Are you planning a weekend trip to London? You’ve come to the right place because at IATI, travel insurance specialists, we’re in love with the British capital, and we’ll guide you day by day on this quick getaway to ensure you make the most of every minute until the very end.
In addition to providing an itinerary for a weekend in London, this article concludes with some tips to help you maximize your trip. Let’s get started!
What to do in London in one weekend?
Let’s start with the obvious: a weekend in London doesn’t provide enough time to see everything. Even several weeks won’t give you a complete understanding of the city. So, the first thing to do is not to get overwhelmed and accept that you’ll make the most of the time you have by visiting the essential attractions.
London boasts impressive museums, with the British Museum being a top choice. It also features iconic landmarks such as Westminster Abbey and Big Ben, fascinating street markets like Covent Garden or Notting Hill, a variety of restaurants offering cuisines from around the world, scenic viewpoints, beautiful parks, and charming spots… You name it!
The weekend trip to London itinerary we’ve prepared assumes that you will arrive in the city on Friday midday/afternoon and depart on Sunday afternoon/evening, maximizing your time. This is the typical schedule for most travellers, but you can easily adapt it based on the number of hours you have and your personal preferences.
This itinerary primarily caters to first-time visitors to the British capital. If you’re on your second (or subsequent) visit, you’ll need to replace attractions or neighbourhoods you’ve already explored with new ones.
London Weekend Itinerary: Friday Afternoon
Your activities for this afternoon will largely depend on the time of your arrival in London. To provide you with flexible options and the freedom to explore the city at your own pace, we have prepared some straightforward suggestions. Here is a suggested order of activities to kickstart your weekend trip to London:
- Camden Market: One of London’s most renowned markets, the shops remain open until 7 pm, while the food stalls continue serving until 9 pm. Don’t oversleep and take a stroll through this vibrant area. You can enjoy a meal here or opt to grab a quick bite and later dine at a trendy restaurant in Soho.
- Piccadilly Circus: Hop on the tube to Leicester Square and take a pleasant walk along Cranourn Street until you reach one of the city’s most iconic squares.
- Oxford and Regent Streets: These two bustling thoroughfares hold immense significance in London. Oxford Street, once an ancient Roman road and the primary gateway to the city, has played a pivotal role for centuries. Adorned with majestic buildings, both streets are renowned for their diverse range of shops.
- Neal’s Yard: After exploring the lively Soho area (perhaps pausing for dinner or a drink at one of the speakeasies), make your way to this hidden gem nestled among the surrounding streets. Close by, you’ll find the Cambridge Theatre, offering the perfect opportunity to conclude the evening with a captivating play or musical performance.
- Optional – Abbey Road: If you’re a Beatles fan, we encourage you to include the famous Abbey Road in this afternoon’s activities on your London weekend itinerary, even though it may be getting late. You can reach the iconic location by taking the underground to St John’s Wood station, which will require approximately 30 minutes of travel time.
Day 1 in London – Saturday
After enjoying a hearty British breakfast, we recommend making your way to Marble Arch tube station to embark on a journey to some of the most iconic sights on this weekend’s London itinerary. Here are the key stops:
- Hyde Park: Renowned for its beauty and abundant wildlife (keep an eye out for squirrels), Hyde Park stands as one of London’s most famous parks. It is also home to Speaker’s Corner, where individuals from all walks of life have been delivering speeches for over 150 years. As you walk through the park towards Kensington Palace, you’ll encounter memorials dedicated to Princess Diana and Albert of Saxony, Queen Victoria’s husband. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore the serene Serpentine Lake and the charming Kensington Gardens. Kensington Palace, the residence of Prince William and Kate Middleton, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, can also be found here.
- Harrods Department Store: Even if shopping isn’t your primary interest, a visit to London’s most renowned department store is a must during your weekend trip. Harrods opens its doors at 10 am and offers a unique and extravagant experience.
- Wellington Arch: On your way to the Royal Stables, you will come across Wellington Arch, a monument commemorating England’s victories over Napoleon. This architectural gem stands as a boundary between Hyde Park and Buckingham Palace.
- Royal Mews: At the Royal Mews, you will discover an impressive carriage museum. Due to time constraints, we suggest skipping the interior visit. However, keep in mind that the Changing of the Guard ceremony takes place Monday to Saturday at 11 am and Sundays at 10 am, adding a touch of grandeur to the experience.
- Buckingham Palace: Who isn’t familiar with this legendary place? It serves as the official residence of Charles III, the current King of the United Kingdom. While the interior visit is only possible during specific times of the year, you can witness the famous Changing of the Guard ceremony. Typically taking place around 11 am, please note that it is not a daily occurrence and varies depending on the season.
- St James’s Park: As the oldest of the Royal Parks, St James’s Park is renowned for its graceful swans and picturesque views of Buckingham Palace.
- Downing Street: Home to the official residences and offices of the Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street and the Chancellor of the Exchequer at 11 Downing Street.
- Westminster Abbey: This iconic medieval architectural marvel needs no introduction. We highly recommend exploring the interior to admire the tombs and mausoleums of esteemed British figures such as Darwin, Newton, and Shakespeare.
- Big Ben, Westminster Palace, and Westminster Bridge: There’s no place in London more emblematic than Big Ben, right? Take a leisurely stroll around it, cross Westminster Bridge, and, if you wish, you can book a ticket to visit the palace of the same name (please note that visits are not available at all times).
- The London Eye: Standing tall at 135 meters, this colossal Ferris wheel features 32 glass capsules that provide a breathtaking panoramic view of London and the River Thames. If time doesn’t permit an immediate visit, you can save this attraction for later in the day to enjoy the illuminated cityscape.
- Trafalgar Square: Cross Hungerford Bridge to reach the magnificent square, built in 1830 to commemorate the British army’s triumph over the Spanish and French navies in the Battle of Trafalgar. The centerpiece is the imposing granite column, standing nearly 50 meters tall, topped with the statue of Admiral Nelson. Trafalgar Square is also home to the esteemed National Gallery, which you can explore if time allows. Entry to the gallery is free.
- Chinatown: Discover one of the most picturesque Chinatowns in the world, offering a perfect opportunity to indulge in authentic Asian cuisine at affordable prices.
- Covent Garden: Depending on the time you wrap up your eventful first day in London, consider heading to Covent Garden, a charming covered market. While the shops may have closed, the area is filled with numerous restaurants and pubs, providing a vibrant atmosphere to unwind and enjoy a meal or drinks.
Day 2 in London – Sunday
On this last day of your weekend in London, you can start by going to Goodge Street, Russell Square, Tottenham Court Road, or Holborn. Decide which of these you are most interested in based on where you are staying. From our point of view, here is what you shouldn’t miss:
- British Museum: A weekend in London would not be complete without visiting the most important and captivating museum. Entry is free, and it boasts one of the most comprehensive collections in the world. Please note that it opens at 10 am, and it is recommended to allocate at least 2 hours (3 if possible) to explore it thoroughly.
- Tate Modern and Millennium Bridge: Take a pleasant walk or hop on a double-decker bus to Blackfriars, where you can cross the intriguing Millennium Bridge, a suspension bridge offering picturesque views. From here, you’ll enjoy a splendid sight of the Tate Modern, a former power station housing an impressive collection of modern art. Entry is free, but we suggest visiting only if you have extra time to spare.
- Shakespeare’s Globe: Experience a reconstruction of a 16th-century theatre at Shakespeare’s Globe. Take some time to explore the permanent exhibition on Shakespeare’s life and immerse yourself in the theatrical history.
- Borough Market: One of the oldest and most charming markets to visit during your weekend in London. It’s a perfect spot for lunch or simply to indulge in the vibrant atmosphere and the variety of food offerings it provides.
- Tower of London: After the British Museum, we believe this is the most significant visit of your day in the city. This fortification, built during the reign of William I, served as a prison and torture center for traitors to the Crown for over 900 years.
- Tower Bridge: This iconic bridge, designed in Victorian neo-Gothic style and inaugurated in 1894, is the most famous among the Thames crossings. Take the opportunity to cross it and enjoy the breathtaking views.
- City Hall: Designed by Norman Foster, this modern building is worth seeing from the outside for its unique architecture.
- HMS Belfast: This enormous warship, which played a role in both the Second World War and the Korean War, is sure to capture your attention. If you have a few extra hours left in London, consider visiting the interior of the ship.
- The Shard: Conclude your London weekend itinerary with a visit to the observation deck of the UK’s tallest building, The Shard. Booking in advance can provide great discounts and allow you to enjoy the spectacular views it offers.
London Weekend Route Map
To ensure you stay on track, we have prepared a map that showcases the three London routes for your weekend adventure. Friday’s route is marked in grey, Saturday’s in blue, and Sunday’s in red.
You can view the route map [here].
Tips for Organizing a Weekend in London
We hope you’ve enjoyed the itinerary we’ve organized for a weekend trip to London. Here are some additional tips:
- It may seem obvious, but it’s important to have a map with you and plan your weekend itinerary in London. Consider the distances and travel times between locations. While we have tried to optimize the itinerary, London is a large city, so it’s worth keeping in mind.
- Take note that after Brexit, the UK is no longer a member of the European Union. Remember to bring your passport and obtain travel insurance for your visit to London. You don’t want to face significant expenses if you require medical attention.
- Check the opening and closing times for all attractions and activities. If you plan to witness the Changing of the Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace, be aware that the schedule varies depending on the time of year.
- If you have specific attractions or shows in mind, consider booking tickets in advance to take advantage of possible discounts. Additionally, tourist passes such as the London Pass, Go London Explorer Pass, or London Merlin Pass can be worthwhile options to explore.
- The same goes for dining reservations. If you have particular restaurants in mind for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, it’s recommended to book in advance. London can be unpredictable, and securing a reservation ahead of time ensures a smoother experience.
- When choosing accommodation, prioritize locations with convenient transportation links. This is crucial for maximizing your limited time during a weekend itinerary in London, so you can avoid wasting time searching for transportation.
- For a weekend in London, make sure to pack comfortable shoes, a raincoat or umbrella (due to the city’s unpredictable weather), and don’t forget your plug adaptor to keep your devices charged.
We hope we have addressed all your inquiries regarding planning your weekend itinerary in London. However, if you have any further questions or suggestions, please feel free to share them in the comments section.
But wait! Don’t leave just yet! Check out the IATI blog for comprehensive travel information to assist you in this and other adventures.