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A 3-Day Guide to London for First-Timers - California Globetrotter

A 3-Day Guide to London for First-Timers

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IMG_5473London. The city that I’ll always have a love affair with. Since my first childhood visit in 1999, I continuously find a reason to return as often as possible. From sexy British accents to delicious British food and amazing sights. And of course, there’s always the chance you might bump in Prince Harry or the Queen.

You’ve waited for so long to go and  there is so much to see and do in London, the question is always where to begin and what is the most important things to see with limited time?

Day 1:

Buckingham Palace

For a thousand years, London has been the residence of the British monarchs, but Buckingham Palace became the official residence of the British monarchy in 1837 when Queen Victoria moved in. Today, the palace is open to the public between August and September.

London: The City That Keeps Calling - California Globetrotter

The Royal Mews

While waiting for the Changing of the Guards to start at 11:30, head over to the Royal Mews to see England’s stunning royal carriages and the royal horses which are still used during special occasion processions.

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Changing of the Guards

Everyday in front of the palace, the Changing of the Guards takes place. These are the Queen’s men who protect the palace and the Queen and are known for wearing their scarlet tunics and tall furry black caps, which are called bearskins. Crowds of tourists line up outside the palace grounds to get a glimpse of the daily show, weather permitting, at 11:30. They walk down from St. James’s Palace and parade for thirty minutes, with a band procession while the keys are handed from the old guard to the new guard. (Check the dates & times here)

London: The City That Keeps Calling - California Globetrotter

The Mall Walk & St. James’s Park to Trafalgar Square

From Buckingham Palace, you can walk a few minutes down the Mall Walk, which passes the St. James’s Park before arriving at Trafalgar Square. This is one of the most fashionable promenades in London and is used for royal processions on special occasions.

Westminister Abbey & Houses of Parliament

From Trafalgar Square, walk south along Whitehill towards Westminister Abbey & Houses of Parliament. Along this route, you’ll pass Downing Street where the Prime Minister lives and the Cabinet War rooms off of King Charles Street before arriving at London’s oldest and most important church where British monarchs have been crowned since the 11th century. The Houses of Parliament is the seat of the British government and is well known because of the Big Ben clock tower.

Ride the London Eye

Cross over the Westminister Bridge to the stationary London Eye Ferris wheel for a 30-minute ride which offers amazing views over the Thames and the Houses of Parliament.

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Day 2:

Millenium Bridge to St. Paul’s Cathedral

Start your day at St. Paul’s Cathedral and climb the 259 steps to the Golden Gallery at the top of the dome, which offers AMAZING views over London! TEFL in London, England - California Globetrotter

Tower of London & Tower Bridge

By now, your feet probably need a little rest after climbing St. Paul’s Cathedral, so I suggest taking the tube from  St. Paul’s on the Central Line to Bank where you will transfer to the District or Circle Lines and exit at Tower Hill.

The Tower of London was built in 1066 by William the Conqueror. It was once used as the first British monarch’s residence, armory, prison and treasury. Today, it houses the Crown Jewels. It is definitely worth doing a full tour of the castle to get the most out of visiting!London: The City That Keeps Calling - California Globetrotter

The Tower Bridge stands directly next to the castle in Victorian grandeur. Walk across the bridge or check out the exhibition through the walkway above the roadway on the bridge to learn about the history of the bridge. London: The City That Keeps Calling - California Globetrotter

Where to Eat Dinner:

By now, you’re probably also hungry and tired from a full day of sightseeing. I highly recommend taking the tub again from Tower Hill to Monument and switch to the Northern Line and get off at London Bridge as I highly recommend enjoying a traditional British meat pie with a nice, cold Stout beer for dinner at The Barrow Boy & Banker Pub.

Day 3:

The Shard

If the weather is a glorious day, then begin your day at Europe’s newest, tallest building by taking the an elevator from the first floor to the 33rd floor and from the 33rd floor to the 68th floor in just 6 meters per second, making the entire trip to the top in just one minute! The views over London are to die for! (Book tickets here!)

Have Lunch at the Borough Market

Not far, near the London Bridge tube station is a food market which has become well known for selling gourmet foods from Britain and abroad. When you’re done eating, check out the Southwark Cathedral.

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Visit Kensington Palace & Gardens plus Hyde Park

Head over to Kensington Palace, which was previously the residence of the royal family from the 1690s to the 1760s before Queen Victoria moved into Buckingham Palace. It was here that she was told she was Queen, Princess Diana lived and now is inhabited by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Prince William and Kate Middleton).

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Picture from Wikipedia

Take the Jubilee Line from London Bridge to Bond Street and transfer to the the Central Line, exiting at Lancaster Gate.

By exiting at Lancaster Gate, you can enjoy some of the beautiful park surroundings of both Hyde Park as well as the Kensington Gardens before walking to the palace.

Meander Through Notting Hill

When you’re done at the Palace, head over to Notting Hill and fall in love with the adorable colored houses, peruse through the unique antique shops near Portobello Road. If you’re in London in August, enjoy Europe’s largest street carnival!

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Go to the Theater

No trip to London is complete without attending one of London’s many theaters. The theatrical tradition dates back to Shakespearean times, many of which are located in the West End with over 50 theaters. (Find cheap, last-minute tickets here)

Personal Recommendations:

There are no museums in this post! I am not a museum goer, however if you would love to visit one, I highly suggest visiting The Tate Modern after visiting St. Paul’s Cathedral or the Shard.

What should I eat in London?

When visiting England, there are certain foods one should try before leaving. I believe in experiencing authentic food wherever I visit, therefore, I recommend the following at a traditional British pub, although a good curry is always delicious as well.

Breakfast:

  • A Full English Breakfast – fried bacon & egg, sausage, tomatoes, toast & black pudding sometimes including beans, mushrooms. (**Warning: black pudding is a type of blood sausage**)

Lunch/Dinner:

  • Fish n’ Chips – deep fried cod fish with fries
  • Bangers & Mash – sausages and mashed potatoes with a gravy sauce
  • Cornish Pastries/Sausage rolls – a puff pastry filled with meat/vegetables.
  • Shepard’s Pie – minced lamb with vegetables topped with mashed potatoes.

Tea Time:

Traditionally, tea time is taken at 4pm usually accompanied with small delicately cut cucumber sandwiches, followed by scones, jam and cream or crumpets and finally a sponge cake, chocolate eclair or possibly Scottish shortbread. (Find a list of must-try Afternoon Tea Shops in London here) Matlock Bath: The Former Victorian Spa Town - California Globetrotter

When Should I Visit?

England is known for having bipolar weather and no trip to London is complete without some rain at some point. However, the warmer months of July/August experience less rain fall but for milder temperatures, early Spring is great for the blooming parks. London experiences a constant influx of tourists, peaking in July/August. Visiting in August gives you the chance to do a tour of Buckingham Palace as the Queen moves to Windsor Castle for the summer and the Notting Hill parade takes place in August. Christmas is a romantic time to be in London.

Tips:

  1. STAY to the RIGHT!  – When taking an escalator, remember to stand to the right, walk on the left!
  2. Travel on the Tube at 9:30am, before or after 4pm & 7pm
  3. MIND the GAP – be careful where you stand when waiting for the tube line!
  4. 12 vs. 24 hour – Get accustomed to saying 19:00 instead of 7pm.
  5. Look LEFT – keep in mind that traffic will be coming from the left and NOT the right!
  6. Raise your hand to flag a bus otherwise the bus won’t know they need to stop
  7. Buy an OYSTER card!! You can’t pay with cash on the tube. The card costs £5 and you can load it with enough money for your trip.
  8. Carry a Tube Map & an umbrella with you at all times!
  9. Don’t forget that the Pound £ is stronger than the Dollar $, therefore, things could be more expensive than they appear!
  10. It’s all about the name: chips not fries, loo not toilet, lift not elevator!

 

If you’re interested in visiting London and are looking for more information, I highly recommend using the DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: London! Without these guides, I would be lost! This is my travel Bible!

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you click on one and make a purchase, I might make a little extra spending money, at no extra cost to you. As always, all opinions are my own and these products/services have been found useful during our travels and come highly recommended to you from yours truly!

For more posts on London:

My TEFL Experience in London During the Olympics

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Wander Mum

Author: California Globetrotter

At 14 I started traveling the world with my parents and was hooked! By 21 I was studying abroad in Heidelberg, Germany. By 26 I sold all of my belongings and bought a one way ticket to Germany to teach English. Little did I know, I'd meet the love of my life and end up traveling to the most romantic and idyllic towns in Europe and becoming a long-term expat in Bavaria! My name is Lorelei and I'm just your typical CaliGirl, Sunset Chaser, Fairytale Dreamer, Dress Lover, Traveloholic, Beer Drinker!

63 thoughts on “A 3-Day Guide to London for First-Timers

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  24. Loved your post as myself have a love affair with this city 🇬🇧❤️👍🏽

  25. What a great little guide. I think you’ve definitely hit all the highlights.

  26. that’s a lot for DAY 1:) I do like to cram in as much as possible too:) #the weekly postcard

  27. great post and I totally agree with all your recommendations! i really like visiting the museums too because they’re free and you can get lost for hours in them! as for gardens, i would add Kew Gardens too ☺they’re a bit out of the way as they’re in zone 6 but worth it if you have a bit of time, i think ☺

  28. That’s a great and varied itinerary. I’d agree with every one of your recommendations. Two highlights for us were the British Museum and the Churchill War Rooms (which was even interesting to me, a non-WW2 aficionado). We think they are also worth seeing for people with a bit more available time.

  29. Very useful guide for first time visitors to London. I love this city and now that the British broke free from the European Union maybe it’s time to go back for visit.

  30. Makes me realise how lucky I am to live in such a beautiful City. Love your top tips.
    #CityTripping

  31. Great guide for a 3 day visit!

  32. I really enjoyed this mini tour of London. Some really good ideas for a first visit. It’s fun reading about London from someone who’s not British – I giggled at your tips but I think they’re spot on! #citytripping

  33. Ha ha – Bipolar weather! Thats a great expression & sooooo true (believe me I live here!) I’m so pleased you packed in so much, it’s a wonderful city isn’t it. We’re from Nottingham and get to London maybe once or twice a year & just love it, yet there is still so much we haven’t done yet! Great post #citytripping

  34. Fantastic post! I´m off to London next week and can´t wait to visit all the sights…imparticular Borough Market for a quick snack🙂

  35. Great guide, I need to go back to London, I haven’t been to Notting Hill, or Hyde Park or even Camden. Oh and I’m dying to see a musical, maybe I’ll go to Hamilton next year😀

  36. There is just so much to see and do in London isn’t there? I took a free walking tour that passed by many of the main sights which gave me a wonderful introduction to the city and it’s history. I’d definitely recommend that as a good way to get familiar with the city when you arrive. Great list!

  37. How I wish I seen such guide prior to our visit to London! We had more days but didn’t cover all that you mentioned;(. #citytripping

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  39. I love seeing my city through visitors’ eyes. Would you believe I have never been inside Buckingham palace though (although have seen the outside)? Some great first suggestions and I love the tips – stand on the right! #citytripping

    • It took me visiting London probably about 6 times before we made it inside Buckingham Palace! I mean it is only open for one month out of the year so it’s probably hard to get down there when you’re so busy living life!

  40. Great post! So interesting to see London through the eyes of a tourist… and I do feel very privileged to live there. However, I still haven’t done a lot of these sights – including going inside Buckingham Palace! Love your tips too ….I would add that when riding the tube, wait for everyone to get off at the stop before getting on. Hate that – although I think the British are probably the worst for it. So glad you like my home city! Thanks for linking to #citytripping

  41. We’ll be visiting London in a few weeks, so I was especially interested in your guide. Thanks for the tips and the food suggestions. We’re definitely seeing the places on your Days 1 & 2 itineraries. I’m hoping we can squeeze in some of your Day 3 suggestions.

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