There’s so much to see and do in the UK’s capital city that it can be a bit overwhelming to try to plan a long weekend there. How can you possibly visit London in 3 days? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with our guide to the must-see sights if you only have 3 days in London including all the top attractions as well as some secrets off the beaten path. Without further ado, let’s get exploring London!
Unexplored places in London
You’ve got an idea of the top attractions to see during your 3 days in London - but what about lesser-known sights?
Deep below Waterloo station, discover the Vaults, a network of tunnels packed full of some of the city’s coolest graffiti and street art. The Leake Street graffiti tunnel which was founded by Banksy is open to the public at any time. The other tunnels, home to several different theatres of performance spaces, are ticketed with prices depending on the event you’re going to see.
The highest public garden in London, Sky Garden is just a 4-minute walk from St Dunstan, making it the perfect combination. The garden is free for all, but it’s recommended that you book a ticket. There are also two bars and two restaurants here, so you can grab a drink and enjoy the panoramic views over the city from the outdoor terrace.
Less well-known than some of London’s more popular markets, like Borough Market, this covered market is a must-visit gem with a beautifully ornate roof. Harry Potter fans might even recognise it as parts of the market featured as Diagon Alley in the films.
Located within Holland Park in Kensington, this friendship garden between the UK and Japan is a wonderfully serene place to get away from it all. Get lost among the pretty sculptured gardens and watch the peacocks roaming free as you take a break from wandering along the streets of Notting Hill.
If you’re exploring Carnaby (See below) and surrounding Soho, be sure to keep an eye out for the noses dotted around the district. Artist Rick Buckley has hidden seven casts of human noses, attached to buildings, throughout the area - worth a photograph if you spot one!
Not to be confused with London Bridge, which is roughly half a mile along the Thames, London Bridge is the most striking bridge in the city. A working bridge that’s over 125 years old, it’s a distinctive sight with its two matching towers and two adjoining walkways. Get a unique glimpse of life passing by below from the glass floors in the 42m-high walkways, and don’t miss the chance to get some snaps both of the bridge and from the bridge.
St Dunstan in the East
Mere minutes on foot from Tower Bridge, St Dunstan is a unique place to grab a breather whilst you’re exploring the main sites. Once a grand church, partially designed by Sir Christopher Wren, it was badly damaged in the 1941 Blitz bombings. The tower and steeple designed by Wren remained intact along with the north and south walls.
It was decided that the church wouldn’t be rebuilt and instead it was turned into a public garden which opened in 1971 which remains to this day. It’s a uniquely serene place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and regain your composure for the rest of your long weekend in the city.
St Paul’s Cathedral
Less than a mile away from St Dunstan sits St Paul’s Cathedral, one of the most iconic sites of the London skyline. Featuring another of Christopher Wren’s spires, the church has been a fixture in the skyline for over 300 years. From 1710 until 1963, it was actually the tallest building in all of London and to this day, is one of the highest church domes in the world.
Palaces of Westminster
Just over the Thames, across Westminster Bridge, sits the seat of the UK parliament, the Palaces of Westminster. The Gothic-style building is pretty impressive just to look at, but you can also go inside, either by applying for a free guided tour via your MP or by taking a paid-for tour (open to both UK and overseas visitors) on Saturdays during July and August when parliament is out of session.
Just around the corner, you’ll find Westminster Abbey, a Gothic church in the same style as parliament. It’s famously been the site of many royal weddings, including that of Prince William and Kate in 2011. You can take a look inside but bear in mind that it’s a working church.
Best streets to visit in London
There are some interesting streets you should try to work into your stay in London, that are famous for their shopping, the sights they offer, or just the general atmosphere.
Oxford Street is London’s ultimate shopping street and hard to miss during any visit to the capital. Running from Tottenham Court Road to Marble Arch, intersecting Oxford Circus along the way, it offers 1.5 miles of shopping with everything from high-street names to high-end shops. Don’t miss Selfridge’s, and in particular, its incredible food hall to stock up on treats either to fuel you throughout your stay in London or to take home.
Whilst exploring Oxford Street, take a detour down Carnaby Street, a pedestrianised shopping street in Soho that’s famous for being the heart of the Swinging Sixties. Before you head onto the street itself, pause to take a photo of the iconic Liberty department store, and then explore the streets of the Carnaby district. Once home to iconic fashion designers such as Mary Quant, today it still houses many independent shops, as well as bars and restaurants.
Home to one of London’s most popular markets, Portobello Street Market, this two-mile-long street is buzzing at the weekend as locals and tourists alike browse the wares of the market and visit the artisan coffee shops that line the street.
In the east end of London, Brick Lane is famous for its amazing curry houses, but you’ll also find fantastic street food vendors serving up every cuisine imaginable on Sundays. Sunday is also market day, with more than 200 stalls in the Sunday Upmarket selling art, fashion, food and more. It’s also home to some of London’s best street art, making it the perfect photo opportunity.
Best place to photograph in London
Brick Lane isn’t the only place in London to get your camera out. If you’re a keen photographer you’re in luck, as the city is packed full of incredible Insta-worthy locations.
St Paul’s from Millennium Bridge
This is the best spot to get a picture-perfect snap of St Paul’s Cathedral. From the centre of the bridge, the cathedral is framed by the City of London’s contemporary architecture for a stand-out shot - although you’ll have to go either very early or very late to avoid the crowds.
Phone boxes behind Covent Garden
If you’re hitting Covent Garden for a spot of shopping, be sure to head around the back of the square onto Broad Court where you’ll find a cute row of five red telephone boxes, one of the quintessential hallmarks of London.
Just a short walk from Covent Garden and you’ll come across Neal’s Yard, a bright and colourful little nook full of shops and cafes. Get here early before the crowds arrive and snap away.
Notting Hill houses
This whole region is picture-pretty, but to the back of Notting Hill Gate Underground station, you’ll find a neighbourhood full of colourful facades. Wander around Hillgate Place, Hillgate Street, Uxbridge Street and Farm Place taking snaps of these quirky pastel-coloured houses, and then grab a coffee in one of the many cafes along Uxbridge Street.
The Churchill Arms
Nearby in Kensington, you’ll come across the Churchill Arms, which is surely the most decorated pub in all of London. Its exterior is decorated according to the seasons, with floral displays in spring and summer, and Christmas lights in December.
The view from the Shard
For one of the best bird’s-eye views in the city, head up the 95 floors of the Shard to get some snaps from the top. You’ll get great views across the city, particularly of Tower Bridge.
A series of tree-lined canals stretching from Hyde Park to Warwick Avenue, this photogenic area is easy to fit in if you’re taking a stroll around Hyde Park or hitting the shops on Oxford Street.