancy.
This bit will need to be booked in advance. It is totally free but tickets are limited for each timing slot. They come out three weeks prior to the date. It can be super tricky to get tickets for weekends and bank holidays though. This is understandable as it’s one of the best spots in London to view the skyline. Like all tall buildings you get great views across London but the Sky Garden also has great views inside.
If you can’t get a booking at the Sky Garden, you could scale the Shard instead if you don’t mind forking out the money.
Shoreditch Street Art
You’ll want to head on a tube to get to this nest destination. Spend the afternoon wandering around Shoreditch looking at all the amazing street art on display. I recommend starting north of Brick Lane as you can come back here later.
It’s been a while since I lived in London and did this so I’ve found two handy guides for searching out the street art: a map of Shoreditch Street art and Shoreditch’s 10 best streets to see graffiti.
Finally had to Brick Lane to try all the food. I mean they have the best bagel shop, the Cereal Cafe, the best curry and amazing market halls full of pop up food stalls. You’ll need to have at least two meals here to appreciate it all. This area is also great for bars and nightlife so make sure you make the most of that too.
I’d suggest stocking up on breakfast before your day starts.
Natural History Museum
It’s a slow start to the morning as you don’t need to be here until 10am, but you must be here at this time or you’ll have hoards of tourists joining you. The Natural History Museum is great whether you’re travelling with kids or not. There is so much to learning and although they cost the temporary exhibits are normally the best.
You can’t really visit this city without coming to Buckingham Palace. The changing of the guards happens at 11am on some days, you can check which ones here. If you’re keen to see this then you might need to skip the museum. Even without the guards changing it’s still worth a visit. Be sure to walk down the Mall and take in the sights of St James’ Park.
This isn’t far from the previous spot and is another iconic stop that you wouldn’t want to miss. Either come here to see the square and then head off to the next stop or head into the museums. You’ll find the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery here, both are good but I’d favour the portrait gallery because I’m more of a photographer lover. They also both have excellent cafes and cake.
Another cannot miss spot in London and one of my favourite areas. Wander the delights of Covent Garden Market, take in the street performers and do a little shopping. You’re also not far from Leicester Square and Soho so be sure to wander a little. Dean St in Soho is where you’ll find some great spots for a late lunch.
Harrods or Hyde Park
If you’ve still got time and energy I’m imagining you’ll have time for one last thing. Choose between the iconic shop or the iconic park. Unless it is raining then I’d choose the park but I know many come to London just to visit Harrods so I won’t deny you. Whichever you choose you’ll need to hop on a tube to get there.
Sketch for dinner
Finally, for the last meal and night in London you might feel like splashing out on some food. This is one of my favourite ever restaurants in London. The food and service is delicious but you go for the decor and toilets. If you’ve been, then you’ll understand that last comment.
If Sketch is out of your budget, head back to Soho and grab some Mexican at La Bodega Negra.
Writing this has me so excited to spend 48 hours in London and actually follow out this itinerary as I’m not sure of the last time I did ALL of these things. Of course there are so many other things I could add to this list but for your first trip to London this will set you up pretty well.
Other London posts you might find useful:
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