Since the pandemic has put a stop to any international travel options, the only way I’ll be visiting another country is through travel guides and stories. I was super excited when Jason from Jason Likes To Travel offered to write about London because it’s a bucket list city for me.
Enjoy this guide to London and be sure to pin it for a future trip!
Jason’s Three Day Guide to London
London is undoubtedly my favourite city in the world! Call me biased perhaps, I was born in the city after all and still consider myself a ‘Londoner’ but even many years after leaving the city it’s one that has a hold over me.
Fortunately I still live close enough to visit regularly and it’s also a place that I love to show off to visitors from overseas. On that note I’ve prepared a three day guide on the key things to see and do on a first visit to the city.
London is a city that has so much depth to it that I don’t think you’ll ever run out of things to do. However this guide will be flexible and very much dependent on how much time you have in the city. I believe the best thing to do on your first day is to see London’s most famous landmarks and familiarise yourself with where things are in relation to the Thames.
The best way to get around London is by using the ‘Tube’ (London’s underground train network). However if that’s a little overwhelming you can also travel by bus, cycle, boat or even on foot. Whilst London is spread out over many miles, a lot of the city is also flat so can be quite walkable.
Your route will depend on where you’re staying but your first stop of the day will be Buckingham Palace. Take the tube to Green Park and aim to get to Buckingham Palace by around 10:30.
This will give you a little time to walk through Green Park and make your way to the other side where you’ll find Buckingham Palace. Get some photos and then find yourself a good spot for the famous ‘changing of the guard’ procedure which takes place at 11am (10am on Sunday’s).
Once you’re done at Buckingham Palace, take a stroll through St James’ Park and you’ll quickly find yourself in the heart of Westminster. In Parliament Square you’ll find the houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and Big Ben. Although poor Ben is under construction at the minute so is a bit of an eyesore. The square is a beautiful spot though and is also home to statues of a number of historical figures.
From Parliament Square wander past Big Ben and you’ll have stumbled upon the River Thames. It’s from here that you’ll get a number of photos to make all of your friends jealous. It’s also here where you can find river cruises with ports on both sides of the river.
Hurdle the many tourists as you cross over the bridge and walk towards the London Eye. You’ll find a few attractions in this general area, such as London’s aquarium, and it’s a great place to take the kids. Stroll along the riverside and you’ll find countless numbers of street performers – plus some of London’s best views! If you’re feeling brave, this is your opportunity to go up the London Eye too.
By this point you’ll have seen a few of London’s most famous landmarks so we’re going to end our day by returning to the North side of the river. It is walkable but if you’ve invested in a travelcard you can quickly hop on the tube at Waterloo and travel in the direction of Charing Cross, Piccadilly Circus or Leicester Square. All three are very close to each other but I’d recommend getting off at Charing Cross if possible.
From Charing Cross follow directions towards Trafalgar Square and soak up some of the atmosphere that quickly builds in this square. I always find this part of London has life and a bit of a buzz to it. You’ll also find a couple of London’s museums in this area, such as the National Gallery. If you keep heading North you’ll find yourself on the outskirts of Piccadilly Circus, Chinatown and Leicester Square.
This is the perfect time for you to start thinking about your dinner options because the area is overrun with restaurants and pubs. London is a multicultural city so you’ll find cuisine of all sorts here which means it won’t be a struggle finding any type of food, it just depends what you’re in the mood for! Even if you’re not in the mood for Chinese food, it’s still worthwhile walking through Chinatown.
One of the main reasons this area is overrun with pubs and restaurants is because it is home to many of London’s theatres and venues. Once you’ve finished off your dinner, end your evening by taking in a show. Whether it’s a comedy act or a long-running Broadway show, you have plenty of choice here and hopefully find something to your budget.
You’ll note this has been a very budget-friendly day thus far but if your budget doesn’t stretch far enough to take in a show, my alternative recommendation would be to stroll along to the nearby Covent Garden. This is one of my favourite spots in London and you’ll usually find entertainers here that quickly draw in a crowd and create a wonderful atmosphere. Take a wander through the market and other shops in the area before grabbing a pint at Punch and Judy’s to round off your evening.
You’ll have packed quite a bit in to day one so I’m going to let you sit back a little today. One of my favourite areas of London is Greenwich and the best way to get there is by boat!
Start your day by returning to Westminster and buying yourself a return ferry ticket heading to Greenwich. You can take one of the ‘Hop-on, hop-off’ boats if you wish and stop off along the way but I’d recommend just sitting back and enjoying the boat ride all the way to Greenwich and stopping off on the way back.
The first thing you’ll see as you get off the ferry at Greenwich is the ‘Cutty Sark’ – a famous ship that helped transport tea! It’s obviously no longer in use and has since been transported in to a museum / attraction that you can visit and is fun for adults or kids alike. Moving onwards, head to Greenwich Market which is a great place to pick up some cool art or a bite to eat. Even if you don’t end up buying anything, it’s a nice market to have a wander through and a little less touristy than some of London’s other markets.
I’d recommend grabbing a bite to eat as you’ll need a little energy as your next stop is atop what I think of as Greenwich Hill (I don’t think that’s an official name haha). It’s here that you’ll find the famous Prime Meridian point plus some pretty cool views overlooking London from the top of the hill! Whilst here it’s worthwhile visiting the Royal Observatory and also the planetarium.
If neither of those take your fancy just take a stroll through Greenwich Park. It’s home to some beautiful flowers and is also just a nice place to relax, particularly during London’s summer months. Have a picnic, grab an ice cream and forget all about the hustle and bustle of central London.
Before catching a ferry back in to the heart of London, stop off at the Queen’s House (a former royal residency) and the National Maritime Museum. Both are along the same stretch of road which makes it easy to squeeze in a visit to both. Once you’ve finished exploring it’s time to head back to the ferry pick-up-point and make your way back towards Central London.
Rather than go all the way back to Westminster, get off of the ferry at the Tower of London for a chance to see this iconic landmark up close. Last admission is 4pm in the Autumn and Winter months, whilst it’s 5pm in the Spring and Summer months. If you’re back from Greenwich in time you should squeeze in a trip to look around. Otherwise just settle for getting plenty of photos from the outside.
From here you’re in the perfect location to end your evening with the best views over London. On the South of the river you’ve got the unmissable Shard building which you can pay to go up to its viewpoint and see incredible views over the city. However I’d personally recommend that you visit London’s Sky Garden instead. The Sky Garden is FREE to visit and offers some spectacular views of its own. Although it’s worth noting you have to still book in advance and its popularity and price make those reservation spots go quickly!
You’ve seen Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and almost all of the “must see” landmarks in London but there is still one that you HAVE to see. This might even be my favourite in London – the spectacular St Paul’s Cathedral! This is one of my favourite landmarks, not just in London but anywhere. It’s gorgeous. Admission prices are a little steep but I still feel you get your money’s worth. Within your ticket you’re able to climb to the top of the cathedral which offers more wonderful views of the city – it’s a lot of steps to the top mind you!
If you don’t fancy paying so much, like many cathedrals, you can visit during a service. Alternatively you can just stick to admiring it from the exterior. Once you’re done at the cathedral wander over to the nearby Guildhall. This is London’s old town hall and is beautiful. It’s also seemingly a lesser visited landmark so doesn’t draw the same crowds other parts of London do – leaving you to admire it and get all of the photos you desire! Unfortunately I don’t think there’s any way for you to see the inside but it’s worth checking out alongside St Paul’s Cathedral.
From here it’s time to escape central London. You’ll have already seen a lot of the main sights in the city so it’s time to head North and head to one of the gems in the North of the city! Walk from the Guildhall down to Bank underground station and jump on the Northern Line towards Camden Town!
I love Camden! It has grown a lot more popular over the years and because of that has catered to tourists a little more but in spite of that it still retains a lot of its character and charm. The downside to its popularity is that it can get quite busy – so much so that sometimes the tube station is exit only so it’s worth planning an alternative route back afterwards because you might not get back in to Camden Town station. That said, don’t let it put you off visiting!
As you come out of the tube station you’ll likely want to turn right and head towards the canals. If you’re not sure, just follow everybody else. Unfortunately and perhaps even ironically, Camden’s uniqueness is also what brings a number of visitors to the area and has slowly seen the area transform in to a place for all.
Camden has always been the home of the weird and the wonderful. It has proven to be a popular area over the years for its quirks and oddities with the alternatives, punks and goths of London, or I suppose your modern day ‘hipster’, but it’s no longer the well-kept secret it once was.
That said, it’s popular for a reason and I always enjoy a visit to Camden. As you arrive at the bridge over the canals, feel free to take a detour and a walk along the canals. If not continue on to Camden Market which is what attracts a lot of people to the area. It’s a little dependent on which way you come in to the market but one of the first things you might stumble upon is its food! It’s so easy to get drawn in and enjoy a little ‘street food’. Grab yourself something and find a place to sit and watch the hive of activity here. Alternatively wander on through and you’ll likely be offered so many samples you can have a good meal without spending a penny! Haha.
Once you’ve finished eating, explore the rest of the market and maybe even find something that tempts you in to your wallet! There really is so much to the market and it’s the perfect place to find some souvenirs that aren’t the same tat you can get just about anywhere else in the city.
By this point your mind will likely be switching towards dinner and your evening plans. Fortunately I’ve again left you in the perfect place to spend your evening. Camden is wonderful to visit any time of day but really comes to life at night. Camden is littered with many restaurants, pubs, and music venues.
It’s a great place to spend an evening in London and it’s somewhere I’ve personally enjoyed many a gig in the city. Try and line up your visit with one of the many artists that play in Camden or just find yourself one of the few pubs that host live music on any given night. If you’re not in the mood for live music you’ve still got a wide range of pubs to choose from to enjoy a quieter pint. One of my frequent visits is at a place called Brewdog which has a good range of craft beers on tap and a nice atmosphere to boot. It’s a great place to round off another day in the city.
There’s plenty to do if you’re in London for longer than three days but this is a good start to any trip if you want to hit all of the main spots. If you’ve got longer in the city I’d recommend hitting up its museums (many of which are free) or exploring an area like Shoreditch which is always fun to visit with its multicultural influence and street art almost everywhere you look!