London in two and three days
If you have two or more days in London, we would recommend following the one day itinerary in order to get all of the main sights in, and then pick your favourite options from the two and three day lists below:
London in two days:
Use day two to explore some of the magnificent museums and gorgeous galleries that London is so famous for. You could feasibly do 2 in a day if you only hit the collections that really interest you, or choose just one to visit in great depth. Even better, they’re free!!!
Our top recommendations would be:
British Museum – Probably the most famous museum in London. Highlights here include the Rosetta Stone, the popular Egyptian mummies, the Sutton Hoo mask and ship burial, an Easter Island Moai, the Greek and Roman galleries and the controversial Parthanon Marbles. Even the Great Hall itself is magnificent! Open 10:00 – 17:30 every day except 24th – 26th December, 1st January and Good Friday. Nearest tube: Russel Square and Holborn. Museum Lates: Open until 20:30 every Friday except Good Friday! The evening also sometimes features lectures, screenings and special music and dance performances.
Natural History Museum – Our absolute favourite, so much so that we got engaged here! This gorgeous Victorian building is famous for its dinosaurs, Mammals Hall, earthquake re-enactment experience, escalator up through a planet and chunks of moon rock. They even have a dodo skeleton. A dodo, people!! The museum has a butterfly house open in spring/summer and an ice skating rink in winter (tickets required, additional fee) Open 10:00 – 17:50 every day except 24th – 26th December. Nearest tube: South Kensington. Museum Lates: Open 18:00 until 22:00 on the final Friday of the month (except December).
Science Museum – Right next door to the Natural History Museum, this is another major tourist attraction, dedicated to technology and discovery. We particularly like the Exploring Space gallery. You can see the singed spacecraft used by Tim Peake on his journey to and from the International Space Centre, the Apollo 10 command capsule, Stephenson’s Rocket, a full size replica of the Eagle (as in “Has Landed”… the moon lander used by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin in 1969) and a Soviet BESM 1965 super computer . They also have a massive award winning IMAX 3D cinema screen, with showings every 30 minutes. Tickets for the IMAX are £11, the museum is free. Don’t miss the shop! Open 10:00 - 18:00 (last entry 17:15), every day except 24th – 26th December. Museum Lates: Special themed events 18:45 – 22:00 on the last Wednesday of the month. Free event, ticket required. 18+ only
National Gallery – The big colonnaded building in Trafalgar Square is the 4th most visited art museum in the world, famous for its collection of over 2300 paintings including works by Botticelli, Titian, Cezanne, Seurat, Monet, Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt. Turner, Renoir and Van Gogh. Open 10:00 – 18:00 every day except 24th – 26th December and January 1st. Nearest tube: Charing Cross or Leicester Square Museum Lates: Open til 21:00 on Fridays
National Portrait Gallery – Right next door to the National Gallery, and you can absolutely do both in 4 hours. This art gallery was the first portrait gallery in the world when it opened in 1856, and houses a vast collection of portraits of historically important people in British History. Our favourite rooms are 1 and 2: the Early Tudors and Elizabethan England galleries, which feature 16th and 17th century paintings of Henry VII, Elizabeth of York, Thomas Wolsey, Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII, Katherine Parr, Edward VI, Mary I, Elizabeth I, Mary, Queen of Scots, and Sir Walter Raleigh. In room 3 you can see Henry IV, Henry V, Richard III and William Shakespeare (the first portrait acquired by the gallery in 1856, and though to be the only portrait of the playwright painted from life), again all 16th/17th century. Other famous faces include Lord Byron, Charles Dickens, the only surviving portrait of the Bronte sisters, painted by their brother Branwell, Charles Darwin, Winston Churchill, John Lennon, Darcey Bussell. Horatio Nelson, Queen Elizabeth II, Germaine Greer, David Bowie, John Keats, Princes William and Harry and Harold Pinter. Open 10:00 – 18:00 except 24th – 26th December Nearest tube: Leicester Square Museum Lates: Open til 21:00 on Fridays
Tate Britain Gallery – The home of British art from 1500 to the present day, plus international modern and contemporary art. The gallery has the largest collection of Turner’s work in the world and two rooms dedicated to sculptor Henry Moore, plus paintings from artists as varied as John Singer Sargent Millais, Rosetti, David Hockney and Francis Bacon. Open 10:00 – 18:00 except 24th – 26th December Nearest tube: Pimlico Museum Lates: 18:00 – 21:30 First Friday of the month except January, plus drop in workshops, music and talks.
Top Tips to complete your day:
· After visiting the British Museum, catch the 38 bus to Tysoe Street and go to Exmouth Market for dinner. We LOVE the Kolossi Grill for family run traditional Greek meze, and Cinnamon Tree for outstanding Indian food.
· If you’re visiting the Natural History Museum or Science Museum in South Kensington, you could also walk down to visit Harrods and Hyde Park.
· After seeing the painting of William Shakespeare, known as the “Chandos Portrait” in the National Portrait Gallery, drop into the Chandos pub for a pint, 60 yards away down St Martin’s Lane, the road opposite to the gallery entrance.
· After visiting the Tate Britain, you can catch the Thames Clipper river boat from Millbank pier back to Bankside Pier (the Globe) for dinner/ a stroll on the Southbank, or alternatively from the Tate it’s a 15 minute walk through beautiful Regency terraces to the Cask pub and Kitchen on Charlwood Street – great selection of craft beers, gourmet burgers, and their parmesan and truffle oil fries are to die for!!
3 days in London
With a third day in London, you can explore the city further. Why not take the time to visit one or two different areas of town, further away from the main sightseeing centre? Here are our favourite options:
Visit London Zoo! Located on the edge of Regents Park, this is the world’s oldest scientific zoo and has a number of listed buildings, such as the giraffe house, old penguin house and the Snowdon Aviary, as well as fantastic modern exhibits such as the tiger enclosure, set within a colourful Indian town, and the Gorilla Kingdom. We especially like the walkthrough rainforest house with a nocturnal house underneath, the reptile house and Penguin Beach, the largest penguin pool in England. 15 minutes walk away is Primrose Hill, where you can enjoy stunning panoramic views of the London skyline.
Spend the day in Maritime London, in beautiful the World Heritage Site of Greenwich. Catch the DLR to the Cutty Sark station and explore the historic covered market and the magnificent Cutty Sark clipper. Admire over 200 ships’ figureheads, plus a cannonball and Nelson’s uniform from the Battle of Trafalgar at the National Maritime Museum, stroll amongst the beautiful classical buildings of the Old Royal Naval College, and walk up the hill to the Royal Observatory where you can see huge telescopes, watch a show at the Planetarium and stand astride the Meridian Line. This is a gorgeous part of London and you can easily spend a whole day here. Buy your lunch from Greenwich market and stop for a drink in the Trafalgar Tavern, a lovely Victorian riverside pub.
Head east and spend a day exploring Whitechapel and Spitalfields, Jack the Ripper’s old haunt. Join a walking tour and learn more about the terrifying history, go shopping in Spitalfields market and the vintage shops around Old Truman’s Brewery, wander amongst old Huguenot houses and stuff yourself silly on incredible Indian food on Brick Lane. the Whitechapel Gallery of contemporary art is a short walk away on Whitechapel High Street, and for some neon Hipster fun, Junkyard Golf is just around the corner from Brick Lane. Don’t miss having a pint in The Ten Bells, Grade II listed and decorated with original Victorian tiling, the pub is linked to two of Jack the Ripper’s victims and features in the graphic novel and film adaptation, From Hell. We also love The Astronomer, a Fuller’s pub 5 minutes walk away on Middlesex Street. Great pies!
Hit Camden Market in the morning for serious retail therapy. A maze of vintage threads, vinyls, quirky art and jewellery located in and around a historic former stables. Pick up some picnic supplies from one of the many food stalls and walk up to Hampstead Heath. Head up through the vast green space to the famous Parliament Hill viewpoint where you can stop to admire the London skyline. Right up at the top of the Heath is Kenwood House, a former stately home from the 17th century where you can enjoy your picnic on the lawns running down to the lake in front of the house’s creamy facade. In spring time you can see hundreds of bluebells and snowdrops in the surrounding woodland. Leaving the Heath, just a little further along the main road is the Spaniards Inn, a fantastic historic boozer dating from 1585 with the best beer garden in London where John Keats apparently wrote Ode to a Nightingale. It is said that Dick Turpin’s father was the landlord of the pub, and that allegedly the famous highwayman himself was a regular here.
Visit the rainbow of pastel coloured terraced townhouses and antique stalls of Portobello Road – Saturday morning before 11:30 (before the crowds become unbearable) or Friday is best when everything is open, although most of the brick and mortar shops are open on week days, even if the whole market isn’t. Take your time treasure hunting for vintage clothes and quirky antiques or camp out in a café and people watch. Oh and if you want to find Hugh Grant’s blue door from Notting Hill, it’s at 280 Westbourne Park Road. Next, walk to Kensington Palace, Queen Victoria’s birthplace and childhood home and now the official residence of Prince William and Katherine, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Princesses Margaret and Diana also spent time living at the palace. Visit the lavish King’s State Apartments, once belonging to King George II, and the cozy, intimate Queen’s Rooms, little changed since the time of Mary II, wife of William III, when they bought the palace as a home away from the bustle of Whitehall. In the exhibitions dedicated to Queen Victoria you can see her wedding dress, and one of her black mourning dresses after the death of her husband Albert.
Why not use your third day for an excusion out of town?
Take the train to Windsor, only 55 minutes out of Waterloo station. A third day in London allows for a cheeky excursion out west to this beautiful historic town. You can pay a visit to the oldest inhabited castle in the world, and the Queen’s favourite weekend getaway, Windsor Castle. (Save £4.50 on your ticket using our link) While visiting the 11th century castle, be sure to see St George’s Chapel where Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles, and more recently Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, and Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank, were married. The chapel also has a number of famous royal burials, including King Edward IV and his wife Elizabeth Woodville, King Henry VI, Queen Jane Seymour, King Henry VIII, King George III, King George IV, King Charles I, King Edward VII, King George V, King George VI and his wife Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (the Queen Mother), and Princess Margaret. The town centre itself is lovely – don’t miss Windsor Royal Shopping, situated inside a Grade II listed Victorian Railway station, and if it’s a beautiful day, why not take a leisurely stroll down to Windsor Great Park down The Long Walk? As you might guess, this is not a quick journey, but a fantastic 3.5 mile route through ancient forest and herds of red deer, with an iconic view of Windsor Castle in the distance behind you. At the top of Snow Hill is the famous Copper Horse statue of King George III, and from here you can see Eton College and the distant arch of Wembley stadium.
Alternatively, you could catch the train to another historic Royal residence, Hampton Court Palace. (Save £4.60 on each ticket using our link!) Only 37 minutes out of Waterloo Station, this is one of the favourite homes of Henry VIII,. In the following century, King William III had much of the palace destroyed, and rebuilt in a elegant baroque style to rival Versailles. This leaves the building in two very distinct halves, with the Tudor architecture instantly recognisable by its red brick gatehouse, knot gardens and cobbled courtyards, and the elegant wings of Sir Christopher Wren’s rebuilding backed by jawdropping pleasure gardens. There is so much history – King Henry VIII brought all six of his wives to live here. It is where Jane Seymour died, a few days after giving birth to Henry’s longed for son and heir, and Catherine Howard was arrested for treason – it is said that her ghost still runs screaming along the corridors. The Great Kitchen evokes King Henry’s love for feasting, and the magnificent Chapel Royal still has the Tudor vaulted ceiling, from the 1530s, painted blue with gold stars. In 1603, William Shakespeare’s ‘King’s Men’ first performed Hamlet and Macbeth for the new King James I, and his son King Charles I was held here under house arrest after the Civil War. The Georgian exhibition, exploring the beautiful bedrooms and living quarters of Kings George I and II and their families. George II was the last monarch to live in the palace, and Queen Victoria opened it to the public in 1938 shortly after coming to the throne.
And there you have it- 3 days in London. And you’ve barely scratched the surface! Until next time…
Disclaimer - this post contains affiliate links: if you make a purchase through this link we will make a small commission at no extra cost to you, but enables us to make a living from our blog.