72 Hours in London, England

Our Thoughts

How to spend three days in historic, London, England—a favourite city of mine and one that I inhabited for six months in 2019. Prepare yourself (and your feet!) for a ton of walking and get ready to enjoy 72 full hours exploring this charming European hotspot.

How to spend three days in historic, London, England—a favourite city of mine and one that I inhabited for six months in 2019. Prepare yourself (and your feet!) for a ton of walking and get ready to enjoy 72 full hours exploring this charming European hotspot.

Trip Details

When we went: Our last visit was in June, 2019

Where we stayed: The Chesterfield Mayfair in the heart of Mayfair. It’s a gem of a hotel, with a breakfast worth writing home about and ease of access to London Paddington, the Heathrow Express and the tube to downtown.

Why we went: My wife Cathy and I went with two friends of ours to play tour guide for their first visit and enjoy a shared vacation.

Day One in London

From wherever you’re staying, take the tube and head out to St. Paul’s Cathedral. St Paul’s Cathedral is an Anglican cathedral in the heart of London. The original church was founded in AD 604, and the present Cathedral, which dates back to the late 17th century, was designed in English baroque style by Sir Christopher Wren.

The Cathedral was part of a major rebuild after the 1966 Great Fire of London and is now referred to as the old St. Paul’s Cathedral. It’s one of the most famous and most recognizable sites of London. It’s grand dome, framed by the spires of Wren’s City churches, has commanded the London skyline for well over three centuries. It’s the second largest church building area in the United Kingdom, second only to the Liverpool Cathedral.

The Cathedral is a working church with hourly prayer and daily services. Buy your tickets online to save—at the door it will cost your 20 pounds as an adult. For those who worship, no charge. I strongly recommend that you take the guided voice headsets for an insightful tour of such an impressive structure.

The Tower of London

When you’re finished with St. Paul’s, you have a choice of walking 20 minutes, or you can do as I prefer, and take bus 15, St. Paul’s, four stops to Great Tower Street.

The Tower of London is a historic castle dating back to the 12th century. If you’re a history fan, be sure to go inside and discover 1,000 years of London’s past. Highlights include getting a tour by Yeomen Warders, or Beefeaters as they’re commonly known, and seeing the crown jewels which are still regularly worn by the Queen at important ceremonies.

After a couple of hours in the Tower, I suggest you walk over the Tower Bridge towards the south bank. The south bank is a hub for arts and culture. Before you pass city hall and HMS Belfast, both of which are open to the public, you will come across bustling Borough Market.

Borough Market

The Market is an ideal lunch spot, filled with artists and food stalls selling local and international cuisine. Even if you’re not hungry, it’s one of the oldest markets in London and worth seeing.

The Market is the entry point to the south bank, and from here all the way to Westminster Bridge, you can pick and mix from a whole host of galleries, museums and sites.

Borough Market

Views and Entertainment

See London from above by taking a ride on the iconic London Eye—but only if you have time. You can always save it for day three should your agenda allow. Alternatively, venture up The Shard, which is currently the highest building in Europe. From either of them you’ll have a great view of St. Paul’s Cathedral on the south bank, as well as most of the iconic London sites.

As you stroll, you’ll come across the Tate Modern—it’s England’s National Gallery of Modern Art and includes work by Monet, Picasso and others. As with all London galleries and museums, access to the permanent collection is free of charge.

If you’d like some entertainment, there’s no shortage of options on the south bank and Shakespeare buffs will not want to miss a visit to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, where you can take a tour or catch a matinee or evening performance. The National Theatre, Southbank Centre, The Old Vic, The Young Vic and IMAX also have an ever changing program of film, theater and arts. Check their websites for current stage schedules.

River side view of south bank

As you’re sauntering next to the River Thames you’ll notice you’re getting ever closer to Westminster Bridge where the south bank ends. From here, you’ll have a good view of the Elizabeth Tower, Big Ben, which is the actual clock bell, and the houses of parliament. Cross the bridge to see them up close, along with Westminster Abbey and Parliament Square. Guided tours are available of both the Abbey and Parliament, or you can do the self guided tour of the Abbey, which is typically what we do.

To close out the first day, take in one of the south bank shows and eat at one of the many restaurants along the way. You’ll find everything from sushi to pizza tacos. For a special treat, and a slower pace, choose the OXO Tower Restaurant or a gourmet pub such as the Anchor and Hope Pub.

You could also cross the Golden Jubilee Bridge to Embankment and dine at bustling Gordon’s Wine Bar. Although I warn you, this place is extremely busy. It’s a 19th century wine bar—a candle lit, vaulted cellar. If you do manage to secure a table, I strongly suggest you take it.

Big Ben

Day Two in London

Take the tube from your accommodation to Trafalgar Square, and from the Square, head to Buckingham Palace. It’s a must for most visitors to London. The royal residence is where you’ll see the changing of the guard—it takes place every other day at 11:30 a.m., or daily throughout the summer. Get there 15 minutes early to get a good view.

From the Palace, take a wander through St James’s Park back towards Trafalgar Square. The park makes a great spot for people watching, and if that’s not your cup of tea, check out one of the many galleries. The National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery and the ICA are nearby.

Soho, Covent Garden, Leicester Square, Chinatown and Piccadilly Circus

Yesterday you saw the city from the river, now it’s time to dip into its streets, which are best explored on foot. Spend some time wandering around Soho and Covent Garden, taking in Leicester Square, Chinatown and Piccadilly Circus.

There are plenty of lunch spots to choose from—from cheap and cheerful sandwich spots like

Pret a Manger, which we love, to high end restaurants like The Wolseley or Hix. Neal’s Yard is a colourful enclave with a few different and reasonably priced cafes to choose from.

If you’re a keen shopper, spend your afternoon on Neal, Carnaby, Regent and Oxford streets. For high-end designer shopping, try the department stores Liberty and the quintessential English store of Selfridges.

If you prefer museums, then don’t miss the British Museum, which is worth a visit for the ceiling alone. It’s home to a vast collection of world art and artifacts, including Greek sculptures and Egyptian mummies. Its permanent collection has 8 million pieces of work.

A great way to break up the sightseeing day is by taking afternoon tea. There are plenty of places to choose from, and our favourites include Fortnum & Mason and The Ritz.

Dinner and a Show

In the evening, stay in the center and catch a west end show—check what’s showing online and purchase tickets in advance. The Lion King, Phantom of the Opera, Matilda and the Book of Mormon are staples, though many shows come and go, depending on the time that you arrive in London. Best to browse online.

If you’ve still got energy after dinner, or post theatre, try some of London’s bars and clubs. Jazz at Ronnie Scott’s or cocktails at Milk & Honey won’t disappoint. For nightclubs, try Fabric London, The Trendy Village Underground or something more intimate, like Cargo.

And as a luxury late night treat, make your way to the 24-hour Duck and Waffle restaurant on top of the city’s Heron Tower. Access is via a glass lift that offers stunning views of the city.

Day Three in London

Leave the hustle and bustle of the city and head to Paddington Station on the Great Western Railway. Take a train that stops at Windsor & Eaton. The ride will take you 30 minutes. Once you’ve arrived, spend the day at Windsor Castle.

The Castle is steeped in royal history and is no stranger to hosting royal weddings. The tour of the Castle will take you two and a half to three hours at a leisurely pace and gives rich insights to Britain’s monarchy.

If the weather is good, book a table for a late lunch at The Boatman pub. It’s a short walk, 10 minutes or so, from the Castle on the River Thames.

Afterwards, stroll back to Windsor & Eton Central for your train back to the city and to end three days with a fine meal.

Finish Your Trip with English Fare and Flare

For delicious English fare, head to Rules. Rules is one of the oldest restaurants in London, and it’s near Covent Garden‰-so an after dinner walk through an eccentric neighbourhood is certainly in the cards.

For something a little different, head to Soho and try the Brasserie ZÌ©del. It’s a stunning art deco style French restaurant, complete with a jazz bar.

No matter what your trip to London entails, don’t fear the tube. It’s well-signed, well-mapped and a fun, economical way to get around. London, it’s lovely!

London, Summarized

  • St. Paul’s Cathedral
  • The Tower of London
  • Borough Market
  • London Eye
  • The Shard
  • Tate Modern
  • Visit Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre for a matinee or evening performance
  • Buckingham Palace
  • St James’s Park
  • Shop on Neal, Carnaby, Regent and Oxford streets
  • British Museum
  • Sip slowly on your afternoon tea at Fortnum & Mason or The Ritz
  • Enjoy jazz Ronnie Scott‰’s or cocktails at Milk & Honey
  • Late night, check out Heron Tower’s Duck and Waffle 24-hour restaurant
  • Walk Windsor Castle
  • Finish your trip with a decadent meal at Rules or Brasserie ZÌ©del

Looking for where to stay in jolly ole England? Read our review on The Chesterfield Mayfair hotel.

Andrew Taylor

For Andrew, travel is so much more than just learning history or taking photos. Rather, the value of travel is witnessing a lifestyle, bonding with locals, and gaining rich cultural experiences. That’s why he founded the Luxury Wanderer; a place to share itineraries, offer advice, swap stories, and foster a like-minded community of curious travellers.

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