A Perfect 3 Day London Itinerary
London has my heart.
Something about its combination of history, architecture, food and culture is profoundly captivating, and you could spend months here without ever running out of things to do. And while I think you really need at least 5 days for a first time visit, I know London is often combined with other trips due to the accessability of Heathrow Airport, so this itinerary is for a perfect 3 days in London.
Note: Operating hours change depending on the day of the week. For the purpose of this itinerary, we will assume Day 1 starts on Friday. If you are visiting on other days be sure to check operating hours.
You have probably seen these "igloos" on instagram around Christmas time. They are located at the Tower Bridge location of Coppa Club, and they are even more wonderful in person. However, it is near impossible to get a reservation. You can read my post on how to dine at the Coppa Club igloos without a reservation, but the basic take away is that they always leave one igloo available for walk-ins, and if your get there right at opening, you should be able to walk right in and have an igloo to yourself. Have a cup of tea and a pastry and watch the sunrise over the Tower Bridge for a magical first morning.
7:30am Coppa Club
The Tower of London is a two minute walk from the Coppa Club. Get there right before opening and go directly to the Crown Jewels to see them without an overbearing crowd. After, make your way back to the entrance to catch a tour lead by the Yeoman Warders. The tours are free and given every half hour; they are funny informative, and really the best way to see Tower. You could spend all day at the Tower of London, but if you only have a few days try to limit yourself to 3 hours.
Price: £27.50 (included in London Pass)
9:00am Tower of London
Tower Bridge is one of the most recognizable sights in London. You can pay to walk across the upper level (or use the London Pass) but I actually enjoyed walking on the lower level more.
Photo Hint: Our favorite pic of the Tower Bridge was actually taken from inside the Tower of London
12:00pm Walk Across Tower Bridge
The Shard is an impressive building with the highest view in London. It really is quite breathtaking, but it is also quite expensive. If you decide to buy the London Pass, then definitely take advantage of it and see the view. If you don't, there are other ways to see the London skyline and I don't think it's worth the steep price.
Price: £32.00 (included in London Pass)
The View from The Shard
Borough Market is one of London's biggest and best food markets. Selling delicious meals and specialty food items in a big open air structure built in the 1850's, it's basically the hipster farmer's market of your dreams. I especially love it at Christmas time when you can stroll about with a cup of mulled wine. Browse the stalls and fill up on whatever looks good.
1:00pm - Borough Market for Lunch
For those who don't know, I studied theater before I became a nurse, so there is a special part in my heart for Shakespeare. Even if you don't love the plays, there is something magical about this historically recreated theater. Tours run about 40 minutes and are led by very knowledgable and funny staff. If you have time in your trip I would highly recommend seeing a play here as well.
Price: £17.00 (included in London Pass)
3:00pm The Globe
I will be honest, I don't really understand modern art. But I do love a good view. If you chose not to do The View from The Shard, hop next door to the Tate Modern and go directly to the 10th floor Viewing Deck of the Blavatnik Building, which gives you a beautiful view of the Thames, Saint Paul's Cathedral, Millenium Bridge, The Shard, and more.
The Viewing Deck at Tate Modern
I will always recognize this as the Harry Potter bridge, but the proper name is Millenium Bridge, and it will take you directly from The Globe or The Tate Modern to St. Paul's Cathedral. Tours end at 4:30pm but you can still admire the grand exterior.
4:30pm Walk Millennium Bridge
Freshen up at your hotel then head to Dishoom for dinner. Great decor, affordable prices, and amazing Irani-influenced Indian food make this my number one pic for a night out in London. There are five locations, all with their own feel and style, and all are worth a visit. Check out this Dishoom Ultimate Guide to decide which is the best fit. My favorite dish is the Murgh Malai: chicken thighs marinated in garlic, ginger, coriander and cream.They only take reservations for parties of 6 or more, so if you are a couple, get there early or plan on eating late (like after the show I'm about to tell you to go see), because the line can get LONG.
5:30pm Dinner at Dishoom
You're in London, see a show! London has something to offer everyone. If you love the classics, check out The Globe or Sam Wannamakers Playhouse. If you want some culture, check out The Mouse Trap, the longest running show in the world. And there is never a shortage of musicals, comedies, and family friendly productions. We saw The Comedy About A Bank Robbery at Criterion Theater and loved it.
7:30pm See a Show!
Milroy's is a specialty whiskey shop with a hidden cocktail bar called The Vault underneath. Seriously, you have to go through a secret door hidden behind a bookcase to reach it. End your first night feeling like a total badass with a glass of whatever feels right. They take walk-ins but fill up fast so it's best to make a reservation.
9:00pm Milroys of Soho
(or Dinner at Dishoom)
8:30am Westminster Abbey
Westminster does not open until 9:00am on Saturdays but you will want to get in line at least a half hour before it opens. A multimedia audio guide is included in the price of admission and lets you explore at your own pace.
Price: £21 online or £23 at the door (included in London Pass)
10:30am Walk Through St. James Park to Buckingham Palace
St. James Park is a beautiful park filled with with joggers and swans that leads the way to Buckingham Palace. The Palace is only open for tours in summer, usually from July to September, and if you are visiting during this time I highly recommend it. If not, admire the exterior then catch a bus to Notting Hill.
12:00pm Portobello Road and Notting Hill
Portobello Road hosts a massive antique market on Saturdays and is filled with locals and tourists alike. Check out the stalls and wander around the beautiful streets.
2:00pm Little Venice
When the crowds start to drive you crazy, wander over to Little Venice and have a glass of wine at Cafe Laville. This unassuming cafe sits above one of the many canals and is a perfect place to recharge after a full morning of walking.
5:00pm Harrods, Selfridges,
London's window shopping is unlike anything I have ever seen before. These places are not malls or shopping centers, they are works of art. Seriously, Harrods sells Picassos. Work off all those finger sandwiches by perusing these ultra luxury department stores and admiring their over the top window displays.
8:30am Columbia Road Flower Market
This is a much smaller and more local market, filled with flowers and lined with cute shops. It's a great way to start the morning and get a taste of local life. It's especially fun at Christmas time when the stalls are full of wreaths, poinsettias, and pine trees.
10:00am Brunch at Bourne and Hollingsworth
Have a delicious brunch in a bright, beautiful, botanical atmosphere. The food is delicious, I especially loved there scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, and they have bottomless cocktails on the weekends. It's also perfect for a party or group celebration, just make sure to book ahead.
11:30pm Museum Time
London has some of the best museums in the world, and most of the are free! See our quick guide to London museums below and pick the one that is best for you. Try not to rush it, try to pick just one and enjoy your time.
For a Bit of Everything - The British Museum
For Kids - The Natural History Museum (pictured)
For Style and Design Fans - Victoria and Albert (V&A)
For History Buffs - The British Museum
For Classic Art Lovers - The National Gallery
For Modern Art Lovers - The Tate Modern
For the London Lover - The London Museum