London is huge and the list of things to do is seemingly endless. With only 3 days in London we ticked off the major attractions and managed to see some other attractions along the way.
Here is our 3 Day itinerary for London.
Before you arrive
There are a number of things you can do to prepare for your London trip. The sooner you organise a few things the cheaper they will be.
- Wi-Fi – To save on expensive roaming coasts on our mobile phones, we organised a TEP wireless roaming device. The small portable Wi-Fi arrived within a few days of ordering and I made sure I charged it before leaving home. The device allowed for strong continuous Wi-Fi whilst we were in the UK. This meant I wasn’t charged any roaming fees from my provided in Australia and I could use my phone while we were walking around London. It was perfect.
- Heathrow Express – by booking a ticket more than 30 days in advance I was able to pay £8 for the 15min direct trip from Heathrow to Paddington. Children under 15 are free on the Heathrow Express
- Booking WB Studio Harry Potter Tour – this needs to be booked as far in advance as possible to avoid disappointment. You can read about our HP Studio tour here
- The Underground – children can apply for discounted tube fares which needs to be completed in advance
- Sky Garden – a free ticket to this amazing view needs to be booked the week before you are planning to visit
- Travel after London – if you are heading to other places in the UK the further ahead you book a train trip the cheaper it is. We headed to Chester for £15 one way when it can be up to £200 with Virgin Trains.
The list of where to stay is endless and can be overwhelming. We chose to stay in Park Grand Paddington Court. Even though the rooms were so tiny, as many places are in London, the location is key. Paddington is so central and was the perfect choice for our stay. Paddington is easily accessible via the Heathrow Express (children u/15 are free on the Heathrow Express) which meant we only took 15mins to get from Heathrow to our accommodation. Paddington is also walking distance to many attractions and to different Tube stations.
London is a dream to get around as the public transport system is brilliant. Buy an Oyster Card which you use to tap on and off when catching trains and busses. Once you have reached the maximum spend for the day the remaining of your travel is free.
Start with a stroll through Kensington Garden and Hyde Park where you will be able to spot squirrels along the way. The Serpentine is a nice stop to hire a pedal boat or to look at the swans. The Princess Diana Memorial Playground is a perfect place for the kids to have some fun and for parents to sit down and have a coffee.
From this area it is a walk to Buckingham Palace to watch the changing of the guards and enjoy the area around here which is grassy and in Spring time full of daffodils. The next walk is down The Mall to the Horse Guards area which leads through to Whitehall. There are two options here: turn right and this will lead you to Downing St, Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. If you turn left from the Horse Guard you will head to Trafalgar Square then through to Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus. While in Leicester Square there are many cheaper ticket outlets for the many theatres. Polly and I saw Matilda while we were in London. We purchased these tickets directly from the theatre on the day we wanted to see the show. It worked out well buying on the day as we could gauge how we were feeling and what we wanted to see. While you are in the Leicester Square area head to China Town which is a great place to stop for lunch or dinner. After dinner stroll down Regent’s Street and marvel at the beautiful buildings are then have a shop along Oxford Street.
Use your Oyster Card to tap on and off the Underground Train System (the Tube) and head to St Paul’s Cathedral. We decided not to head inside as it is £18 each so we walked around the cathedral and admired from the outside. The beginning of your walk begins here with lots to see along the way. Head over the Millennium Bridge which is featured in the Harry Potter Movies. This bridge will have you crossing the Thames and leads directly to the TATE Modern Art Gallery. There is many interactive exhibitions for the kids to be involved in and lots of art to view for free. There is often paid exhibitions to view as well. The walk along the Thames River from the TATE to the Tower Bridge is approximately 2km and has many sites that you can tick off along the way. Shakespeare’s Globe theatre is first which you can see a play or tour the theatre. Depending on the day you visit the Borough Markets is along the way and is full of deliciousness. Once fed keep walking along the riverfront where you will pass the London Dudgeons. We had heard that it is very scary and not for kids that can be easily frightened. Polly was not interested but I know my boys would have had a ball here.
Head pass the HMAS Belfast and keep walking along the riverfront where you will see the Tower Bridge in all its glory. There are many photo opportunities to capture the bridge. Head over the bridge and walk along it. There is the choice to head to the top of the bridge and walk along the glass bottom view platform. We were keen but the queue was very long.
Once across the Tower Bridge you will arrive at Tower of London where the Crown Jewels are on display. I can suggest you book your tickets to the Tower of London in advance to avoid the queues.
After the Tower of London head up to the Sky Garden. These tickets are free but must be booked a week before your visit. The view is amazing and is a very similar view to The Shard which is £30 per person. The Sky Garden is on level 35 and the Sky Garden itself is spread over three levels of interior gardens and bars. There is an outside viewing area that has views over London. Just brilliant! Within a few minutes walk of Sky Garden is the Heritage Listed Leadenhall Market which was established in 1321 – quite unbelievable. The Market is said to be the inspiration behind Diagon Alley in Harry Potter.
End the day with a visit to the Natural History Museum. The building itself is amazing from the outside. We visited in the morning during London school holidays and it was very busy. Plan to head there in the later afternoon when the younger visitors have headed home. The blue whale skeleton in the main hall is the main feature. Plan to spend a few hours here. Entry is free.
Begin the day at the British Museum, aim to be there as it opens to beat the crowds and get the best out of your visit. We picked up the guide that outlined the main features to see and concentrated on these exhibits. This museum is free to enter.
Depending on what day of the week you are visiting, head to Notting Hill and walk to the Saturday markets of Portobello Road. Or an alternative is head to the Camden Markets.
A must on your list is to head to the Harrod’s Food Hall and look at the amazing displays. We were in awe in the bakery and had to try a few items. There is places in the Food Hall to grab a coffee or to sit down in the sushi bar.
For other Harry Potter experiences in London head to King’s Cross Train Station to have your photo taken going through Platform 9 ¾. And for all your Harry Potter shopping needs head to Primark. We visited the huge Primark at Tottenham Court and also another near Marble Arch. It is truly Harry Potter heaven. Polly spent many hours looking at Primark and buying Harry Potter and other London souvenirs and cheap clothing items. You can read about our trip to Harry Potter studios here.