This summer, our family went to London for the first time. We rode the London Eye, toured castles and had afternoon tea. It was a blast.
We were gone for a total of 10 days, but with a few days spent strictly traveling, we had eight to explore this wonderful city. Below, you’ll find the itinerary we followed for the trip. It gave us an in-depth look at London, while also providing us with a few hours of downtime almost every day.
Activities and sights were grouped together by neighborhood, so that lunch and an attraction weren’t far apart. Dinners for the most part were closer to our hotel, though there are exceptions.
While the trip was an overall success, I’ve noted changes I would make and things I’d skip if I were to do it again. I hope this provides a jumping off point for your next adventure.
8 Days in London
The first day of a trip after an overnight flight is always a bit of a throw away for us. Unfortunately, we don’t sleep well on airplanes and have found the key for us is to stay busy and sneak in a tiny nap.
After dropping our bags at our hotel, we ate a lackluster lunch. Then, headed for some low stakes jewel viewing at Victoria & Albert. Elliott loves to look at tiaras and necklaces, so this was a win for her. However, if I was traveling by myself, I would have skipped this.
Then, we went to Harrod’s which was complete and total sensory overload. In hindsight, I’d recommend this as a day two or three stop, if you’re dying to see it. We had planned to eat across the street at Cipriani, but didn’t have reservations and couldn’t get in. We ended up skipping out on lunch and going back to our room, which was ready a little early. I had a little nap, which made me a much more pleasant travel companion. Thankfully.
Dinner was a much bigger success. We loved Mayfair Chippy – a must stop for fish and chips.
For breakfast, we swung by GAIL’s near Buckingham Palace. This became a regular stop for us. All their baked goods were top notch, and this location was very close to our hotel – a 3-minute walk.
Then, we walked over to Westminster Abbey. We had pre-purchased tickets, which made entry really smooth. The history here is incredible. Outside on the grounds, we got a good look at Big Ben (from a distance).
Next, we headed over to the Rubens at the Palace for an early lunch. We got to The New York Bar right as it was opening. The restaurant is quiet and a lovely break from all the crowds. The food was great, and eating there felt like stepping back in time.
After lunch, we got in line at Buckingham Palace. We had purchased our tickets ahead of time, but still had to wait a bit. You will go through a fairly extensive security line here and at many of the other stops, because Royalty. Elliott is a sucker for a castle, so this was highlight for her.
Dinner at Dishoom was a hit with all of us. This special place is well worth the hype. The food is incredible, as was the service. Grab a reservation if you don’t want to wait in a very long line. Their site walks you through how to do that.
We started our day with a long walk and arrived hungry at the Little Bread Pedlar. Tucked into the cutest little street, we were charmed by it, as well as the baked goods.
We stumbled onto the Banksy tunnel by chance on our way to the London Eye. It was very cool, and if you’re in the area, I’d recommend stopping here.
I had paid for the fast passes and booked our London Eye tickets in advance. I can’t recommend this approach enough. Even if you have timed tickets, you will have to wait in a long time to board the ride, but the fast track gets you there much more quickly. (Either way, this stop was well worth the effort. We all loved it.)
Next, we went to Borough Market for lunch, after a long walk along the Thames. We ended up snagging some ramen, which was delicious.
After resting our feet for a few hours, we made stops at Fortnum & Mason and Pierre Herme before dinner. F&M was super busy and a little overwhelming. However, we did find some great gifts to bring home (and some biscuits to eat while we were in London).
Dinner was a gigantic Sunday roast, a classic English experience, at Blacklock. We ordered way too much, but really enjoyed the restaurant.
We spent this entire day on a bus tour with stops at Windsor Castle, Stonehenge and Bath. Our guide was very informative, and we found the whole thing to be really great. (It helped that some friends of ours decided to come with us.) FYI, double check the days Windsor is open before you book your tour.
I had zero expectations for Bath and found it to be incredibly charming. I would go back in a heartbeat and spend a day or two there. It’s definitely worth adding to your itinerary if you can, because it’s just a short train ride away from London.
Day five was what I like to call a “Ladies Day.” We had tea, shopped and were ladies. Kind of.
Next, we went to tea at Claridge’s. It was perfect. If you go, make sure you are dressed to impress. This experience is a splurge, and while the atmosphere is very posh, the servers were warm and friendly. Elliott and I were in heaven. They even gave us scones to go!
For dinner, we went to the Wolsely, which felt very old world and European. It was the perfect end to our “ladies day” (with Keegan).
We toured the Cotswolds on day six. I was glad to have seen it, but felt that the day was a little long. I could have had one less stop. We also ran into a ton of traffic on the way home, which is pretty common. We arrived in London hungry, grumpy and without a lot of dinner prospects.
In fact, I would recommend leaving this off your itinerary unless it’s a must-see for you. In that case, this might not be a bad option. Otherwise, the Cotswolds are best reached by car.
We made a number of quintessential stops this day. We saw Tower Bridge and toured the Tower of London. For Tower of London, I’d purchased our tickets ahead of time. We opted not to do the Beefeater tour, though I’ve heard great things about that, and I think it might have been benefical to have someone guide us through the multiple buildings on site. (Tours happen at specific times, so do your research before you go. Unfortunately, we did not.)
Then, we walked to Leadenhall Market for lunch. It was a filming location for Harry Potter. (There weren’t a lot of food options between Tower of London and our next stop, so this worked out well. We ate at an Italian restaurant there.)
Next up was St. Paul’s Cathedral. I had purchased tickets for this experience ahead of time. We enjoyed it, but might have been a little churched out at this point.
If you can, I’d split this day into two or move it up in the itinerary. Seeing Tower of London and St. Paul’s was a lot for the end of the trip. We were all a little tired after our full day tour and could have used a slower paced day.
After relaxing a bit at the hotel, we got cleaned up and had dinner at Hawksmoor, which was steps away from our show – Matilda. If you’re in London, you should absolutely take advantage of their fantastic theatre scene.
As someone who has been heavily influenced by rom coms, I had to see Notting Hill. We took the tube to the Portobello Road Market where we picked up a few treasures. Be sure to see the days and times it’s open here.
Lunch was at Sunday in Brooklyn, which had a really cool vibe and great food. Then, we headed to Churchill Arms to finally have a pint at the pub. The building is a stunner, completely festooned with flowers. It was a pretty relaxed way to spend our last day.
Our final dinner was at ROKA in Mayfair. We ordered lots of Japanese small plates. It was the perfect send-off.
Things We Skipped
As with any trip, there were things we didn’t do. We skipped the Changing of the Guards, Kensington Palace, the Tate Modern and a whole host of other things. In my opinion, it just gives us a lot of great reasons to go back.
Where to Stay, What to Eat & Getting Around
We stayed at the Clermont London’s Victoria location. Overall, we really enjoyed our stay there. It has easy access to the tube and train station, which is a bonus. London is very spread out, and we found this spot to be fairly central to things we wanted to see. I would absolutely stay here again.
I have almost no natural sense of direction. Thankfully, Keegan is a great navigator. Getting around London was relatively easy. We took Ubers, walked, rode the tube and grabbed a taxi occassionally. It’s worth nothing:
- Taxis take credit cards, but are also very happy if you have cash.
- To pay for a subway ride, you can just use a credit card with a chip as you go through the turnstile. It was really easy to use. The trickiest part is that you’ll need a card for each person. For families, that means you’ll need one for each kid. This worked well for us, but if you have a larger group, you could get Oyster cards instead.
- Google maps does a great job of telling you exactly where to board the tube, which stops to make and where to change trains, if needed.
- Much to Elliott’s dismay, walking is always my favorite way to see a city, so we do that a lot. However, London is very spread out, and an Uber ride can often save everyone’s moods.
- London is a very clean city. We felt safe most places and loved that their taxis and Ubers were all electric.