48 Hours in London: A Perfect 2-Day Itinerary

With so much to explore, 48 hours in London is barely enough time to scratch the surface. However, with some careful planning, it’s possible to catch a taste of what this marvelous city has to offer. The best things to see in London aren’t clustered in the same borough, so having a streamlined itinerary will make your two days in London much more enjoyable!

London is definitely having a moment right now, after being named the best city in the world for 2023. After living in London during Covid, I definitely understand why. The blend of rich history, diverse culture, iconic landmarks, and vibrant atmosphere all make London an unforgettable and magical city. (If you’re more interested in visiting London with kids, here are seven great kid-friendly things to do.) While this 2-day London itinerary will give you a feeling for central London, there are hundreds of things to do and see across all of London’s 32 boroughs.

So pull out your walking shoes, embrace the hustle, and let’s dive into a whirlwind 48 hours in London!

The London Tube is the best way to get around london in 2 days

2 Days in London: Day 1 

Start Day 1 in London by putting on some comfy walking shoes and fueling up with a traditional “full English” breakfast at a local café. Eggs, bacon, sausages, baked beans, tomatoes, and toast (or fried bread) will give you all the energy you need for a day of exploration.

visit buckingham palace

Stop 1: Buckingham Palace

Head straight to Buckingham Palace to witness the iconic Changing of the Guard ceremony at 11:00 AM (make sure to double-check the schedule beforehand). Swoon over the grandeur of the palace, snap some selfies with the guards, and take a leisurely stroll down Pall Mall towards Trafalgar Square. You’ll need a lot more time (and reservations) to take the official tour of Buckingham Palace – that’s an adventure in itself.

visit trafalgar square with 48 hours in london

Stop 2: Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square is cool because it feels like the beating heart of London, where history, culture, and people come together. Aside from the impressive architecture framing the square, Nelson’s column regally stands in the center of the square, overlooking the various cultural events and festivals. Trafalgar Square is walking distance to many other famous attractions, including The National Gallery and Covent Garden.

Camden Market is fun to visit with 2 day in London

Stop 3: Camden Market

Camden Market is a vibrant and eclectic spot in London, offering a unique shopping experience. This place is not just a market; it’s a grand exhibition of everything that makes London such a mesmerizing maze of culture, food, and fashion. It’s filled with vintage treasures, handmade crafts, and quirky London finds. Camden Market isn’t just one market; it’s a collection of markets, each with its own flavour and flair. From the vintage treasures of Camden Lock Market to the gothic glam of the Stables Market, there’s a corner for every curious soul. You could spend hours rummaging through racks of retro clothing, picking out unique jewelry that screams (or whispers) your name, or even snagging some decorative pieces that are sure to start conversations back home.

The cool bohemian atmosphere is appealing to both locals and tourists as it’s filled with diverse food stalls, live music, and street art. It’s also famous for being the place where Amy Winehouse lived and passed, and there’s a bronze statue dedicated to her located inside the market.

Stop 4: Covent Garden

Covent Garden is undeniably cool and is on everyone’s list to visit for the unique shops, fun street performers, delicious restaurants, proximity to the theater, and endless festivals. My personal favorite part of Covent Garden is Neal’s Yard, a colorful and vibrant courtyard tucked away from the bustling streets. Grab a quick bite from one of the trendy restaurants here, or enjoy an afternoon tea in a quaint cafe.

Neal's Yard in Covent Garden is incredible when you visit London
Neal’s Yard

Stop 5: Take in a West End Show

London’s West End is filled with world-class theatre and you can catch everything from the big iconic musicals to thought-provoking dramas. Whether you’re a theater buff or a newbie wanting to see what all the fuss is about, the West End has it all. Enjoy an unforgettable evening of glitz, glamor, entertainment and cultural enrichment. Popular shows like “The Lion King,” “Les Misérables,” “Wicked,” and “Hamilton” consistently draw crowds.

Stop 6: Chinatown

After your show, head to the vibrant neighborhood of Chinatown (look for the red lanterns), famous for the bustling nightlife and diverse restaurant scene. Just a short walk from most theaters and near Covent Garden, on the outskirts of Soho. In addition to traditional and avant-garde Chinese food, Chinatown offers an eclectic mix of restaurants that stay open late into the night, making it a perfect spot for a post-show meal.

Out and about in London - the vibrant and colorful houses of Notting Hill
The colorful homes of Notting Hill

48 Hours in London: Day 2

With only 2 days in London, you might want to step back and relax a bit. On Day 2 in London, stop for coffee or maybe sit down for an authentic, delicious and calorific full English breakfast in the morning. Or perhaps an Earl Gray breakfast tea. Then make sure Apple or Google Pay is working on your phone and find the nearest Tube stop. Take the Central (red), Circle (yellow) or District line (green) to Notting Hill Gate, then walk north a few blocks. You’ll walk right into Portobello Road Market.

Stop 1: Notting Hill and Portobello Road Market

Notting Hill and Portobello Road Market offer a cool and vibrant atmosphere with picturesque streets, eclectic vintage treasures, and trendy boutiques. Stroll through the colorful streets, grab fresh pastries and juice at one of the many trendy cafes, and soak in the live street performers. Don’t miss the famous Portobello Road Market if you like to dig for antiques, vintage fashion, and unique trinkets.

Portobello Market and notting hill vintage shopping

Stop 2: The British Museum

Explore the grand halls of human history at The British Museum, an impressive building that is filled with artifacts from around the world. You can check out things like the Rosetta Stone, Egyptian mummies, Moai statues from Easter Island, and other ancient pieces that the Brits “acquired” from other countries. But hey, at least admission is free when you book online through their website, so you can check out these “borrowed” treasures guilt-free!

Visit the British Museum in London to enjoy treasures from around the world

Stop 3: Enjoy a Pub Lunch

London pubs are a way to enjoy traditional food and beer, and soak in the banter and atmosphere that makes them a beloved part of London’s unique social scene. I strongly recommend trying traditional British fish and chips washed down with a delish Camden Hells or Marston’s Pedigree, or whatever type of beer or cider you enjoy.

Quick London Beer Guide

  • Lagers are light and refreshing (Heineken, Stella Artois, Carlsberg)
  • Helles are a little tastier (Camden Hells)
  • “Bitters” and Ales are medium (London Pride, Marston’s)
  • Porters are darker and can be chocolatey  (Guinness, Fuller’s London Porter)
  • Ciders can be dry (Strongbow) or fruity (Bulmer’s). The fruity ones are sweeter and are more caloric.
  • IPAs – there’s a trend toward all taps being taken over by IPAs ad double IPAs. (Neck Oil, Brixton)

Walk off your pub lunch by strolling along the Thames River Embankment, taking in the sights of famous landmarks like The Shard, Westminster Bridge and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.

With onoly 48 hours in London you must visit the Tower Bridge (no, that's not London Bridge)

Stop 4: Tower of London and Tower Bridge

The Tower of London and Tower Bridge are two iconic landmarks that have the undeniable cool factor. Tower Bridge is an engineering marvel that will amaze you if you’re lucky enough to catch it open to let a tall ship pass underneath. These two landmarks epitomize London’s rich history and are must-visit destinations for anyone with 48 hours in London.

Stop 5: London Eye

As the sun starts to set and you begin to feel weary, end your whirlwind 48 hours in London with a ride on the iconic London Eye. The London Eye offers a bird’s-eye view of the entire city and you’ll be able to point out the places you’ve visited. As you slowly rotate above the city lights, reflect on the incredible 48 hours in London you’ve spent in this magical city. If you only have 36 hours in London, you probably won’t be able to fit this in.

The London Eye is visible over Pall Mall

Although there is still SO much more to see after 48 hours in London, hopefully, you’ll have created your list of places you’d like to explore on your next visit.

Maximizing a short trip to the UK’s vibrant capital can be a challenge, but with a strategic itinerary, spending 2 days in London can still offer a mesmerizing glimpse into the city’s endless charm. For those planning a quick visit, it’s essential to prioritize the experiences that best capture the essence of London’s rich history, diverse culture, and dynamic atmosphere, and spend time seeing some new things.

The Best Places to Stay in London

Where is the best place to stay in London, especially if you only have only 2 days to visit? You will definitely want to stay close to the things you want to see, in the city center (not near an airport) to ensure you can visit many different locations. Every London neighbourhood has its own key features and charm. Each one of these unique areas offers so many choices for accommodations, and all have easy access to the Tube, busses and the train stations.

Here’s a quick rundown of some London areas that are easy to get to and will make a great home base.

Camden — For the muses and the market-goers, Camden’s the place. Camden Town is a bit like that loud cousin who’s always up for a laugh. The neighbourhood is vibrant, teeming with live music venues, bustling markets, and eclectic food stalls. Camden Market is non-stop shopping, people watching and a great place to eat and hang out on the London canals. Regent’s Park is adjacent, and you can walk down to Soho if you want to get some steps in. Staying at a place like the The Hurdwick hotel will have you right in the thick of this colourful chaos, perfect if you love a bit of energy. Also, St. Pancras – Kings Cross train station is a walk or 2 stops away on the tube from Camden Town station, making Camden central to everything in this itinerary.

Islington — Slightly more subdued than Camden, Islington strikes a nice balance with its classy boutiques and trendy eateries. It’s a hit with families and couples looking for a neighbourhood that mixes a residential feel with a lively high street. The Angel and Highbury areas are both unique and a bit off the beaten path. Arsenal fans will appreciate that Emirates Stadium and the old Highbury Stadium (converted to very cool apartments) are both in Islington. The Hilton London Angel Islington is a great value. It’s very comfortable, close to the Angel tube station, and has a nice breakfast, with easy access to nightlife and a huge selection of restaurants and pubs.

Soho — This is the heart of London’s West End. It’s going to be more touristy and a bit more expensive because of its central location. Soho is a very cool area that’s known for theatres, jazz bars, and nightlife. If you want to dive deep into London’s culture and don’t mind a bit of chaos and noise, Soho is a great choice. China Town offers some great food choices, too. The Resident Soho (previously called the Nadler Soho) is a good choice for affordable luxury and is just a stone’s throw from Leicester Square.

Covent Garden — Picture cobblestone streets, street performers, and all of the great little theatres for plays and musicals. Covent Garden is less about the wild nightlife and more about the culture and vibrancy of central London. It’s actually right next to Soho, just a 10 minute walk. So it’s perfect if you want to be near the excitement, but not smack in the middle of it. It’s also within walking distance of the Royal Opera House, and I love a bit of upscale shopping, and Covent Garden has some great boutiques and small shops. The Henrietta Hotel is a great pick in Soho. It’s a bit more pricey because of its central location, but it’s stylish and spacious.

Chelsea — Moving farther west than the West End, over to the “posh” end of town, Chelsea is all about high-end shopping, upscale dining, and walks along the Thames. It’s a real residential neighborhood, and you’ll really be surrounded by “Chelsea tractors” (Range Rovers). This is upmarket London, but not as pretentious (or expensive) as Kensington. You might want to choose a hotel like the Millennium & Copthorne Hotel which is basically attached to the Chelsea Football Club stadium. It’s a relatively luxurious stay that’s still good value, and it’s an easy walk to everywhere in Chelsea.

London City — If you’re the sort who likes to be smack in the middle of the hustle and the financial bustle, then the City of London, or simply ‘the City’, is more of a business location. It’s ideal if you want to explore the Tower of London and St. Paul’s Cathedral. Here, 3-4 star hotels like The Montcalm at the Brewery offer a luxury feel without a luxury price. In London City, you’re centrally located and also very close to Shoreditch, which has awesome galleries and thrift shopping, and Spitalfields, which has great mainstream shopping and an ultra-cool night-time scene.

Each of these neighbourhoods offers a unique slice of London life. There are so many more places you could stay, it would be impossible to list them all, but if you have a question about a specific area, please leave a comment below!

Spending More Than 2 Days in London?

Sometimes travel delays can be your good luck. If you’re in London for more than 48 hours, what would you do? We would consider ourselves fortunate and see more! If you have 3 days or 4 days in London, consider these ideas:

  • The Art of Banksy Exhibition – London
    The Art of Banksy, is the world’s largest exhibition of privately owned Banksy artwork being showcased in a huge warehouse space in Covent Garden, London.
  • 10 Best Museums in London
    If museums and culture are your jam, you’re in luck. With over 170 museums in London, there’s something for everybody, and the best part is the majority of them are free.
  • Visit Buckingham Palace in London
    Buckingham Palace is one of the most iconic buildings in the world and very much worth a visit the next time you are in London. It’s advisable to book ahead since spaces are limited
  • Greenwich, London: 7 Reasons to Visit!
    When you’re in London, trying to choose from the staggering list of places to visit, you definitely won’t regret spending a few hours in Greenwich to escape the hectic pace of London city center.
  • Afternoon Tea at St. Ermin’s Hotel, London
    London is a city steeped in history and tradition, and afternoon tea is quintessentially British because it embodies the essence of elegance and tradition that defines British culture.
  • 2-day Trip to Cardiff, Wales
    While part of the UK, Cardiff is a different country with a different language, and visiting its capital Cardiff is a great weekend trip. This is the perfect itinerary.

Whether you want to explore iconic landmarks, indulge in some great food or drink, or soak in cultured arts and entertainment, you’ll be able to find it in London. I hope you find this guide useful to making the most out of your 2 days in London!

Where would you head to first with 48 hours in London?

I’d love your feedback! Did you find anything else that is a “must-do” on a 2-day London itinerary?

Let me know by leaving a comment below, and follow me on Instagram or Twitter!

About The Author

Samantha

I’m a travel and health writer, digital brand consultant, breast cancer survivor, and supermom to two boys! I keep it real and share stories of raising an active family, life after a cancer diagnosis, and family travels around the world! Each story is shared with my dry, and sometimes naughty sense of humor.

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