In a few weeks I will be in London for the first time for 3 days to take care of some business. I thought I could take advantage of the situation and do some sightseeing.

What are the places I must absolutely visit? So far I got the Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. Also, what are some good places to go out and have some fun in the night?

EDIT: Thank you all for your responses. London is a wonderful place, and your answers allowed me to have a very good time there.

One thing I haven't seen mentioned, if you are looking for pubs go to Clapham Common. Had a blast there.

  • If you happen to be in London on the evening of the 25th of Jan I highly recommend attending the Science Museum Lates event. You will get the opportunity to see the museum after hours with a laid back atmosphere, a drink in your hand and some entirely optional but very entertaining demos and activities. Its completely free and you just turn up (although id always encourage people to make at least a small donation) http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/visitmuseum/events/events_for_adults/Lates.aspx Commented Jan 17, 2012 at 14:16

7 Answers 7


Each person has their own taste, so this questions is almost subjective. However, after living there for four years, I now know there are certain things that EVERY tourist seems to want to do or see.

  1. St Paul's. It's one of the greatest cathedrals in Europe, and I've heard people say it's their European highlight, the pinnacle of sights that they've seen. On a Sunday you can get in free, although you won't have access to everywhere inside.

  2. Westminster Abbey and a photograph of Big Ben. When you come out of Westminster tube station, it's tourists EVERYWHERE. But I suggest coming out at Waterloo station and walking across the bridge to Big Ben - you'll get a better photograph. Westminster Abbey is just behind it, and like St Paul's, some of it is free to access on Sunday's. Note that only residents can go up Big Ben, and even they have to apply to their local Member of Parliament months in advance for a tour.

  3. Tower of London. My favourite tourist attraction. I spent the better part of a day here, and could easily go back for more. Get there early to beat the crowds. Right next to it is Tower Bridge - which most people think is called London Bridge. London Bridge is actually flat and boring ;)

  4. The London Eye. Giant ferris wheel next to Waterloo station, the queues are insane on weekends. This is a polarising attraction - people either think it's a waste of money, or a must-see. I've been twice - during day and night, and loved it.

  5. The museums. British Museum, Imperial War Museum, Natural History Museum and Science Museum are the big famous ones, but there are smaller ones too if you search around. The best part is that most of them (including all the big ones I've just mentioned) are free!

  6. The London Underground. It sounds odd, but it's such a fundamental part of London, that you need to make sure you ride it a few times on different lines. Perhaps in from Heathrow, or to the museums, as it's nice to walk around above ground in central London, and it's surprising how close together everything is.

  7. Picadilly Circus and Oxford Circus. Walk through, take photo, move on. They're famous, historic, but they only take a few minutes ;)

  8. Buckingham Palace. You can't always go inside, and most people claim the changing of the guard is over-rated, but there's still something about seeing it!

  9. The parks. Make sure to check out at least St James Park, and Hyde Park.

  10. London Zoo and Camden Market. They're close by. Come out of Camden tube station nice and early, check out the market for a bit. Then walk to the zoo - it's historic, and has quite a few animals you don't see many of.

Bonus sights!

  1. Richmond Park - my favourite park in all of London. Take the tube or overland to Richmond, and ask someone for directions from there. It's about a 20 min walk to get there, and then you're in the largest open air space in all of Greater London, with two large herds of deer, and a protected view all the way back to St Paul's, the Gherkin and the London Eye. Fantastic place on a clear day, or when there's fresh snow on the ground :)

  2. Borough Market and Southbank - close to London Bridge, and open from Thursday to Saturday, the fresh food and coffee is a great start to your morning, before you walk along Southbank to Tower Bridge, or west to Waterloo. London Bridge station, Borough Market exit, west side of Borough High street.

  • 5
    If you're going to the Zoo, add an hour and go to the top of Primrose Hill for great views. It's also just a lovely park to walk through. Commented Jan 9, 2012 at 12:56
  • +1 @Mark Mayo for a comprehensive realistic guide for the time alloted Commented Jan 10, 2012 at 10:40
  • A nice list, although having done it once before I don't think I ever want to do the tube all the way out to Heathrow again! Heathrow Express for me every time! (Helped by the fact I normally travel onwards by train, which reduces the cost considerably)
    – Edd
    Commented Jan 12, 2012 at 16:43
  • Gosh! You wink a lot! Commented Jan 13, 2012 at 18:51
  • I recommend you also try British food. Don't go to any random pub, do some research and book in advance. Here's a couple I like: harwoodarms.com and thehawksmoor.co.uk
    – Michael
    Commented Jan 15, 2012 at 14:20

Let me add to what you've seen here that it would be great to simply walk along the Thames, both banks ideally. So many things are so near each other, and the atmosphere is fantastic. This is a place that grew up around a river, so walking that river will show you the place. It's ancient and modern, traditional and ever changing, and I think the riverfront shows that to you best. The dotted lines on this map show the walkways at the water:

enter image description here

If you start at Westminster bridge and walk the south bank until you get to Tower Bridge, then come back across the north bank, you will pass literally dozens of guidebook things. London Eye, Tate Modern, the Globe, the Tower, the Monument (to the Fire of London, so worth a climb), train stations and bridges you've heard of, and so much more. Plus things that aren't in guidebooks but are a big part of the experience for me. I love the benches along the river with the lion heads on the arms. Sometimes there are people making sandcastles down at the water just until the tide comes in. I love the juxtapositions and the unexpected delights, and I always see something unexpected.

enter image description here


The British Museum is free, and amazing! (If you like that sort of thing, and I do).

  • 1
    And you enhance your visit by doing some preparation: download and listen to some of the History of the World in 100 Objects podcasts: bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/ahow
    – gkrogers
    Commented Jan 18, 2012 at 5:57

Agree with Mark's list above. The catch though is that you've only three days, so the key thing is to prioritize. You could easily spend weeks doing nothing but visiting Museums in London and still only scratch the surface - I'd suggest perhaps taking a look at the museum web sites in advance, and pick just one (or two, if you're a big museum buff) that best reflects your interests.

Given the short amount of time, it might be worth taking a bus tour. I usually avoid these and tend to regard them as being 'touristy', preferring to see the main sights by foot and tube on my own terms, but they are a great way of getting a good overview of the city and at least checking off the main sights while getting your bearings. Do this early on your first day, and you can then decide what parts to fill in or concentrate on on your other days. Some of these bus companies basically run a fixed route in one direction and have guided commentary, and once you buy your ticket, you can use it for the rest of the day, hopping on or off at the various stops as you want.

Also consider getting a copy of Time Out London as soon as you land, it has good listings of what's on in all the museums and theaters with reviews. It will also list what live music and clubs nights are on, so can be a useful guide for figuring out which of the city's nightlife options will be most appealing to you. I think there's also a couple of free 'event guide' brochures available, though can't remember the names of them at the moment.

Also, think carefully about how to use day time vs evening time: a museum can easily eat up a hefty chunk of daytime, and by the time you're leaving, other daytime attractions will be closing for the evening. So if you're thinking of doing the London Eye, if you do it in the evening instead, it won't eat up otherwise valuable day time.

If you're in town on a Wednesday onwards, consider going to see a show in the West End. If you really want to see a specific show, perhaps book a ticket in advance, otherwise head to the TKTS discount ticket booth at the south end of Leicester Square in the morning and see what shows are going for later that evening.

Lines for something like the Tower of London can get quite long in peak tourist times, so check to see if they have a website that lets you book in advance, or make it the first thing you do on a specific day and get there early so you avoid spending too much of your day standing in line.

Also recommend checking out a pub or two; you'll find pubs scattered all over London, Time Out has a list of some historic ones here. Pubs are usually a lot cosier than US bars are, and usually have a different selection of beers on tap than you'll find in the US. Notable are the "real ales", which are pumped into a glass via hefty manual levers rather than the taps you see at most bars.


On top of the other listed attractions I would recommend Greenwich - mostly park and the observatory - which is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

If you have some spare time, you can link it with the nearby Canary Wharf - the new financial district - if you like modern city centres. On your way back to the centre, just before Tower Hill you have St. Catherine's Dock - a nice example of how London Docklands look like (old ports transformed into residential areas.

To be honest with you, if you have only 3 days I would skip most of the museums (even though they are very good), just go to the British Museum.


Mark's answer said it all!
The only thing I would add is to attend an Evensong service at St. Paul's, or Westminster, or St. Martin in the Fields.

They usually start at 5 (17:00) and the place will be closed then to tourists. Arrive during late afternoon, when tourist hours are still open, and just explain to the guards, staff, that you're staying for Evensong.

A wonderful way to take time to relax, reflect and hear glorious music, no matter what your religious or spiritual background.


I think Mark has covered the most of big ticket sights in his response. The V&A is one of my favourite museums and also well worth a look, and you'd be crazy not to check out the Tate Modern (after you've checked out St Paul's, you can get there by strolling across the Millennium Bridge).

Some other good museums are the Museum of London and the Sir John Soane Museum which is a tucked away gem. The Banqueting House on Whitehall is also worth a look if you're in the area (which you no doubt will be).

Lots of good markets too - Spitalfields, Sunday UpMarket at the Old Truman Brewery, Borough Market (although a bit crowded with tourists these days) etc.

Really you could go on forever, all down to individual tastes and how much time you have!

Oh and you can't go past a good walking tour - I did a few of these when I first arrived and they're great for getting the low down on the history from locals. Very knowledgeable and entertaining.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .