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!
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.
Planned Traveler or Un-Planned Traveler?
How scheduled/planned do you like to be when you travel?
Make sure to have a handy map
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
A Great Guide To Getting Around In London
London Public Transit
- Tube Map -iPhone/iPad app
Of all the London apps I tried, this one was the most-consistently useful. Has both online and offline features.
- Transport for London
Information about all the various forms of public transit in London, complete with Tube map and details about Oyster cards (fare passes).
- London Public Transit Information for visitors and tourists
Helpful tips and advice on using public transit in London for sightseeing and visiting London attractions. Travel by the Underground and bus to a favourite park, or museum. Find hotels, shopping, or a restaurant near Tube or Underground Stations.
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
Things To Consider Seeing or Doing
- London Museum Guide
The top ten London museums
- The EDF Energy London Eye's official website
Although mocked when it first opened, this has become Londn's #1 tourist attraction. Buy tickets online ahead of time for the best prices. I got a Fast Track option to skip the lines and it was totally worth it!
- City Cruises
Welcome to London's number one sightseeing tour on the Thames. For river cruises, London sightseeing and Thames dinner cruises.
- London Walks
Guided Walking Tours of London – "first and best of the walking tour firms" – London Walking Tours – Jack the Ripper Tour – British Museum Tours – Harry Potter Tours
- London's 10 best things you must do
London has 101 different things to do, but which are the ten best? We’ve drawn up a list of the 10 best tourist sights and attractions that we think you’ll most enjoy. - from www.londondrum.com
- Top London Tea Place Awards 2012
The Tea Guild has also awarded special Awards of Excellence to establishments in London in recognition of their outstanding quality and consistently high standards in tea service.
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.