Maybe you’re jetting over from the East Coast for a weekend getaway, stopping for a few days on your way to another European destination, or looking for things to do in London during a work trip. Whatever brings you to the Big Smoke, there’s no shortage of historical gems and modern treasures to uncover over the course of 3 perfect days in the English capital.
We definitely recommend picking up an Oyster Card for public transportation to help you zip between sights—the Tube is easy to use and a London icon in and of itself. The 3-day London Pass comes with an Oyster Card plus skip-the-line entry to more than 60 landmarks and monuments around town, making it an excellent choice if you’re short on time and planning to visit multiple attractions.
Read on for all the things to do in London that we’d put on our 3-day itinerary.
Rise, shine, and get some exercise in one on London’s gorgeous royal parks. The city’s not lacking for green space, so you can take your pick of walking and jogging trails from Hyde Park (swing through Kensington Gardens to wave hi to Will and Kate) to Regent’s Park, with its weeping willows and roses.
Afterward, fuel up for the day over a full English at your hotel or a local pub and head off to soak up some royal history at Hampton Court Palace, the 16th-century castle of Henry VIII and his ill-fated wives. Learn all about the trials and tribulations of court life under this tempestuous monarch, and then study the elegant Baroque additions made to the interiors by William and Mary.
Carry the elegance on into the afternoon with tea at the Kingsway Hall Hotel’s Harlequin Restaurant, where you can sip steaming cups of English breakfast or floral-scented rosebud tea alongside finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream, and decadent chocolate truffles. It’s the perfect treat to ease you into the evening, when you head into the bustle of Soho for a show in London’s famous West End theater district. Catch a rousing musical or enjoy a spooky performance of long-running play The Woman in Black to bring the curtain down on your first day in London.
Kick off your day with a jaunt over to Windsor Castle, the preferred weekend residence of the Queen. Set on a wooded hill overlooking the Thames, this grand estate is home to works of art by Rembrandt and da Vinci as well as the final resting place of monarchs like Henry VIII. Explore with the expert guides at Golden Tours to get extra insight into the history behind areas like the lavish State Rooms. Be sure to check out Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, an incredible tiny structure complete with working elevators, electricity, and tiny bottles of wine.
Back in the heart of London, it’s time for lunch. Head to Brick Lane and follow your nose to the area’s famous Indian eateries for a flavorful curry, or opt to let a guide from Eating Europe Tours take you on a progressive lunch through the hip East End, combining a walking tour of area eateries with bites of classic dishes.
As the afternoon winds to a close and the sun sinks down, make your way into Whitechapel, the former stomping grounds of mysterious serial killer Jack the Ripper. Meet a guide from Premium Tours for an eerie look into the darkest corners of London’s past. Hear theories and legends about the notorious Ripper, who stalked London’s streets and terrified its inhabitants at the end of the 19th century. Then, roam the lanes around Smithfield Market, listening to ghost stories and tales of true crime. The tour ends at the Sherlock Holmes Pub, the perfect place to swap stories over a pint and consider lingering for a plate of fish ‘n’ chips or other hearty pub fare for dinner.
Mosey on over to Marylebone for a morning of brunch and shopping in one of London’s most charming neighborhoods. Pop into high-end boutiques, upscale patisseries, and cozy bookstores as you explore this chic urban village, and book a table in advance at the Providores for delicious breakfast fare and top-notch people-watching.
Walk off your mimosas and pastries with a stroll among the roses at Queen Mary’s Gardens, and then dive into the wizarding world of the boy who lived with a Harry Potter-themed walking tour led by LetzGo City Tours. See spots around town that sparked the imagination of author J.K. Rowling, pose for a photo sprinting through the wall at Platform 9 ¾, and check out the entrance to the lane that inspired Diagon Alley’s wand shops and butterbeer halls.
In the evening, spend a few hours among the eccentric curiosities of Sir John Soane’s Museum. The former home of a neoclassical architect, this atmospheric den is packed tip to toe with unique personal items, models, and archaeological treasures. On the first Tuesday of every month, the house is lit by candles, making for an even moodier immersion into the mind of this notable 19th-century Londoner.
What would you add to your long weekend in London?