Without question, London is one of the best, most diverse, and most popular cities in the world, and there’s so much to see and do. If you only have 3 days there though, you may be wondering what you could fit in, or if it will even be enough.
But fear not! There’s plenty you can see in 3 days, and while you won’t be able to take it all in, you can easily get in all the essentials.
The following will guide you through all the best spots to take in on your 3 days in London, and hopefully make your trip as amazing as possible.
Some Things to Consider Before You Leave
Before leaving for your 3 days in London you’ll want to take a couple of things into consideration.
Firstly, London is no small city, and while you’ll find some things are within a close walking distance, not everything is. You won’t be able to walk everywhere, and even with the first rate public transport things can take some time, so you’ll want to keep the following in mind to ensure you’re getting about as efficiently as possible:
Using busses and the underground
Both busses and the underground are fully cashless, and you’ll need one of the following to get yourself around:
The whole underground system runs on the Oyster Card. These cost £5, which can be refunded to you upon return of the card, and can be purchased and topped up at any underground station.
You’ll find a number of options available to you when topping up your Oyster Card, and many deals for weekly or monthly passes that work out cheaper than topping up as you go. There’s also a daily cap enforced, meaning you won’t spend more than £6.80 a day when travelling around zones 1 and 2.
While many still use Oyster Cards, they were made somewhat redundant several years ago by the following entry.
Contactless credit/debit card
Since the whole underground network was kitted out with contactless technology, it was primed and ready for the contactless payment revolution. Even better if you have your card stored on your phone, since all forms of contactless payment are accepted at the ticket barriers.
All of the same Oyster Card rules apply when it comes to contactless payment, including the daily cap on spending. You’ll have to ensure that you’re tapping in and out with the same card, or else you’ll receive a fine, and the only downside to using your contactless credit/debit card over an Oyster Card is the charges your bank may levy for conversion fees if you’re from overseas.
You could alternatively purchase a visitors card. These can be loaded up and sent out to you in advance, so you won’t need to worry about working everything out when you get to the station.
Like an Oyster Card, a visitor’s card costs £5 plus the credit you top it up with, however you won’t be able to get this £5 returned. You also won’t be able to take advantage of any weekly passes, although there’s still a price cap of £6.60 a day for travel within zones 1 and 2.
Get some good shoes
You’ll spend a lot of time walking around London, even when using public transport. Whether it’s in the streets or the museums, future you will be thanking yourself for sorting out a decent pair of walking shoes.
Find some good apps
This probably goes without saying in the modern world, but making sure you have a map on your phone will save the day on more than one occasion. London streets are windy and go all over the place, and all it takes is one or two wrong turns and you could be lost for the rest of the day (not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, you might discover something!).
You can also find some great apps to help you with public transport, which can be especially confusing to any new visitors. The last thing you want to do is spend a huge chunk of your 3 days in London lost on the underground.
Day 1 in London
What better place to start than Westminster, since it’s the hub of just about everything in the city, and basically just a mini city within London itself. Some of the most iconic buildings in the whole city can be found here, whether it’s Westminster Abbey, the Palace of Westminster or Buckingham palace; definitely not sights you’ll want to miss.
You could tackle Westminster on foot by yourself, or alternatively take a walking tour, or even a sightseeing bus. The City Sightseeing bus is a frequent sight around all parts of London, and if you purchase a London Pass the City Sightseeing bus is thrown in for free. Alternatively, if walking tours are more your thing, you’ll find several highly rated tours on offer that can help you get as much as you can out of whatever part of the city you’re in.
While you could get public transport to take you around the following route, it’s all easily walkable, and you’ll see a lot more walking from place to place than you will in the stuffy underground.
The London Eye
What better place to start bright and early than the London Eye? It’s the tallest observation wheel in all of Europe, and an amazing way to take in all that you’re about to visit from above.
From the enclosed glass pods, you’ll be able to take in some amazing views of the Thames and the rest of London as it slowly rises to give you the most expansive views of the city.
A word of warning, the London Eye is incredibly popular, and you’ll want to get your tickets in advance.
The London Dungeon
For those looking for a fright, The London Dungeon is a popular interactive attraction right next door to the London Eye. Learn all about the dark and gory side of London’s history, and many of the spots you’ll no doubt be visiting over your 3 days in the city.
You’ll also find the Sea Life London Aquarium and DreamWorks Tours: Shrek’s Adventure next door too, if you’re looking for something a bit more family-oriented.
The next stop is Westminster Bridge, with infamous views of the Houses of Parliament waiting on the other side.
This is an iconic piece of London’s history, and while the bridge only dates back to 1862, there’s been one in this location since 1750.
Perhaps the most recognisable landmark in all of London, if not at least in the top 3, is the Houses of Parliament. You’ll find a number of famous people littered around Parliament Square in statue form, from Winston Churchill to Abraham Lincoln and Ghandi.
The Houses of Parliament, officially known as the Palace of Westminster, is of course where you’ll find the infamous Big Ben, sitting inside the Elizabeth Tower. You might want to consider going for a tour inside the palace, although you’ll have to book tickets in advance.
One of the most impressive churches in all of the country, Westminster Abbey goes way back, all the way to 1245. There are all sorts of famous British people from the last 1,000 years filling up the tombs inside, from royalty to artists and scientists. This was also the site of many royal weddings, including the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton in 2011.
Churchill War Rooms
The Churchill War Rooms are comprised of two interconnected museums: the Churchill Museum and the Cabinet War Rooms. As the name suggests, the Churchill Museum is a museum dedicated to Winston Churchill, from his formative years all the way up to his death in 1965.
The Cabinet War Rooms on the other hand invites visitors into the huge underground bunker, from which the majority of the WWII effort was lead.
St. James’s Park
Once you move on from the War Rooms take a nice stroll through St. James’ Park, heading over towards Buckingham Palace. There are all sorts to take in in the park’s vast 50 acres, including the famous pelicans.
You’ll also find the Guards Museum nearby, which is definitely worth a visit to learn all about the British Army Guards and their history.
Buckingham Palace doesn’t really need any introduction, after all it’s the main residence of the Queen, and the official residence for every monarch since Queen Victoria (although it was initially built for the Duke of Buckingham some time before that in 1703).
If you want to catch the changing of the guard then you’ll want to arrive before 11am. You’ll find the ceremony taking place most days around this time, and lasting for some 45 minutes. You can find a schedule online to be sure.
The National Gallery and Trafalgar Square
From Buckingham Palace, take a walk up the Mall to Trafalgar Square, the home of Nelson’s Column and his giant lions. You’ll find hundreds of people here having fun on the lions, at the fountains, or sitting on the column and just taking in the view.
This is also where you’ll find the National Gallery, along with the National Portrait Gallery just around the corner. This is one of the best museums the city has to offer, and is definitely not something any art lovers will want to miss.
Leicester Square and Chinatown
Just around the corner from Trafalgar Square is Leicester Square, London’s home of cinema. Here you’ll find the newly renovated (and unfortunately robbed of it’s former glory) Odeon Leicester Square, home to all of the UK’s biggest premieres. If you want to take in a movie then this is the area to be in, and if classic cinema is more your thing, the Prince Charles Cinema is the place to go to catch some old classics.
You’ll find the Prince Charles Cinema nestled neatly in a walkway taking you into Chinatown. It goes without saying that this is where you’ll want to visit if Chinese food is your thing.
Day 2 in London
Let’s take a step out of the hustle and bustle of the city centre for the first part of the second day and visit Windsor Castle. Windsor is a bit more serene and peaceful than the rest of the city, and you’ll need to catch a train to get out there.
Of all of the still inhabited castles in the world Windsor Castle is the oldest, having been around since the 11th century. Today it’s main role is as the Queen’s weekend home, and as a popular tourist attraction. Many parts of the castle are open to the public; although you’ll need an hour-long train ride each way to get here.
You could easily spend a good few hours at Windsor, taking in the castle and the quaint shops and tearooms, before heading back to the city to check out some more.
Another royal residence, Kensington Palace goes back to the 17th century, and is still a working royal palace to this day. In spite of this though, visitors can visit much of the palace year round, and there’s plenty to see, including the amazing palace gardens.
Once you’ve seen the inside of the palace take a walk around the outside and visit the fantastic gardens. There are two Serpentine Galleries you can visit, along with the Albert Memorial and an ornamental water garden, and a number of cafes to visit if you’re feeling peckish.
The Royal Albert Hall
As you exit the south side of Kensington Gardens you’ll find yourself at the Royal Albert Hall, which needs no introductions. Since opening in 1871 it’s been host to all sorts, from sporting events to huge rock shows.
Guided tours are available for those who book in advance, and there’s almost certainly going to be something worth while going on there while you’re in town.
For any shoppers taking the trip, or anyone that just wants to bask in the most extravagant department store in all of London, Harrods is the next stop on the tour.
Since 1835 Harrods has been one of the most renowned luxury stores on the planet, with all sorts going on and some amazing spots to eat inside. You could get lost in here for hours.
Next to Harrods is Hyde Park, a huge 350 acre park that used to take on Kensington Gardens too until they were split in two.
There’s all sorts in Hyde Park, with the Diana Memorial Fountain, the Serpentine Bridge, several war memorials and the Holocaust Memorial. There are often many huge events going on in the park throughout the year too, along with activities such as cycling, tennis, horse riding and boating, and plenty of great pubs and restaurants around the area in which to end your second day in London.
Day 3 in London
Your final day in London; lets make the most of it and take a trip to the City of London, another city within the city much like Westminster. Here’s the financial hub of the city, and where you’ll find many more of the most iconic landmarks like the Tower of London and Tower Bridge.
Starting off the morning at the Shard, you can choose to go in or just admire it from the outside, but it makes as good a place as any to start the day’s adventure.
For our money the Walkie Talkie is the building to head to the top of (namely because the Sky Garden is free and the Shard is not), and we’ll have more on that later.
From the Shard, walk on over to Tower Bridge and walk across to the Tower of London. Tower Bridge is one of the most famous sights in all of London, and if you have some spare time it might be worth visiting the Tower Bridge Exhibition to learn all there is to know about the 19th century masterpiece.
The Tower of London
Once you cross Tower Bridge you’ll find yourself at the Tower of London. The Tower was built almost 1,000 years ago by William the Conqueror, before it expanded over time to what it is today.
The Tower of London is one of the most popular attractions London has to offer, so be prepared for it to get a bit crowded. You’ll find a lot to see and do though, from the Beefeaters to the Crown Jewels, and if you get yourself a London Pass you’ll find it included.
The Sky Garden
Next up, head over to the Walkie Talkie to visit the Sky Garden. Compared to other more popular alternatives like the Shard, the Sky Garden is free to enter (although you still have to book in advance), and is the highest public garden up on the 35th to 37th floors. There are also few restaurants located inside if you want something to eat.
There are some great views to take in from the Sky Garden, and you definitely won’t be disappointed.
From the Walkie Talkie take a walk to check out St. Paul’s, another one of London’s most iconic buildings. Built in 1697, St. Paul’s especially became an important symbol during WWII, as all around was burning after a heavy night of bombing by the Germans.
You can take a tour inside the cathedral, and there’s a lot that you can take in, including the crypts and the dome. Alternatively you can just admire it from the outside, however if you have the London Pass then entry to St. Paul’s is included.
The Museum of London
As you continue on your way from St. Paul’s you’ll come to the Museum of London. This is a definite must for any history fans looking to learn more abut the city, and like most other museums in London it’s free to enter.
Take in some dinner and a West End Show
By now it’s probably time to eat, and what better way to end your time in London than taking in a nice dinner and catching a West End show? You’ll find more than 30 theatres offering all sorts, so you’ll definitely find something interesting.
Many of the top productions in the world can be found in the West End, as well as some amazing restaurants offering any kind of cuisine you could possibly be after. We can’t think of a better way to end your visit to one of the greatest cities in the world.
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