Visiting London for the first time? Here’s the perfect 2-3 day weekend in London itinerary.
London has been calling us (from their red phone booths) for some time now. So, we packed our bags to check out one UK’s oldest cities for a long weekend. From Big Ben to Westminster Abbey, London’s historical attractions are endless, and there is always something to see, do, and eat.
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Last Updated: June 2, 2023
11 Best Things to Do in London for Your First Visit
With the Go City London Pass, we had the opportunity to check out a few popular attractions, as well as some other points of interest that were recommended to us by the Go City team.
We organized our days based on area. Here are a few things you shouldn’t miss when visiting London.
weekend in London itinerary Day 1
For our 3 day weekend in London, we picked what to do each day based on what was nearby in each area.
1. Take a Picture with Big Ben
London SW1A 0AA, UK, map
Speaking of icons, everyone knows what Big Ben is, even if you’ve never been to London. Even though it’s currently closed for renovations and restorations, you can still stop by and snap a quick photo with Big Ben. The Houses of Parliament, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is attached to the clock tower. It is currently still open for tours.
It’s a 10-minute walk from Westminster Abbey if you want to knock out a couple of places simultaneously.
Local Tip: Best photo spot is under Westminster Bridge, which leads right up to Big Ben. Arrive before sunrise to avoid the crowds.
2. Westminster Abbey
Dean’s Yard, London SW1P 3PA, UK, map
Westminster Abbey was our favorite attraction, hands down. It is steeped in centuries of history and has significantly shaped the British monarchy, religion, and culture. It has been the site of numerous royal weddings, coronations, and burials, including that of British monarchs and other notable figures throughout history.
We enjoyed the self-guided audio tour, which provides visitors with detailed information about the site’s history, architecture, and notable features. Check out key areas, such as the Poets’ Corner, the Coronation Chair, and the Royal Tombs.
Local Tip: Entry is free if you’re attending Sunday service, but they do not provide tours during this time.
3. Buckingham Palace
London SW1A 1AA, UK, map
It’s a longer stroll to Buckingham Palace from Westminster Abbey, but you can walk through Hyde Park on the way. Buckingham Palace attracts millions of visitors annually and holds endless cultural and symbolic importance. It’s a must-visit destination for tourists from around the world. Check out the Changing of the Guard ceremony and admire the architectural splendor.
To get the best picture of Buckingham Palace, you can head to the Victoria Memorial, located in front of the palace. It offers a great vantage point for capturing the grandeur of the palace’s façade.
Local Tip: The Changing of the Guard ceremony typically occurs daily during the summer months (April to July) and on alternate days for the rest of the year. Be sure to check the official website for the most up-to-date schedule. The ceremony usually starts at around 11:00 AM and lasts approximately 45 minutes. Arrive early to secure a good viewing spot!
4. Kensington Palace
Kensington Gardens, London W8 4PX, UK, map
Glimmering golden gates, opulent State Rooms, and stories of Queen Victoria’s birthplace are just a few things you can’t miss at Kensington Palace. Don’t miss your chance to visit the historic King’s State Apartments and the Queen’s State Apartments.
They’ve been meticulously restored to their former glory, providing a glimpse into the luxurious lifestyles of past monarchs. The historic Sunken Garden, where Diana, the Princess of Wales Memorial Statue stands, also can’t be missed.
Pro Tip: Get there early to avoid huge crowds, especially on weekend days. We made reservations to tour the palace when it opened.
weekend in London itinerary Day 2
We started day 2 of our long weekend in London at Tower Bridge. After the bridge, we checked out the Tower of London at one end of the bridge and Borough Market at the other end. Finally, we ended the day with a Thames River Cruise.
5. Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge Rd, London SE1 2UP, UK,map
We relished the hike up the 206 steps and the magnificent views of the River Thames. Tower Bridge is such an iconic symbol of London. Once you reach the top, walk across the glass floor walkways where you can capture great photos of London’s skyline and learn about the engineers who designed the historic structure.
Naturally, we wanted to get some shots with the bridge. Here are a couple of our favorite photo spots:
- The Queens Walk is the most popular place to take photos with the Tower Bridge as your backdrop.
- More London Riverside – this metropolitan area gets crowded, so go early morning if you don’t want anyone else in your photos.
Local Tip: Plan to visit the Tower of London since it’s nearby.
6. Tower of London
London EC3N 4AB, UK,map
See the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London, a 900-year-old castle and fortress. It was pretty neat to see the crowns, scepters, orbs, and other regalia used in royal ceremonies by the monarchs.
Pro Tip: Consider joining one of the Yeoman Warder guided tours, which your admission includes. Their knowledgeable guides share fascinating stories about the Tower’s history.
7. Borough Market
London SE1 9AL, UK, map
Where all of your gastronomic dreams become a reality, from farm-fresh produce to yummy street food, your taste buds will rejoice after eating through one of London’s oldest markets. We loved the freshly shucked oysters at Richard Haward Oysters and the piping hot paella from Bomba. I wanted to carry an entire cheese wheel from Kappacasein.
Local Tip: Most food stalls are outdoors, so dress accordingly.
8. Thames River Cruise
Westminster Pier, London SW1A 2JH, United Kingdom, map
Embark on a Thames River Cruise with City Cruises of London and immerse yourself in the beauty and history of the city from a unique perspective. We loved the panoramic views of London’s renowned landmarks, such as Tower Bridge and the iconic Big Ben. Throughout the cruise, knowledgeable guides provide fun facts and stories about the landmarks you pass along the way.
City Cruises offers a variety of cruise options to suit your preferences. If you have more time, consider partaking in an afternoon tea or romantic dinner cruise.
Pro Tip: Try to secure a seat on the open-air deck for the best photo opps and unobstructed views.
Weekend in London itinerary Day 3
Because it is a trek to get out to Watford, you want to plan for a pickup and transportation. You will spend half the day here. We returned to London, did some shopping, and ended the long day with delicious food and desserts in London’s Chinatown.
9. Warner Brothers Studio Tour
Studio Tour Dr, Leavesden, Watford WD25 7LR, United Kingdom, map
The Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studio Tour offers an enchanting and immersive experience for fans of the Wizarding World. Step onto actual film sets and see behind-the-scenes secrets on how they created the iconic film series. The detailed costumes, original film sets, and interactive exhibits utterly blew us away.
Their food court serves up film favorites (think Butter Beer, Hogwarts-themed burgers, and chocolate frogs) and afternoon tea. Check out the very extensive shop where you can purchase a customized wand on your way out. You’ll easily spend half a day here!
Pro Tip: Be sure to book early in advance since they only sell a limited number of tickets daily. Don’t forget to schedule ample time for travel as it’s not in Central London.
10. Check Out Iconic Shopping
87-135 Brompton Rd, London SW1X 7XL, UK, map
London is renowned for its quintessential shopping streets that offer a wide range of fashion, luxury brands, department stores, and unique boutiques. Here are some of the most famous shopping streets in London:
- Oxford Street: Located in the heart of London, Oxford Street is one of the busiest shopping streets in the world. It stretches over a mile and is home to numerous flagship stores.
- Regent Street: Just a short walk from Oxford Street, Regent Street is known for its historic architecture and a mix of upscale boutiques and department stores.
- Bond Street: Bond Street is synonymous with luxury shopping in London. This exclusive street is home to high-end fashion boutiques, prestigious jewelry stores, and renowned art galleries.
- Harrods on Brompton Road: Slow clap A London shopping icon. Even if you’re just window shopping at this historic department store, we recommend buying a delicious pastry from one of their many cafes.
Local Tip: Take advantage of the famous Christmas light displays that decorate these streets during the holidays.
11. Eat Around Chinatown
Gerrard Pl, London W1D 5QJ, UK, map
I would move to London’s Chinatown for the food! Luckily (or not), our hotel was just a couple of metro stops away from Chinatown, and we ate there every day of our trip.
Be sure to get authentic soup dumplings from Dumplings’ Legend, fresh pineapple buns from The Eight, and Peking duck from The Duck and Rice. Wash everything down with a cold bubble tea at my all-time boba shop, Happy Lemon.
Local Tip: Venture beyond the main streets and explore the side alleys, shops, and hidden gems. These lesser-known restaurants provide a unique dining experience away from the crowds and serve authentic Chinese food.
Map of the Best Things to Do in London
More Things to Do in London
If we planned for more time, I wish we got to visit neighborhoods like Notting Hill and Cambridge as well as these things to do in London.
- Have Traditional Afternoon Tea
- British Museum
- Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
- The London Eye
- St. Paul’s Cathedral
- The Beatles Museum (Liverpool)
- The Seven Stars, London’s Oldest Pub
Best Places to Eat in London
Here are a few places we tried and loved:
- Dishoom (Various Locations) $$ – At dinner, a limited number of reservations are available for parties of six or more guests. You’ll most likely be waiting in a long line, so prepare in advance. If you’re lucky, they’ll serve you some of their famous chai while you wait.
Haidilao Hot Pot $$ – Josh isn’t the biggest fan of hot pot, but he claims Haidilao is the best he’s ever had. We don’t have a location at home, so this place was beyond our expectations. They also provide snacks and drinks in the waiting area. Come hungry.
- Cafe TPT $ – Known for authentic Hong Kong street food such as beef ho fun and minced pork hot pot. If you’re feeling adventurous, we recommend the lemongrass soft-shell crab.
- Evelyn’s Table $$ – A Michelin-star restaurant led by Head Chef James Goodyear. Think intimate tasting menu with 18th-century pub vibes.
Best Places to Stay in London
- Book what you want to do in advance. Because London is such a popular destination for so many, we missed out on some things, like Afternoon Tea, because they were already fully booked.
- You don’t have to tip here, like most countries outside the US, but if you feel inclined, you can round up to the nearest Pound or tip 10-12% of your bill total.
- Purchase the London Pass for the metro system, bus, and more. You can also use your tap to pay international credit card and pay as you go, but it will cap off at around £8 per day. See more details here.
- Always wear layers, pack an umbrella or raincoat, and wear comfy shoes. You’ll be walking plenty. London is known for its rainy and cloudy weather.
- The UK uses a type G plug for most appliances, so bring a universal adapter for your electronics.
- Be mindful of the traffic flow as drivers in the UK drive on the left side. Exercise caution and pay attention to the signs at crosswalks and bus stops.
- Pickpockets are common in London, especially in crowded areas, tourist spots, and on public transportation. Check your surroundings and avoid distractions like using your phone excessively or wearing headphones that might limit your awareness.
- Get a Go City London Pass to check out multiple attractions. The pass gives you access to over 90 popular attractions, including several on our list, at a fraction of the cost.
Which of these things to do in London are on your travel bucket list? Anything else you would add to a weekend in London itinerary?
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“Discovery consists not of seeking new lands but in seeing with new eyes” – M. Proust
Josh + Macy
Josh and Macy are creative southern kids who love exploring local and international cultures. They’ve long believed that traveling is about getting out of your comfort zone and trying new things. They are currently based out of Atlanta.