Planning a trip to London can be difficult with weighing up all the factors! From deciding whether your wallet can fund the trip, best places to stay, what London sights to see and how much time you need to explore them.
How many days do you need in London? Ideally, three to four is the most common amount of time tourist spend in London. If your budget and time allow it then you can easily be entertained for a week or more!
At the end of the day, there are no right or wrong answers! On my first trip to London, I spent 1 day and then 3 days at the end of my trip. After that, I packed my bags and moved over. I loved the city that much I thought I could make it my home.
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To help you decide how long you need in London with some of the best tips for visiting from a local, this article will help you plan your trip to London and give you a feel for how long you should spend here.
How Many Days Do You Need to See London?
I’ve broken the decision down into 5 areas, your budget, what you are most interested in, day trips from London, pace and distance of activities.
1# Deciding Based on Your Budget
London is an expensive city so if you’re on a budget it can impact the time you will be able to spend here. Luckily there are affordable options like hostels, London is spoilt with free museums, incredible parks and lots of events that pop up around the city.
However, the cost of attractions and food can kill your budget. I’ll give you a rough estimate of food, accommodation, attractions and transport to get you started on how long you can afford to be in London.
The minimum I would bring is £60 per day, this will get you:
- A bed in a hostel (generally at this price you’re expecting to share with 8-bed dorm) for £20
- Free or cheap London sightseeing up for £10 to £20
- For food, meal deals, markets and cooking in the hostel for £10 to £20
- Daily Oyster (Zone 1 to 2) £9
- A low to midrange hotel for £80 to £150
- Everyday restaurants £20 to £40+
- London sightseeing activities £30+
- Daily Oyster (Zone 1 to 2) £9
Splurging in London:
- Four-star or boutique hotel room for £200+
- Dinner at London’s finest restaurants £80+ per person
- Good theatre tickets £100+
- Taxi’s around £30+
Budget Saving Tips for London
Before you head to the sights and pay for entry have a look at:
Days Out Guide
Days Out Guide is great if you’re two people travelling together or you make some friends along the way as they offer 2for1 deals on London attractions. Just make sure you buy a National Rail ticket (Oyster and TFL tickets don’t count) and get the vouchers (either print online or get one at a National Rail station).
Visit London Oyster Card
Visit London Oyster card, you can get tourist discounts for various sights. Go to the Visit Britain shop for more details.
The London Pass
The London Pass is a popular choice as it has access to over 80+ London attractions. Make sure when you are planning your days you will be able to get the most out of this. When you purchase you simply choose how many days you would like, active the card within a year (i.e. your travel date) and show it at the venue.
Booking in advance can save you a whole ton of money in London and I have a very detailed guide explaining when you should book and how you can save money.
Railcards are great for travelling around the UK, they offer you up to 1/3 off ticket prices. You can also connect it to your oyster card and automatically save on National Rail journeys like to Gatwick Airport.
Check out the Railcard website for more information here.
Last Minute Theatre Tickets
Check for last minute theatre tickets if you’ve not purchased in advance. There are a couple of sites to look at but the most popular is TKTS London.
2# How Long To Spend In London Based On The Things You Are Interested In
If it’s your first time in London it can be so easy to have a jammed packed itinerary, but I would only choose two to three main things a day to give you time to relax. Start by writing down all the things you want to see in London so you can plan how much time and money you will need.
London is a big city so there is no way that you will be able to see everything in a couple of days, after all I have been living here for 7 years and still exploring corners of this city.
A couple of questions to get you started:
- Do you love museums and art? It could easily take you days to explore the museums and galleries.
- Love markets? Then you should tailor your time in London to the weekends.
- Want to see London’s iconic landmarks? Then you could see the outside in a day but exploring inside can add half a day per landmark.
- Love Harry Potter? The studio will take you a day and if you want to watch the play this runs over two nights or a whole day.
- Enjoy day trips? These add days on to your itinerary.
- Like Theatres? This can easily add a couple of extra nights.
As you can see the must-do list will easily affect how much time you need. Do allow for some spontaneity as a jammed pack to-do list means you won’t be able to discover London’s hidden gems.
Here are some London guides to get those idea’s flowing!
- 18 Things To Do In London Without Alcohol
- Is London Better In Spring Or In Fall? A Local’s Guide
- A Guide to Cycling in Hyde Park (With a Handy Map)
- Nine Museums You Must Visit in London
- Five Places with the Best Views of London
- Shoreditch Street Art and Graffiti Tour
- London Craft Beer Crawl: Bermondsey Beer Mile
3# How Many Day Trips You Wish To Do From London
London has great transport options which means day trips can easily be squeezed in as they are a short train ride or bus trip away.
It’s a nice way to see more of England without moving your belongings and finding another hotel.
Here are some London day trip options:
Stonehenge Day Trip
Stonehenge and Bath are a common day trip that you can take. Bath is an absolutely beautiful place to visit so well worth getting this added to your day trip. You will be able to explore the Roman Baths, the Abbey and Jane Austen Centre.
Stonehenge is a little more difficult to get to by public transport and I would recommend a tour for this one. Get Your Guide has serval tour options available like this one Stonehenge Half-Day Morning or Afternoon Tour.
The Royal residence of the Queen and where Harry and Meghan got married. It’s the perfect day trip by train from Paddington station.
Most of us have heard about Cambridge from its prestigious university colleges and regatta on the Thames between Cambridge and Oxford. Visit the prestigious colleges like King’s College, Trinity College and St John’s College, go punting and visit The Eagle pub while you are in Cambridge.
The rival to Cambridge and just as many incredible looking colleges! Also, Lewis Carroll started Alice in Wonderland there which is my favourite tale. J.R.R. Tolkien who wrote Lord of the Rings studied at Oxford.
St. Pancras offers frequent trains to Paris by Eurostar, when my cousin was over, she popped over to Paris for a French cooking class for the day. A little extravagant but totally doable!
Belgium is probably best known for its beer, waffles, pomme frites and chocolate. It’s a perfect day trip from St Pancras on the Eurostar. If you want to know more about I’ve got you covered in my Brussels in a Day Trip.
The Cotswolds is famous for the pretty houses in golden stone, ancient woodlands and wildflower meadows.
It’s a little harder to get public transport here as it’s the Cotswolds in a set of villages. Here are some tours I recommend to visit the area:
- Full-Day Tour of the Cotswolds
- Oxford and Cotswolds Villages Day Trip from London
- Blenheim Palace, Downton Abbey Village & the Cotswolds
Most famous for being the birthplace of William Shakespeare, explore where he was born and grew up.
A seaside town, on a summer’s day watch all the Londoners flock to the beach. Visit the famous Brighton Pier, pick up some doughnuts and sit on the beach enjoying the view. Be careful of the seagulls, they are pretty confident and have stolen my doughnuts before!
4# Deciding on How Long to Spend Based on Your Pace
An important part of itinerary planning is your pace. London is really easy to get around by walking and has an excellent public transport network. Sometimes public transport can take longer than actually walking (check out this walking tube map)! Plus you save on transport costs.
When thinking about your pace, consider some of these questions in your planning:
- Are you someone that just likes to see the outside of an attraction or do you like to spend a lot of time exploring the attraction?
- Do you like to walk slow or fast?
- Like to find cute coffee shops or grab a beer?
- Do you like to take public transport or prefer to walk?
- An injury that might impact you?
When I travel, I love to walk as much as possible and stop for food and drinks along the way. I walk at a medium pace and due to my knee injury, I know I can’t walk more than 2-3 hours in a row, then after 15km, I struggle to walk.
Also, the stairs are a killer! There are only so many tall buildings, cathedrals and monuments in a day. Knowing your strengths and weakness, all help in what to factor in your travel planning.
5# Consider the Distance
It’s a good idea to stay somewhere within close proximity to London attractions and activities. This gives you the edge of being able to see things more easily than travelling into London every day.
London is made up of different areas which can sometimes feel like a collection of villages. A few areas to consider staying in:
- South Kensington for the museums and close to Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park.
- Soho is an area forming part of London’s West End and has loads of bars, restaurants and very central location.
- Shoreditch is east of the city and one of the cooler areas to stay. You will be able to discover some of the great coffee shops, famous street art, some of the best markets.
- Bermondsey & London Bridge is the perfect place to stay if you love to discover new street-food, craft beer and gin and close to attractions like Tate Modern, Tower Bridge and the Tower of London.
- South Bank and Waterloo are very central to all the main site in London and a fantastic location for the sightseeing orientated visitor.
Additionally, you want to consider the distance between the activities you choose to do.
For example, walking from the west (say the Natural History Museum) to the East (so Tower of London) can easily take an hour and forty minutes. It’s a popular route for people visiting to take as you pass by all the sights.
If you only have a limited amount of time these distances can affect what you can fit in. Whereas taking the tube will be around 30 minutes saving you and providing an hour more to explore inside these buildings.
I recommend downloading the City Mapper app to help you decide whether walking, tube or bus is a better option (p.s. they recommend step-free routes as well!). When considering the distance, if it says that the route is 12 minutes on the tube but 15 minutes to walk then I would opt to walk.
More London Articles
Want to know more about London and practical information to make the most out of your trip? Then I have more resources to get you ready for your trip here!