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24 of the best things to do in London in 2 days

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Samuel Brent
Sam is a born and bred North Londoner. Growing up in Archway, attending primary school at Montem Juniors in Holloway, and secondary school at Acland Burghley in Tufnell Park. After success with his A-Levels at LA SWAP, he studied film at the London College of Printing (later the London College of Communication) in the Elephant and Castle and then Clerkenwell. This led to working with the Guardian in Farringdon, and a career in Journalism. After years of a miss-spent youth in Camden Town, Sam now lives in Belsize Park with his wife Marina and their two children, Esme and Primrose. Samuel enjoys Gardening and cycling, and is an avid Arsenal fan and works out of his office in Shoreditch.

If your visiting London, the capital of the UK and wondering what to do for your stay then here is a guide for you. We are here to help you enjoy the city’s fantastic sights and events, and make the most of the best things to do in London.

Whether you are a first-time visitor to the capital or a Londoner born and bred, you’ll discover plenty of things to do, from iconic tourist attractions to fun ideas for your days out, so make sure to update your 2-day London itinerary with our top tips.

I’ve lived in London for over 40 years, and have only just done some of these for research. It was certainly a great time seeing all the sites that millions of tourists flock to see, and you should also make time for the free things.

I’ve given the address of places for your reference, please note that the London postcode is split to signify compass directions. So N19 is Archway in North London, SE1 is in the Southeast, and EC (Eastern Central) is the centre where most of the attractions are.

London is a very big place, a total area of 611 square miles (1,583 sq km) so not all of these are easily walkable from one to another. There is a great transport infrastructure with buses, trains and the underground that can easily get you from A to B but I urge you to plan your places of interest and route before you go. For example, it would take 30 mins on public transport to get to Greenwich (SE10) from the West End. You could maybe even take a rental bike or electric scooter to get to different locations in London too.

Like every city, there are places in London for tourists to avoid, particularly at night. Even as a local I forget it’s easy to take the wrong turn onto a housing estate. But don’t let that put you off our great city of culture and history.

Have a look at this article for a few tips on how to find the best accommodation in London for your trip.

The best things to do in London over 48 hours

The top things to do include visiting the amazing museums such as the British Museum, Victoria and Albert, Natural History, and science museum. Sample some tasting delicious traditional dishes and see the city from a new perspective via the London Bus Tour.

There are plenty of free activities too like walking the Victoria Embankment to see Cleopatra’s Needle and Egyptian obelisks, and galleries like the Tate modern have free entry.

What are the best London Attractions?

  1. London Eye

Take in incredible 360-degree views of the city from the London Eye, a giant observation wheel that is 135 metres (443 ft) high on the South Bank of the River Thames. See all the iconic sights, including Hyde Park, Tower Bridge, Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, and Buckingham Palace. You can see as far as Parliament Hill to the North

Where: Riverside Building, County Hall, SE1 7PB

Prices: Child Ticket – £22 per ticket / Adult Ticket – £24.50 per ticket

  1. HM Tower of London

Even though the Tower of London is renowned for its gruesome history of torture and death, it has plenty to offer visitors today. Within the walls of this historic castle, you’ll discover the history of a royal palace, an armoury, and a powerful fortress. And of course you can see the Crown Jewels, Beefeaters and Ravens too.

Where: Tower Hill, City of London, EC3N 4AB

Prices: Child Ticket – £14.40 per ticket / Adult Ticket – £28.90 per ticket

  1. Warner Bros. Studio Tour

There’s nothing more magical than a Harry Potter tour at Warner Bros. Studios. You’ll get a chance to see some of the sets, costumes and props used in all the Harry Potter films, and walk inside some of the films’ locations.

Where: Studio Tour Drive, Leavesden, Hertfordshire, WD25 7LR

Prices: Child Ticket – £84 per ticket / Adult Ticket – £89 per ticket

  1. Emirates Air Line Cable Car

Get an aerial view of London’s skyline while gliding along the Thames River in the Emirates Airline Cable Car. From the Royal Docks to Greenwich Peninsula, enjoy spectacular views as far as the eye can see (weather permitting).

While over this way, make sure you pass the Millennium Dome and the Cutty Sark

Where: Emirates Greenwich Peninsula, Greenwich, SE10 0FJ

Prices: Child Ticket – £4 per ticket / Adult Ticket – £8 per ticket

  1. Madame Tussauds

Whether it’s a movie star, pop idol, or a monarch, you’ll find it here! Visit Madame Tussauds and you’ll come face-to-face with some of the world’s most famous faces from showbiz, sport, politics and royalty.

Where: Marylebone Road, NW1 5LR

Prices: Standard Ticket – £34 per ticket online / Family Standard Ticket – £28 per ticket online

Madame Tussauds in one of the best things to do in London
Madame Tussauds in London

What are the best sightseeing spots?

  1. Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour

Enjoy a hop-on hop-off bus tour. With a live guide or audio guide to tell the story, hop on and off as many times as you like and visit the many iconic sites. Due to the size of the city, this is a great way to see all the major sites without having to travel.

Where: From 60 bus stops next to landmarks such as Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Oxford Street & Regent Street, Shakespeare’s Globe, St Paul’s Cathedral, Trafalgar Square

Prices: Adult Ticket – from £28 per ticket

  1. Boat Trip on the Thames

Whether you’re interested in cruising along the Thames River for a relaxing dinner or taking in the sights on a thrilling speedboat ride, there are plenty of options.

Where: Various points across the River Thames

Prices: Prices will vary depending on the type of boat trip

  1. Changing in Guard Ceremony at Buckingham Palace

Take in a great display at Buckingham Palace. It’s a stunning display of British pageantry when the new guard takes over from the old. It starts at 11 am daily in peak summer season and 4 days a week the rest of the year. Check-in advance to avoid disappointment.

True story – My best friend growing up joined the Household Calvary so I was best man at his wedding the Queen’s Chapel, a right reserved for all the Royal protectors.

For this reason my personal favourite and best things to do in London is the alternative changing of the Horse Guards. It’s not as iconic but much more visually impressive. This happens on Horse Guards Parade and is less crowded too.

Where: Buckingham Palace, Westminster, SW1A 1AA

Prices: Free

  1. Piccadilly Circus

One of London’s most popular tourist destinations is Piccadilly Circus. It’s one of the most famous meeting places and photo opportunity. You’ll see the famous advertising screens, as well as the statue of Eros. It’s also walking distance to Oxford Circus, Leicester Square and Covent Garden that are worth a visit, especially at Christmas time to see the lights and shop displays.

Where: Piccadilly Circus, W1D 7ET

Prices: Free

  1. Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square is one of the top places to see in London. It features some of the city’s top attractions, such as the famous lion statues, iconic fountains and the famous Nelson’s Column. Even the pigeons are famous.

Where: Trafalgar Square,WC2N 5DN

Prices: Free

Where can you have fun?

  1. Row or Pedalo on the Rivers

London has many options for swimming, pedalo or rowing boats, and the city has plenty of outdoor swimming pools and lidos. If you’re visiting during the summer, some of these can be heated for cooler days.

Where: Hyde Park’s Serpentine Lake, Regent’s Park, Alexandra Palace boating lake, London Fields Lido, Battersea Park, Hampstead Heath.

Prices: Prices will vary depending on the location

  1. Cycle around the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

You can relive the spirit of the London 2012 Olympic Games by taking a bike ride in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

Where: Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford, E20

Prices: £2 – Bike Unlock for 24 Hours London Pass (first 30 minutes are free). Extra £2 every 30 minutes after.

  1. Visit London’s Theme Parks

There are lots of attractions that will give your friends and family some quality fun time together. But for thrill-lovers who want action-packed days out, visit the theme parks for that adrenaline-fueled excitement.

Where: Shrek’s Adventure!, Chessington World of Adventures, Legoland Windsor, The London Dungeon, KidZania, The London Bridge Experience, Thorpe Park

Prices: Prices will vary depending on the location

  1. Take a Speed Boat Tour

Speed boat rides are a perfect way to get your adrenaline flowing. You can take one on a Thames Rib experience (James Bond experience), Thames Rockets, or a Thamesjet.

Where: Thames RIB Experience – Embankment Pier, Victoria Embankment, WC2N 6NU

Thames Rockets – The London Eye Pier, Boarding Gate One, Southbank, SE1 7PB

Thamesjet – Westminster Pier, Victoria Embankment, Westminster, SW1A 2JH

Prices: Prices will vary depending on what type of speed boat you book

  1. Climb the Roof of Tottenham Hotspur Stadium

Not one for the Gooners. This thrilling climb allows you to scale the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, all the way up to the golden cockerel that’s perched on the top of it. From there you can likely see Harry Kane scuff another chance, but also a great view of the surrounding area.

Where: 782 High Road, Tottenham, N17 0AP

Prices: Child Ticket – £39 per ticket / Adult Ticket – £39 per ticket

What romantic things are there to do in London?

  1. Visit the Shard

Experience 360-degree views of London at the Shard. At over 300 metres high, it’s almost twice as high as any other building in the capital. You’ll get a view from the top, and there’s a great restaurant and bar there too.

Where: The View from The Shard, Joiner Street, SE1 9QU

Prices: Child Ticket (under 4 years old) – Free / Adult Ticket – from £45 per ticket

  1. Visit the Rooftop Bars

Enjoy the views at bars throughout the city that offer year-round hangouts and seasonal pop-ups on rooftop terraces and gardens.

Where: Skylight London, Alice in Winterland Rooftop at Queen of Hoxton, Deck the Halls at Pergola Paddington, Aviary London, Winter Bubbles at Radio Rooftop, Jin Bo Law Skybar, The Nest at Treehouse London, Lost in Brixton

  1. Visit the Romantic Restaurants

Whether you are nervously planning a first date, Valentine’s Day dinners or anniversary dinners, London is filled with restaurants that are sure to help you make your dream evening come true. There are plenty to suit all budgets and a haven for lovers of world cuisine.

Where: Sky Garden restaurants, OXO Tower Restaurant, 14 Hills, Hutong at The Shard, J Sheekey Atlantic Bar, Vanilla Black, Sketch, The Colony Grill Room, The Ritz Restaurant

Read our guide on the best authentic Indian Restaurants for more information.

  1. Take a River Cruise Boat

The River Thames is a great place to view London’s many iconic sites. You’ll find that many of the best cruises and tours are available by river so you can sit back and enjoy the best things to do in London from the comfort of your seat. You can also explore by the canal, but that has less tourist attractions on the route.

Where: Various points across the River Thames

Prices: Prices will vary depending on the type of cruise boat trip

houses of parliament london
The iconic Houses of Parliament on London Thames

What food and drink should you get?

  1. Get a Traditional Afternoon tea

The very best way to spend an afternoon is to have tea in a pot, scones with cream and jam, and enjoy finger sandwiches and dainty cakes. Nothing else will give you the perfect sense of Britishness. This can be pricey in the famed hotels listed, but is an experience never to forget.

Where: The Langham, The Athenaeum, Brown’s Hotel, The Goring, The Landmark London, The Lanesborough, The Savoy, The Ritz, Claridge’s, The Dorchester, Fortnum & Mason

  1. Enjoy a Classic Fish and Chips Meal

Get your fill of England’s iconic food at any of the capital’s small, tucked-away chip shops or British restaurants. Dine on crisp batter-coated fried cod, battered sausages and fried chips for that authentic chippy experience. Be warned, Pickled Onions, Gherkins and Eggs are done so in vinegar so can be strong to the taste.

The old school residents of the East End will try to tell you that Jellied Eels are the local dish, but I can assure you first hand Londoners don’t eat them.

Where:

  • Central – Rock & Sole Plaice, The Golden Hind, Golden Union
  • North Oliver’s, Toff’s of Muswell Hill, Sutton and Sons
  • East – Happy Days, Fish House, Poppies
  • South – Olley’s Fish Experience, Masters Superfish, The Golden Chippy
  • West – Kerbisher & Malt, The Fish House of Notting Hill, Fishers
  1. Visit the Traditional London Pubs

There are many great historic pubs in London. Some claim to be the oldest, but many ere lost in the Great Fire of London of course. Most have more character than a Charles Dickens novel and full of local legend and history. Cheers!

Where: The Spaniards Inn, Lamb & Flag, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, The Grenadier, The George Inn, The Guinea Grill, The Dove, The Seven Stars, The Mayflower, The Ten Bells

You can read our detailed guide on the best Traditional London Pubs, which are listed above.

  1. Visit Chinatown

There are some of the best restaurants in Chinatown. They include places specializing in regional Chinese cuisine, dessert shops, dim sum restaurants, and Chinese buffets. There are also many different Malaysian, Thai, Vietnamese and European-style restaurants to be found in the area.

Where: Chinatown, WC2H 0BL

  1. Visit the London Pie Shops

Pies have been a Londoners favourite for centuries. From the East End to the West at Twickenham, the city is famous for its selection of pie and mash establishments.

Where: Goddards at Greenwich, Pieminister, Rules, The Old Bank of England, The Windmill, M.Manze, The Guinea

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