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3 days in London

Three days in London, 3 days in London, London (Photo )
Three days in London

How to make the most of three days in London

London's Riches: The Tower and the British Museum

08:15

Get up early and be at the Tower of London before it opens 9am (it helps to buy skip-the-line tickets ahead of time) so you can get on the first Yeoman Warder tour of this bastion of London's Middle Ages.

Time: 155 min. (The tour lasts an hour. Budget another 45 minutes to tour the White Tower, 30 minutes for the Crown Jewels, and 20 minutes to wander the grounds and walls.)

Transit: District or Circle to Tower Hill.

08:45
★★★
The Tower of London (Photo by Duncan)

The ancient Thameside castle at the heart of London, where London began, ravens roam, and Yoeman Warders guard the Crown Jewels

 
11:45

Grab the Tube to the center of London, bustling Trafalgar Square. Take a few minutes to enjoy the square, statues, and pigeons.

Time: 10 min.

Transit: District or Circle to Embankment.

11:50
★☆☆
The north side of Trafalgar Square, with the National Gallery and St-Martin-in-the-Fields (Photo by Diliff)

London's main central square is flanked by top sights and pinned by Nelson's Column

 
12:05

Take a stroll though the Covent Garden neighborhood, slowly making your way north towards the British Museum (which we'll visit after lunch). Window shop. Check out the Covent Garden Market. Grab lunch at some point.

Time: 50 min.

Transit: Walk.

12:10
★☆☆
The stalls at Covent Garden market (Photo © Reid Bramblett)

The bustling heart of London's upscale West End

 
13:00

Find lunch—you are spoilt for choice in the Covent Garden/Soho area.

Time: 60 min.

Transit: Walk.

14:00
★★★
A dining room at Rules, London's oldest restaurant (Photo courtesy of the restaurant)

Recommended restaurants, pubs, cafes, and other dining options in London

 
14:00

Make your way to the British Museum, the world's greatest repository of archaeological finds—the Rosetta Stone, Egyptian mummies, Parthenon friezes, Celtic hordes, Roman statues, Easter Island moai, and so much more. Stay until they kick you out (unless it's Friday, when they stay open late, then leave around 5:30pm instead!)

Time: 175 min. (Budget at least 20 minutes for the awesome museum shop.)

Transit: Walk.

14:15
★★★
Lely's Venus and some lamassus at the British Museum (Photo by Jorge Royan)

One of the greatest museums on the planet, a repository of astounding artifacts from throughout human history all around the globe, from the Rosetta Stone to the Parthenon Marbles to an Easter Island moai and much, much, much more

 
17:30

Have an early-ish dinner, then spend the evening doing whatever floats your boat (some ideas are below)

Time: 90 min.

17:31
★★★
A dining room at Rules, London's oldest restaurant (Photo courtesy of the restaurant)

Recommended restaurants, pubs, cafes, and other dining options in London

 
19:14

For your evening plans, choose one of the following:

Sorry. Nothing fits that criteria.

19:15

Option 1: Attend a play or a show.

19:30
★★★
A play at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre (Photo © by Reid Bramblett)

London theatre, music, and other performance venues

 
19:15

Option 2: Indulge in a pub crawl (an early play may leave you time to pub-crawl a bit afterward).

19:30
★★★
Taps at a London pub (Photo by Robert S. Donovan)

Take a pub crawl through London, bending your elbow at historic and storied pubs and sampling Real Ales and London porters

 
19:15

Option 3: Just enjoy the street acts and nighttime crowds milling around Leicester Square, Piccadilly, and Covent Garden.

19:30
★☆☆
A lone busker entertains the passing crowds in Leicester Square (Photo by Garry Knight)

A bustling plaza of buskers, tourists, theatre-goers, and pub crawlers at the heart of London's West End

 

Westminster's Empire: From the Victorians to Churchill, the Royals to Harrods

08:30

Make sure you get off the Tube at Westminster station before the top of the hour so you have a chance to see the iconic Elizabeth Tower of the Parliament building—which most people call "Big Ben" (technically, that's just the name of one of the bells inside the tower). Once the bells are chiming again (scheduled for summer 2021), stick around to hear it to ring the hour with its famous Cambridge Chimes tune.  

Time: 10 min.

Transit: District or Circle to Westminster.

08:55
★☆☆
The Palace of Westminster by the Thames at night (Photo by Maurice)

London's iconic exclamation point, the clock tower housing Big Ben, sprouts from the honey-hued complex of be-spired 1840 buildings where British Parliament meets (and you can attend sessions)

 
09:15

Get in line early to be among the first to enter the famed Westminster Abbey when it open at 9:30am to pay homage to the British monarchs, English poets, and other notables buried inside.

Then grab an early lunch on the go. I recommend a quick sandwich at the kiosk by the Abbey's West Towers, though if you need a sit-down break, take 30 minutes to dine in the Abbey's Cellarium. You might also want to grab a snack to keep in your bag for later.

Time: 110 min. (90 min. for the Abbey, 20 min. for lunch)

Transit: Walk.

09:30
★★★
Henry VII's Lady Chapel in Westminster Abbey (Photo by Herry Lawford)

London's great Gothic abbey is packed with the tombs and monuments of British monarchs and some the world's most famous playwrights, poets, scientists, and other notables

 
11:20

Walk a few blocks north of the Abbey to the amazing Churchill War Rooms, the underground warren of rooms from which World War II was run.

Time: 75 min.

Transit: Walk.

11:30
★★☆
A mannequin mans the bank of phones in the Cabinet War Rooms (Photo © by Reid Bramblett)

The Cabinet War Rooms and Churchill Museum in the underground bunker from which Britain waged World War II

 
12:45

Stroll west through St. James's Park towards Buckingham Palace.

Time: 15 min.

Transit: Walk.

12:45
★☆☆
A fountain in St. James's Park with the London Eye in the background (Photo by Neil Howard)

A royal park right in the heart of London

 
13:00

Buckingham Palace is typically only open to the public in August and early September, and again around Christmas, so we are going to assume you won't actually be able to get inside. Still, most people want at least to see it, so here it is. Please don't tease the stoic guards wearing the big furry hats.

Time: 10 min.

Transit: Walk.

13:10
★★☆
The eastern façade of Buckingham Palace and the Victoria Memorial (Photo by Diliff)

London's Royal Residence, from the State Rooms and royal gardens to the Queen's Gallery and the (yawnfest) changing of the guard

 
13:10

Walk around to the right (north) side of Buckingham Palace and up Constitution Hill between the palace gardens and Green Park toward the SE corner of Hyde Park and the Wellington Arch, which you can climb for nice low-angle views over this leafy green heart of London.

Time: 35 min. (15 min. to walk, 20 min. in the arch)

Transit: Walk.

13:45
★☆☆
The Wellington Arch, or Consitution Arch (Photo by Martin Deutsch)

A monumental arch with some lovely London views

 
13:45

Finally, you get to get off your feet and back on the Tube—though only for a few stops— to ride from Hyde Park Corner to South Kensington for the fabulous V&A Museum.

Time: 90 min.

Transit: Piccadilly to South Kensington.

14:10
★★☆
One of the Casts Courts at the V&A of London (Photo © Reid Bramblett)

The world's greatest museum of decorative arts—and so much more (this from someone who hates crafts museums)

 
15:40

Walk up Brompton Road to take an afternoon tea in the Georgian Restaurant at Harrods. Feel free to browse other departments as well.

Time: 90 min.

Transit: Walk.

15:55
★★★
Harrods lit up at night (Photo by Michael Caven)

The world's most famous department store

 
17:29

Take the evening to enjoy as you will. Similar choices as last night:

Sorry. Nothing fits that criteria.

17:30

 Option 1: Attend a play or a show.

17:45
★★★
A play at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre (Photo © by Reid Bramblett)

London theatre, music, and other performance venues

 
17:30

Option 2: Indulge in a pub crawl (an early play may leave you time to pub-crawl a bit afterward).

17:45
★★★
Taps at a London pub (Photo by Robert S. Donovan)

Take a pub crawl through London, bending your elbow at historic and storied pubs and sampling Real Ales and London porters

 
17:30

Option 3: Just enjoy the street acts and nighttime crowds milling around Leicester Square, Piccadilly, and Covent Garden.

17:45
★☆☆
A lone busker entertains the passing crowds in Leicester Square (Photo by Garry Knight)

A bustling plaza of buskers, tourists, theatre-goers, and pub crawlers at the heart of London's West End

 
20:30

If you are still peckish, take a post-theatre or late-night dinner.

22:00
★★★
A dining room at Rules, London's oldest restaurant (Photo courtesy of the restaurant)

Recommended restaurants, pubs, cafes, and other dining options in London

 

Masters Old and New: From the National Gallery to the Tate Modern, free concerts and Shakespearian plays

09:30

Start your day on the north side of Trafalgar Square at the National Gallery, filled with Old Master paintings.

Time: 90 min.

Transit: Northern or Bakerloo to Charing Cross; Piccadilly to Leicester Square; or Circle/District to Embankment.

10:00
★★★
A room at London's National Gallery (Photo by Alex)

England's greatest repository of Old Masters paintings, with works by Leonardo, Botticelli, Rembrandt, Monet, Degas, and more

 
11:30

Walk across the top end of the square to visit St. Martin in the Fields, the blueprint for 1,001 be-spired New England churches.

Time: 15 min.

Transit: Walk.

11:35
★☆☆
The 18C church of St-Martin-in-the-Fields on Trafalgar Square (Photo by Peter Broster)

London's 18th century church steepling Trafalgar Square hosts excellent free lunchtime concerts with a cheap cafe in the crypt

 
11:50

Head outside the church, turn right, and find the glass entrance near the north flank of the church to the Cafe in the Crypt (which is actually under the church, but has a separate entrance). Have lunch atop a tombstone.

Time: 45 min.

Transit: Walk.

11:55
★☆☆
The Café in the Crypt under St-Martin-in-the-Fields church (Photo by Rikki / Julius Reque)

A fabulous, inexpensive lunch spot atop tombstones in the crypt of St. Martin-in-the-Fields church on Trafalgar Square

 
12:45

Make your way to St Paul's Cathedral. Be sure to visit the tomb in the basement, and climb the dome for splendiferous views over London.

Time: 75 min.

Transit: Circle from Embankment to St Paul's.

13:00
★★☆
St. Paul's Cathedral (Photo by Loco Steve)

Christopher Wren’s architectural Renaissance masterpiece has stupendous views from its famous dome, and famous Brits buried in the crypt.

 
15:15

Cross the Millennium Bridge to Southwark.

15:30
★☆☆
The Millennium Bridge at St Paul's (Photo by Yuan Hsueh)

This modern pedestrian suspension bridge between the City and Southwark has quickly become a beloved landmark

 
15:30

Walk just east of the bridge to the famous Shakepeare's Globe Theatre, a delighfully accurate replica of an Elizabethan-era performance space. Spend 20 minutes or so perusing the museum exhibition on the history of the Globe and of London theatre while you wait to join the next tour around the theater itself.

TIP: If there is a play on tonight (usually at 6pm or 7:30pm), I highly recommend arranging for tickets ahead of time (or you can play it by ear and see if there are any left when you stop in). Then plan to return to the Globe for the show after you visit the Tate, which is next.

Time: 60 min.

15:35
★★☆
Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, London (Photo by Diego Delso)

Even if you can't attend a performance, this painstaking replica of an Elizabethan theater in the round is worth a visit just to see it and learn more about the history of British theatre

 
16:30

Retrace your steps back to the foot of the Millennium Bridge and the Tate Modern, a fabulous museum of modern and contemporary art in an old power station. Make sure you save time for the excellent museum shop (good spot for gifts).

Time: 85 min.

16:35
★★☆
Olafur Eliasson's the Weather Project (2003) installation at the Tate Modern (Photo © Reid Bramblett)

Fantastic modern art museum in a massive former power plant, with blockbuster exhibitions and a fab gift shop and bookstore

 
18:00

Time to turn around yet again and walk back past the Globe to enjoy a drink (and maybe dinner) in The Anchor Bankside, an historic pub where Shakespeare himself once got sloshed and many other famed Londoners have enjoyed a tipple.

(If you are going to the Globe for a 7:30pm play, you will have just enough time to raise a glass or two; if your show is at 6pm, just come here afterwards.)

Time: An hour (more if you aren't headed to a play).

18:10
★★☆
The Anchor Bankside (Photo by Ewan Munro)

Favorite Southwark pub filled with cozy snugs and literary associations just a block from Shakespeare's Globe

 
19:05

A play's the thing! Take in a play as the bard intended it to be heard Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. (As mentioned above, some shows start at 6pm, so adjust accordingly.)

Time: 2–3 hours.

19:15
★★★
Groundlings pay just £5 to hear a play at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre (seats start at £15) (Photo © Reid Bramblett)

The play's the thing... to do at Shakespeare's Globe, a faithful recreation of a genuine Elizabethan theater in the round.

 
What the grey and blue time bubbles mean

Since this itinerary takes into account travel time (walking, taking the Tube, driving, whatever):

  • The times in grey circles are the times by which you need to start moving in order to go to the next stop.
  • The times in blue circles are the times by which you should arrive at that stop to begin the fun.
Activities, walks, & excursions tours