It’s no secret that London is my favourite city in the world. And after seven trips there, I think it’s about time I put together my perfect itinerary. So if you have 3 days in London, this is the post for you!
Of course, 3 days in London is not a lot. If you really want to see it all and add a day trip or two, I would suggest closer to 5 days or an entire week. But if you only have 3 days in London, you’ll still be able to get a great taste for the city.
And if you do happen to have more than 3 days in London, I’ve included some extra itinerary items at the bottom of this post for you!
Without further ado, let’s jump into the perfect itinerary for 3 days in London!
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Day 1: London icons
Today we start off with some of the most iconic spots in all of London. These are the bucket list locations that you absolutely must see.
We’ll begin at Buckingham Palace, the home of the Queen and the Royal Family. Even if you’re not a royals fan, like me, Buckingham Palace is still worth the stop.
Tips for Buckingham Palace:
- You can only tour the inside of Buckingham Palace, the State Rooms, at certain times of year. It’s usually mid July to mid September. I’ve never been in London during these times so haven’t made it inside Buckingham Palace yet.
- If you can, try to visit on a day when the family will be out on the balcony, like Trooping the Colour (the celebration of the Queen’s birthday in June). I’ve been lucky enough to see two Trooping the Colour events. The entire area is packed but it’s so fun to see the royals in person and listen to the crowd get all excited for them.
- Don’t bother watching the daily changing of the guard. It’s incredibly packed and really not worth it. You won’t be able to see much, people will be pushing you, and what you do manage to see is not that impressive. If you really need to see some guards, head across the street to St. James Palace where the guards will march right up to you.
From Buckingham Palace, head next door to St. James Park for a picnic in the park. If it’s raining or cold, you may prefer to head to the Victoria and Albert Museum (20 minutes on the tube, 30 minutes walking), which is my favourite museum in London. They also have a nice courtyard for lunch.
After lunch, we’re heading to the big one – Big Ben! Depending where in St. James Park you decided to picnic, Big Ben and Houses of Parliament will only be a 5-15 minute walk away. Stand in Parliament Square Garden and take all of the photos of Big Ben, Parliament, the bridges, the Thames and Westminster Abbey!
Tips for Parliament & Westminster Abbey:
- Instead of paying for the tour of Westminster Abbey, you can just attend one of the church services for free. You’ll enter through the same doors that Kate did when she and William got married there (!!!). If you’re not a big church goer, I recommend attending Evensong, which is a choral performance. You can’t take photos, but just looking up at the ceiling is well worth it.
- If you want to visit Parliament, you can tour the Palace of Westminster and Houses of Parliament. Or you can actually get a pass online to attend a debate in the House of Commons. I did this back in 2012 and it was a very cool experience and inside look. Plus, it’s free!
From here, you’re heading down to the Leicester Square and Trafalgar Square area (15 minute walk from Big Ben) for a little sightseeing and to buy your theatre tickets. This area is generally packed with tourists and there isn’t a ton to see – it’s kind of like Times Square. So enjoy it, but don’t spend too much time here. And don’t eat here! Everything will be overpriced.
Seeing a show in London’s Westend is an iconic and can’t-miss London activity. Here are some tips for getting discount theatre tickets:
- There are tons of booths all over this area that sell discount theatre tickets. I don’t actually think one is better than the others (I’m pretty sure they’re all owned by the same guy). So there’s no need to go to the TKTS booth. Just go to any one you want.
- Theatre in London’s West End is the absolute best. There are always a million plays and musicals showing. And they’re all amazing. It’s best if you have a few shows in mind, but don’t have your heart set on one in particular. Show up and see what has the best deal.
- Need a suggestion? Wicked is my favourite show! I have now seen it five times, four of those times being in London! It’s an amazing show and they always have lots of tickets available.
- The cheapest tickets you can get will usually be in the £20-30 range. This is a huge discount from what you’d be able to buy online or at the box office.
- You can buy tickets on the same day, and even just an hour or less before the performance. If you’re not picky about what you’re going to see, you can show up whenever. I would advise showing up before 6:00 PM as some shows start early (7:00 instead of 8:00 PM) and may be farther away.
- No, you won’t be able to get discount tickets to Hamilton. Don’t be ridiculous.
After you grab your tickets, it’s time for dinner before your show. Walk just 10 minutes from Leicester Square to Covent Garden. This is a great area to do a little shopping, eat dinner and watch some entertaining buskers. From there, it’s on to whatever theatre you got tickets to!
Day 2: Outdoor sights
Cross your fingers for day 2 of our 3 days in London. We need some good weather today because the majority of the sightseeing is outdoors. Or bring an umbrella!
We’re starting off day 2 with a visit to Notting Hill. The Portobello Road Market is on every day except Sunday, with Saturday being the main day. Browse through the antiques, admire the colourful homes and go find the travel bookstore from the Notting Hill movie!
Continue walking through Notting Hill until you hit Kensington Gardens (15 minute walk from Notting Hill Gate). Hopefully the sun is shining and you can really enjoy exploring all around Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park. This is one of the nicest areas in London. It’s also home to Kensington Palace (where Kate and Will, and Harry and Meghan live!) and you can go on a tour of Kensington Palace.
I was going to suggest you take a break for high tea at the Orangery in Kensington Gardens, but sadly, it’s under construction and closed. You can still have high tea at the Kensington Palace Pavilion and Tea Room, or you can save it for another time and place.
Tips for high tea in London:
- If you want to go high-end, I suggest the Wolseley for a sophisticated tea experience. I’m pretty sure I saw a celebrity when I was there.
- If you want to go budget, I suggest the Soho Secret Tea Room. It’s in the upstairs of a bar!
- And if you want to go Insta-famous, I suggest Sketch. Apparently the bathrooms are stunning.
- There are also lots of themed tea rooms all around London if you want to have a Harry Potter or Alice in Wonderland experience.
- Or you can combine sightseeing and tea with an afternoon tea on a double decker bus!
If you’re a Sherlock Holmes fan, I’ve included an optional stop in this 3 days in London itinerary: 21B Baker Street! Depending on where you are in Kensington Gardens/Hyde Park, it will be a 10-30 minute walk to this famous address.
As you’re leaving the Hyde Park area, walk east down Oxford Street, one of the best known shopping areas of London. If you’re a shopper, you’re going to love this spot. And even if you’re not, it’s fun to admire the views (apparently the rooftop of Selfridges has a great city view) and grab a great deal from Primark.
If you’re not a shopper, you might prefer to spend your afternoon at the British Museum. It’s a 15 minute tube ride or 30 minute walk from the edge of Hyde Park; it’s also en route from Oxford Street if you want to shop your way there. And best of all? The British Museum is free (or you can pay for a guided tour of the British Museum)!
We’ll end day two with dinner and drinks in Carnaby (15 minute walk from the British Museum or right off of Oxford Street). This hip area of London is lousy with awesome restaurants (including the famed Dishoom) and bars. It’s busy and popular with locals and tourists alike. It’s a super fun area, so enjoy your night out here.
And if you’re not quite ready to call it a night yet, you know I always suggest going to another play or musical!
Day 3: Around the Thames
To finish off our 3 days in London, we’re heading a little southeast to spend some time around the River Thames.
We’ll begin our day at the Tower of London, one of the most famous places in London that was once used as a fortress, palace, prison and zoo!
Tips for the Tower of London:
- I suggest beginning your day at the Tower of London as it is likely to get more crowded as the day goes on. So get an early start and arrive right after opening! Because this attraction is quite popular, I also suggest buying your Tower of London tickets ahead of time so you can skip the line and guarantee your entrance.
- Your ticket includes a Beefeater tour, which is essentially a short talk by a Beefeater about the history of the Tower of London before you go about your visit. It’s a great way to learn more about the history of the Tower of London and about the Beefeaters themselves.
- Once you’ve had your Beefeater tour, head to the crown jewels! Even if there is a line, it moves quick so don’t be discouraged.
- Luckily, most of the Tower of London is comprised of indoor exhibits, so don’t let any bad weather get you down. Be sure to check out all of the indoor exhibits as they are scattered around in different buildings.
- Check out views of Tower Bridge! The Tower of London hosts some of the nicest views of the iconic Tower Bridge.
From the Tower of London, walk 10 minutes to Sky Garden. Sky Garden is a free view point! Instead of paying for tickets to go up the Shard or ride the London Eye, you can check out the view here for free. You do have to register for tickets online but they’re free. Tickets open up about 10 days in advance, and I suggest you grab them quick if you’re visiting at a busy time of year or want the coveted sunset tickets.
A 15 minute walk from Sky Garden will bring you to St. Paul’s Cathedral. This impressive church is well worth the visit and another well-known icon of London. You’ll then walk across the river over the Millennium Bridge, which you might recognize from the Harry Potter movies.
If you have the time or interest, I’ll include a visit to Tate Modern, a modern art gallery just on the other side of the bridge you walked across. Bonus: Tate Modern is also free to enter!
We’ll then be doing a quick detour to my favourite place in all of London: Borough Market! Walk along the Thames for 10 minutes heading east and you’ll find Borough Market tucked away under London Bridge. It’s the best place to go for some delicious food. There are tons of vendors selling absolutely everything. It reminds me a lot of Granville Island and the markets there.
Tip: Note the hours of Borough Market (closes at 5:00 or 6:00 PM Monday to Saturday, closed on Sundays). If you can’t make it there before it closes for dinner, you might want to start your day there or visit for lunch instead.
Lastly, we’ll walk back towards the Millennium Bridge and stop at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre to take in a show. I’ve seen two shows at the Globe and it really is a cool experience.
Tips for Shakespeare’s Globe:
- Book your tickets in advance! If the show playing is a popular one, tickets can sell out early.
- While you can get standing tickets for only £10, it’s a long time to stand. It can get very busy and crowded. And you’re not allowed to sit or lean on anything. I’d splurge a bit more on a seated ticket.
- That being said, I would suggest buying one of the restricted view tickets to save money. The views usually aren’t too restricted and since it’s bench style seating, you can just move slightly to the left or right and have a great view!
- Shakespeare’s Globe does more than just Shakespeare plays. They produce new works and I even saw a comedy show there in 2012! If you can’t make it to a play, you can go on a tour of the Globe instead.
More than 3 days in London?
Have more than 3 days in London? Awesome! I really do think this city deserves a few more days. There are so many other things you can see and do both inside London and outside.
Here are a few suggestions if you have some more than 3 days in London:
- London is home to many awesome street markets, delicious restaurants and excellent museums (many of which are free!). Just do a bit of Googling and find some that suit your interests.
- Beatles fan? You know you have to walk across Abbey Road! I didn’t include it on this 3 day itinerary as it’s a little farther away from the other stops. But it is fun! Be warned that this is a very busy road and it’s unlikely you’ll get your perfect Beatles photo without getting hit.
- Harry Potter fan? Then you have to head to King’s Cross and get your photo taken running through the wall! Again, King’s Cross Station isn’t super central to the other items on this itinerary, which is why I didn’t include it. But if you’re a Potterhead, it’s a must. Be prepared to stand in line to wait for your photo opp. But they will provide you with props, like a wand and your house scarf. You don’t have to buy their professional photos either; you can just take your own.
- Even bigger Harry Potter fan? Head to the Harry Potter Studio Tour in Leavesden. It’s a bit outside the city and definitely will take up the better part of a day. But it’s fantastic! I highly recommend it if you’re a Harry Potter fan. Check out my full guide to the Harry Potter Studio Tour here.
- Another awesome trip from London is to Windsor to visit Windsor Castle – the Queen’s other home and where Harry and Meghan were married. It’s an easy train ride and fun to tour the castle.
- In fact, London is lousy with day trip and overnight options. You can head to Bath for the day or spend 2 days in Manchester, Oxford, the Cotswolds or even Paris – just an easy train ride away!
- Need more suggestions? Check out these awesome day trips from London by Darek and Gosia. So many gorgeous English towns to discover!
Tips for 3 days in London
- If you’re arriving at Heathrow Airport, you can either take the tube or Heathrow Express into Central London. The tube is cheaper but slower. Double check where you’re staying to see if the money saved taking the tube is worth your time. If you are going to take the Heathrow Express, make sure you book your ticket as soon as possible as it’s much cheaper when booked in advance.
- If you’ve got 3 days in London, or any days in London, you’re going to want to get an Oyster card and use the tube. The tube is incredibly efficient, easy to navigate, and can get you almost anywhere. The Oyster card is the best and cheapest way to use the tube. You can buy one at any tube station through the machines and load it with money. There’s a £5 deposit to buy an Oyster card, but you’ll save more than that by using it. Plus, you can get the £5 back when you leave! Just return the card at the information desk at the Heathrow tube station and they’ll refund your £5 deposit plus any unused money you have on the card.
- London is known as an expensive city, but it doesn’t have to be. As you’ll see from my itinerary above, there are many free activities you can take part in. You can also take advantage of cheap food options, like pub food and pre-made food at cafes like Pret a Manger.
- If you do have to buy tickets for something, I highly suggest you buy them in advance online. You can usually save a few dollars by buying them online (check my links above!).
- We all know that London weather can be dicey! Don’t expect blue skies and sunshine. Be prepared with some warmer clothing and rain gear. You can easily pick up a cheap umbrella if things start to get really wet. And if you can’t take it anymore, head indoors to a free museum or for a spot of tea!
And there you have it – my perfect itinerary for 3 days in London! What do you think? Did I miss anything? Let me know how you would spend 3 days in London in the comments below.