So, you’re checking London off of your bucket list?  London consistently makes the list of Best Places to Visit in Europe, so it’s no wonder that people flock there!  We had the opportunity to do the same recently, and believe me, friend, when I tell you, you need a plan!  I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed London, but you really need to know that this is a big city where you can quickly get overwhelmed.  Creating a good plan for your time here is essential on your first trip.  Don’t fret, you’re in the right place.  We are going to outline where to stay in London, give you a London itinerary, and help you know what to see while you’re here, including a visit to Westminster Abbey!  All of these make up some of the best things to do in London.

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Where to Stay in London

London is separated into different neighborhoods, each with their own unique personality.  If you can afford it, staying in the West End will give you the ideal London experience.  Surrounded by world-class theatres, excellent restaurants, and great shopping, the West End definitely comes at a price.  For those of us who are more budget conscious, but still want a safe neighborhood, consider Marylebone, Bloomsbury, or Paddington, or Knightsbridge.

After checking out the area on Tripadvisor, consider booking your hotel on Hotels.com.  We love booking with Hotels.com because for every night you stay, you are earning towards a free night in the future!  If you’re wanting to stay like a local and have your own place while in London, then book with Airbnb.  Never booked with Airbnb?  Well, you’re in luck!  Use our link to save $40 off of your first stay!!

Getting Acquainted with London

For our first day in the city, we chose to get acquainted with our surroundings.  A great way to do this is to take a Hop-on, hop-off tour.  We chose to do the hop-on, hop-off offered by Big Bus Tours.  There was a pick up right across the street from our hotel, so this was a super convenient way to start our tour of London.  We had so much fun riding the open top bus, snapping photos, listening to the commentary, and watching city life unfold below us.  We did one complete loop to get a feel for the city, and then chose the places we wanted to get off and begin touring.

Marty loves the vantage point of the photos he can get from the top of the bus!  LOL!

London

Visit Westminster Abbey

Of course, one of our stops was the famous Westminster Abbey.  Westminster Abbey is probably the greatest church in the world.  I mean, we have seen a lot of historic churches during our travels, but nothing prepared us for the beauty and history contained inside this amazing building.  Westminster Abbey is where England’s kings and queens have been crowned and buried for centuries.  Although it was pretty pricey to get in, Marty and I felt it was well worth the fee.   Your fee, 20 pounds at the time of this posting, includes your entry and a free audio guide.

Westminster Abbey

Inside, you can view the resting place of poets, writers, statesmen, and of course, kings and queens.  You will also see the coronation chair, gorgeous stain glass, religious artifacts, and incredible sculptures.  Having just watched the hit show, Reign, Marty and I were humbled to see the resting place of Queen Mary and her cousin, Queen Elizabeth.  Photos were prohibited, so you just have to go inside and see it for yourself.

For an extra treat, consider treating yourself to a great tour that includes Westminster Abbey and the House of Parliament, or afternoon tea!!

Insider Tip:  Visit early, during lunch, or late to avoid the crowds.  Also, you can skip the line by booking your tickets in advance online via the Abbey’s website.  

London’s Palace of Westminster, Westminster Bridge and Big Ben

The Palace of Westminster, Westminster Bridge, and Big Ben need no introduction.  These London landmarks are spectacular in person.  We recommend taking the Half Day London House of Parliament and Westminster Abbey Walking Tour.  This tour really opened our eyes to the history associated with these important landmarks.  Of course, you can also just admire the gorgeous architecture from the outside if you want.

Big Ben_London

Buckingham Palace

No visit to London would be complete without visiting the home of the Queen.  Buckingham Palace is one of the few royal palaces still operational today.  While here, be sure to take plenty of selfies around the gorgeous grounds before heading inside for a tour.  You can tour the State Rooms which the Royal Family uses to entertain important guests.  You can tell if the Queen is home by looking at the flags.  If the Royal Standard flag is flying, then the Queen is in residence.  If the Union flag is flying, then she is away.  You can buy tickets online here, or better yet, schedule this Buckingham Palace tour with afternoon tea!  I mean seriously, tea at Buckingham Palace, need I say more?!

While here, check out the Changing of the Guard as well.

Buckingham Palace_London

Buckingham Palace_London

Borough Market

Found under the railway lines, Borough Market is a bustling, crowded, awesome foodie paradise. The minute we stepped into the market, my senses went crazy.  The smell of freshly grilled meat filled the air while people shouted out orders and chatted with their friends all around me.  To be honest, I was a little on sensory overload, but I loved it!  Continuing our journey around the market, we found people selling any and everything related to food: cheese, honey, baked goods, fresh produce, meat and even mead!

True foodies will love the Borough Market Food Tour.  This three-hour tour, lead by a former chef, will have you tasting chocolate, drinking wine, and learning all of the culinary secrets of this yummy market.

Borough Market_London

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Tower Bridge

Lots of people mistake this beautiful bridge for the London Bridge, but don’t do that.  The Tower Bridge is an amazing London landmark and is actually a working drawbridge!  Take tons of photos of course, and then head inside to witness amazing views through the Glass Floor.  Check out the Victorian Engine Rooms and learn all about the history of this famous bridge.

Tower Bridge_London

The Tower of London

I have to admit, I was a little apprehensive about visiting the Tower of London because I thought the price was a little steep.  After visiting, I would have agreed to pay double.  The Tower of London was hands down my favorite part of our visit to London.  I have an entire blog post, What to See at the Tower of London, that outlines everything you need to know about visiting the Tower.  This is an absolute must-see while in London-trust me!

Tower of London

Fish and Chips

Well, of course, you have to eat fish and chips while in London.  There are so many options, it’s unreal.  We wound up at Golden Union in Soho and loved every last bite of our meal.  Be warned that the portions are huge.  Marty and I shared and were stuffed.  We were also super excited to see a hometown favorite being served, Dr. Pepper!  YUM!

First time to London? Let us show you how to get the most out of your time, but still be able to relax and enjoy the city. You won't miss out on any of the major attractions with our guide. #london #londonitinerary #firsttimeinlondon #visitlondon

Harrods

A shopping mecca, Harrods should be on everyone’s list.  Harrods is so much more than a department store, so don’t be fooled.  Harrods is a never-ending maze of luxury clothing, jewelry, food, wine, art, and more.  Marty and I spent hours wandering around dreaming of things we couldn’t afford.  We did buy one thing from Harrods though, a snack!  LOL!

First time to London? Let us show you how to get the most out of your time, but still be able to relax and enjoy the city. You won't miss out on any of the major attractions with our guide. #london #londonitinerary #firsttimeinlondon #visitlondon

The British Museum

It’s more than likely going to rain at least once during your time in London, so take full advantage of it, and head to the British Museum.  The best part, the museum is free!  I really could not believe this!  Now, we did make a small donation simply because this museum was amazing.

Marty and I spent hours touring the Roman and Egyptian portions of this museum.  There are so many must-see masterpieces at the British Museum that you are sure to find something that interests you too!

British Museum_London

Hyde Park

Escape from the hustle and bustle of the city and stroll through Hyde Park.  The park, originally a hunting ground for King Henry VIII, is now the largest Royal Park in London.  While visiting Hyde Park, we had the pleasure of stumbling upon the Royal Horse Guards making their way through the park.

Queen's Guard_London

Queen's Guard_London

Please don’t underestimate this park, it is huge.  Marty and I walked a large portion and probably didn’t even see half of it.  We had a great time seeing all of the beautiful foliage and the wildlife.  I did almost get attacked by a squirrel though.  Marty was busy taking pictures, so I sat down on a bench by a tree.  The next thing I know this crazy squirrel is coming right at me.  I screamed and got up, and he followed me for like five minutes!  Marty was too busy laughing to save me!

Hyde Park_London

Squirrel at Hyde Park

Hyde Park_London

Returning to London

We did so much during our short time in London.  Marty and I were so pleased that we took our time and truly enjoyed our experience in this great city.  Honestly, there were several more things on our list, but we decided to save them for next time.  I feel as if London is just one of those cities that we will visit more than once.

Consider taking one of these awesome tours in London as well!

What is your favorite thing to do in London?  Please comment below and let us know.

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First time to London? Let us show you how to get the most out of your time, but still be able to relax and enjoy the city. You won't miss out on any of the major attractions with our guide. #london #londonitinerary #firsttimeinlondon #visitlondon #wheretostayinlondon #westminsterabbey #unitedkingdom

Let us show you how to get the most out of your time, but still be able to relax and enjoy the city. You won't miss out on any of the major attractions with our guide. #london #londonitinerary #firsttimeinlondon #visitlondon #wheretostayinlondon #westminsterabbey #unitedkingdom

Let us show you how to get the most out of your time, but still be able to relax and enjoy the city. You won't miss out on any of the major attractions with our guide. #london #londonitinerary #firsttimeinlondon #visitlondon #wheretostayinlondon #westminsterabbey #unitedkingdom

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62 Comments

  1. My best friend is from England! She brought me some Earl Gray tea from Harrods… beautiful article! Thanks

    • Thank you, Sarah! And how fun to get such great gifts!

  2. As a London girl it’s always nice to hear someone else’s perspective. I adore wandering around Borough Market and eating everything I can get my hands on and so I also whole-heartedly recommend it as a place to go!!!

    • We really enjoyed your city, Rosie! And yes, the Borough Market is my kind of place. I wanted to go back for every meal and try something different!

  3. Great pictures, great information, great tips this is a all you need to know. This is probably the best blog I have read on London, well done makes me want to go visit!

    • I am so flattered Lisa. Thank you so much!

  4. Wow! Your post reminded of my good old days in UK when I used to visit London every alternate weekend. It is one of my favorite cities in the world. I can spend days together at British Museum itself.

    • I’m so glad it brought back fond memories for you, Anu. The British Museum was awesome. I don’t think we even scratched the surface of it.

  5. This is a great city guide. And I love the pictures.

  6. My favorite thing to do when traveling is the Big Bus tours. It is one of the best ways to familiarize yourself with a city when you have short amount time. I’ve been twice and will be making a return visit soon.

    • Us too! Although the Big Bus tours are touristy, it’s a great way to familiarize yourself and get a feel for where everything is located :).

  7. A good guide, you have covered all important places and landmarks. You have really nice photographs of places.

    • Thank you, Sapna. My husband gets credit for the pics ;).

  8. Sounds like you had an incredible and jam-packed three day visit to London! I’m glad you enjoyed so much of the incredible history on offer – even I as a local haven’t done most of these things! Hope you get to visit again soon and tick off more of your activities 🙂

    • We understand that Suzy. We are trying to do better about being tourists in our own town when we aren’t traveling. Funny how we take our surroundings for granted sometimes. LOL!

  9. We hit almost all of the spots you discussed during our first trip to London last year. You definitely covered all the bases!

    It’s funny, being from New York I’m surrounded by department stores, and I still think none of them compare to Harrods.

    • That’s so awesome Jasmine. I agree Harrods was awesome. I think I could have spent all day in there!

  10. London was a surprise to me also. I visited a few years back. Went there with a clear misconception that I won’t like it, and it not only proved me wrong, it made me fall in love with it. It is one of my top 3 capital cities at the moment, in close battle with Madrid for second, to be more exact. I would definitely consider going back there. I would add an Oxford tour to your future visit. It’s not that far, and it will wow you also 🙂

    • I’m not much of a ‘big city’ girl, but London was pretty awesome! I’m so glad to hear that you enjoyed it also. I will definitely add Oxford to my next itinerary, thanks for the tip!

  11. You packed a lot in for three days! I am from north London, and so am very familiar with the city – so it was lovely to read a trip to the city from a first time visit point of view. For more suggestions on places to go, I like to suggest Tate Modern and a boat ride along the Thames.

    • Thanks for the tips Ali. We will add the Tate and the boat ride to the list for next time :).

  12. This is a really good overview for the first time visitor. London is such a fantastic place to visit – but it can be overwhelming. Totally agree with doing the Big Bus Tour – it is a great way to orient yourself and be able to figure out which places to go back and visit later.
    We also love checking out local pubs for a pub lunch and a good bit of people watching.

    • Thank you, Catherine!

  13. Been there. Done most of those things and visited most of those places. London always gave me some royal air. I always stayed in the star rated hotels but I fancy staying in some homes which are aligned on the main Street.

    • We love living like the locals as well Mitali. I bet you had a great trip.

  14. I love London, and I did some of your things when I visited it for the first time 🙂 Great post

    • Thank you, Katharina!

  15. Haha all I could afford from Harrods was a chicken wrap! But looking at all the crazy price tag is so much fun! Very helpful post, really enjoyed reading it. Hop on hop off bus tours are a great way to get to know a city

    • Right, isn’t Harrods crazy expensive. I saw a bottle of wine that was equivalent to half of my yearly salary! LOL! Thanks for reading and the compliments. We appreciate it!

  16. I’ve been to London three times and still haven’t seen it all! Our favorite was the Ceremony of Keys at the Tower of London. You have to request tickets months in advance but it’s one of those things you will never forget!

    • I know, Julie. There was so much to do and see, and we found the people to be so nice and helpful. We really enjoyed our time there.

  17. I also love to take the Big Bus tours on my first day too. It is a great way to get the layout of the city. I did this in Paris. This was a great post with so much detail I will be keeping it for my visit to London next spring. Thank you!!

    • Thank you, Lisa! I appreciate that! We tend to do the Big Bus tours at least for the first day in a big city. They are pretty relaxed and help you to figure things out.

  18. Love this! We were just in London a couple of years ago, and you hit some things we didn’t. I would love to go to the British Museum, but the kids voted for Harry Potter instead. 😀 BUT, we’re already talking about a return trip, so maybe we’ll get some of it in.

    • I could see why the kids wanted Harry Potter. I bet that was an awesome experience for them. Well, I hope you get to go back and see the other things you missed!

  19. I did all these things my first time in London too! I didn’t go to the Borough Market though :-/ Wish I had known about it! My favorite was eating fish and chips of course haha

    • Francesca, if you like to eat then you would have been in heaven in Borough Market! Sounds like a good reason to make a trip back to London! LOL!

  20. I loved your list! I did everything on it during my first visit to London expect to Borough Market. I did Camden town instead, which is also a great spot for foodies! I can’t wait to go back, there is so much to see in London!

  21. I have been dying to visit London, but I may have been a little discouraged to hear that you need a plan! I’m much more of a wander around and see what I can find person. You assuaged my fears though, since you did all the planning for me. Especially since you listed all the things I’ve always wanted to visit, especially Westminster Abbey. Your photos are truly incredible as well, that blue in the Tower Bridge certainty captured my attention. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thank you, Ashley. You might not need a plan, but we felt like we did. So, I guess it’s just whatever way you prefer to travel. I think you will love it though!

  22. I love that you included Borough Market. It’ one of my fave places in London.

    • Oh yes, we loved Borough Market!

  23. I wish I had gone to Westminster Abbey! This list makes me want to come back to London

    • Westminster Abbey was so gorgeous and very interesting. I highly recommend it!

  24. You had me at fish and chips! I’ve never been to London but the 2 main reasons why I’m going is because of the architecture and the food! Can’t wait to visit hopefully within the year! <3

    • It was really a great city, and yes, the fish and chips was awesome!

  25. That is a pretty awesome itinerary. It definitely covered all the hotspots!

    • Thanks, Monique!

  26. Can’t wait to use this itinerary! New Orleans is close to getting a Non-stop to London so I’ll be going much more often.

    • Oh my gosh, we love New Orleans-what a great home city you have! I hope the itinerary comes in handy for you.

  27. Your pictures are beautiful and I virtually traveled to London. You have covered all major attractions and experienced the city in 3 days.

    • Thank you so much, Sapna! My husband is the “official photographer” so I’ll pass on your compliment!

  28. We are visiting London early next year. Thanks for sharing this great list. Will save this for future reference

    • Thanks for reading, Mayuri!

  29. London is a fascinating city for all to visit. There are a lot to explore. I wish to explore Borough Market to enjoy a food tour there. Yum, Fish and Chips!! Very handy post for any visitors to explore London.

    • Thanks for reading, Nafisa!

  30. I enjoyed this post! London is my favourite city in the world. I’ve been to all the places mentioned on my first ever trip there. Soo many fond memories! I didn’t go to the markets though…I love food and would definitely make a trip to the Borough market and venture into Camden town when I return!

    • Thank you so much, Victoria. We loved London as well. You have to go check out the market next time, it was great!

  31. What great suggestions for a trip to London! I’d definitely add some time in Shoreditch and Camden to see a more alternative side of London!

    • Thanks so much, Kathi. We truly loved our time in London although it was short lived. We will have to make it to Shoreditch and Camden on our next trip 🙂

  32. You did a great job covering the highlights, there is just so much to see. The Tower of London is my favorite thing in London too, I just loved the Crown Jewels. Next trip, hopefully, you can do some day trips and see more of the country.

    • We would love to see more of the countryside and to hopefully visit northern England on our next trip 🙂