London is an endless treasure trove of things to see, do and eat.
Planning a short vacation in the British mega-metropolis will cause decision anxiety even to the most reckless Viking traveler. How can you reduce a gigantic wish list of attractions in a simple 5-day itinerary?
Accept the reality that it’s impossible to explore all of London’s museums, art galleries and cultural icons in one trip, but I’m here to help.
Inhale… Now exhale and now feel all this stiff tension of travel planning to leave your body.
Discover London from a double-decker bus with hop-on hop-off
Before you start your first day of sightseeing, you need to pick up your hop-on hop-off bus and river cruise tickets from Big Bus Tours in Green Park (stop 1), Victoria Station (stop 22) or Woburn (stop 37). Just show your turbo pass to get the tickets. Bus tickets are valid for 24 hours and can be used on 4 bus lines (red, blue, green and orange), but we stick to the red line for this route.
Assuming you pick up your tickets at Green Park, aim to arrive at 9:15 am, pick up your tickets, and take the red bus route from stop #1 Green Park to stop #9 Craig’s Court at 9:30 am. The buses run every 15 to 20 minutes and can be tracked via the Big Bus Tours mobile app (iOS, Android). Enjoy the 30-minute ride while listening to a live tour guide share fascinating facts about London’s sights.
Visit St. Paul’s Cathedral
Admission to St. Paul’s Cathedral is not included in your turbo Pass, but I recommend a visit because of the great architecture and religious/historical significance. Tickets can be bought online for and include an audio guide or a live tour.
After scanning my printed admission ticket, I met with volunteer guides Alec and Brian for the next group tour. The guides explained that today’s St. Paul, designed by Christopher Wren, is the fifth cathedral standing on this site, the first cathedral dating back to 604 AD. They shared fascinating stories about the construction, architecture, gigantic dome and minimalist decorations of the cathedral.
After the tour, I walked around the cathedral on my own and explored the underground crypt with its many monuments and tombs, including those of Florence Nightingale and Admiral Nelson. You can also climb 528 steps to the top of the dome if you feel fit, but I missed this one. I learned my lesson in Florence.
Take a selfie with your favorite Star Wars character at Madame Tussauds
London housed the original wax museum of Madame Tussauds, so it’s no surprise that this Madame Tussauds is one of the largest in the world, with waxy versions of the British Royal Family, scenes from their favorite movies from Star Wars and Marvel, and celebrities like Kim and Kanye, Victoria and David Beckham, George Clooney and Lady Helen Mirren.
Like the London Eye, Madame Tussauds operates a time slot system, so if you can, scan your turbo Pass the day before and request a ticket for the day and time you want to visit. Otherwise, the next available time slot should not be too long to wait already in the morning. First, go to Gate 2 to scan your turbo pass and assign them a time slot, and then enter through Gate 1 at the time allotted to you.
Start the day with chocolate at M& Ms World
Is it ever too early for chocolate? I don’t think so, and since turbopass holders get a 15% discount at M&Ms World, they start their day with a reserve of their favorite colorful m&Ms in the largest candy store in the world–yes, there are 4 floors of chocolate.
Take the ferry to the Royal Greenwich Observatory
The easiest way to get to the Royal Greenwich Observatory is by taking a 40-minute ferry from Westminster Pier (or the closest pier to your hotel) to Greenwich Pier and then 10 minutes southeast to the Observatory. Alternatively, take 2 tube trains with a total length of 43 minutes, first from Westminster Station to Canary Warf and then from Heron Quays DLR station to Cutty Sark DLR station. The ferry is a bit more expensive, so make sure you have enough credit on your Oyster card, or use your credit or debit card instead.
If you are lucky enough to have more than 5 days in London, visit the 2 Turbopass attractions that are not included in this route, the Wimbledon tennis Museum and a walk in the footsteps of the royal family at the Grand Address. You can also enjoy additional discounts such as 20% off red bike tours.