London is so jam-packed that you could easily spend a lifetime exploring it. But with centrally located accommodation and a seven-day itinerary that balances unmissable experiences with new attractions and some local go-tos, you’ll be well placed to sample the best of the city. Whether you’re a first-timer or frequent visitor looking for a fresh perspective, here’s how to get a taste of London’s historic hotspots, glorious gardens, singular shopping and buzzing restaurants.
Drop your bags at The Goring, the elegant family-owned hotel where Kate Middleton spent her last night before the royal wedding, then board a hop-on hop-off bus. Yes, the “hoho” double-deckers are full of tourists but there’s no better way to get to know – or reacquaint yourself – with Central London’s layout while ticking off sights like Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament (Palace of Westminster) and Westminster Abbey.
Wander back to The Goring (it’s close to Buckingham Palace) for a G&T overlooking the private garden followed by dinner in the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant. The lobster omelette is a popular choice, but you can also expect British classics like beef wellington and dover sole with smoked caviar and crème fraiche.
Fill up on a full English breakfast, lace up your sneakers and get set for a day of exploring on foot. The first stop is the South Bank, a traffic-free stretch between Westminster and London bridges that includes landmarks like the National Theatre and London Eye. Head to the Tate Modern to be wowed by works from the likes of Picasso, Dali, Rothko and Warhol before stopping for some street food or making your way to Borough Market, one of the city’s oldest – and most atmospheric – food markets.
Cross back over the Thames and swing by Trafalgar Square, The National Gallery and St James’s Park en route to The Thomas Cubitt in Belgravia, a bustling gastropub known for roast dinners, handmade pies and an extensive wine list.
Once a down-and-out transit hub, King’s Cross has been transformed into one of London’s trendiest neighbourhoods. Spend the morning traipsing through Camley Street Natural Park, a revamped urban nature reserve, and visit The British Library, where you can find a copy of every book published in the UK and Ireland. Don’t miss Coal Drops Yard, the Thomas Heatherwick-designed shopping district filled with luxury boutiques such as Paul Smith, A.P.C. and Aesop plus a buzzy indoor-outdoor dining area.
Come nightfall, snag a table at Decimo, a Mexican restaurant at The Standard’s retro-chic London outpost that serves up zingy mezcal cocktails, spectacular views of the city skyline and top-notch people spotting.
Since launching in 2020, the London Mural Festival has sponsored over 50 large-scale works across the city. Download a map and make your way to Shoreditch to spot the recent cluster of boldly coloured walls alongside decades-old pieces by street artists like Banksy. Grab lunch at local favourite Leila’s, a haven of regional produce, and peruse the area’s many galleries, hip homewares stores and old-school pubs.
Catch the tube back to your hotel for a quick refresh before a night in the West End – if you haven’t pre-booked a show, snag last-minute tickets at the TKTS booth in Leicester Square. Afterwards, take a short walk to Frenchie in Covent Garden for the post-theatre set menu; highlights include the famous bacon scones served warm with Cornish clotted cream and maple syrup.
Start the day with a spin through Hyde Park; bikes are available for hire at Santander docking stations and the designated cycling tracks guarantee a picturesque ride. Afterwards, stroll towards Marylebone’s upscale eateries and luxury shopping on Bond Street (extra points for stocking up on British brands like Alexander McQueen, Burberry and Church’s). Got kids in tow? Seek out family-friendly attractions like The Sherlock Holmes Museum or the London Zoo.
Stop for drinks and dinner with a side of celebrity-spotting at Chiltern Firehouse, an 1889 fire station turned plush boutique hotel and restaurant frequented by Victoria Beckham, Bella Hadid, Joan Collins and many more.
Ready for a break from the city hustle and bustle? Get some country air on a day trip out of town. The beaches of Brighton, Oxford’s grand Gothic architecture and the hot springs in Bath are all great options, but history and TV buffs won't be able to resist a tour of Highclere Castle, the 404-hectare manor made famous by Downton Abbey. It’s a 90-minute drive west of London, or better yet book a Belmond British Pullman package that includes a round trip aboard the luxuriously restored 1920s train, brunch, a private tour of the Jacobethan-style mansion and a three-course dinner that would do the Crawley family proud on your journey home.
On your last morning in London, walk through the charming residential streets and rainbow-hued townhouses of Notting Hill to find your way to Portobello Road. You might not run into Hugh Grant, but the antique stalls, vintage clothing stores and designer boutiques are sure to keep you occupied. Pick up a hearty salad at Ottolenghi Notting Hill, the best-selling author’s first shop, or try a made-for-Instagram Butterfly blue matcha latte at Farm Girl.
Post-lunch, see if you can spot Kate and Wills at Kensington Palace, a 10-minute walk away. Tour Queen Victoria’s childhood rooms and the immaculate grounds before heading back to The Goring to plan your next trip over an afternoon tea of pastries, freshly baked scones and finger sandwiches.