Today I want to continue my themed London itinerary series with an itinerary for historic London. If you love discovering the city through the centuries, I hope this blog post will provide you with some inspiration for your time in the UK capital.
London Itinerary for Historic London
London’s history is one of the city’s biggest attractions for me. Maybe it’s because I’m from California and we have relatively little history in comparison. Whatever the reason, the fact that everyone from the Romans to the Tudors left their mark here fascinates me.
Seeing tangible evidence of the past brings it alive and makes it real in a way that no book or film can do, and for history lovers it’s worth getting out to see all the layers of historic London.
This itinerary covers 2 days, but you can tailor it to the length of time have to visit London. There’s so much history to uncover in the city that you won’t be able to take in all of it in such a short time, but I hope this London itinerary gives you a good overview.
London Itinerary for Historic London: Day 1 – Morning
Begin your first day at the Tower of London. This hulking fortress on the Thames brings the city’s past to life like no other place.
Exploring the White Tower, which dates back to 1078, is like stepping into Norman times. Walking along the walls is a great way to get a view of the place from a different angle and catch a glimpse of Tower Bridge, one of London’s great Victorian masterpieces.
London Itinerary for Historic London: Day 1 – Afternoon
When you’ve finished exploring the Tower of London, make your way into the City. This historic heart of London has some of the most important landmarks from times past.
The London Wall is one of them. It’s amazing that some of the ancient Roman fortifications are still standing, and seeing them puts the city’s timeline into perspective.
From the wall, take some time to wander around the City and see the highlights. From St Paul’s Cathedral to the Guildhall, Temple to the Monument, this area is packed with treasures that tell stories of historic London.
London Itinerary for Historic London: Day 1 – Evening
From the City it’s a short walk to Smithfield and Clerkenwell, where more history awaits. West Smithfield is famous for being the site of Scottish hero William Wallace’s execution (and that of many others), and nearby Charterhouse Square sits on top of a huge medieval plague pit.
But it’s not all gloom and doom here. Clerkenwell is home to some of London’s most exciting restaurants and bars, so it’s a great place to end your day with a meal on St John Street or Cowcross Street.
London Itinerary for Historic London: Day 2 – Morning
Start the second day of your London itinerary for historic London in Trafalgar Square. This place is surrounded by historic buildings, from the National Gallery to St Martin-in-the-Fields church. It’s also home to Nelson’s Column, which commemorates Admiral Horatio Nelson, who died at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.
From Trafalgar Square, walk down Whitehall and take in the Banqueting Hall. It was built by James I in 1622 as a lavish entertainment venue. It was also the execution site of his son, Charles I, in 1649.
The Banqueting Hall is all that remains of the original Whitehall Palace, which was destroyed by a fire in 1698. The painted ceilings alone make it worth going in for a visit.
From the Banqueting Hall, continue down Whitehall until you reach Parliament Square. This is the place to see Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, and Westminster Abbey. They’re all steeped in history and are iconic London landmarks in their own rights.
London Itinerary for Historic London: Day 2 – Afternoon
Around the corner, the Churchill War Rooms are a great place to learn about London’s 20th-century history. This subterranean museum is set in the bunker where Winston Churchill ran British operations during World War II.
Not far away, St James’s Palace and Buckingham Palace are great places to take in London’s royal history. If you’re in town during the summer opening of Buckingham Palace, you can go inside and tour the sumptuous State Rooms.
London Itinerary for Historic London: Day 2 – Evening
In the evening, make your way over to east London. Spitalfields is packed with historic streets and good restaurants, so it’s a great place to take in London’s history and have a good night out at the same time.
The streets around Brick Lane were once home to Huguenots who fled religious persecution in France in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Many of them were silk weavers, and traces of their lives and work can still be seen in the streets of Spitalfields today.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this London itinerary for historic London. If you want to dig deeper, you can read my blog posts about London through the centuries and National Trust properties in London. Additionally, places like Greenwich are rife with museums and maritime history, and palaces like Hampton Court bring the royal past to life.
There will be more themed London itineraries to come, so stay tuned for the next one in a week’s time. You can find all my itineraries here if you want more.
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