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The Ultimate 2 Day London Itinerary for Budget Travelers

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Need to know what to do in London in 2 days? There is an innumerable amount of wonderful things to see, so you can easily fill up your 2 day London itinerary! Such as getting Globe Theatre tickets, doing a Tower of London tour, or heading to Baaria for a bite. One of the really wonderful things about London is that there’s always some little gem just around the corner if you’re willing to look. There are even some amazing free things to do in London! I understand you’re short on time, so here are a few sites you could hit while you see London in two days.

I’ll even make some recommendations if you only have 1 day in London!

The Shard or the Sky Garden?

Did you know London’s highest view is at the top of The Shard? At almost twice the height of any other viewing platform in London, it offers a 360-degree view for up to 40 miles. I bought tickets to The Shard to see this fantastic view of London. It was the first destination on my 2 day London itinerary! However, on this adventure, I was hit with a hard dose of jet lag and napped when I arrived at my hostel. By the time I woke up, took a tube, and found my way over there, I had missed my scheduled time to go in.

It was unfortunate that I paid for a ticket I didn’t use. However, recently, I found out that you can check out the Sky Garden, which is a free panoramic view experience and would be perfect during a weekend in London. I went on my most recent trip and booked about a month in advance to get my ticket. Because they are free, they do go fast! I showed up a little ahead of my scheduled time and found a long line. Do not let this discourage you! It moved really quickly. They were speedy at security, so easily done while seeing London in two days.

Travel Tip: When I went, the YHA hostel where I was staying had a group going to visit The Shard. So, if you’re a solo female traveler like myself or just want to save money, consider buying your tickets for The Shard through your hostel, as the normal ticket price is £28.50. Additionally, it’s a great way to meet people as this London tour guide likely can’t come with you…in person, I mean. Feel free to give me a shout on social media, though!

Itinerary Info for the Shard & Sky Garden

(as of March 2024)

  • £28.50 – The Shard
  • Duration: 30 minutes-1 hour
  • Free – Sky Garden
  • Duration: 30 minutes-1 hour
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2 day itinerary for london

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace boasts 775 rooms, including 188 bedrooms for the staff alone! There are also 78 bathrooms! No wonder it’s fit for a Queen (now King) and a must on your 2 day London itinerary! Of the many times I’ve visited London, the Queen was always in residence, so I wasn’t able to go inside Buckingham Palace. Still, maybe you’re luckier than I am!

10 weeks each summer, the magnificent State Rooms are open to visitors. If you aren’t visiting during those times, no worries! You can still see the outside as well as the Changing of the Guard.

buckingham palace London england

The Changing of the Guard is the ceremony where The Queen’s Guard hands over responsibility for protecting Buckingham Palace and St. James’s Palace to the New Guard. An iconic tradition of the guards accompanied by music. The King’s Guard changes in front of Buckingham Palace at 10:45 a.m. and lasts about 45 minutes.

Itinerary Info for Buckingham Palace Summer Opening

(as of March 2024)

  • £32.00 – Adults
  • £20.50 – Young Person (18-24)
  • £16.00 – Child (5-17) & Disabled
  • Duration: 1-4.5 hours (depending on tour)

Itinerary Info for the Changing of the Guard

  • Free
  • Located: In front of Buckingham Palace at 10:45 a.m.
  • Duration: 45 minutes (Changing of the Guard)
  • Duration: 15 minutes (viewing only)

The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben

I couldn’t leave out Big Ben, right?!? It’s arguably the MOST iconic landmark in London! Every time I see it, I get shivers! It’s actually called Elizabeth Tower, but it’s commonly called Big Ben. Back in June 2012, the House of Commons announced that it was to be renamed the Elizabeth Tower in honor of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee. So technically, Big Ben is the name given to the massive bell inside the clock tower, which weighs more than 13 tons (13,760 kg). Getting to see at least one of the two, either the day or night view, is a must on your 2 day London itinerary!

For non-UK citizens, the tower is not available to visit. UK residents can book a visit by writing to their MP. Applications should be made in writing, in advance, to: House of Commons, Westminster, London SW1A 0AA

Non-UK citizens can instead join a talk at the Elizabeth Tower or take a tour of the Houses of Parliament next to The Elizabeth Tower. If you’re stopping by to see Big Ben, then this will take no time out of your 2 day London itinerary.

Itinerary Info for Big Ben & The Houses of Parliament

(as of March 2024)

  • Free – Viewing the Outside
  • Duration: 15 minutes (outside only)
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Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey is likely a place you’ve seen on TV during royal weddings or the Queen’s coronation. It has existed since 960 A.D. and began its life as the coronation church in 1066. From William the Conqueror to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, all but two monarchs have been crowned in the Abbey. It is also the resting place of more than 3,000 great Britons, including kings, queens, poets, musicians, scientists, and politicians.

Westminster Abbey is open most days, but Sundays are for services. Check what day you’re visiting on your London in two days itinerary before going, especially as sometimes special events are going on. Side note: I put my cell phone on silent while in the church. However, it magically somehow started playing “More Bounce in California.” Not my proudest moment during my 2 day London itinerary 😂

If you’re fond of Abbeys, do check into a day trip to Bath, where the lovely Abbey Church of Saint Peter is located!

Itinerary Info for Westminster Abbey

A multimedia guide is included in the price of admission.
Additional costs may be incurred for special exhibits.

(as of March 2024)

  • £29 – Adults
  • £26 – Seniors 65+ / students
  • £13 – Children (6-17 years)
  • Free – Child (0 – 5)
  • £29 – Families (1 adult & 1 child)
  • Duration: 1-2 hours

national gallery trafalgar square

Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery

Trafalgar Square commemorates the Battle of Trafalgar, a British naval victory in the Napoleonic Wars over France and Spain. It took place on October 21, 1805, off the coast of Cape Trafalgar.

The National Gallery is an art museum in Trafalgar Square. Founded in 1824, it houses a collection of over 2,300 paintings dating from the mid-13th century to 1900. Entry to the main collection is free; special exhibits may charge a fee. It is among the most visited art museums in the world, after the Louvre, the British Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I’m not a HUGE art museum person, so if you’re not either, I’d recommend skipping it on your 2 day London itinerary.

Itinerary Info for The National Gallery

(as of March 2024)

  • Free
  • Duration: 2-3 hours

Somerset House on the Strand london

Somerset House on the Strand

If you’re strolling down the Strand or near Trafalgar Square, stop by Somerset House. It’s a charming location previously owned by some wealthy Danish people. Currently, it’s a museum and a prime filming location; The Duchess was filmed in part here. Some of the exhibits are free, yay! Some are not, but walking into the courtyard is worth it. There’s a fountain there, so if you’re hot, do like the kids did when I was there and run right through! This is a quick stop if you’re in a rush, so it’s not a must-do on your 2 day London itinerary.

Itinerary Info for Somerset House

(as of March 2024)

  • Free (fee for some exhibitions and events)
  • Duration: 1-2 hours
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london eye big ben

The London Eye

Oh, London Eye, how I was SO terrified of you! If you’ve taken a moment to check out my Eiffel Tower post, you’ll know I’m no fan of heights—more specifically, falling. I know there’s no way I can fall out of the London Eye, but tell that to my nerves next time. However, even though I was rather scared, I have gone on it twice! And I would recommend it to others for their 2 day London itinerary if the Sky Garden didn’t satisfy your hunger for London views.

The London Eye is Europe’s tallest cantilevered observation wheel and the most popular paid tourist attraction in the United Kingdom, with over 3.75 million visitors annually. It is 135 meters (443 ft) tall and has a diameter of 120 meters (394 ft).

Itinerary Info for The London Eye

Several ticket packages are listed on their site, so I’ve only noted their standard ticket below. Please note that you’ll also have to wait, so the 30-minute duration only reflects the time on the London Eye.

(as of March 2024)

  • £30 – Standard Ticket (in advance)
  • Duration: 30 Minutes

st pauls cathedral

St Paul’s Cathedral

St Paul’s Cathedral, which happens to be just across from Shakespeare’s Globe, is probably also familiar to those who have seen the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. The DC building was influenced by St Paul’s. Or, if you’re a total film nerd like me, you start singing “Feed the Birds” like you’re in Mary Poppins.

At 365 feet (111 m) high, it was the tallest building in London from 1710 to 1967. The dome is among the highest in the world. Not only is the exterior worthy of praise, but the awe-inspiring interior is just as noteworthy! You can climb the dome to try out the Whispering Gallery and see some spectacular views of London during your London in two days trip. Or go below to the crypt where many national heroes are buried.

Itinerary Info for St Paul’s Cathedral

They have several guided tours you can also take for no additional charge.

(as of March 2024)

  • £25 – Adult
  • £10 – Child
  • Duration: .5 – 2 hours (dependant on tour)
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kensington palace
Image by Adam Hill from Pixabay

Kensington Palace

More recently known as the home of the young royals, it has been home to many royal family members. If you’re a fan of the Victoria series on PBS, you’ll also know it as the birthplace and childhood home of Queen Victoria. Playing host to royalty for over 300 years, there’s the King’s State Apartments, the beautiful Queen’s Apartments, and the famous Sunken Garden to discover. There’s also an incredible exhibit called Diana: Designing for a Princess.

At her former London home, you can see the evolution of Diana, Princess of Wales’s sense of style. This exhibit features several pieces from Diana’s wardrobe, original sketches created for her during the design process, Diana’s handwritten comments, and more. So, if you’re a Princess Diana fan, add this to your 2 day London itinerary!

Itinerary Info for Kensington Palace

(as of March 2024)

  • £20 – Adult
  • £10 – Child (under 16 years old)
  • Duration: 2-3 hours

The Tower of London

On the Tower of London tour, you can see the crown jewels. Note that you can’t take pictures of the jewels. Don’t be a pain like the girl in line in front of me who tried to and got in an argument with a guard for it. Be respectful!

The Tower of London is also where Anne Boleyn’s coronation parade started and where she was also beheaded. Talk about having your happiest day and worst day at the same location. Let’s hope your time seeing London in two days won’t be THAT bad!

I liked the Tower of London tour audio guide here. It’s very detailed and entertaining. It gives a lot of information creatively through music and storytelling. One of the most remarkable things about the Tower is that many of the carvings made by prisoners housed in the Tower are still here. Many famous prisoners were housed here until their execution. There’s a whole exhibit on torture and what it was like to be held at the Tower.

Today, the Tower no longer holds prisoners. Instead, it houses the Beefeaters. You’ve probably seen them on that bottle of gin you have somewhere. It’s an honor to be a Beefeater. They love their jobs and are some of the most helpful people. Feel free to ask them anything.

I’ve visited the Tower of London twice and had an excellent time on both occasions. I could spend a whole day in London just at the Tower. On my second visit, we coincidentally went when it was the Queen’s birthday, and they had all sorts of military salutes going on for her!

Itinerary Info for the Tower of London

Audio guide tours in various languages are available to purchase with your ticket.

(as of March 2024)

  • £34.80 – Adult
  • £27.70 – Seniors / Students / Disabled
  • £17.40 – Child (5-17)
  • Free – Child (0-4)
  • Duration: 2-3 hours

Tower Bridge

I’ve only seen Tower Bridge from the Tower of London or the Thames. However, you can go on their walkway to get a better view through their Glass Floor. As someone who’s afraid of falling, I’ve avoided doing this excursion, but as your London tour guide, I’d be remiss in not mentioning it if you are braver than I! You can also visit its magnificent Victorian Engine Rooms and learn the history of Tower Bridge, so it’s not all death-defying activities at stake!

If you want to take a nice picture of the Tower Bridge, I’d recommend walking down the Thames around the HMW Belfast. From there, you’ll be able to get the shot I have of me above. There’s also a bunch of cute riverside shops and stalls over there selling food so maybe a lovely lunchbreak on your 2 day London itinerary.

Itinerary Info for the Tower Bridge

(as of March 2024)

  • £12.30 – Adult
  • £9.20 – Seniors / Students / Disabled
  • £6.20 – Child (5-17)
  • Free – Child (0-4)
  • Duration: 1-1.5 hours
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Imperial war museum london

Imperial War Museum

There are five branches of the British Imperial War Museum, one of which is on the east side of London. Founded in 1917, its intent is to “record the civil and military war effort and sacrifice of Britain and its Empire during the First World War.” But has since expanded to include other conflicts. The Imperial War Museum exhibitions house personal effects, official documents, photographs, films, oral history recordings, an extensive library, and a large art collection. As well as examples of military vehicles and aircraft, equipment, and other artifacts.

If you’re interested in the World Wars, this museum, as well as their Churchill War Rooms and HMS Belfast, are for you. While a great learning environment, it is about the history of modern war and the wartime experience. So if that’s not your cup of tea, you may want to skip this on your 2 day London itinerary.

Itinerary Info for the Imperial War Museum

(as of March 2024)

  • Free – Imperial War Museum
  • Duration: 2-3 hours

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre

Shakespeare’s Globe Theater was my favorite thing I did in London in 2013. At only five pounds for the standing room, it’s a steal! Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre tickets for the seats are more, of course. It is about three hours long, with intermission, but it’s completely worth it. I saw the “Tempest,” and it was phenomenal!

On another trip, I saw ‘As You Like It’ and it was marvelous! So, obviously, it was a repeat on my London in two days itinerary I loved it so much. My aunt who doesn’t know much about Shakespeare even enjoyed it. This isn’t your high school production of Shakespeare, many of these actors have won notable awards and have spent time on the silver screen.

What’s truly amazing about this is that they use minimal props and set dressing. While still clearly getting their story across. I also noticed that they didn’t use mics, and still, no one had any problems hearing them. This, my friend, is A+++ acting! I promise you won’t be disappointed.

You can also tour the theater if you do not wish or have enough time to see a performance in your 2 day London itinerary.

Itinerary Info for Theater Performances

(as of March 2024)

  • £5 – Standing
  • £62 – £25 – Galleries (Seating)
  • Play Duration: Approx. 3 hours

Itinerary Info for Shakespeare’s Globe Story & Tour

  • £26 – Adult
  • £19 – Under 16
  • Duration: 2 hours

Where to Eat in London

Having been here a few times now, I have some recommendations on places to eat to add to your 2 day London itinerary.

Sherlock Holmes Pub: The Sherlock Holmes Pub if you’re looking for a more eclectic dining experience. The place is decorated with all sorts of decor inspired by the detective so it’s a must if you’re a fan!

Dishoom: I got this recommendation from a friend who now lives in London. My traveling companion and I loved it so much that we went back three times! We only went for breakfast at Dishoom because in the evening, there’s a line out the door, but I can only imagine how good dinner is there! I highly recommend this Indian restaurant!

Baaria: I had the BEST pischacio crossant here at Baaria! I legit still think about it. I spotted by here when I was on my way to the Cursed Child play, and let me tell you, I went back after the play to try another delectable dessert! Side note, if you’re a Wizarding World fan, I recommend you check out these Harry Potter things to do and see in London!

Where to Drink in London

Assembly Covent Garden: I stayed at the Assembly Covent Garden hotel on my last trip, so of course, I had to try out their Rooftop Bar! It was definitely not crowded when I went and the drinks were tasty, so if you’re looking for a drink with a view, I’d give this place a shot. Also, hotel guests get a discount!

Pub travel tip: The friend who also recommended Dishoom gave me some tips on pubs in London. The best ones to go to are Free Houses, Fullers, and Young’s. You can tell if the pub you’re at is one of these by the signs outside. What makes these types of pubs better is that they aren’t owned by a particular brand of beer. Think of it as instead of going to a pub owned by Bud Light, you’re going to a craft brewery.

Afternoon Tea travel tip: If you wish to do afternoon tea while you’re in London, I highly recommend booking in advance. When I went on my most recent trip, my friend decided she wanted to experience high tea. Great! Well, we quickly found out many places were already booked out and were only able to find a place after trying five others. Just save yourself the time and book ahead when seeing London in two days.

Looking for a lovely place to have afternoon tea? Try Sketch or this Tea Guide for all Budgets

Looking for additional recommendations on where to eat? Check out this 48-hour Itinerary filled with options.

Seeing London at Night

One of the very best things you can do in London is go for a walk at night to see the Thames all lit up. And let me tell you, it’s gorgeous! It’s a must-add to your 2 day London itinerary. It can be cold, so make sure to bring a coat so that you don’t have to brave the cold like I did.

As a solo female traveler, the nice thing about walking the Thames River is that there are people there all the time, so I never ever felt unsafe while walking alone, even at night.

Another thing I did on my first trip to London that I loved was a Jack the Ripper tour. It’s a great way to spend an evening walking around London and learning about one of the most notorious spree of murders in history that still remains unsolved.

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Where to Stay in London

I’ve stayed in several lovely budget accommodations in London. But here are my favorites…

YHA Oxford Street Hostel

Assembly Covent Garden

YHA London Central Hostel

If these aren’t your vibe, check out this excellent guide on the best places to stay in London!

Wrapping Up Your 2 Day London Itinerary

Now, obviously, there are a lot of things to do, and they are a bit of a distance from one another, so make sure to plan accordingly. The tube is your friend and really affordable! For convenience, I’d recommend using Apple Wallet or Google Wallet to tap in and out of turnstiles quickly. I hope this was helpful in deciding your 2 day London itinerary!

If you’re even shorter on time, say you only have one day in London. I’d recommend visiting the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Kensington Palace, the London Eye, lunch at the Sherlock Holmes Pub, and tickets to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.

If you have any questions, feel free to comment below before seeing London in two days!

Looking for a short trip from London?: Try Hampton Court Palace

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