Last Updated on 19 April 2021
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What to see in London for 3 days?
A world renowned city, travel hotspot and the bustling capital of England, London is absolutely bursting at the seams with amazing things to do! It makes for the perfect staycation destination, and is an essential stop on any itinerary for the United Kingdom. And 3 days in London is enough time to get a good taste of what this eclectic city has to offer (plus it’s an easy trip to fit around your 9-5)! So to ensure you get the most out of your weekend in London, this super detailed itinerary shares some of the must-dos across Central, North and East London, and useful information on how to get around the big smoke! And to maximise your time and make it easier for you, the sights are clumped together by area too!
Day 1 – Central London
Visit the Natural History Museum (morning)
Start your 3 days in London with a visit to the world famous Natural History Museum. The Natural History Museum is one of the best museums in London given its extensive display of natural history specimens that span billions of years from all across the world. First opening its doors in 1881, the exterior of the Natural History Museum is an iconic London landmark in itself, given the church like appearance of its Romanesque architecture. Adorned with intricate decorations inside and out, the Natural History Museum houses more than 80 million exhibits, such as dinosaurs, marine animals, mammals, reptiles and geological collections. If you’re looking for free things to do in London, then the Natural History Museum might be your cup of tea given that admission is free!
Tip: Grab yourself a sandwich for lunch from one of the shops near to the Natural History Museum before getting the tube across to Buckingham Palace.
How to get to the Natural History Museum: The nearest tube station is in South Kensington or Gloucester Road. Both underground stations are serviced by the Circle and District line.
See Buckingham Palace (afternoon)
After your morning exploring the Natural History Museum, get the underground across to Buckingham Palace. One of the must-sees on any trip to the big city and serving as the official London residence of the Queen since 1837, Buckingham Palace is perhaps the most grand townhouse in London! And a peek at the exterior is certainly worthwhile on your 3 days in London. At the entrance you will see the iconic Royal Guards dressed in their bright red tunics and bearskins (hats). And if you time it right, you might see the Changing of the Guard (the days and times can vary so check the schedule in advance)!
How to get to Buckingham Palace: From the Natural History Museum, take the London Underground from South Kensington or Gloucester Road to Victoria (Circle and District line). If you’re coming from elsewhere in London, then Green Park and Hype Park Corner tube stations also surround Buckingham Palace.
Wander around Trafalgar Square (afternoon)
After visiting the Queen’s house, take the ~20 minute walk (~1.3km/~0.8 miles) across to Trafalgar Square. Trafalgar Square is one of London’s most famous public squares, and now acts as a stage for national protests and major events like Chinese New Year. Within and surrounding Trafalgar Square you’ll find a number of historical buildings and famous London attractions, such as the Trafalgar Lions, Trafalgar Fountains, Nelson’s Column and the National Gallery.
How to get to Trafalgar Square: If you’re following this 3 day itinerary for London, then you can arrive at Trafalgar Square by walking from Buckingham Palace. But if you’re coming from elsewhere, the best way to reach Trafalgar Square is to take the London Underground to Charing Cross tube station (Bakerloo or Northern line).
Stroll around Theatreland (evening)
Theatreland is London’s epicentre of extravagant entertainment and exuberant shows. Located in the West End and encompassed by Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus, walking through the streets of Theatreland is one of the best things to do in London in the evening. When night falls, floods of visitors fill the streets, bright lights illuminate the buildings and the atmosphere of Theatreland becomes electric. If you’re planning on watching a theatre production, there’s a strong possibility you’ll end up here. But even if you aren’t, the glitz and glam and bustling ambience of Theatreland makes it worthy of an evening stroll!
How to get to Theatreland in London: Take the London Underground to Leicester Square (Northern or Piccadilly line) or Piccadilly Circus (Piccadilly or Bakerloo line).
Step into Chinatown (evening)
After experiencing the bright lights of Theatreland, turn your attention to London’s Chinatown where you will finish off day 1 of your itinerary for 3 days in London. Chinatown is one of the best things to see in London in 3 days, given it’s vibrant nature! And it’s the perfect place to visit of an evening to grab some super tasty food! Walking through Chinatown, you might be fooled into thinking you have accidentally stepped into the streets of Beijing or Hong Kong.
Originally Chinatown was located in the East End of London. But the reputation of the nightlife and cheaper rent coupled with a new born British love for Chinese cuisine after soldiers returned from the Far East drew people into the city. And so the West End Chinatown we know today was born. Forming from the 1950s, it quickly became a bustling hub for the Chinese community. And there is oriental influence everywhere you look, such as lanterns, pavilions and Chinese gates.
How to get to Chinatown: If you are following this itinerary for 3 days in London then to reach Chinatown from Theatreland all you need to do is take a short walk. If you’re coming from elsewhere, the best tube station for Chinatown is Leicester Square (Northern or Piccadilly line) or Piccadilly Circus (Piccadilly or Bakerloo line).
Day 2 – North London
Visit Little Venice (morning)
After breakfast, take the tube to Little Venice. Located a short walk from the chaos of Paddington, you might think that you’ve stepped into another world when wandering the quieter streets of the Amsterdam-esque neighbourhood. Little Venice is one of the most unique places to visit in Europe located where the Grand Union Canal meets Regent’s Canal, and is full of tranquil waterways that are lined with cafes, restaurants and narrow boats! After a mooch, take a narrow boat trip with the London Waterbus Co Ltd to Camden Town, where you’ll spend the afternoon. This is a lovely way to see the picturesque canals of London!
How to get to Little Venice: Take the London Underground to Paddington tube station (Circle, District, Bakerloo or Hammersmith and City line) and take the Grand Union Canal exit, then follow the signs for Little Venice.
Experience quirky Camden (afternoon)
After your tour of London’s waterways, you’ll arrive into Camden where you will spend the afternoon. Located in North London, Camden Town is made up of markets, vintage clothing stores, street vendors, live music venues, buskers and eclectic street art. Spend some time wandering Camden Market where you will find an abundance of stalls selling arts, crafts, jewellery, clothing, trinkets and more. Grab some lunch from one of the many vendors selling tasty delights from all around the world (the Chinese food is amazing). Then perhaps take a canal-side stroll, wander the high street, or grab a drink somewhere quirky before heading back to Central London.
How to get to Camden: If you’re following this route for 3 perfect days in London, then you would have arrived into Camden by narrow boat from Little Venice. But for those who are using this itinerary as a travel guide for London, the best way to get to Camden is by underground. Just take the Northern line to Camden Town tube station.
Stroll London’s Southbank (evening)
After your afternoon exploring the hustle and bustle of Camden, jump on the tube back into Central London to enjoy a wander of London’s Southbank at night before heading back to your Central London accommodation. Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and the London Eye are another three of London’s iconic landmarks, and perhaps the best time to see these sights is at night. During the evening, Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and the London Eye are illuminated, which adds an enchanting aura to a stroll of the River Thames!
How to get to Southbank: The nearest tube station to the London Eye is Waterloo (Bakerloo, Jubilee or Northern line) and the nearest to Big Ben/the Houses of Parliament is Westminster tube station (Jubilee, Circle and District line). There’s no need to get the tube in between the London Eye and Big Ben/the Houses of Parliament as the distance is walkable.
Day 3 – East London
Shop at Westfield Stratford City (morning)
For the final morning of your 3 days in London, why not indulge in some retail therapy? After all, London is one of the shopping capitals of the world. You could spend time shopping on Oxford Street if you wish, but day 3 of this itinerary is centred around exploring East London where Westfield Stratford City is located. After breakfast get the tube to Westfield Stratford City, which is a large shopping mall full of department stores stocking an array of items. Following your shopping spree, refuel with lunch at one of the many places to eat, before heading off to see some of East London’s sights.
How to get to Westfield Stratford City: Take the London Underground to Stratford (Jubilee or Central line). You can also reach Stratford by Docklands Light Railway (DLR) depending on where you are staying in London, but if your accommodation is in Central London it’s unlikely you’ll use this to reach Stratford.
Ride the Emirates Air Line (afternoon)
When you’ve had lunch and are all shopped out, take to the skies at Royal Victoria Docks. At Royal Victoria Docks you will find the Emirates Air Line, which is one of the unique things to do in London! The Emirates Air Line is a cable car which connects the Royal Victoria Docks with the Greenwich Peninsula, and travels high above the River Thames.
From the gondola you will be rewarded with jaw-dropping vistas across the Thames, Royal Victoria Docks, the O2 Arena and down towards Canary Wharf! It’s certainly an experience which should be on any London bucket list! Once you arrive back on solid ground, why not take the opportunity to have an up close encounter with the outside of the O2 Arena?
How to get to the Emirates Air Line: If you ‘re visiting the Emirates Air Line as part of this weekend itinerary for London, and have just been to Westfield Stratford City shopping, then take the Jubilee line to Canning Town tube station and transfer onto the DLR across to Royal Victoria.
Wander Greenwich Park (afternoon)
Once you arrive on the Greenwich Peninsula after your sky-high experience, head over to Greenwich Park. If you feel energetic you could walk (~3km/1.8 miles) from the Emirates Air Line Greenwich Peninsula station to Greenwich Park. But if not you can get the bus from North Greenwich Station.
Tip: Use Transport For London’s journey planner if you need assistance planning your public transport, such a tubes and buses in London!
Greenwich Park is the oldest enclosed Royal Park in London and is where you can find the Prime Meridian Line – the reference point for Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). Being situated on top of a hill, Greenwich Park offers stunning views across the London skyline. And if you fancy exploring the area a little further, the Cutty Sark and beautiful Old Naval College are also very nearby.
How to get to Greenwich Park: In order to get to Greenwich Park, you can take the DLR to Cutty Sark or Greenwich DLR Station, or take the Jubilee Line to North Greenwich tube station and then walk/get the bus from there.
Get lost in amongst Canary Wharf (evening)
After your visit to Greenwich Park, retire across to Canary Wharf by DLR for the final evening of your 3 days in London. Canary Wharf is London’s business district and hub of banking, and is bursting with high rise skyscrapers which shimmer and shine in the night sky. If you’re lucky enough to be visiting London at Christmas time, then an ice rink usually sets up base there making it a magical place to enjoy an evening skate.
One of the best ways to explore Canary Wharf is to rent a bike. There are ‘Boris Bikes’ (now known as Santander Bikes) everywhere around the city, so grab one and take a self-guided tour of this swoosh financial centre. When your belly starts to rumble, one of the best budget places I’ve found to eat in Canary Wharf is a good old British Wetherspoons called The Ledger Building. So why not head there to enjoy some pub grub before heading back to your central London accommodation?
How to get to Canary Wharf: If you’re precisely following this 72 hour London itinerary and will be arriving from Greenwich Park, then take the DLR from Cutty Sark or Greenwich DLR Station to Canary Wharf. If just you’re using this as a travel guide for London, then you can take the Jubilee line to Canary Wharf tube station.
FAQs about London
What is the best way to get around London?
This London itinerary relies on a mix of walking and public transport (mostly the underground and DLR, but occasionally a bus and the Emirates Air Line). For 3 days in London you can use an Oyster Card, which is a pre-loaded contactless card that allows you to use most public transport in London, such as tubes, the DLR, buses, and the London Overground. Oyster cards usually work out cheaper than pay as you go tickets or daily travel cards, depending on how much you will be using public transport, where you will visit in London and how long you are staying. You can find out more information about what the best transport ticket option for you might be at Transport For London website.
Where is the best location to stay in London?
The best place to stay in London would be somewhere fairly central to all of the main London attractions. You might want to consider staying in one of the following areas or neighbourhoods for ease of getting around, especially if you want to utilise your legs – The West End (Leicester Square, Soho, Piccadilly Circus, Chinatown, Oxford Street), Westminster, Kensington, or Southbank.
How do I see London in 3 days?
London is a massive city, but 3 days in London is enough to see some of the major sights. How you split your time really depends on the sights you want to see and your personal preference. However, as with this itinerary, it may be useful to group attractions together to use your time more efficiently. This can also reduce costs, because you may be able to walk more and use public transport less.
Is London expensive to visit?
London is an expensive city, but this does not mean you can’t visit on a budget. There are a variety of budget hotels like easyHotel and Premier Inn hubs throughout London, in some of the most central areas and beyond. If you’re a hostel person (unlike me) you can find these in London too. The secret to travelling cheaper in Europe (including London) is planning in advance and doing your research. Find out what budget restaurants are in the area of the attractions you plan to visit. Grab a supermarket sandwich for lunch instead of eating in a swoosh café. Clump attractions together and walk in between them if you can.
What is the currency in London?
London is within the United Kingdom and so the currency is the Great British Pound (£).
When is the best time to visit London?
London is a year-round destination but there are certain times when prices may be inflated due to an increased number of visitors. As with many European destinations, the European summer holidays which span from June-August are best avoided as this is the peak tourist season. The period over New Year can be pricey as London is in high demand, given the spectacular celebrations it puts on. March-May (Spring) and September-October (Autumn or Fall) make for lovely periods to visit the city.