Thinking about spending 3 days in London? Looking for the perfect London 3-day itinerary for a first-timer? You’re in luck – this guide details everything you need to know.
London is one of the most popular destinations in the world and that’s not surprising. It has charisma, history, art, architecture, the best restaurants in the world, and an entertainment scene that is second to none. There is a lot to see and do here, so if this is your first time and you only have 3 days in London, you’ll need a well-organized itinerary.
With that in mind, we’ve put together a London 3-day itinerary that will allow you to see the city’s most noteworthy attractions without feeling overwhelmed.
London 3-Day Itinerary: Map
To help you visualize this London 3-day London itinerary we’ve added a little map that shows the schedule for each day.
London 3-Day Itinerary: Day 1
Highlights of day 1 include: National Gallery, St. James Park, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and Covent Garden
Situated in Westminster, the political center of London, Buckingham Palace is undoubtedly the most illustrious address in the Capital. The palace has served as the official residence of the Queen and the administrative headquarters of the Monarchy since 1837 when Queen Victoria first occupied it. Regardless of where your opinions stand on the royal family, the building is worth at least a quick visit. The Palace is off-limits to the public for most of the year, but you can still sneak a peek through the fences, admire the façade details, and see the Queen’s Guard marching and standing to attention.
St. James Park
From Buckingham Palace, you can take a stroll through St. James Park, the oldest of London’s 8 Royal Parks. St. James Park extends for over 50 acres of lush green spaces, including a little lake that is home to some adorable resident pelicans. During your stroll do stop on the bridge over the lake to take in the lovely view of Buckingham Palace and St James Palace.
From St. James Park it’s a pleasant 10-minute walk to Westminster Abbey, one the most remarkable and historical churches of England. Westminster Abbey has hosted all British coronations from William the Conqueror in 1066 up to Elizabeth II, plus a total of 16 royal weddings, including Prince William and Catherine Middleton in 2011. The Abbey is also the burial place of many royals, including Tudor siblings Mary and Elizabeth I.
Opening hours: Monday – Saturday: 9.30 am – 3 pm. You can check the official website for the most updated info.
Big Ben & Houses of Parliament
The Houses of Parliament (Palace of Westminster) and Big Ben are perhaps the most iconic landmarks of London. The thousand-year-old House of Parliament is the gathering place for the two houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, namely the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Right next to the House of Parliament is also Big Ben. A side note: although ‘Big Ben’ is actually the name of the bell which lies inside Victoria Tower, many travelers mistakenly believe it to be the name of the whole clocktower itself.
10 Downing Street & Whitehall
Whitehall is the name of a road located in the Westminster neighborhood that is famous for being full of important political buildings, including Dover House, Winston Churchills former War Office, Admiralty House, and the Horse Guards Parade. Just off of Whitehall is another of London’s most renowned roads, Downing Street, the home and office of the British Prime Minister.
National Gallery in Trafalgar Square
From Whitehall is a 20-minute walk to Trafalgar Square, one of London’s most popular public squares. It has been the site for anti-war demonstrations and victory parades and is still nowadays identified as a place of freedom of expression. At the back of Trafalgar Square is The National Gallery. If you only visit one museum in London, let National Gallery be it. This is one of the world’s greatest art museums and is home to an exceptional permanent collection of art that is free to visit all year round. Key pieces you must look for include:
- The Arnolfini Portrait, 1434 – Jan van Eyck
- Venus and Mars, 1485 – Sandro Botticelli
- The Virgin of the Rocks, 1491 – Leonardo da Vinci
- The Supper at Emmaus, 1601 – Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio
- The Rokeby Venus, 1647-51- Diego Velázquez
- Bathers at Asnières, 1884 – Georges Seurat
- Sunflowers, 1888 – Vincent van Gogh
- A Wheatfield, with Cypresses, 1889 – Vincent van Gogh
- Surprised!, 1891 – Henri Rosseau
- The Water-Lily Pond, 1899 – Claude Monet
Opening hours: Monday-Sunday 10 am – 6 pm and Friday until 9 pm. You can check the official website for the most updated info.
Covent Garden has been a trendy neighborhood in London since the 18th century. The Covent Garden Market, also known as Apple Market, is one of the most popular attractions of the neighborhood and is one of the city’s best-covered markets. It houses several stylish restaurants and cafès, boutique souvenir shops, and indie market halls. If it’s your first visit to London, you should check out also Neal’s Yard, a particularly eye-catching space that is just a 10-minute walk from the main market.
London 3-Day Itinerary: Day 2
Highlights of day 2 include Hyde Park, Natural History Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum, Notthing Hill, and Portobello Road.
Of all the eight royal parks in London, Hyde Park is universally acknowledged as the most beautiful one. It’s truly a pleasure to wander through its 350 acres of lush English vegetation, and you could easily spend the entire morning just feeding the squirrels or renting a paddle boat. There are also many important landmarks and attractions to see inside Hyde Park, including the Princess Diana Memorial, the Albert Memorial, the Serpentine Gallery, the Italian Gardens, the Elfin Oak, and the Achilles Statue.
Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum is housed in the most stunning and classic Victorian building. Even if you’re not particularly fascinated by natural history, you should still stop by — the building alone is worth a visit. To add even more to the atmosphere, upon entrance visitors are greeted with a massive whale skeleton suspended from the building roof. Among the 80 million specimens showcased in the museum, the key pieces you must look for are:
- the skeletons of the first Tyrannosaurus Rex ever found
- Charles Darwin’s collection of fossils
- the Rare Minerals exhibition.
Opening hours: Monday-Sunday 10 am – 5.30 pm. You can check the official website for the most updated info
Victoria & Albert Museum
Right next to the Natural History Museum is The Victoria & Albert Museum. The V&A museum is the world’s largest institution of decorative arts and design, with more than 2 million items in its permanent collection spanning over 5,000 years of history. Decorative objects, jewelry, and costumes from around the world can be seen here, as well as some incredible statues and paintings. You’ll find everything from Canova statues to Alexander McQueen’s original royal gowns.
Opening hours: Monday-Sunday 10 am – 5.30 pm. You can check the official website for the most updated info
Notthing Hill and Portobello Road
The Notting Hill neighborhood became extremely popular right after the 1999 film starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant came out. Since then, thousands of tourists have visited the area to see the rows of Instagram-perfect pastel houses and charming little stores. For a complete experience, stroll along Talbot Road, Blenheim Crescent, and Westbourne Grove, the best streets to shop for books and artwork.
Notting Hill also houses Portobello Road, one of the most famous street markets in England. You can shop for flowers, books, clothing, music, antiques, electronics, and anything you can possibly think of. It is open all week but the best days to go are Friday and Saturday.
London 3-Day Itinerary: Day 3
Highlights of day 3 include the City of London, Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Camden Town, Regent’s Park
City of London & Sky Garden
The City of London is the main business district of the Capital and the area where you can see up close all the modern skyscrapers which dominate London’s skyline, including the Shard, the Gherkin, and the Walkie Talkie and the Cheesegrater (you’ll notice how skyscrapers here are given fun little nicknames based on their appearance). Most of these skyscrapers have their own observation platforms, or cafès you can visit to admire their incredible views. Many Londoners state that the Sky Garden (sat on the last floor of the Walkie-Talkie) has the best view of the city, and we have to wholeheartedly agree. What’s even better is that the view is completely free!
The Sky Garden is called London’s ‘highest public garden’ and there are also a few restaurants and bars within the lush observation area you can visit for breakfast (which is our suggestion), dinner, or a drink.
Cost: Free. You need to book your visit online two weeks in advance (do so on the Sky Garden website). If tickets are completely sold out by the time you check the website, you still have a good chance of getting in if you arrive before 9:30 am.
Opening hours: Monday-Friday 9 am – 6 pm, Saturday and Sunday 11 am – 9 pm
Tower of London
From the Sky Garden, it’s a 20-minute walk to the Tower of London. The Tower of London is a UNESCO world heritage site that has served as a royal fortress, prison, armory, mint, public records office, royal zoo, and place of execution among many other uses during its long history. It is most famous, though, for serving as the prison of Queen Anne Boleyn and for housing the Crown Jewels. If you’re a history buff and are therefore thinking about properly visiting the tower of London, you should plan to spend at least 2 hours on the tour.
Opening hours: You can check the official website for the most updated info
Right next to the Tower of London is Tower Bridge, one of London’s most iconic landmarks. Built between 1886 and 1894 during the reign of Queen Victoria, it was designed to emulate the architectural concept of the Tower of London.
A 5-minute uber ride from the Tower Bridge can take you right to the entrance of the Tate Modern. This is the largest international modern art gallery in the UK, displaying both a permanent collection as well as several temporary exhibits throughout the year. Among many modern masterpieces, you should check out:
- Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Diptych
- Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain
- Amadeo Modigliani’s Peasant Boy
- Pablo Picasso’s Nude Woman in a Red Armchair
- Salvador Dali’s Lobster Telephone.
Cost: Free (temporary exhibits excluded)
Opening hours: Monday-Sunday 10 am – 6 pm.
Camden Town & Camden Market
After visiting Tate Modern, you should spend the rest of your afternoon in one of London’s most lively and edgy neighborhoods, Camden. This is the meeting point of all the city’s alternative subcultures, and you’ll notice that many of the stalls here cater to a specific clientele, with plenty of niche fashion styles such as grunge and cybergoth. You cannot possibly skip the famous Camden Market, with its over 1000 colorfully decorated stalls selling everything from vintage clothes and homeware to delicious food.
Prime Rose Hill
End your last day in London by walking back down Regents Canal towards Regents Park, then heading to the northern zone known as Primrose Hill. Primrose Hill is one of the best viewpoints to admire the iconic skyline as the sun sets over London.
Where to stay in London?
We’ve covered this topic in a dedicated guide, but to summarize, the best areas to stay in London are:
- Covent Garden
- South Kensington
- The City of London
These are all very popular and safe areas for travelers that offer both a variety of attractions and excellent amenities. Whatever your choice, just make sure to choose a hotel or b&b close to a tube station and you’ll be good to go.
When is the best time to visit London?
The best time to visit London is during a shoulder season, when the temperatures are mild and the parks are green and blooming. This could mean either late winter and early spring (January to April) or fall (September to November).
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