You can’t really, fully see London in 3 days. So, should you go? I say, absolutely!
With a population of 9 million people, London is the fourth largest city in Europe. Commuting from one side to the other takes forever, even if you move by metro. But if it is your first time in town, you’ll likely want to stick to the most famous attractions, and those are actually never too far one from the other.
If you don’t know where to start exploring, you are in the right place. I have lived in London for a whopping 8 years and know the city inside out – I especially practiced all sorts of itinerary for when family and friends visited!
Continue reading for an itinerary which is perfect if you are spending a long weekend in London, either as part of a short getaway, a longer trip around the UK or even a Europe trip. At the end of this post, you’ll find a further practical guide with tips to help you plan.
How To Use This London In 3 Days Itinerary
Let me start by saying that 3 days are hardly enough to see everything that London has to offer, and that the city is crowded with tourists year round. To avoid wasting time when visiting attractions, you must get skip the line, timed entrance tickets ahead of your visit. I will be sure to point out in this post any time you need to / can get tickets online.
For the purpose of this itinerary, I will assume that you have 3 days in London – which would typically mean you are going to spend four nights there.
The itinerary you will be following is based on my personal experience – and my personal taste. So you won’t see places like Camden Market or Oxford Street. I used to love them when I was a student, but I think that in the last 15 years they somewhat lost their character. You also won’t really be able to get off the beaten path as well – leave that for another visit.
The overall idea is to give you a good mixture of classic attractions, museums, free places to see and markets.
If you are flying into London from the other side of the Atlantic, you’ll be jet lagged and tired. If you really want to do something as soon as you arrive, opt for a guided food tour. Despite its reputation for being quite plain, traditional food in Britain is actually tasty. You can opt for this Secret British food tour which has 2 daily departures; or for this Historical Pubs of London tour.
Below are some extra tips to make the most of your time in London:
- Have an early start – it’s the best way to beat the crowds.
- Have lunch on the go. There are plenty of stores and cafés where you can grab a quick sandwich or a salad.
- Double check the opening times of museums – if they are open until late, visit them last in the day.
- Wear comfortable clothes and shoes.
You should also read my post What To Wear In London.
What To See London In 3 Days
The first day will take you to some of London’s most iconic attractions. Some place require pre-bookings ahead of time, whereas are are free to visit.
Map of day 1
Download your map for your day 1 itinerary here, and get yourself acquainted with the walking distances. You will probably need to use public transportation to reach your first attraction.
Churchill War Rooms
Churchill War Rooms are actually made of two connected museums: Churchill Museum and The Cabinet War Rooms. The first one is dedicated to the life of Sir Winston Churchill, Britain’s most notable Prime Minister, who guided the country through WWII and for a long time afterwards. The exhibit here will take you through his life and his political figure.
The second museum is a bunker from where the WWII efforts were directed. It’s the place where Churchill and his government hid during the famous London Blitz.
A guided tour will help you make the most of this attraction and give you historical insights. I recommend this WWII Westminster Walking Tour and Churchill War Rooms.
Churchill War Rooms are open every day from 9:30 am to 6:00 pm. The nearest metro stations are Westminster and St. James’ Park.
For more information, visit the official website of the museum here.
Founded in 960 AD, Westminster Abbey is the most famous church in the country – and rightly so, since this is were coronations and royal weddings took place since 1066. It’s also the burial ground of some notable Britons such Isaac Newton. It’s actually the most beautiful church in London – or at least, that’s what I think! – so make sure not to skip it.
The Abbey is open from 9:30 am to 3:00 pm, Monday to Saturday. It’s open for services only on Sundays. It will take you about one hour to visit. You should get tickets in advance. You can do that here.
Houses of Parliament and Big Ben
The Houses of Parliament is the seat of the British Parliament, where all political decisions in the UK are taken. I must admit that despite living in London for a long time, I never went inside. If you only have 3 days in the city, you don’t really have much time to go inside. Instead, just snap a few photos the Houses of Parliament and the Big Ben – the famous clock tower – from the bridge on your way to the London Eye.
Tours sold on the official site run on Saturdays only and get sold out easily, so if you are keen on visiting you really must book well in advance. You can do so via the official website here.
There are also guided tours that run on Sundays and also go to Westminster Abbey. You can book yours here.
This is one of my favorite places to visit in London – touristy, on the expensive side, often crowded but offering unparalleled views of the city.
With its 135 meters (about 443 feet) in height, the London Eye is one of the tallest ferris wheels in the world. It was designed by David Marks and Julia Barfield to celebrate the millennium, and its construction took seven years. A whole week was necessary to lift it up! Initially the idea was that of a temporary structure, but when it became clear it was a hit, it was decided to keep it as a permanent attraction.
The London Eye counts with 32 pods (each can carry up to 35 passengers) and moves rather slowly – a ride takes about 30 minutes. Inside, small benches will allow you to sit, and tablets will allow you to look for information about the places you are seeing.
You will be able to spot the nearby Houses of Parliament, the Big Ben and Westminster Abbey to way beyond the center of town. It’s a nice thing to do in London even on a rainy day.
The lines to get on London Eye can get quite long make sure to book it in advance. You can get your tickets here or here.
Check out my post How To Get London Eye Tickets.
The opening times of London Eye vary depending on the season and day of visit. As a reference, it is open from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm Monday to Friday and 10:00 am to 8:30 pm Saturday and Sunday. It stays open from 10:00 am to 8:30 pm every day in July and August. You can actually walk there from the Big Ben.
London Dungeon is a fun attraction and quite close to the London Eye. You can get joint tickets to visit both at a discounted rate here or here. If you visit both, go to the London Dungeon first. The tour lasts 90 minutes.
National Gallery and Trafalgar Square
It will take you around 15 minutes to walk from the London Eye to the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square – one of the most famous squares in town. Inside, you can admire an immense collection of art from different periods. My favorite collection is that of impressionist art, but there is also a large collection of religious art and there often are special exhibits too.
It is a well organized museum, easy to navigate albeit very bit, but for ease you may want to opt for an audio-guide.
The National Gallery is free to visit and it is open daily from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. It closes at 9:00 pm on Fridays. Check out the website of the National Gallery for special exhibits that require advance bookings.
Make sure to also read my post The 20 Best Museums In London.
Piccadilly Circus is on the way from Trafalgar Square to Leicester Square, and a major crossroads in London. There is a fountain where people (to be fair, mostly tourists!) like to hang out, and for the rest it is just all shiny lights and businesses, shops, noise and traffic. But it is a fun place if you are into photography, especially at night.
Minutes from Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square was the place to be in the heyday of disco-clubs. This is where the Hippodrome and Equinox were located – and where I have spent many nights during my end-of-highschool trip to London. It’s also where you will find lots of movie theaters. As it is very touristy, beware of pickpockets and scams in this area – steer away from anyone looking to sell musical tickets and buy them only from authorized resellers or online.
Covent Garden is a pretty, fun and central place to visit, a 5-minute walk from Leicester Square. Once a flower market, it is now a place where street artists perform – you will see them inside on the ground level, and outside – and there are some nice but expensive shops, stalls and pubs.
If you happen to be in London around Christmas time (the decorations are out at the beginning of November) make sure to go. It looks beautiful when it is all festive. Keep in mind this is one of the most crowded places in London.
Make sure to read my post The Best Things To Do In Covent Garden.
The second of your London in 3 days itinerary will take you to some other important landmarks – which you will have to reserve in advance – and to other incredible free places to visit in London.
Map of day 2
You can download today’s map here. Everything is within easy walking distance, and I have included a nice short scenic walk too.
Tower of London
The Tower of London is one of the most important landmarks in London, and you should not skip it. Built by William the Conqueror in the 11th century, throughout its history it served as a royal palace, an armory, a treasury, a menagerie and even as the Royal Mint. It then became a prison for political prisoners – the most famous ones to be executed here are Anne Boleyn or Guy Fawkes.
The massive building served this purpose until the end of WWII, when the last execution of a German spy – Josef Jakobs – took place.
You will definitely enjoy the Crown Jewels exhibit, and be fascinated by the story of this place. Don’t miss the Beauchamp and Salt Towers, where you can spot prisoners’ graffiti; the Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula, which is near the execution site; and the Norman Chapel of St John’s in the White Tower wall.
The Tower of London is open Tuesday to Saturday from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm and Sunday and Monday from 10:00 am to 4:30 pm. Be there as soon as it opens to beat the crowds. This is one of the most popular attractions in the city – advanced bookings are required. You can book your ticket here.
The nearest metro station is Tower Hill on the District and Circle Line.
Make sure to read my post How To Get Tower Of London Tickets.
Once you leave the Tower of London, walk to your left and get on Tower Bridge, one of London’s most famous landmarks.
To learn more about the history of the bridge or in case you want to experience the thrill of walking on a glass walkway suspended at 40 meters (131 feet) from the ground, you will have to visit the Tower Bridge Exhibit. If you are not interested in that, continue walking towards the South Bank.
You can walk along the bridge whenever you want, but the Tower Bridge Exhibit is open from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm. To get tickets, click here.
A walk along the South Bank
I never miss an opportunity to go for a walk along the South Bank. It’s where you can get some of the best (free) views of London. The photos of the Tower of London and of Tower Bridge posted above were taken from the South Bank. It’s the perfect place to go for a walk on a sunny day. You will find lots of bars, cafés and pubs along the way.
Beware of Touts and scams are a common occurrence along the South Bank. It’s a common place for the 3 cards or the 3 cups game.
If you have already been on London Eye, you will probably want to skip this attraction.
Designed by famous Italian architect Renzo Piano and inaugurated in 2012, The Shard is London’s most famous skyscraper. The indoor viewing platforms are on levels 68 and 69, and there is an open-air Skydeck – which was first opened in 2013 – on level 72. Needless to say, the views from up there are incredible and on a clear day you can see up to 40 miles out!
You have to book it in advance from the official website or here (the price is the same).
The Shard opening times vary depending on the day of the week and the season, with longer opening hours during the weekend and in the summer months.
Don’t forget to read my post Where To Get The Best Views Of London.
This is one of my favorite places to visit in London. When I lived in London, I’d go there every week to stock on delicacies from Italy and Sardinia that I was unable to find elsewhere. It can get crowded on Fridays and Saturdays, and it is not exactly a cheap place to buy your groceries, but it is a lot of fun, and your chance to try some delicious food.
The market operates from Monday to Saturday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.
Make sure to read my post The Best Markets In London.
Buckingham Palace is one of the most important landmarks in London, and an absolute must see when visiting London in 3 days. Most people see if from the outside and observe the Changing of the Guard Ceremony, which takes place at 10:45 am. I am honestly not a fan of it because it gets terribly crowded, but towards the end of the day it won’t be as bad.
If you want to go inside, you need to book in advance and join a guided tour. Here are some good options.
Buckingham Palace: The State Room entrance tickets – a budget friendly audio-guided tour. It lasts around 3 hours.
Changing of the Guard and Buckingham Palace tour – a good guided tour of around 3 hours. You get a guide even for the Changing of the Guard.
Buckingham Palace tickets with Royal walking tour – a good tour of the palace, it starts at 1:30 pm (so easier to fit in this itinerary) and lasts 2.5 hours.
St. James Park
St. James is one of London’s nicest and best kept park. You will be walking through it to get to Buckingham Palace, so make sure to take in the views, the people hanging out, the children playing. If the weather is nice, it’s a great place to catch your breath and just relax for a while before you continue exploring.
London is a great place to see a musical – this is where I saw my first, back in 1999 – it was Grease and I had a blast! If you care for one, make sure to book it in advance. There is an incredible choice of shows. Most theaters are located around Covent Garden / Leicester Square and Charing Cross. One of the best shows in town is Mamma Mia! based on Abba’s music.
The last of your 3 days in London will start with a tour that will entertain any kind of visitor. After that, you will have a chance to continue to one of the best museums in the world, and to other important landmarks in London.
Map of day 3
This is your map for day 3. Walking distances are a bit longer so use the metro to move around.
Harry Potter tour
If you are visiting London with kids in tow, discovering the sites of the movie and following the trail of Harry Potter is a fun thing to do. Tours depart at 10:30 am and last around 2.5 hours. They go to some places you will have already seen the day before independently, and many more that you will enjoy exploring.
This Harry Potter tour comes highly recommended and it is quite budget friendly. You can pick the underground option, or the boat ride one. Opt for the second one for an even more scenic experience.
This is a really cool attraction and a nice addition to this London in 3 days itinerary. It’s a high garden from where you enjoy great views of the city, in case you didn’t get enough. Reservations are not necessary if you go after sunset, but there is a dress code and drinks are crazy expensive.
The Sky Garden is open on Mondays from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm; Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 10:00 am to 11:00 pm; Thursdays from 10:00 am to 12:00 am; Fridays from 10:00 am to 2:00 am; Saturdays from 8:30 am to 2:00 am and Sundays from 8:30 am to 11:00 pm. You need to book a time slot for your visit here. You can also book a table at the bar or restaurant.
St. Paul’s Cathedral
Rebuild in 1697 after the Great Fire of London destroyed it in 1666, this is one of the sights in London you are likely to recognize – the dome can be seen from a distance. You can visit the main part, the crypt and the dome but keep in mind there generally is a line to access the dome as there are limitations to the number of people who can go up at once.
To be completely honest, this is quite a bare church – definitely so compared to Westminster Abbey – so if you only opt to visit one church while in London, you can probably skip this one.
The church is not free to visit – there is a fee and you get an audioguide to go around. You can get your tickets in advance on the official website or on third party booking site for the same price, here.
St. Paul’s Cathedral is open Mondays to Saturdays from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm (6:00 pm on Sundays). The nearest metro station is St. Paul’s.
OPTION 1: British Museum
The British Museum is really what to see in London in 3 days. You will find an incredible collection of artifacts from different times in history. My personal favorite is Rosetta’s Stone, but I also love browsing through the ancient Egypt section in search for mummies, or the Greek collection to spot pieces that arrive from Athens’ Parthenon.
The museum if free to visit, but to limit the number of visitors it operates on a time slot system. You can book your visit in advance on the official site here. Keep in mind it is massive, so you should get a map and /or an audioguide to get around. Alternatively, you can join a guided tour. These are some good options:
The British Museum Tour: the ideas that made our world – an excellent tour that takes you through the collection swiftly. It lasts 2.5 hours and there are two daily departures at 10:00 am and 2:00 pm, plus an extra one at 5:00 pm on Fridays.
British Museum guided tour – another excellent tour. It lasts 2 hours and starts at either 10:00 am or 2:00 pm.
The British Museum is open daily from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. It closes at 8:30 pm on Fridays. The nearest metro stations are Tottenham Court Road, Holborn, Russell Square, Goodge Street. If you are coming from St. Paul’s, you will get off at Tottenham Court Road.
OPTION 2: Kensington Palace and Kensington Gardens
Kensington Palace is a nice alternative to the British Museum if you are keen on learning a bit more about the royal family. It dates back to the 17th century and was first used as a royal residence by Queen Mary II. It kept being the royal residence until the time of George II and from then on it became the residence for members of the royal family, but not the sovereigns themselves.
In more contemporary times, it was the residence of Princess Margaret, Prince Charles and Princess Diana, Prince William and Prince Henry – though the latter famously decided to give up his royal status.
Although the palace is still in use, it is open for visits, but you have to pay a fee to get in. You can get tickets at the official price here. Once you are done visiting the palace, you can move to Kensington Gardens, another beautiful London park where you will find statues (the most famous one is that of Prince Albert) and other sorts of decorations.
During the winter months, the Palace is open Wednesday to Sunday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. Opening hours are longer in the summer months. The nearest metro station is High Street Kensington, on the District and Circle lines.
Using A 3-Days London Pass
Many travelers find city passes convenient as they include all the tickets to a number of attractions in one place, so it may be a good idea to invest in one for your 3 days in London. Just remember that once you get the pass, you still have to make reservations for each attraction separately.
For the best London Pass options, click here or here.
Practical Guide To See London In 3 Days
Where to stay in London
There are many good accommodation options in London. The bad news is that hotels are crazy expensive and if you want something clean and comfortable you will have to pay dear money. If you are visiting London in 3 days, you really need to stay somewhere central.
Areas like Camden may be a bit cheaper, but not the safest and far from everything. Stay in Kensington or Westminster Borough. Covent Garden is great but expensive.
The following is a selection of good, centrally located places to stay:
- Pan Pacific London – near Liverpool St. Station and close to Shoreditch market, in an uo and coming part of the city that’s become very trendy. There is an indoor pool, a fitness center and pets are welcome.
- The Savoy – plus, large rooms in a fantastic location in the heart of the city.
- Vintry & Mercer – close to St. Paul’s Cathedral, rooms are small but incredibly cozy.
- Urbany Hostel London – a very good option for travelers on a budget and backpackers who don’t mind sleeping in dorms.
For more options, read my posts The Best Airbnbs In London and Where To Stay In London: The Best Areas And Hotels.
How to get to London
London has 5 international airports London Heathrow, London Gatwick and London City are all served by main airlines; whereas Stansted and Luton are served by budget airlines. London City is in the Docklands and the most central airports, and you can get there by bus from Central London.
The other airports are a bit outside the city but well connected by public transport. If you are flying from the other side of the world, you will be likely landing in Heathrow or Gatwick. The best way to get to town from any airport is the fast and comfortable train. Buses are a bit cheaper but slow.
London Heathrow is also connected by metro, but this can get crowded the almost complete lack of elevators (there are escalators but some stations don’t even have those) make it a nightmare if you have luggage.
Heathrow Express runs to Paddington Train Station. Trains depart every 15 minutes and take just 15 minutes to get there.
Gatwick Express runs to Victoria Station. Trains depart every 15 minutes and take around 15 minutes to get there.
Stansted Express runs to London Liverpool Street Station. Trains depart every 15 minutes. The journey takes 47 minutes.
You can book your private transfer from the airport to the city center via Welcome Pickups here.
Make sure to check out my post How To Get From Heathrow To London.
How to move around London
The best way to move around London is the metro (called underground or “the tube”). There are 11 metro lines, plus the light-rail, so all areas of the city are well connected. Buses often run late and get stuck in traffic.
London Underground doesn’t come without problems. There often are renovation works which means closure of some lines and stations, and you will have to find alternative routes. As it is old, trains move slowly and at times must wait till the train in the opposite direction passes before they move again.
Many stations are not accessible – so don’t count on the metro if you have some physical impairment. Finally, the metro doesn’t run 24/7 – you’ll have to use the night bus after 11:30 pm.
Get Oyster Card if you intend to use public transportation. You get it once, keep it and top it up at metro stations any time you need it. Touch in and out at every station or any time you get on the bus. You can get yours here.
Uber works in London, but you are better off using the metro during the day anyways.
Luggage storage in London
You can find luggage storage facilities at all train stations in London. You need to book in advance. Stasher is a good company with reliable service.
Other useful tips
Get a data plan for your smartphone
Walking around London will be a whole lot better if you can use data to consult Google Maps or call an Uber. Make sure your phone works in London and that you have a good data plan.
Tap water is safe to drink in England but honestly vile. You may want to take a bottle with a filter with you to save on plastic.
Mind the scams
London is not immune from pickpockets – keep your eyes open in crowded places, especially in the metro and in metro stations. Scams are also common. I have already mentioned the 3 cups or 3 cards game which you surely know.
Another common scam in London is that of the fake theater tickets. It usually occurs in Leicester Square, where there are lots of ticket boots too so it is easy to get mistaken. You are probably better off getting show tickets online. Also beware of fake charity collectors.
Get a good travel insurance
Whether you are visiting London in 3 days or more, make sure to get a good travel insurance for your trip.
Check out my post Why You Need A Good Travel Insurance and get your travel insurance here.
For more ideas and itineraries for London, make sure to read these posts:
- How To Make The Most Of London In A Day
- How To See London In 2 Days
- An Easy To Follow Itinerary For 4 Days London
- The Best 5 Days London Itinerary
- Should You Visit London In Winter?
- 15 Great Day Trips From London
- How To Get Madame Tussauds London Tickets And Skip The Lines
- My Favorite Secret Destinations in London
- 20 + Great Things To Do In Oxford
- 15 Amazing Day Trips From Paris