I’ve always dreamed of visiting London since I first saw that Lindsay Lohan movie ‘The Parent Trap’. It was my first recollection of hearing a British accent and I was sold into the British dream. Buckingham Palace, London Bridge, the Royal Family–these are just some things London is most known for. There’s so much to see and do in London!
By the way, Philippine passport holders need a UK visa to visit United Kingdom. For more information, refer to my blog post on how to apply for a UK visa.
Here’s my suggested itinerary for 5 days in London, England for first time visitors.
Day 1: Hop-on Hop-off, Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Piccadilly Circus
Take a Hop On Hop Off London bus tour to go around the city and enjoy the scenic view.
Spend the morning at the Tower of London, the heritage site of the famed Crowned Jewels. The historic castle was built by William the Conqueror in 1078. The Tower of London has served as a fortress, royal residence, prison cell, menagerie, treasury, and now a museum.
While in the Tower of London, don’t miss the Beefeater tour, the Yeoman Warders or standing guards in the Tower.
Other places you can see via Hop On Hop Off is the Shakespeare Globe Theatre, London Zoo, London Eye, Imperial War Museum, Madame Tussaud’s and Piccadilly Circus, depending on the 3 routes you choose.
Day 2: Trafalgar Square, National Gallery, Tate Modern, Natural History Museum
Save Day 2 for Museum Day! I love all kinds of museums–whether it be about art, history, science or weird, random things. Let’s be realistic though–one can’t visit all museums in one go. Choose 2 or 3 museums to cover towards your trip, depending on your interest.
First of all, start your day at Trafalgar Square. It’s the center of west end London and can get to anywhere from there.
If there was only one art museum you had to go to, I would suggest you to go to the National Gallery in Traflagar Square. The National Gallery is home to works of the masters such as Monet, Delacroix, Cezanne, Van Gogh and more. Best of all–it’s free!
If you’re more into postmodern art, you will enjoy Tate Modern. Tate Modern houses modern and contemporary art from 1900 to present.
The Natural History Museum houses scientific specimens and historical artifacts to wow museophiles. I was instantly sold when I was told there were dinosaurs! Admission is also free.
The British Museum is dedicated to art, historical artifacts and culture from Ancient Britain and other lost worlds.
Day 3: Road Trip to Windsor, Stonehenge and Bath
By the third day you’re probably already tired of the city, so why not take a road trip and see Windsor Castle, Stonehenge and Bath. I would recommend getting a tour to see the three iconic attractions to save you time as the three are located in different places.
Windsor Castle is the oldest & largest inhabited castle in the world, the official residence of the Queen. It has been the family home of British royalty for almost 1,000 years.
Stonehenge is the most famous neolithic structure in the world, which sits literally in the middle of nowhere. Sure it is now just a ruin but the 5,000-year-old monument served as an important religious site back in the day. You can learn more about Stonehenge and the prehistoric people who built it in their visitor centre. You can read about my Stonehenge experience here.
After lunch, head to another world heritage site, Bath, Avon. Bath is an ancient Roman spa town with magnificent Georgian heritage and architecture. Bath is among Britain’s oldest tourist attractions and is the only place in Britain where you can bat in hot natural springs. It is 48km south of Stonehenge by the River Avon.
The Roman Baths is the most famous tourist attraction in Bath. You can’t bathe in the original Roman baths but can do so at Thermae Bath Spa, just a block over the ancient baths. They also offer massages, steam baths, and an outdoor pool.
Day 4: Buckingham Palace, House of Parliament, Big Ben, Tower Bridge, HMS Belfast, The Shard
In the morning, go to Buckingham Palace to witness the changing of the guards at 11:15AM (worth checking schedules). The Buckingham Palace was as the official London residence of Britain’s sovereigns since 1837. Today it serves as the sovereign administrative headquarters.
The House of Parliament is a 20-minute walk from the Buckingham Palace. House of Parliament or Palace of Westminster is the ‘heart of British politics’, the meeting place of the two houses of parliament, the House of Commons and the House of Lords. It was built in the Middle Ages. You can’t miss the quintessential Big Ben.
As you walk to the Tower Bridge, you can stop over HMS Belfast to learn more about WWII history. The former Royal Navy ship is permanently moored in the River Thames and now serves as a ship museum.
Of course, your London trip isn’t complete without seeing the recognizable Tower Bridge, which is truly the symbol of London.
The Shard is a 95-storey skyscraper and is currently the tallest building in London. It is a short 10-minute walk from the Tower Bridge. One of my favorite places in London to have a drink is Aqua Shard, which provides a striking 360-degree view of London. Whether you plan a romantic evening or just want a swanky nightcap, Aqua is worth seeing and spending on.
Day 5: Relax, Shop, Watch a Show
By the last day of your vacation, you’ll probably be busy packing up and preparing yourself to come back home to your normal lives. Keep your last day chill and simple. For me, I like to treat myself to shopping–every girl deserves some form of retail therapy.
Every Filipino’s trip is never complete without some pasalubong shopping. Spend the day shopping for gifts and souvenirs at some of London’s most famous shopping streets: Regent Street, Oxford Street and Carnaby Street, all located in the West end of London.
Regent Street is most famous for its Christmas illuminations. It is home to popular stores such as Hamley’s, Liberty, Hollister, Superdry and more. If you’re shopping for kids, Hamley’s is London’s most famous toy store. It is located right down Regent Street.
Harrod’s is probably the most famous store in the world, located in Brompton Road, Knightsbridge. It is a 5-acre site with 330 departments and 1 million square feet. Aside from the shopping, it is well worth visiting Harrod’s for its historical value–it is almost 200 years old.
In the evening, complete the London experience by watching a West end show. As a Disney baby, I decided to watch Lion King in Lyceum Theatre.
Other popular shows include The Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables and The Book of Mormon. If you’re feeling a bit braver, you can check out the avant-garde immersive theatre ‘Sleep No More’ or ‘The Drowned Man’ by Punchdrunk.