By Rick Steves
You can see lots of London in a few days — but not all days are created equal! This day-by-day list can help.
Note: These days and hours may change — verify with the sight first before making plans.
Sunday: The Tower of London and British Museum are both especially crowded today. Speakers' Corner in Hyde Park rants from early afternoon until early evening. These places are closed: Sir John Soane's Museum, and legal sights (Houses of Parliament, City Hall, and Old Bailey; the neighborhood called The City is dead). Westminster Abbey and St. Paul's are open during the day for worship but closed to sightseers. With all these closures, this morning is a good time to take a bus tour. Most big stores open late (around 11:30) and close early (18:00). Street markets are flourishing at Camden Lock, Spitalfields (at its best today), Petticoat Lane, Brick Lane, and Greenwich, but Portobello Road and Brixton markets are closed (though the Brixton farmers market is open 10:00–14:00). Because of all the market action, it's a good day to explore the East End. Theaters are quiet, as most actors take today off. (There are a few exceptions, such as Shakespeare's Globe, which offers Sunday performances in summer, and family-oriented fare, including The Lion King, offered year-round.)
Monday: Virtually all sights are open, except Apsley House, Sir John Soane's Museum, Vinopolis, and a few others. The Houses of Parliament may be open as late as 22:00.
Tuesday: Virtually all sights are open, except Vinopolis and Apsley House. The British Library is open until 20:00, and the Houses of Parliament may be open as late as 22:00. On the first Tuesday of the month, Sir John Soane's Museum is also open 18:00–21:00.
Wednesday: Virtually all sights are open. Vinopolis is open until 21:30 and the Houses of Parliament may be open as late as 22:00.
Thursday: All sights are open, plus evening hours at the National Portrait Gallery (until 21:00) and Vinopolis (until 21:30).
Friday: All sights are open, except the Houses of Parliament. Sights open late include the British Museum (selected galleries until 20:30), National Gallery (until 21:00), National Portrait Gallery (until 21:00), Vinopolis (until 21:30), Victoria and Albert Museum (selected galleries until 22:00), and Tate Modern (until 22:00). The Tate Britain is open until 22:00 on select Fridays.
Saturday: Most sights are open, except legal ones (Old Bailey, City Hall; skip The City). The Houses of Parliament are open only with a tour. Vinopolis is open until 21:30 and the Tate Modern until 22:00. The Tower of London is especially crowded today. Today's the day to hit the Portobello Road street market; the Camden Lock and Greenwich markets are also good.
Notes: The St. Martin-in-the-Fields church offers concerts at lunchtime (Mon, Tue, and Fri at 13:00) and in the evening (several nights a week at 19:30, jazz Wed at 20:00).
Evensong occurs nearly daily at St. Paul's (Sun at 15:15 and Tue–Sat at 17:00), Westminster Abbey (Sun at 15:00, Mon–Tue and Thu–Sat at 17:00 except Sat at 15:00 Sept–April), and Southwark Cathedral (Sun at 15:00, Tue–Fri 17:30, Sat at 16:00).
London by Night Sightseeing Tour buses leave from Victoria Station each evening (six departures 19:00–22:55; at 19:00, 20:45, and 22:10 in winter).
The London Eye spins nightly (last departure between 20:30 and 21:30, depending on the season).
In winter, Apsley House is open only on weekends (closed Mon–Fri).