Jolly old London-Town has been a place of fascination for me ever since I was a little girl. Its epic history filled with royals, intrigue, and power struggles drew me in immediately. Once I read “Peter Pan”, “Harry Potter”, and a handful of Jane Austen novels, the deal was sealed. I was in love.
Visiting England was the first international trip I ever took, and it set the stage for a lifelong love of travel for me. This country is dear to my heart, and I hope you enjoy the great eight day England itinerary I did!:
A map overview of my 8 day England itinerary:
Day 1: Arrive into London
Arrive into the city, settle in to your hotel, and explore the surrounding neighborhood on foot. We stayed near Kensington High Street, and it was a safe and easily navigable area. Dive right in to the local London fare, and opt for some fish and chips for dinner! Read on for great restaurants in the Kensington area, and for ideas on hostels in London!
Day 2: The London Icons
Start early with some classic English tea, and then you’re off to explore the nation’s capital! Hop on London’s user-friendly subway system (known as “the tube“). Pop out at the “Westminster” stop, and emerge to see the famous Houses of Parliament, and Big Ben. Contrary to popular belief, the bell is named “Big Ben”, not the tower that houses it!
After your fill of photos, head inside the adjacent Westminster Abbey. Originally built in 1045, this insanely historic religious building is something you honestly cannot miss. Tickets cost 20£ online and 22£ at the door. A guided audio tour is included in your admission, and takes around one hour. If you wish to go inside to pray for a moment, but not tour the site, you should enter via the West Gate.
Afterwards, walk 15 minutes towards Buckingham Palace. It is the administrative headquarters for the monarchy, and boasts 775 rooms! This grand structure is a bucket-list item for a London first-timer. While touristy, sticking around to watch the iconic beef-eater soldiers participate in the “Changing of the Guards” ceremony is a worthwhile activity. Be sure to check the schedule at the time of your visit to the palace.
Next up, stroll about 7 minutes towards Saint James’s Palace. If you love the Elizabethan era of British history, and anything to do with the famed Tudor family, you have to stop here! This is the palace where King Henry VIII lived, and it’s rumored to be haunted. The palace is not open to the public, but is worth viewing from the outside. Nearby, take note of all the iconic “Dickensian” era buildings on the Pall Mall too!
From there, take the tube to Saint Paul’s Cathedral. It’s known as the location where Prince Charles and Princess Diana were married, but it’s also mentioned in “Mary Poppins” and many other pieces of British literature. Next up, go towards Trafalgar Square. This grand site commemorates a victory in Spain during the Napoleonic Wars. While you’re out, be on the lookout for those iconic zig-zag lines painted on the streets, and stop in a British pub for lunch and a pint!
Next, head to the infamous and eerie Tower of London. An entry ticket is £21.50, and a guided tour from the tower’s guards (known as the Yeoman Warders) is included. It is worth it to do the tour, as they will fill you in on its fascinating history in a way that a self-guided tour never could. You will learn about its gruesome tales of torture, execution and royal sagas, and finish by seeing the Crown Jewels. Out in the courtyard, take a moment to see the spot where they executed Anne Boleyn. Rumor has it that her forlorn spirit haunts the grounds to this day! If you have a strong stomach, you can check out the medieval torture exhibition as well. After seeing the “Traitor’s Gate” and the tower’s huge resident ravens, step outside the complex towards the Tower Bridge.
The Tower Bridge is London’s most visually appealing and iconic bridge. Everyone seems to mistakenly think this is “London Bridge”, but that is actually a less ornate bridge nearby. Walk across the Tower Bridge, and then stroll along the river Thames for 20 minutes, passing the Borough Market, until you arrive at Shakespeare’s Globe Theater. If the timing works out, checking out a play here would be an amazing experience! Where you finish up the evening is up to you, but this post could provide some good ideas!
DAY 3- London: Kensington & Knightsbridge
Today, head towards the idyllic green spaces of Kensington Gardens. Spend as long as you like meandering around its 265 acres. At some point, go inside and tour Kensington Palace, which is inside the park complex. It is notable for many reasons, including Queen Victoria being born there and living there until 1837, as well as being the residence of Princess Diana for 16 years. Tickets are £15.50, but book in advance. Inside this 17th century palace you can also enjoy a rotating schedule of displays. Next, find the “Peter Pan” statue commissioned by its author Sir J.M. Barrie. Then head to Hyde Park and rent a paddle boat out on the lake.
Explore to your heart’s content, then hop on a red double-decker bus (it’s part of the experience!) to Kensington High Street for some upscale shopping. Find a place for lunch, then head towards Knightsbridge. This is a posh area of the city, full of grand Victorian homes, and resident of the renowned British department store Harrod’s. After spending your cash, take a turn to the dark side by participating in one of London’s many fun and eerie ghost walks!
DAY 4- The Cotswolds & Stratford-Upon-Avon
Leave early in the morning, and travel to a picturesque region known as The Cotswolds. Filled with stone cottages, this is what you think of when you imagine the epitome of the English countryside! With its small hills, grazing sheep, and lovely hedgerows, it is surprisingly charming! This place alone merits a full day visit, but after an hour or two it is sadly time to move on. (Logistics: Arrive by rental car, or part of an organized day trip)
Next up is the town of Shottery. Make a quick stop here to see the family cottage of Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathaway. Constructed in the 1500’s, this country farm home is in great shape and gives a beautiful insight as to what life may have been like in that era.
Finally, arrive to the town of Stratford-Upon-Avon to tour the Bard’s birthplace. The town is unfortunately a bit of a tourist trap, but is interesting to see regardless. Go inside Shakespeare’s home, which is now a museum. Also be sure to walk along the river Avon to the Church of the Holy Trinity and his grave-site. Once you make the 2 hour ride back to central London, get ready for a night out on the town! Covent Garden is a fun, hip neighborhood perfect for meeting people and experience London’s vibrant pub culture.
DAY 5- Bath & Stonehenge
Depart from London early in the morning, and drive about 2 hours to the town of Bath. Originally founded by the Romans, Bath became famous for its thermal waters and bath complexes. These provided health benefits for a variety of ailments over the centuries. Spend time roaming around its ancient temples and Roman baths, and enjoy that omnipresent sulfur stench! Take a guided tour of the baths, and maybe even take a soothing soak if you have time. Finish off with a stop at the Bath Abbey – notable since the first ever King of England was crowned here in 973AD!
Leave Bath and drive 50 minutes towards the ancient site of Stonehenge. This gigantic stone arrangement is around 5,000 years old! These monoliths are equal parts eerie, mysterious, and awe-inspiring. Walk around for an hour, and marvel at how these ancient people did what they did. How did they manage to find the stones, which are not located anywhere near the site? Why did they bring them to the site? What knowledge did they have to set them up in such a way that they also function as a solar calendar? If you happen to visit on the day of summer solstice (as I somehow did!), be aware that hundreds of neo-Druids will descend upon the location to pay homage to the structure’s supposed healing powers and supernatural connections!
After a 2 hour drive back to central London, head to Piccadilly Circus. One of London’s busiest squares, this is a great place to find a traditional red phone booth and get a snapshot! Then, explore this neighborhood on foot
For more ancient standing stones, read about my road-trip through Scotland!
DAY 6- London: Harry Potter, Theater, and the West End
If you’re a Harry Potter lover like me, you have to take the tube to King’s Cross Station. Line up, and take your picture going through the wall at Platform 9 ¾! From there, head back towards central London to visit the Churchill War Rooms experience. I haven’t been, but it has been highly recommend as a fascinating experience of what London was like during the Blitz. Tickets are £19.
A day-trip to Leavesden Studios is another option for this day. This is where they filmed much of the Harry Potter films! You can tour the sets, and have a fun insight behind the filming process. It’s easiest to go with an organized tour.
In the evening, if your budget permits, it is a GREAT experience to see a play in London’s West End. Another option is to take a “Jack the Ripper Walking Tour”. I did this tour both separate times I visited London, and have found it to be incredibly intriguing. They provide great historical insights and commentary, and help you draw your own conclusions on who this evil character may have been.
DAY 7 – London & Windsor Castle
Rise and shine, and head to a very early tour of Windsor Castle. This structure is 900 years old, and the current home of Queen Elizabeth II. While there, walk the grounds, and take a cliché photo with one of the beef-eater soldiers!
After the 45 minute drive back into London, head to Westminster Bridge and walk across the river Thames towards the London Eye. The eye is a huge Ferris wheel that can hold 25 people in each capsule. It’s pricey for what it is (£32), but still a fun experience.
Next up, take the tube towards South Kensington to see the British Natural History Museum. Full of fossils and amazing oddities, this museum is definitely worth a visit! Strolling outside in the area near the museum, you will notice some random walls just standing in the middle of a grassy square with a bunch of big holes or chunks missing from them. Turns out, they are what’s left of some of the buildings which were bombed heavily during the London Blitz.
Spend your final evening heading to a happy hour, grabbing some pub food, or just walking around this classic British locale! Read on for a great roundup of free things to do in London, even with children.
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As always, all reviews and opinions are my own. However, I will receive a small commission should you choose to purchase any of the hotels, tours, or items included in this post. 8 day England itinerary.