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The Best 72-Hour London Itinerary – What to Do in London for 3 Days

london 3 day itinerary
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London is nearly double the size of New York City and more than fifteen times the size of Paris! Trying to see it all in 72 hours is ambitious… but doable.

After visiting 5 times and spending a semester abroad, I’ve created a 3-day London itinerary of the must-see attractions and stellar hidden gems. It’s slightly jam-packed, so feel free to spend more time at the spots that resonate with you most.

From world-class museums to stunning historical sites, to dimly-lit pubs, the U.K. capital city offers a little something for everyone. Whether it’s your first time visiting or a quick weekend trip to England – London is calling, and you better answer! Let’s crack on!

How to Get Around London

A quick but necessary side-bar about how to navigate this itinerary: The easiest and most affordable way to get around is the London Underground, known fondly by locals as ‘the Tube.’ You can use the CityMapper app to map out the tube lines. I also like Rome2Rio for finding every possible mode of transportation to your destination.

British taxis are overpriced, but you should ride in a black Hackney Carriage at least once during your stay! You also have Uber and Bolt at your disposal.

Hop-on-hop-off sightseeing buses are an excellent (albeit cheesy) way to get around town. Frankly, the double-decker bus is legendary, offers great views, and stops at all the famous landmarks. With 48-hour tickets, it could be cheaper than other transportation options, and I found it super fun!

You may also consider the London Pass for access to more than 85 popular attractions and 1 day of unlimited bus use.

Day 1

Ride “The Eye” for Bird’s Eye Views

Starting strong near South Bank and Waterloo, find an English breakfast like beans and toast, then make your way to the captivating London Eye.

This almost 500-foot-tall “ferris” wheel is the largest in Europe and will give you breathtaking views of the city. It continually rotates so you can see the popular neighborhoods and slightly outside of the city to Windsor Castle on a clear day. Tickets include about a 30-minute ride to make it a relaxing place to enjoy morning coffee.

Cross Westminster Bridge toward Big Ben

Next, you’ll head west across Westminster Bridge. It is the oldest surviving functional bridge in central London. Walk past the South Bank Lion, and you’ll see Big Ben up ahead and ornate lanterns that beautifully adorn the bridge.

If the sun is shining across the bridge, you may notice a funny trick played by the architects regarding the ‘leaf’ cut-outs. I’ll leave the discovery up to you!

Marvel at Parliament and Big Ben

Big Ben is one of the most recognizable attractions in London. Overlooking the Thames River, it is attached to the House of Parliament (also known as Westminster Palace), which was built in 1097.

The inside of Big Ben is currently closed, but generally is only open to residents of the U.K. Nonetheless, anyone can enjoy the views and snap a few photos from the street free of charge.

Experience Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey is truly near-and-dear to my heart. It’s a profound and poignant experience with thousands of years of history in preservation.

There is a haunting element because you are in the presence of over 3,000 graves. It was very humbling to be near the burial sites of cultural geniuses such as Jane Austen, Sir Isaac Newton, Martin Luther King Jr, Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens, Emily Bontë, and the tombs of royals like Henry III (who built the church), Edward I, Edward III, Richard II, Anne of Bohemia, and more.

The abbey has hosted every British Monarch’s coronation since 1066 and 16 royal weddings since 1100. It’s absolutely worth the stop and cost of admission.

Head East to Shop at Harrods

As you cut through Victoria Street and across the neighborhood of Belgravia (a wealthy and garden-adorned area of London with amazing vintage shops) – Make your way east toward Harrods. It’s a little out of the way. But if you love to shop, take the detour. If you don’t, head straight for Buckingham Palace.

Harrods is the department store of all department stores. In 1834, it sold tea and simple household items. Today, more than a quarter of a million patrons walk through their doors daily to shop their luxury goods and explore mesmerizing food halls. Their most expensive item sold was a yacht for $165 million. But you can stick to more wallet-friendly items like coffee, oysters, bread, cheese, and sweets.

Keep in mind that Harrods is not a location for sitting and eating. It’s more of a ‘takeaway’ concept, which most Europeans call ‘to-go food’ or ‘carry-out.’ There are a few chairs around but it’s best to take your Harrod’s snacks and eat on the go!

Snap a pic at Buckingham Palace

Looping back slightly east, Buckingham Palace is the royal residence and London headquarters for the British monarch. Queen Elizabeth II spent the majority of her time here, and the first sovereign to reside here was Queen Victoria in 1837.

You can explore the Royal State Rooms of Buckingham Palace or behold the changing of the guards at 11:30 a.m. (each day during the summer months and every other day in winter).

Get Afternoon Tea at The Ritz London

Going slightly north from Buckingham, take a moment to wind down with a British tradition – afternoon tea! This enchanting ritual was created in 19th-century England as a way to temper hunger between lunch and dinner. Around 4-5 p.m. each day, society women would gather to eat light sandwiches and scones, sipping on an array of warm herbal elixirs.

The Ritz London is a 5-star luxury hotel with a large-scale reputation. It is the only place in London to have a Certified Tea Master guide you through the experience. You can even add champagne to make it a real indulgence!

Afternoon Tea at The Ritz starts at £70 per person and includes a classic menu plus live piano entertainment. An unforgettable and very quintessential Brit experience. You can also find cheaper experiences at tea houses and many hotels.

Discover Nightlife in London’s West End

Continue north to spend your first evening in the best area for iconic London nightlife – the West End. This area includes Soho, Covenant Garden, Oxford Street, and other artsy districts that have great restaurants, boutiques, pubs, and cocktail bars.

The best nightlife bars, pubs, and clubs in the area are:

  • Disrepute
  • Little Scarlet Door
  • Experimental Cocktail Club
  • Bar Termini
  • Nightjar
  • Barrio Soho
  • Covent Garden Social Club
  • Phonox
You can also book a performance at London Theatreland or drink wine at the oldest wine bar in town, Gordon’s. Exploring the shops of Soho is always a good idea (but never fear – we’ll come back to Soho in broad daylight for day 3! Utilize this schedule to see both Soho’s prime nightlife and its calmer day-vibe later in your trip).

Day 2

Forage for breakfast at cinema-worthy Leadenhall Market

Start your day with a little market magic. You’ll probably recognize parts of Leadenhall Market from movies like Harry Potter and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

It is a Victorian-style indoor market with tons of boutique shops, cafes, and bars. It is a bit of a hidden gem, but locals agree it’s easy to get lost here for hours!

See the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London

Walk about 10 minutes southeast to the Tower of London. Built by William the Conqueror nearly a thousand years ago (1070) – this monument acted as a fortress for the capital, intended to defend the conqueror’s power and symbolize prestige.

Today, it holds the crown jewels and ceremonial treasures owned by the British kings and queens. You can visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site with a simple entry ticket or by booking a guided tour with a Beefeater (guard of the royal jewels).

Cross the Historic Tower Bridge

Many people mistake the Tower Bridge for London Bridge, (which actually dates back to Roman times as the only method for entering and exiting London. After being renovated and rebuilt many times, the bridge we sang about in children’s songs is no longer falling down. Thankfully!)

The Tower Bridge, on the other hand, will be your best method for moving north to south (and ironically, this bridge has never fallen down).

There are pedestrian walkways found on an elevated platform. Simply climb the north tower and head along the glass floor, then descend to the south tower road.

Attend a Play at Shakespeare’s Globe Theater

From here, you can head east (cutting through Borough Market for another snack!) and walk about 1 mile towards Shakespeare’s Globe Theater. You can also take the 381 Waterloo bus from Boss Street.

If you have the time or desire, a REAL Shakespearean play is really a highlight of any British getaway. I saw “Romeo & Juliet” here, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. They have classic shows on rotation throughout the year, currently “Macbeth” and “A Midnightsummer Night’s Dream.”


Cruise down the River Thames

An afternoon or evening cruise is a fantastic way to see the city from a unique perspective. Cruise down the River Thames with champagne in hand, savoring glistening views of landmarks like the London Eye, Tower Bridge, and the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf.


Climb to the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral

If you still have time, cross the river near the Millennium Bridge and head north to St. Paul’s Cathedral. This is a national treasure filled with art, mosaics, and a rich history.

You can explore the interior chapels on the ground floor or climb to the Whispering Gallery for an acoustic test. Climb 1-200 more steps for a spectacular view of the city from all sides.

There is also an underground crypt filled with tombs and memorials of famous icons like the Duke of Wellington (the crypt is available for events and weddings! A bit spooky… but cool!)

Explore East London at Night

Since you’re near East London – mix it up tonight and stay in the areas of Spitalfields, Old Street, and Coville Estate. Here you’ll find the Smithfield Market and art galleries like Gods Own Junkyard. Brick Lane Market is great to come back to in the daytime for a bagel, and Victoria Park is nearby, known as ‘the people’s park.’

Check out these great pubs and nightlife scenes on the east end of London:

  • The Prospect of Whitby
  • Trapeze Bar
  • Liquorette
  • Pub on the Park
  • The Cocktail Trading Co. Brick Lane
  • Lounge Bohemia
  • Trafik
  • Bubble Club

Day 3

Peruse the British Museum

With ancient relics from Egypt, Greece, Rome, and more – The British Museum is the largest museum in the U.K. Although there are over 190 museums in London, this is the only one on our list.
Feel free to add more to your itinerary, just know that it’s smart to start your day with a museum when you have the most energy. Many collections can be huge, taking hours to see and leaving you quite drained if you get a late start.

The most notable sight in the British Museum is the Rosetta Stone. Discovered in 1779, the granodiorite stone is carved with 3 dialects – Greek, Egyptian hieroglyphs, and Demotic. The Rosetta Stone was ultimately key to translating ancient languages and helping to crack the code of hieroglyphics. It’s an incredible sight to behold!

Walk Past the Royal Opera House

The Royal Opera House of London is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. Locals often refer to this building as ‘Covent Garden’ due to its connection to other theaters in the entertainment district. It was built in 1728 and was even a dance hall in World War II.

Known for drawing crowds outside the building, you can snap photos from the outside, go inside for a tour, or buy tickets to upcoming Ballet or Theatre performances.

Find Entertainment at Covent Garden

Back in the eclectic West End – Covent Garden is the entertainment hub of London.

It’s pedestrian-friendly, with no cars in most areas, upscale restaurants, world-class shopping, and many theaters to choose from. Some visitors find it to be the most unmissable spot, (especially the Piazza, an open plaza and square with historic farmer’s markets, open-air cafes, and exciting street performers).

The colors, music, smells, and energy will awaken all of your senses! I’d argue it has a little bit of something for everyone. If you’re looking for happy hour or a theatrical experience, I recommend The Alchemist.

Shop through London Soho

Now, head slightly east for about a 15-minute walk or 10-minute tube ride to Soho. You’re able to see the West End in all its daylight-glory with energetic streets and an inviting ambiance.

Similarly to Soho in New York City, London Soho is a fashion capital of the world. In fact, it used to be solely reserved for the aristocracy to shop through.

Today, it is the heart of the LBGTQ scene and an epicenter for fun things to do. You can shop through Carnaby Street, follow the Beatle’s footsteps on a Rock n’ Roll History Tour, eat your way through the cobblestone roads of Berwick Street Market, or head right into our next stop of Piccadilly on a beer bike tour.

Walk through Piccadilly Circus (England’s Times Square!)

While still technically in the Covent Garden area, head south on a 5-minute walk to Piccadilly Circus – the neon plaza is where the West End and Westminster meet.

Considered the precipice of modern London, the street signs resemble Times Square and Shinjuku in Japan. The lights have been on in Picadilly for over 120 years, only ever turned off to honor the deaths of Lady Diana and Winston Churchill.

You can shop along Oxford Street, find the torture museum, or check out Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Be careful of pickpockets in this area and consider wearing an RFID neck wallet.

Relax in Hyde Park & Kensington Gardens & Notting Hill

At this point in your travels, you’ll probably be bit tired and moving at a slower pace. So take a stroll through the top-notch park options that lie at your fingertips! Head southwest down Piccadilly Road or cut across the Mayfair district to Hyde Park. Here you’ll find a Wonderland Ice Rink, Princess Diana’s Memorial Fountain, and Speakers’ Corner where you can hop on a soapbox and plead any case you like.

Continuing east, you’ll find yourself in the connected gardens of Kensington, which boasts Kensington Palace, once the home of Princess Diana and Queen Victoria.

You could bounce further East to Holland Park or see the Design Museum. But I recommend heading directly from Kensington to Nottinghill for the sake of time. It’s a slight walk (about 1.5 miles), so you can take the underground for convenience.

Notting Hill was made famous by the 90s Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts rom-com, but it’s a very charming and bohemian neighborhood in its own right. Lined with bookstores, pubs, and cafes, it’s been a home and safe haven for artists since the early 1870s.

Barter for Vintage Finds at Portobello Road Market

Notting Hill offers one of the most popular markets in the world – Portobello Road Market. It’s my personal favorite market in the city and a go-to spot for 2nd hand gold like authentic antiques, vintage clothing, jewelry, nick-nacks, and snacks like street food and fresh produce. Not to mention, excellent people-watching and live entertainment!

You can barter a bit with certain vendors, but be respectful of sellers with clearly printed prices, signaling that negotiations will generally not be accepted.

Note – Portobello Road Market is only open on Saturdays, so plan your timeframe accordingly.

Grand Finale Evening in Kensington & Chelsea

After a busy last few days, you’ll be ready for a low-key evening. Head back to your accommodation to freshen up for dinner and drinks in the posh borough of Chelsea and Kensington.

My sister lived in Kensington for over 2 years while obtaining her Ph.D. We visited her a few times and were blown away by the beauty of this area! Kensington is a sophisticated and upscale neighborhood that exudes royal energy. It’s known for great shops and restaurants, while Chelsea is a fun option for London Nightlife.

Check out these restaurants in Kensington:

  • The Churchhill Arms
  • Dishoom Kensington
  • The Ivy Kensington Brasserie
  • Origin Kensington
  • Clarke’s Restaurant
  • The Shed
Check out these groovy clubs and bars in Chelsea:

  • Maggie’s Club
  • Beaufort House Chelsea
  • The Chelsea Pensioner
  • The Phoenix Pub
  • 606 Club / Jazz Bar
  • Embargo Republica Night Club

The Best Day Trips From London

Some of the best things are in the English countryside or just outside of London. If you have any remaining time or interest in an afternoon escape, consider these incredible day trips that are close to London:

  • Warner Brothers for a Harry Potter Studio Tour
  • The famous White Cliffs of Dover
  • Wiltshire’s iconic Stonehenge
  • Stratford-Upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare
  • Paris, about two hours away by train


Final Tips for Visiting London

Overall, there is a LOT to see in London and you could map-out infinite possibilities and itineraries. Squeeze in as much action as feels right to you and don’t push yourself to see everything – this just gives you the perfect reason to come back someday to see anything that you missed.

Final tips for your trip to Londontown:

  • Plan and book in advance and opt for skip-the-line tickets
  • Consider the London Pass for savings
  • Bring comfortable walking shoes and rain shoes
  • Bring a trustworthy umbrella (or ‘brolly’ as the locals call it) to avoid buying tourist traps that fall apart at the first gust of wind
  • Stow your bags at train stations or in lockers as needed
  • Find an accommodation as centrally-located as your budget allows, a time-saver
  • Download the Tube Map – London Underground app
  • Mind the gap

There are surprises around every corner in London, and I hope this guide has been useful in your planning. Lots of love, don’t forget to keep calm and carry on!

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