After spending over three months in London, it’s hard to choose my favorite places and experiences. However, my family hopped across the pond to visit me for a week, and we managed to fit in a surprising amount of fun activities and sightseeing. Our London itinerary was not as jam-packed as it might have been if I hadn’t been taking classes. Nevertheless, we had a great time, and it was definitely one of the best parts of my semester.
Our week in London was mid-February, and despite everything I had been warned about the crappy weather, we were able to get a lot of outdoor exploring time in addition to wandering around museums and landmarks. Check out our London itinerary for some ideas on what to do with your family in London-town!
Our 7-Day Itinerary
- Day #1 – South Kensington / Notting Hill
- Day #2 and 3 – Westminster / Central London
- Day #4 and 5 – Green spaces and Greenwich
- Day # 6 – Shopping and a show
- Day #7 – Day trip to Bath & Stonehenge
Day #1 – South Kensington / Notting Hill
I was staying at my university’s dorm in South Kensington during my semester abroad. When my family first arrived, we decided to mostly stick around the area – for one, because it’s beautiful and historic, but they were also exhausted and jet-lagged. For breakfast, we went to a trendy spot around the corner from me to fuel up for our day with some eggs and coffee.
After our delicious meal, we took a quick bus ride over to Portobello Market in Notting Hill. The Notting Hill neighborhood is close to South Kensington and is similarly adorable. Whether you’re a fan of the movie or not, Notting Hill is a great place to spend an afternoon. The market itself has some of the best street food I had all semester, with everything from crepes to popcorn chicken to falafel.
A London itinerary would not be complete without some pub time. We ducked into a charming pub called The Sun and Splendour after our shopping explorations to enjoy some classic British fare. I got the fish and chips, and my dad loved the shepherd’s pie. We toasted to our first day together in London pretty early, and got to bed early for a full second day.
Where to stay:
- We stayed at Hotel Seraphine, located conveniently close to my dorm, this hotel was great for the proximity to Hyde Park and shopping along High Street Kensington as well. The room was small but had everything we needed, and there was free breakfast served daily in the lobby.
- Another great option is to stay in the Hammersmith neighborhood at the room2 hometel. With easy access on the Piccadilly and District tube lines, it’s conveniently located with flexible check in and out times.
Kensington-area restaurants to check out:
- Coco Momo Where we grabbed breakfast on our first full day together. I definitely recommend trying the eggs benedict with a juice or mimosa to drink.
- Dishoom Hands down my favorite restaurant in London! With shareable plates, this beloved Indian restaurant is the perfect place to go with family.
- Muriel’s Kitchen A brunch spot with a decidedly hipster, millennial vibe – they serve matcha lattes with CBD oil. Need I say more?
Day #2 and 3 – Westminster / Central London
Refreshed and ready to hit the city, we spent the next couple of days in central London playing tourists – ok, being tourists.
My dad really wanted to explore war history during the trip, so we made sure that the Churchill War Rooms made it onto our London itinerary. Entrance fees are admittedly steep, but it was certainly worth the £22 entry. The underground bunker is interesting to even those who don’t claim to be fascinated by WWII.
We also had to take a stroll to Buckingham Palace, of course. If you go just before 11 am, you’ll be able to catch the changing of the guards. We timed it perfectly, and had a little photo shoot by the palace gates after.
Our next stop: Tate Modern. This modern art museum was one of my favorite places to visit in London, with an impressive collection of international art. You can head to the viewing level for a spectacular 360-degree view of the London skyline as well.
There are plenty of popular attractions to see in the Westminster area. We didn’t get around to a tour of Westminster Abbey or taking the London Eye, but those are definitely on my list for a London itinerary when I visit again. And of course, since Big Ben has been under construction the whole time, I plan to go back to see the finished result!
Still wanting more gorgeous views of the city, we headed over to Sky Garden for our second night. The popular viewing spot is free, but make sure you sign up a few weeks in advance to ensure you get a time slot. My mom and I each got a glass of wine as we sat and admired all of the city lights. We made a mental note to go at sunset next time and to enjoy the sights of the city even more.
Other options for a view:
- Fen Court Garden: This newly opened terrace at Fen Court is an excellent way to enjoy free views on a moment’s notice. We simply showed up and rode the elevator to the 15th floor. There was no prior check-in necessary (although it is first come, first served with a 200 person capacity).
- The Shard: Perhaps the most popular viewing spot, this didn’t make it onto our London itinerary but is definitely worth a trip if you’re willing to pay around £30 for entrance. As the tallest building in the city, you certainly can’t beat it.
Day #4 and 5 – Green spaces and Greenwich
No London itinerary is complete without a boat cruise. We took a cruise of the River Thames and were able to see Parliament, Tower of London, The Globe Theatre and so many other important landmarks while learning about their historical significance. After our drop-off in Greenwich, we took the opportunity to explore a new area.
Greenwich is home to the National Maritime Museum and Royal Observatory, both of which are interesting to peruse. At the observatory you’ll find the Prime Meridian, the point of 0 degrees longitude where east meets west. Entry is around £15, so make sure to snap plenty of photos should you choose to go.
You’ll also find The Queen’s House right when you get to Greenwich, an important building in terms of classic architecture and royal history. Greenwich Naval College is also a royally significant piece of architecture, and was previously Greenwich Palace. Fun fact: part of The Crown was filmed here!
On our fifth day in London, the weather was a bit nicer, so we chose to head to the Regent’s Park for a picnic. Home to Primrose Hill, a number of tourists and residents go here for a great view of the city. The park itself has a rose garden, and the area is full of cafes and restaurants for grabbing a bite.
More of my favorite green spaces:
- Hyde Park: I was lucky enough to have Hyde Park basically be my backyard this past semester. It’s the perfect place to go for a stroll, have a picnic, dog-watch, and more – it’s also where you’ll find Kensington Palace, well worth a visit.
- St. James Park: We walked through St. James Park on our way to see Buckingham Palace, and were able to enjoy some picturesque views. One downside of this park, though, is that there are more birds and geese in the area than people.
- Kew Gardens: So much more than just a green space, Kew Gardens deserves its own day trip. The botanical gardens are stunningly beautiful. Kew Gardens also has a treetop walk, an art museum, and so much more to explore. Make sure you keep your map on you during your trip – it’s easy to get lost! The Kew area is a fun one to explore, with a bookstore and garden-themed cafe right off the tube stop.
Day #6 – Shopping and a show
My mother and I decided to make this our girls day. While the boys went off for a bike ride and some pub time, we hit the shops. Marylebone High Street is a high-end shopping street, so while we didn’t score too many items here, it was a beautiful street for a stroll.
Some other areas for shopping:
- Kensington High Street: This is where my family stayed to visit, and right around the corner from my dorm. It has most of the stores you’d need in a pinch, from Zara and H&M to Whole Foods and MUJI.
- Oxford Street: Similar to High Street, Oxford Street has almost all of the stores you’d look for on a shopping day. There are also a number of cafes, like Le Pain Quotdien, when you need a caffeine break.
- Spitalfields: Home to both Spitalfields Market and the best quality vintage stores, this neighborhood can’t be beat for vintage clothing. I took my family to the market and we had a great time looking through the local jewelry, clothes, accessories and more.
After perusing the stores, we went to The Ivy Cafe for lunch and afternoon tea. This cafe-style spot was adorable and the service was excellent. The menu had a ton of options, including vegetarian dishes. I went with a smoked salmon and crab sandwich with crushed avocado, and I was in foodie heaven! Plus, the entire interior is 100% Instagrammable and aesthetic.
That night, it was time to go to the theatre for a show – something that had been on the very first draft of our London itinerary! We saw Company at the Gielgud Theatre with Patti LuPone, one of my favorite actresses. The show was phenomenal and we loved our West End theatre experience!
Day #7 – Day trip to Bath & Stonehenge
On our last day we decided to take a day trip from the city. We landed on Bath & Stonehenge, craving history and a taste of England outside of London. While tour prices will vary from company to company, the general price range is around £70 a person.
After departing bright and early, our first stop was Stonehenge. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience to see one of the wonders of the world so close up. That said, it’s hard to spend more than an hour at Stonehenge, so we were thankful our tour also included a visit to Bath.
The Roman Baths are typically included in the tour of the town, but if not, we recommend paying them a visit anyhow. There is a lot of information about the construction and significance of the hot springs bath. You can even drink from the spa water fountain, which has 43 minerals and is said to have curative properties.
While the baths and spas are Bath’s biggest attraction, there are a number of things to check out as well. Take a look at our article on what to do with 24 hours in Bath for some tips and recommendations.
If you’re looking to add a day trip to your London itinerary, here are some other great options:
- Cliffs of Dover / Canterbury: I highly recommend this tour if you’re in the mood for some nature and outdoors time. We had plenty of time to walk to the lighthouse at the end and back to the entrance. I was taken away with the simple beauty of the white cliffs. Canterbury is another quaint town, and home to a crooked house said to have inspired a passage from Charles Dicken’s “David Copperfield.”
- Oxford: Oxford is a neat town to check out if you’re interested in the university life. I went on a tour through my school, but there are a lot of transportation options from London. There is the stunning Bodleian library, Radcliffe camera and the Oxford Castle. Also, of course, there are a number of pubs to check out. The Eagle and Child is one of the more famous pubs for literary buffs. While lines will be long, it might be a fun addition to your London itinerary.
While we packed our London itinerary full, there are countless other things to do in the city for a week. Whether you’re focused on shopping and roaming around or history and guided tours, one thing is for sure: you won’t find yourself bored in London.