Traveling from Heathrow
The Heathrow Express is an express train connecting Heathrow to Central London. The trains run every 15 mins and the journey is approx. 15 mins to Paddington Station. At Heathrow airport, follow signs to Trains. There is direct access from Terminal 2, 3 and 5. For access to other terminals, a shuttle train needs to be used between terminals.
Once arriving at Paddington Station, there are tube lines connecting to the rest of London.
Cost: £ 25 / person for a one-way ticket or £37 / person for a round trip.
More information can be found here
Tickets can be purchased in advance online, at a machine in the airport, or contactless cards can be used for payment (I.e. credit / debit cards can be directly scanned).
The Piccadilly line and the Elizabeth line both can be taken from Heathrow into central London at a much cheaper, but slower journey, than the Heathrow Express. They operate different routes and thus, should be picked based on your destination.
Piccadilly line - follow signs to the tube to reach the Piccadilly line. It can be accessed from Terminal 2, Terminal 3, Terminal 4 and Terminal 5. Trains run frequently and can be taken directly into central London in about an hour (plus or minus depending on your destination).
Cost: approx. £5 / person
Contactless cards can be used to tap in and tap out of the Elizabeth line. Physical tickets can also be purchased at machines or money can be added to Oyster cards.
Elizabeth line - Similar to the Heathrow Express, the Elizabeth line goes to Paddington Station, but it has additional stops along the way and then continues past Paddington station to East London. The train runs every 15 -20 mins and the duration from Heathrow to Paddington station is 30 mins.
Follow signs to TRAINS and NOT the TUBE when looking for the Elizabeth line.
Cost: approx. £10 / person
Contactless cards can be used to tap in and tap out of the Elizabeth line. Physical tickets can also be purchased at machines or money can be added to Oyster cards.
If traveling with a lot of baggage, getting a car transport into London might be easier. However, unless traveling at early or late hours in the day, it likely is not the fastest option and certainly not the cheapest. If traveling to East London, the journey could take 2 hours.
A typical taxi/car from Heathrow to Hyde Park would be approx. £50.
The Tube is London’s metro system. It can get you close to just about anywhere in the city. Switches may be required but stations are well marked and one can easily switch from one line to another.
All tube stations and buses in London are contactless, meaning credit cards / debits cards can be tapped for payment rather than using the old fashioned Oyster card (tube specific card where money can be added onto at a machine in stations and then the card is tapped for transportation).
For those that prefer an Oyster card, you can purchase an Oyster card at any stop and put money on it (amount depends on the length of your stay). It is easy to add money onto it.
When traveling by tube, you have to tap in and tap out of the stations. However, when traveling by bus, you only need to tap into a bus and do not need to also check out.
TRAVEL TIP - use the Citymapper phone application to help map out the most efficient route for your journey. It provides a quick summary of different options on how to travel from Point A to Point B and is updated due to line closures, strikes, etc.
Knowing London is a large city, it will not be possible to see EVERYTHING in three days. Check out the spots below for ideas on key tourist attractions and see what interests you most for your first trip to London.
Big Ben & Palace of Westminster
Big Ben is the clocktower attached to the Palace of Westminster, also known as the House of Parliament where the House of Commons and House of Lords meet.
Royal church in the center of London, nearby to the Palace of Westminster and Big Ben. Queen Elizabeth's funeral service, as well as many royal weddings including Prince William and Catherine Middleton took place in the Westminster Abbey.
The London Eye is the famous ferris wheel sitting along the south side of the Thames. Book tickets to enjoy a view from one of the large carriages or observe it from afar. Stroll along the south bank of the river starting near the London Eye and heading east towards Tower Bridge for a nice walk.
Buckingham Palace & St. James Park
A London Royal residence, Buckingham Palace draws in visitors year-round. The changing of the guards takes place at 11:00 am.
Tower Bridge & Tower of London
The Tower Bridge is a beautiful and famous bridge known as the icon of London. The Tower of London sits on the north side, which is a historic castle. It previously operated as a prison, but is now a museum to be visited. The crown jewels are kept in the Tower of London.
Famous indoor and outdoor market hall under the train tracks with produce and food stalls to buy street food and snacks. There are also a variety of restaurants, pubs, and wine bars dotted around Borough Market to visit. The market is open everyday, but is especially busy on Saturday afternoons.
Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, & Kensington Palace
Covent Garden & Neal's Yard
Covent Garden is an area filled with British pubs, boutiques, theaters, shops, and restaurants. Check out the market in the center and visit Neal's yard which is tucked away in the streets near Seven Dials. It is an easily missed spot, lined with cute restaurants and bakeries. The courtyard has a few colorful benches and surrounding building walls are also painted with bright colors.
One of London’s taller buildings with a bar and restaurant at the top providing a view of the Tower Bridge. If you are intrigued, consider going up to the bar at the top for a view of Tower Bridge. Drinks are expensive, but you can go up for free and enjoy a cocktail with a view.
Churchill War Rooms
Notting Hill & Portobello Road Market
Notting Hill is a nice neighborhood in West London known for its beautiful pastel colored houses. Some of the best streets to find the picturesque buildings include Portobello Road, Lancaster Road, Denbigh Terrace, and Westbourne Park Road. Nevertheless, if you get lost wandering around, you will stumble upon plenty of quaint roads with nice houses, cute cafes, trendy restaurants, and boutiques. Portobello Road Market is a market focused on antiques and collectibles
A top floor viewpoint located in the Walkie Talkie building in The City. Tickets are free for visitors, but requires reservation in advance as the number of visitors is controlled. Tickets become available on the Monday three weeks ahead of desired ticket dates. There are a few food and drink options at the Sky Garden including City Garden Bar, Sky Pod Bar, Fenchurch Restaurant, and Darwin Brasserie where you can make reservations in advance or drop in for a drink.
Located in Camden Town, Camden Market feels larger than other London markets as it includes numerous food stalls, art stands, and clothings shops. The market is open daily, but not all shops are guaranteed to be open. Your best bet is to go on Friday, Saturday or Sunday when most places are open.
Tourist tip - Friday will be much less busy than the weekend when people pour into the market so expect larger crowds on weekends.
Piccadilly Circus + Oxford & Regent Street
One of the busiest areas in London, Piccadilly Circus is a central square with giant tv screens on the buildings around it. Regent street runs right through Piccadilly Circus and is a common shopping destination, along with it's cross street - Oxford Street
One of the focal points in London, the area of Carnaby is full of restaurants, pubs, cocktail bars, shops, and cafes. The majority of the area is in a pedestrian only area, but the streets are still packed. Get lost in the streets here and pop into Kingly Court if you find it. Hint: Crumbs and Doilies is on the edge of Kingly Court and one of the best spots in London for soft, delicious cookies
A visit to London is not complete without checking out one of the many shows put on in London's West End. Buy tickets in advance, or look for last minute tickets and spend an evening at the theater.
A few notable shows in London include Six, the Lion King, Mamma Mia, Wicked, Phantom of the Opera, and Hamilton.
Known as a common British tradition, afternoon tea can take place at someone’s home, in a cafe or at a fancier establishment. At afternoon tea, guests typically select their tea of choice, which comes accompanied by a variety of finger sandwiches, scones with jam and clotted cream, and concludes with pastries and cake. Splurge with a glass of champagne to start off the experience.
London is a large city with many different neighborhoods, each unique in its own way. The various neighborhoods bring their own charm, personality and feel to the city.
In the morning you could be lost in a sea of pastel colored flats in Chelsea, to then be shopping on the chique streets in Mayfair, and having drinks in a speakeasy hidden among the edgy streets of Shoreditch.
Some key neighborhoods in each area of the city are listed, or read more about the neighborhoods on this page
Snapshot itinerary for 3 days in London
Arrival and check-in to hotel
Long walk in Central London to see key tourist sights including:
Dinner in Central London
Head East to London Bridge
Dinner in Mayfair / Carnaby / Soho West End show
Head east for brunch in Notting Hill
Detailed Itinerary for 3 days in London
Day 1 | Morning
Arrive in London at Heathrow Airport late morning and head to your accommodations. From Heathrow, follow signs to the tube and take the Piccadilly line to Hammersmith, where it is a 10 minute walk to reach the hotel (or a quick taxi if you have a lot of baggage).
As your room may not be ready, drop your bags, freshen up and head out for the day while the sun is (hopefully) out.
Day 1 | Afternoon
Make the most of your first day in London by heading central after dropping off your bags. Head to Hammersmith station where you will be taking the Piccadilly line (navy blue) east.
If you are hungry, consider getting off at South Kensington. The high-end area of South Kensington is lovely to walk around in. Not far from the tube station, you have a few brunch options including Farm Girl Cafe, The Kensington Creperie, or Brown & Rosie or if you would like to try British food, The Builders Arms is a classy pub 10 minutes from the station. The Natural History Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum are both found in South Kensington if these are of interest, but can likely be skipped on a first visit.
Once content on food, if it is still light out, head back to the tube and continue on the route mapped out from Option 2 until Green Park.
If you are fine with a coffee and pastry on the go, take the Piccadilly line (navy blue) from Hammersmith in the east direction until Green Park.
Get off the tube at Green Park and head towards your first touristic destination - Buckingham Palace. The walk is only about 5-10 minutes from Green Park station.
From Buckingham Palace, walk through St. James Park towards the Big Ben. If you enjoy museums, the Churchill War Rooms are located at the corner of St. James Park. Alternatively, keep walking towards Big Ben where you will also see the Palace of Westminster and The Westminster Abbey.
Continue past the Big Ben towards the river, where the London Eye will now be visible. Cross the Westminster Bridge if you would like to purchase a ticket and ride on the London Eye.
If you decide you do not need to take a ride on the London Eye, continue walking along the north side of the river until you reach the next bridge (Waterloo Bridge). At this point, take a left as you are heading towards Covent Garden. The focal point of Covent Garden has an indoor / outdoor market. Many of the streets around Covent Garden are meant for pedestrians only. The whole area is filled with cute cafes, quintessential British pubs, restaurants and lots of shops. Wander around the area and explore.
A few nice places for a drink in Covent Garden include: Lady of the Grapes (wine bar), Casanova & Daughters (Wine bar in Neal's yard), Plume (wine bar), The Alchemist (mixologist cocktails), The White Lion (British pub), and Crown & Anchor (British pub).
Day 1 | Evening
For dinner, if you have not made a reservation, some recommendations in this area include:
La Goccia - Italian
Blacklock - Steak
Dishoom - India fusion (good for walk-ins as they do not take reservations)
If you are happy to make a reservation in advance and plan to stay central for dinner, a few options include:
Ampeli - Mediterranean
Noble Rot - Parisian style restaurant and wine bar
Chiltern Firehouse - fancier British restaurant with great atmosphere and delicious food
Day 2 | Morning
If you are happy to take a coffee on the go, today you will head East shortly after waking up and plan to grab breakfast in London Bridge.
Take the tube east to the London Bridge station. Once at London Bridge, you can find a spot to sit down for breakfast. A few favorites in the area include Where the Pancakes Are, The Breakfast Club, The Table Cafe, Watchhouse, or White Mulberries
Day 2 | Afternoon
After enjoying breakfast, it is worth exploring Borough Market. This is a market open 7 days of the week for produce, meats, breads, and more. The market is unique as it sits under the trains so you often hear the trains moving above. There are a bunch of restaurants and pubs throughout the whole area.
From Borough Market, heads towards Tower Bridge and walk across the famous bridge. Once you reach the other side, you can take a short detour into St. Katherine's Docks by turning right (heading east) or go straight to the Tower of London. At the Tower of London, you can choose to go inside and take a tour or admire from the outside.
Depending on the time, you'll have a few options
Option 1 - If you did not make it to Covent Garden yesterday, consider taking the tube towards Covent Garden and exploring here, with notable spots found above.
Option 2 - check out a new area by going to Piccadilly Circus or Tottenham Court Road. These locations will bring you to the areas of Carnaby and Soho. Walk towards Carnaby Street where there will be lots of shops, restaurants, pubs, and cafes. This particular area is mainly for pedestrians only.
Option 3 - Alternatively, if you plan to change for dinner and the show, head back to the hotel to change leaving time for dinner and drinks before the show!
Day 2 | Evening
Tonight is a night at the theater. As evening shows are around 7:30 pm, you'll need to get an earlier dinner. Head towards Piccadilly Circus, one of the busiest areas in London, and known for the large screens along the buildings in the square. Consider walking up Regent Street a bit to admire the beautiful architecture. Both Regent Street and its cross street, Oxford Street, are very busy shopping streets in London
The Phantom of the Opera plays at Her Majesty's Theater.
Some nice restaurants in the area for dinner include:
Fallow - lively, contemporary restaurant
Hide - a fancy, high-end and well regarded restaurant
Sabor - Spanish cuisine
Goodman - fancy steakhouse
Kitty's Fisher - upscale modern British cuisine
Day 3 | Morning
You will start your last full day in the Notting Hill neighborhood. Take the tube (or a bus) to Notting Hill Gate. The area here is nice for walking around as it is known for having lots of pastel colored flats throughout the neighborhood.
After eating, walk through the streets of Notting Hill. Portobello Road is the focal point of the area, as there is usually a market set-up on the street and there are lots of shops. From Notting Hill, you can head east on foot towards Hyde Park and the Kensington Palace. Enter Hyde Park near Queensway tube station and walk towards Kensington Palace. Hyde Park is a gorgeous park to walkthrough, and you can choose to go into Kensington Palace if you like.
Day 3 | Afternoon
Alternatively, continue through Hyde Park towards South Kensington. This is the area you may (or may not) have stopped on day 1 for lunch. If not, it is worth exploring now. Here you can walk through the nice streets and visit a museum if interested. In South Kensington, Hjem is a nice place for a coffee on the move.
From South Kensington, if you are content walking around, you can continue south towards the area of Chelsea, one of the nicest areas in London, or you can head east towards Harrods. Another common tradition many like to do when visiting London is going to afternoon tea. Afternoon tea should be booked in advance where possible. Harrods, the large department store, offers afternoon tea along with many fancy hotels in London. A few of my favorite afternoon tea experiences include: Fortnum & Mason, Claridges, and The Connaught.
At this point it is likely time to head to the airport. Grab your belongings from the hotel and hop on the Piccadilly line to reach Heathrow airport for your flight home.
Transportation and Accommodations
Day 1 - Exploring the City
Day 1 - Food and Drinks
Day 2 - Exploring the City
Day 2 - Food and Drinks
Day 3 - Exploring the City
Day 3 - Food and Drinks
More information on topics of interest can be found at the below links: