London is a boundless bountiful hoard of things to see, do and eat.
Planning a short vacation to the UK’s mega metropolis will inflict decision anxiety even on the most ruthless Viking-like traveller. How do you trim down a mammoth wish list of attractions into a mere 5-day itinerary?
Accept the reality that it’s impossible to explore all of London’s museums, art galleries, and cultural icons in 1 trip, but I’m here to help.
Inhale… Exhale… Now feel all of that rigid travel-planning tension leave your body.
Like Michelangelo meticulously carving David out of the giant marble block, I’ve expertly crafted this 5-day London itinerary to combine Turbopass inclusions with a generous sprinkling of museums, galleries and city icons.
Watch out London, here we come!
View of St Paul’s Cathedral from the Millennium Bridge
About Turbopass London City Pass
The Turbopass London City Pass comes as a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 or 7-day pass with or without public transport and ranges from £66.90 to £202.90. Your Turbopass provides entry to Madame Tussauds, London Eye, London Dungeon, the View from the Shard, the Tower of London, Shrek Adventure, Kensington Palace, the Banqueting House, Royal Observatory Greenwich, Cutty Sark Museum Ship, and the Wimbledon Tennis Museum, as well as 2 walking tours, a hop-on hop-off bus, and a river cruise down the Thames. It also provides discounts on shopping and tours.
Your Turbopass will be sent electronically to either print at home or save on your smartphone. If you choose to include public transport, a prepaid reloadable Oyster Card will be sent to your home address so make sure to allow enough time for postage before you leave. The value on your Oyster Card will depend on the number of days on your Turbopass.
This itinerary works best with a Turbopass 5-day London City Pass with public transport costing £167.90. That’s quite the saving considering entry to each attraction would otherwise cost around £20-£30. The more you see, the more you save and my 5-day itinerary visits almost every included Turbopass attraction to give you the most value.
Tip: Opening hours of most London attractions vary between summer and winter. This itinerary assumes you’ll visit in summer when it’s less likely to rain. I suggest visiting London in early July when the weather is warm but before the summer school holiday crowds descend.
9:15am – See London from a Double Decker Hop-on Hop-Off Bus
Before starting your first day of sightseeing, you’ll need to collect your hop-on hop-off bus and river cruise tickets from Big Bus Tours at either Green Park (#stop 1), Victoria Station (stop #22), or Woburn (stop #37). Just present your Turbopass to receive the tickets. Bus tickets are valid for 24-hours and can be used on 4 bus lines (red, blue, green, and orange) but we’ll stick to the red line for this itinerary.
Assuming you collect your tickets from Green Park, aim to arrive at 9:15am, get your tickets, and catch the 9:30am red bus line from stop #1 Green Park to stop #9 Craig’s Court. Buses run every 15-20 minutes and can be tracked on the Big Bus Tours mobile app (iOS, Android). Enjoy the 30-minute journey while listing to a live tour guide sharing fascinating facts about London’s landmarks.
10am – Marvel at the Oldest Tudor Palace in Central London
Walk 3 minutes south from Craig’s Court to the Banqueting House, the only remaining section of King Henry VIII’s beloved Whitehall Palace. The rest of the palace (along with most other buildings in central London) was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666. All that remains is the palace dining room, now called the Banqueting House, decorated with exquisite frescos and furnishings that hint at the lavish lifestyles enjoyed by the Tudor dynasty.
Scan your Turbopass at the ticket desk for entry.
Hours: 10am – 5pm daily
11am – Watch the Changing of the Guard outside Buckingham Palace
Aim to leave the Banqueting House by 10:40am and cross the Whitehall Road for a quick photo with the Horse Guard.
The changing of the guard ceremony is on at 11am every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, providing there’s not too much rain. I suggest arriving at least 5-10 minutes early to grab a spot close to the railing for the best views of the guards marching accompanied by a grand marching band.
Once the guards have passed, make your way through the crowds to snap a selfie outside Buckingham Palace. The best photo spot is the grassed area on the east side of the Victoria Memorial.
Golden statue of Victory on top of Victoria Memorial
Tip: Remember to use the Big Bus Tours mobile app to track the next bus.
2pm – Be Dazzled by the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London
Your Turbopass includes entry to London’s only medieval castle, the Tower of London and a 1-hour tour. Tours are led by official London Tower guards traditionally named Yeoman Warders but more commonly called Beefeaters. Scan your Turbopass at the “Group Ticket” desk for entry and join the next Beefeater tour for an overview of the Tower’s history as a royal residence, zoo, prison, and torture chamber. Tours run every 30 minutes with the last tour starting at 3.30pm.
After your tour, further explore the complex at your own leisure. I suggest climbing the tower’s east-facing walls for views of the Thames and iconic Tower Bridge, wandering through the medieval torture chamber, and of course, visiting the priceless Crown Jewels.
Next, walk north over Tower Bridge and catch the City Sightseeing Cruise from Tower Millennium Pier to Westminster Pier. The 30-minute cruise leaves every 20 minutes, just hand in the cruise ticket you collected earlier and jump onboard.
5pm – Cross Westminster Bridge to the London Eye
Take a short walk north along Victoria Embankment to one of London’s most famous Instagram spots and snap a photo with the London Eye. You might even catch a show by a talented street busker if you’re lucky. Next, walk about 10 minutes across Westminster Bridge to the London Eye. Stop in the middle of the bridge for a classic photo of Westminster Palace and Big Ben.
5:30pm – End your Day on a High at the London Eye
The London Eye is one of the most popular attractions in London and ticket holders are allocated a timeslot to join the line. If you can, I strongly recommend going to the London Eye ticket office the day before your visit, scanning your Turbopass and requesting a ticket for your desired day and time. Otherwise, cross your fingers that the “standard ticket” queue isn’t too long and join that to be allocated the next available timeslot.
Once you make it through the queue to get your ticket, wait for your allocated timeslot, and then get through the actual queue to ride the London Eye, it’s time to jump in a glass pod with about 12 other people and slowly ascend 135 metres into the sky. The movement is so smooth and slow I barely noticed it. The only giveaway was the gently changing landscape below. What a magical way to see London!
Hours: 10am – 5pm daily
London Eye Tip: It can’t hurt walking to the fast-track entry instead of the regular queue “by accident” – you might just get lucky!
Entrance to St Paul’s Cathedral is not included in your Turbopass, but I recommend visiting anyway for the grand architecture and religious/historical significance. Tickets can be bought online for £17 and include an audio guide or live guided tour.
After scanning my printed ticket for entry, I met volunteer guides Alec and Brian for the next group tour. The guides explained the current St Paul’s, designed by Christopher Wren, is the 5th cathedral to stand on this site, with the first cathedral dating back to 604AD. They shared fascinating stories of the cathedral’s construction, architecture, mammoth dome, and minimalistic decorations.
After the tour, I wandered through the cathedral at my own leisure, and explored the underground crypt and its several memorials and tombs, including those of Florence Nightingale and Admiral Nelson. You can also climb 528 steps to the top of the dome if you’re feeling fit, but I gave that one a big miss. I learned my lesson in Florence.
Hours: 8:30am – 4pm Monday to Saturday
10:30am – Marvel at St Paul’s from the One New Change Rooftop
To see St Paul’s dome from the best angle, walk 2 minutes east to the One New Change retail complex and take the elevator to the 5th level rooftop (it’s free). Here, you’ll find an alfresco café/bar as well as panoramic views over London.
11:00am – Learn London’s History at the Museum of London.
Walk 5 minutes north to the Museum of London which is free to enter. This marvellous museum presents the history of London from way back in prehistoric times right up to the 21st century. It’s quite astounding to see the detailed information archaeologists can glean from ancient rocks, fossils and artefacts discovered around London.
Exhibits include early human and animal skeletons; pottery and tools from the Roman empire and the original Roman city walls; information on key events from London’s history like the monarchy, medieval plagues, and the Great Fire of 1666; and a recreated Victorian street providing a glimpse into 1800’s London.
Hours: 10am – 6pm daily
12:30pm – Lunch
Choose a nearby restaurant to stop for lunch. I recommend plant-based restaurant Stem and Glory, but you might need to book online in advance.
1.30pm – Sample Signature Tea at Twining’s Tea Shop & Museum
The store’s quaint facade conceals one of the largest selections of tea I’ve ever seen. Some varieties of tea are available in your local supermarket but others, like the premium loose-leaf range, are only available in this store. Go right to the back of the store to see a small museum with antique teapots and old tea trade records and a tasting station to sample varieties of iced and hot tea. If you love tea, prepare for a tea-gasm. I doubt you’ll leave this store empty handed.
Most of the library’s priceless texts lie within the John Ritblat Gallery which is free to enter. Original texts on display include Michelangelo’s sketchbooks; the first complete folio of William Shakespeare works (without which several of his plays would have been lost); historical letters detailing alliances and war plans; handwritten sheet music by Beethoven and Mozart; 2 of the 3 earliest bible manuscripts (the Alexandrino Codex and the Sinaiticus Codex); and 2 of the 13 copies of the 1215 AD Magna Carta.
I can’t overemphasise the importance of this historic collection. A large number of texts on display have fundamentally shaped the development of science, arts, politics and religion. Well, perhaps not the 14th century text stating that Stonehenge was magically moved to England by the magician Merlin. Let’s just skip over that one.
The Magna Carta
3:30pm – Marvel at Past Civilisations at the British Museum
If you’ve ever wondered what life was like for the most prominent civilisations throughout history The British Museum is the place to go. No other museum in the world has so many historically significant artefacts from civilisations like the Egyptians, Assyrians, Persians, Vikings, Europeans, Chinese, and Japanese side by side under one roof, proving these ancient civilisations were far more advanced than you may expect.
The museum is a 17-minute walk south from the British Library and is free to enter.
You have absolutely zero chance of seeing everything this world-class museum has to offer in one visit, so choose exhibits you most want to see on the map and head straight there. I recommend seeing the Rosetta Stone (used to translate Egyptian hieroglyphics) in room 4; stone slabs depicting the Assyrian lion hunt in room 10; the original marble inserts from the Greek Parthenon in room 18; the Anglo-Saxon Sutton Hoo Helmet in room 41; and the Gebelein Man (a 5,000-year-old preserved Egyptian corpse) in room 64.
Present your Turbopass at the “View from the Shard” ticket desk and ride the elevator up to the level 69 viewing platform. After a loop around the to admire the city, take the stairs to the open-roof viewing gallery on level 72. The open roof gallery is a really nice touch, with a gentle fresh breeze and bright-coloured AstroTurf. Show your Turbopass at the nearest bar for £3 off a glass of champagne to sip while trying to recognise the iconic buildings below.
Hours: vary depending on seasons and events. Usually 10am – 10pm but check online before visiting
View of River Thames and Canary Wharf in the background
7pm – Dinner on the River
Walk 8 minutes west for dinner at Anchor Bankside. On the way, stop in the centre of London Bridge to admire the Thames River and Tower Bridge.
View of Tower Bridge from London Bridge
10am – Take a Selfie with your favourite Star Wars character at Madame Tussauds
London was home to the original Madame Tussauds Wax Museum so it’s no surprise that this Madame Tussauds is one of the biggest in the world, with waxy versions of the British Royal Family, scenes from your favourite Star Wars and Marvel movies, and A-list celebrities like Kim and Kanye, Victoria and David Beckham, George Clooney, and Dame Helen Mirren.
Like the London Eye, Madame Tussauds operates a timeslot system so if you can, get your Turbopass scanned the day before and request a ticket for the day and time you want to visit. Otherwise, the next available timeslot shouldn’t be too long a wait first thing in the morning. First go to Door 2 to scan your Turbopass and be allocated a timeslot, then enter through Door 1 at your allocated time.
Hours: 10am – 6pm daily
12pm – Relive the 60’s at the London Beatle’s store
If you’re a closet Beatles fan, or know someone who is, walk 5 minutes west to the London Beatles Store and pick up Beatles merchandise or memorabilia. Items for sale include clothing, CDs, books, guitar accessories, signed autographs, homewares, and knick-knacks and souvenirs. Your Turbopass will get you a free gift when you spend over £5.
To save time, take a 10-minute Uber or taxi to the next stop, Kensington Palace and show your Turbopass at the ticket desk. Kensington was once home to royals including Queen Victoria, King George II and Princess Dianna, and now features exhibits showcasing their lives.
Start upstairs at the Young Victoria exhibit which presents Kensington as Queen Victoria’s childhood home. Items on display include her childhood toys and furniture, information on her family and upbringing, her coronation regalia, and jewellery designed for her by Prince Albert. A separate exhibit showcases Victoria’s reign with family photographs, videos, outfits, and information on key events like the industrial revolution and establishing trade with India.
Other exhibits present outfits worn by Princess Dianna, and the apartments of King George II and his wife Caroline.
Hours: 10am – 6pm daily
2:30pm – Explore Art and Design at the Victoria and Albert Museum
Next are the 3 South Kensington Museums which are all free to enter. Catch a 5-minute Uber or taxi or walk 20 minutes south to start at the Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum. The V&A Museum was founded in 1857 as the South Kensington Museum with an aim to educate British citizens on the principals of art and design. That mission is still visible today through exhibits showcasing the evolution in art & design fields, a dedicated art and design library, and students sketching copies of masterpieces on display.
The museum’s exhibits honour every type of art imaginable including painting, sculpture, jewellery, photography, tapestry, fashion design, theatre and opera, gold and silver work, and stained glass. Some exhibits showcase styles from specific regions, themes or eras like Korea, Japan, China, Islamic, and the Renaissance.
There are more items to see here than time will allow so choose what you want to see on a map and go straight there. My favourite collections are photography (rooms 99-101), showcasing photos from the invention of photography in the 1830s to the best of today’s digital photography; and the cast courts (rooms 46a-46b) featuring copies of some of the world’s most treasured masterpieces like Michelangelo’s David and the Roman Forum’s Trajan’s Column.
4pm – Visit the Science Museum or Natural History Museum
It’s impossible to visit all 3 South Kensington Museums in one afternoon, so choose between the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum (both 2-mintutes walk from the V&A Museum).
Option 1 – Science Museum
The main exhibits in the Science Museum are dedicated to space, human anatomy, and technology with items including the first steam engines, self-driving cars, planes, motorboats, spacecraft, and space stations.
My favourite exhibit was “Top Secret”, dedicated to the history of codebreaking and cyber security. The basement-level exhibit is free but does require a ticket in exchange for your name and email address. Items on display include the first codebreaking techniques used by the ancient Greeks and the evolution of code breaking through WWI and WWII to our current era of Big Data and cyber security. Don’t miss the WWII Enigma machine and information on how German messages were intercepted to help win the war for Britain.
The museum is very family friendly with several interactive exhibits and play stations for children.
Hours: 10am – 6pm daily
Option 2: Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum is dedicated to the evolution of our world over 4.5 billion years. Exhibits include information on earthquakes, volcanoes, human anatomy, the solar system, fossils, and animated dinosaurs. Don’t miss the giant blue whale skeleton in “Hintze Hall”, an Archaeopteryx fossil in “the Treasures Gallery” and a rock from Mars in “The Vault”,
Hours: 10am – 5:50pm daily
5:30pm – Head to the Theatre District for Dinner and a Show
No trip to London is complete without a visit to the theatre, with dozens of world-class performances showing daily. Options include the Lion King, Wicked, the Phantom of the Opera, the Book of Mormon, and Mamma Mia!, to name a few. I recommend Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theatre which is by far the best production I’ve seen in terms of acting and vocal talent, set design, and costumes. Tickets can be pre-booked online and collected from the theatre at 7pm for a 7:30pm start. I recommend booking a nearby restaurant for dinner like Il Posto or M Victoria Street.
Is it ever too early for chocolate? I don’t think so, and since Turbopass holders get 15% off at M&Ms World, start your day with a stash of your favourite coloured M&Ms from the world’s largest candy store – yep, there’s 4 floors of chocolate.
Next, take a look around nearby Chinatown and Leicester Square on the way to the National Gallery (a 3-minute walk south from M&Ms World).
10am – Marvel at the National Gallery
The National Gallery is to art lovers what the British Museum is to history buffs. Masterpieces by some of the world’s most renowned artists from the Renaissance through to the 1900s hang side-by-side in this maze-like gallery. It might not be as spacious as the Louvre in Paris, however that’s a good thing. Few art museums in the world better showcase the transition from classical art to Renaissance to impressionism with so many famous examples. And entry is completely free!
I suggest choosing the pieces you most want to see on a map and visiting them first. Some pieces not to be missed include Michelangelo’s unfinished “Manchester Madonna” in room 8; Rembrandt’s “Self-Portraits” in room 22 and “Belshazzar’s Feast” in room 24; Caravaggio’s “The Supper at Emmaus” in room 31; Monet’s “Irises” and “Water Lilly Pond” in room 41; Renoir’s “The Skiff” in room 41; Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” in room 42 and “Chair” in room 43; Botticelli’s “Venus and Mars” in room 58; and Da Vinci’s “Virgin on the Rocks” in room 66. And that’s my short list!
12:30pm – Lunch at Trafalgar Square
Find a restaurant for lunch near Trafalgar Square. This time try The Chandos for traditional English pub food.
1:30pm – Get your Entertainment Fix at the London Dungeon or Shrek’s Adventure
Catch a 13-minute underground (northern line) from Charing Cross Station to Waterloo Underground Station to visit either the London Dungeon or Shrek’s Adventure London. The London Dungeon can be a little on the scary side so I recommend choosing Shrek’s Adventure if you’re a sensitive soul or travelling with kids. Both attractions are included in your Turbopass and operate a timeslot system, so you’ll need to show your Turbopass at the ticket counter to be allocated a timeslot, then join the queue at your allocated time. Again, if you can, get your ticket and timeslot a day before.
Option 1: London Dungeon
The London Dungeon transports you back in time to the most gruesome parts of London’s history for a 2-hour long interactive show. Talented and very believable characters share the bloody stories of Jack the Ripper, Sweeny Todd, and Guy Fawkes, to name a few, in dim-lit rooms with authentic dungeon smells and eerie atmospheres. The journey starts with a Henry VIII themed boat ride and ends with an exhilarating drop ride. The actors’ commitment to the gory theme is impressive and proves London’s acting talent isn’t reserved for the West End.
Shrek’s Adventure is a 2-hour long interactive journey through the world of Shrek including a 4D bus ride from London to the Land of Far, Far Away; a series of interactive live shows featuring characters and scenes from the Shrek movies; and photo opportunities with your favourite Shrek characters.
4pm – Get a Taste for Contemporary Art at Tate Modern
Walk 20 minutes northeast along the river or catch a 20-minute ferry from London Eye Waterloo Pier to Bankside to marvel at some of the world’s best modern and contemporary art at Tate Modern. If this is your first experience with modern art, I suggest following the gallery’s “Getting Started” guide (level 2), otherwise simply wander around at your own leisure. Entry to Tate Modern is free.
Tate Modern is located in the old Bankside Power Station across two buildings, the Blavatnik Building and the Natalie Bell Building. Free displays include artist rooms on level 4 east of the Blavatnik building, featuring works by the likes of Ed Ruscha, who skilfully combines photography and typography in a thought-provoking way; and the Materials and Objects exhibit on level 4 west of the Natalie Bell building, that proves absolutely anything can be seen as art, even a graffitied urinal.
If you’re feeling up to it, squeeze in another theatre show – you are in London after all! I recommend the Book of Mormon if you don’t mind your cultural group, religious group, or any other aspect of your personality being the butt end of a hilarious joke. My stomach muscles ached from laughter by the end of the devilishly sacrilegious show.
9:15am – Take the Ferry to the Royal Observatory of Greenwich
The observatory’s main attraction is undoubtedly the Prime Meridian Line, the point from which all time zones in the world are measured. Make sure you take the classic photo with one foot on either side of the line before exploring other attractions, like exhibits on early astronomy, navigating, and time keeping demonstrating the evolution in development of telescopes, compasses, and clocks.
Entry to the Royal Observatory of Greenwich is included in your Turbopass.
11:30pm – Get a taste of the Life at Sea Aboard the Cutty Sark Museum Ship
Walk 11 minutes northwest to the riverside Cutty Sark Museum Ship and show your Turbopass for entry. Cutty Sark was the fastest sailing ship in the world during the late 1800s when it was first used in the tea trade, then wool trade. The ship is now a fascinating museum with deck access to see living and working conditions for the ship’s crew, and a glass structure to see underneath the bronze hull.
After lunch, catch the ferry back to Westminster Pier. Ferries run every 20 minutes and you must be back in Westminster by about 1:45pm.
2pm – See Filming Locations from the Harry Potter Movies on a Walking Tour
Your Turbopass includes 1 walking tour to explore the filming locations of either James Bond, Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter, or Doctor Who. You just need to reserve a place by emailing through your preferred tour, date, and time and a copy of your Turbopass at least 24 hours in advance (detailed instructions included with the Turbopass pack).
4:30pm – Take in City Views from a Fairy-Tale-Like Garden.
After the tour, walk 2 minutes south from Leadenhall Market to Sky Garden, located on the 35th floor of the skyscraper nicknamed “the Walkie Talkie”. Entrance to Sky Garden is free but tickets must be reserved online in advance. I suggest reserving your tickets at least 2-3 weeks in advance to secure your preferred date and time. It’s also a good idea to arrive a few minutes early to get through the queue and security check.
On the 35th floor, you’ll be met with the best free views over London and a flourishing indoor garden. I suggest walking up the stairs to take a loop of the 36th floor before admiring the city from the 35th floor balcony. There’s also a few bars and cafes to rest your legs and enjoy a drink with a view.
6pm – Snap an Instagram-Worthy Photo at St Dunstan in the East Church Garden
While you’re in the mood for picturesque greenery, walk 2 minutes south to St Dunstan in the East Church Garden, a quiet pocket of paradise tucked away amongst soaring skyscrapers. Besides being completely fascinating to visit, the church’s ruined medieval archways make for the perfect Instagram photo.
Hours: 8am – 7pm daily
I’m totally not posting, I always sit like this
6:30pm: Dinner and Drinks
For your last supper in London, walk 6 minutes north to The Crosse Keys for a traditional English pub meal paired with a locally brewed beer or cider.
If you’re lucky enough to have more than 5 days in London, try to visit the 2 Turbopass attractions not included on this itinerary, the Wimbledon Tennis Museum and a walking tour following in the footsteps of the Royal Family to the Great Address. You could also make the most of additional discounts like 20% off Red Bike Tours.
The Bottom Line
That was a big one.
London started life 2000 years ago as a backwater town at the edge of the Roman empire. But now it’s one of the world’s greatest and most influential cities, showcasing humanity’s monumental achievements.
Pffft! Don’t let that grandeur intimidate you.
With a Turbopass 5-day London City Pass and my plump juicy itinerary in your hot little hands, rest assured you will feel like you’ve done this majestic city justice.
Take that, FOMO!
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