ITINERARY 3 days in London: how to maximize your mini-break

by Hadi Al Khatib

If you’ve got itchy feet, now is the perfect time to hop on a train or a plane to one of the world’s great capital cities. As winter slowly turns to spring, we’re all looking for a burst of inspiration to push the year forward. And three days in London could be just the tonic you’re looking for.

London is a magical, energizing destination, whatever the time of year. If you want to be dazzled by a place where history truly lives with the present, this city is for you. Our specially curated three days in London itinerary will have you crossing off your to-see list with aplomb.

Looking for world-class culture, stunning architecture, scrumptious cuisine and history on every corner? Add a winding river that glitters from dawn to dusk, and you’ll be falling under London’s spell the moment you arrive. In just a few days, you can definitely experience all the highlights of this land of urban dreams. A mix of both ancient and modern, filled with dreamy parks and stunning architectural gems, the streets of London are – according to the fairytale – paved with gold.

Here at Window Seat, we’re in awe of London’s sheer range of adventures. The city is an unparalleled history hub, home to hundreds of vibrant “villages” that together make up an extraordinarily diverse metropolis. They’re all walkable, or just hop on a bus or check out the city’s rapid-transit London Underground network – locals call it “the Tube”.

Of course, your 3 days in London itinerary can flex and adapt to the notorious British weather. If the rain does start coming down, you can add in a museum or two, linger in a gallery, pop to the shops or take a pit stop for afternoon tea. Your other option? Simply put up your umbrella and carry on sightseeing, in true British fashion.

Wondering if it’s actually possible to do London in 3 days? London is a big place. To get the most out of 3 days in London, simply plan ahead and focus on your list of must-sees. Get your 3 days in London itinerary sorted in advance and you’ll step out of your hotel with a plan.

Tickets to London

How to get there

You can fly direct to London from multiple international and European cities. Heathrow Airport is the UK’s main airport, its four terminals the busiest in western Europe. Direct flights from Rome to London, for example will take just under three hours, New York to London around seven hours, and the flight from Istanbul to London is just over four hours long. To book cheap flights to London from anywhere in the world, head to Omio.

Of course, you can take the greener option and catch a train to London, too. The Eurostar is a fantastically efficient high-speed train, connecting Great Britain to Continental Europe. The Eurostar between Paris and London takes just a couple of hours via the Channel Tunnel. That means you can easily plan your train journey to London (via Paris) from Brussels, Amsterdam, Rome, Prague and many other European cities.

Scheduled coaches are the cheapest travel option if you’re heading to London, as they run straight to the heart of the capital. The main coach operator to the UK is Eurolines, while National Express services will take you to other towns and cities in the UK. The European terminus for both Eurolines and National Express is at Victoria Coach Station.

How to get from the airport to London city center

Once you’ve touched down at London Heathrow Airport, the quickest way to reach the city center is via the non-stop Heathrow Express train, reaching Paddington Station (of Paddington Bear fame) in just 15 minutes. Alternatively, the new Elizabeth Line takes you to Bond Street station in just over half an hour. Make sure you purchase The London Pass + Visitor Oyster card online, at least four weeks before you set off on your 3 day London itinerary, as they’re only available in advance. Your Visitor Oyster card will be valid to use through zones 1–9, so it covers your journey to and from Heathrow or London City Airport.

The London Pass is your other must-have. It’s a handy smartcard that’s pre-loaded with credit, saving money as well as time, as you can jump the ticket queues. This downloadable pass gives visitors multiple discounts across central London for a set number of days. Just show your pass at your chosen attraction and the relevant credits will be deducted. Again, purchase The London Pass + Visitor Oyster card in advance to access double-whammy value.

If you’re wondering when’s the best time to experience London in 3 days, every season offers different delights. Spring means the city’s famous parks are blossoming like mad, while in summer, London is buzzing with festivals, pavement pop-ups and outdoor concerts. Autumn brings fewer crowds and a more relaxed vibe. And in winter, this great city turns on the charm with captivating window displays, glittering lights and a charming riverside Christmas market.

Each day of our 3 day London itinerary has a different flavor. Day 1 takes you to the heart of this historic city, taking in iconic landmarks such as Westminster Abbey and Big Ben. Day 2 has you exploring London’s top riverside attractions and Day 3 adds a regal touch with two palaces and three beautifully landscaped parks. Of course, you can mix and match your days – and your mode of transport – to suit your mood and the weather. If it’s raining, swap out parks for public galleries and take the bus or tube instead of walking. You can bring back the green spaces when the sun comes out.

To save time during your 3 day London itinerary, make the most of London’s excellent public transport network. Efficient and user-friendly buses, overground and tube services, plus river buses are all waiting to whisk you off to your next destination. The Elizabeth Line is the city’s futuristic, super-accessible new recruit, whooshing visitors from Heathrow straight to Bond Street, or the city’s financial district Canary Wharf, further east. Stunning works of public art by nine artists were integrated into the design of seven of the new stations, as part of the Crossrail Art program.

Don’t forget the time-honored Hop on/Hop off London Big Bus Tour for the classic double-decker sightseeing trip, beloved of all capital cities. Here at Window Seat, we’re always happy to jump on board for a birds-eye view of this vibrant city, come rain or shine.

Day 1: the classics

To begin your 3 days in London itinerary, hop off the tube at Charing Cross, exiting on Trafalgar Square, London’s “village square” and host to everything from demos and dance festivals to political rallies and New Year’s Eve revelry. Climb the steps to the neo-classical National Gallery at the top of the square and you’ll be rewarded with a great view across the fountains, Nelson’s Column and down the hill towards the familiar face of clocktower Big Ben. Look across to the left and you’ll see the magnificent Baroque church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, completed in 1726 with a gleaming Corinthian portico looking over the north-east corner of the square.

Pop into the gallery for a look at Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne, if you’re so inclined. Just keep an eye on the time and keep your 3 day London itinerary top of mind! From the gallery steps, walk down Whitehall with the entrance to the 18th century Horse Guard’s Parade visible on your right. Here, two mounted household cavalry sentries stand guard – get the timing right and you can pause to watch the formal “changing of the guard” on the hour. Further down Whitehall, you’ll glimpse “Number 10 Downing Street” in a row of classic Victorian houses behind black railings, home to the UK’s current Prime Minister.

Soon, you’ll reach Westminster Bridge. With a wonderful view of the river stretching away on both sides, you’ll notice the iconic Palace of Westminster, informally known as the Houses of Parliament, to your right. The great clock and bell of Big Ben dominate its north end. Then, walk back around the Square to explore Westminster Abbey, taking a peek inside this gothic masterpiece. The cathedral’s Cellarium Café could be a handy lunch option here – or for soothing leafy surroundings, try St. James’s Café over in the park. Around the corner on King Charles Street, you can visit Churchill’s Cabinet War Rooms, a fascinating underground time capsule where the machinations of WWII played out in the hands of Churchill and his cabinet.

Back up in the open air, head across Green Park to Piccadilly, the busy street connecting Hyde Park Corner with Piccadilly Circus. Cross the road and turn into White Horse Street to find charming Shepherd Market, a pocket piazza of cobbled streets, lovely old Victorian pubs and cozy tea rooms. Back on Piccadilly, you’ll see London giants the Royal Academy on your left, and the Ritz hotel on your right. Opened in 1819, beautiful Burlington Arcade is England’s oldest shopping mall and the most elegant we’ve seen.

Now head back over Piccadilly and check out the ever-gorgeous window displays at luxury food emporium Fortnum & Mason, founded as a humble grocery shop in 1707. Feeling weary? Take afternoon tea at their Tea Salon. If a classic British afternoon tea is high on your to-do list, feel free to check out our luscious Window Seat top picks for teatime. A little further on, the 17th century St. James Church was Sir Christopher Wren’s personal favorite.

Once you’re at Piccadilly Circus, you can make your way up Regent Street for endless shopping and on to Oxford Circus, where you can catch the tube to just about anywhere. Alternatively, take the opposite route from Piccadilly Circus, this time along Shaftesbury Avenue, the beating heart of London’s world-renowned theater land. Walk across into Soho, or head up to Covent Garden, both areas brimming with gorgeous eateries, buzzing bars and the most extraordinary buskers and mime artists. If you’re looking for refreshment, you’ll be spoilt for choice here with cafés, bars and restaurants in every direction. It’s the perfect way to finish the first day of your 3 day London itinerary.

Day 2: riverside delights

We begin at London Bridge station, an ultra-modern travel hub accessible by bus, tube, overground train or even boat. Marvel at the Shard soaring above you in the clouds and head down the hill, away from the station. Cross the road and enter friendly, bustling Borough Market, one of the oldest in London and host to over 100 mouthwatering stalls, restaurants and shops. You won’t resist an artisan pastry or two, so pop them in your bag and head to Southwark Cathedral, just a couple of minutes away. This quiet and atmospheric church is at the heart of the Bankside community and home to a much-loved Shakespeare memorial statue and stained-glass window.

Climb back up the steps and cross London Bridge for more heart-stopping city views in all directions. Turn right at the other end and a short walk takes you to the majestic, medieval Tower of London. Built in the 11th century, this bewitching moated fortress holds the priceless Crown Jewels, strikingly dressed Beefeater Guards and nine captive ravens whose departure – legend has it – would signal the imminent demise of the Crown.

Next, take a Thames Clippers river bus from Tower Pier, located in front of the Tower. Leaving every 20 minutes, this handy boat service takes just eight minutes to arrive at Tate Modern. Inside, you can take in some spectacular art and catch the outdoor viewing platforms for incredible views across the river. Back outside, turn right and walk along the river until you reach the unmistakable Globe Theatre, a faithful reconstruction of Shakespeare’s most famous stomping ground. Then, head back and cross the Millennium Bridge for more breathtaking views up and downstream, as you head towards the marvel that is St. Paul’s Cathedral.

That’s a full day – and from Christopher Wren’s cathedral steps you can ponder where you’d like to go for your final evening in your 3 day London itinerary. One option is to head back across the river and choose one of the many riverside bars and restaurants on offer – they cover every budget and all offer the same glorious nighttime views of the river and the cityscape beyond.

Day 3: palaces and parks

Today, your 3 days in London become a little more regal. Begin at Kensington Palace in Kensington Gardens, 10 minutes’ walk from High Street Kensington underground station. The palace has been home to countless royals, including the Princes William and Harry, and you can visit the state apartments. Wandering on through this green oasis in the direction of Hyde Park, you can also spend time at the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain.

Move down towards Kensington Gore to view the ornate golden Albert Memorial, commissioned by Queen Victoria, and on the opposite side of the road, in-the-round music venue the Albert Hall. Head back into the park and to your left you’ll glimpse the Serpentine Gallery, a bastion of modern art that’s well worth a pitstop. Choose a light lunch at their popular Magazine Restaurant or relax with your picnic among the trees.

Continue walking towards Hyde Park Corner and if you have time, take a right turn from South Carriage Drive, across Knightsbridge and down Knightsbridge Green to Brompton Road. Glitzy and colorful, this is the area for high-end shopping and living. Visit the vast and luxurious Food Halls in Harrods department store, a sumptuous feast for the eyes and a particular favorite here at Window Seat. Why not take a deep breath and buy yourself ingredients for the poshest picnic in town? Then, cross over Brompton Road and head back to the park.

As you cross the West Carriage Drive, elegant Kensington Gardens turns into fabulous, 350-acre Hyde Park. You’ll witness a joyful parade of Londoners, day-trippers and tourists enjoying this magnificent space, from tennis and rollerblading to boating and even swimming in the Serpentine, an artificial lake created by Queen Caroline in 1730. You may also see well-to-do riders making their way along historic Rotten Row, a sandy bridleway created for King William III.

Continue walking to reach busy Hyde Park corner, exiting via the Grand Entrance, an impressive triple archway. Built in 1828, it includes a reproduction of the Parthenon frieze. Nearby is the 18-foot-tall statue of Achilles, cast from a captured French cannon and erected in honor of the Duke of Wellington. The very grand Apsley House, otherwise known as “Number 1 London”, is home of the first Duke of Wellington and his descendants. Standing on the traffic island with pedestrian access, the imposing Wellington Arch boasts a triumphal design by Decimus Burton and forms the centerpiece for Hyde Park Corner.

Cross the road again, reaching Green Park on the other side. If the weather’s hot, you can hire a deckchair here and take a breather. Green Park offers gentle wooded undulation down to Buckingham Palace forecourt, home to the new King, Charles III.

Now, make your way back up to Piccadilly and walk towards Piccadilly Circus before heading up Regents Street for all the window shopping you could wish for. Near Oxford Street, you will encounter London legend Liberty’s department store. This flamboyant Tudor Revival building was constructed with the timbers of two ships, and it houses an eclectic range of designer goods, fashion and furniture, alongside haberdashery and the famously bold and colorful Liberty prints. From here, you can wander through to the bars and eateries of Soho before heading to your hotel for some well-earned rest.