After how many visits can you authoritatively claim that you have seen the better part of London?
Well, anything from 4 days will be a good starting point, although you may have to come back over and over again in order to tour the city inside out.
You need time to see its iconic infrastructure, tourist attraction sites, ethnic eateries, and the beautiful and diverse neighborhoods.
If you have the time and resources, staying in London for a week or even a month would be okay.
But because we understand that this may not always be possible, let’s look at the bare minimum: 4 days.
Read this guide to where to stay in London. It will help you pick the right accommodation based on your budget and preferred location.
What can you do in London within 4 days in order to have the perfect trip?
For the purposes of this itinerary, we will assume that you arrived in London yesterday and that our first day will start right from when you wake up.
If you are planning to spend the trip on a low budget, exploring the city on foot is ideal. However, initially, you should start off by booking a great hostel.
The 3 top hostels in London are:
- Palmers Lodge Swiss Cottage – best for solo-traveller
- Palmers Lodge Hillspring – best for groups and families
- The Dictionary Hostel – best for backpackers
- Generator Hostel London – best party hostel
- Palmers Lodge Swiss Cottage – best hostel for Older Travellers
Read: full guide to 3 best hostels in London
We highly advise that you explore most of the city on foot, by taking advantage of the free walking tours, as they provide a better opportunity to get closer to the real city culture.
Now let’s get to the real experience you can get for 4 days in London.
Day 1: The City of London
Starting from the St. Paul tube station, you will be able to see most of London City on your first day.
You will need to be at the station by at least eight in the morning so that you can enter St. Paul cathedral when it opens at 9.30am.
In there, you will see the Duke of Wellington monument, the Stone and the Golden galleries, and other key chapels.
After like an hour in the cathedral, take your leave and head to the Tower of London where you will see the millennium bridge where the legendary Harry Potter movie was filmed.
Before noon, you should be fully acquainted with British history at the Tower of London, crossed over to the Tower Bridge where you will take the best pictures of the city, and enjoyed watching the Crown Jewels.
You are just in time for lunch at Borough Market, London’s biggest food market.
All the traditional and multicultural foods are found here.
After your lunch head out to Covent Garden for some live street performances, Hyde Park for leisure walks and some boating, and the West Yard for your dinner.
Day 2: The Museums
Start your itinerary at the Museum of Natural History, Victoria and Albert Museum, and British Museum.
Did you know that Natural History and the British Museum are totally free?
It is incredible how much will learn in regards to the history of mankind, the animal kingdom, and space exploration. You will also have the chance to enjoy some British breakfast at the Museum of Natural History café.
By the time you are done with the two museums, it will be lunchtime or thereabout.
If you are planning not to spend so much on this trip, there are several options for you. Try out the ethnic food, which involves kebab shops, whereby you can eat and have a drink with no more than $10.
Additionally, if you have booked a hostel with a kitchen, preparing something for yourself on the go would save you quite some money.
Get some food as you prepare for some afternoon shopping at Carnaby or Oxford Street.
You will then close your day by having some cool dinner at Opium Dim Sum.
Day 3: Indulge in British Royalty
Start your day at the Buckingham Palace, the home to British royalty for over 170 years and the home to the current Queen of England, Queen Elizabeth II.
Be there by 10.30am in order to witness the changing of the guard ceremony at 10.45.
If you are visiting during the summer, you will be allowed to book a ticket into the 775 royal rooms. However, you can also gaze it from outside and enjoy the guard ceremony and save up your money.
Before heading for lunch, you can take a stroll in the very beautiful St. James Park, visit the 1000-year old Westminster Abbey, rode the London Eye, and crossed over to the Westminster Bridge for some photos.
It is now time for lunch and some afternoon tea at Wallace, the cheapest joint in the neighborhood but with impeccable foods.
After that, you can choose to try some London Pubs or take an afternoon tea river cruise.
Day 4: A Tour to the Outskirts
We made it to day 4 on our London itinerary. London boasts of suburbs that would easily pass as smaller cities.
Start your day in one of these small cities- Greenwich- and enjoy the many amenities it has to offer. It has parks, pubs, and restaurants that aren’t as crowded as those in the city.
Here, you will learn everything about the Meridian line and how it affects time all over the world.
You will also enjoy some time in the Cutty Sark and the east and west hemispheres.
For your lunch, try the local delicacies in one of the Meridian restaurants.
After lunch, you can opt to take a bus to the Chislehurst to see the Chislehurst Caves or go ice skating or scale the O2 concert arena.
London has too much to offer. With time and a flexible budget, you will have too much to do within four days. And who knows, you can even choose to extend to a 5th or 6th day, or more.
BONUS TIP: THE BEST MARKET
Don’t forget to visit during your stay the best market in London: Borough Market
I spent my first few months in London going to every market I could.
There are a ton of them, and they range from:
- the touristy: Spitalfields, Camden
- the not-so-touristy: Petticoat Lane)
- the posh: Portobello
- the uber-posh Greenwich
They are all worth going to.
But Borough Market is the best, and the most deserving of your repeat business. The reason is that the food at Borough Market is insanely good, and, for a market that’s literally under railroad tracks, it’s surprisingly beautiful.
It also fits nicely into our perfect one-day walking tour of London.
Budgeting your 4 days London Itinerary
One of the greatest trouble is choosing the right monetization for daily spend.
According to a research
The average daily spent by real travellers in London is 90£.
This reflects what everyday travellers tend to spend in the city of London:
- Eating Out: £40
- Entertainment (bars, tours & attractions): £28 per day
- Transport: £13 per day
- Shopping: £40 (but you wouldn’t go shopping every day)
This puts the average cost of a trip to London for a week at around £500-650.
We haven’t gone high-end and we haven’t gone “living-on-a-shoestring” either. Think, most of the major attractions, a few cab rides, maybe a big night out, and a bit of shopping on the side.
Those numbers doesn’t include the cost of accommodation or car hire as these are often booked in advance.
On our proposed itinerary, we dropped that daily budget!
With some tips for transport and taking advantage of the free museums and attractions, you could
Travel on a budget and in style for £40
Of course, this budget might increase if you add more activities.
London would be nothing without it’s attractions: bars, museums etc.
Most travellers coming to the capital tend to gravitate to the centre of town for their entertainment fix.
It’s worth remembering that whilst the West End (Soho) has a great buzz, places like Angel, Notting Hill, Camden and Dalston are great alternatives with tons of great bars, fringe theater and other things going on.
- The London Eye: £27
- Sherlock Holmes Experience: £12
- British Museum: Free
- Southbank Centre: Free
- The Comedy Store, Leicester Square: £17
- Evensong at St Paul’s Cathedral: Free
- West End Show: prices vary
Tips for visiting London on a budget
Decide What Time of Year to Visit London
London weather can be quite unpredictable. Londoners are known to regularly carry sunglasses and umbrellas throughout the year.
But London weather is never so extreme as to detract from all the great things to do in the city, and the major attractions are not seasonal.
The city sees a large increase in visitors in July and August (the hottest time of the year, usually). The shoulder seasons (outside the main school holidays in spring/fall) can be a great time to visit if you’re looking to avoid the crowds.
There are school holidays in February, Easter, August, October and at Christmas.
Travel Document Requirements for London
All overseas visitors will need a passport when traveling to London and some visitors will need a visa.
US citizens are encouraged to register any overseas travel with the US Department of State.
Arriving in London
You can get to London by air, rail, road, or ferry.
Obviously, where you are traveling from and how much time you have will influence your transport options.
Need a flight?
Check out our latest booking flight hack and score the best prices.
Public transportation is great. The prices are fairly reasonable for buses and the tube. Just remember that there is NO cash on buses!
An Oyster Card is your best bet and could save you up to 50% when compared to a single ticket. The daily cost maximum is £4.40 per day if you’re only using buses and trams AND use the same card for payment each time.
If you were using single tickets or multiple forms of payment, you wouldn’t benefit from this daily maximum.
You could also use a contact-less card, but read the guidelines for this option first to ensure your credit card qualifies.
Not only are there peak times of the year to travel to London, there are also peak times of the day to travel within London on public transport .
Peak times are Monday to Friday from 6:30am to 9:30 am and from 4pm to 7pm. If you use public transport to travel outside of these times, you’ll save as the off-peak rate is much cheaper.
Cars drive on the left so make sure to look the appropriate way when crossing the street!
We also don’t suggest trying to drive in London. Driving outside of the city is fine, just avoid London if possible.
A bonus tip to save money and get fast entry access into attractions is to purchase the The London Pass.
It’s an all-inclusive sightseeing card, that grants pass holders free entry to the top London attractions.
There are 5 duration to choose from (1, 2, 3, 6 & 10 days) and pass holders can enter as many of the tourist attractions included on the pass that they wish to, without paying.
The key benefits of The London Pass are:
- Free entry to 60+ attractions (including Tower of London, Kensington Palace, Westminster Abbey…)
- Fast track entry to popular attractions
- Free hop on hop off bus tour
- Added Oyster Travelcard option
- Free 160+ page guidebook
- Money back guarantee
- Additional special offers
There is never a good reason to take a cab
The Underground is really easy to navigate, and if it’s late, you can just take the buses.
Buses might be hard to navigate sometimes, and it can be a pain if you’re going from, say, Brockley to Liverpool Street Station while drunk at five in the morning and have to transfer twice, but they are a tenth as expensive as cabs, and the top of a double-decker is actually a pretty great way to watch the sunrise over the London skyline.
Things to know before visiting London
Know the lingo
Yes, the Brits speak English, but all countries have their own slang and unique terms.
Let’s make an example:
Money – You will usually hear the British say “pee” rather than pence, as in 25p (25 pee). You might also hear a pound referred to as a “quid”, a five pound note as a “fiver” & a ten pound note as a “tenner”.
A few more terms that you have likely heard but are worth noting:
- Loo = bathroom (toilet is also acceptable)
- Cheers = thanks
- Lift = elevator
- Queue = line
- Bin = trash
- Boot = trunk (used in the context of a car)
- Fag = cigarette
- Cashpoint = ATM
- Trainers = tennis shoes
- Zebra Crossing = Pedestrian Crossing
- Chemist = Drug Store
- Biscuit = cookie
- Chips = french fries
- Crisps = chips
- Ground floor = first floor
- Petrol = Gas
Yes, our 4 day London itinerary covers this as well: Go to a football game, even if you don’t give a crap about football
The songs they sing alone make the experience worth it.
It is not like any sporting event I’ve gone to in the US.
And seeing soccer players up close may actually give you some appreciation for the huge amount of athleticism and skill you need to play the beautiful game.
Secret bars in Shoreditch
Shoreditch is one of London’s trendiest neighbourhoods.
Filled with an array of amazing bars, secret hangouts and hidden clubs, this place is the perfect place to visit for a night out.
Take a wander and discover this unique bars that are often hidden from view… or even need a password to gain entry!
Currency – Pounds or EUR?
London’s official currency is the British pound.
As for tipping, some restaurants and cafes may add a service charge to the bill, upward of 12 percent. If a service charge is not allotted, it’s customary to tip between 10 and 15 percent, especially if you’re in a restaurant.
If you’re drinking at a pub or wine bar, tipping is discretionary.
And in a cab, tip the driver to the nearest pound or about 10 percent of the cost.
Major credit cards are accepted at most restaurants and shops.
London is generally a very safe city; however, travelers should take note of several safety tips:
- Official cabs
The U.S. State Department advises tourists to only use London’s licensed black cabs. Unlicensed cab companies and private cars posing as taxis have been known to rip off, mug, or even sexually assault customers. To be safe, travelers should call the taxi company and hire a car directly (hotels can help arrange transportation as well).
Travelers should also be wary of pickpockets.
Like any big city, London has pickpockets. They always tend to target tourists on the Tube or at popular attractions like nearby the Big Ben tower.
Culture & Customs
Aside from a few select phrases and words, Americans find the city accessible because of London’s official English language.
British people are very polite and quite friendly to tourists, so don’t be afraid to ask for directions if you’re lost.
More often than not Londoners are happy to point you in the right direction, or even offer a recommendation about their city.
But keep in mind that the British like order.
There is no better example than how you are expected to behave on the Tube (London’s subway). Make sure to stand to the right when going up or down escalators.
The other side to the Brits, especially among the young adults, is their penchant for drinking.
Unlike coffee shops in the U.S., pubs are the prime watering hole for the Brits.
Most pubs serve meals and are open the majority of the day, so don’t be alarmed if you see people walking in with young children.
Once 5 o’clock rolls around, the hunger for a post-work pick me up is rampant in London, and pubs, as well as bars, tend to fill up throughout the week. Expect to see hordes of people congregating outside pubs in the warmer months and some stumbling out nightly at around 9 p.m.
Also, since London is one of the fashion capitals of the world, you’ll see locals dressed to the nines throughout the city but especially around Oxford Street, where many fashion houses and publications are located.
If you ever wanted to go the extra mile with your style game, London is the place to do it.
Day trips from London
One of the best things about London is how easy it is to leave London.
I love London to death, but I wish I’d known earlier just how many cool things are within a short train ride of London.
Brighton, a truly beautiful seaside town, is only an hour away by train.
Cute, extremely British towns like Windsor and Henley-on-Thames are a short train ride away.
Even doing a quick overnight in Edinburgh is extremely doable (though, to be honest, you’ll want to spend more than a day there).
The UK is much easier to travel around than the United States, and, if I could do it all over again, I would’ve skipped spending another day on the South Bank of the Thames, and would’ve gone out and explored more of the country.
Summary 4 days in London Itinerary
So, enough ideas and information for your perfect 4 days London itinerary? Obviously, you can stretch these 4 days as well to 5 or even 7 days in London. We hope so as we gave you really good ones on this article.
Still need some additional information?
Check our articles about London:
Also, if you are looking to splurge in London, what about staying in a cute boutique hotel in London?
That might increase your daily budget, but we gave you many ideas to save money…
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Hostel Packing List
It is time to see what you should pack in your backpack or suitcase. Make sure you always pick a quality hostel, it totally reduces the things you need to pack. Here is our ultimate hostel packing list. It features 23 items you should really throw in your backpack.The most important things to pack are:
- eye mask
- key chain flashlight
- the right backpack, the Nomatic (our review of Nomatic here) or Lowe Alpine Lightflite 45 Pack
- packing cubes
- generic padlock (fitting all locker types)
- quick-dry travel towel
- universal power adapter
- travel-sized toiletries