Perfect 3 Day London Itinerary for First Time Visitors

London Parliament from the London Eye

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There is so much to see in London, but sometimes when we are traveling (and trying to squeeze in as many sights as we can!) we may only have a short amount of time in a big city. So if you only have a few days, here is a perfect 3 day London itinerary that will ensure you hit all the high points!

Planning a trip to London? Check out our list of books set in England!

Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge (not London Bridge!)

3 Day London Itinerary Summary

We’ll get into detail about all of this. But is the itinerary in brief. Some days look like a lot, but remember, some of these will be brief stops while others will be more in depth museums and tours!

Day 1

  • Buckingham Palace
  • St. James’s Palace
  • Picadilly Circus
  • Kensington Palace
  • Hyde Park
  • Knotting Hill

Day 2

  • Westminster Abbey
  • Big Ben & Parliament
  • Parliament Street/Whitehall
  • Trafalgar Square
  • National Gallery
  • The Churchill War Rooms
  • Evening Entertainment

Day 3

  • Tower of London
  • Tower Bridge
  • Borough Market
  • The Globe Theater
  • Free London Museums
  • High Tea
  • Evensong at St. Paul’s Cathedral
  • London Eye

Where To Stay in London

Obviously there are TONS of hotels to choose from in London. Here are a few we think have great locations and all of them have great reviews. Plus, some of theme are family-friendly, and we know how hard it is to find travel accommodations in Europe when you’re traveling with kids!

Find more London hotel and rental options on the map below.

Getting To London

For most travelers, you’ll be coming to London either via train or airplane.

If you are flying into London from an international destination, you’ll most likely be flying into Heathrow Airport. From there, we recommend the Heathrow Express or the London Underground Elizabeth Line into London. Both of these are quick and relatively inexpensive. Public transport really is so easy in London!

London does have several other airports too. But all of them have public transportation options that can easily take you into London proper.

If you are coming to London via train, there are lots of train stations around the city, and it’s easy to connect to other train stations and the Tube from all of them.

If you are driving around England, you may be tempted to drive to London. And while you can definitely drive TO London, we don’t recommend keeping your car once you are in London.

If you are renting a car, I think London is a great beginning or end to your England trip, not just because of airport convenience, but also because you can return your rental car when you arrive in London from elsewhere in England or pick it up to continue your trip once you are done in London.

Getting Around London

Public transportation in London is SO fantastic! It’s easy to take the Tube pretty much everywhere you will want to go and the maps and routes are easy to understand.

There are also bus routes and tram services in other parts of the city.

When you arrive, you can get an Oyster Card which you can use to easily pay for your time on public transport.

Remember, London is also extremely pedestrian-friendly! While you can’t really walk everywhere because it’s a HUGE city (like, you don’t want to walk from Buckingham Palace to the Tower of London…it would take you over an hour!), walking within the city for nearby attractions is the way to go.

Of course, London is also known for their cabs! It can be pricey to take a cab, but I recommend taking one of London’s black cabs at least once just for the experience.

Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace

3 Day London Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival, Palaces, and Parks

For the sake of this exercise, we’re going to assume you are arriving in London in the morning (most flights from the States land sometime in the morning). Or you’ve arrived the night before and are ready to go on your first morning!

If you’ve arrived that day, the first thing you should do is make sure you have a place for your luggage. If you are staying at hotel, you may be able to store your bags at the front desk. Major train stations and the airport also have luggage storage options.

Then it is time to start your London adventure!

If you’ve arrived the night before and are getting an early start, you might want to find a few other things to fill your day here. A few options: take a bus tour to get a good feel for the city, check out a museum, or, if the Queen is out of town, spend some extra time at Buckingham Palace and get tickets for a tour.

Stop 1: Buckingham Palace

Go straight to the source here and make your way to Buckingham Palace. Take the Tube to either Victoria Station or Green Park. My favorite is to get off at Greek Park Station because then you have a lovely walk through Green Park.

Spend some time in front of Buckingham Palace, take your picture, and watch the guards. If you want to see the Changing the Guard, it occurs at 10:45 a.m. every day and it’s free! The event can be crowded though, so be prepared and try to arrive early.

Stop 2: St. James’s Palace and Picadilly Circus

After seeing Buckingham Palace, take a stroll up The Mall along the edge of St. James’s Park. Turn up Marlborough Road and you can check out St. James’s Palace.

From St. James’s Palace, it’s about a 10 minutes walk to Picadilly Circus, another well-known area of London.

Now would also be a great time to find a place for lunch, especially with all the food options near Picadilly Circus!

Stop 3: Kensington Palace and Hyde Park

Kensington Palace and Queen Victoria Statue
Kensington Palace

Take the Tube to either Queensway Station or High Street Kensington, and make your way to Kensington Palace. You can walk along the exterior, see the Kensington Palace Gardens, and explore the west end of Hyde Park.

If you want to book a tour of Kensington Palace or have afternoon tea at The Orangery, you can book tour tickets and make tea reservations ahead of time.

After you are done at Kensington Palace, enjoy a stroll through Hyde Park.

Pro Tip: Don’t try to walk through all of Hyde Park. It is WAY bigger than you think it is. If you want to get to another section on the other side of the park, there are Underground stations surrounding the park.

Stop 4: Knotting Hill

After you see Kensington Palace and hang out in Hyde Park for a bit, wander the beautiful streets of Kensington and Knotting Hill and find some dinner. (If you want to take the Underground to Notting Hill, take the Tube to Notting Hill Gate.)

After a day of travel and getting used to a new city, you’re probably tired! As tempting as it may be to stay out and experience the city, we recommend going to bed early on your first night so you are rested for the rest of your time in London!

books set in England

Traveling to the UK? Check out these books set in England!

Day 2: Westminster Abbey and Churchill War Rooms

Day two of our 3 day London itinerary is going to be concentrated in the Westminster area, taking you to the Abbey as well as several museums.

Stop 1: Westminster Abbey

We recommend buying your tickets to Westminster Abbey for the earliest time slot available and showing up early. If you have bought your ticket online ahead of time, you will get in faster than the other people in line who have not already done this.

Take the Tube to the Westminster station. You will come out right underneath Big Ben, and you can make your way over to Westminster Abbey. A line will begin to form before the Abbey opens, and we recommend getting in it early.

Spend the morning exploring the beauty of Westminster Abbey. If you want to, you can get an audio guide or download a multimedia guide to your phone.

Stop 2: Parliament and Big Ben

Elizabeth Tower and Big Ben
Elizabeth Tower and Big Ben

After Westminster Abbey, make your way toward Big Ben and cross over Westminster Bridge for the best view of Parliament. If you hit it on the hour, you can hear Big Ben chime!

Stop 3: Parliament Street/Whitehall

After Parliament and Big Big, walk back toward Westminster and walk up Parliament Street (which turns into Whitehall) on toward Trafalgar Square. You’ll pass several important sights you can pause for such as 10 Downing Street, the Cenotaph, and Whitehall Palace.

Stop 4: Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery

You’ve ended up at Trafalgar Square, so after grabbing some lunch nearby, you can make your way into the National Gallery if you have time. There is free admission and no need to make a reservation, so you can spend as much or as little time as you want here! And if you have to leave without seeing everything you want, you can always come back later!

Stop 5: The Churchill War Rooms

The Churchill War Rooms is by far our favorite museum in London. You should buy your tickets ahead of time and reserve a time-slot, but still be prepared to wait in line.

Here you can see the bunkers Churchill and his staff used during WWII, still set up exactly as they were then. There is also an exhibit about Churchill’s life. The whole thing is fascinating! We are normally people who breeze through museums pretty quickly, but we spent quite awhile here!

Stop 6: Evening Entertainment

After dinner, enjoy some of London’s evening entertainment! You can see a show in the West End, or, if you’re lucky, attend a performance at The Globe Theatre.

You can buy tickets at the box office or check at the TKTS booth in Leicester Square. Even for sold out shows, it is worth checking to see if any last minute tickets have become available.

Day 3: Tower of London and Museums

Day 3 of our London Itinerary takes you to the Tower of London in the morning. Then spend the afternoon seeing some museums of your choice!

Stop 1: Tower of London

Tower of London
Tower of London

Take the Tube to Tower Station and spend your morning at the Tower of London! There is so much to see here, the most popular of which is the Crown Jewels. We recommend arriving as soon as the Tower opens and going straight to the Crown Jewels to avoid the crowds as much as possible. We also recommend buying your Tower of London tickets ahead of time.

Then spend the rest of your morning wandering through the rest of the what the Tower of London has to offer: The White Tower, the Garden area, walking the Tower walls. There are a lot of nooks and crannies to explore!

You can also go on a tour led by a famous Beefeater. The tours occur every 30 minutes and last 1 hour, but they do get extremely crowded. These tours are included with the price of admission. Self-guided audio tours are also available for an additional small cost.

Stop 2: Tower Bridge and Borough Market

From the Tower of London, walk across Tower Bridge and make your over to Borough Market for lunch. This is street food central, and you’ll find everything from classic British baked goods to Egyptian cuisine and everything in between. This is one of our must-do food stops because there is something for everyone in your travel party!

Stop 3: The Globe Theater

After Borough Market, walk along the Thames to get to the Globe Theater. If you want to take a tour you can book tickets for it in advance.

But we recommend at least stopping by a taking a picture!

Stop 4: Find a Museum and/or Have High Tea

Spend some time this afternoon at one of London’s many free museums! We recommend The British Museum, Tate Modern, The National Gallery, or the Treasures of the British Library (a small museum but a must-see if you are a literary lover like we are!)

Here’s a link to all of London’s free museums!

Or, use this time to have High Tea at one of London’s many well known tea rooms. Some popular options include: Fortnum & Mason, The Goring, The Ritz, and Claridge’s. But there are tea options all over the city!

Or, if you go through museums quickly (like we do!) you can try to squeeze in both a museum and tea!

Stop 5: Evensong at St. Paul’s Cathedral

One great and free way to see a London Cathedral is to attend one of their daily Evensong services. Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s both hold Evensong services, but since attending the service does not allow you to tour the church fully, we recommend choosing Westminster Abbey for you ticketed tour and St. Paul’s for your service. (I think there is just a lot more points of interest to see at Westminster Abbey!)

An Evensong service is usually a brief service, mostly consisting of the choir singing. And it is thoroughly enjoyable whether you sit in the congregation or choose to sit in the quire next to the choir (they will ask who would like to sit with the choir in the quire stalls and expect most of the crowd to get up and participate in this experience, and definitely do so if you want to!).

St. Paul’s holds Evensong most days, but be sure to check the dates and times before you go.

Stop 6: The London Eye

Thames River and the London Eye
Thames River and the London Eye

Look, you may have noticed that so far we haven’t included the famous London Eye so far. And honestly, having done it once, I probably wouldn’t do it again. BUT it does offer some amazing views of London and can be a fun experience, so you might not want to miss out. (BUT if you don’t have time, don’t feel bad!).

If you are going to go on the London Eye, we definitely recommend evening times. It tends to not be as crowded, and if you time it right you might even see the city lights (which of course is much harder to do in the summer considering the longer daytime hours). You can grab dinner either before or after, depending on what time it is when you get done at the museums and what time the London Eye is closing that day.

And it can be a great way to end your time in London!

You can buy your tickets ahead of time online.

Map for 3 Days in London

Here’s a map for these 3 days in London. Each day is color coded differently: Day 1 is purple, Day 2 is pink, and Day 3 is green. To get to each day, click the icon in the top left of the map.

Things To Know Before Traveling to London

London is a pretty easy city to navigate, but there are still a few things to know before traveling.

  • The London Pass is available, but calculate prices before deciding if it is worth it for your trip based on what sights you want to see. Also know that different attractions treat the London Pass differently as far as admission preference goes when there is a line.
  • Research and understand how the Underground system works before you go! It is extremely easy to navigate, but look at a map before you arrive so you have some familiarity with it. Get an Oyster card when you arrive, load it with some money, and you’ll be good to go!
  • One thing we also recommend doing is taking a London taxi at some point! It is pricey, but the experience is worth it! London taxi drivers are world-renowned for a reason! (So definitely read up on The Knowledge before you go so you have an appreciation for it!)
  • Like most places in Europe, public restrooms are not always easy to find, so whenever you are in a restaurant or museum, take advantage of their facilities.
  • Make sure at least one of your meals is a pub!

There is so much to see in London, but it really is possible to see the major highlights of London in just 3 days!

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