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Bucket list trip:

Last updated: 20 June, 2023
Expert travel writer: Annabelle Thorpe

Where to go and what to see in London to get the most from your trip – a 9-day itinerary from destination expert and travel writer Annabelle Thorpe.

Note – London is a big place, and getting around London is both time-consuming and exhausting. Indeed, the secret to enjoying this incredible city is to minimise your travel, especially in cars, buses or trains.

Each of our itinerary days focuses on a different part of London, gathering the city’s bucket list attractions into smaller, more manageable areas that you can mostly navigate on foot. ‘Day 9’ is especially for families.

Editor note – Annabelle has not included specific recommendations of where to stay each day, as it’s best to base yourself in one place. See the ‘Where to stay’ section in our London destination guide.

Day 1 Central London

3

Spend the morning with the Beefeaters seeing the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London. If you have time, take in spectacular views from the Tower Bridge Walkway.

After, head to the Sky Garden for lunch with a view, then wander along the road to St. Paul’s Cathedral.

After a few whispers in the whispering gallery, finish up with dinner at the Duck and Waffle or Sushi Samba (pre-book). It’s a short walk – and on the way pop into the magnificent Leadenhall Market.

Tower of London

London, United Kingdom (UK)

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Bucket List Experience
View from afar of the tower during the daytime

The world’s most notorious medieval fortress, rich in gruesome history dating back to the 11th century. Now home to the Crown Jewels and the enigmatic, colourful Beefeaters.

Adult price: £25

Best for ages 4+

St Paul’s Cathedral

London, United Kingdom (UK)

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Bucket List Experience
View of the great dome sticking out above the skyline

This iconic, domed cathedral is an architectural masterpiece and a highlight of London’s skyline, designed by the great Sir Christopher Wren.

Adult price: £17

Best for ages 10+

Sky Garden

London, United Kingdom (UK)

Sky Garden

This atmospheric indoor garden, occupying 3 floors at the top of a skyscraper, offers stunning 360-degree panoramic views of the city. There’s an observation deck and several dining options – a fine dining restaurant, an Italian restaurant and a brasserie – all with views.  A great place to break from sightseeing.

Best for ages 6+

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Day 2 Central London

3

Spend the morning admiring world treasures at the British Museum. There are several good lunch options inside, including a pizzeria.

After lunch, stroll down to soak up the atmosphere of Covent Garden. Shop the boutiques and central market, watch the street performers and, if of interest, pop into the excellent Transport Museum.

For dinner, either book into Rules for British classics, or wander over to Chinatown, via Leicester Square, for Chinese street food. Finish the evening with a West End musical.

British Museum

London, United Kingdom (UK)

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Bucket List Experience
Exterior view of the museum during the daytime

An awe-inspiring collection of more than seven million artefacts spanning two million years, from prehistory to the present day. Highlights include the Rosetta Stone, Elgin Marbles and a granite head of King Rameses II.

Best for ages 13+

London Transport Museum

London, United Kingdom (UK)

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Bucket List Experience
Elevated view of decommissioned buses

Fascinating museum offering an insight into the remarkable transport heritage of the city that pioneered the underground railway. Trains, iconic black cabs, scarlet double-decker buses and more.

Adult price: £20

Best for ages 6+

West End Musicals

London, United Kingdom (UK)

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Bucket List Experience
West End Musicals

See the world’s best theatre and musical theatre, staged in 40 magnificent, history-laden venues known as the ‘West End’.

Adult price: £45

Best for ages 8+

Duration: 2-3 hours

When: Daily

Frequency: daily

Day 3 Central London

8

Rise early and head to Westminster Palace to see Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, and Westminster Abbey.

After, stop into Churchill’s War Rooms, also on Parliament Square, then walk through St James’ Park to Buckingham Palace. If you’re there 10.45am you’ll catch the Changing of the Guard.

Art lovers could stop by the Queen’s Gallery, either way wander through Green Park and stop for lunch (or afternoon tea) at either The Ritz or Fortnum & Mason.

Walk into Soho for dinner (many choices). Shoppers could detour to the uber-expensive streets around Bond Street, or the big flagship brands on Regent Street.

Houses of Parliament & Big Ben

London, United Kingdom (UK)

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Bucket List Experience
View of the building from the River Thames, showing parliament and Big Ben

Jaw-dropping neo-Gothic buildings by the Thames, home to the UK parliament – the original home of democracy – and the iconic Big Ben clock.

Best for ages 13+

Westminster Abbey

London, United Kingdom (UK)

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Bucket List Experience
External view of the grand church during the daytime

A thousand-year-old Gothic abbey, and the grand resting place of monarchs, politicians and poets.

Best for ages 18+

Churchill War Rooms

London, United Kingdom (UK)

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Bucket List Experience
Underground room with a conference table

A secret subterranean bunker from which Churchill directed operations during WWII – exactly as it was during the blitz of 1945 – offering a fascinating historical insight to the war and Churchill himself.

Adult price: £25

Best for ages 8+

Buckingham Palace

London, United Kingdom (UK)

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Bucket List Experience
Exterior view of the palace during the daytime

The world’s most famous royal palace and home of the British monarchy since Queen Victoria, is a fairly bland affair. Go in summer months to see the State Rooms and gardens, and stay to see the Changing of the Guard with enjoyable, entertaining fanfare.

Best for ages 8+

Queen’s Gallery

London, United Kingdom (UK)

A bright red exhibition room with statues and furniture with gold accents

The main public art gallery of Buckingham Palace, the Queens Gallery exhibits works of art from the Royal collection on a rotating basis – there are usually around 450 works on show.

Adult price: £8.50

Best for ages 18+

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8 best places for afternoon tea in London

London, United Kingdom (UK)

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Bucket List Experience
Afternoon tea cake stand and tea set

Introduced by the Duchess of Bedford in 1840 to stave off hunger until dinner, afternoon tea is one of England’s greatest traditions – and there is no better way to experience it than in one of London’s historic, grand dame hotels.

Adult price: £20

Best for ages 13+

Duration: 1-3 hours

The Ritz

London, United Kingdom (UK)

close up of a sign entrance to the hotel

In the palatial surroundings of the Ritz’s white-and-gold Palm Court, this is London’s only afternoon tea to have a certified tea sommelier on hand to help you with your choices.

Adult price: £60

Best for ages 8+

Duration: 1-3 hours

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Fortnum & Mason

London, United Kingdom (UK)

Exterior of the large red brick department store on a sunny day

Grocer to the queen, this glorious foodie emporium on Piccadilly has been supplying the great and good of London since 1705. A Fortnum’s hamper – perfect for a picnic in Hyde Park – is a thing of beauty.

Best for ages 13+

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Day 4 Central London

7

Start the day feasting on some of the world’s best-loved works of art at the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery, both in Trafalgar Square.

Art lovers could then head to the Courtauld Gallery at Somerset House for more fine art, and afternoon tea at The Savoy Hotel.

Alternatively, walk across Waterloo Bridge to the ‘South Bank’ for a spin on the London Eye and the London Aquarium. Grab dinner at one of the many restaurants on the South Bank promenade.

Finish off with a play at the Brutalist National Theatre or a film at the IMAX.

National Gallery

London, United Kingdom (UK)

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Bucket List Experience
Exterior view of the front of the gallery during the daytime with queue pf people outside

One of the world’s greatest collections of Western European paintings, with more than 2,300 works on display from Da Vinci to Monet.

Best for ages 18+

National Portrait Gallery

London, United Kingdom (UK)

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Bucket List Experience
People enjoying the art exhibits in the hall

A pictorial ‘who’s who’ of British culture past and present, from royals to pop icons, showcasing hundreds of years of history.

Best for ages 13+

Courtauld Gallery

London, United Kingdom (UK)

Courtauld Gallery

Located in the elegant surroundings of Somerset House, the Courtauld combines temporary exhibitions with a permanent collection including works by Manet and Van Gogh.

Adult price: £13

Best for ages 18+

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8 best places for afternoon tea in London

London, United Kingdom (UK)

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Bucket List Experience
Afternoon tea cake stand and tea set

Introduced by the Duchess of Bedford in 1840 to stave off hunger until dinner, afternoon tea is one of England’s greatest traditions – and there is no better way to experience it than in one of London’s historic, grand dame hotels.

Adult price: £20

Best for ages 13+

Duration: 1-3 hours

The London Eye

London, United Kingdom (UK)

Distant view of the wheel during the daytime on a sunny day

Sky-scraping observation wheel taking passengers on a stately ride, 450 feet above the Thames.

Adult price: £31

Duration: 30 minutes

Sea Life London

London, United Kingdom (UK)

Exterior view of front facade with people walking in front

London’s impressive aquarium, set on the South Bank, is home to hundreds of species of fish and a selection of sharks. Great for families and nature lovers, but nothing especially unique.

Adult price: £27

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National Theatre

London, United Kingdom (UK)

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Bucket List Experience
Exterior view of the theatre during the daytime

From classic drama to musical comedy, the National’s three stages (the Olivier, Lyttleton and Dorfman) epitomise the best of British theatre. Boundary-pushing, and world-class quality.

Adult price: £45

Min age 5

Best for ages 13+

Duration: -

Day 5 Central London

5

Start with an early morning stroll along the Thames Path alongside the river, then cross the Thames at the Millennium Bridge for entry into the Tate Modern.

Have lunch in their café, or wander over to Borough Market, London’s foodie central.

After lunch, either head to The Globe for an authentic Shakespeare Play (next door to the Tate Modern, but a short walk back from Borough Market). Book in for dinner at Oxo.

Or brave the original London Dungeons and the View the Shard. Book in for dinner at Oblix, in the Shard Tower.

Tate Modern

London, United Kingdom (UK)

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Bucket List Experience
External view of the art gallery - a big oblong brick building with glass roof and a single large square chimney

This iconic, renovated power station on London’s South Bank showcases headline-grabbing Modern and contemporary art.

Best for ages 18+

Borough Market

London, United Kingdom (UK)

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Bucket List Experience
Close up of a stall selling artisanal breads

London’s premier gastro hub, with over 100 stalls in a historic covered market, offering everything from artisan breads and cheeses to street food, hand-made chocolates and vegan cakes.

Best for ages 13+

Shakespeare plays at The Globe

London, United Kingdom (UK)

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Bucket List Experience
external view of the theatre, a round white building

Shakespeare’s works are brought vividly to life at this half-timbered, riverside replica of the Bard’s Elizabethan theatre. A pilgrimage for Shakespeare fans.

Adult price: £10

Best for ages 13+

Duration: 1-3 hours

When: April-October

Frequency: daily

The London Dungeon

London, United Kingdom (UK)

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Bucket List Experience
Promo photo of things you can experience at the dungeon

A gallows humour romp through London’s most gruesome periods of history, encountering its shadiest characters, via live action, rides and special effects.

Adult price: £27

Min age 12

Best for ages 12+

The View From The Shard

London, United Kingdom (UK)

couple taking afternoon tea on observation deck of The Shard

Step into Renzo Piano’s iconic Shard, and ride up to the 72nd floor, to stand 800ft above London for the loftiest views in the capital.

Adult price: £25

Best for ages 10+

Day 6 Kensington

5

Take the tube to South Kensington, then it’s a few minutes’ walk to three world-class museums: the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum – take your pick.

Jump in a cab and head up the road to Harrods for lunch in their excellent (but pricey) food court. Then head back for another of the museums, or spend the afternoon shopping with billionaires in Harrods or nearby Harvey Nichols.

Book in for a delicious home-cooked Italian dinner at Signor Sassi.

Natural History Museum, London

London, United Kingdom (UK)

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Bucket List Experience
Front facade view of the museum

Dinosaur skeletons, blue whales and chunks of meteorite set in a Romanesque, cathedral-like building – the world’s biggest and best such museum is a treasure trove of natural history.

Best for ages 4+

Science Museum, London

London, United Kingdom (UK)

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Bucket List Experience
two girls in front of mirror illusions in the London Science Museum

The world’s largest science museum, with 40 galleries celebrating three centuries of major scientific advances.

Best for ages 4+

Victoria and Albert Museum

London, United Kingdom (UK)

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Bucket List Experience
Rear exterior view of the beautiful red brick building on a sunny day. People paddling in the pool in foreground

Known nationwide as ‘the V&A’, this museum focuses on the decorative arts, from fashion to furniture and interior design.

Best for ages 13+

Harrods

London, United Kingdom (UK)

Night time view of the department all lit up with lights

The world’s most famous department store – touristy, yes, but also glamorous, glitzy, and unmissable.

Best for ages 18+

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Harvey Nichols

London, United Kingdom (UK)

Street view of a popular store on a sunny winter's day

The original, flagship store in Britain’s upscale department store chain, still a destination for the best in international luxury brands.

Best for ages 18+

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Day 7 Richmond

4

Take a cab or train to Kew Gardens and spend the morning enjoying the world’s first and largest botanical gardens.

Take a cab to the Richmond Harbour Hotel or Bingham River House for lunch, then catch a cab down the road to Hampton Court, for an afternoon touring the former home of Henry VIII.

Hampton Court Palace

London, United Kingdom (UK)

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Bucket List Experience
Exterior view of the palace on a sunny day

England’s greatest Tudor estate and the former home of Henry VIII and his succession of wives, preserved for the public to explore.

Adult price: £25

Best for ages 4+

Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew

London, United Kingdom (UK)

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Bucket List Experience
Close up of a lily pad during the daytime

Legendary botanical gardens dating back to 1759, now housing more than 30,000 species of plant. The original, biggest and best botanical garden in the world.

Adult price: £13

Best for ages 4+

Richmond Harbour Hotel

London, United Kingdom (UK)

|Official star rating:

Richmond Harbour Hotel

A colourful and stylish ‘countryside retreat’ atop leafy Richmond Hill, overlooking the Thames and just 20 minutes from the city centre. Kew Gardens and Hampton Court are virtually next door.

Average £150

Extra beds

Pool

2+ bedrooms

Beach

Kids menu

Fitness center

Kids club

Bingham Riverhouse

London, United Kingdom (UK)

|Official star rating:

Bingham Riverhouse

A lovely, tranquil retreat for those who want to dip in and out of central London. Richmond Park, Hampton Court and The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew are on your doorstep.

Average £190

Extra beds

Pool

2+ bedrooms

Beach

Kids menu

Fitness center

Kids club

Day 8 Greenwich

3

Take the Thames Clipper along the river to Greenwich, to visit the Royal Maritime Museums, the Greenwich Observatory and the Cutty Sark (all in close proximity). Have lunch at Greenwich Market.

Royal Observatory Greenwich

London, United Kingdom (UK)

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Bucket List Experience
Tourists experiencing a show inside the Planetarium of the Royal Observatory Greenwich

Designed by Sir Christopher Wren at the behest of Charles II back in 1675, this, the world’s oldest and most famous observatory, is where scientists pinned down the concept of time and space.

Adult price: £16

Best for ages 10+

Greenwich Park

London, United Kingdom (UK)

Many people enjoying the sun at the park

Right on the Thames where the Cutty Sark museum ship is moored, you’ll find this grand royal park, home to 17th-century landscaping, the Meridian Line at the Royal Observatory, the National Maritime Museum and one of London’s oldest deer enclosures.

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Cutty Sark

London, United Kingdom (UK)

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Bucket List Experience
Daytime aerial view of the ship

Britain’s last surviving tea clipper, this beautifully-preserved vessel was the fastest and greatest ship of the late 1800s.

Adult price: £15

Best for ages 4+

Day 9 Family (young kids)

2

Hop on the train from Euston to Watford to visit the Harry Potter Experience.

On your return, fill young bellies as needed with a quick lunch at Nandos at Euston station, then hop on the tube (Victoria Line) a few stops to Oxford Circus. Walk down Regent’s Street to Hamley’s, the world’s most famous toy store.

Book in for dinner at the jungly-themed Rainforest Cafe, just further down the hill on Shaftesbury Avenue.

Harry Potter Studio Tour

WatfordLondon, United Kingdom (UK)

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Bucket List Experience
View of a scaled model of Hogwarts

Tour the studios and see the real sets where it was filmed. Also now a Gringotts-worthy treasure trove of thousands of intricate artefacts, props, costumes, and sets used in the eight movies.

Adult price: £47

Best for ages 4+

Hamleys

London, United Kingdom (UK)

A street view with colourful awnings

One of the oldest and best toy shops in the world, complete with costumed staff and huge-scale, techy toys, this is heaven for kids (grown-up ones too).

Best for ages 4+

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