The Perfect 3 Days in London Itinerary (2020 Edition)

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If you’re planning a trip to the United Kingdom, this post is chock full of great things to add to your 3 days in London itinerary.

Welcome to one of the world’s most important and influential cities.

At the height of the British Empire, 25% of the world was controlled by London.

Decisions made in the British capital have shaped history and created the world we know today.

For many London is the world’s most cosmopolitan city (sorry NYC). It’s history a centre of economics, politics and the arts give the city a dollop of history and culture to which few other cities can even come close.

Founded as the Roman city of Londinium in AD 43, it was the Great Fire of London the gave us the city we see now.

And in more recent history, as the British Empire grew so did London’s power and prestige.

London’s rich history is present everywhere. From the city’s many excellent museums to the stories and tales that have been handed down from generation to generation.

Between museums, the arts, sporting events, parks, great food and plenty of pubs there is more than enough to keep you busy for 3 days.

In truth, you could be here for much longer as London is packed full of stuff to do.

However, our 3 days in London itinerary will give you all the best bits to see, do and eat in the UK’s cosmopolitan capital.

How to Spend a Perfect 3 Days in London Itinerary

Our 3 days in London itinerary is going to take you to many of the city’s most well-known sites and areas.

Charge your cameras and get your most comfortable shoes ready because it’s going to be a jam-packed 3 days!

Day 1 – London Must-See Buildings and Architecture

Our first day starts out at Westminster station and finishes at either Leicester Square, Holborn or Covent Garden tube stations.

This depends on which station is best for you to head back to your accommodation as they are all in the same area. 

You can think of this first day as one long walking tour.

Take as much or as little time as you want at each point of interest, but this a great introduction to London as a political and cultural centre.  

Westminster Bridge 

Head out of Westminster Station and take a short walk to Westminster Bridge for some lovely views along the Thames.

These will necessarily include some excellent views of the Houses of Parliament. 

Get here early though. From about 10 am the bridge becomes jam-packed with tourists, hawkers and people trying to commute. 

  • Nearest Tube Station: Westminster 

Houses Of Parliament And Big Ben 

As of 2019 Big Ben is undergoing a rather major refit, so sadly you won’t get to see the famous clock in all its glory. 

The Houses of Parliament, on the other hand, is construction free at present.

The best views are from either Westminster Bridge or from Parliament Square. 

  • Nearest Tube Station: Westminster
Houses of Parliament and Big Ben from Westminster Bridge
Houses of Parliament and Big Ben from Westminster Bridge

Westminster Abbey 

This huge cathedral is just off Parliament. It became most famous as the location of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s marriage back in 2011.

Built-in 929 AD, this stunning piece of architecture is a reminder of the importance of Christianity in England. 

Make sure you buy your pass for entrance into the Abbey.

  • Address: 20 Deans Yd, Westminster, London SW1P 3PA
  • Opening Hours: 9:30 am – 3:30 pm Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri and Sat. 9:30 – 6:00 pm on Weds. Closed on Sundays.
  • Cost: 16 GBP. However, at 5 pm, you can go to the evensong for free.
  • Nearest Tube Station: Westminster
Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey, one of London’s most impressive architectural wonders

10 Downing Street 

From Westminster Abbey pull a bit of u-turn to walk past 10 Downing Street, the home of the British Prime Minister.

The architecture in this part of London is particularly lovely. But do remember that you cannot go right up the house for obvious reasons. 

  • Address: 10 Downing Street, London
  • Opening Hours: 24 hours, however, you will only be able to see the street entrance.
  • Cost: Free
  • Nearest Tube Station: Westminster
10 Downing Street
Architecture around 10 Downing Street

Horse Guards and the Household Cavalry 

Beyond 10 Downing Street, you will find the home of the Household Cavalry.

Cue the mandatory photos with a member of the Household Cavalry at their post. 

But do not get in their way. Although they perform mainly ceremonial duties, they are members of the British army.

Those that cross the line will be politely reminded of that fact. 

If you get here at the right time, you will be able to see the changing of the guard, which is well worth checking out.

If you are lucky enough you can catch the changing of the guard ceremony.

This ceremony begins here and then goes all the way up to Buckingham Palace, the sight of one of London’s most famous demonstrations of pomp and tradition. 

Book a tour with a guide to make sure you don’t miss it.

  • Address: Whitehall, London, SW1A 2AX
  • Opening Hours: You can walk through at any time, however times for the changing of the guard can be found through the link above.
  • Cost: Free
  • Nearest Tube Station: Westminster or St James’s Park.
Horse Guards London
The Horse Guards, home of the Household Cavalry.

The Mall and St James’s Park 

Passing through the Horse Guards brings you out into the gorgeous St James’s Park.

If you’re lucky enough you will spot a pelican on the pond as you head towards the Mall, the finish of the London marathon.

This straight road leads directly to Buckingham Palace. 

The entrance of the Mall from just North of the Horse Guards offers some stunning architecture, which is well worth checking out!

  • Opening Hours: 5 am – 12 am
  • Cost: Free
  • Nearest Tube Station: St James’s Park.
St James Park
St James Park

Buckingham Palace

Any itinerary for 3 days in London will include a visit to Buckingham Palance.

One of the most famous sights in the United Kingdom is the Queen’s main place of residence.

To be fair, Queen Elizabeth II has a fair few other palaces, castles and stately homes dotted across the land. But this is the most famous. 

The highlight of any visit to Buckingham Palace is the changing of the guard.

As the procession moves from the Horse Guards to Buckingham Palace you will see the crowds getting ever larger.

Plan on getting to Buckingham Palace at least 30 minutes before the changing of the guard ceremony if you want the best views.

As a warning, it can be rather busy! 

If you’re not to fussed with pomp and ceremony then you can skip the changing of the guard.

Next to Buckingham Palace, you can find the Queen’s gallery which is home to some fantastic permanent exhibits with regular special exhibits throughout the year.

  • Address: Buckingham Palace London SW1A 1AA
  • Opening Hours: 24 hours to view from the outside. Changing of the guard usually takes place at 11 am.
  • Cost: Free
  • Nearest Tube Station: Green Park
Buckingham Palace
A rare crowd-free shot of Buckingham Palace

Green Park 

Over the road from Buckingham Palace, you will find Green Park.

This park was originally an extension of St James’s Park and a rather unusual story surrounding its name.

Supposedly Queen Catherine, the wife of Charles II, caught her husband picking flowers in Green Park for his mistress.

Enraged at his betrayal she ordered all of the flowers in the park to be removed.

Before that, it was also apparently used as a burial ground for lepers. 

History aside this is one of London’s most popular parks during the summer months.

At lunch and dinnertime, the park swells with picnickers. 

  • Opening Hours: 5 am – 12 am
  • Cost: Free
  • Nearest Tube Station: Green Park
Green Park
Looking towards Buckingham Palace from Green Park

Fortnum And Mason

Any 3 days in London itinerary usually includes a trip to Harrods, London’s most famous and ludicrously expensive department store.

A short walk from Green Park is the less well known (but certainly no less fancy) Fortnum and Mason.

The surrounding area is full of swanky shops so feel free to explore if this tickles your fancy. 

  • Address: 181 Piccadilly London W1A 1ER
  • Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday – 10 am – 9 pm. Sunday 12 pm – 6pm
  • Cost: Free
  • Nearest Tube Station: Green Park
Fortnum and Mason
Fortnum and Mason all dressed up for Christmas

Piccadilly Circus 

Keep walking east from Fortnum and Mason and you will walk straight into Piccadilly Circus.

Whilst certainly not have the glitz, glamour or size of New York’s Time Square, this is one of London’s most iconic locations. 

There are plenty of pubs, restaurants and swanky shops in the vicinity with the close proximity of Bond Street, Oxford Circus, Leicester Square, and Covent Garden.

Get ready to get lost in the winding alleys and streets as you find your own little piece of London.

  • Opening Hours: 24 hours. Restaurants and shops in the surrounding area
  • Cost: Free
  • Nearest Tube Station: Picadilly Circus
Picadilly Circus
Picadilly Circus with some gorgeous blue skies

Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery

Take a slight detour here and head down towards another iconic London location – Trafalgar Square.

For many years this stunning square was mainly famous for its pigeons.

Tourists delighted in feeding them, whereas the feelings amongst the locals were far less exuberant. 

Just behind Trafalgar Square is the National Gallery.

Like with many of London’s best museums and galleries it’s free to enter.

So take the opportunity to check off some of history’s most stunning pieces of artwork.

Alternatively, you can head before going to St James’ Park and Buckingham Palace as it’s right next to the Household Cavalry.

  • Address: The National Gallery Trafalgar Square London WC2N 5DN
  • Opening Hours: 10 am – 6 pm daily, with the exception of Friday when it’s open until 9 pm.
  • Cost: Free
  • Nearest Tube Station: Charing Cross
Trafalgar Square
A pigeonless Trafalgar Square

Take a Load Off in Leicester Square and Covent Garden

After a long day of sightseeing and walking through central London it’s time to put your feet up with a beer or two in the Leicester Square/Convent Garden area.

Those areas sort of roll into one. The Tube advises travellers to get off at Leicester Square, as opposed to Covent Garden, as the latter can get so crowded. 

But both areas are chock full of pubs, clubs and restaurants. So let your hair down in this rather happening area of London. 

The area also has lots of theatres. So if you fancy catching a show in the west end then this is the place to do it.

Incidentally, there are a number of ticket offices on the edge of Leicester that sometimes have some amazingly cheap deals on offer. 

  • Opening Hours: This is a 24-hour area, with restaurants, bars, live music venues, and comedy clubs jam-packed into this happening area.
  • Cost: As much or as little as you want.
  • Nearest Tube Station: Leicester Square, Convent Garden and Holborn.
Covent Garden
Get lost around Covent Garden and Leicester Square

Day 2 – Museums and Parks

Our second day will be a bit more of a relaxed affair as we check out some of London’s incredible museums.

One of the best things about London’s museums is that they are free – which is a welcome relief for anyone who has ever visited museums in New York. 

Take an Early Morning Trip to Tower Bridge 

We can start the day off with a visit to Tower Bridge. This is one of London’s most iconic sights, so it can be a little busy sometimes.

However, getting there early in the morning will give you some great photo opportunities of both Tower Bridge and the Tower of London (one of the few museums in London that isn’t free).

In addition, there will be some great views of the City of London’s more modern architectural wonders including the gherkin, the walkie talkie and the cheese grater

Book your ‘Skip the Line’ ticket for the Tower of London here.

  • Opening Hours: 24 hours.
  • Cost: Free unless you want to go up into the towers.
  • Nearest Tube Station: Tower Hill.

Admire One of the World’s Most Impressive Historical Collections at the British Museum

Welcome to what many believe is the best museum in London.

The sheer size of the British museum is mind-boggling. You could be here for days and not see everything.

There is something for everyone here, so get stuck into this incredible museum.

  • Address: Great Russell St, Bloomsbury, London WC1B 3DG
  • Opening Hours: 10 am – 5:30 pm daily, with the exception of Friday when it’s open until 8:30 pm.
  • Cost: Free
  • Nearest Tube Station: Russell Square

The Victoria and Albert Museum (V and A) and the Natural History Museum 

If the British Museum doesn’t tickle your fancy then head down to South Kensington and check out either the Victoria and Albert Museum (affectionately known as the V and A) or the National History Museum. 

Both museums offer extensive collections with the Natural History Museum being the more family-friendly option.

If you’re into architecture then make sure you at least check out the Natural History Museum. It is a particularly lovely building. 

Incidentally, if you are in London on the last Friday of the month they hold a phenomenal silent disco which is a must! 

  • Address: Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL
  • Opening Hours: 10 am – 5:45 pm daily, with the exception of Friday when it’s open until 10:00 pm.
  • Cost: Free
  • Nearest Tube Station: South Kensington

READ MORE: Plan a road trip around Ireland.

Hyde Park

Hyde Park is probably London’s most famous park. This huge expanse of land is a world away from the chaos of central London.

At its centre is the Serpentine, a large body of water where rowboats can be rented to enjoy a summer afternoon.

Visit the iconic speaker’s corner, a site for speeches and debates since the 1800s when protests and demonstrations took place in Hyde Park. 

On Sunday mornings speakers come to share their views and follow in the footsteps of Karl Marx, George Orwell and Vladimir Lenin. 

  • Opening Hours: 5 am -12:00 am daily.
  • Cost: Free
  • Nearest Tube Station: Hyde Park Corner

Enjoy a Spot of Afternoon Tea 

London in 3 days is certainly a squeeze. However, be sure to make time to enjoy afternoon tea at one of the many establishments offering such a service in London.

The most famous is The Ritz, very close to Green Park tube station.

However you will need to book in advance, and you will need to be smartly dressed. Jeans, trainers and t-shirts are a no go! 

The central piece of afternoon tea is scones with clotted cream and jam.

However, the debate about the order is rife.

Devon and Cornwall, two counties in the south-west of the United Kingdom are central to this debate.

In Devon, the clotted cream is spread first followed by a dollop of jam on top, whereas it’s the other way round in Cornwall.

I personally prefer the Devon way. 

Take a Wander Along the Southbank

This lovely section of the Thames stretching east from Waterloo offers some stunning evening views of London.

Weekend daytimes are filled with people selling books and paintings, locals going for a jog and some very talented skateboarders. 

You can follow this path all the way to the Tate Modern, which is also free!

  • Opening Hours: 24 hours
  • Cost: Free
  • Nearest Tube Station: Waterloo

Finish Up in a Proper British Pub 

Sipping an ale in a pub is a quintessentially British activity that can be enjoyed from the moment the pub opens its doors.

Pubs start serving alcohol from 11:00 am and will usually finish up between 11:00 pm and 12:00 am. 

With 3 days in London you should have enough to check into a couple of pubs for a uniquely British experience.

There are a number of excellent old pubs in London that are well worth checking out.

The Mayflower near Rotherhithe overground station, the Cittie of York next to Chancery Lane tube station and the Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese near Blackfriars tube station are 3 of the best, and oldest pubs in London.

The Mayflower sits right on the edge of the Thames and offers great food and some lovely sunset views.

Day 3 – London City Centre

Today we will head into the City of London.

Also known as the “Square Mile,” this is the financial heart of the United Kingdom. And, for a couple of hundred years, it was the world’s financial centre until New York City knocked London off top spot after World War I. 

The City of London also has a rather more gruesome history. It is here where Jack the Ripper operated uneducated in 1888.

There a number of excellent Jack the Ripper walking tours operating in this part of London. 

St Pauls Cathedral 

After the Great Fire of London in 1666 London lay in ruins. The renowned architect Sir Christopher Wren was charged with the re-building of the city.

Central to this was St Pauls Cathedral. 

This stunning Cathedral is truly breathtaking, and amazingly escaped severe damage from German bombs during World War II.

However, one of the clocks was destroyed and never replaced as a reminder of the horrors suffered. 

For amazing views of St Pauls and the surrounding area head to the shopping mall behind the cathedral and go to the top floor.

This will bring out onto an open-air platform where you can snap away to your heart’s content. 

Book your ‘Skip the Line’ ticket online here.

  • Address: St. Paul’s Churchyard, London EC4M 8AD
  • Opening Hours: 8:30 am – 4:30 pm from Monday to Saturday. The cathedral is open for worship on Sundays.
  • Cost: 20 GBP per adult
  • Nearest Tube Station: St Pauls
St Pauls Cathedral
St Pauls Cathedral, one of Londons most iconic buildings

Explore the Guildhall

This is an undiscovered gem in London. This stunning piece of architecture is a stone’s throw from St Pauls and is home to the ruins of a Roman amphitheatre.

Yes, you read that right a Roman amphitheatre in the heart of London!

Head inside and head downstairs and you will see it in all it’s glory. 

The Guildhall itself is home to a lovely museum and is well worth checking out if you have the time.  

  • Address: Basinghall St, London EC2V 7HH
  • Opening Hours: 10 am – 4:30 pm daily
  • Cost: Free
  • Nearest Tube Station: St Pauls, Moorgate or Bank

Take A Jack The Ripper Walking Tour 

Jack the Ripper was an infamous and unidentified serial killer who terrorized London in the late 1800s.

Due to the fact the killer was never identified and captured, legend and lore have grown over the years.

There are a number of excellent Jack the Ripper walks on offer in this part of London well worth checking out.

Sharing some of London’s most interesting stories these walks an awesome addition to 3 perfect days in London.

Get Some Shopping Done at Spitalfields Market 

This huge market is home to almost everything and anything it seems.

It sits alongside Petticoat Lane, which is home to one of London’s largest clothing markets.

There is plenty to keep you occupied around here with a number of great food outlets inside Spitalfields Market itself. 

  • Address: 56 Brushfield St, Spitalfields, London E1 6AA
  • Opening Hours: 10 am – 8 pm from Monday to Friday. 10 am – 5 pm on Saturdays and 10 am to 4 pm on Sundays.
  • Cost: Free
  • Nearest Tube Station: Liverpool Street

READ MORE: Plan the perfect 3 days in New York City

Take in Some Street Art Around Shoreditch and Brick Lane

One of London’s most famous streets is the graffiti-laden area that is Brick Lane.

Expect to find plenty of other visitors embarking on walking tours and snapping photos of some of the funky artwork. 

The street is famous for curries, and amazingly every single one seems to be the best curry on Brick Lane, according to TripAdvisor. To be honest the curry here is average at best.

Your best off heading to the amazing bagel shop at the end of the street for one of the best bargains in London. 

  • Opening Hours: 24 hours. Sundays market can be especially busy
  • Cost: Free
  • Nearest Tube Station: Shoreditch High Street (Overground)

Get a Feel For Music Around Camden

If you still have the energy after a jam-packed three days then head on up the hedonistic area of Camden.

Expect the pubs to be packed and the music to be loud. 

There are some great live music venues around here offering up the latest unsigned wonders.

If you’re around Camden Locks on the weekend it is especially busy, but it’s a great atmosphere. 

Personally, I recommend booking into a pub crawl of Camden.

  • Opening Hours: Another 24-hour area where the party goes on well into the early hours
  • Cost: As much or as little as you want
  • Nearest Tube Station: Camden Town

London Travel Guide

Now that you know what to do for your 3 days in London itinerary, we want to help you make your other plans as well by sharing the best accommodations and places to eat in the city.

Accommodation in London

Accommodation in London is certainly not at the budget end of the scale.

However, there are some bargains to be found and with London’s excellent transport network as long as your close to a tube station you have easy access to all of London’s best bits. 

London is divided into concentric zones, ranging from zones 1 to 9 with zone 1 at the centre.

Zones 1, 2, 3 will be the most convenient areas for transport.

Naturally, zone 1 is often the most expensive. 

Best Budget Accommodation in London – Wombats City Hostel

This awesome hostel is located a short walk from Tower Hill tube station, the Tower of London and Tower Bridge.

With a plethora of awesome stuff to do right on your doorstep, it’s understandable why so many travellers rave about this place. 

Dorms are very reasonably priced however the private rooms are certainly not in that category.

In addition, it’s only a short walk from the north bank of the Thames, a great location for an evening stroll.

It’s close proximity to the city centre, affordable dorms and excellent service make this a winner! 

Best Mid-Range Accommodation in London – Best Western Wembley 

In London, many of the best mid-range options are like this one, a major hotel chain.

Based up in North London it’s a little further away from things than the other two hotels listed.

However central London is still just a short tube ride away. 

Being up in North London gives you easy access to Camden and the chance to check out Highgate Cemetery.  

Best Luxury Accommodation In London – Blackbird

This luxury offering based in South Kensington, one of London’s swankiest districts, has all the pomp and ceremony you would expect from a top London hotel. 

It’s full English breakfast gets rave reviews and it’s a hop skip and a jump over to South Kensington’s highlights including the V and A, Natural History Museum, Kensington Gardens, and Hyde Park.

It’s also a short walk to both Earls Court, Gloucester Road, and South Kensington Tube stations, facilitating excellent transport links all over the city. 

Getting Around London

London’s transport network is exceptional.

Pick up an oyster card at tube and rail stations which can be used to swipe on and swipe off the tube, overground, DLR and buses.

Best of all, there is a cap on the maximum you can pay.

  • Zones 1-4: 10.10 GBP
  • Zones 1-5: 12.00 GBP
  • Zones 1-6: 12.80 GBP

Everything in our itinerary is within Zones 1-4. 

But the tube can be quite confusing.

Download Citymapper to help you plan your trip appropriately.

Citymapper also provides live updates as to the current status of London’s underground lines, this can be an absolute lifesaver.

Fortunately, you do not have to deal with local and express services as you do in New York and Tokyo, for example.

However, sometimes trains will not go to the end of the line so just pay attention to their final destination. 

Get your 1-day unlimited travel card today on Get Your Guide.

Finally, stand on the right and walk on the left on all escalators.

Failure to follow this will lead to some very angry commuters who will not be shy about making their feelings known. 

Although London is a huge city it is a very walkable city within Zone 1, the very centre of the city.

Half the pleasure of any visit to London is getting lost exploring the many hidden gems the city has to offer. 

Alternatively, ride the famous hop-on-hop-off bus around the city.

Best Places to Eat in London

London is chock full of great eateries from the eye wateringly expensive to the pleasantly affordable.

Here are a few of my personal favourites that will hopefully tick a few boxes! 

Indian

Do not get a curry on Brick Lane unless you want overpriced, average Indian food. Incredibly every single restaurant claims to be the number 1 on trip advisor. 

Head up to Ravi Shankars on Drummond Street close to Warren Street Tube Station for some no-frills but awesome south Indian cuisine. 

Steak

The Bull Steak Expert on Red Lion street serves up amazing Argentinian steaks at a hefty price. But it is absolutely worth it. 

Pub Grub

Good old pub grub is a hallmark of any visit to London. Your accommodation will probably be able to recommend a local one close by.

However, my favourite pub grub in London is served up at the Mayflower in Rotherhithe.

One of the oldest pubs in London it was from this location the Mayflower set sail for the New World in 1620, hence it’s named. 

Fish and Chips 

The quintessential British dish. Any 3 days in London itinerary must include fish and chips somewhere.

The excellent Poppies near Shoreditch gets rave reviews. However this location is certainly not a secret, so be prepared for a wait. 

Markets/Gourmet Produce 

Head to the awesome Borough Market close to Tower Bridge for all manner of awesome options.

As with Poppies, you should expect it to be rather busy. 

Alternatively, if you’re in town on Saturday head Maltby Street market.

You will need to take a bus to get here. But it’s very rarely visited by tourists, much to the happiness of the locals.

Pie and Mash

Maureen’s Pie and Mash, up in Poplar is a huge hit.

If you’re not sure, this is pretty much exactly what it says on the tin, meat pies and mashed potato. A perfect winter warmer.

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About the author

Richard Barnes

Richard Barnes is one of half of the British-Chinese couple that make up abearandapig.com, a blog focusing on travel, life as a local and an expat in the middle kingdom and Chinese social media.

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