The first leg of my tour de Europe was a three-day stop in London, England. It took us (my mom and I) 10 hours to fly from Seattle to London on Delta Airlines. Luckily, we both had comfortable spacious seats in business class for this journey. Being a plus size girl in a middle coach seat is probably on my list of top 10 things I would like to avoid while traveling. And on an international flight? No thank you.
See my three-day London trip in 3 minutes
Tip: You do NOT need to rent a car while in the city. The Underground can quickly and easily get you to and from each attraction efficiently.
The ultimate London to-do list for a 3-day trip
Visit one of their famous markets
When I first looked up “Things to do in London” a list of “markets” appeared on my list of pins. Naturally I wrote down Borough Market because consistently people said it was the best. My idea of a market is a stands of produce, meats and cheeses being sold in stands, hand-made candles etc. So to see that an urban cultural hub like London, had a bustling market community made me happy.
Most of the markets were only open on the weekends, but Camden Market was open on a weekday! Hallelujah because when you are only there for 3-days the chances of it being a weekend is rare. Camden Market is like Pike Place Market in Seattle meets the Anaheim Packing District. There was so much fabulous stuff to look at, to buy, to drink, to eat. My mom bought a few cute cartoon tank tops. They didn’t have my size so of course I just admired from a far and gave my thoughts on each one.
We grabbed a snack from a stand just outside the main part of the market. Just where it starts to wind through quirky bars, Argentinian meat stands, Chinese noodle stops, and Cuban sandwich joints. We tried our first dutch pancakes, which are the cutest little fluffy things sprinkled with powder sugar and smothered in butter (YES!). If I lived in London, I would be at the Camdem Market all day, every day, as long as it was open.
Visit the Tower of London
The Tower of London is a personal favorite of mine because I secretly have a love of all things twisted, gory and murderous. I think it sheds light on a dark past to a rather modern evolving city. There has been a lot of changes made to it since I was there as a kid.
I remember you used to be able to touch the carvings the prisoners did on the wall, now they cover it with plexi glass. The connection isn’t quite the same, but the awe effect is still there. The Tower of London also has ravens on site that you can catch eating whatever the guards have fed them. It seems much more touristy than historic nowadays but still cool.
Watch the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace
This is a must. It’s like going to Orange County and not spending a day at Disneyland. In the three days I was there for, I actually went to the palace twice. Once at night and then again in the morning to see the changing of the guards.
People will tell you to get there early for a spot but that’s such a waste of time. My mom and I got there just before it started and was able to slide our way into a fenced corner to catch the ceremony. Afterward, walk through the park, sit on a bench and people watch.
Go on the Warner Brothers Harry Potter studio tour
I bought my Harry Potter studio tour tickets two weeks in advance and I bought them online. When I had purchased my tickets most of the upcoming weekends were already sold out. Luckily, I was there on a weekday. The Warner Brothers studio is far from central London but totally doable by public transportation. I allotted two and half hours to get to the studio, and I was still running late.
To get to the Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studio tour by public transit:
- Take the London Overground to Watford Junction
- Exit the station and walk toward the small roundabout with a bus stop (there was already a crowd waiting when I arrived)
- Have CASH ready to take a special bus to the tour.
- Disembark and either head to will-call or go straight inside and line up.
I believe the bus to the studio is like five pounds. Also, keep the receipt he gives you because it works for the bus ride back to the Overground station. Don’t freak out if you get to the studio tour late for our purchased time slot. They will let you in as long as you have a ticket for that day. This is just so they can control the crowd flow.
Get a picture at Platform 9 3/4 in Kings Cross station
Kings Cross station is a large station compared to the others. Once you take the escalators up to the main common area there is a platform store and a line to grab a photo going through the platform. WAIT IN THE LINE. I don’t care how much you hate waiting in line, it takes like 15 minutes tops. If you came all the way to London why not get an actual photo on the platform?
Visit Trafalgar Square at night
Trafalgar Square is like the MET steps of New York. It has a vibrant rhythm that is filled with art, music, political demonstrations, young couples hanging out along the fountain and more. As a kid I remember feeding pigeons here during the day. It was a blast! Who cares how dirty they are anyway. As an adult, I was moved by the silent demonstration for Aleppo happening in front of the museum. Around the corner there is a great steak house called Steak & Co. Their steamed muscles to share is great as an entree – order the garlic bread too.
See Palace of Westminster and the London Eye at night
The city is beautiful in the day, but by night it comes alive. The Palace of Westminster and the area along the Thames River are lit up and groups or friends and couples walk around in droves. When we arrive a small farmers market just below the bridge was closing shop. I got to try my first black pudding scotch egg without realizing what the black pudding part was.
Take a tour London’s house of royalty, Kensington Palace
Kensington Palace is the home for all of the royal family. Surprisingly this palace focusses on the story of Princess Margaret. The palace is now home to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton and William. You get to hear and see the story of how the royal family gained so much traction throughout Europe. Most of which is chalked up to Princess Margaret that married her children off to other royal families. Eventually creating a power struggle that surpasses any level of sibling rivalry.
To be successful and visit all eight attractions listed here, you will want to wake up early and go to bed late. Also, map things out by region. Plan to spend a whole half of your day at the Harry Potter studio. I would say on day one, visit all of the attractions in central London that you don’t want to tour the inside. Day two, devote to longer activities like tours of Kensington Palace and eating at the market. Day three, do something short like visit Trafalgar Square, then head over to the studio tour.
I would have loved to spend more time in London to explore the food scene. I didn’t get to try one of Gordon Ramsay’s Michelin star restaurants. Also I would have spent a whole day rummaging through the Camden Market tasting at least three or four dishes from the stands. Only if I had more time. This London quick vacation guide should give you a starting point. Of course, do your research and figure out what interests you.
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