Seeing an entire city in just a few days is never an ideal scenario, but sometimes that’s all the time you might have to really spend somewhere. London has so much to offer that you could spend a year there and not to see it all so seeing it all in three days is impossible – but you can absolutely see the very best of London in 3 days as long as you know where to go and what to do! This London 3 day itinerary will give you an outline of the sights to see, where to eat, how to get around, where to stay, and the order in which to do it all so that you make the most of your time in the city.
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How to see London in 3 days
Where to stay in London
In London you pay for the location, so the closer you are to the city center, the pricier hotels will be. This doesn’t mean you can’t find some more budget friendly options close to the attractions, but it might mean doing some research and perhaps sacrificing the perfect location for a more reasonable price.
The other thing to keep in mind, however, is that the further out you go, the more you’ll spend on transportation to get to where you want to be. You’ll also spend more time getting around since some of that time will be eaten up just getting to the city center. It might be worth spending a bit more on a hotel room if you can be in a better location for seeing London in 3 days.
If you’re on a budget, then look into Z Hotels. They have hotels around the city, and the prices are very reasonable, especially for the locations offered. The rooms are small and they are no frills hotels, but they’re clean and modern, and perfect for someone just looking for a base.
One of my favorite places to stay is the Covent Garden area, and while most of these hotels are going to be more expensive, The Fielding is a more budget friendly option in a really great location. As one of London’s more competitively priced boutique hotels, this hotel tends to book up a little quicker but if you can snag a room, it’s a great option.
On our last stay in London we stayed at the Waldorf London. This was a bit of a splurge for us but turned out to be completely worth it. The location was fantastic; we were able to walk to a lot of the places we wanted to see, but we were also a short walk from bus stops and the Covent Garden tube station if we wanted to go a bit further. There were plenty of places nearby to get food as well. The hotel dates back to 1908 and is one of the most historic five star hotels in London.
The Savoy is another option if you’re wiling to spend a little more. It’s in the same area as the Waldorf, so plenty of options when it comes to getting around, and lots of dining options in the area. The hotel is elegant and classic, with excellent service and definitely a great choice for a special trip.
Hotel rooms in London tend to be smaller, but there are still some good options if you need a little more space when traveling with kids.
The Marylebone Hotel offers a ton of cool amenities for kids including cookies and milk at bedtime and even a kids tepee in their suites! The hotel is a short walk from different tube stations to easily get around the city, which is perfect when traveling with kids.
Royal Garden Hotel not only have spacious suites, but they offer a family package that includes backpacks full of goodies for kids, micro scooters for the kids to borrow to get around on, a children’s room service menu, and even toys and games for the hotel room!
Find other options for hotels in London.
Getting around London in 3 days
One of the best things about London is how easy it is to get around. Not only do you have multiple options for public transportation, but the city itself is very walkable and there’s lots of cool sights you might spot on your walk from one place to another. Seeing London in 3 days can mean quite a busy schedule, but multiple options for transportation make this a lot easier.
One of the first things to do when you book your trip to London is order an Oyster Card. This card can be used on the London Underground as well as public buses and even certain trains within the London Zone, meaning you can essentially use it to get anywhere you need to go.
You can order the card and add money to it online, then the card will be mailed to you. The website is actually really helpful for planning routes to get from A to B, so if you’re not familiar with London then this is a good place to start to figure out where everything is and how you might get around.
If you don’t have an Oyster Card, then I would suggest making sure the debit or credit card you plan to use has contactless payment set up; that way you can just tap your card on the turnstile or on the bus and be on your way.
Another option for getting around would be a London Hop On Hop Off bus tour. You can use this to get your bearings (as is recommended for day one of the itinerary below) or just use it as public transportation. Double check the tickets you buy to make sure you have a multi day ticket if you plan to use this over the course of a few days.
I would also recommend downloading the City Mapper app. This app offers route suggestions for getting from A to B, taking into account current conditions such as delays on the trains or traffic on the buses. It’s great to use when walking places as well.
London in 3 days – Day 1: Bus Tour, St Paul’s, Tower of London & Sky Garden
What to do:
- Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour: If you’re new to London or it’s been a while since you last visited, then a Hop On Hop Off bus tour is a great way to get your bearings. You can use the bus as transportation, or you can take the whole loop, which is a great way to see the city and learn more about the history of the sights you’ll be seeing.
- St Paul’s Cathedral: One of the most iconic parts of the London skyline is the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral, so it’s a great place for a first stop. Any bus tour will stop nearby, or you can exit at St Paul’s if using the tube. You can just step inside the cathedral to look around, attend a service, or even take a guided tour (which lasts around 90 minutes and can be booked upon arrival – check their website for times). My biggest recommendations are to visit the Whispering Galley (try whispering to someone on the other side of the gallery!) and climb the 528 steps to the magnificent dome for some of the best views over the city.
- Sky Garden: One of my favorite things to do in London is get above the hustle and bustle of the city and look down at it all spread out below. There are lots of places to get a great view of the city, but one of the best in my opinion is from the Sky Garden, London’s highest public garden. Admission is free but a spot does need to be booked in advance due to limited entry (and it gets booked up quickly!) You can book a table to dine up there, grab a drink from the bar, or simply just walk around and take in the views. The closest tube stop is Monument Garden, but it’s also only about a 15 minute walk from St Paul’s Cathedral.
- Tower of London and Tower Bridge: Visiting this 1000 year old fortress should be on every visitor’s London bucket list! The nearest tube stop is Tower Hill and the Tower of London provides a map of walking routes from various other stations (and if you’re walking from the Sky Garden, it’s about a 10 minute walk). Here you can see the 23,578 jewels that make up the famous Crown Jewels, you can see the ravens and find out why they’re called the guardians of the tower, and take a walk around the walls of the Tower for fantastic views of Tower Bridge and the Thames River. If you like your history a little darker, then visit the Torture Exhibition at the Lower Wakefield Tower where you can see the various instruments of torture used on prisoners such as Guy Fawkes in the 1500s and 1600s.
Where to eat:
- Duck and Waffle: Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner at the highest all day dining location in London, Duck and Waffle has some pretty incredible views to match their pretty incredible food. Their signature dish is named after the restaurant itself and is exactly what it sounds like: a fluffy golden waffle served with crispy confit of duck leg, and a softly poached duck egg, all topped with mustard maple syrup. Combine this with the views of the city coming awake from 40 floors up and you have a pretty great start to your day.
- Borough Market: Borough Market is London’s oldest food market, and a great place to find a wide variety of foods and drinks. The market is pretty much always busy and you’ll find some long lines, but be patient and wait it out – the food is worth it! This is a great place to try some traditional English food, like a roast pork bun with stuffing and crackling from Roast To Go, or something a bit more adventurous like a kid goat kofta pita slathered in tzatziki from Gourmet Goat. Definitely save room for warm donuts from Bread Ahead!
- Ting at The Shard: Located on the 35th floor of The Shard, this restaurant offers some of the best views in London with 360 degree views over the Thames, Tower Bridge, and the surrounding counties. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even afternoon tea, with both British and Asian inspired dishes on the menu, and prices are very reasonable considering the incredible location; a set three course lunch menu is less than £35 per person, which is less than a ticket on the London Eye and offers a much nicer setting for such amazing views!
London in 3 days – Day 2: British Museum, Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square & Greenwich
What to do:
- British Museum: Start your day at the British Museum in Bloomsbury. The museum is free to enter but you must book tickets online in advance to guarantee your spot. With two million years of history covering everything from Medieval Europe to Egyptian Death to the Age of Enlightenment, there is something for every history buff out there (and even those less interested in history are sure to find exhibits that interest them). If you’re visiting with children, then download one of the museum’s free family activity sheets beforehand to keep the kids engaged. The museum is closest to the Tottenham Court Road and Holborn tube stops.
- Covent Garden: A 10 minute walk – or one stop on the Picadilly line from Holborn – you’ll come to Covent Garden, one of my favorite parts of London because of the activity and atmosphere. Primarily known as a shopping and dining district, there really are endless places here to grab a bite to eat but there’s more to Covent Garden than food. Visit the London Transport Museum, try a walking tour such as the Guided Coffee Tour, and make time to see the Royal Opera House. This is also a great place to return to at night to see a show (either at the Royal Opera House or one of the other West End shows) and if you’re looking for something truly unique, try out Alcotraz, London’s famous prison themed cocktail experience!
- Trafalgar Square: A very short walk from Covent Garden and you’ll come to Trafalgar Square. Home to Nelson’s Column and most of the pigeon population of London, Trafalgar Square is a great place to take photos or sit and take in the sights of London all around you. The National Gallery can be found here too if you want to go and take a look, and there are beautiful fountains in the square. Just don’t feed those pigeons; it’s actually illegal!
- Greenwich: If the city is getting a little chaotic and you need to take a break, then take a Thames Clipper Boat up the Thames to Greenwich. A boat trip is the most scenic way to make the trip, but you could also take the tube to the North Greenwich Station, or even take the Emirates Air Line cable car across the Thames! Greenwich has so much to see and do. You could climb aboard Cutty Sark to experience what is was like to sail a 963 ton Victorian Sea Clipper on the High Seas, or climb up the hill in Greenwich Park for amazing panoramic views over the Old Royal Navy College and beyond. The park also houses the Royal Observatory and the Meridian Line, as well as a really fantastic playground if you’re visiting with kids.
Where to eat:
- Hawksmoor: You can’t come to London without trying a full English breakfast and while you can pick one of these up just about anywhere that serves breakfast, Hawksmoor Guildhall makes a really good one. With fried eggs, bacon, sausage, black pudding (yes it sounds terrible but it’s absolutely delicious!), hash browns, tomatoes, mushrooms, baked beans and toast, this is definitely the way to start your day! Hawksmoor Guildhall also offers up drinks they call “anti-fogmatics”, a term coined by the Savoy Hotel head bartender Harry Craddock in the 1920’s to describe the perfect drink if you’re still feeling the effects of the night before – so if the previous evening was a lively one, this is the place you need to be!
- Seven Dials Market: The only covered food market in the West End, Seven Dials Market is located in Covent Garden and has something for everyone. The market is split into two sections: Cucumber Alley is where you go to buy fresh produce, and Banana Warehouse houses the street vendors where you can pick up a bite to eat. Try Ink Fish Bar for a modern take on classic fish and chips, Milk Train for the prettiest ice cream I’ve ever had, or try Pick & Cheese which offers a cheese conveyer belt (everywhere should have one of these!) There is indoor seating to shelter from typical British weather, but you can find plenty of places to sit outdoors as well.
- The Cutty Sark Tavern in Greenwich: It really isn’t a proper visit to London without a trip to a pub to try some real English pub food. There are a huge amount of pubs to choose from in London and it’s difficult to know which ones are going to be the best, but some of the best pubs in London can be found in Greenwich and one of the best is The Cutty Sark Tavern. With tables on the river, the location is fantastic and the food is classic comfort food; think steak and chips, fish pie, and desserts like homemade crumbles. If you’re there on a Sunday, it’s a great place to get a traditional Sunday roast.
London in 3 days – Day 3: Kensington Palace, Buckingham Palace, St James’s Park & Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament
What to do:
- Kensington Palace: Now the official residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Kensington Palace was once the childhood home of Queen Victoria. The palace has fantastic indoor and outdoor spaces so something to do in all weathers. See the opulence of the King’s State Apartments and discover the story of Princess Victoria in the rooms she was born and raised in. Outdoors, Kensington Palace Gardens are a beautiful place to walk around. If you’re visiting with children, then a short walk from the Palace is Diana’s Memorial Playground, the most famous (and, in my opinion, the best) playground in London. The nearest tube station is Queensway.
- Buckingham Palace: While you’re visiting palaces, then you should probably visit the more famous one as well. The Queen’s official residence and a working royal palace, Buckingham Palace is a sight to behold. I think the best way to approach the palace is from The Mall, which is the long road that leads up to the palace so you can really take the building in (for this you’ll want to take the tube to Trafalgar Square and walk from there). There are tours available for the palace when The Queen isn’t in residence, or it can just be viewed from the outside. If you can, try to catch the Changing of the Guard ceremony; this is where The Queen’s Guard hands over responsibility for protecting Buckingham Palace and St James’s Palace to the New Guard, and it’s incredible to watch!
- St James’s Park: Once you’ve seen Buckingham Palace, take a stroll through St James’s Park. This is a beautiful park that runs alongside The Mall, and the perfect place to get some fresh air and be surrounded by wide green open spaces. Head for The Blue Bridge, which offers fantastic views of Buckingham Palace to the West and Horse Guards Parade to the East. Look out for resident pelicans; there have been pelicans in the park for over 400 years and were originally a gift from the Russian Ambassador to King Charles II. There’s a great children’s playground in the park as well.
- Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament: When people talk about seeing Big Ben, they’re really referring to Elizabeth Tower; Big Ben is actually the name of the bell! You can actually tour the Elizabeth Tower and Big Ben but only if you are a UK resident (and tours are currently suspended due to conservation work on the building). Anyone can, however, take a tour of the Houses of Parliament (also known as the Palace of Westminster), and you can even watch a debate or attend a committee meeting! If none of this sounds like it interests you and you really just want a good photo of the tower and the clock, then I’d recommend a bus trip past the building to snap away – just wait until the scaffolding comes off in 2021!
Where to eat:
- The Wolseley: Don’t be put off by how fancy this location looks or by the fact that it has a reputation for a celebrity clientele; you can eat breakfast here without breaking the bank! The Wolseley is known for having the best eggs benedict in London which can be ordered for less than £10, and they have lighter offerings like museli or fresh fruit salad for even less.
- Peggy Porschen: If you’ve ever seen a picture of a pretty pink bakery in London that sells pretty pink confections, then you’re probably thinking of Peggy Porschen. With locations in Chelsea and Belgravia, it’s worth visiting this bakery just to take a picture of the gorgeous storefront from the outside but while you’re there you should probably go in and try one of their amazing offerings. Their cupcakes were proclaimed to be the best in world by Vanity Fair, and they’re certainly the prettiest! They also offer gluten free and “made without” items for those with allergies.
- The Ivy: if you’re looking for something a bit more substantial than cake then try The Ivy for dinner, which features both a la carte and set dining menus. You can get classic English dishes like shepherd’s pie or fish and chips, but they also have Asian inspired dishes, roast dinners and steaks as well so chances are there will be something for everyone.