Home United KingdomLondon The Perfect London Itinerary in 3 Days – With Pub Stops and Dinner Recs!

The Perfect London Itinerary in 3 Days – With Pub Stops and Dinner Recs!

by Krista
My Tips for your 3 Day London Itinerary

My Tips for your 3 Day London Itinerary

The Perfect London Itinerary in 3 Days

I first moved to London from the US in 2004. There’s a short-story and a long-story, but suffice it to say that in my off-and-on 14+ years of living in this city, I have entertained my fair share of tourists. I’ve gotten a good sense of what people want to see and what sticks in people’s minds. Even if I don’t accompany friends and relatives on their visit to London, I still get asked for itinerary suggestions quite often. Thus, this post is both a way for me to be helpful to my friends and family, and to also help strangers on the internet as well. I’ve tried to put together something very realistic here so I really hope you find my suggestions helpful!

Important Notes about My London Itinerary in 3 Days

  1. I’ve tried to rely on a start time for activities of around 9 am.
  2. I’ve tried to group things together in logical ways so you’re not dashing back and forth across the city all the time.
  3. Please always check the opening times of all attractions! Weekend and holiday opening times can differ.
  4. Please bring an umbrella. London weather can be unpredictable. I recommend this wind-proof umbrella from Repel.
  5. Bring snacks. If I’ve learned anything about taking tourists around London is that we cannot control when we get hungry, and you’ll probably be walking more than you do at home. So make sure you bring some snacks to tide you over until you can find a good lunch spot or dinner spot. (Pret a Manger is always good for a snack if you need one and they are all over town.)
  6. I’ve tried to schedule in an afternoon break from 4 pm to 7 pm every day. I don’t know about you guys, but after going-going-going all day long, I need a little break in the late afternoon before dinner. If you don’t want to take a break, I’ve provided pub suggestions because while you’re in London, you need to visit a few pubs!
  7. Because prices change, I have not listed prices here but have instead indicated where there are charges.
  8. The London Eye can book up during peak tourist season so it’s best to buy fast track tickets in advance. My suggestion is to buy a “Flexi Fast Track” mobile ticket so you can arrive at any time. It’s a little more expensive than the regular fast track ticket but in my opinion, it’s worth it in summer in particular. This way, you can just show up and ride the London Eye whenever you want and not have to deal with the queues.
  9. Because the Changing of The Guard schedule varies, you should check when that occurs and readjust this schedule accordingly. See official schedule here. That is, if Changing of the Guard occurs on your first full day in town, do Day 2 first and then Day 1.
  10. I am a HUGE foodie and love dining out in London. As such, I’ve also made suggestions for where to have a pub break and where to have dinner each day during your trip. For dinners, I’ve tried to keep my recommendations focused on “must visit” London restaurants. This means you need to book tables in advance! You can’t just show up.

Top Tip for 3 Days in London: LondonPass

Consider buying the LondonPass before you arrive in London. It includes so much and will save you money if you plan on hitting some of the main tourist attractions that require admission like The Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, and Kensington Palace. It’s especially a good value if you want to do the hop-on hop-off bus. Buy the LondonPass.

Day 1 of Your 3 Day London Itinerary

It’s up-and-at-em early for your first full day in London! Have an early breakfast and put on your comfortable shoes because today is all about the Thames and there’s a lot to see and do! We are going to start the day at the Tower of London and you want to make sure you get there at least 20 minutes before it opens because the queues can be legendary!

Tower of London, Your 1st Stop on My 3 Day London Itinerary

Tower of London, Your 1st Stop on My 3 Day London Itinerary

Tower of London

After you get your tickets, join a Yeoman’s tower of the famed Tower of London and learn all about the Tower’s history. It’s been around since 1066, in the days of William the Conqueror! You’ll have a chance to see the crown jewels and learn about some of the darker periods in British history. The Yeoman’s tour should last about an hour after which you are free to wander the grounds.

Estimated time spent here from arrival to departure: Approximately 2.5 hours. The Yeoman’s tours depart every 30 minutes and while you don’t have to do the tour, it is HIGHLY entertaining and informative and much better than wandering around by yourself. Also, it’s included in your tour price!

Charge for admission: Yes.

Thames River Cruise

After you finish up at the Tower of London, grab a coffee at the Pret a Manger that’s there (maybe a snack too just in case because we won’t stop for lunch until AFTER the London Eye) and then head down to the dock for a boat cruise west on the Thames. (Direction London Eye and Westminster Abbey.) Enjoy the river captain’s commentary as you float by London attractions like the Millennium Bridge, St. Paul’s, and Tate Modern. Personally for me, there’s no better way to see London than a Thames River cruise.

Estimated time spent here: The river cruise west to Westminster should take about 40 minutes. The boat should stop both at Westminster Pier and London Eye pier. My suggestion, after all the history  in the morning, is that you head directly to London Eye pier for a ride on the London Eye.

Charge for admission: Yes.

The London Eye from Embankment, the 3rd Stop on Your 3 Day London Itinerary

The London Eye from Embankment, the 3rd Stop on Your 3 Day London Itinerary

London Eye

You’ve seen London from the water, now it’s time to see London from above. Hopefully, you have followed my instructions above and purchased the Flexi Fast Pass for the London Eye. Assuming so, join the Fast Pass queue and get ready for your 30 minute ride. This is a great way to get a sense for London’s sprawl!

Estimated time spent here: Assuming you have purchased the Flexi Fast Pass, you need about 45 minutes here. 30 minutes for the flight and 15 minutes for any waiting.

Charge for admission: Yes.

Lunch Break

After the London Eye, I recommend a quick lunch break. This one will be a good value because we’re saving your money for dinner later tonight! I want you to walk east (in the direction you came from on the boat) until you get to Royal Festival Hall. You are looking for the Southbank Centre Food Market. There are a ton of food stalls here so there should be something for everyone and it’s a really nice and casual environment.

Stroll the South Bank

OK, at this point, assuming you started at 9 am, it should be around 2 pm. Time for a leisurely stroll down the South Bank. Keep walking east in the direction of St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Millennium Bridge. Stop for photos along the way! Our destination is the Millennium Bridge but you could also squeeze in a visit to Shakespeare’s Globe and the Tate Modern if you’d like. The Tate Modern is free, which is nice.

The Millennium Bridge

Cross the Millennium Bridge and admire the strength of the Thames currents! Our next destination is St. Paul’s Cathedral where Princess Diana got married. There are some great photo opportunities from the bridge, especially looking east to Tower Bridge.

Estimated time spent here: Quick! Maybe 15 minutes with photo stops.

Charge for Admission: No.

Last stop (before the pub) on your 3 day London itinerary: St. Paul's and a view of the Millennium Bridge

Last stop (before the pub) on your 3 day London itinerary: St. Paul’s and a view of the Millennium Bridge

St. Paul’s Cathedral

Head into St. Paul’s Cathedral and check out this iconic building and its crypt. For the price of your ticket, you’ll get access to the multimedia guide, or if you’re lucky, you’ll get a live guide. After the tour, you have the option of climbing the dome!

Estimated time spent here: An hour or so.

Charge for admission: Yes.

Pub o’Clock!

By this time, it should be around 4 pm. Now it’s time for a break! Head back to your hotel for a nap or shower or both, or if it’s beer o’clock, head down Ludgate Hill towards Fleet Street, a short walk from St. Paul’s, and try out some of London’s iconic pubs. Here’s a few you should check out:

Day 1 Dinner Options

For your first night in London, I think you should do something iconic. A place where you can say “While we were in London, we ate at X” and knowledgeable people will nod their heads and say, “Wow! Impressive!” So my top options for you tonight are:

  • Rules, Covent Garden: This is London’s oldest restaurant, dating back to 1789. It also boasts some awesome decoration. It’s not cheap but it’s definitely a London institution. The added bonus here is that you can do a circle of Covent Garden after dinner.
  • St. John, Clerkenwell: Fergus Henderson is the grandfather of nose-to-tail eating and one of the biggest names in British cuisine. His restaurant is very pared down and simple and in many ways, so is the food. Note there are organs on the menu, which some might struggle with. But if you are adventurous, go for it. This is a lively part of London during the workweek.
  • Berner’s Tavern, I’ve picked this as more of a mainstream British choice. It’s not as expensive or British as Rules, and it’s not as perhaps adventurous as St. John. Plus the dining room is beautiful. This is where I take my out of town guests when I’m not sure what type of eaters they are and I want to impress. Good for a business dinner too.

Day 2 of Your 3 Day London Itinerary

We covered a lot of ground along London’s riverfront yesterday so today is the day to head inland. My recommendation for this morning is that you book a tour so you know what you are looking at and what’s going on and that you get to where you need to be in time. This is essential for the Changing of the Guards because you want to be in a good place to see the cavalries and you don’t want to be running around like crazy trying to figure it all out. I also think you should do a smaller tour so you are not in a group with like 50 people like some tours. As noted in my top tips, the Changing of The Guard doesn’t happen every day of the week, so you may need to rearrange days in the itinerary to fit it in. Here are two tours that cover both Westminster Abbey and the Changing of the Guards:

Westminster Abbey: 1st stop on Day 2 of your 3 day London itinerary

Westminster Abbey: 1st stop on Day 2 of your 3 day London itinerary

Westminster Abbey

So assuming you’ve booked one of the tours I’ve suggested, start your morning at Westminster Abbey, where Britain’s monarchs have been crowned since 1066, and see highlights such as Elizabeth I’s tomb, the Coronation Chair and Poets’ Corner. This is where Prince William married Kate Middleton, just FYI! Normally, I would suggest getting here early so you can take some photos of yourself with Big Ben, but unfortunately, Big Ben is under construction for the next few years.

Estimated time spent here: About an hour.

Charge for admission: Yes. Included in price of tour.

Changing of The Guard: 2nd stop on Day 2 of your 3 day London itinerary

Changing of The Guard: 2nd stop on Day 2 of your 3 day London itinerary

Changing of the Guard

After Westminster Abbey, head to the Changing of the Guard ceremony which will run up the mall and Horse Guards Parade. Then, watch it all go down in front of Buckingham Palace! If you’re lucky, the bands will plan some snappy tunes. Be careful of following the crowds hear. If you haven’t booked a tour, try to trail one so you get a good sense of where to stand.

Estimated time spent here: About an hour.

Charge for admission: Not really but a good tour guide is invaluable here so you are standing in the right spots at the right time and make sure you don’t miss anything.

Lunch Break at Harrods

At this point, it should be around 12 noon so now’s a great time to grab some lunch. I think what you should do is walk through Hyde Park in the direction of Hyde Park Corner and then keep going until you get to Knightsbridge. My suggestion is that you grab a sandwich at Harrods and then spend some time observing how the other half lives as you wander different Harrods boutiques! (Always check how many Bentleys are parked outside Harrods.) Note that I am not saying that you have a sit down lunch (although you can if you want but be careful — Harrods for a sit down lunch could end up being £45 per person) but rather I suggest that you peruse the lunch counters until you find nice looking sandwiches that you can take to go. I say “to go” lightly because basically you’re going to eat these on the hoof. In fact, you may have to step outside and eat your sandwiches in the street before you can continue your Harrods tour.

Estimated time spent here: About ninety minutes including lunch.

Charge for admission: No.

Victoria & Albert Museum

After you’ve had your fill of Harrods, walk west down the Brompton Road towards the Victoria & Albert Museum.  the world’s leading museum of art and design.  This is a beautiful museum, and the cafe is also gorgeous so definitely stop in for a coffee and pick me up.

Estimated time spent here: Really depends on what type of person you are but I’d say at least an hour, possibly more.

Charge for admission: No!

Pub o’Clock!

It should be around 3:30 or 4 pm at this point, so it’s time for a break. Head back to your hotel or if it’s pub o’clock, here are three pubs by the V&A worth checking out:

Day 2 Dinner Options

OK, last night we did British classics so tonight I’d like to suggest some newer British restaurants for you to check out.

  • Lyle’s: A modern British restaurant in hip Shoreditch. Has frequently appeared on World’s 50 Best lists.
  • Dinner by Heston Blumenthal: Lovely setting in the Mandarin Oriental and amazing old-but-new again food.
  • Bob Bob Ricard: One of my all-time favorite London restaurants. Like riding on the Orient Express. An interesting Anglo-Russian menu. Very Instagrammable, especially the famous Press for Champagne button.

Day 3 of Your 3 Day London Itinerary

I can’t believe it’s Day 3 already! Just enough time to squeeze in some of the essential London museums and some, um, shopping!! Here’s how I suggest you spend Day 3 of your London itinerary:

The British Museum: 1st stop on Day 3 of your 3 day London itinerary

The British Museum: 1st stop on Day 3 of your 3 day London itinerary

The British Museum

Start your morning at the British Museum. View the controversial Elgin marbles (you’ll note the museum does not call them this) and the Rosetta stone. This is an absolutely gorgeous building worth a visit for a view of the inner courtyard alone.  Note you can book 90 minute tours for a small fee in advance. Totally worth it to make sure you know what you are looking at.

Estimated time spent here: Really depends on what type of person you are but I’d say at least an hour or two. (Note some people can spend like 5 hours here but I am not that person.)

Charge for admission: No!

Covent Garden

After you finish up at the British Museum, spend some time wandering through Covent Garden. (My recommendation is to enter Covent Garden from Greet Queen Street off of Kingsway. You’ll hit a few coffee shops that way in case you need a jolt.) There are so many great shops and restaurants in Covent Garden, and if you’re lucky, there will be a street performer or two. Make sure you discover Neal’s Yard, which is tucked away north of New Covent Garden Market. Most people think Covent Garden is just the big piazza area but the streets north of the tube station are a delight to explore as well.

Estimated time spent here: Really depends on what type of person you are but I’d say at least an hour or two.

Charge for admission: No!

Lunch Break

There are a ton of places around Covent Garden to grab a quick bite so I’m not going to go into a ton of detail here. There is seriously something for every budget but I am saving your budget for dinner! If you just want a quick snack or sandwich, grab something at M&S by the Covent Garden tube.

London Transport Museum

Now I’m going to send you to the London Transport Museum because it’s right there in Covent Garden and I really like it here. I am sort of obsessed with London transportation and it’s so interesting to understand the origins of the tube in Victorian London. The gift shop is excellent and I highly recommend you check out the old school London Underground posters they have for sale. They make a great gift or souvenir. Also a great souvenir? A picture of you driving the double-decker bus…

Estimated time spent here: This is a pretty compact museum so I think you can do it in an hour.

Charge for admission: Yes.

The National Gallery and/or The National Portrait Gallery

Once you’ve finished up at The London Transport Museum, keep walking west in the direction of Trafalgar Square. Your destination is either The National Gallery OR the National Portrait. (Or both!) I kinda like the Portrait Gallery because you know you’ve made it as a British person if your face is hanging on the wall. Both museums are free so spend as much or as little time here as you’d like.

Pub o’Clock!

At this point, it should be around 3 or 4 pm so especially on the last day of your 3 days in London, it’s time for a break! Maybe a pub break? Here are some iconic pubs in Chinatown and Soho that are worth checking out and have the added advantage of sending you on a little walk as well. (I really love wandering through Soho and Chinatown.) I’ve tried to pick pubs that have a claim to fame…

Day 3 Dinner Options

Wow…your last night in London is already here so this will be the last stop on your 3 day London itinerary. Crazy how quickly the time flies. My suggestion for your last night in London is that you dine somewhere with a great view over the city. Here are a few options:

  • Galvin at Wiindows: Located on the 28th floor of the Hilton Park Lane, this is a very well-respected restaurant with French leanings.
  • Aqua Shard: Panoramic views of the Thames from the 31st floor of The Shard. (Why pay to go to the observation deck in The Shard when you can just have dinner here instead?)
  • Duck & Waffle: This time, we’re on the 40th floor! Modern British-European menu and open 24 hours!

Summary of My London Itinerary in 3 Days

I hope you’ve found my London itinerary in 3 days super helpful for planning your trip. If you have any questions or need any help, don’t hesitate to reach out!

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