London In Just Three Days

Just Three Days... What To Do?

When you only have a few days to visit and see a city, trying to figure out what to do can feel overwhelming. It often seems like you have a list of way too much you'd like to do, or you have no idea what you'd like to do. Actually, having a bit of both is a great basis for planning.

I had the opportunity to be in London in the summer of 2012 (just after the Jubilee and getting out before the Olympics started) but I've only really had three days to see the city itself. I had visited once before but that was over 25 years ago (summer of 1985 when LiveAid was happening!), so really it's like it's the first time all over again. This Hub will share my tips for how to plan a visit and balance what you are doing, not so much telling you what to visit, and that way you'll be able to assemble your own itinerary of activities and sights that are the most interesting to you. I hope this helps you have your own great three day visit to London!

Planning ahead...

Here's most of my 3 day London plan, all mapped out ahead of time.
Here's most of my 3 day London plan, all mapped out ahead of time. | Source

How Planned Do You Like To Be?

One of the most important things that you need to know before you plan your three days in London is just how planned YOU like to be. Some people like to have a day crammed full to the brim with options and intend to do all of them, some people want to have no plan at all and will get around to deciding after they eat breakfast, and most people fall somewhere in between those two extremes.

It's always good to look ahead to find out if you need to make reservations or have tickets pre-purchased or what hours an attraction is open even if you're one of those people who doesn't like to plan ahead. That way you don't spend all day finding out that one thing after another that you thought you wanted to do just isn't going to be possible. With the Internet, most of those tasks are really easy.

If you are traveling alone, of course you can make your plans however you wish, but with a couple or group, you will want to find a balance. Everyone may want to do one thing together each day or meet up at mealtimes with options for going off to do different activities or people might prefer to stick together as a group. Having some discussion ahead of time will make for smoother interactions once you are traveling.

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Make sure to have a handy map

Streetwise London Map - Laminated City Center Street Map of London, England
Streetwise London Map - Laminated City Center Street Map of London, England

A conventional street map is lighter for travel, works without an Internet connection and you'll need the lamination given how often it can rain on you at any time of the year in London.

 

Deciding On How To Get Around

One of the biggest questions that comes up for navigating any city you visit is transportation. Some cities are walkable, some aren't, some have good transit, some don't. With the Internet at our fingertips, it's gotten a lot easier to take a look at a city long before you get there, research options and map things out.

London has a lot of areas that are walkable and has a comprehensive system of both buses and trains. This makes for a much easier and lower-cost option compared to renting a car for getting around in the city. You can even email away for an Oyster card, the transit fare card, and have one in hand with some credit on it when you arrive.

If you are wanting to do day-trips outside the city, there is a lot to do that can be reached by train or bus (aka "coach"). But remember to balance what you are doing, as travel time can take away from having more interesting experiences. After all, you only have three days.

The Royal Residence

Buckingham Palace is a favorite sight.  The different flags will let you know if any of the Royal Family are actually in residence at the time of your visit.
Buckingham Palace is a favorite sight. The different flags will let you know if any of the Royal Family are actually in residence at the time of your visit. | Source

A Great Guide To Getting Around In London

See Someone's Three Days In London

So... What To Do?

Here are some of the most important considerations to think about when you start to pick and choose what you think you want to do:

Touristy vs Off-The-Beaten Path - How much do you want to see the tourist spots? Do you do okay with crowds? Do you have the patience to stand in a queue for a long time? Things that really are interesting to see and are popular tend to be the "touristy" stuff, things where there's always a lot of people trying to see them. If you hate the crowds and the commonness, then skip that stuff. If you like the sights but hate the crowds, do your homework to find out when things are the most crowded and see if you can go earlier or later to avoid them.

Active vs Passive - Most sight-seeing breaks down into two categories: things where you do all the action in experiencing them, and things where you mostly just have to look and listen. Think about your interests and energy levels. If you hate being on formal tours, don't do them. If you like to ride in a bus or on a boat and have someone point out all the sights, it's easy to do one tour in the morning and one in the afternoon and have a great, full day.

How much energy do you have? If you can run around all day, snacking as you go, then put on those sturdy shoes, grab a map and just get out there! If you don't mind a half day of something energetic but then get tired, either plan for a short nap to re-energize for the later afternoon and evening, or just do one "big" thing per day with quiet activities and enjoyments around it. Many people like to do something more major after breakfast and then have a quiet afternoon after lunch, others like a long, leisurely morning and then get active later in the day. Remember, it's your trip, you get to do what you want...

Be Careful On Foot

Remember they drive on the opposite side of the road from Americans, so you need to look right more often than left when crossing the street!
Remember they drive on the opposite side of the road from Americans, so you need to look right more often than left when crossing the street! | Source
Checking out the Prince Albert statue in Kensington Gardens.
Checking out the Prince Albert statue in Kensington Gardens. | Source

Balancing Sights and Experiences

For my own London trip, I made one day my "tourist day." Day one started with the Warner Bros studio tour featuring all the actual sets from the Harry Potter movies. You can get coach packages from the city, take the train or drive as you wish. That night, the London Eye Ferris wheel: totally tourist trendy but it won't have the daytime crowds and won't take up too much energy as an evening activity. And there's a perfect dinner slot in the time between the two things. I dropped in to a cafe along the Thames river walk, but there are lots of more upscale restaurants in that area too.

Day two is museums and bookstores. The museums are in the AM, the bookstores are in the afternoon and for dinner that night, I had a HubPages Meetup planned! That strategy put me on my feet in the morning when I have the most energy, the afternoon can be as leisurely as I want with time for snacks or even catching up on some email or making a blog post at a cafe, and then in the evening, I combined eating with meeting at a location that is good for socializing.

Day three I visited the folks who make Sugru (love the product), and had an afternoon appointment to take myself to formal high tea at a hotel in Piccadelly Circus. The time in between those two was spent exploring the old business/banking district in downtown London and climbing the 311-step Monument Tower.

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What would you do with three days in London? 33 comments

relache profile image

relache 16 months ago from Seattle, WA Author

I have a list for when I make it back to England for another visit. I have managed three days twice, but really I want a sold fortnight.


Glenis Rix profile image

Glenis Rix 16 months ago from UK

Well worth the effort, relache, if you are ever in London again. It's a World Heritage site. There is so much to see there. Check out the website.


relache profile image

relache 16 months ago from Seattle, WA Author

Glenis, I hope to get back to London so I can get in a visit to Greenwich.


Glenis Rix profile image

Glenis Rix 16 months ago from UK

Rarely visit London, though it's only an hour and half away by train. It's a bit to busy for my taste - especially on the Underground. But I do like the restaurant in the National Portrait Gallery for a reasonably priced early evening meal - and the views across the rooftops are lovely. Also, Greenwich is a lovely place for a day out - get there from the City by river boat.


relache profile image

relache 17 months ago from Seattle, WA Author

I could easily spend a fortnight in London...sigh... But as much as my Hubs let me go on that one trip, i don't think the site will ever warm me that much again.


Thelma Alberts profile image

Thelma Alberts 17 months ago from Germany

I think 3 days London is not enough to see all the amazing places. I was in London with my family 2 decades ago and that for 10 days. It was not enough for me to see everything but we have seen the most amazing places there. I would love to come back there as there are many things added to the city like the London Eye. Thanks for reminding me my travel in London.


Engelta profile image

Engelta 19 months ago from Albania

If I ever visit London, I will reread your hub. It has a lot of information, I just hope I will be able to use it in the future ^_^


relache profile image

relache 20 months ago from Seattle, WA Author

Be sure to visit in in summer, but still pack a brolly if British gardens are your thing. They get frequent rain showers in the summer.


4FoodSafety profile image

4FoodSafety 20 months ago from Fontana, WI

You got me with the look right - completely forgot! Wonderful! Voted up! I dream of visiting London someday. The gardens would be my first choice.


relache profile image

relache 2 years ago from Seattle, WA Author

Colin, it was about 25 years between my first and second visits to London, I had to cram in what I could!


Colin323 2 years ago

You certainly made the most of those three days, particularly during day two: museums & bookshops; London is well provided with these. I lived in London for 30+ years, and return two or three times a year just to look around again. When I return I head for the river and just walk for miles on both sides, finishing off the day in Charing Cross Road, visiting the bookshops there. A favourite 'off the tourist track' walk for me is from Tower Bridge downstream to Canary Walk, about 3 miles, returning by tube or bus. It is a lovely quite peaceful stretch of the river, and it passes some old 18th century waterside pubs, too, all with balconies overlooking the waterfront.


relache profile image

relache 2 years ago from Seattle, WA Author

I've been lucky enough to get to visit London twice.


Adventuretravels profile image

Adventuretravels 2 years ago from London UK

Everyone should see London at one time - but you'll be well advised to plan!! Great Hubs.


relache profile image

relache 2 years ago from Seattle, WA Author

Nina, most cities are the same when traveling in summer.


zanin profile image

zanin 2 years ago from London, England

You are right about the crowds for popular attractions in London. You do need to arrive well before noon and plan well in advance, otherwise it can be very hectic! Good advice.

Nina

From UK - London!


relache profile image

relache 2 years ago from Seattle, WA Author

Jean, I had a great time, and I fit in just as much as I could handle but I never had a night where I didn't have a little time to relax, or maybe a chunk the morning after a really big day. It's totally doable.


Jean Bakula profile image

Jean Bakula 2 years ago from New Jersey

I have a picture of Ireland and England on my Dreamboard, and definitely want to make the trip one day. I am not too active, I don't like to cram in too much stuff, and like to go off the beaten path. So articles like this are helpful to me. Sounds like you had a great time.


relache profile image

relache 2 years ago from Seattle, WA Author

Audrey, thanks so much! It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I think I have to pick a couple of other cities and set a new goal....


brakel2 profile image

brakel2 2 years ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Hi Relache - I remember the talk about the trip to London, so enjoyed hearing about what you did and what others can do. I admire you for going by yourself and for doing the planning to ensure you would enjoy the trip. London and Paris would be great cities to visit, and I hope to do one city someday. I feel like I have visited London already in this hub. Sharing. Blessings, Audrey


relache profile image

relache 3 years ago from Seattle, WA Author

IMO I can't do a series because to do so, I'd have to travel to London and have all those experiences myself, and if I were to write what you suggest, I'd be making things up instead of sharing things I really did.


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    relache profile image

    Raye (relache)4,001 Followers
    104 Articles

    Raye was born in New England, grew up in the Mid-Atlantic, spent college out West, and presently publishes Hubs from the Pacific Northwest.



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