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3 days, 4 nights in London

We'll be in London for 3 full days (actually 4 days since our flight lands early morning, but that first day might be jet-lagged) and am looking for some must-sees in the area. We are staying in the Waterloo area and will not have a car so we'll be restricted to public transportation and taxis/uber. We want to see as much as we can but want to stay at a relaxed pace. What is a good itinerary in our situation? Any restaurant recommendations in the area?

edit: Arriving in early September

Posted by
110 posts

Well mate, you don't specify when you're visiting, which means only a general reply. Be sure to check about Bank Holidays and mid-term breaks that will impact how many bodies there are trying to get to the same places you are.

Generally speaking, not having a car and going by public transport is a good thing for London. Get an Oyster card and a tube map and you'll be fine.

Beyond that, if you're in Waterloo, the London Eye, Westminster, Parliament and Buckingham Palace are all spitting distance to the west. Likewise, Shakespeare's Globe, the Borough Market, St Pauls and the Tower of London are about the same distance in the opposite direction. Add in the British Museum and Kew Gardens and that'll fill your days and nights right quick.

Good luck!

Posted by
110 posts

Late August, you run into the end of the school summer break (which goes until 8/31) and a bank holiday (8/29). Early September looks free and clear by my calendar.

Posted by
920 posts

@Hamlet - We will be in London August 26-31. What impact will the bank holiday have on the usual tourist sights?

Posted by
15267 posts

We want to see as much as we can but want to stay at a relaxed pace.

That's sort of an oxymoron. :O)
And you definitely do NOT want a car in London. Yuck. We also haven't used taxis or Uber but between our feet and the tube, got around just fine.

Since we've never met, I've no idea if my (first-timer's) must-see list will interest you but here it is
Westminster Abbey
Tower of London
St Paul's Cathedral
British Library
British Museum
Museum of London
National Gallery
Victoria and Albert Museum

Walk-bys/walk throughs:
Hyde/Green/St James Parks

I could add lots more to the list but this is probably plenty for 3.5 days.

Posted by
8241 posts

What are your interests? You are visiting one of the greatest cities in the world. Why? What DO YOU want to see?

A car is NOT ever needed in ANY metropolitan area. London is a walkable city and it's public transport is excellent. Please DON't use Uber. Please take a Black Cab. Yes more expensive but also the most knowledgeable taxi drivers in the world. They take a test that can take up to three years to pass. One of the reasons that London is famous is because it's society is built on tradition. If you are going to visit and experience London properly, respect the tradition. BTW, there's a search engine on this forum. See the box above? The box with the iconic Sherlock Holmes like spyglass? If you typed in London restaurants you'll find plenty of responses. Otherwise use Google Satellite street view. Type in the address of where you are staying, then ask for restaurants nearby and ......Bob's your uncle.

Lastly, it would be to your advantage to buy and read the RS Guide to London. Don't work for the man, simply saying from experience it's a very practical and useful guide for first time visitors.

Once you are able to convey what is important for you to see and do in London, you'll find proper responses.

P.S. Can posters PLEASE stop hitchhiking onto other's posts. Bad form.

Posted by
91 posts

London is great for NOT having a car , if the sites are close together easier, faster to walk then taking the TUBE , be sure and eat at all the local pubs .. love pub food.

Tower of London , Westminster Abby , museum's in one day , Buckingham Palace changing of the Guard happens at 11 : 00

I would take one day going early to see Windsor Castle easy to go by train -, Victoria Station connects to trains that go there.. THIS is one site that I would not miss if going to in London , you just can't believe how big it is till you see in person , its well worth the time . I think the tour takes hour or so "can't remember but you don't have to visit the church. The train station is right near Windsor Castle . Plus it's a quaint village with places to eat lunch , " Crooked House for Tea " built in 1592 I think , not one straight wall does it have. You can walk along the Thames or cross to the other side on one of the bridges. We enjoyed this when there wasn't much traffic , take a taxi and ride from the Tower Bridge to Waterloo then in a big circle seeing the sights on both sides of the river . Not too expensive either depending on how many in the party . I have heard from local's
, friends of mine , there is a famous terrific Fish and Chips place in the Waterloo area. If you like Spanish food we always eat at a Tapais restaurant in London. Can't remember the name we always google it .
St. Paul's church was interesting as I was there for a small service one evening . but for me nothing can compare to Westminster with the Kings & Queen Eliz. others that are buried there . One visit is not enough.

Posted by
11056 posts

With only 3 full days, you will have to prioritize. I think the 3 day London Pass might serve you well, if you are going to see a lot of sites with entrance fees it covers. We used a 3-day pass last week and crammed in so much that we saved 32.00 GBP per person!

Day 1 - after checking in and showering, go for a nice walk. Rick Steves' Westminster Walk (in his book) is a nice overview. It's important to stay outdoors as much as possible so you stay awake, therfore hitting museums is probably not the best idea this day. If need be, take a one hour nap (set an alarm) late afternoon and then get out and do something else before dinner. Maybe the London Eye on a nice evening.

Day 2 - Cabinet War Rooms in the morning (allow at least two hours, arrive at opening to beat the crowds) then after lunch, about 14:00-14:30, go to Westminster Abbey when it is less crowded. The audio guide is fabulous. You might still squeeze in another site if you are energetic. See what appeals to you.

Day 3 - Tower of London (plan 3 hours and go early!), Tower Bridge (great fun to walk across the glass walkway) and St. Paul's for a couple of hours. Rick Steves has a fun West End Walk from St. Paul's down to Trafalgar you could do after you see the great cathedral.

Day 4 - Greenwich (via City Cruise down the Thames), Windsor, the British Museum, a tour led by London Walks or something else that catches your interest.

FYI, instead of Uber, do use a black cab. There is a wonderful app called Hailo for your smartphone that you can use to hail a legal cab with all the convenience of Uber.

Posted by
15267 posts

I would take one day going early to see Windsor Castle easy to go by
train -, Victoria Station connects to trains that go there.. THIS is
one site that I would not miss if going to in London , you just can't
believe how big it is till you see in person , its well worth the time
. I think the tour takes hour or so "can't remember but you don't have
to visit the church.

With only 3.5 days, I wouldn't try and do this one. There is too much in London itself to see in that amount of time, and IMHO, Windsor deserves a good chunk of a day to do properly. And I definitely would not miss St Georges: it's a very old and important piece of architecture, and a personal favorite at the castle. The town of Windsor itself is also a fun walkabout, and what with some pub time before catching the train back, this trip occupied us for a full day.

Posted by
17 posts

Thanks for all the great ideas and tips so far. This is the kind of personal experience I was looking for rather than just googling something. To answer a few questions, we don't have any real set goal as to what to see or what interests us. We just want to see the best of what the city has to offer. Travel for travel's sake. I know 3 days isn't enough to see everything, so I hope just to do the "must-sees" and come back again to see the rest of the city and country. We're doing a week in Italy after London, but we've been there before so we have a good idea of what we want to see and do beforehand.

Posted by
110 posts

(Sorry Claudia)

Stephen - Think about what happens around Labor Day, Memorial Day, and the like. More people trying to get out and "do something" while the weather still holds.

Posted by
8241 posts

Well then if just for travel sakes....start early each day AND;

Day 1: Tube to Westminster, exit. Parliament Square: Houses of Parliament ( can tour inside but must reserve online way in advance) Big Ben, Westminster Abbey. After a tour of the Abbey stroll Birdcage walk through St James Park to Buckingham Palace. From there walk through Green Park to Piccadilly and walk to Piccadilly Circus, continue on the Leicester Square and buy tickets to a play for that night.
From Leicester Square continue walking to Covent Garden. Some where in your walks locate a pub for a respite and a meal, or stop at a cafe. You make the choice. Back to room to freshen up. Dinner before or after theatre. Back to Piccadilly Circus for night time bright light photo ops. Done with Day 1.

Day 2: Tower of London when it opens, head straight for the Crown Jewels then visit the rest of the Tower. From there walk up to Leadenhall Market appreciating the mix of modern and historical architecture in route. From the glass covered market head to Spitafield's market and Brick Lane. Lunch. Then back to Tower Bridge and if not afraid of heights the Tower Bridge Experience. Hop on the tube at Tower Hill and take it to Mansion House. Exit. Wander around the City of London to the new shopping center One New Change. Take the elevator to the roof garden for the view of St Paul's. or wander around St Paul's without visiting the roof garden. From there head towards the Blackfriar tube station and have dinner, a drink or both at The Blackfriar pub. Then walk along the river Thames from the Blackfriar bridge to Westminster bridge. If riding the Millinieum Wheel is some you'd like to do, then see if you can do it after sunset. Day 2 done.

Day 3 Tube to Regents Park, walk through the park, coffee at the small Cow and Coffee Bean. Head off toward the zoo and then follow the canal foot path to Camden Locke Market. Shop, wander, dine there. Then start walking up Chalk Farm road toward the RoundHouse. Cross over the bridge into the lovely Primrose Hill neighborhood and into the park. Climb to the top of Primrose Hill for a great view of London. From here you are on your own to decide what the remainder of your last day in London should be.

If you take any of these suggestions to heart you will have experienced iconic London, different neighborhoods, street markets and great parks.

Be sure to get the Oyster card and the pocket size tube map to carry with you on your exploration of London.