How to Spend a Week in London
I’m not joking when I tell you I kept repeating that beloved line from Friends in “The One with Ross’s Wedding Part 1” over and over again in London. My excitement of finally visit that city, one that has been on my travel wishlist for years, 100 percent matched Joey Tribbiani's.
The best part? I too was traveling there for my best friend’s wedding with other close friends who have been in my life for 10+ years. If that’s not a coincidence then I don’t know what is. But you can understand why “London, Baby!” was a big phrase for me during the trip.
Because the wedding was a two day affair, I booked a week in London to give me five days of free time to try and see everything on my list. The nice thing about London is it’s not that big, so you can get around and pretty much do all the must see sights and then some in a week. While the city may be small in size, its culture is vast compared to a lot of other major cities.
There’s something really eye opening about spending time in a city with such rich history. London is home to a beautiful mixture of both old and new architecture, that weave together nicely, giving you a sense of how far the city has come. It’s also one of the top destinations in the world for art and theatre, so if you find yourself inclined to either, or both, you should start planning your trip immediately.
London is, by far, the best city I’ve ever visited before.
If I haven’t convinced you yet you need to start planning your trip here, then keep reading. If you’re convinced, and or already planning your trip, you’ll find a full itinerary below on how to map out each day (based on location and sites), where to stay, what to see, and how to get around.
This itinerary was made based on location to help make the most of your time in London. Here are the top attractions to visit on your week across the pond:
The first day is the most exciting and you’ll want to see some of the main attractions right away. Start the day off in Westminster to see Big Ben and Westminster Abbey, then make a stroll over to Chinatown for a bite to eat. There are also a lot of shops around this stretch and it’s a major tourist destination so you’ll spend some time browsing.
After a day of playing tourist – but not making yourself too exhausted – plan a night out going to dinner and the theatre. While I wasn’t able to see a show, London is known for world known productions so it’s a must!
You can’t go to London without visiting at least one museum. I highly recommend making your way over to the Tate Modern. It’s free admission to the main galleries, and only a small price for the featured ones ($20-$30).
The Tate is huge, and if you’re an art buff like me you’ll spend a majority of your day walking around in here. After the museum, I recommend going for a bite to eat at a restaurant surrounding it, and then walking across the Millennium Bridge where you’ll see beautiful views of Soho.
From there, walk through Soho and go to Sky Garden, also known as the walkie talkie, to get incredible views bird's eye view of all of London. It’s free to enter the Sky Garden but you still need to book your ticket ahead of time because they only let a certain number of people enter each hour. Along with beautiful views, there’s a nice restaurant and bar inside that you can enjoy.
**Note: during the walk through Soho you’ll most likely see the Tower of London, Tower Bridge and St. Paul’s Cathedral (things I planned for day 3). So depending on how much time you have (and what tours you want to do) you can potentially combine day 2 and 3 activities together.
Head back to Soho to take in more iconic sights including the Tower of London, Tower Bridge and St. Paul’s Cathedral. I wasn’t able to do this, but everyone raved about the Tower of London tour so I recommend doing it.
After seeing some sights, head over to Sky Lounge for drinks, appetizers, and another stunning view of London and the areas you toured earlier in the day. I recommend doing this bar around sunset because the light on the buildings at golden hour are a must see.
Shopping in London is a must, and honestly one day isn’t enough. There are so many amazing stores and neighborhoods to shop in London you’ll want to spend another day doing some shopping as well. But, my favorite neighborhoods and shopping districts were Oxford Street and Soho.
Oxford Street has all your main big shops - Topshop (A MUST), H&M, New Look, Forever 21, Harrods, etc. Oxford Street is massive so you’ll spend quite some time just walking around, shopping and grabbing lunch. If you’re less into mainstream brands and looking for niche street wear (think Supreme) then you’ll want to hit up Soho. Ton’s of great boutiques.
One of my favorite days walking around London was when we went to Hyde Park, St. James Park and Buckingham Palace. All three locations are incredibly close – it’s no more than a 20 minute walk – so you can hit them all together.
We went to Buckingham Palace during the afternoon because we wanted to avoid seeing the changing of the guards. It’s really not worth it because there are huge crowds and you won’t be able to see much. So I recommend avoiding all the chaos and going later in the day so you can take pictures right by the gates and walk around freely.
I also recommend doing both parks and packing a picnic if the weather permits. The parks in London are quite stunning and it’s a nice stroll.
By this point in the trip you’re probably a little exhausted, so I recommend planning an easy day and heading over to the National History Museum. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to do this during this trip, but almost everyone I know that goes to London makes this a priority.
Similar to the Tate admission is free for this museum. It’s also very big so you’ll spend a few hours walking around.
Spend the day in Shoreditch – London’s trendiest neighborhood – shopping, looking for street art, and grabbing good Vietnamese food.
There’s street art everywhere you turn in Shoreditch. You can either book a tour or go looking for it yourself. In between all the street art you’ll find tons of great stores, boutiques, restaurants and bars in this colorful neighborhood.
Where to stay?
Now that you have an itinerary for your vacation, it’s time to figure out where to stay. There are so many options – from hostels, to hotels to Airbnb – and so many neighborhoods to choose from. My recommendation is trying to find a neighborhood that’s more central – like Shoreditch. It’s definitely the most trendiest neighborhood in London right now. That’s where we stayed and we absolutely loved it. We were so close to everything and it actually felt like we were staying in the city vs. a residential neighborhood (which most of London looks like).
Shoreditch has a lot of fabulous hotels, but if you can find an Airbnb you’ll pay half the price.
How to get around?
It’s suuuuuper easy to get around London by either walking or via public transportation. You really won’t ever need to take a taxi or Uber if you stay in the city.
After you land at the airport, and before you get on a train to wherever you’re staying, get an Oyster card at the station inside the airport. You can pick between different packages – one day, one week, monthly, etc. – and it’s the cheapest and fastest way to get around.
London is so efficient with their trains that you really won’t be waiting longer than 2 minutes for a train. Plus, their stations and trains are very clean.
So, there you have it folks! A complete 7 day guide on what to do and see in London. I really hope I’ve convinced some of you to book your trip over there immediately!! For those of you who are still on the fence, please watch Friends “The One with Ross’s Wedding Part 1” and you might be convinced then.