A few weeks ago I took a quick trip to London with my sister. The main reason for the trip was to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child which we bought tickets for 16 months ago! It was exciting to see this trip come to fruition after waiting so long. Given our work schedules, we were only able to stay in London from Saturday until Tuesday, and despite 6+ hours of Harry Potter on Sunday, we were able to fit in a lot! Here’s my 3-day London itinerary.
I’ll admit I didn’t get the best value out of my miles when booking this trip, but I really wanted to fly Virgin Atlantic so I figured I might as well use up my Sky Pesos. I used 70,000 Delta miles and $175.96 for roundtrip economy tickets from Boston to London.
My sister has a friend in London, so luckily we didn’t have to worry about finding a hotel. If I were to use points, I was considering the Intercontinental Park Lane which is very centrally located.
Day 1 – Getting to Know London
We didn’t get into the city until around 2pm on Saturday thanks to 2 hours at passport control! First stop, Borough Market, one of the oldest food markets in London. On a Saturday, you can expect to find lots of delicious samples of cheese, charcuterie, fresh breads, and spreads. For lunch, you’ll find offerings ranging from halloumi fries to börek to roast pig on a spit!
After Borough Market, we took a long walk to see some of the sights. We crossed London Bridge for a view of Tower Bridge and the Tower of London in the distance. We also saw some of London’s most monumental skyscrapers including the Shard, the Walkie Talkie, and the Gherkin.
Next we walked by St. Paul’s Cathedral and Millennium Bridge. Then we continued onto Fleet Street which you may recognize from Sweeney Todd. If you want to stop for a drink, check out the Old Bank of England, which is now a bar! The interior is beautiful so it’s worth a stop. We also walked past the Royal Courts of Justice.
We then walked through Trafalgar Square named to honor the British victory at the Battle of Trafalgar during the Napoleonic Wars. The large monument in the middle of the square is Nelson’s Column, built to commemorate Admiral Horatio Nelson who died during the battle. You can also see Admiralty Arch which leads to Buckingham Palace.
London looks big on a map, but you can see quite a bit on foot!
Day 2 – Check out the West End
Around 11am, we went to the Palace Theater to pick up our Harry Potter and the Cursed Child tickets. We spent the next few hours before Part 1 of the play walking around Leicester Square, Chinatown, and Soho.
We had a few hours in between Parts 1 and 2, so we figured we might as well stick to the Harry Potter theme. We walked to King’s Cross station to take a picture at Platform 9 3/4. I’m embarrassed to admit that we waited in line for about an hour. They have a professional photographer but also allow you take your own pictures. One staff member’s job is to put a Hogwarts scarf around your neck and release the scarf so it looks like you’re running through the wall. I would only recommend this activity if you are a serious Harry Potter fan.
After Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Part 2, we walked through Piccadilly Circus (the UK’s answer to Times Square) into Mayfair to grab a drink at Mr. Fogg’s Residence. The backstory for the bar is that you are visiting the home of Phileas Fogg from Around the World in 80 Days. The menu has drinks from each of the locations Mr. Fogg visits. If you want to check out Mr. Fogg’s, I recommend making a reservation. While the bar wasn’t overly crowded on a Sunday, we still had to check in with a door man before being allowed to enter. It was also nice to have a table set up and waiting for us.
Our second day in London was very Harry Potter themed. If you don’t plan on seeing a play in the West End, you can use this time to visit some of London’s many museums including Tate Modern. We didn’t have a chance to go to any museums so that’ll be for another trip!
Day 3 – Check Out the Major Sites
We were in London for a couple of days already and hadn’t had a chance to see some of the most exciting landmarks! At around 10:15am, we grabbed a spot outside of Buckingham Palace to see the Changing of the Guard. It’s worth seeing, but be prepared to spend about an hour waiting in a massive crowd.
After that, we bought hop-on hop-off bus tickets. I normally recommend doing these for the guided tour, but we found that the traffic made it almost not worth doing it in London. It actually took 2 hours for us to get to the Tower of London from Buckingham Palace! This was a HUGE time suck when we were already strapped for time. On the plus side, we were able to buy Tower of London tickets through the bus company. This saved us some money and also let us breeze right through when we finally arrived at the Tower. Since we lost so much time getting there, we only got to stay for an hour. We also didn’t have time to take the Thames River cruise that was included with our bus tickets.
We headed back across town for afternoon tea at Hotel Café Royal. You can make a reservation online easily and it’s not necessary to make it far in advance. The tea included your choice of tea, a glass of champagne, a tower of sandwiches (with the option to have more), and a tower of pastries including fresh scones with clotted cream and homemade jam.
After tea, we tried to take the hop on hop off bus to see Hyde Park, Kensington, and Notting Hill but the map was SO CONFUSING. Don’t use Big Bus Tours. We had to get off at Westminster Bridge and change buses. This gave us a chance to see Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, and Big Ben (which is covered in scaffolding). After that, we had to wait another 30 minutes for the correct bus. Halfway through the route, the driver pulled over and said the bus was changing to the purple route (??) and we had to get off since it was no longer going where we wanted to go!
We got off and walked across Hyde Park to Harrods. I had heard of Harrods but had no idea how big it would actually be! It’s definitely worth checking out for the food hall alone. After that, we stopped for a drink in Chelsea before heading home.
This day was pretty disorganized and I think we could have gone into more landmarks had we planned a bit better. Learn from our mistakes!
Day 4 – Bonus Sightseeing Before the Airport!
Given all of our bus confusion the day before, we hadn’t had a chance to finish the loop through Kensington and Notting Hill. Luckily the bus ticket was good for 24 hours so we hopped on early in the morning before heading to the airport. I travel with the best backpack ever, so it was easy enough to bring it on the bus.
We basically completed the part circled in red below.
We hopped off in Notting Hill to check out Portobello Road, though I definitely want to go back on a Saturday when the market is in full swing. After a quick lunch, we walked down Kensington Palace Gardens, a street of gorgeous mansions and embassies with security guards on either end warning visitors to not take photos. We checked out Kensington Palace from the outside before taking the tube to the airport.
While we were only in London for about three days, I feel like I got a good feel for the city and saw the most important sights and landmarks. Now that I’m acquainted with the city, I know exactly what I want to see next time I’m in town.
What are your favorite places in London?