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The Perfect First-Timer 2 Night London Stopover Itinerary

London Skyline at Sunset

I have lived in London for over five years of my life. London is an incredible city, with a rich and colorful history, incredible buildings and monuments, a great food scene, incredible theater and some of the best nightlife and entertainment you will find anywhere in the world. London is also one of the main aviation hubs in the world, connecting the USA to Europe, Asia and Africa. So chances are, you will pass through London at some time in your life, either for a layover, stopover or for a vacation.

This is my perfect first-timer itinerary for a 2 night stopover in London. 2 nights is obviously not enough, and usually I would recommend at least a week. However, this itinerary is for those of you on a tight timeline, before moving onwards to your final location, in Europe or further afield.

London Heathrow Terminal 5

How to Get from your London Airport into the City

London has 5 main airports and you will fly into one of them. The five airports are Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton, Stansted and City. London has two main central “city” areas, the West End and Bank. Your accommodation may or may not be in these areas, but this doesn’t matter as London is super easy to get around with one of the best transport networks in the world.

British Airways Concorde at London Heathrow

Getting from Heathrow into Central London

Heathrow is the fourth largest airport in the world. It is the London Airport Hub of British Airways, and has 4 terminals (labelled from Terminal 2 to Terminal 5). Luckily, if you arriving into Heathrow or departing, you have plenty of transport options to and from Central London to the airport.

Piccadilly Line

The cheapest way is the Piccadilly Line. You can take the Piccadilly line from your arrival airport directly into Central London if your hotel is near a Piccadilly line tube station. It is the cheapest, but slowest option. Depending on where your accommodation is, it usually take 40-60 minutes to get into Central London.

Elizabeth Line

The next way is the brand new Elizabeth Line, which goes from Heathrow all the way through central London to Canary Wharf, Farringdon, Paddington, and Tottenham Court Road, to name a few stations. It’s super easy and quick, and you can get to Tottenham Court Road station in 39 minutes from Heathrow Terminal 5 (only 33 minutes from Terminal 2/3). Note that the Heathrow Express leaves from Terminal 5 and passes through Terminal 2/3, so you will need to catch a connecting tube train to the Heathrow Terminal 2/3 station if you are arriving or departing Terminal 4.

Heathrow Express

If you are staying near Paddington, the quickest (but most expensive way) to get to Paddington is with the non-stop, direct Heathrow Express. It’s quick, getting you from Heathrow to Paddington in just 15 minutes from Terminal 2 and 3, and 21 minutes from Terminal 5. The train is spacious, and features charging ports for your electronics, as well as flight information boards. As an added bonus, if you hold Star Alliance Gold elite status, you can pay for a normal ticket and sit in Business First for free (by presenting your Star Alliance Gold card).


The most expensive way is getting a taxi directly from the airport, as there is an airport surcharge (including for Uber). Additionally, the Elizabeth Line and Heathrow Express are generally much quicker than driving into central London. If you are staying further away from a tube station, it would work cheapest to get a tube to the nearest tube station to your hotel, and then get a Bolt or Uber for the final stretch.

London Gatwick Airport

Getting from Gatwick into Central London


The ThamesLink train runs through Gatwick Airport, connecting passengers to Brighton in the south, and through East Croydon, London Bridge, Blackfriars, City Thameslink, Farringdon, St Pancras and further north all the way to Bedford. From the central London stations, you should be able to easily connect onto the London Underground network onto your hotel. If you are heading south to Brighton, you will need to buy a ticket from the ticket machine at the station.

Southern to London Victoria

Running on the same line as the Gatwick Express, if you are staying in the London Victoria or Westminster area, this is my preferred way to get to London Victoria. The train has only 2 stops (East Croydon and Clapham Junction) before Victoria, and only adds a few minutes to your journey time. Yet, the cost saving can be up to £8.40 per adult each way.

Gatwick Express

The Gatwick Express is the more expensive but quickest option, to get into central London from Gatwick. The train goes non-stop from Gatwick Airport to Victoria Station. The Gatwick Express only takes 30 minutes, and departs every 15 minutes.

Getting from Stansted into Central London

Stansted Express

The Stansted Express is a train connecting Stansted Airport and London Liverpool Street Station, near Bank. The train only has 2 stops, Harlow Town and Tottenham Hale, and takes 46 minutes from Stansted Airport to Liverpool Street. Trains run every 15 minutes from 6am to 12:30am.

As Stansted Airport is outside the Oyster/Contactless zone, you will need to buy a ticket from the self-service machines at the train station, and cannot use your contactless debit or credit card.

London City Airport

Getting from London City Airport into Central London

London City Airport is the closest airport to Central London. It’s super easy to get in Bank, and further onwards to the West End. The DLR connects directly from London City Airport to Bank, arriving in just 21 minutes. To get to the West End (Tottenham Court Road), you can catch the DLR to Stratford, then change onto the Elizabeth Line to Paddington. In all, you can get from London City Airport to Tottenham Court Road in roughly 33 minutes. You can use your contactless credit or debit card too, so you don’t need to buy a ticket. Very, very easy.

Getting from Luton into Central London


The brand-new Luton DART connects Luton Airport and Luton Parkway train station. The DART takes 4 minutes, and runs frequently, 24/7. The ThamesLink train travels through Luton Parkway train station, which is the closest railway station to Luton Airport. From Luton Parkway, the ThamesLink will take you to central London stations in 40-50 minutes. You can then connect onto the London Underground network, to your hotel.

Note that Luton Parkway is outside of the Contactless/Oyster zone, so you will need to buy a ticket from the self-serve machines at the station instead of tapping on with your contactless debit or credit card.

London Underground

London Transport: How to get around London

London’s transport system consists of buses, tube (subway / underground), ferries (Uber Boats), the Overground, local trains, trams and Santander Bikes. You don’t need a separate card, Oyster Card or travel card, as you can simply tap on and tap off with your contactless debit or credit card. Make sure to tap on and off with the same card. London transport has a bus and tram fare cap, and a separate underground and trains cap with a maximum fare per day, based on the zones you travel in. It’s a very easy system, and you don’t need to register. You can just tap on and go.

Leicester Square

London Stopover Day 0: West End

There is so much to do in London on your stopover, that you want to maximise your time exploring this wonderful city. Therefore, aim to arrive on an early morning flight if possible, to maximise your first day (and try and get some sleep on the plane). Today has lots of walking, to get you energized and awake. I haven’t alotted a breakfast stop in my itinerary (assuming you’ve eaten on the plane), so either pick something up from the airport on arrival, or pick something quick up close to your hotel if you are still hungry.

First things first, get from the airport to your hotel to drop off your bags. Most hotels have luggage storage facilities, allowing you to store your bags and hit the ground running. Get prepared for a full day out but try and avoid taking a backpack or handbag if possible, as you’ll head to the theater tonight. Wear comfortable walking shoes and weather-suitable clothing.

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace

Head to your nearest London Underground station and get the tube to Green Park station, which is on the Jubilee, Piccadilly and Victoria lines. You may have to connect through another station. Use Google Maps or Citymapper to find the quickest route. Exit the station and follow the signs for Buckingham Palace. You will walk through the picturesque Green Park.

Buckingham Palace is a great first stop in London. The King’s London Residence, and the home to the late Queen Elizabeth II. A London landmark, and a must-visit on your London stopover.

The Mall, London

The Mall

The long straight stretch of road in front of Buckingham Palace is known as “The Mall”. Walk all the way down it, and peek into stunning St James Park on your right. Go through the Admiralty Arch at the very end of the mall, and cross the road to your left.

Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square

You will be at Trafalgar Square. I mentioned there are two centers in London. Trafalgar Square is arguably one of the two main “centers” of London. Have a look around.

On the west side is Canada House – the Canadian Embassy. On the north side is the National Gallery. To the north right, is St Martins-in-the-Fields, and right in the center of Trafalgar Square is Nelson’s Column.

Leicester Square

Walk up towards the National Gallery, to the right and head up Charing Cross Road. Turn left up Irving Street, and into Leicester Square. Leicester Square is the heart of the West End – London’s theater and entertainment district. You will also find the TKTS booth in the southern part of Leicester Square. Here, you can get discount on-the-day theater tickets to a variety of shows around London to suit all tastes. You can also buy tickets on their website, or use the TodayTix App for lottery theater tickets, flash sales, and Rush tickets. Sort some theater tickets for tonight, for a show that meets your interests.

Covent Garden

At the top end of Leicester Square, head right and then cross the road at the lights on Charing Cross Road. Keep going straight until you see Covent Garden tube station and turn right. Head down to Covent Garden for a look around this historic area, full of cafes, restaurants, shops and street performers. Find a spot for some lunch.

Tate Modern, London
Art in Tate Modern

Tate Modern / National Gallery

This afternoon, take it easy in one of London’s fantastic and free galleries. For fans of modern art, head to Tate Modern. It is about a 30 minute walk from Covent Garden. Or, head down to Embankment Station and catch the District Line to Blackfriars, then walk across the Blackfriars Bridge. Tate Modern is one of the greatest modern art galleries in the world so well worth a visit. It also has an incredible rooftop terrace, with panoramic views over central London.

If you prefer art from the mid-13th Century through until the 1900, head the National Gallery back at Trafalgar Square. The collection consists of over 2,300 paintings, and is truly extraordinary.

Spend the afternoon wandering the halls of one of these incredible museums, and bask in the historic art from some of the world’s greatest artists.

If you are visiting the Tate Modern, head back to Trafalgar Square / Covent Garden.


Lots of restaurants in the Trafalgar Square and Covent Garden offer pre-theater dinner menus. Aim for a 5pm or 5:30pm dinner at any restaurant in the area that suits. Do use Google Maps to find the specific theater of your show, as some are further away than others and may require you to leave earlier and take a bus or the Underground. Aim to get to the theater at least 15-30 minutes before the show time.

London Theatre, Dear Evan Hansen

Theater (Optional)

Spend your evening at the Theater show of your choice. London has one of the best theater and performing art scenes anywhere in the world. It is optional, but I would strongly recommend seeing a show on your London stopover.

Take a bus or the Tube back to your accommodation.

Map and Walking Directions

For walking directions of Day 0 including the Tate Modern, click on the map below. The total walking distance is 4.6 miles (7.4km), plus the walk to the theater after dinner.

For walking directions of Day 0 including the National Gallery, click on the map below. The total walking distance is 2.7 miles (4.3km), plus the walk to the theater after dinner.

City of London Skyline, Sunset.

London Stopover Day 1: Bank and the City of London

After an exhausting day yesterday, try and get up early as possible, otherwise sleep in and skip the first activity. Head from your hotel via the Tube to Bank (or Monument) station. Bank Station has the most escalators of any underground station, and 16 exits. Together with Monument Station, which is linked underground, the 2 stations serve 6 tube lines, including the DLR. A maze of chaos, but bear with me.

From Monument or Bank Station, look for the “Fish Street Hill” exit. If you arrive into Bank, you may need to go deeper underground and then back up the escalators and stairs. Alternatively, you can find the closest exit to street level from Bank Station, and follow Google Maps or Citymapper walking directions to help you get your bearings. Then walk up and right along Eastcheap to Sky Garden, located in the “Walkie Talkie”.

Sky Garden, London

Sky Garden

Sky Garden is an incredible public urban garden on top of the “Walkie Talkie” building. It’s free to enter, but you generally need tickets during most of the day. Tickets generally sell out around 2 weeks in advance, and are only released in very limited quantities.

My secret hack is to head to Sky Garden approximately 30 minutes ahead of the ticketed hours, as you can just walk-in, and won’t need a ticket. This means that on weekdays, arrive there at approximately 9:30am, and on weekends, before 10:30am. Do note, there is airport-style security at the entrance, so don’t take too much baggage with you. Once up the elevator, there are cafes and restaurants, so grab a coffee and pastry, or breakfast, and enjoy the incredible view. At the beginning of ticketed hours, the outdoor terrace opens, so you’ll be able to go outside and take plenty of pictures.

Once you’re done, head down the elevator and use Google Maps or Citymapper to head to The Garden at 120, which is just around the corner.

Tower Bridge, London

The Garden at 120

The Garden at 120 might just be my favourite hidden rooftop in London. An open air public park awaits, on top of an office building. Take the elevator up, and explore the different views of the London skyline around the building. The Garden at 120 has possibly one of my favourite views of the Tower of London. A stunning hidden space that you shouldn’t miss.

Tower Bridge, London

Tower Bridge / Tower of London

Walk down to the Tower of London. This historic castle with a dark past is home to the Crown Jewels. Feel free to buy a ticket and explore, or else skip it and head to the Tower Bridge instead.

The Tower Bridge is located right in front. A London landmark, the Tower Bridge features elevated glass walkways over the iconic bridge, 42 meters above the River Thames. Buy a ticket (in advance if you can), then head to the entrance at the base of the north west tower to access.

Paella at Borough Market, London

Borough Market

After you’ve worked up an appetite, walk from the Tower Bridge along The Queens Walk to Borough Market. You’ll walk past City Hall, HMS Belfast, and The Shard.

Borough Market is a hive of activity, with many lunch stalls, restaurants, shops, greengrocers, butchers, fishmongers and so much more. Have a walk around, grab some lunch and go for a glass of wine on the upstairs terrace at Bedales of Borough Market.

Bonus: Across the road from Bedales is the Globe Tavern. Look out for (and take a picture) of the door up to Bridget Jones’ flat, from the trilogy of infamous movies. A must-stop for Bridget Jones’ superfans.

London Mithraeum

London Mithraeum

After lunch, head across London Bridge (the actual London Bridge is quite underwhelming) back towards Bank. In the basement of the Bloomberg offices, is a museum dedicated to the archeological remains of a Roman temple found under the site of the office, when it was under construction. I’ve been a few times now, and find all the meticulously-preserved historic pieces fascinating. And the temple itself is incredible. Entry is free, and you don’t need to sort a ticket in advance.

Bank of England


Right outside the Mithraeum is the historic Mansion House, which is the official residence of the Lord Mayor of London. Across the road is the Bank of England, with an incredibly detailed façade. Possibly, one of the most important financial buildings in the world. To the right, across the road, is the Royal Exchange. A deeply historic building, steeped in history. Have a look around and take lots of pictures of this incredible spot, at the centre of the world.

Moment to the Great Fire of London, London

Monument (Optional)

Head to the Moment to the Great Fire of London. A hidden gem in London, that many tourists miss on their stopover or longer vacation here. Its optional as it is 311 steps to the top, so skip this if you are tired or have mobility issues. All those stairs are worth it, as you will be rewarded with the best 360 degree view of the London skyline. It could possibly be the highlight of your London stopover.

Tickets are only £6 ($7.60), which you can buy from the base. Monument closes at 6pm with the last entry at 5:30, so bear that in mind.

The Ned, London

The Nickel Bar at The Ned

Head to The Ned, just down the road. Inside, is an incredible food hall built within the old banking chamber with a variety of bars and restaurants. Note that the Nickel Bar is walk-in only. Get here early as it will get full, seven days a week. Grab a drink, or a glass of wine, and enjoy the fantastic live music. You could also get some food from the Nickel Bar for dinner, or Cecconis for Italian, Malibu Kitchen for Californian cuisine, or Kaia for Asia-Pacific cusine.

Alternatively, grab some dinner takeaway on your way back to your accommodation, when you finally decide to call it a night.

Map and Walking Directions

For walking directions for Day 1, click on the map below. The total walking distance is 3.1 miles (4.3km).

London Stopover Day 2: Until Next Time, London

Get packed, enjoy a sleep in and get ready for your flight from London. Follow the “How to Get from your London Airport into the City” steps above in reverse order to get back to the airport of your departure. If you get lost, use Google Maps or Citymapper.

Bank, London


After living in London for the last five years, this is, in my opinion, the perfect way to spend a 2 night stopover on your first trip to London. There is so much to do here, but this taster itinerary will leave you wanting to plan your next trip to this amazing city. This itinerary maximizes the stopover time you have in London, and is very full on, so readjust activities to suit your energy levels, especially if you didn’t manage to catch any sleep on the plane or are suffering from jetlag.

Have an amazing stopover in London!