London Drum

Spend Three Days In London – Example Holiday Itinerary

Two example itineraries with the best places to visit during a three-day stay in London

Idea #1 – Landmarks, sightseeing bus, West End show, day in Greenwich

Trafalgar Square
St. Paul’s Cathedral
The Shard
Tower Bridge
Tower of London
Covent Garden
Leicester Square
Day One | What you will see:
Sightseeing bus, St. Paul’s, The Shard, Tower Bridge, Tower of London and a West End show

How about starting your stay with a sightseeing bus? London is so big that even three days isn’t enough time to see absolutely everything, so an open-top bus is great way of ticking off lots of popular landmarks. The three biggest tour companies are Golden Tours, Big Bus London and TootBus Tour.

For this particular itinerary we recommend catching Golden Tour’s ‘Blue route’ from Trafalgar Square which will take you up the Strand and Fleet Street towards St. Paul’s Cathedral (20 mins ride).

Get off the bus and enter St. Paul’s (allow for 2 hours).

Now jump on the same sightseeing bus and ride it over London Bridge to The Shard. If you thought St. Paul’s was high then try the view from London’s tallest skyscraper (allow for 1 hour).

Now jump back on the bus and enjoy the ride over Tower Bridge. Get off again when it drives round the back of the Tower of London. We don’t recommend going inside Tower Bridge but we definitely recommend entering the 1,000-year-old Tower of London.

Why not do a Yeoman Warder Tour with one of the famous Beefeaters? Then you can see famous place like Tower Green, Traitor’s Gate, the Bloody Tower and Crown Jewels (allow for 3 hours).

The same bus will take you back to Trafalgar Square but it’s such a roundabout route that we recommend catching the tube from Tower Hill to Embankment instead (10 mins ride).

You want your first day to end on a high, so how about seeing a West End musical? Depending on which show you’ve picked your theatre will probably be around Shaftesbury Avenue, Covent Garden or Leicester Square, which are all within walking distance of Trafalgar Square.

London Eye
Houses of Parliament
Westminster Abbey
Downing Street
Horse Guards Parade
National Gallery
Buckingham Palace
Green Park
Piccadilly Circus
West End
Day Two | What you will see:
London Eye, Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Downing Street, Horse Guards, National Gallery, Buckingham Palace, Piccadilly Circus

You’ve probably had enough of buses after yesterday so today’s attractions are all within walking distance of each other.

One of the attractions that appears near the top of everyone’s bucket list is the London Eye. Not only will it give you a great view of all the places we’ll be visiting later in the day, it’s also quite an exciting thrill ride (allow for 30 mins queuing, and 30 mins on the actual wheel)

Then walk over Westminster Bridge to Big Ben. Take some more photos of the Houses of Parliament when you get to Parliament Square (allow for 20 mins).

We’re going to spend the next 1½ hours inside Westminster Abbey. The Abbey is one of the most historic buildings in London and contains the tombs of Henry V (Agincourt), Edward V (War of the Roses), Elizabeth I (Spanish Armada), James VI (Gunpowder Plot) and Charles II (Restoration).

Now walk down Whitehall until you see the big black gate of Downing Street on the left.

A bit further along is one of London’s most popular photos – the sentry boxes outside Horse Guards. There will probably a huge crowd of tourists taking it in turns to get a selfie of themselves standing next to a horse.

At the end of the road is Trafalgar Square. Spend 10 mins taking photos of Nelson’s Column and then make your way into the National Gallery on the northside of the square.

The National Gallery is the country’s finest art gallery and contains artworks by the likes of Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt, Raphael, Titian, Turner, Vincent van Gogh and more (allow for 90 mins).

Now walk through Admiralty Arch and up the Mall towards Buckingham Palace (15 mins walk). Once you’ve taken some photos of the Queen’s home have a stroll through Green Park towards Piccadilly (10 mins walk).

Walk down Piccadilly past the Royal Academy of Arts and Fortnum & Mason (you might like to have a quick look inside this shop – it’s more like a 5-star hotel!), until you get to the bright lights of Piccadilly Circus.

There are plenty of good pubs and restaurants around here because this is the heart of the West End.

Thames River Sightseeing boat
Cutty Sark
National Maritime Museum
Royal Observatory
Royal Naval College
Greenwich Park
Day Three | What you will see:
Boat ride to Greenwich, Cutty Sark, National Maritime Museum, Royal Observatory, Old Royal Naval College

You might enjoy a nice boat ride to Greenwich on your third day. There are three different boat companies that go to Greenwich: Thames Clippers, City Cruises and TRS. Thames Clippers don’t have very many outside seats, and the City Cruises tend to get packed out with tourists, so our recommendation is TRS.

It’s a 60-min boat ride from Westminster Pier and you’ll get a great view of the Globe, St. Paul’s and The City before passing under Tower Bridge towards Canary Wharf.

There are a lots of different things to do in Greenwich and you won’t have time to see them all, so we recommend choosing just two out of the next four.

Option 1 – Cutty Sark

Cutty Sark is a famous old clipper ship that used to sail to China in world record speeds. They’ve suspended the whole thing in the air so you can walk underneath the hull and then explore all the decks (allow for 90 mins).

Option 2 – National Maritime Museum

If you’re interested in boats then you might like to try the National Maritime Museum which tells the story of the British Navy from the days of the British Empire. One of the highlights is the actual jacket that Nelson was wearing during the Battle of Trafalgar (allow for 2 hours).

Option 3 – Royal Observatory

If you don’t mind climbing up Greenwich Hill then how about the Royal Observatory? This dates from the reign of Charles II and has a collection of old clocks and telescopes inside. There’s a modern planetarium next-door as well (allow for 3 hours).

Option 4 – Old Royal Naval College

If you enjoy beautiful buildings then have a walk around the Old Royal Naval College. This was built by Christopher Wren and contains the world-famous Painted Hall – one of the most stunning rooms in London (allow for 60 mins).

Bear in mind that depending on which boat company you chose the return boat might leave as early as 4 PM or as late as 9 PM.

View this itinerary on the planner

Idea #2 – Landmarks, Changing the Guard, West End show or cinema

Trafalgar Square
Buckingham Palace
Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace
St. James’s Park
Churchill War Rooms
Horse Guards Parade
Downing Street
Houses of Parliament
Westminster Abbey
London Eye
Day One | What you will see:
Trafalgar Square, Changing the Guard, Churchill War Rooms, Downing Street, Parliament, Westminster Abbey, London Eye

If this is your first visit to London then you’ll probably want to see as many landmarks as possible, but London is a huge city and it’s not easy to squeeze them all into a three-day stay, so you need to plan your route and avoid wasting too much time on the buses and trains. So this first day collects together lots of attractions that are within walking distance.

Start your day in Trafalgar Square and take some photos of Nelson’s Column and the National Gallery (allow for 10 mins). Then walk through Admiralty Arch and up the Mall towards Buckingham Palace (15 mins walk).

Changing the Guard is at the top of a lot of people’s bucket list, so that’s what we’re going to do next. The ceremony starts at 11 AM but we recommend getting there before 9.30 AM if you want to grab the best spot up against the railings.

When the ceremony ends walk across St. James’s Park and find the bridge in the middle of the lake for a great view of Horse Guards and the palace. They’ve got a cafe a bit further along if you want to stop for a coffee (allow for 30 mins).

Option 1 – Churchill War Rooms

If you’re interested in WWII then you might like to visit the Churchill War Rooms now. This was where Churchill’s wartime government met during the Blitz (allow for 1½-2 hours). Note: If you go inside the War Rooms then you won’t have time for the Houses of Parliament or Westminster Abbey later, so you need to choose just one out of the three.

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 a selfie standing next to one of the mounted soldiers.

Now head towards Parliament Square, remembering to stop and have a look through the big black gates of Downing Street. This is where the Prime Minister lives. You can see the famous front door halfway up the street on the righthand side.

Option 2 – Houses of Parliament

If your trip is during the summer then we definitely recommend doing a Houses of Parliament tour. At other times of year you can only do a Saturday tour (allow for 90 mins).

Option 3 – Westminster Abbey

Now cross over Parliament Square to Westminster Abbey – the setting for coronations and State funerals. It’s also the burial place of many of our greatest kings and queens (allow for 2 hours).

Let’s end the day with a ride on the London Eye. Walk over Westminster Bridge and you’ll see it across the river by the County Hall. Hopefully it will be late afternoon by now and the light will be fading, so you’ll see the city start to light up (allow for 30 mins queuing, and 30 mins on the wheel).

British Museum
St. Paul’s Cathedral
Royal Courts of Justice
Covent Garden
Leicester Square
Day Two | What you will see:
British Museum, St. Paul’s, Covent Garden, West End show or cinema in Leicester Square

This second day will be a bit more sedate after yesterday’s marathon walk, with a visit to a museum and a cathedral, followed by a nice meal and West End theatre show.

The British Museum is one of the world’s greatest museums with ancient artefacts from Egypt, Africa and the Orient. It also has huge monuments by the Romans, Greeks and Persians. Highlights include the famous Rosetta Stone, Elgin Marbles and burial treasures from Sutton Hoo (allow for 2 hours).

Catch the 521 bus to St. Paul’s Cathedral (15 mins ride). No itinerary would be complete without a look at Christopher Wren’s masterpiece. After you’ve had a look around the interior and the tombs in the crypt try and climb up to the Whispering Gallery. The next set of stairs will take you outside the dome for a fantastic view of the city. The final level will take you to the very summit of the dome, 85 metres above the street (allow for 2 hours).

Now catch the No.15 bus down Fleet Street past the Royal Courts of Justice, and get off near Covent Garden. There are plenty of decent pubs and restaurants around here. We especially recommend the Punch & Judy pub overlooking the piazza, because you can stand on the outside balcony and enjoy a bit of free street entertainment opposite the church. Hopefully they’ll have a few magicians, fire-eaters or acrobats dancing around.

You can’t come to London and not see a theatre show, so book yourself a ticket to one of the big West End musicals in the evening. If you’d prefer a movie then you’ll find all the big cinemas in Leicester Square (allow 2-3 hours for each).

Tower of London
Tower Bridge
HMS Belfast
The Shard
Tate Modern
Globe Theatre
Day Three | What you will see:
Tower of London, Tower Bridge, HMS Belfast, The Shard, Tate Modern, Globe Theatre

Day three begins with the Tower of London. This was originally built by William the Conqueror in the 11th-century and is famous for Traitor’s Gate, the Bloody Tower, Tower Green (where Henry VIII beheaded his queens) and the Crown Jewels. We recommend joining one of the hour-long Yeoman Warder tours and then spending another couple of hours exploring the grounds (allow for 3 hours in total)

When you come out walk over Tower Bridge. We think the exhibition inside is rather dull but if you really want to do it then allow yourself 1 hour. They’ve installed a glass floor in the top walkway which makes it a bit more exciting.

Everybody has different interests so we’re going to give you four different options now. We recommend that you just choose one, but you can probably squeeze in two if you don’t mind rushing around them.

Option 1 – HMS Belfast

If you’re interested in World War II then step board the battlecruiser HMS Belfast that’s moored up alongside City Hall. You can explore every inch of it from the Admiral’s bridge, armouries and gun decks, and even the little dentist and operating theatre (allow for 2 hours).

Option 2 – The Shard

Alternatively you could catch the RV1 bus to London Bridge and see the skyline from the top of London’s tallest skyscraper – The Shard. It will be interesting to look at St. Paul’s while you’re up there – you probably thought the dome was really high when you climbed it yesterday, but we promise it will look absolutely tiny from the top of the Shard (allow for 1-1½ hours).

Option 3 – Tate Modern

Another option is to get the RV1 to the Tate Modern art gallery. This is home to the country’s largest collection of modern and contemporary art, and includes works by the likes of Rothko, Pollock, Picasso, Dali and Matisse. Remember to visit the observation floor in the Blavatnik Building behind, because it has a fine view of St. Paul’s Cathedral (allow for 1½ hours in total).

Option 4 – Globe Theatre tour

The fourth option is a guided tour of the Globe Theatre inside the re-constructed Elizabethan playhouse. You can also learn about William Shakespeare’s life in the museum underneath (allow for 1½ hours in total).

If you’re careful with the timings then you might be able to squeeze in a Shakespeare play as well. You’ll have to come during the summer though, because it’s an open-air stage and they don’t perform during the winter (allow 3 hours for a play).

View this itinerary on the planner

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Your comments and questions

Olix Hi! It will be our family's first time visiting UK and we only have a short time to enjoy London. What we are worried about is where the best area to stay so that we do not spend much time commuting. We originally booked near the Excel but can transfer if this area is not that accessible to tour around or there is a better place to stay around London. Hoping to get any advice!

Craig I wouldn't recommend staying there because you'll definitely be spending a lot of time traveling around. The DLR (Docklands Light Railway) will get you to Bank, which is in the centre of the Square Mile, but that is still nowhere near places like Trafalgar Square and Big Ben, so you'll have to get a second tube or bus on from there. Personally, I wouldn't want to go any further north than the Euston Road, any further west than Bayswater, and any further east than Tower Bridge. Southwark and Bankside south of the river are okay.

Olix Thank you for the very useful information!

Ranjani Hi, My husband and I are planning a 3 day trip to London with some day trips outside of London, but only 3 days in London itself, and I would appreciate your feedback. Day 1) We arrive in London at 12.30 PM and our hotel is in Victoria, so in the afternoon we propose to do the parks - Hyde, Kensington, St James Park and Regent's Park, we plan to take a walk or take the bus -- Day 2) we do a sightseeing bus, do St Paul's Cathedral, The Shard, Tower of London and go for a show in the evening -- Day 3) we do a day trip to Stonehenge or Bath -- Day 4) we start with Changing of the Guards, Churchill War Rooms, Whitehall, 10 Downing Street, Westminster Abbey and a show -- Day 5) Another day trip to Oxford and the Cotswolds -- Day 6)'s when I need some help! We would like to see the National Gallery, Tate Modern, Harrods, HMS Belfast, Royal Albert Hall and the Globe Theatre. Can I get some feedback how to make it doable? Regards Ranjani

Craig Day 1) I think this is asking too much for your first day - you'll be knackered! If you mean your plane is arriving at 12:30 then you won't get into the centre of London for at least two hours (minimum). But even if you are arriving into the centre of London at 12:30 I think you're underestimating the size of those parks. St James Park should definitely be on your list (you'll get good views of Buckingham Palace too). And Regent's Park is the other pretty one - but it's a tube ride away from st james's park. If it was me, I would probably stick with St James's Park and Hyde Park, because you can walk between those two (Kensington Gardens is quite bland, unless you specifically want to see the outside of kensington palace). Day 2) this is doable, but busy. The Tower of London could easily take up half-a-day on its own. St Paul's will take up 2 hours. The Shard will be another hour. Day 4) this will be a good day. You've just got to remember that if you want a good viewing spot for Changing the Guard then you need to be there quite early (at least one hour before it starts). But it's still worth doing even if you don't get there early. Day 6) the National Gallery is the best gallery in London, and definitely better than the Tate Modern, but the Tate modern, Globe Theatre and HMS Belfast are all within walking distance of each other - you can have a nice walk along the river right up to Tower Bridge . But the Royal Albert Hall and Harrods are a tube ride away on other side of town though. Maybe you could move Harrods to Day 1 instead? Then you could walk through St James's Park, Green Park, past Wellington Arch, and then down knightsbridge where Harrods is (it's a very long walk though - but shorter than your walk through the parks would have been).

Ranjani Hi, Thanks so much for the feedback. I have a few more queries -- 1) In day 1 where we plan the walks to the parks - how close is St James Park from our hotel? -- 2) Is the Shard worth the visit, as you say the day with the Tower of London and St Paul's will already be tight. Also is the Yeoman warder tour worth the time? Thanks so much Ranjani

Craig 1) The distance between your hotel and the Horse Guards end of St James's Park is roughly 1 mile. And it's about 1 and a half miles from there to Harrods. I wouldn't fancy walking it on my first day, but it's doable -- 2) The Shard is definitely worth a visit, but it's basically just you looking out of a window. It's also quite pricey for just an hour of your time, but I still think it's worth a visit. The Yeoman Warder tour is good, but I would probably recommend giving it a miss if time is tight because it doesn't go inside any of the towers (he just talks about them from the outside). And you definitely want to go inside the White Tower and Wellington Barracks to see the Crown Jewels, so you'd be wasting a bit of time doubling back on yourself after it was finished.

D&P Hi. We are travelling to London arriving around lunchtime Sunday and leaving Thursday morning so we have three days to see as much as possible. We are staying in York Road near the London Eye. Can you suggest the best way for us to see as many sights as possible, preferably within walking distance or short transport time. Some places we would like to see/tour if possible, and please suggest your preference as some offer the same sights. Westminster Abbey, Tower of London/Tower Bridge, St Paul's, Thames cruise to Greenwich and return, Covent Garden, the Shard, Sky Garden, open top bus, Buckingham Palace, some shopping time. Anything else we have missed? What can we reasonably plan to fit in given our time frame. Any ideas much appreciated. Cheers!

Craig Hi D&P. You have plenty of time to do all of the things you mentioned, plus some more things as well. It's not worth going inside Tower Bridge, in my opinion, and I would personally give the open-top sightseeing bus a miss as well because it's very expensive, takes a long time, and it sounds like you're going to be visiting all of the main landmarks anyway, so you'll just be doubling up. I would keep the boat trip to Greenwich, though, because it's a lot more interesting than the bus. All of the others places you've mentioned are definitely worth doing. Remember that you'll need to book a ticket for the Sky Garden in advance because you can't just turn up on the day. As for everything being within walking distance of the London Eye you can do Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace and Covent Garden on foot, but the furthest I would want to walk is St Paul's - and that's a long walk. So you'll have to catch a bus or a tube train at some point. The RV1 bus starts at Covent Garden and goes past the London Eye, The Shard and up to Tower Bridge/Tower of London, so maybe you can make that your bus.

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