With 20 million visitors in 2017, London is the second most visited city in the world.
It is hard to visit most of the British capital’s attractions even if you have more than a week.
However, in case if you have only 2 days in London, you’ll need to do your best to visit all the places that interest you and optimize your itinerary.
I have visited London for more than two days, explored it really well, got some local advice and now can show you the way to see most of it in 48 hours.
Disclaimer: This is an independent travel blog, where I publish stories of my trips and help you to plan yours. I might get a small commission if you book your trip using some of the links in this article at no cost for you. All opinions and recommendations are unbiased and only reflect my opinion.
Planning your Trip to London
Before you book your tickets to London, you need to know that many airports around London are located far from the center. So, on the ticket, you see that you’re flying to London, but the airport might be 100 km away from the city.
Another good option to explore London and the surrounding area is renting a car. Just remember about the left side traffic in the UK.
Although, London is an expensive city, there are many low-cost flights to its airports.
You can find the fullest list of accommodation options on Booking.com. However, London is a very popular destination, so last-minute booking might result in a more expensive stay. So, book your room in advance. Hotels of many international chains like Hilton, Marriott, and Shangri-La are represented in London.
There are also many hostels in the English capital. Prices for a bed start at 10 pounds but take into account that the cheapest options usually mean you’ll have to stay with 15 or even 30 other people in one room, so check it before you get negatively surprised. Hostels I can recommend are Safestay Holland Park, YHA London Central, and SoHostel.
Most public museums in London are free, but some popular attractions like the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, and Buckingham palace cost 20-30 pounds to enter. So, I recommend purchasing a 2-day London Pass, as it will pay off in the end.
Another convenient and less tiring way of exploring the city is a hop-on-hop-off bus. In such a large city, it is very useful. You can purchase it online here.
I also recommend trying some of the exciting and unique tours in London like Harry Potter Tour visiting Warner Bros. Studio, Nightlife Pass, Jack the Ripper Tour, Sherlock Holmes Tour, Full-Day Tour by Black Cab and some others.
A convenient way to get around the city is using the London Subway (called here underground or tube). There are several options like using your credit card to pay for tickets, buy a pass or use an Oyster Card. The last one is the cheapest and most convenient option. You can purchase it online here.
If you’re planning to travel around the UK after visiting London, you can check the bus schedule here, or book a tour to explore Liverpool, Cotswolds, Stonehenge, Lake District or other interesting places.
You can also book a whole trip to London and other parts of the UK.
Don’t forget to get a travel insurance for your trip.
Ok, so let’s move on to the best attractions you need to include in your 2-day London itinerary.
Top 35 London Attractions
Before following the exact 2-day itinerary that I show further, decide if you are interested in all attractions listed there. You will also be able to open each day’s itinerary and change it according to your interests and location of your hotel/hostel.
So, below is a list of 18 most popular London attractions and 17 places that rarely appear in London travel guides, but are also worth visiting, with short descriptions.
For your convenience, I’ve added links with more information about the London attractions (their names link to detailed info on Wikipedia), and pages where you can book tickets online cheaper than on the place and be able to skip the line to the tickets offices.
- St. Paul’s Cathedral – Anglican church, the seat of the Bishop of London and just a nice building. (online - 16 pounds with fast-track entry).
- Westminster Palace and Big Ben – British Parliament building and the famous Clock Tower (20 pounds – entrance with an audioguide, 28 pounds – entrance with a guided tour, 61 pounds – 4-hour guided tour around Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliament and Big Ben).
- Tower of London – a Gothic castle which used to serve as a prison and a palace in different times of its history (27 pounds – entrance ticket)
- Tower Bridge – an iconic bridge leading to the Tower of London, one of the symbols of London (free to cross, 8 pounds for exhibition)
- Buckingham Palace – residence of the queen of England. In summer, when she lives in her summer residence, the palace is open for visitors. (23 pounds – entrance ticket, 57 pounds – changing of the guard & Buckingham Palace guided tour)
- London Eye – famous Ferris Wheel with a great view of the city. (24 pounds – one forty-minute-ride ticket).
- Piccadilly Circus – popular tourist attraction, while locals try to avoid it. This square is similar to Times Square in NYC with shops and restaurants of famous international brands, and large crowds of tourists walking around. Worth a visit, but try to avoid it afterward. (free – square, circus itself is not worth visiting according to the reviews, however, you can purchase tickets to the nearest show here).
- The City – financial district of London with many glass skyscrapers of unusual forms. In many cases, such forms were caused by the law that St. Paul’s Cathedral should be visible from some particular points around London. You cannot enter most of the buildings if you don’t work there. However, I recommend booking a free ticket and visiting Sky Garden panoramic point in Walkie Talkie building. (free)
- St. James Park – nice park close to the Whitehall and Buckingham Palace. A nice place for a picnic on the way between the major attractions of London. (free)
- Hyde Park – perhaps, the largest park in London. It has roads and bike lanes. It is located next to Royal Albert Hall and the Exhibition Road with several famous museums. (free)
- Royal Albert Hall – beautiful concert hall with a capacity of 5272 seats. (14 pounds – guided tour)
- Victoria and Albert Museum – world’s largest museum of decorative arts and design. (free, donations accepted)
- Natural History Museum – large natural history museum in London with an impressive façade (free, donations accepted).
- South Bank – a nice area close near the Thames River. It goes from the London Eye through numerous bars and museums, Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, city hall and ends at the Tower Bridge. (free, 100 pounds – 3-hour South Bank and Shakespeare’s Globe tour)
- Trafalgar Square – one of the most famous and important squares in London with Nelson’s Column and a fountain in the middle, National Gallery, St. Martin-In-The-Fields church and other famous attractions and important institutions’ buildings surrounding it. (free)
- British Museum – a famous museum dedicated to human history, art and culture. It is also the most visited museum in the UK. (free, donations accepted)
- Madame Tussauds Museum – famous wax museum with waxworks of famous people from past and present. (29 pounds – entry ticket)
- Whitehall – street in Central London, which is regarded as the center of UK Government. (5 pounds – Banqueting House entrance ticket)
As you see, many attractions are paid and relatively expensive. I recommend you purchasing a London City Pass which allows visiting all the attractions for free and the final price you pay will be much less than in the case of purchasing single tickets in every place. Just check which attractions are included before purchasing.
Another popular thing to do in London is taking a river cruise. There is a wide choice of companies providing such a service, but I recommend hop-on-hop-off boat tour. You can book your tour here.
Less Known Attractions
Here is a list of 17 less known/popular London attractions. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t visit them. For me, most of these places are more interesting than the above ‘typical’ attractions, but of course, you can’t miss the last ones too.
- Covent Garden – a nice area associated with the former fruit-and-vegetable market. Now, it is a popular tourist area with lots of nice streets and authentic bars. (free)
- Chinatown – ethnic area with lots of Chinese shops and restaurants located close to Piccadilly and Soho. (free)
- Tate Modern – modern art gallery on the London Southbank. It is free to enter, and you can also visit the panoramic deck on the top of it. (free, donations accepted)
- Shoreditch – district full of hippy areas, street art, nightclubs, and bars. Similar to Camden, but less touristy. (free, 15 pounds – Shoreditch pub crawl, 25 pounds – street art walking tour, 37 pounds – private guided walking tour, 59 pounds – Sunday Shoreditch food tour)
- Brick Lane and Nomadic Community Garden – Brick Lane is a street close to Shoreditch being the center of the Bangladeshi community in London. There you can find many unusual shops and restaurants at relatively low prices. Nomadic Community Garden is situated just next to Brick Lane, and it is a popular place for young people to hang out, while some people actually live there. (free, 18 pounds – alternative London street art walking tour)
- Camden Market – a cool market with lots of international foods and items you won’t find in any shop. Also, a popular attraction in London. I recommend visiting Cyberdog, shop with fluorescent dance clothes looking like a nightclub. (free, 14 pounds – Camden Market Tour, 14 pounds – Camden Pub Crawl, 35 pounds – Camden Art Crawl).
- Primrose Hill – a scenic place close to Regent’s Park with a great panorama of London (free)
- Royal Observatory Greenwich – the starting place of counting longitude, it also gave its name to Greenwich Mean Time (15 pounds – ticket with audioguide, 95 pounds - half-day guided tour).
- Little Venice – London neighborhood with nice canals and houseboats. Good place for a stroll on a sunny day (free). To have a unique experience, you can stay in such a houseboat for the time of your stay or just for one night.
- Guildhall Yard- the Guildhall used to be a town hall and is still used as a ceremonial and administrative center of London. (free – both the yard and the Guildhall)
- Museum of London – a very interesting museum of the entire history of London beginning at the times, when there was no city here. (free, donations accepted)
- Leadenhall Market – covered market located close to the City. One of the most beautiful markets in the world (free)
- Soho – a fashionable area close to Piccadilly with lots of diverse restaurants and pubs (free, 33 pounds – historic pubs tour, 82 pounds – International Foods of Soho half-day tour)
- Portobello Market – one of the most notable street markets in London famous for its second-hand clothes and antiques (free)
- Museum of Design –interesting museum of design located in a picturesque Holland park. (free)
- Museum of Brands – museum telling the history of brands, changes of packaging and advertising (9 pounds – entry ticket)
- Neal’s Yard – a small colorful yard located in Covent Garden, but most of the tourists don’t know about it (free)
- British Library – world’s largest library by the number of items in its catalog, and a beautiful building as well (free)
- Peckham Levels - an open space on the place of a parking lot. It has a stage, bars, restaurants, a yoga studio, a hair salon and much more (free to enter)
Bars and Restaurants in London
London is famous for its bars, and you can find a great variety of them here. The price for a pint of beer is mostly about 4-6 pounds. I’ve been to a couple of places, and the one I can especially recommend is The Crosse Keys in the former bank building. It is one of about a thousand bars of the famous Wetherspoons chain.
London 2-day Itinerary
Finally, let’s move to the 48-hour itinerary around London including most of the attractions that were mentioned before.
Day 1: Famous London Attractions
This is a map of the first day of your itinerary around London. You can open it in Google Maps and edit it using this link.
- Start with a view from the London Eye. If you booked a skip-the-line pass or the London city pass, you won’t spend time in the line, but enjoy the views of the river Thames. 40 min
- Then have a stroll along the South Bank, pass by the Shakespeare’s Globe, cross the Tower Bridge and take some nice pictures there. 1,5 hours
- Pass by Katherine Docks Marina. There are some cozy restaurants and cafes in the area, so you can stay there for a while. 20 min – 1 hour
- After that, visit the Tower of London. Saved time from skipping the line will allow you to spend more time inside. 2 hours
- After that get lost in the glass-and-steel City of London. I suggest getting up to the Sky Garden panoramic platform (if you book your visit in advance) in the Walkie Talkie building. 40 min
- You should also visit the Leadenhall Market at least to take some nice pictures over there. 20 min
- You can also visit the Guildhall Yard and Neal’s Yard on the way to Covent Garden. 1 hour
- Take a stroll in Chinatown and try some exotic foods and drinks there. 30 min
- Pass by the Piccadilly and Trafalgar squares, and visit the Westminster Abbey, Palace and the Big Ben. 2 hours
- After that visit Buckingham Palace if it’s open for visitors. 1 hour
- Finish your exploring part of the day with one or two museums of your liking. You can see the Victoria and Albert Museum on the map, but you can also visit the Natural History Museum, Science Museum, Museum of Brands, Museum of Design or the Royal Albert Hall. 2 hours
After that, you can find a nice restaurant in the area, take a river cruise or attend one of the unusual tours I mentioned before.
Of course, you can make the same route in an opposite order. In the morning, museums might have fewer visitors, and the London Eye is nice to visit in the evening. It’s all up to you.
Day 2: London Unknown Sights
This day, you will explore the underground, and not royal London, places that you probably never expected to see here. Here is a link to the map.
- Start the morning with a Portobello Market. You can often find not only shops but also street food stalls there. 30 min
- After that, walk towards the canals of Little Venice and see the boathouses where people actually live. 1 hour
- Walk to the Primrose Hill and enjoy a nice panorama of London. 30 min
- Visit the Camden Market with its unusual shops and stalls and walk a little through the Camden Town. 1 hour
- Go to the British Library. Not for the books, but for the nice architecture and interior of this building. 1 hour
- Take a train or a cab to Shoreditch to see some nice graffiti. 1 hour
- Chill in the Nomadic Community Garden and take a stroll at the Brick Lane. 1 hour
- Get to the Prime Meridian in Greenwich on a train or a cab. I also recommend you to book a guided tour around the area. 2 hours
- Get a beer in Peckham Levels and enjoy the rest of your 2-day London trip. Don’t forget to check in for your flight 😉