Day one:This 3 day London itinerary includes a sightseeing bus, St. Paul’s Cathedral, The Shard, Tower Bridge, the Tower of London… ending with a West End show
You can see the best of London in 3 days with our sample tourist itinerary. We’re going to begin our three-day trip around London with an open-top sightseeing bus. This will give you a quick look at the city on your first morning, and get you excited for what’s coming ahead. If you want to spend a few days in London sightseeing then you need to make good use of your time, so this is a handy way of seeing a lot of landmarks in one go.
These bus tickets are usually valid for 24 hours as well (sometimes 48, depending on the time of year), so we’ll be jumping on and off it throughout the day.
We suggest catching the ‘Red Route’ at Trafalgar Square, which will take you up the Strand and Fleet Street and drop you off outside St. Paul’s Cathedral (allow for 30 mins). Craig has written a review of the Original Bus Tour on his blog. He’s also described the Big Bus tour as well.
St. Paul’s was built by Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of London. Have a good look around and climb up to the famous Whispering Gallery if you don’t mind the height (allow for 2 hours). Craig chickened out of climbing up to the highest dome, but you can read his review of the cathedral on his blog.
Now jump on the same sightseeing bus and ride it over London Bridge. The Shard will loom up ahead. If you’d like to check out the view from London’s tallest observation deck then get off here and allow yourself 60 mins. Craig has reviewed The Shard as well.
Now jump back on the bus and continue the route to Tower Bridge. Don’t worry about taking any photos – you’ll get a much better view when you get off at…
…the Tower of London. (Note: we don’t recommend going inside Tower Bridge, but you might get lucky and see the drawbridge open.) The Tower of London is a world heritage site and is home to the Crown Jewels. Why not do a Yeoman Warder tour with one of the Beefeaters? (allow for 3 hours in total) There are lots of things to do at the Tower and Craig has reviewed them all. Check out his review of the Beefeater tour and of the Tower of London itself.
No London sightseeing itinerary for three days would be complete without a ticket for a West End show. Check out our London theatre guide to see what’s on.
The same sightseeing bus will take you all the way back to Trafalgar Square via the Victoria Embankment (remember to look out for Cleopatra’s Needle along the way). If you’re pushed for time then you can catch the District line from Tower Hill to Embankment instead (10 min train ride, plus a 2 min walk to Trafalgar Square).
Alternatively, you could just stay on the bus and ride it all the way around Westminster, Victoria, Marylebone, and back to Trafalgar Square again (but that will take ages – we don’t recommended it!).
Day two:London Eye, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, the National Gallery, Buckingham Palace and Piccadilly Circus
Here are some more things to do in London for three days. If you’re wondering how to tour London in 3 days without knackering yourself out then here’s the secret: avoid the buses and trains. Just clump the stuff together and make sure they’re all within walking distance.
When tourists are trying to decide where to go in London then this is usually near the top of their list: the London Eye. It’s best to buy your tickets beforehand, though, because the queues can get quite heavy (allow for 30-45 minutes queuing, and 30 minutes on the wheel). Remember to read Craig’s review of the London Eye so you can see what it’s like.
Westminster Abbey is London’s most prestigious religious buildings, and the setting for coronations, state funerals, and the burial place of many celebrated kings and queens (allow for 90 mins). You can read Craig’s review of Westminster Abbey on his blog.
Now head down Whitehall, past The Cenotaph and No.10 Downing Street. You might like to spend 10 minutes in front of the famous gates to see if you can spot the Prime Minister. Craig’s never managed to see the PM, but maybe you’ll have better luck.
Continue through Admiralty Arch and up The Mall towards Buckingham Palace (allow for 15 mins walking time). Once you’ve taken some photos of the facade head through Green Park to Piccadilly (10 mins walking time).
A stroll down Piccadilly will take you past the Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington Arcade and Fortnum & Mason, ending up under the neon lights of Piccadilly Circus. Craig has reviewed Piccadilly Circus by day and seen it by night as well.
Day three:Our 3-day trip itinerary for London continues with two of London’s best museums, some souvenir shopping at Harrods, and ends with a show
This day plan for tourists spending 3 days sightseeing in London will begin with a train to South Kensington. Then pick two of the following three museums. Our recommendation would be the Natural History Museum plus one other (especially if you’ve got kids with you). All three are within five minutes walking distance of each other.
The Natural History Museum is called the “dead zoo” because it’s full of stuffed animals from all around the world. The most popular exhibits are the age-old dinosaur bones (allow for 2 hours). Check out Craig’s review of the Natural History Museum.
The Science Museum covers everything from the earliest computers and motor cars to the Apollo moon landings. They’ve also got an IMAX cinema showing 3D movies (allow for 2 hours). Craig has written a review of the Science Museum on his blog as well.
Your third choice is the Victoria & Albert Museum, which explores the history of art and design. You will see fabulous furniture, jewellery and clothes inside, and the world-famous Cast Room which contains plaster-cast and concrete replicas of the world’s greatest monuments and statues (allow for 2 hours). Have a read of Craig’s blog before you decide, because this museum is a lot better than it sounds.
All three of those museums are free, so you should have plenty of money left to do some shopping at Harrods – the world’s greatest department store. You’ll find it a short walk down the Brompton Road (allow for 1 hour shopping time, or more if you use the restaurant). Craig has reviewed the inside of Harrods, but obviously couldn’t afford to buy anything.
The best way to finish off your holiday is with a show. You’ve already been to the theatre, so how about some music instead? The Royal Albert Hall is a short distance from Harrods (find out what’s on at the Royal Albert Hall). You can catch a 10-minute bus from Knightsbridge (numbers 9, 10, 52 or 452). Craig has been to see a Proms concert at the Royal Albert Hall, but you’ll have to come during the Proms season to see one of those.
Alternatively, you could ride the No.9 bus to the Royal Festival Hall in 25 minutes (find out what’s on at the Royal Festival Hall). But if you really want a treat, how about watching a concert at the O2 Arena?
If you don’t fancy any of those shows, then you will need to catch a tube to North Greenwich for this next idea, because it’s miles away in Greenwich. It’s a 40-minute ride, and you’ll have to change trains at Green Park.
Note: Whilst it’s certainly possible to see the best of London with our 3 day sightseeing tour, remember that all of these day trips for tourists can be chopped and changed around. So why not grab a few days out of our six day London itinerary, and use some of them instead?
Day one:The best way to see London in a few days is to group everything together so it’s within easy walking distance: Trafalgar Square, Changing the Guard, Big Ben, Churchill War Rooms, Westminster Abbey, London Eye
Is three days enough to tour London? If we’re being honest, then probably not. But you can still do plenty of London sightseeing in three days if you plan everything out in advance. It’s a huge city (far too large to walk across), so you need to know where you’re going each day to squeeze as much in as possible.
One of the top things to see in London in three days is the Changing of the Guard ceremony outside Buckingham Palace. The ceremony starts at 11.15 AM but we recommend getting there before 10 AM for the best position right up against the gates. Bear in mind that that it sometimes operates every other day, so check the ceremony schedule first. Read Craig’s review of Changing the Guard to find out the best place to stand, and what time you need to arrive.
Now we’ll have a walk along the lake in St. James’s Park and maybe stop at the Inn the Park restaurant. But make sure you walk across to the middle of the bridge first, in the centre of the lake, because it has two one of the finest views in London (allow for 60 mins). You can see what the views look like on our London blog.
If you’re interested in WWII and Winston Churchill then you might like to visit the Churchill War Rooms underneath Whitehall, which was home to his wartime government during the Blitz. It can be found at the south-eastern edge of the park (allow for 90-120 mins, although you’ll have to skip one of the following places to compensate). Craig has written a review of the Churchill War Rooms, so you can see what it’s like.
At the eastern end of the park is Horse Guards parade ground. If you walk through the central arch then you’ll emerge into Whitehall, where you can take your photo standing next to one of the sentries (allow for 30 mins). This is probably the most popular photostop in the whole of London, judging by the number of tourists that mill around it. Check out Craig’s review of Horse Guards. You might like to read about his walk down Whitehall as well.
Head towards Parliament Square at the end of Whitehall, stopping only to have a nosey look through the big black iron gates of Downing Street. This is where the Prime Minister lives, although you’ll have to be very lucky to see her. Craig has tried to see the Prime Minister at Downing Street countless times (at least a million), and hasn’t succeeded once!
Big Ben will soon loom up on your left, alongside the greatest building in London: the Houses of Parliament. If you happen to be visiting during the Summer Opening then we definitely recommend doing a guided tour inside (allow for 90 mins in total, although you’ll have to skip one of the following places to compensate). They also do tours on most Saturdays throughout the year, so maybe you can try that instead. Craig has been to all the tours at Parliament, and written a big review of each one: Summer Opening, Saturday guided tour and Saturday audio tour.
Now cross over Parliament Square to Westminster Abbey – London’s most prestigious religious building, and the setting for coronations, State funerals, and the burial place of many celebrated kings and queens. It is well worth spending two hours walking around. Read of Craig’s review of Westminster Abbey before you go, to see what it’s like inside.
Let’s end the day with a ride on the London Eye. It’s best to buy your tickets beforehand because the queues can get quite heavy (allow for 30-45 minutes queuing, and 30 minutes on the actual wheel). Craig hates heights so he didn’t enjoy it much, but he kept his eyes open long enough to write a London Eye review.
Day two:British Museum or Museum of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral, followed by Covent Garden and a West End theatre show
We’re going to continue our day trip ideas for 3 days in London with a choice of two different museums (just pick one, otherwise you won’t have enough time). The best three day travel itinerary includes a bit of everything: landmarks, attractions, galleries and a show, and this is going to be our museums day. We’re going to slow everything down a bit after yesterday’s hectic rush around town.
The British Museum has exhibits from ancient Egypt, Greece, Italy, Africa and the Orient, including colossal works by the Romans, Greeks and Persians. Highlights include the Rosetta Stone, the Parthenon Marbles, and the world-famous Reading Room (allow for 2 hours). It’s not everybody’s cup of tea, though, so have a read of Craig’s review to see what it’s like beforehand.
If you’re touring London in 3 days then it’s a good bet that you’re a big fan of the city, so how about learning more about its history at the Museum of London? This building tells the story of the city all the way back to prehistoric times, through its Roman period, the Great Fire of London, the Blitz, and right up to the modern-day (allow 2 hours). There are also some remains of the original Roman wall around the Barbican. Craig has written a review of the Museum of London on his blog.
If you chose the Museum of London over the British Museum then you’ll be close enough to walk to St. Paul’s Cathedral, otherwise you’ll have to catch the 521 bus (15 min ride). No trip to London would be complete without looking around Christopher Wren’s masterpiece. We recommend going inside and climbing up to the dome for a fantastic view of the city (allow for 2 hours). Craig chickened out of climbing up to the highest dome, but his review of St Paul’s is still worth a read.
You can’t visit London in 3 days and not have a ride on a red double-decker bus, so now we’ll catch the No.15 to Covent Garden for a bite to eat. There are plenty of decent restaurants in the Covent Garden area, and you can also sit back and enjoy a bit of free street entertainment. Read Craig’s review of Covent Garden on his blog, and see some photos and a video of what it’s like.
A great way to end your second day is with a West End theatre show. Or you might like to watch a big blockbuster movie in Leicester Square instead – it’s home to three of the biggest cinemas in the capital (allow for 3 hours for each).
Day three:Tower of London, Tower Bridge, HMS Belfast, the Shard, Tate Modern, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and the Royal Festival Hall
Our suggested itinerary for three days in London continues with the Tower of London. It was originally built by William the Conqueror in the 11th-century, and is now home to the Crown Jewels. Why not join one of the Yeoman Warder tours around the Tower, and be shown around by the one of the Beefeaters? (allow for 3 hours in total) Craig has written a huge review of the Tower of London on his blog, plus another one about the Yeoman Warder tour with a Beefeater.
A short walk from the Tower of London is the equally famous Tower Bridge. If you’d like to go inside and see the exhibition (we suggest that you give it a miss, because it’s not very exciting) then you’ll enjoy some fine views from the top walkways (allow for 60-90 mins). You should definitely read Craig’s review of this one, because you might find that it’s not worth going inside.
No two people are ever going to agree on what to do for three days in London, so we’re giving you a choice of four different options now (but just choose one). If you like exploring World War II battleships, then cross over the bridge past City Hall to HMS Belfast (allow for 2 hours). Craig definitely recommends HMS Belfast.
Alternatively, you could catch the RV1 bus from Tower Bridge to The Shard. If you’d like to check out the view from London’s tallest observation deck then allow yourself 60-90 mins. Craig has reviewed the view from the top of The Shard (but we think he probably had his eyes shut for most of the time).
Another option is to continue on the RV1 until you reach the Tate Modern art gallery. This is home to the country’s biggest collection of contemporary and modern art, and includes works by Dali, Matisse, Rothko, Pollock and Pablo Picasso. If you’d like to have a look around then allow yourself 90 mins. Craig didn’t rate it all that highly, so you might want to read his review first.
The fourth option is a guided tour of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre (allow for 90 mins). If you come during the summer then you might be able to watch a Shakespeare play as well (allow for 3 hours, but you’ll probably have to jiggle your day around to fit it in). A tour is definitely worth doing, but a play is a hundred times better. Read Craig’s review of the Globe Theatre tour and his experience of watching a play at the Globe.
Note: You can plan a few days in London with this three day itineraries, or you can just pick and choose a few days out of our other itineraries instead. We recommend reading through all the different suggestions in our 1-day plan, 2-day plan and 4-day plan, and then deciding what to see in London over three days.
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