With only $390, we flew roundtrip to London during Columbus Day weekend, and now I am back and reporting on my 3 days in London itinerary. When we told people we were going to London for 3 days, they called us crazy. They obviously didn’t know Pat and I. Yes the city is sprawling, but you can do it in 3 days as long as you keep up the pace. We landed at 12PM on Friday and took the train and then the tube straight to Trafalgar Square, where our hotel was located.
How to get around London?
The tube, or subway, is the easiest way. Heads up: Patrick forgot that, unlike the NY subway cards, you couldn’t put £20 on an oyster card (that’s what they call their subway cards) and split the card amongst two people. Once you scan, you can’t scan the card again; so one card per person or you won’t have access to the subway!
- Trafalgar Square
- Buckingham Palace
- Hyde Park
- Mayfair and Soho
- West End and Leicester Square
- Oxford Street, Regent Street and Carnaby Street
- Dinner: Otto’s Restaurant
- Red K2 Telephone Booth at Broad Court
- St. Paul’s Cathedral
- Secret Garden: St. Dunstan in the East
- Tower of London Tour
- Big Ben Clock Tower and Palace of Westminster from the Westminster Bridge
- Dinner: J Sheekey
- Breakfast: Valerie’s
- Doctor Who TARDIS Police Box
- King’s Cross: Platform 9 and 3/4
- Afternoon Tea: The Shard
- A Show in West End: Comedy About A Bank Robbery
3 Days in London Itinerary Map
– Day 1 –
1. Trafalgar Square
The heart of London. It’s one of London’s most vibrant spaces; I like to compare it to New York’s Washington Square Park because of the number of inspiring artists, musicians, and dancers. Every corner of Trafalgar Square is lined with a museum, gallery (the most famous is the National Gallery), cultural space, and theater. Captured below are some of the most iconic symbols in London, the red double decker bus and the fierce Lion. Yes, for those of you who do not know, the Lion is an iconic symbol in London. Infamous as a place of torture and executions, and home to the Crown Jewels, the Tower of London was also home to lions, which became a charismatic symbol of the monarchy. The lions presence in the royal “zoo” at the time and their representation as fierce, dignified, and prideful animals is why you find statues of them “protecting” Trafalgar Square today.
2. Buckingham Palace
The walk to Buckingham Palace brought back memories of when I was here November of 2014. Pat and I would walk down the main street lined with trees leading to the Queen’s quarters, glove in glove. The palace is only open to tour groups from July 22 – September 30, so we didn’t get to go in. But Pat’s gone before and can tell you all about it, he says it’s quite a spectacle! Similar to Versailles in a way. Since the palace was not open to visitors, we settled for watching (behind bars) the traditional changing of the guard.
3. Hyde Park
Last time I was in Hyde Park was during London’s annual Winter Wonderland experience. The vibe this time was a little bit different. Rather than puffy winter jackets, hot chocolates, gloves, and rollercoasters, I was enjoying a long walk around the lake with its ever-changing fall colors with a light scarf, leather jacket, and a latte in hand. Our eyes were in for an autumnal treat. Fiery reds and buttery yellows lined the Serpentine Lake. Like Central Park, you can boat on the Serpentine or enjoy a nice glass of wine or warm coco at the edge of the lake at the Serpentine Bar and Kitchen or at Lido Café. We chose to head to the edge of the lake for a view of London’s spectacular nature.
As we made our way out of Hyde Park and navigated towards Mayfair and Marylebone, we came across The Athenaeum Hotel & Residences iconic Victorian Penny Farthing. Why are these perfect for European cities? The larger front wheel is said to make the Penny Farthing smoother over cobbles and rough roads, so it is a handy accompaniment for the unstable European roads. And yes, you will occasionally and rarely catch some people still riding them. This might not be on everyone’s London itinerary, but if you are feeling adventurous I recommend you rent one and take a ride around the streets of London (beware..London drivers don’t necessarily get along with cyclists so be prepared).
4. Mayfair and Soho
Mayfair is full of cafes, Victorian pubs, and boutique shops in its narrow streets. It is considered a high-hat area and lives up to its stigma. You won’t find as many tourists in this area as you will middle-class Londoners, but that’s what makes this area so unique.
You have not experienced the ultimate London itinerary until you spend time in Soho. Before entering the vibrant, eclectic and multi-cultural neighborhood of Soho, where rock n’roll’s legends such as the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, and David Bowie began, we caught one last glimpse of the quaint and quiet London streets behind us.
I feel like the concept of “Soho” is the same across the board for all major cities. It’s an eclectic area popping with entertainment, nightlife, and unique boutiques and experiences. Aside from the adorable coffee shops, winding streets, and pubs, the number of barbershops in London was incredible. I mean it is almost equivalent to the number of Starbucks you’ll find in New York City. There is one on every other block and each and every one of them is unique in their own way. Each has a vintage London charm to it that just beckons you to go in. I tried to convince Pat to walk into every one of them to get his haircut or beard shaved just for the luxurious experience. No luck unfortunately, maybe next time..!
5. West End and Leicester Square
Neon signs, flashy billboards, loud music, and movie and theatergoers—remind you of anything? No, it’s not Times Square, but close, it’s Leicester Square. The theater area known as West End occupies a majority of the area. Theater is a big leisurely activity in London and West End offers sensational musicals, comedies and classic plays year-round. Leicester Square is also home to the Odeon 1,683-seat theater, where a lot of UK premieres are released and red carpet debuts appear. Dinner and a show has got to be on every one’s London itinerary, more to come on my experience at a West End show on Day 3.
6. Oxford Street, Regent Street and Carnaby Street
Oxford Street and Regent Street are the equivalent to Fifth Avenue and Madison in New York or Via Montenapoleone and Corso Vittorio Emanuele in Milano. They are pretty to walk on, but you don’t want to necessarily shop there. The streets are packed, it’s hard to move, the prices are pretty high, and there are so many options your head starts to spin. But in the winter time Oxford and Regent Street are a sight for sore eyes with their beautiful Christmas lights and elegant store displays. Right off of Oxford is Carnaby Street—the lesser known shopping area among tourists. The center of London’s fashion world may now be in the east, but in the mid-60s Carnaby Street was where it was at. Today, it is filled with unique boutiques, restaurants, and one-of-a-kind pubs.
7. Dinner at Ottos’ Restaurant
The Best Old School French Restaurant in London: Otto’s Restaurant
When in London, you are never really sure what to eat. London, like New York, isn’t exactly renowned for their own personal cuisine (aside from maybe fish and chips and scones!). What they are known for though is the many Chef’s from all parts of the world that come to showcase their worldly cuisine. While rummaging through Google for reasonably priced places to eat while in London I came across Otto’s Restaurant. It’s pretty central (it’s in Saint Pancras), has classic French dishes, the prices are reasonable and stay below £30 per main dish, and the atmosphere is quaint and intimate. We went in not expecting much and left with our mouths wide-open. To repeat Pat’s words “This is by far the best meal I have ever had…in my life.” It is a must to add to everyone’s London itinerary.
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– Day 2 –
1. Red K2 Telephone Booth at Broad Court
Our goal, as the avid walkers that we are, was to walk from Trafalgar to Tower of London. So we started off towards Covent Garden. Voted as a top 10 design icon in Britain, alongside the Mini Cooper, London Tube and red double decker buses (or routemaster buses), is the red K2 Telephone Box. You’ll see them lined up everywhere around London, but many don’t know that there are only few places that still carry the original and very first K2 kiosks designed in 1924. With only 200 left throughout London, Broad Court in Covent Garden is one of the prime examples of these K2 Telephone boxes. Today they are, I guess one could say, “embellished” with flyers of women selling or giving out their assets for the evening…if you know what I mean…but they still have their charm to them! A picture lined up in front of one of the few original K2 Telephone Boxes is a must on when spending 3 days in London.
On our way to St. Paul’s Cathedral we walked through London School of Economics. We came across a charming store with these big green vine archways right outside. Just another jewel tucked away in the heart of London. I wish whoever left their bike in there the best of luck getting it out..!
2. St. Paul’s Cathedral
One would think that the rich architecture of St. Paul’s Cathedral would be accompanied by a long history, but it is actually one of the newer additions to the London skyline. It was built 300 years ago by architect Christopher Wren and has one of the largest domes in the world. Fun fact, Wren crowned St. Paul’s Cathedral with pineapples due to their symbol of opulence back in the day. Step inside or go to the top of the Cathedral, once considered the tallest building in London, to uncover its gothic richness. If you get the chance to explore the inside, make sure to stop by the Whispering Gallery where the quietest whisper in a corner can be heard from across the dome at the opposite corner, just like the Whispering Gallery in New York’s Grand Central. For the best exterior shots of St. Paul’s Cathedral, cross over to the shopping center One New Change and head up to the rooftop. This is a little inside secret Pat shared with me from his days living in London! See below for some of jaw-dropping and close-up photographs.
On our way to Tower of London we stopped by the Walkie Talkie building as it is called in London, or it’s real name Sky Garden. It’s called Walkie Talkie because of the shapes resemblance. We wanted to head up to the top where you will find a top floor restaurant, miniature garden, and astounding views of London. Unfortunately, the next available time to go to the top was later on in the day during our Tower of London tour, so we passed. We ended up catching a view of London from the Shard the next day, the tallest building in London. But I do recommend everyone book a time to go see Sky Garden when spending 3 days in London, it is free and will give you some amazing views and Instagrammable pictures!
3. Secret Garden: St. Dunstan in the East
One of the many hidden jewels in London is the Church of St. Dunstan in the East, just steps away from Tower of London and the Walkie Talkie building. The abandoned church of St. Dunstan in the East was first damaged by the London Fire in the 17th century and then destroyed in the Second World War. Today, its ruins have been converted into a public garden with overgrown orchard trees, ivy and wall climbing plants that give it a botanical charm. When we stopped by there were 2 photo shoots going on at the time, so although the area is hidden in the financial district, it is in high-demand among artists! But we were able to sneak in a couple of pictures for your enjoyment. If interested, open-air services are still held occasionally such as on Palm Sunday.
4. Tower of London Tour
Ravens (and no, we are not talking about the ravens from GOT…but similar!), the Crown Jewels, and the old Royal Zoo are just a few of the things that attract nearly 3 million visitors per year to the Tower of London. Last time we were in London we were broke and could not justify spending $60 on touring the famous UNESCO World Heritage Site, Tower of London. But in reality it is a must when spending 3 days in London. This time it was different, we had the money and we were ready to immerse ourselves in one of the few intact medieval buildings in the world.
The tour will take roughly 2 hours and it is best to start it on the outside walls or perimeter and then move inward to the armory and Crown Jewels. The perimeter includes an amazing view of Tower Bridge. When walking around we ran into several Queen’s Guards or Royal Guards and Yeoman Warders. The tower has approximately 36 Yeoman Warders some that still live on the grounds and are sworn to protect the property.
Something I didn’t know about the tower was that it was once home to the Royal Zoo. It once had Lions, bears, gorillas and even an elephant! You’ll see animal statues scattered around Tower of London to try and recreate the Tower of London’s Royal Zoo. Today the only animals that still remain on the grounds from the zoo are six ravens that are kept at Tower of London at all times. Legend has it that based on future experiences; any time the ravens have left Tower of London has crumbled and fallen to its demise. It is said if the ravens ever leave Tower of London again, the monarchy and the entire kingdom would fall. For this reason, they keep a couple of spare ravens around!
12 executions were held in the tower and of course many Kings and Royals have lived in the tower. At one point it even served as a prison for many famous and infamous prisoners. What happened within the walls of Tower of London has led to several rumors and tales being told, including the fact that the Tower is haunted by several ghosts such as Henry VI and Lady Jane Grey.
Of course, no tour of the Tower of London isn’t complete without seeing the world famous crown jewels, said to be valued at more than 20 billion pounds!
5. Big Ben Clock Tower and Palace of Westminster from the Westminster Bridge
No 3 days in London are complete without a stop at the oh so picture famous Big Ben clock tower from the Palace of Westminster. For an iconic shot, step onto Westminster Bridge to get a full view of the Palace on one side and the London Eye on the other. Last time we were in London we went on the London Eye so decided to skip it this time around. I highly recommend everyone take advantage of it and buy tickets in advance to get great photography shots of Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster. It is particularly romantic at night when the entire city is lit up.
6. Dinner: J Sheekey
Iconic After Show Dinner in West End: J Sheekey
J Sheekey has been in London for over 116 years. It was started by Josef a market stallholder who in 1893 was given permission by Lord Salisbury to sell fish and shellfish in St Martin’s Court, provided he served meals to Salisbury’s theatre-going pals. J Sheekey’s identity as a post-theatre culinary destination still lives today as renowned people such as Kevin Spacey, Keira Knightley, Poppy Delevingne, the Beckhams, Jude Law, Kate Moss and Bradley Cooper have been seen enjoying their famous fish pie after show time. So of course, I decided I had to get a taste of this famous English pie that has stuck around through thick and thin.
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– Day 3 –
1. Breakfast at Valerie’s
Our breakfast go-to when in London was Patisserie Valerie near Leicester Square. Why not splurge on food when on vacation? There are Patisserie Valerie’s all over London these days and quite right too because they serve some of the best pastries in the capital alongside a tempting array of cakes, coffees and continental breakfasts and all at an affordable price. Over the course of our 3 days in London, Pat and I experimented with a variety of breakfasts, one morning it was toast and jam with a croissant, the next it was eggs benedict, and the one after that poached eggs. Each breakfast with a cappuccino on the side sprinkled with a bit of cocoa powder of course. A must-try when in London!
2. Earls Court: Doctor Who TARDIS Police Box
While I flew to London for the low cost of $400 roundtrip, Pat took a TARDIS to London. Totally kidding, but he wishes he had! For those of you who are not familiar with what a TARDIS is, it’s a Time and Relative Dimension in Space. It’s basically a machine that Time Lord’s used to travel between time and space. No, it’s not real…but it is inspired by the famous English TV series Doctor Who. Pat has a soft spot for books, movies and TV shows that involve other worlds or dimensions, and Doctor Who is no exception. When we were wandering around Earls Court, where my parents once lived and where Pat lived when studying abroad, we came across Doctor Who’s famous TARDIS Police Box.
Earls Court is a mix of Georgian architecture and townhouses and hostels and hotels. It’s surrounded by well-kept Victorian gardens that are only exclusive to its residents. It is definitely residential, but a look at the beautiful area gives you a peek into what it truly is like living in England. Aside from townhouses, cute cafés and restaurants line the streets offering a more tranquil stay outside the hustle and bustle of London.
A Guide to London’s Department Store Harrod’s
Now I know what you are thinking…”Harrods?! I might as well go to Saks or Neiman Marcus,” but I promise you Harrods is unlike any other department store you have ever been to. Do not take it off your 3 days in London itinerary. Imagine hovercrafts, U.S. President’s signatures, giant stuffed animals, sushi, and antique artifacts all being sold under the same roof. Yes, that’s Harrods. They even had an exotic pet store that closed in 2014, which was said to have sold an alligator to playwright Noel Coward and a lion to a couple of Australians in 1969. Go a step further and you’ll find out that a cobra was once used to guard a pair of sandals worth 62,000 pounds, Ronald Reagan bought a baby elephant back in 1967, and Winnie the Pooh was inspired by a stuffed teddy bear bought from Harrods. The store’s motto is “Omnia Omnibus Ubique,” which literally translates to “All things for all people, everywhere.” I highly recommend you go to Harrods and explore the Egyptian architecture and famous painters touches and see what you can find!
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4. King’s Cross Platform 9 and 3/4
When you think of King’s Cross Station, you think of Platform 9¾ from Harry Potter. Yes, we saw the little cart and owl cage flying into the wall, but we didn’t think the 1.5-hour line was worth a picture to be quite honest. Instead we decided to wander around the station and admire its architecture. The renovation that took place in 2012 is a beautiful mix of Victorian and modern. The steel tree-like architecture reminded me of the tree of life from the World Expo in Italy.
5. Afternoon Tea at The Shard
Tea-rrific Champagne Afternoon Tea at Aqua Shard
There’s only one experience better than Afternoon Tea, and that’s Champagne Afternoon Tea! A glass of Champagne adds that extra special sparkle – making it the perfect treat if you’re marking a memorable occasion..or just splurging like Pat and I. We decided to go all out and have Champagne High-Tea with a tour of scones and finger sandwiches before our West End Theater show at the top of the second tallest tower in Europe—The Shard.
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6. A Show in West End: A Comedy About A Bank Robbery
Tea time and a show in the West End Theater district is the epitome of a British day. We booked last minute tickets to see “The Comedy About A Bank Robbery,” it was hysterical! I really enjoy British humor, which made this a plus, and the drinks unlike Broadway shows in New York were insanely affordable! A must-do experience for anyone in London to top off your quintessential London itinerary.
As mentioned at the start, London is a sprawling city which makes it difficult to see everything in 3 days. What we managed to cover in this 3 days in London itinerary are the iconic sights and spots to visit for first-timers in London. But there is so much more to see from the London Eye, to Camden Market, to Kew Garden and Sky Garden and on. Hopefully this 72 hour London itinerary will serve as a great guide for people looking to start taking in as much of this beautiful city as possible!
– 3 Days in London Itinerary Map –
Day 1 Map
Day 2 Map
Day 3 Map