Few cities in the world manage to twin a fascinating history with a booming modern culture like London does. The capital of the UK has a dynamic past spanning over two thousand years, with architecture, museums, and exhibits that serve to tell the tale of how the city became what it is today.
You could spend a lifetime in London and never get bored, but it is possible to see some of the best sights in London with just 3 days in the London. We’ve put together the perfect 3 days in London, written by a London local to help you make the most of your time in the capital. It’s suitable for all ages; so whether you’re backpacking London, visiting the UK with children or on a romantic trip or honeymoon to England’s capital, use this itinerary to squeeze every bit of action into your London trip!
Day 1 in London
Wake up fresh on your first morning in London! This day will take you around the heart of the city. You’ll want an early start this morning, as the change of the guards at 11 am is not to be missed and it’s a good idea to see Westminster Abbey before to maximize your time in the afternoon. So be sure to breakfast early (have a big one – you’ve got a long day’s sightseeing ahead of you!) and get ready to hit the city.
9:30 am – Westminster Abbey – the closest tube station is Westminster, a 4-minute walk away.
Be at the Westminster Abbey when doors open to make sure you get as much time as possible to explore; doors open at 9:30 am and you can buy tickets in advance online. Westminster Abbey is one of London’s premier attractions; it is a 700-year-old building with mesmerizingly beautiful architecture and memorials to some of Britain’s most colorful characters within. Many famous monarchs, novelists, poets, and musicians are paid tribute to in Westminster Abbey, and the Coronation Chair, which is the oldest piece of furniture still used for its original purpose in the UK, is on display.
11:00 am – Change of the Guards – walking from Westminster Abbey will take 15 minutes.
Be sure to get to Buckingham Palace ten minutes before the Change of the Guards ceremony begins to make sure you have a spot. The ceremony takes place every day in the summer and every other day in winter. It is better in the summer when the guards are just wearing their bright red jackets (in the winter they wear coats over the top), but it is still worth seeing in the winter as well. The ceremony lasts roughly half an hour.
After the ceremony, admire some of the architecture of Buckingham Palace and walk through St James’s Park to Soho. Flanked by gorgeous historic buildings, St James’s Park is a great spot in the middle of the city to catch a breath of fresh air. Once you’re out of the park, walk past The Ritz and dream of staying there, before heading to Soho.
12:00 midday – Lunch in Soho –a 10-minute walk from Buckingham Palace.
Soho is home to all sorts of restaurants; from budget noodle joints to posh eateries to high street chains. You won’t be short of choice; if you like vegetarian food, I highly recommend Mildreds. The only bad thing about this restaurant is it’s so popular there’s always a queue!
Walk to the Southbank via Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square, and Trafalgar Square; these are some of the most iconic parts of Britain. Trafalgar Square has the famous Nelson’s Column in the middle, and Piccadilly Circus has flashing billboards and an electric, modern atmosphere. Take your time absorbing this in before reaching your next attraction!
2:00 pm – Big Ben (Elizabeth Tower) – a 25-minute walk from Soho.
It’s little known that Big Ben is actually the name for the bell inside Elizabeth Tower, rather than the tower itself! Tourists can’t go into Elizabeth Tower so this is a quick one to check off your London itinerary; there are lots of great spots for a photo opportunity around the building. Next to Elizabeth Tower are the Houses of Parliament, where the rules of Britain are made!
2:30 pm London Eye – an 11-minute walk from Elizabeth Tower.
London’s most popular contemporary attraction, the London Eye is always busy yet well worth the crowds. It offers the best view of the capital; from the top, you’ll be able to see up to 25 miles in each direction – which is the entire city boundaries and out into the surrounding countryside. Notable spots to look out for are St Paul’s Cathedral, Canary Wharf and the O2 Arena (formerly Millennium Dome).
You can buy tickets in advance or from the box office. Purchasing the tickets in advance means that they are slightly cheaper and you will have to queue less; however, the disadvantage means that you are then locked into a specific time, and clear weather is of course not always guaranteed in our temperamental city!
However, if you only have 3 days in London, it might be an idea to buy tickets in advance on whatever day the weather is forecasted to be best. I’ve been up the London Eye in all sorts of weathers, and if it is cloudy or rainy, the view from the top is still spectacular.
Evening: Waterloo is the nearest station to the London Eye, but on your way is the IMAX cinema. Shows are available in 3D and 4D and can be booked in advance or on the day.
Afterward, or if you don’t fancy a film, check out one of London’s most unique restaurants. You could try the centrally located Duck and Waffle – a 24/7 restaurant with fantastic views, or Clerkenwell’s Dans le Noir? which is a restaurant set in complete darkness, with a fish, meat or vegetarian surprise menu. Bunga Bunga in Battersea serves delicious pizza and a great party and the Blues Kitchen in Shoreditch provides Texan style booze, food, and live blues music.
Day 2 in London
Today it’s all about exploring London city, the most historic area of the capital. Dedicating your day to seeing St Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London will really help you get to know the tales of this fascinating metropolis; and at the end, you can kick back with some of the city’s best entertainment.
9:00 am – St Paul’s Cathedral – Closest tube station is St Paul’s Station.
Head to the City of London to check out St Paul’s Cathedral. The iconic dome is loved by many visitors to London, but it’s well worth checking the interior out too. It’s possibly the most famous cathedral in the UK (and we’ve got a lot) so take your time to absorb it all in.
11:30 am – Borough Market – an 18-minute walk from St Paul’s Cathedral.
A leisurely walk to Borough Market will take you past some interesting landmarks. These include Millennium Bridge – if you’re a Harry Potter fan, watch out for the Death Eaters, as it was the film site of an attack in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. If you’re not a Hogwarts fan, it’s still a great spot to visit – another iconic place to take a picture of St Paul’s Cathedral. Other attractions on the way are Shakespeare’s Globe and the Tate Modern.
Borough Market is a bustling spot selling lots of fresh produce. If you fancy a picnic, you could buy some ingredients here or purchase a meal from one of the food stalls and eat al fresco – or there are lots of restaurants and pubs serving food in the area. In fact, Borough Market is widely regarded as the heart of London’s culinary scene. Recommended market stalls are La Tua Pasta and Maria’s Market Café, and popular restaurants are The Globe Tavern and the very British Elliot’s.
1:30 pm – Tower Bridge – which is a 15-minute walk from Borough Market.
A short walk from here is Tower Bridge, possibly London’s most beautiful bridge. Enjoy the views of some of London’s best contemporary works of architecture, such as The Gherkin and the new Cheese Grater building. You can really see old and new as these are located next to the historic Tower of London – which is where you’re heading next!
2:00 pm – Tower of London – the Tower of London is a 10-minute walk from London Bridge Station and can be seen from Tower Bridge.
The Tower of London is a must-visit to appreciate the city’s history. The tower’s use as a jail coined the term ‘sent to the tower’ which is still used in Britain today. It was also used as the Royal Mint, an observatory and believe it or not, a zoo! Today it is a tourist attraction with hundreds of years of history to learn about and the Crown Jewels on display.
Evening: Catch a West End Show
If you fancy seeing London’s answer to Broadway, check out the West End. Buying tickets before the date will guarantee you a lower rate and sometimes include a dinner package. Popular shows include The Lion King, Wicked, Dirty Dancing and Mamma Mia.
If you don’t have dinner at a specific place included, I’d recommend heading to Covent Garden, which is a lovely place for a walk around and has lots of eateries. The vegan restaurant By Chloe offers tasty food which is served up quickly (ideal for those who are rushing to make a show!). Other restaurants in Covent Garden include Mediterranean food at The Barbary, the tapas bar Augustus Harris, and the British pub The Harp.
Day 3 in London
Your 3 days in London are almost up…It’s your last day in the city! Spend it in West/ Central London to enjoy some of Europe’s best shopping; whether that be in the contemporary Oxford Street or the more historic Harrods. Paired with a walk around Hyde Park and an exploration of one of the many museums of London, and you’ll finish your last day feeling like you’ve really experienced some of the best of the city.
9:00 am – Oxford Street Shopping – the closest underground station is Oxford Street Station.
Oxford Street is the commercial center of London and the main shopping district. While most these shops are chain stores, they are all huge so if you are in London to shop, this is the place. Some of the stores have unique features that are well worth checking out; like the Primark (think H&M but cheaper) with a huge Harry Potter section.
10:00 am – Walk around Hyde Park – there is an entrance to the park by Marble Arch at the end of Oxford Street.
If the weather is dry on your last day in the city, take a walk around its biggest park. Hyde Park is a green lung of the city, and strolling around it is a breath of fresh air. You can just enjoy the scenery and peaceful atmosphere, go boating on one of its many lakes or eat in a café. If the weather is sunny, how about an al-fresco picnic breakfast?
12:30 pm – Harrods – exit Hyde Park near Knightsbridge Station.
Another shop, although this time slightly more pricey, Harrods is worth checking out even if you haven’t got the money to make a purchase. It has humble origins – in the 1800’s it was just a small grocery store and had only three members of staff! The department store has some British souvenirs as well as designer bags and clothes. It’s a fantastic place to window shop.
1:30 pm – Lunch: Harrods Afternoon Tea.
There are three places to enjoy a spot of afternoon tea in Harrods – a very British pastime! Book in advance or show up on the day to enjoy a spread of sandwiches, cakes, and various teas.
2:00 pm – Visit a Free Museum in South Kensington – from Harrods, walk to Knightsbridge Station and take the Piccadilly Line to South Kensington.
A great way to spend your last afternoon in London is to see one of its free museums. Most of London’s museums don’t cost a penny to enter, making them a great attraction for budget travelers to London. Many of them are great for kids, with lots of interactive exhibits, yet also informative and entertaining for adults. Most of them are in the same area as well, so you don’t have to decide which one (or two!) you want to visit until you get there.
Museums in South Kensington include: The Natural History Museum which is an impressive display of flora, fauna, and exhibitions about the world we live in and why it is so, the Victoria and Albert Museum which is one of the best demonstrations of art and design in the world, the Science Museum – which is a fantastic place to visit with kids, and the National Gallery, a must for all art lovers.
Evening: Food and drinks in Camden
If you really want to elongate your time in the capital, you could take a tube to Camden to browse the markets and grab a drink. Camden is a quirky inner suburb of London, with world-famous markets and gorgeous lochs. The markets are open until 6:00 pm and serve up an impressive range of world foods. If the weather’s not too kind, there are plenty of restaurants and bars – some which are kid-friendly – to enjoy a drink and some grub.
London Travel Tips
Purchase an Oyster card upon arrival for discounts with transport. They can be used on all the London tubes, buses and overground trains within London zones. Expenditure on these cards is capped after a certain amount, so even if you use tubes all day your bill won’t be sky-high. The Oyster card cost £5 to buy but can be cashed in upon leaving.
However, walk when you can! London has so many intriguing hidden secrets and gorgeous spots which are really seen while walking around the city.
Have a cup of tea at least once while you’re in London – it’s what we’re famous for after all!
When leaving, make sure you give yourself lots of time to get to the airport. None of London’s airports are really in London, and public transport to them can take a while; especially to London Luton.
Remember to prepare for all weathers – London can go from sunshine to rain very quickly!
Author Bio: Claire Martin is a British travel blogger and freelance writer. She blogs about eco-travel and overland adventures on her blog Claire’s Footsteps; she has driven around the entirety of
Australia and is currently planning an overland trip through Asia.