UK – Ireland – Scotland
London – Dublin – Edinburg
Day 1: Arrive in the UK
Day 2-4 : Spend the day in London – 4 nights
Day 5-6 : Travel to Ireland – 2 nights
Day 7-8 : Travel to Scotland – 2 nights
Day 9: Travel back to London – 1 night
Day 10: Travel back to your country
Unquestionably, you can visit London again and again, yet you’ll always find somethingnew to discover. With a sizable and diverse mix of neighborhoods ranging from ultra-cool to expensive to up-and-coming, and a long-ranging royal history, England’s capital offers a great deal of unique attractions to new and returning visitors alike.
Despite being a vast and bustling city, it’s entirely possible to see a good majority of London’s main sites in a tiny space of time. So if you’ve only got a few days to spare, this 4-day guide aims to ensure that you’ll make the absolute most out of your visit. Take heed though, this itinerary is meant for those who are active travelers, those who don’t mind spending a full day sightseeing, and those who enjoy getting to know a place, for the most part, on foot. It’s also fair to mention that this is not a guide that will give you an incredibly in-depth understanding of London, but rather an ample overview, perfect for the first-time visitor.
9 am – Gaze upon Buckingham Palace
Start your first day at one of the most iconic of all London sites, Buckingham Palace, the official residence of the United Kingdom’s sovereign and the administrative headquarters of the present-day monarch, Queen Elizabeth II.
The closest tube stations to Buckingham Palace are Westminster (Circle, District, and Jubilee lines), St James’s Park (Circle and District lines), Victoria (Victoria, Circle and District lines), Hyde Park Corner (Piccadilly line) and Charing Cross (Bakerloo and Northern lines).
If you have extra time to spare, you can catch the Changing of the Guard every morning at 11:30 am in the grounds in front of the palace. If you arrive 15 – 20 minutes early you should be able to get a spot with a decent view.
At certain times throughout the year, Buckingham Palace also offers visitors the chance to tour some of the State Rooms (be sure to check the website for current opening hours).
9:30 am – Stroll through St. James’s Park
Head across the street from Buckingham Palace and you’ll find yourself in one of the Royal Park’s of London, St. James’s.
Like most parks in the city, this green lung is rich in towering trees, winding walkways, curious bushy-tailed squirrels, and a quiet central lake (home to a colony of white pelicans, which were donated by a Russian ambassador in 1664 to Charles II). It’s a relaxing area – grab a seat on one of the benches for a few minutes and unwind.
10 am – See Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, and the Palace of Westminster
Continue on from St. James’s Park to Parliament Square, a meeting point of sorts. Bordered by major attractions like Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, the Palace of Westminster, and lesser but equally as interesting sites such as the Statue of Winston Churchill and the Statue of Oliver Cromwell, this particular area of London is chock full of history and things to explore.
For those who want to spend more time here, the Churchill War Rooms, a museum about Winston Churchill and the Cabinet War Rooms, and 10 Downing Street are also nearby.
View of Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster from across the River Thames
Afterwards, continue on across Westminster Bridge to the South Bank of the Thames. Immediately after crossing the bridge, you’ll have a postcard-worthy view of Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster.
11:30 Am – Ride the London Eye
Located on the South Bank of the River Thames across from Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster, stands Europe’s tallest Ferris wheel, the London Eye. Opened to the public in 2000 to celebrate the Millennium, it was the world’s tallest Ferris wheel at the time (a designation which has since been surpassed). Today, it’s still one of the best city viewing platforms in London.
A London Eye ticket gets you one rotation on the giant wheel which equates to approximately 30 minutes. Keep in mind that it’s a very popular attraction, so in order to avoid the long queues, it may be worthwhile to reserve your tickets in advance online.
12:15 pm – Follow the Queen’s Walk
Passing several major London attractions and with beautiful views of the city, follow the Queen’s Walk, a promenade along the South Bank of the Thames, which will take you all the way to Tower Bridge.
The Queen’s Walk promenade along the Thames Along the way, you’ll pass by street performers, small outdoor markets, pubs, restaurants, coffee shops, as well as neat places to check out like the Oxo Tower, home to a swanky restaurant, design studios, and contemporary shops.
1 pm – Explore the Tate Modern
As you continue along the Queen’s Walk, you’ll eventually come across a dark, industrial-type building which used to be a power station up until the 1980s. Although this structure was once at risk of being demolished by its developers, many people campaigned that it should remain standing. Today, it houses the Tate Modern, Britain’s national gallery of international modern art, one of the largest museums of modern and contemporary art in the world.
As with the UK’s other national galleries and museums, there is no admission charge for access to the collection displays, which take up the majority of the gallery space, while tickets must be purchased for the major temporary exhibitions.
2 pm – Cross the Millennium Bridge
Does this bridge look familiar? You might remember the Millennium Bridge from the opening scene of the sixth Harry Potter movie!
Pedestrians crossing the Millennium Bridge
With a perfect view of the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Millennium Bridge is a major crossing point over the Thames for those entering and leaving the city every day during rush hour. It’s a beautiful piece of architecture, contrasted with the old cupola directly opposite the bridge, it makes for some interesting photo opportunities.
Once you’re done checking out the bridge, return to the South Bank to continue on.
2:15 pm – Check out the Shakespeare Globe Theatre
After the Millennium Bridge, you’ll soon find yourself passing by the Shakespeare Globe Theatre, a reconstruction of the open-air playhouse designed in 1599 where many of Shakespeare’s plays were performed.
Shakespeare Globe Theatre
To see what’s playing at the time of your visit, head on over to the Shakespeare Globe website.
2:30 pm – Grab Lunch in a pub or at Borough Market
British cuisine is so much more than just fish and chips, but while you’re in England you might as well sit yourself down in a pub and enjoy this traditional dish at least once! Have a pint and some lunch in one of the pubs or restaurants along the Queen’s Walk promenade.
Or, if you don’t feel like sitting down, why not venture a few minutes off the walkway and grab something delicious from one of the food vendors in Borough Market? It’s one of the oldest and largest food markets in London!
3:30 pm – Continue on the Queen’s Walk
After lunch, continue on the Queen’s Walk and very soon you’ll have your first glimpse of Tower Bridge in the distance.
View of the Thames
But before you arrive at the bridge, you’ll pass by the HMS Belfast, a Royal Navy ship from the Second World War that has been refitted as a museum and permanently moored on the Thames.
4:30 pm – Cross Tower Bridge
Follow the Queen’s Walk up a set of the stairs and you’ll find yourself on Tower Bridge, one of the most famous bridges in the world! Apart from crossing on foot or by car, you can also visit the Tower Bridge Exhibition for more information on the construction and history of this iconic structure.
The Tower Bridge
There are plenty of spectacular photo spots along both sides of the Thames River where you can get a good shot of Tower Bridge.
After you’ve enjoyed the view, you can make your way to wherever you’d like to go on foot, by taxi, or via the tube. The closest tube stations to Tower Bridge are Tower Hill (District and Circle lines) and London Bridge (Northern and Jubilee lines).
Tower of London
9 am – Learn all about the history of the Tower of London
The second day begins at the historic Tower of London. The closest tube station is Tower Hill (District and Circle lines).
In order to get a head start on the tour groups, school classes, and the general masses that visit the Tower of London every day, be there right at opening time (9 am Tuesday to Saturday and 10 am on Sundays and Mondays ) to avoid the bustle. This way, you’ll have about an hour or so before it gets really packed. First thing, head on over to the Crown Jewels exhibit as this is typically the most popular.
After you’ve seen the Crown Jewels, you’ll have time to explore the rest of the Tower which includes exhibits about the exotic animals that used to be housed there, the famed ravens, suits of armor, and ancient torture devices. Plus you’ll be able to learn more about London’s (often) bloody history and see the iconic tower guards, commonly known as Beefeaters.
View of the City of London and the Gherkin from the Tower of London
Additionally, if you walk the outer top perimeter you’ll have grand views of the city, including the famous commercial skyscraper commonly known as the ‘Gherkin’ for it’s unique shape.
11:30 am – Tour St. Paul’s Cathedral
You’ll be able to see the massive dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral from far across the skyline of London. It’s an absolute astounding work of architecture, and one that has been destroyed, damaged by fire and war, and rebuilt several times.
St. Paul’s is notable for housing the remains of its architect, Sir Christopher Wren, as well as the Duke of Wellington, Horatio Nelson, among many other notable figures. It was also the site of the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana.
Dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral
The 259-step high Whispering Gallery (perhaps best to keep your feet on the ground if you’re prone to vertigo) and the Crypts are among the most visited and worthwhile sections.
Admission to the Cathedral includes a headset and Ipod in the language of your choice which contains videos explaining the history, architecture, and other interesting info which you can refer to as you explore the cathedral. Before you leave, be sure to drink a cuppa tea in the underground Crypt Cafe!
2:30 Pm – Visit Temple Church
Although Temple Church is located just a minute off busy Fleet Street, the hustle and bustle of the city seems to instantly die away as you reach the outer courtyard of this historic structure.
Interior of Temple Church
Built by the Knights Templar in the late 12th century, Temple Church is famous for being a round church, and for its 13th and 14th century stone effigies of knights. It was heavily damaged by German bombing during World War II and has since been beautifully restored and rebuilt.
To see the interior alone, for its simplicity and light, is well worth a visit. Entrance is £5 per adult, £3 for seniors or students, and free for anyone under 16 years of age.
3:15 pm – Recharge with a coffee on Fleet Street
Make a quick stop at The Fleet Street Press, a vintage-inspired coffee shop that imports and roasts green beans from over 15 countries around the world.
While the Fleet Street location is their flagship, you can find their other locations in Chancery Lane and Saint Bride Street.
4 Pm – Browse Covent Garden
Although it is rather touristy, Covent Garden is a neat place to have a bite to eat and do some people watching, especially on a rainy day in London since the structure is covered. You can also browse the shops, listen to live music, and check out the British hand-made crafts in the Apple Market.
The Apple Market in Covent Garden
The Covent Garden shops usually operate between 10 am and 7 pm from Monday to Saturday and on Sundays from around 11 am to 4 pm. The Apple Market is open from 10:10 am until 6 pm and the East Colonnade Market is open from 10:30 am until 7 pm.
Decorative ice cream cones in a Covent Garden storefront
The Covent Garden tube station (on the Piccadilly Line) is only a short walk away from the market building at the end of James Street.
9 am – Explore Hyde Park, London’s main green lung
The third day begins in Hyde Park, the largest of the four Royal Parks in central London, taking up over 140 hectares. Start your morning at Kensington Palace, one of the royal residences in the city, and currently the official London residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.
The closest tube stations to Kensington Palace are High Street Kensington (Circle and District lines), Queensway (Central line), and Notting Hill Gate (Central, Circle, and District lines).
Wide promenade in Hyde Park
Apart from Kensington Palace, you’ll find this gigantic park also contains countless walking and biking paths framed by magnificent old trees, the giant Serpentine lake (home to swans and other water fowl), the statuesque Albert Memorial, Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain, and Speaker’s Corner, which has long been used as a place for free speech and debate since the 1870s.
Make your way towards Speaker’s Corner and exit out of Hyde Park at Marble Arch, a beautiful 19-century white marble arch.
12 pm – Shop on Oxford Street
Pass under Marble Arch and you’ll find yourself on busy Oxford Street, one of the main shopping roads in London. Stretching for almost 2 kilometers, with storefronts on either street side, you’ll undoubtedly get some shopping in here. Some of the major shops you’ll find on Oxford Street include Selfridges, Topshop, H&M, Uniqlo, Zara, plus many more.
Red double decker buses on Oxford Street
Walk the length of Oxford Street until you reach Bloomsbury Street. Here, turn left and you’ll soon see our next stop, the exquisite British Museum.
2 pm – Discover the magnificent British Museum
This just might be my favorite place in London. The architecture, the exhibits, the artifacts (approximately some 8 million works, one of the largest and most comprehensive in existence!) – the British Museum is a must. You could spend days upon days exploring everything, but the Egyptian, Abyssinian, Roman, Greek, and Medieval Europe halls are justly the most popular, and highly recommendable if you only have a few hours.
The Great Court in the British Museum
Even if you’re not that into historical artifacts, simply standing and taking in the vastness of the Great Court, the museum’s inner courtyard (which also happens to be the largest covered public square in Europe) will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression.
But, perhaps best of all, the British Museum is free to visit!
WINDSOR CASTLE & HAMPTON COURT PALACE
We took a Train in the early morning from London Waterloo to Windsor & Eton Riverside run by South Western Railway
If you are travelling from the London area you should use South Western Railway services from London Waterloo to Windsor & Eton Riverside. There are four services per hour leaving at 20, 28, 50 and 58 minutes past the hour. It will cost you R 200 one way. I really enjoy going to Windsor. There is some good shopping there, and the castle is one of my favourites. Also, if you are not planning on doing a river cruise in London itself, you can do a short one in Windsor. It gives you a different view of the castle and a bit of a short look at some lovely countryside. Windsor can take from 1/2 to almost a full day. We like to “do” Windsor on days when we have theatre tickets. We try to catch the 9:30 or 10:00 train, spend time walking around town and wandering down the Long Walk (we’ve toured the castle several times, and don’t usually do it now). then we catch the 2:30-3:00 train back. That puts us back in time to get showered and rested before going out for an early supper prior to the theatre. It makes a nice, relaxing day – sort of a vacation from our vacation.
It is recommended not to buy a return as you can continue your tour from Windsor to Hamilton Court via Wimbledon Tennis Stadium.
Outside Windsor Castle
Outside Hampton Court Palace
Ireland – DUBLIN
Have a Pint at the Guinness Storehouse
Without a doubt, the Guinness Storehouse is the can’t miss stop in Dublin. The tour is a bit pricey for the budget traveler, but definitely worth it.
You don’t have to be a beer lover to enjoy learning about the history of Ireland’s favorite beer. The tour takes you through the beer making process from start to finish and ends with a pint in the Gravity Bar, an all glass rooftop bar that provides amazing views of Dublin.
Tour Trinity College and The Book of Kells:
Grab a coffee and walk around the beautiful campus of Trinity College. Trinity College, founded in 1592, is the oldest University in all of Ireland.
Student run tours of the University run about every 30-45 minutes and cost €13 (€12 with student ID). The guides give a great tour and will go deep into the history of the university. You can skip this tour and head straight to the library but I found it entertaining and insightful, so I guess it really depends how into history/tours you are!
Your guide will end the tour in front of the main entrance to the library which houses The Book of Kells. The exhibit includes a museum with an in-depth history of the book that takes about a half hour to explore. The book itself is worth the wait and is even more beautiful in person. It is known for it’s bright colors, Celtic knots and incredible calligraphy.
The library is also famous and it is definitely worth spending some time looking around. Any book lover will feel right at home here!
If you opted for the student run tour, your ticket to the exhibit is included in your tour ticket or separately costs €9 at the door. You can also purchase tickets ahead of time to skip the line here.
Wander the Temple Bar Area
No Dublin itinerary would be complete without a trip to the Temple Bar area. A short walk from most accommodation you will find tourist filled streets waiting to get into the famous Temple Bar to enjoy a €7 pint. Temple Bar is known for its traditional Irish music and the best pints in Dublin.
However, if you are on a budget, I suggest wandering into nearby bars like Oliver St. John Gogarty and The Auld Dubliner which are still packed with tourists, but have more reasonably priced drinks and live music all night. Temple Bar will definitely give you a night to remember!
DAY 7 – 8
Scotland – Edinburg
Edinburgh is one of my favourite cities in the UK, and was an obvious addition to my perfect two week itinerary of the UK. Until now though, I’ve not put together a detailed overview of my favourite pastimes in Edinburgh.
Today I’m going to address that, sharing tips and ideas for what to get up to on with 2 days in Edinburgh. We think two days is a great amount of time to spend in Edinburgh – perhaps as a weekend break, or as part of a longer trip exploring the UK and Scotland.
Of course, you could spend much more time getting to know the city, but two days will certainly let you see many of the highlights of Edinburgh.
Go Whisky Tasting
Scotland and Whisky are intractably linked. Don’t make the mistake of referring to the Scottish version as “Whiskey” though, that’s from the folks across the Irish Sea.
Scottish whisky is my favourite spirit, and whenever I’m in Edinburgh I’ll always find time for a drop. You can do this of course just by popping into pretty much any pub in the city, but if you want to learn about the process of making whisky, as well as the various regions of Scotland and the flavours available, then the Scotch Whisky Experience is where you need to head.
Here you’ll journey through the Whisky creation process, as well as learn about why Whisky from different parts of Scotland tastes different. Finally, you’ll be given the opportunity to taste one of four whisky flavours, before taking a look at the largest Scotch Whisky collection in the world. You can book your tickets in advance here.
Be Mystified at Edinburgh’s Camera Obscura
Almost opposite the Scotch Whisky experience is Edinburgh’s Camera Obscura, also home to the World of Illusions attraction. With a partner that loves partaking in photography he was particularly interested in the Camera Obscura at the top of the building, but I have to admit to finding the World of Illusions a lot of fun.
These take up the first four floors of the building, and are a series of interactive exhibits which focus on optical illusions. There are holograms, a mirror maze, a vertigo inducing tunnel, and all sorts of other optical illusions to entertain and amuse. We spent a lot longer in here that I thought we would!
The Camera Obscura right at the top of the building is also interesting, although as it was a cloudy day when we visited, the effect was not as pronounced – you need a sunny day with lots of light to get the most out of the experience. Still, it was an interesting look into how light and prisms work, and the view from the top of the Castle and the Royal Mile is excellent.
Climb Calton HIll
Towards the end of the day, I’d suggest you head up Calton Hill. This is a wonderful spot for a view of the city and can be found at the east end of Princes Street. This hill is home to a series of monuments, including the National Monument of Scotland, which bears more than a passing resemblance to the Parthenon in Greece. Which makes sense, because that’s what it was modelled on.
Up on the hill you will also find Nelson’s Monument and the Royal Observatory, amongst other things, but the highlight for me, really, is the view up here at sunset. From here you can watch the sun set across the city, with the mountains in the background, which is ample reward for the effort required to climb up.
Day 8 – Edinburg
Hike Arthur’s Seat
One of my favourite things about Edinburgh, other than how magnificently walk-able the city centre is, is that just a stones throw from Holyrood Palace, the Parliament Building and Dynamic Earth is the ancient volcano of Arthur’s Seat, part of the 640-acre Holyrood Park.
This 251 metre high peak offers spectacular views of the city and surrounds, as well as nice hiking, sunset and sunrise views, and the walk is easily manageable right from the city centre.
Travel Back to your starting point
Travel back to your country
Where to stay in London
Quaint British house with colorful doors
A word on London accommodations
London is notoriously expensive, and when you only have a short amount of time to explore the city, you really don’t want to be commuting an hour each way via the tube just to save a few pounds on a hotel in the outskirts of the city.
To strike a balance between practicality and price, boutique hotels are the way to go. While they can be rather small, they usually have all the amenities a traveler needs for a few nights, and they certainly won’t topple your budget. It’s also worth noting that London happens to be a tourist mecca all year round, so it’s best to book your accommodation well in advance as hotels (and hostels for that matter) do tend to fill up quite quickly.
Meininger Hotel London Hyde Park
Located in South Kensington (just a block south of the Queen’s Gate Hyde Park entrance), MEININGER Hotel London Hyde Park is where I stayed during my most recent visit to London. This hotel is situated in the historic Baden-Powell House and features modern hostel type rooms, either private or shared (each room includes it’s own bathroom).
I found the room and common areas of the hotel to be clean and modern, while the staff was friendly and helpful. I would certainly consider staying there again.
Additionally, if you’re considering this hotel it’s worth noting that they serve a well-rounded and well-priced breakfast buffet which costs £7 per person per day. They serve a selection of juices, coffee, tea, toast, jams, cold cuts, cheese, assorted pastries and breads, cereal, yogurt, and fresh fruit in a comfortable and large breakfast room that has a nice view onto the road below. I don’t think I could have purchased the same selection of foods offered in the buffet for £7 had I eaten out each morning instead. Simply put, it’s convenient and economical to have breakfast in the hotel.
Hotel Meininger Hyde Park Breakfast room
Finally, I was excited to learn that the Queen herself had actually visited the hotel in the past because of its location in the Baden-Powell House, named after Lord Baden-Powell, the founder of the scout movement. Queen Elizabeth II has been a patron of the Scout Association since 1952.
Notable sites and attractions close to the hotel include Hyde Park, Royal Albert Hall, the Natural History Museum, the Victoria & Albert Museum, and Harrod’s.
MEININGER Hotel London Hyde Park
65-67 Queen’s Gate, Kensington, London SW7 5JS, UK
Phone: +44 20 3318 1407
Where to stay in Dublin
If you want to be near Grafton Street, Trinity College, and Temple Bar during your visit, here’s where to stay in Dublin:
- Academy Plaza Hotel (O’Connell Street Upper)
The Academy Plaza Hotel is a close walking distance to Grafton Street, Trinity College, and Temple Bar, so transportation won’t be a problem. It offers affordable rooms that are comparatively cheaper than other hotels nearby. It also has a restaurant with reasonably priced menu items. https://www.hotelscombined.com/Hotel/Academy_Plaza_Hotel.htm
- Arlington Hotel (O’Connell Bridge)
The Arlington Hotel is a short walking distance to a lot of shops and restaurants, as well as to a few city landmarks including the O’Connell Monument, the Abbey Theatre, and the National Wax Museum Plus. The Hop-On, Hop-Off bus also stops directly in front of the hotel, so you can easily go on a tour of the city. If you’re too tired to go out for a bite after a day of touring, there’s an in-house restaurant and bar/lounge in the hotel. https://www.hotelscombined.com/Hotel/Arlington_Hotel_OConnell_Bridge.htm
Where to Stay in Edinburg
- The Balmoral Hotel
For over a century, The Balmoral hotel has found a home at Edinburgh’s most prestigious address, No. 1 Princes Street. A landmark in the centre of the city, the historic building’s grand clock still dominates the skyline, while its enviable location, stunning views, warm hospitality and world-class facilities provide the perfect retreat. Enjoy dinner in our Michelin-starred Number One restaurant, unwind in our award-winning spa and enjoy views of Edinburgh Castle from your suite. https://www.roccofortehotels.com/hotels-and-resorts/the-balmoral-hotel/
1 Princes Street, Edinburgh, EH2 2EQ
Prepared by Rofhie Makhado0