I had a close friend come and visit us for three days for a long weekend. The gauntlet was thrown — how to see London in three days? Well, I am here to tell you how to see one of the largest cities in a quick weekend.
Tucker arrived late Wednesday night, so we really only had time to fall asleep, but when arriving in Heathrow, I will say the best and fastest way to get to city central is using Heathrow Connect or Express. Depending on the train, you can get to Paddington station within about 20 minutes. This is a much better alternative to using the underground which could take over an hour to city center.
We woke up early Thursday and made our way to Buckingham Palace first. Out of sheer convenience and no pre-planning whatsoever, we happened to catch the changing of the guard. (Click here to see all the dates and times.) It was quite a to-do and very ceremonial complete with horses and a mini-parade. After that, we headed toward Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. From Buckingham Palace, it’s about a 10 minute walk through St. James’ Park, which could not have been more beautiful.
We did not have the forethought to pre-buy tickets for Westminster Abbey, and the queue was around the building. So we didn’t go inside, but we did take many pictures of the Houses of Parliament and the glorious facade of Westminster. We had, however, bought Fast Track tickets for the London Eye. We crossed the beautiful bridge over the Thames River and headed for our pre-determined date for the giant Ferris Wheel.
Fast track was completely worth the extra pounds. We waited in line for maybe 20 minutes after watching the 4D experience (which was not worth the 4 minutes) before making it onto our own cubicle. The London Eye is a 30 minute ride all the way around, and the views are spectacular. You can’t take a bad picture (unless you only get construction cranes in your frame). I was a little sad we couldn’t see Tower of London or the Gherkin from the air since we were around the bend in the river, but we did get awesome shots of the Houses of Parliament.
We ended the day at The British Museum since that was a big destination for Tucker. However, I didn’t look online to see when it closed, which during the week is 5:30p. With only an hour to see a fraction of the place, we decided to get back there first thing the next morning to round out the visit.
Friday morning began with the jaunt to The British Museum, and from there, we were very close to Trafalgar Square and then 10 Downing Street. We walked through the London West End taking in the sights snapping pictures of the war memorials sprinkled along our path to end up at the Prime Minister’s abode.
From there, we made our way toward Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. Right now, the Tower of London is celebrating the 100 year anniversary of WWI, so there are floods of red poppies, one for each soldier killed in action. As we crossed the bridge, we got to see it in action as a schooner sailed under the peaked road.
We walked past City Hall, which resembles a rugby ball, and walked toward the Tate Modern and Shakespeare’s Globe. We had plans to see Antony and Cleopatra that evening at the Globe, so decided to see St. Paul’s Cathedral that afternoon. But again, my planning wasn’t on point as they close for visitors at 4:30p for the Evensong.
So we had some dinner and waited for my husband to join us for the play at the Globe. The experience sitting on hard seats and with open air was incredible for this play, but that will be saved for another blog entry.
Saturday morning, we made our way to St. Paul’s Cathedral first to make sure we got to see it. Please click here to read about our experience at the cathedral.
After spending the morning at St. Paul’s, we walked toward Borough Market to find food. It was absolutely crazy being the weekend at lunch time. We were a bit overwhelmed but managed to find some oddities to eat. These vendors do prefer cash rather than a credit card, so that is something to keep in mind when visiting the market. Credit cards need to a minimum of £10.
From there, we walked the mile toward the Imperial War Museum. That weekend was the grand reopening since they completely refurbished it. That meant we were seeing an almost brand new space, but also everyone who wasn’t at Borough Market was at the museum. We couldn’t get in to see the WWI exhibit because of the mass of people, so I will have to go another time and write a proper entry about the museum.
Tucker was leaving Sunday afternoon, so we made some time to see one last thing in the morning. We decided to make the last thing Piccadilly Circus to get the complete tourist experience in. It was not as intense with people though, which was surprising. From there, we wandered through St. James’ Park again missing the chance to walk through Hyde Park, but we had to leave something for Tucker to see when he comes back.
If you are coming to London, but only have three days, I suggest a couple of things:
1) Look up opening and closing times for where you want to go.
2) Have cash on hand (but also don’t have any more than you can stand losing in case of pick pockets).
3) Study the underground so you can get from one place to another with ease.
4) Prioritize what you really want to see versus what you can just take photos of. I do regret not being able to show Tucker Westminster Abbey, but I’m glad we got to see St. Paul’s Cathedral.
5) To save cash, don’t eat in the major touristy areas and buy snacks from local stores like Tesco or Cost Cutter.
6) Always, always, always carry water–and then also coins for public toilets in case you can’t find a coffee shop to sneak in to.
7) Have umbrella, will travel! You never know being on an island.
I’m sure I have more suggestions, but those are the main ones that come to mind. London is an incredible place, and it is possible to see more than you can imagine in just three days.