1 Week in London: An itinerary for first-time visitors

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Here it is, my first itinerary to spend 1 week in London, the capital of the U.K. (including all the necessary modifications to make it work today) as I did it in summer 2010 (a long time ago). For the records, that was the first itinerary I have ever created! ? While you read, you will notice see some alternative options. These make the itinerary suitable for a wider range of people. So, even if you don’t find yourself fall into the suitable for category, do read it as you may find something interesting in the alternative sections.

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Getting Ready for 1 Week in London

Length: 7 days

Time of the year: Summer – July

Suitable for: Families with younger children

Difficulty: 1 | 1,5 | 2 | 2,5 | 3

Highlights: London Eye, Madame Tussauds, London Zoo, LEGOLAND, Natural History Museum, Science Museum, Oxford Street, Regent Street, Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square, Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square, Harrods

What to book in advance?

  • Tickets to places you are visiting. Advanced tickets are usually cheaper than on the door tickets and allow you to skip the queues.
  • Theatre tickets, if you definitely want to go there.
  • Train tickets, again to take advantage of the advance prices and other deals that there are online.
  • A table to your favourite restaurant (if you have one). Keep in mind that for Friday and Saturday evenings most places for dinner need a reservation (if they accept one) from a couple of days in advance.

Day 1

Arrive at your own pace. Relax at your hotel/hostel/apartment/etc. Sort everything out (transportation – very easy in London, visas, etc.) and… Let’s begin!

Learn more about getting around London on Transport for London website.

18:30 London Eye

London Eye
A London Eye Capsule, Source: Pexels

Go up the “big wheel” and admire the first views of London. Since it is summer, the sun is still there. If you want to see the sunset, get up on the last ride of the day that is 30 minutes before closing (for July the closing time is 20:30). The flight is half an hour so after that go for dinner in one of the nice places along the river Thames.

Find out more about London Eye here.

What if it rains?

London Eye still operates and on rainy weather, but I assume you don’t want to go all this way up and not enjoy the view. Then, take one of the alternative options.

Alternative 1: Very close to the London Eye, there are many other attractions (you can even get joint tickets for them). Sea Life Aquarium, Shrek’s Adventure and London Dungeon can keep you busy until it is time for dinner. However, you should arrive earlier as these places have different opening hours from 16:00 to 19:00 depending on the attraction and the day of the week.

Find out more about Sea Life Aquarium here, Shrek’s Adventure here and London Dungeon here.

Alternative 2: The National Theater is located in that area too. So, if you are the cultural type of traveller, then you should check what’s on their agenda and secure your ticket from advance.

Find out more about National Theater here.

How to get there?

The easiest way to get there is by tube. The closest station is Waterloo (Jubilee, Bakerloo, Northern and Waterloo & City lines). Embankment (Bakerloo, Circle, District and Northern lines) and Westminster (Circle, District and Jubilee lines) stations are both a 10-minute walk away. If you prefer the bus, buses 211, 77 and 381 go there.

Day 2

Today, the tourist list continuous with another Merlin Entertainment Group attraction and with wildlife exploration. End your day Down Town to get a glimpse of London’s nightlife.

10:00 Madame Tussauds

Get up early, have your advanced tickets ready (to avoid the queues) and spend a couple of hours with wax celebrities from across the globe. Don’t forget to check out the 4D experience.

How to get there?

By tube: Baker Street station (Bakerloo, Circle, Hammersmith and City, Jubilee and Metropolitan lines)
By bus: Many buses pass by 13, 18, 27, 30, 74, 82, 113, 139, 189, 205, 274 and 453.

Find out more about Madame Tussauds here.

13:00 London Zoo

London Zoo
London Zoo, Sony DSC-TX10

Next for today is London Zoo, since the two attractions are quite close (only a short walk/bus ride). The Zoo has more than 15 000 animals (17 480 as of 2015 to be exact according to Google). If you want to grab something to eat before entering the Zoo head to Camden Town, otherwise there are many places for lunch inside the Zoo.

Alternative: If you are not an animal fan, take a stroll along Regent’s Park or go to Camden Town.

How to get there (from Madame Tussauds)?

Take bus 247 from Baker Street Station (Stop A) or Marylebone Road (Stop Q) towards Islington Angel and get off after 7 stops at Primrose Hill (Stop H). The bus ride itself is approximately 10 minutes, but the whole transfer from one place to another is about 20 minutes. An alternative option that is approximately the same time – 20 minutes is to walk through Regent’s Park by following the Broad Walk.

19:00 Down Town

If you are early back, why not go for a walk at Piccadilly Circus or Leicester Square (the two are next to each other). If you choose the second, then don’t forget to pass by China Town.

Piccadilly Circus
Piccadilly Circus, Source: Pixabay

How to get there?

Take the tube to Picadilly Circus (Bakerloo and Piccadilly lines) or Leicester Square (Northern and Piccadilly lines) respectively. Many buses stop close to the two places: 6, 12, 14, 19, 22, 23, 38, 88, 94, 139, 453, N3, N18, N19, N22, N38, N97, N109, N136 for Piccadilly Circus and 24, 29, 176, N5, N20, N29, N41, N279 for Leicester Square (the prefix N indicates the night service).

Day 3

Mmm… what’s for today? Well, today the day is dedicated to shopping. Shopaholic or not, you should at least visit Oxford Street, the largest shopping street in London. So, start early.

10:00 Oxford Street

You can start earlier than that if you can’t wait. Some shops open from 8 am. The official opening hours are on weekdays at 9:30, on Saturdays at 9:00 and at 11:30 on Sundays. You can even start much later than that as some stores remain open until 10 pm. Officially, stores stay open until 9 pm every day except Sundays, when they close at 6 pm. It doesn’t matter what time you start because Oxford Street is waiting for you to explore its 300 shops. Don’t forget to check out Regent Street for more expensive buys.

How to get there?

The easiest way, as usual, is by tube. There are four underground stations along the Oxford Street: Marble Arch (Central line), Bond Street (Central and Jubilee lines), Oxford Circus (Bakerloo, Central and Victoria lines) and Tottenham Court Road (Central and Northern lines). For Regent Street, the closest stations are Oxford Circus (Bakerloo, Central and Victoria lines) to its one end and Piccadilly Circus (Bakerloo and Piccadilly lines) to its other end. Buses to Oxford Street are: 3, 6, 8, 10, 12, 13, 15, 23, 25, 53, 73, 88, 94, 98, 113, 137, 139 and 159.

For more information about Oxford Street check its website here (it also has a useful shopping planner!).

19:00 Down Town

If you are not exhausted yet, I suggest a walk to Covent Garden. There are some nice places for dinner (consider reserving a table) and street shows, but in my opinion, Covent Garden is better during the daytime when the Apple Market is open.

Alternative: Watch a musical. Make sure to check the plays in advance and book tickets early for the best prices (for Friday and Saturday evening plays, the prices are usually higher). In addition, make sure to check the time the performance starts as it may be earlier than 7 pm. A small tip, you can also check for last minute places in theatres. You may still find something (and sometimes cheaper).

How to get there?

By tube: Covent Garden station (Piccadilly line).
By bus: Buses 6, 9, 11, 15, 23, 87, 91, 139, 176, N9, N11, N15, N21, N26, N44, N87, N89, N91, N155, N199, N343, N550, N551 stop close by.

Day 4

The day is all about amusement. Wake up early, go to the train station and head to Windsor. There is not always a direct train from London Paddington station, so take one to Slough and change there for the next train to Windsor & Eton Central. For a direct train, you should go to London Waterloo station. From there take the shuttle bus to LEGOLAND, which unfortunately is not operated by the park and therefore, there is an extra fee.

10:00 Windsor – LEGOLAND

All the above should happen before 10:00 so there is time to enjoy the place. Actually, the park opens at 9:30 if you want to be there earlier and closes at 6 pm. If you are visiting LEGOLAND any other time of the year, check their opening hours in advance as they vary throughout the year. The park is nice; there are some nice rides and some amazing LEGO constructions in Miniland (40 million LEGO were used to create them). My personal reflection about the place is that: I’ve been there when I was 12, and I felt that it was for younger children (okay that was after I visited Disneyland and Asterix Parks in Paris, so maybe my opinion is biased). Nevertheless, the thrill seekers can’t find the ride of their dreams there.

How to get there?

Please read the introduction to Day 4.

Find out more about LEGOLAND here.

Alternative 1: If you don’t have children or you hate amusement parks then visit Windsor Castle and explore the city. There are some nice activities in and around town to spend your time.

Find out more about Windsor Castle here.

Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle, Source: Pixabay

Alternative 2: If you have teenage children then, they may appreciate it more if you take them to Thorpe Park (a short train journey from London, this time take the train from London Waterloo to Staines). There, there are more rides for older children but expect long queues.

Find out more about Thorpe Park here.

Alternative 3: Another amusement park close to London is Chessington World of Adventures Resort, again a short trip from London to nearby Chessington. I’ve never been there, but from what I can see from photos is that younger children would enjoy it more. To get there take the train from London Waterloo to Chessington South Station and it’s a 10-minute walk from there.

Find out more about Chessington World of Adventures Resort here.

19:00 Down Town

After today’s adventure, if you still have time and energy left, go to Trafalgar Square. But don’t worry if you don’t have time, there are still three more days.

Day 5

Today and tomorrow we will hang around South Kensington (my favourite area). There are three museums – Natural History Museum (NHM), Science Museum and Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in the area and are all of them free (although you are usually asked to leave a donation) except some temporary exhibitions that may have.

Natural History Museum
Natural History Museum, iPhone 6s

10:00 Natural History Museum

The museum opens at 10 am, but you may want to go there a bit earlier to get to the queue. Be prepared as you may spend the whole day at the museum and not finish it! So, if there are certain places you want to visit, make sure to spot them in advance.

How to get there?

There are two underground stations approximately 5 minutes walk away, South Kensington (Circle, District and Piccadilly lines) and Gloucester Road (Circle, District and Piccadilly lines). Get off at South Kensington if it is your first time, as there are more labels to get you there. Buses 14, 49, 70, 74, 345, 360, 414, 430 and C1 stop close.

Find out more about the Natural History Museum here.

Alternative: If you are not into nature and you are more into art, then go to Victoria and Albert Museum, just across the road, that has over 4,5 million objects of decorative art – the largest of its kind worldwide. If you like nature, but you don’t enjoy science, then use it as your alternative for tomorrow.

Find out more about Victoria and Albert Museum here.

17:00 Knightsbridge

When you are done with the wonders of nature (you can stay at the museum until 17:50 when the museum closes), take a short walk up to Knightsbridge and why not visit Harrods, the luxurious shopping centre. The store is open until 9 pm, except Sundays when it closes at 6 pm.

How to get there (from NHM)?

I suggest walking. Exit the NHM, pass V&A and continue to Brompton Road until you see Harrods on your right. It’s about 10-15 minutes. Otherwise, you can take the tube (Piccadilly line) and get off at Knightsbridge, or take the bus (14, 74, 414 or C1) from Victoria and Albert Museum (Stop M) and get off after 2 stops at Harrods (Stop KB). The last two options take in total 10 minutes.

Find out more about Harrods here.

Day 6

As I said above, today the plan again says South Kensington, but this time it features another museum.

10:00 Science Museum

Spend your day exploring the Science Museum. It is a bit smaller than its neighbouring museums, but you still need the whole day as there are a lot of hands-on activities, which means queues, not only before entering the museum but also within the museum.

Science Museum
Science Museum, Sony DSC-TX10

How to get there?

Follow the instructions to get to the Natural History Museum; they are next to each other.

Find out more about the Science Museum here.

Alternative: See alternative for Natural History Museum.

17:00 Hyde Park

After you are done with science (you can stay at the museum until 6 pm or 7 pm during school holidays) go to the nearby Hyde Park, one of the largest parks in Central London.

How to get there (from the Science Museum)?

Walk on the Exhibition Road. It’s a 5-10 minute walk.

For more information about Hyde Park check its website here.

Alternative 1: Kensington Palace is also close by (a 20-minute walk) through Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. If you take this option, you need to be there by 5 pm when it is the last admission (the Palace closes at 6 pm).

Kensington Palace Gardens
Kensington Palace Gardens, Sony DSC-TX10

How to get there (from the Science Museum)?

I think the best option is walking as I state above, but you can also take the bus 9, 10, 52 or 452 from Exhibition Road (Stop RB) and get off after 3 stops at Kensington Palace (Stop N). You can also take 360 from Victoria and Albert Museum (Stop K) and get off the next stop at Royal Albert Hall (Stop RC) and then walk for another 10 minutes.

Find out more about Kensington Palace here.

Alternative 2: Check out Royal Albert Hall’s calendar online to see what’s on and spend your evening there. There are also tours of the Hall if you just want to get inside. Make sure to book in advance and check their dates and times as they vary depending on the type of the tour.

How to get there?

The closest underground stations are South Kensington (Circle, District and Piccadilly lines) and High Street Kensington (Circle and District lines). From there it is a 10-minute walk. Buses 9, 10, 52, 70, 360, 452, N9 and N52  stop nearby.

Find out more Royal Albert Hall here.

Day 7

This is the last day in London. I hope you enjoyed your trip. If you still have time to spend I suggest a hop-on-hop-off bus tour, to see what you haven’t manage to do the previous days. London has plenty of museums so pick one. National Gallery is a good one if you ask me. Royal London is next door with Buckingham Palace and St James’s Park. You can also go to Tate Modern for more contemporary art. Other options include St Paul’s Cathedral, Millennium Bridge, Borough Market, Tower Bridge and Tower of London that is close by.

When I made this trip with my family, we actually visited Science Museum on our last day, and the previous day we went a tour of the city and then to Hampstead Heath park (a bit away from central London). Below I put a few links for you to explore and decide how you want to spend your last day except for going to the airport.

Find out more about National Gallery here, Buckingham Palace here, St James’s Park here, Tate Modern here, St Paul’s Cathedral here, Millennium Bridge here, Borough Market here, Tower Bridge here, Tower of London here and Hampstead Heath here.

Buy the London attractions tickets from AttractiontTix b following this link [AD].

Have a nice trip!

P.S. Feel free to mix and match the days and make your own unique itinerary. For more suggestions and additional places to visit, keep an eye on future posts about London. To keep you excited I have a 2-day trip, a 3-day trip, a 15-day trip and many day-trips! Stay tuned! 🙂

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Elina Michaelidou

Elina is a computer science graduate and a traveller enthusiastic. Read everything about her travel experiences here.

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This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. limitlesssecrets

    Awesome, there are still places on my list for my next visit to London!

  2. Lia

    Elina your first itinerary for London is super organised!!! Congratulations. I highly appreciate the alternative suggestions.
    Do you have any itinerary suggestions for my upcoming 4 day visit in Ámsterdam?

    1. Elina Michaelidou

      I suggest a walk along the canals and in Dam Square. Damrak is a short distance from Amsterdam Centraal, the city’s central railway station that is a nice neo-Renaissance building. Vondelpark is also a lovely green space in the city. In term of museums, the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum in the Museum Quarter and Anne Frank’s House are the most popular but expect long queues if you didn’t buy tickets in advance. Another popular attraction for beer lovers is the Heineken Experience. Close to that is the Albert Cuyp Market, a vibrant market with many stalls. The best way to move around the city is by bike, but trams are a convenient alternative. I hope you enjoy your stay in Amsterdam and be careful of bikes when walking! 😉

  3. borvest inkral

    It’s arduous to find knowledgeable folks on this matter, but you sound like you understand what you’re speaking about! Thanks

  4. Mary

    Well done Elina. Continue with the good work!!!
    P.S. I am the first participant in Elina’s itineraries. Elina, I will always follow you around when ever this is possible. Keep on creating itineraries:)

    1. Elina Michaelidou

      Merci!:) Let me know on your availability!;)