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How to Spend the Perfect Weekend in London – A 3-day Itinerary

How to Spend the Perfect Weekend in London – A 3-day Itinerary

Last Updated on January 22, 2024

I don’t think any other European city can rival London in all the things it has to offer, in terms of culture, food, nightlife, markets, shopping, green spaces, things to do, theater, and areas for urban exploration. A a weekend in London is always a good idea! No matter if you’re heading to Britain’s capital for 48 hours or for 36 hours, this London itinerary has everything you must see and do – especially if it’s your first time in town. But even if you’ve already been to London, read on to find some inspiration for how to spend a couple of days eating, drinking, and sightseeing your way around The Big Smokehow to spend a weekend in London

A 3-day London itinerary

This is my suggested itinerary for three days in London (but if you only have 48 hours in London, feel free to leave out the activities that don’t appeal to you) – including the must-see London landmarks, afternoon tea, my favorite museums for some culture but also some cool street art spots, the best walks and my favorite green spaces, delicious food and evening activities. If you haven’t booked your trip to London yet, you can check out the best London Holiday rentals with here.weekend in London

Day 1: Royal London and London’s most iconic sights

I usually start my London explorations with a walk from Victoria Station all the way to St Paul’s Cathedral, or if I’m not too tired yet, a little further into the ‘City of London’ to take in the views from the Monument and to finish with a pint in Leadenhall Market.

From Victoria Station, follow the signs to Buckingham Palace. If you’re really into the royal family, you can visit the palace during the summer months (tickets start at £32). But for most people it is enough to glimpse through the fence and snap some pictures of the guards in their fancy uniforms.

The ‘Changing of the guards‘, which takes place at 11.30am (daily between April and July, every other day the rest of the year) is a great spectacle to catch, and it’s free, so you might want to time your visit so that you can see itinerary

From Buckingham Palace, walk over to Green Park and follow the lake until you reach the Horse Guards building, where you’ll encounter another typical London sight: the Horse Guards, as the name implies. From there, walk down Whitehall, past Downing Street, and you’ll reach Big Ben and the Houses Of Parliaments, across from Westminster Abbey. Cross Westminster Bridge and turn left onto the South Bank, where you’ll follow The Queen’s Walk along the river.


Here’s where you can stop for a ride on the London Eye (£30) or continue on towards Millennium Bridge, a pleasant walk that’s just over a mile long. Before crossing the bridge, make sure to check out the current exhibitions at the Tate Modern, London’s most famous contemporary art museum, which is housed in a former power station. It is one of my favorite contemporary art museums in the world (and it’s free!). Heading up to the cafe is a good idea no matter if you’re a fan of modern art or not, because the views from up there are fantastic.


Once you’ve crossed Millennium Bridge you can decide if you want to pay St Paul’s Cathedral a full visit (tickets from £25) or just peek inside (well worth a peek, I say, even if you don’t want to pay for full access).

If you’re not visiting the church, head further east until you reach the Monument, a freestanding  202-ft (62 meters) tall column that offers probably the cheapest views over London at £6. The catch? You have to climb 311 steps to get up there, there’s no elevator to be found. However, for your effort you get a neat certificate that confirms that you successfully climbed to the millennium bridgeAnd now you definitely deserve a pint – and a short ten minute walk from the Monument, you find Leadenhall Market, a beautiful covered market dating back to the 14th century (and representing Diagon Alley in the first Harry Potter movie!). Unless you’re heading there on a weekend, you’re also likely to encounter dozens of ‘suits’ there – people who work in London’s finance sector.

Most banks and financial institutions have their offices in this part of the city, and bankers, like most other people, tend to enjoy an after work pint (or two). Mingling with them makes for an interesting experience though. There are also some restaurants in Leadenhall Market – if you’re looking for a typical British pub dinner, head to the Lamb Tavern.


Day 2: Notting Hill and Central London

Start Day 2 with breakfast in Notting Hill – Walk up Portobello Road and pop in to some of Notting Hill’s antique shops along the way, or simply admire the neat Georgian, Edwardian and Victorian architecture. If you happen to be in London over the weekend, I’d recommend heading here on Saturday when the famous Portobello Road Antiques Market takes place – but come early, it gets pretty crowded around noon.London ItineraryThree of my favorite breakfast places right on Portobello Road are the Electric Diner, Egg Slut (next door) and Lowry & Baker (also great to just pick up a coffee). Another breakfast spot worth mentioning in the area is Granger & Co (by Australian celebrity chef Bill Granger – but reasonably priced). For an extended Notting Hill walk, I recommend turning right onto Westbourne Grove. 

Head back south on Garway Road until you reach Kensington Gardens, and go for a stroll in this beautiful park which is basically an extension of Hyde Park. If you are into art, I recommend stopping at the small Serpentine Gallery right in the park which has always interesting exhibitions (free admission). Walk eastwards through the park until you hit Marble Arch, the giant arch on the northeastern corner of Hyde Park.

Afternoon Tea in London

You might begin to feel hungry again, and now it’s time for afternoon tea! The classic British afternoon tea consists of mini sandwiches and scones, pastries and fruit tarts in some form – all combined with tea, of course, which you select from an exquisite tea menu. Many restaurants offer a glass of bubbly in addition to tea.

In my opinion, afternoon tea has to be included in a weekend in London itinerary, and luckily there are dozens of afternoon teas to choose from. Among my all-time favorites are the Alice in Wonderland – themed Mad Hatter Afternoon Tea at Sanderson, haute couture Prêt-à-Portea at The Berkeley, or Fortnum & Mason for a very traditional version. Check out this comprehensive Conde Nast Traveler guide to the very best afternoon teas in London.

Afternoon Tea at the Arch London

After afternoon tea, head to Oxford Street for a little shopping spree. After some retail therapy on London’s most iconic (and busiest) shopping street, you might want to get away from the hustle and bustle here. Turn right (southwards) onto Argyll Street (just after Oxford Circus) which leads to the pedestrianized Carnaby Street. Here you’ll find more independent shops, different from the big High Street chain stores, and plenty of options for a quick bite or drink.

Follow Carnaby Street all the way down to the end and you’ll find yourself right in the heart of Soho, which really comes to life after dark. If you’re a theater buff like I am, I suggest ending the day with a West End show. is a good place to start looking which plays have good deals, and you can find a comprehensive guide to finding cheap Westend theater tickets here. West End tickets are much cheaper than Broadway tickets, by the way!

If you’re not into musicals or plays, end the day with a drink or dinner in Soho. Places I recommend are: Franco Manca for pizza, Oka for sushi, Bao (to-die-for Taiwanese street food), Fernandez & Wells for tapas and wine, Princi for tasty Italian food, Busaba Eathai (Thai), and Yalla Yalla for Lebanese food and Kapara for Middle Eastern, to give you just a few ideas.

For drinks, check out the French House (great beer selection), the Lyric Tavern for a solid British pub experience, Mr Fogg’s House Of Botanicals for a unique cocktail experience, the Experimental Cocktail Club if you’re looking for a speakeasy experience (good luck finding it). If you want to enjoy a drink in a super cool environment, head to Cahoots, which is located in an abandoned Underground Station. Notting Hill

Day three: Markets and street art in East London

Day 3 is all about East and North London. If you’re visiting over a weekend, I’d plan to do this day on a Sunday. Start with a stroll through Columbia Street Flower Market (only on Sundays), or begin right in Brick Lane, where a massive flea market takes place every Sunday. Take your time and take in the street art around here, the flea market stalls, head into the Old Truman Brewery which is now filled with artsy shops and galleries.

On the southern end of Brick Lane you’ll find plenty of Indian and Bangladeshi restaurants which is what the area is famous for. Make sure to be hungry enough for a curry – here you’ll get the best curry in London. You may be overwhelmed by the large number of restaurants – I recommend consulting Tripadvisor or Foursquare before you decide which one to go to, or check out this rating of every curry restaurant on Brick Lane.Notting Hill

After lunch, head over to Pettycoat Lane Market if you’re into fashion – you can find some amazing bargain deals here (note: also only on Sundays).

Street Art in East London

If you love street art, I suggest checking out some of East London’s cool graffiti scene (you will have seen some in Brick Lane already), but it’s a bit tricky to find all of the colorful pieces, which is why I recommend taking a free London street art walking tour (tipping mandatory!) with a local guide who will also give you some insights on the artists and East London in general. The tour runs five times a week at 2pm, online reservations are necessary. If you can’t make the tour, here’ are two self-guided street art walks:

East London street art and Brick Lane

Since this day is all about markets, you can’t miss Camden’s famous markets, which can be an all-day activity – it’s easy to get lost in the giant maze of different markets, all set around the locks of Regent’s Canal. Since I moved to London for the first time in 2005, the markets have become a major tourist attraction and some of them have also seen a revamp.

And yes, it is crowded, but it’s still one of my favorite things to do in London, and the food stalls alone are worth the trip to Camden. If you’ve still got stamina after all the market strolls, head south along Regent’s Canal until you reach Primrose Hill. It’s a lovely walk and the views over London from the top of Primrose Hill are unbeatable (on a sunny day, that is!).Camden Town

Tips for visiting London with little time and little money:

First of all: I wrote a detailed guide on how to visit London on the cheap – check it out! It complements this 3-day London itinerary well and has a ton of tips on how to save money on a trip to London.

Get an Oyster Card

– Pick up an Oyster Card, London’s transportation card. It is much cheaper to travel on public transportation with an Oyster Card – with it, a day ticket for Central London will cost you £8.10.

Buy a London Pass

– If you are planning to visit a lot of the attractions that aren’t free, such as the Tower Of London, the London Eye and Buckingham Palace, consider buying a London Pass which is £75 for two days and £89 for three days. Here’s a good article that explains when it’s worth buying a London Pass and when it’s better to skip it.Big Ben and Westminster

A cheap Sighteeing Tour on the Iconic Red Bus

– There are two local buses that pass most of London’s major sights and landmarks, such as Tower Bridge, Hyde Park, Tafalgar Square and Oxford Street. If you’re pressed for time, get an Oyster Card with a day ticket – at £5.25 (buses only) much cheaper than the hop-on hop-off buses that cover pretty much the same route. You can find a list of the best bus routes for sightseeing in London here.

Take advantage of the free London museums

– If it’s raining during your weekend in London, head to the museums. The great thing about London is that most of its fabulous museums are free! My favorites include the National Portrait Gallery, the British Museum, the National History Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum, but have a look at this list for more free London museums.

I hope this article helps you plan how to spend 36 hours in London!


London Itinerary


Monday 7th of December 2015

Brick Lane is a lovely area for shopping and wandering, but it's the last place I'd recommend a visitor to London for curry. It very much caters for the tourist trade and the quality is much lower than some other areas - have a look at Tripadvisor, and you'll see none of the Brick Lane curry houses come anywhere near being the best rated in London.

Probably the best in that area is Cafe Spice Namaste in Whitechapel (which is about five minutes walk from Brick Lane). Or I'd suggest trying one of the other areas with big south Asian populations - like Southall in West London or Tooting in South London. They are off the tourist trail and mostly cater for Londoners and local residents Indians & Paksitanis, and the food is generally of a better quality.


Saturday 26th of December 2015

Geoff - I did have some great curry in Brick Lane though - it can be hit or miss, which is why I recommended consulting Yelp / Foursquare / Tripadvisor instead of just walking into a place :) I wouldn't travel to Brick Lane specifically for a curry, but when in the area... I agree with you about Southall though - amazing for authentic Indian food! But barely anyone makes the trip out there. I still remember when I went there and everything was in Indian, all the stores, even a cinema with only Bollywood movies, Indian bakeries.. and the food!! Delicious :)

Linda March

Tuesday 8th of December 2015

@Geoff - I haven't gone far away from the city center on my trip. I've ate on a asian restaurant near Picaddily Square on a good price (like 6 pounds - all you can eat). Maybe in other area of London I can found better cafe's and food.

I am very much interested in a place to have my morning tea, somewhere where I can combine some types of tea and of course, have some internet access for my work. Can you recommend something like that in South London ?

Linda March

Monday 7th of December 2015

Last time I visited London (two years ago), the one day metro ticket was only 8 pounds, I am surprised to learn that now it's almost 12 pounds. Maybe next time I am going to use an Oyster card.

I've walked around in the center of London instead of going with the train, and that was lovely.

But the center of my journey there was the Natural History Museum, we've just passed through there and we've spent like four hours there admiring all the things. The vault was also amazing, with some splendid minerals.


Saturday 26th of December 2015

I was shocked when I found out that a day ticket is GBP12 now - and that's just for Zone 1 and 2!! But I agree with you, Linda, Central London is definitely walkable. The Natural History Museum is one of my favorites in London - such a magnificent building!