The hardest part of planning 3 days in London isn’t finding things to do, it’s choosing what to do from the cornucopia of museums, galleries, palaces, restaurants, bars and hidden gems across this sprawling city.
After all, London is a global metropolis packed to the rafters with art, history, food and nightlife.
But if you have three days to make the most of what London has to offer, here’s what you should do.
Day 1: Westminster & Notting Hill
If you ask most people what the most famous sites in London are, they’ll say Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey.
And they’d be wrong.
Technically, these are located in the Royal Borough of Westminster, a city in its own right and the perfect place to start your “three days in London” adventure.
Walking through Westminster
Exiting the Westminster station, marvel at the world’s most famous clock tower (and don’t mind the pedants that tell you that its name is the Elizabeth Tower—Londoners have always called it Big Ben, even though that’s actually the name of the bell inside of it).
Circle Parliament Square to get a view of the Houses of Parliament and the ancient abbey, pausing to get a photo at the most iconic red telephone box in the city before heading up Whitehall, passing Downing Street (home of the prime minister) and Churchill’s War Rooms, bunkers frozen in time from WW2.
Heading through the Horse Guards Parade, you can walk the mall leading to the front of Britain’s most famous residence, Buckingham Palace. On certain days—and depending on your arrival time—you may even catch a glimpse of the Changing of the Guards ceremony, the snazziest soldiers undertaking the most complex shift change known to man, woman or child.
If you don’t catch the ceremony on a whim and want to carve out time to see it (with two separate ceremonies from four distinct viewpoints), check out the Changing of the Guard & Buckingham Palace tour.
Snacking in Soho, London
After all that wandering in Westminster, you’ll definitely be hungry.
Head into Soho for a multicultural melting pot of taste. From the locally renowned, decently priced and formally rudest Cantonese canteen Wong Kei (ignore the reviews) to the Italian-regional-dish-highlighting Bocca di Lupo, this vibrant area is the true meaning of something for everyone.
Or if you don’t mind walking a little further, you’ll find the unbelievably cool Mercato Mayfair. Welcome to a street food heaven located in a deconsecrated church. Ever slurped noodles under stained glass windows before? You can here.
Seeing the Best of the West London
From here, jump on the tube to Notting Hill Gate to spend a pleasant afternoon wandering the lengthy Portobello Road, full of antique markets, pastel-coloured houses and the iconic bookshop from the film.
Still feeling peckish? Pop by the Grain Shop and grab some health in a box from a selection of hot and cold vegetarian and vegan dishes prepared fresh in-house since the ‘70s.
Day 2: The City, Borough Market & Southbank
Exploring the Historic Heart of London
This morning is all about the Square Mile, which is the most historic part of London, the part where you’ll find the Royal Exchange (London’s first commercial building), the Financial District, and a cluster of sacred spaces from Christopher Wren’s stunning St. Paul’s Cathedral to the oldest surviving church in the city, the atmospheric St. Bartholomew The Great.
Speaking of St. Barts, it’s just on the edge of Smithfield which is currently our meat market but is sadly looking set to change after centuries. We recommend starting your day around here for two reasons.
Firstly, indulge in a bacon butty at the family-run Beppes (23, W Smithfield). With a history dating back to the ‘30s, it is widely considered to be a fine example of the classic London caff.
Insider’s tip: Keep in mind that traditional caffs tend to close after lunch.
This area also boasts an absolute hidden gem that most Londoners don’t even know about. The Charterhouse is a complex of 14th-century buildings that have, at different points, been a monastery, a boy’s school and an almshouse.
From here, wind your way through the streets of the historic city, getting your Roman fix at the Mithraeum (also free entry, but book in advance), taking in the Monument to the Great Fire of London and eventually crossing London Bridge for unforgettable views of the river.
And on the other side, you’ll find the Borough Market, a perfect place for lunch.
Eating in Borough Market
The iconic Borough Market has been feeding hungry Londoners and visitors for over 1000 years. Whatever your tastes, there’s going to be something for you here.
British cheese? Check. Fiery curries? Check. Oysters (a.k.a., the oldest street food in the city)? Check. Fish and chips? Check!
For the most delicious overview of seven traditional tastes and a drink that you’ll find in this area, how about the Ultimate London Food Tour of this very market to lead the way?
Continuing along the south bank of the Thames, you’re now strolling down the area known as Southbank. Full of brutalist buildings maybe, but this stretch is a testament to the tenacity of Londoners.
Heavily bombed in WW2 due to being an important dock area, it was here that the post-war rebuild would give us the Royal National Theatre and the Royal Festival Hall. Pop into the BFI to watch archival infomercials in pods out the back or into the Tate Modern for a completely free immersion into works from Mondrian and Picasso or Anish Kapoor and Guerilla Girls.
Day 3: Tower of London & Shoreditch
Visiting the Tower of London
It’s your final day so rise early, grab a quick coffee and a Full English from Devine (another amazing little family-run joint) and beat the crowds into London’s most famous fortress.
Started by William the Conqueror in 1079, it’s been developed by a succession of monarchs over centuries and is home to ravens, Beefeaters, and the most famous jewels in the world.
Insider’s tip: It gets super busy as the day wears on, so we recommend getting on an early access Tower of London tour that gets you inside before the crowds to catch a glimpse of the Crown Jewels with literally no line.
Shopping in Shoreditch
And once you’ve had your fill of history, make your way through Aldgate, onto Brick Lane and onwards to Shoreditch where you’re going to find record shops, vintage stores, Spitalfields market, street art galore and London’s Curry Mile. The Curry Mile was founded by Bangladeshi, Punjabi and Pakistani arrivals in the 1970s.
Despite being a London landmark, our favorite place to indulge in the varied dishes of the Indian subcontinent (one of the most important cuisines in the British canon today) is on the streets nearby.
Top recommendations? Meraz (one of the originals) for small prices, big flavors and a seriously tasty Tandoori Lamb, and Dishoom, a local favorite offering stellar tastes like House Black Dahl—so creamy, so good.
Insider’s tip: You’re going to want to get a reservation for these spots!
Drinking Cocktails in Shoreditch
After an afternoon spent shopping and eating your way around the hipster haven that is Shoreditch, it’s time to toast to three days in London, well spent.
Head to the award-winning Cocktail Trading Co. where they offer a cool take on traditional cocktails. The menus change a lot, but whatever you order, it’s going to be game-changing.
Three days in London, sorted. But if you’ve got even less time, don’t worry—we know exactly how to help you see London in just one day.