72 Hours in London
Welcome to our 3 days in London itinerary! 72 hours is perfect to make the most of this city. Planning a trip is fun but time consuming, however with this London Travel Guide you won't have to spend much time thinking about what to see in London. Just follow our suggestions and we are sure you'll have an amazing time. Enjoy!
London is a city that could keep you busy for a lifetime. As Samuel Johnson said: “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life”. There is history to delve into, cutting-edge culture to discover, and it’s a safe bet that whatever your tastes are – from food to art – you’ll find it in the city. So if you’re dipping in for 72-hours, you’ll have to be discerning with what you choose. This guide takes in some of the “must dos” that you’ll want to take in on a first-time trip to the city – it allows you the chance to pick and choose from the options and tailor the three days to your taste. It’s an aperitif for a city that provides a feast.
One of the best ways to explore London is by walking alongside the River Thames, and specifically along the South Bank. From here you can see, and dip in and out of, some of the city’s main attractions. It’s an ideal way to spend your first day, getting a taste of the city and stopping at whatever takes your fancy.
To begin, start at Tower Bridge, the iconic suspension bridge that is often confused for London Bridge, which is in fact a far less ornate structure. There’s a glass walkway above the bridge where, if you’re lucky, you can see it being raised (check the website for the current lifting times). Tickets for the glass walkway also allow access to an exhibition about the bridge itself.
While here, you’ll be able to see The Tower of London, a historic castle dating back to the
tenth century. If history is your thing, then be sure to go inside and discover over 1000 years of London’s past. Highlights include getting a tour by Yeoman Warders (or Beefeaters as they are commonly known), and seeing the Crown Jewels, which are still regularly worn by the Queen.
From the southside of Tower Bridge, begin your walk along the Thames, heading westward towards London Bridge. It’s at London Bridge that the area known as the South Bank – a hub for culture and arts – truly begins, but before that you’ll pass the City Hall and the HMS Belfast, both of which are open to the public.
Next to London Bridge is the bustling Borough Market, an ideal lunch spot, filled with artisan food stalls selling local and international cuisine. Even if you’re not hungry, it’s definitely worth seeing.
The Borough Market is the entry point to the South Bank and from here all the way to Westminster Bridge you can pick and mix from a whole host of galleries, museums and sights. Highlights to choose from include:
See London from above by taking a ride on the iconic London Eye or venturing up The Shard, which is currently the highest building in Europe.
- You’ll have a good view of St. Paul’s Cathedral from the South Bank, but if you want to go inside, cross over the Millennium pedestrian bridge and take a tour of Wren’s masterpiece. It’s where Prince Charles and Princess Diana were married in 1981.
- The Tate Modern is England’s national gallery of modern art and includes works by Monet, Picasso and Rothko. As with all London galleries and museums, access to the permanent collections is free of charge (there is a charge for special exhibitions).
- Take a trip through the dark side of London’s past at the London Dungeons. The tours last 90 minutes and are guided by professional actors.
- The Sea Life London Aquarium is a great family day activity and includes everything from penguins to a shark reef.
- If you’d like some entertainment, there is no shortage of options on the South Bank. Shakespeare buffs won’t want to miss a visit to the Globe theatre where you can take a tour or catch a matinee or evening performance. The National Theatre, Southbank Centre, BFI, The Old Vic, The Young Vic and IMAX also have an ever-changing programme of film, theatre and arts. Check their websites for the current schedules.
The South Bank ends at Westminster Bridge from where you have a good view of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. You can cross the bridge to see them up close, along with Westminster Abbey and Parliament Square. Guided tours are available of both the Abbey and Parliament.
For the evening, you could take in one of the South Bank’s shows and eat at one of the many restaurants along the way – you’ll find everything from sushi to pizza to Mexican. For a special treat, choose the Oxo Tower or a gourmet pub such as The Anchor and Hope. You could also cross the Golden Jubilee Bridge to Embankment and dine at Gordon’s Wine Bar – a 19th century wine bar in candlelit, vaulted cellars.
Seeing Buckingham Palace is a must for most visitors to London so begin your day with a trip to the royal residence. The changing of the guards takes place every other day at 11:30am, or daily throughout the summer. Get there for 11:15am to get a good view.
From here, take a stroll through St.James’s Park towards Trafalgar Square. It’s a great people-watching spot, or you can take your pick from the nearby art galleries including The National Gallery, The National Portrait Gallery and the ICA.
Yesterday you saw the city from the river and now it’s time to dip into its streets, which are best explored on foot. Spend some time wandering around Soho and Covent Garden, taking in Leicester Square, China Town and Piccadilly Circus. There are plenty of lunch spots to choose from– from cheap and cheerful sandwich spots to high-end restaurants like The Wolsely or Hix. Neal’s Yard is a colourful enclave with a few different and reasonably priced cafes to choose from.
If you’re a keen shopper then head to Neal Street, Carnaby Street, Regent Street and Oxford Street. For high-end designer shopping, try department stores Liberty and Selfridges, or take a walk down Bond Street. If you prefer museums then don’t miss the British Museum, which is worth a visit for the ceiling alone. It’s home to a vast collection of world art and artefacts including ancient Greek sculptures and Egyptian mummies. Its permanent collection has 8 million works!
A great way to break up the sightseeing is by taking afternoon tea. There are plenty of places to choose from but favourites include Fortnum & Mason and The Ritz.
In the evening, stay in the centre and catch a West End show. Special offers on tickets are often available and you can take your pick from shows including The Lion King, Phantom of the Opera, Matilda, and The Book of Mormom. Post-theatre, if you have the energy, try some of London’s bars and clubs. You could watch some jazz at Ronnie Scotts or sip cocktails at Milk & Honey. Nightclubs to choose from include superclub Fabric, the trendy Village Underground or something smaller like Cargo. Check Time Out for all the latest listings. And for a luxury late-night eat, find your way to the 24-hour Duck and Waffle restaurant on top of the city’s Heron Tower. Access is via a glass lift that offers great views across the city.
Start your day on Exhibition Road in Kensington and take your pick from the Natural History Museum, The Science Museum or the V&A. You can also pop round the corner to see the Albert Hall.
From there, jump on a bus past Knightsbridge to see famous department stores Harrods and Harvey Nichols. You could jump off to take a look inside, or instead head to Hyde Park for a little bit of respite from the city streets.
From there, head to the trendy East End where you can spend some time exploring its independent shops, galleries and cafes, centred around Shoreditch and Hoxton. If it’s a Sunday, the area is alive with markets, including the Sunday Upmarket, Spitalfields, and Columbia Road Flower Market. Brick Lane, Spitalfields and Broadway Market are fun to explore on any day of the week. It’s also a good place to do a street art tour.Great lunch options in the area include Dishoom, Andina and The Breakfast Club, which are also good for dinner.
For your final afternoon in the city, take your pick from a few different neighbourhoods. Options to choose from include:
Go up to Hampstead and take a walk on the heath, which has beautiful views over London from Parliament Hill.
- Explore Camden’s famous markets, specialising in alternative and vintage fashion, as well as emerging designers.
- Take a boat from Waterloo to Greenwich. Once there you can visit the Royal Observatory or explore the market and shops, and try some beers from the local Meantime Brewing Company.
- Go to Notting Hill and see London’s iconic townhouses and the famous Portobello antiques market.