No matter what’s happening with your trip to London, there are still things you can do to keep yourself excited and on track to plan the trip of a lifetime to this amazing city, even if your trip isn’t for another few months or gets postponed (and please postpone– don’t cancel!)
When booking a hotel, Booking.com makes it really clear which properties have free cancellation, and until what date you can cancel for a full refund. Again, just be sure to read the fine print before booking. Also check if booking directly with the hotel gives you a better cancellation policy.
See some of our preferred partners’ offers (these are affiliate links and help to support us during a difficult time):
Devour Tours does food tours in London and has 15% off tours booked before 20th March 2020. Their tours are restarting 1st May and you can also purchase gift cards for your future trip that can be used on any of their tours around Europe.
Eating Europe also does food tours in London and has a new Flexi-pass which essentially gets you 30% off their tours. Alternatively you can book individual tours for 20% with promo code SPRING2020. They will be restarting their tours on 1st May as well.
Research the hell out of your trip
If your trip has been pushed off a bit, that stinks, but also gives you a ton more time to research things to do, where to eat, etc. You can make your trip even better than it was going to be!
I of course would recommend that your first point of call would be all things Love and London. This website, our Youtube channel, Instagram account, email list and other social media accounts have tons of content that you could spend hours watching and reading, helping you piece together your perfect trip.
I personally think Youtube is the best platform for travel planning, as the more content you watch about visiting London, the more that Youtube suggests other London-related videos that it thinks you’ll get value from. So you can pull a ton of great tips from one good couch session on the Youtube app.
You can watch the video below to see how I make the 3-Day London Itinerary step-by-step, so with all of this extra research time, you can make your own if you’d like.
Buy things that can be used in the long-term
There are other things you can get to start to get ready for a trip to London, that won’t go to waste even if your trip gets postponed.
Travel guides– books and digital ones– can be used for years down the line. So even if you, say, buy the 2020 version of our 3-Day London Itinerary and your trip gets postponed to 2021, you can still use it then, no problem. Obviously, the same goes for things like Lonely Planet guide books. Some information may be a bit out of date but it will mostly do the job just fine.
Even getting things like special clothing items or a new suitcase will help support the travel and retail industry but can still be used even if your trip gets pushed off a few months. Check out our What to Get for Your London Trip page for some ideas, and also our London Packing Guide.
Finally, here are some things you might forget to bring on your trip, that you could pick up now…
No matter what’s going on with your trip, you can keep yourself excited and take advantage of lots of perks coming from a negative situation. Plus, you’ll do your part to help keep travel businesses operating. Let me know in the comments what else you’re doing to keep your planning for your trip going.
Hi there, thanks for sticking with us. In light of the last couple of weeks, I want to put a full statement regarding the state of travel to London. Please see it below.
Follow government advice only
Your country’s foreign travel department, which is the State Department for the US and the FCO for the UK (for UK outbound travel) is where you should get your official recommendation for whether it’s safe to travel or not. Unfortunately, many news outlets are incorrectly reporting the situation, so always go back to the government travel advice and follow that.
If you still want to travel to London, at the moment, that’s great.
Many countries are not limiting entry or exit to or from the UK at the time of publishing this. That could of course change, but the decision to come to the UK is a personal decision, and yours to make. The city needs your custom more than ever, so you will be welcomed with open arms, less crowds, and discounts.
We’re not answering any questions about the current situation.
My team and I are not able to provide any information to you about whether or not you should choose to come to London, at any point in the future. We also can’t provide “on-the-ground” information to you about the state of the city. Things change too quickly for us to report, you should be referencing your country’s travel advice for official information and direction, and again, your choice to come here is a personal one that we cannot advise on.
Please do not send us messages, comments or emails asking for advice or commentary.
Be kind to travel staff
I can understand the frustration you might be having when trying to get answers about your own trip. But please remember to be kind to the people trying to help you. Many are about to lose their jobs, many have been overworked and asked to take unpaid leave. Many small businesses in the travel industry, including mine, are about to lose just about all of their revenue over the next couple of months, at least. They are trying to help you with the limited information and power they have, so don’t make their day worse. Be a good and empathetic person.
Keep booking travel
This will eventually blow over, and travel will pick up again. But many businesses, even large national carrier airlines, are unlikely to survive without your help.
Please continue to plan and book your future travels. Most companies are offering incredibly flexible cancellation policies for future bookings. Booking your flight, tour, hotel, etc. for your trip a couple of months down the line could be the difference between that company staying afloat and going under, plus you’ll get a pretty good discount. Things like travel guide books can be used for years down the line, and even engaging with your favourite creator and consuming their content even if you’re unsure when you’ll travel is a huge help too.
I’ll be sharing more tips for how to keep planning your London trip in the next few days, and from next week, our content will be back to normal, sharing tips for your London trip. It will be in reduced numbers, to keep our costs as low as possible, but please stay with us please, please keep watching and engaging, so that when this blows over, we can come back in full swing and help you plan the best trip ever to this amazing city.
Pancake Day in London is coming up and that means it’s time to figure out where you can spend the day indulging on deliciousness. Make the most out of the flipping awesome day (pun intended) by finding out where you can dine ahead of time. Here’s a guide to Pancake Day in London so that you can celebrate at the best places around the city.
What Is Pancake Day?
Pancake Day is also known as Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday in other parts of the world. It’s celebrated by Christians and Catholics and it’s the day before Lent begins, which is a period of 40 days and nights, when you give up something you love or frequently indulge in. This is because it marks the time that Jesus spent fasting in the desert.
On Shrove Tuesday, many people clean out their cupboards and get rid of eggs, butter, and fat, which are the perfect ingredients for the tasty treat, which has left us with Pancake Day in London and across the UK.
When Is Pancake Day?
Pancake Day will be taking place on February 25 2020. The date changes each year because it takes place 47 days before Easter Sunday. And since the date for Easter changes, Pancake Day can range from the beginning of February to mid March.
Easter Sunday usually falls on the first Sunday after the first Full Moon around the time of the Spring Equinox. It may sound a bit confusing, but these guidelines are used to determine the date each year because according to the Bible, Jesus’s death and resurrection took place around the time of Passover, which is celebrated by the Jews. Passover always falls on the evening of the first full moon following the spring equinox. Since the cycle of the moon changes, Easter falls on a different date each year, causing holidays like Pancake Day, Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, Palm Sunday, and more to change too.
What To Do On Pancake Day in London
Now that you’re caught up on the history of Pancake Day, you’re probably wondering where you can dine on some when in London. Thankfully there are a ton of great restaurants that are serving them up all over the city. And if you’re interested in celebrating Pancake Day in a more unique way, there are a ton of great events going on too.
Best Places To Get Pancakes On Pancake Day in London
Photo Credit: The Breakfast Club
The Breakfast Club
The Breakfast Club has several locations for you to indulge yourself on Pancake Day at. Every year The Breakfast Club always has a Pancake Day special (on the actual pancake day, 25th February, but they will be serving the pancake menu from the 24th February till the 1st of March) and last year they raised over £2000 for charity. They have a Pancake Challenge to make things even more fun. Can you try your hand at a stack of 12 pancakes in 12 minutes? (Challenge available only on the 25th.)
The count down to Pancake Day in London is on for Where The Pancakes Are. They’ll be flipping pancakes at Flat Iron Square, both in the restaurant and their street food pop-up. Make a booking there, or head into the restaurant before the pancakes run out (it’s first-come-first serve).
Where The Pancakes Are | Flat Iron Square | Website
If you’re vegan, don’t worry, you don’t have to miss out on Pancake Day in London. Farmacy, a vegan and vegetarian restaurant in Notting Hill, is the perfect place for you to celebrate. Their pancakes are made with buckwheat flour and served with a selection of seasonal fruits, coconut yoghurt, and caramelized pecans. All of that is topped off with delicious maple syrup.
Those of you who are South of the river have several options when it comes to celebrating Pancake Day in London. And that includes Brew, which you can find in Clapham, Wimbledon, and Wandsworth. Enjoy fresh blueberry pancakes here, topped with caramelized banana, creme fraiche, and maple syrup.
If you’re heading out to celebrate Pancake Day in London and you’re near Bank, Soho or Richmond, head to Jackson + Rye. Jackson + Rye has lots of pancakes options, so choose from a variety of toppings like caramelised banana, bacon and maple, or berries, to finish off your pancakes.
Some would say that the Dutch are the masters behind the pancakes, so why not spend your Pancake Day treating yourself at My Old Dutch. This pancake house can be found in Holborn, Chelsea, and Kensington and has an incredible selection of sweet and savory pancakes. Choose between a classic sweet sugar and lemon pancake, a butterscotch pancake served with crispy bacon and eggs, a chicken curry pancake, or the classic My Old Dutch Pancake which is topped with smoked bacon, cheese, peppers, chicken, and ham.
Take your stack of pancakes to the next level at The Diner in Camden, Dalston, Shoreditch, Spitalfields, or Soho. Treat yourself to a sweet stack of chocolate chip pancakes, banana pancakes, blueberry pancakes, strawberry and chocolate pancakes, or your traditional buttermilk, plus this year they are launching five new flavours. They’re all served in stacks of three, so you’ll finish off your Pancake Day in London feeling super full!
The Book Club is taking things to Club Tropicana in Shoreditch this year, with a mouth-watering selection of cocktail-inspired pancakes being served at their All Day Cocktail Pancake Party, you can choose from Pornstar Martini, Pina Colada or Expresso Martini Pancakes! Pancakes and cocktails will be served all day on the 25th from 9 am till 10 pm.
If you’re interested in doing something other than eating on Pancake Day, there are some fun events happening around the city that you can take part in. Enter your team of friends into the Flippin’ Good Pancake races, which will be taking place at Greenwich Market. When you enter, you even get a free pancake to eat.
So now you know where to spend your Pancake Day in London. Whether you’re indulging on a snack or running down the street, flipping pancakes in a race for charity, you’re going to have a great time celebrating this long standing tradition and holiday in the UK. All that’s left to do now is choose between chocolate chips or bananas for your toppings.
Oo, how exciting that you’re heading to London soon! If you want to prepare yourself for your first three days here in London, these are the things you should do before you touch down in Londontown.
*Some of the links in this article will earn a very small commission if you click them and then purchase something.
Figure out how you’ll pay for transportation
There are a couple of ways to “gain access” to public transportation, and knowing ahead of time which payment method you’ll use when in London will help you feel more prepared, especially if you’ll be taking public transportation to get to your accommodation.
Note that everyone in your party needs their own method of payment. Always use the same payment method throughout your entire trip, you will save money this way due to daily caps (when you only get charged a max for the day’s travel and every other journey that day is free.)
Learn how London’s zones (and their daily caps) work in this video…
My personal preferred method of payment is Oyster Card, mainly because if I mess up and accidentally forget to tap out when leaving a station, I can ask a Transport for London staff member later on to adjust it for me so I don’t get overcharged.
There are two types of Oyster Cards available for visitors to London. You can order yourself a Visitor Oyster Card before you arrive to London. The visitor option gives you some discounts on a few attractions and restaurants, but besides that and the fact that you can order it to get to your home before you get to London, it’s exactly the same as the “regular” Oyster Card. The “regular” Oyster is what Londoners often use, but tourists can also use it, it’s just not available to be shipped ahead of time outside of the UK.
Either Oyster Card is fine for tourists. If you prefer to get your Oyster Card before you arrive to London, you can order the Visitor Oyster Card. If you’re not fussed, just wait until you arrive to London and get one at the airport, train station or most convenience shops around the city.
Fares are exactly the same for both cards, but the Visitor Card costs £5 + shipping, and the normal Oyster costs a £5 refundable fee, which you can get back when you’re done using the card.
Here’s a more in-depth overview of the differences between a regular Oyster and a Visitor Oyster…
Contactless debit/credit card
If you have a debit or credit card that has a chip in it and has the contactless payment feature, you can use this to pay for every method of London public transportation. It’s really easy, just tap it on the yellow reader just as you would an Oyster Card. Fares are exactly the same, and you might even save a little money if you use it every day for a week as there is a “7-day cap” for contactless cards.
If you have Apple Pay, Android Pay, Barclaycard, Barclays Contactless Mobile or bPay, you can pay for transportation with that, just like you would an Oyster Card or contactless card. This is always my last resort method of payment because if your phone dies and you don’t have that specific card on you, you’ll miss out on the daily cap advantages. Also, some foreign banks don’t allow Apple Pay to be used on London’s public transportation, for some reason.
If you’re staying in London for seven days, you might save some money by purchasing a travel card. It’s a bit confusing for a first timer to figure out if a travel card is a better option for you, watch my video below to find out how it works, but if you’re still confused, don’t worry about it and just use one of the other options already mentioned. You won’t spend that much more money.
Get your phone connected
You don’t HAVE to have phone connectivity in order to be able to experience London but it does make things much easier. If you’re using my 3-Day London Itinerary, I highly recommend having 3G connectivity as it’s much easier to use the Digital Map when you’re connected to the internet.
International mobile plan
First, check with your mobile phone provider about an international plan. While most are pretty expensive if you’re coming from anywhere outside Europe, you might be with one of the few companies that are starting to make it more affordable. Be sure to ask the cost and the call, text and data limits, what happens when you reach those limits, and how to get notifications that you’ve reached your limit or to find out how much you’ve spent so far. This will help avoid expensive surprise bills at the end of the month.
Get a SIM
If an international phone plan isn’t an option, your next option is to get a sim card, which is essentially a little card that goes into your phone that connects you to a cell network. By getting a UK SIM, you can make calls, text, and get data at a local rate, so it’s quite reasonably priced.
Be sure to ask your mobile phone provider if your phone is unlocked, which means that it can function with other mobile provider’s SIMs. If it is, you can either pick up a SIM once you arrive to London, or get a free GiffGaff SIM sent to your home so you have it ready once you arrive here.
Pocket Wifi Device
If your smartphone isn’t unlocked, you can opt for a pocket wifi device. This is essentially a small 3G device you can keep in your pocket or bag that you can connect your phone and other devices to for 3G connectivity. This is a good option if you want to be constantly connected, and you usually can connect a few devices at once, so you and whoever you’re traveling with can use it at the same time.
Of course, there’s always the option to only connect when you find free wifi. London is, relatively speaking, ok with offering free wifi. Most coffee shops, cafes and hotels will have it, restaurants mostly don’t. Most tube stations have wifi that’s free for Virgin Media, EE, Vodafone, O2 or Three customers, or you can pay for a daily or weekly wifi pass if you’re not.
Plan transportation to your hotel
If you’ve got a long flight over to London, you’ll likely be really tired and not thinking straight when you arrive here. The last thing you want to do is to try to figure out how to get to your accommodation. I recommend figuring this out before you hop on the plane.
There are multiple airports in London and just about all of them are not even in London, so depending on your needs, where you’re staying, and budget, a taxi or Uber might not be an option for you. But there are many ways to get to and from London from each airport, so don’t worry.
Use CityMapper to figure out what options you have for getting to your accommodation. Be sure to put in the correct airport (there are five), and to adjust the time so that it reflects what time you’ll be arriving to the airport. Google Maps works too, but CityMapper gives costs for each option. The only option it doesn’t account for is National Express coach buses, which are usually fairly cheap, but you’ll have to deal with traffic of course.
Although this is quite rare in London, also check with your hotel to see if they have an airport shuttle you can take.
If public transport stresses you out and you need more help with figuring out travel from the airport, and also for the entire trip, check out my in-depth London Transportation course on Bright Trip. You can use promo code “5ZHOU” for 10% off any of the courses.
Start adjusting your sleep schedule
If you’re coming from a few times zones away, start shifting your sleeping schedule to bring it closer to London’s time zone. For example, if you’re from the east coast of the US, which is five hours behind London, about a week before your trip, start getting up and going to bed earlier, bit by bit. It will make the time zone difference a little less of a shock once you arrive.
Choose something to do on your arrival day
Again, if you’re traveling across a few time zones, you’ll want to plan at least one thing to do in the early evening so that you have something to keep you awake. I don’t recommend over-planning, as you will be tired and a bit out of it, but you want to keep yourself awake until normal sleeping time in London, so even having something as simple as an early dinner reservation will help with this.
Choose which areas to explore
London is really, really big and I hear time and time again from our community that their biggest mistake that they made here is not planning out their itinerary correctly and they ended up spending so much time on public transportation, trekking back and forth across the city because they didn’t realise that everything they planned to do that day was so far apart.
To avoid this, you’ll want to pick one manageable area a day to explore, ideally by foot. If that sounds like a lot of work (it is) then have a look at my 3-Day London Itinerary, as it’s already done all of that work for you and can sort out your first three days.
Here are some areas you should consider but likely have never heard of in the usual guidebook…
Download a transportation app
You’ll live and breathe by a transportation app when you’re here in London. It’s the easiest way to figure out how to get from point A to point B, how long it will take, how much it will cost, etc. I change between CityMapper and Google Maps. CityMapper is better with giving prices, but Google Maps is better with walking directions and it’s what the digital map for my 3-Day London Itinerary is on so it will be easier to just use Google Maps if you’ve got it.
This article is part of my 3 Days in London series, here are some more tips to help you with your first few days in London. Read next:
Personally, if you’re visiting London and are keen to have a relaxing experience while also experiencing the best of the city, following one of the free London itineraries you can find online might not be the best idea. Here’s why.
They’re often written by visitors, not a Londoner
When I’m on Pinterest I quite often see itineraries like “48 hours in London” or “What to do in London in 3 Days”, and when I look into who’s written them, it’s often by someone who visited London once, for a few days, and it’s the itinerary they happened to somewhat follow.
The problem with that is that visitors who only spend a few days in London don’t know the ins and outs of the city like locals do. A local can tell you how to avoid Oxford Street (which gets STUPID busy), when you’ll need some change for a public toilet, and which location of a restaurant has a better vegetarian offering.
I’ve lived in London for many years, so I know all of the small details that visitors often glance over, and I pass this knowledge along to my community, and have done so in my 3-Day London Itinerary.
Honestly… you get what you pay for. Many free itineraries are pretty basic and just walk you through some of the most “obvious” London sights, with a plan that could have been made by someone who’s not actually been to London but is just decent at operating Google Maps…
They don’t account for different tastes and budgets
Free itineraries are very linear, they don’t account for the fact that you can’t eat gluten, are on a budget, or don’t like museums. How enjoyable could following an itinerary that takes you to the National Gallery for three hours be then? Even if the itinerary is free, you’ll still spend loads of time doing research to fill in the blanks of the things you don’t want to do, see or eat.
I did the opposite with my 3-Day London Itinerary, from the start I created it with alternatives, so that people with different tastes, budgets and desired travel paces could all use it to the fullest.
You’re not getting a local experience
If you’re keen to experience the more local side of London, free online itineraries might not help with that. Quite often, they recommend a ton of major sights to see, without anything unique, and they also don’t provide locally-loved food options.
This is a big point… if you want to eat well when you’re exploring London, you need to know of places to go ahead of time when you’re in very “touristy” areas like Westminster, Tower Hill, and Leicester Square just to name a few. Those areas are chock-full of chain restaurants that are either overpriced or serve terrible food (or both.)
In between seeing some of my London’s most loved sights, I’ve recommended smaller, locally-loved things to do, as well as provided tons of great, hidden-gem food options in the 3-Day London Itinerary.
They’re hard to use when on-the-go
Online itineraries, well, they stay in the browser. So you either have to save the webpage to your phone, or write down the recommended itinerary, in order to follow it when you’re actually in London. The problem is getting from place to place. It will take you quite some time to open Google Maps and figure out how to get to each place on the list. Then you have to get there, and that could take ages if the writer didn’t account for travel time between each spot.
Ideally you want to use an itinerary that has a digital map, or you can make one yourself. That way you can easily navigate from one spot to the next with just your phone, and if you decide to go off the general path a bit, you can easily get back to where you need to be.
My 3-Day London Itinerary has a Digital Map included, which helps you follow the itinerary each day, plus also shows you which of my recommended food spots are near to you when your tummy starts to rumble, and I’ve even pinpointed where public toilets are along the route.
Free London itineraries can be helpful, but now you know some of the pitfalls behind using them, and why they could hinder your London experience.
This article is part of my 3 Days in London series, here are some more tips to help you with your first few days in London.
Scent can be a pretty sensual thing, so you could do some perfume and/or cologne shopping together while you’re in London. Jo Malone has complimentary perfume consulting and combining in their London shops, or you could pop over to Harrods’ Ex Nihilo boutique for a luxe smelling test that will result in a bespoke scent for you and your partner.
Finally, you could go to super-Englishly Penhaligon’s, which has TWO royal warrants, to get a personalised fragrance profile, all while enjoying tea, biscuits and champagne– one of their fragrances is shown above.
Go for a romantic meal
It might be cliche, but turn a regular dinner into a romantic experience by going to the right place. Some romantic restaurants in London I recommend include:
– Duck and Waffle (Bishopsgate) – incredible views from the 43rd floor, which is very dark and romantic in the evenings. It’s incredibly hard to get reservations here so exactly two months before the date you want to book, go on their site and get your spot. Yes, they go that fast!
– Social Eating House (Soho) – a restaurant from Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton with a hidden bar above it called The Blind Pig.
– The Modern Pantry (Clerkenwell) – modern British (DELICIOUS) food, in a lovely little restaurant.
If you’re a bit more budget conscious, have a scan of the deals offered for dining on Virgin Experience Days, TravelZoo and LastMinute.com. Make sure you do your research on the restaurant before booking, and also check all terms and conditions for the voucher before purchasing.
Go to Ronnie Scott’s for some live jazz
If you like live jazz, go to London’s most famous jazz club, Ronnie Scott’s, for a romantic night of live music and nice cocktails. It’s been around since 1959, so there’s a ton of history in this place…
Book a spa day
A spa treatment is a romantic way to spend time together in London, and if you’re visiting in the wintertime, it’s a great treat after spending lots of time outdoor sightseeing.
You can sometimes get spa deals on Last-minute.com, just be sure to do your research to make sure it’s actually a good one— Tripadvisor should help.
Even if a spa treatment is out of the budget, just booking yourself into a hotel that has an indoor pool and some basic spa facilities that are free for guests to use will feel like a treat (see my previous point!)
If you’re up to spend some money together on your romantic day in London, why not do a day of personal shopping? Imagine it– you both could be enjoying a glass of bubbles in a plush, private dressing room as you wait for your personal stylists to bring you clothes that should fit you like a glove. Why not wear your new threads out of the store for a night out on the town?
Some stores that offer personal shopping services:
Don’t do the usual gross movie theater + crappy restaurant after combo. A sexy alternative is the the Soho Hotel’s Sunday film club— for £40 per person you get a three course meal or afternoon tea at their Refuel restaurant, and then get to watch the film of the week in their romantic, luxe movie theatre (shown above). I’ve done this and loved it. The Courthouse Hotel also offers this, but without the food and with some bubbles.
Curl up at a cosy pub
For something relaxing and not terribly wallet-breaking, just finding a cosy pub nearby where your staying in London could be perfect. Curl up next to the fireplace on a comfy sofa with a pint of beer or glass of wine, and you’re sorted for your romantic evening together.
Here’s a list of the top cosy pubs in London— find one near where you’re staying so you don’t have to travel far to get to it. Weird things on the underground will kill the romance factor…
Have a romantic picnic
If the weather’s decent while you’re in London, have yourself a luxurious, romantic picnic in one London’s many parks. You can pick up a ready-made hamper, which is essentially a really nice picnic basket, from places like Carluccio’s, or go for one from Fortnum and Mason if you really want to impress your date– they’re so gorgeous! Here’s a (somewhat outdated) list of other places you can get hampers from. Plus you can break out the bubbles because London’s fairly lenient on their drinking in public laws…
Have a romantic drink experience
There are loads of upscale drinks spots in London that are very sexy and romantic. Have some really nice vino in the “caves” at Gordon’s Wine Bar (pictured above), have a drink at the Radio Rooftop Bar for gorgeous views of central London, or go all out at the Rumpus Room, which has been named as the best bar in London.
Enjoy champagne and chocolate on the London Eye
Did you know you can actually book your own “pod” on the London Eye and have a private champagne and chocolate experience? Yeah, ya can. That would be pretty romantic, with bubbles in hand, looking over all of London…
There’s no better time to get some photos showing how much you love each other than when you’re in one of the most incredible cities in the world. You could use my list of great Instagram spots to visit in London to get your photos done on your own.
Let me know what you’ll do for your romantic day in London in the comments.
If the word “itinerary” scares you, I get it! As someone who considers myself a very “relaxed” traveler, in some cases it scares me too. But having an itinerary can help you experience London efficiently, making the most of your time without wearing you out and making you spend a lot of money unnecessarily. These are the common concerns people usually have when it comes to following an itinerary, and here’s how to address them so you can make sure you fully maximise your visit to London.
There’s no flexibility
Personally, when I travel, I couldn’t think of anything worse than a linear plan for each of my days, that can’t be deviated from without making the rest of the day harder to achieve. I do like some things tentatively planned, but I’m very much a go with the flow, see how the day takes us kinda traveler.
If you’re the same way, an itinerary can feel restrictive. I wanted the opposite of that, and to accommodate for people like me, when I made the 3-Day London Itinerary. It’s flexible in many senses, some of which I’ll talk about in a bit, but it’s designed to be broken up into multiple days if needed, and to be able to skip sections or areas if you want to, without being super confused as to how to proceed with the rest of the day.
The flexibility aspect is also important so that if there’s an unplanned closure, a tube strike, or something else that us unexpected, you can easily adjust your day as needed, with the Digital Map being a big help with that.
You still have to spend time researching where to eat along the route
Many times, itineraries only plot out the attractions you’ll visit in a day, but they don’t recommend where to get breakfast, lunch or dinner along the route. So you’re stuck having to take time to research good food spots that will be near to where you’ll be, otherwise you could get stuck at a lame, overpriced restaurant just because you were too hangry to put some effort into finding a good spot while on the go.
I personally don’t want you to have to do that if you get my 3-Day London Itinerary, so I’ve included loads of recommendations for where to eat along the route, for all three meals.
It won’t account for your tastes, budget or desired travel pace
If you’ve got a pre-planned itinerary filled with museums and you hate museums, then said itinerary will TOTALLY not work for you… maybe that’s what you’re afraid of. I would be! Typically when I travel, I don’t hit up the most famous attractions, or visit things like art museums. There’s nothing wrong with them, it’s just not my taste, I don’t really enjoy strolling around most art museums, or encountering crowds, and would rather spend my time doing something else (mainly, eating.)
So when I made the 3-Day London Itinerary, I kept this in mind so that people with varying tastes, wallet sizes, and travel styles could still use it. The suggestions in the itinerary have something for just about everyone, no matter what kind of traveler you are.
The only caveat is if you have VERY specific tastes or ideas for what you want to do, for example, if you want to see multiple Harry Potter attractions.
You still have to figure out transportation throughout the day
Sometimes, itineraries you find online don’t take into account travel time between each sight or food spot. This means that getting everything on the itinerary done in one day is either unrealistic, or it just involves a lot of time on public transportation… something that I personally hate doing as a Londoner, and if you’re on vacation here, you probably don’t want to be doing that either!
The best way to experience London each day is to explore a condensed area, so that you can walk to just about everything if you want, or can hop on a bus for a minimal amount of time when needed.
You won’t get “off the beaten path”
This is a super valid concern because most stuff you find online doesn’t help you experience London like a local. If that’s the kind of trip you’re after, you’ll want to find an itinerary to follow that is written by someone who knows London really well and has purposefully created the plan to include those “hidden gems”, or if you’re making your own itinerary, you want to find recommendations that come from locals.
For example, here are some hidden gems that I think you should definitely hit up when you have at least three days in London…
The 3-Day Itinerary is a mix of both the most popular attractions and local things to do, see and eat. If you want to stay away from ALL of the city’s most famous attractions, then this isn’t for you, but if you want a really good mix of them with “off the beaten path” spots, it will work.
I hope this helped you with some of your reservations with using an itinerary. Make your own, find a GOOD one online, or follow my 3-Day London Itinerary, for a better London experience (trust me!)
This article is part of my 3 Days in London series, here are some more tips to help you with your first few days in London.
If it’s your first time visiting London, you’ll likely be thinking about following a pre-planned itinerary for your first few days here. I highly recommend doing so, for the following reasons.
1. It saves you days of research time
When I was going to Vietnam a couple of years ago, I can’t even tell you how much time I spent planning my itinerary… DAYS is not an exaggeration, and I only ended up planning one thing to do for each day of my two week trip!
If you don’t have that kind of time (or that just sounds like your worst nightmare) getting a pre-made itinerary like my 3-Day London Itinerary is an option for you, and will eliminate all of that time you would have had to spend researching attractions and food spots, finding ones you think you’d like, and then figuring out how to piece them together based on how close together they are.
2. Allows you some flexibility
Having a pre-planned itinerary might sounds quite restricting, but if you’re following a detailed one like my 3-Day London Itinerary, you’ll actually have quite a bit of flexibility built in. Because you’ll have multiple options for sights to see and where to eat, you can choose which suits your fancy at the moment, and can accommodate for unplanned closures and the like.
3. Provides you with local knowledge
I definitely can’t say this for the majority of “London Itineraries” that you find online because they’re often written by people who visited London for, like, a week, and then put together an “itinerary” on their blog.
If you can follow an itinerary that’s based off of knowledge from someone who actually lives in London and knows it well, you’ll be better off, as you’ll have access to “on the ground” information that will be really helpful as you’re exploring. My 3-Day London Itinerary even has public toilets marked off on the digital map… I consider myself a public toilet expert, gross but true 😉
Also, only locals will know things like that just around the corner from Leicester Square, London’s most touristy (and yeck) square, is a hidden rooftop restaurant and bar with amazing views of the London Eye and the London skyline, and it’s not even that pricy of a spot.
If you’re keen to find little hidden gems like that for your London trip, have a watch of the below guide…
4. Reduces time wasted on transportation
London is a huuuuuuuuuge city and especially if you’re looking to go off the beaten path, you could end up spending a couple of hours a day on public transportation if you aren’t familiar with the distance between each of London’s neighbourhoods.
By following an itinerary that has been designed to limit the need for public transportation, or even not need it at all, you’ll spend less time being squashed on the tube and more time exploring above-ground.
Also if you need help with public transportation, here are the top things you need to know before you hop on the underground or a bus…
5. Prevents you from getting lost
If you’re following an itinerary with a digital map on your phone, it will be hard to get super lost. Even if you veer off the general track of the itinerary, you can whip out your phone and get walking directions back to the spot you want to be in.
If there’s a few of you traveling together, you’re bound to have different tastes, possibly be different ages, and have a bucket-full of recommendations that you’ve all brought to the table and want to check out. It’s quite time consuming, and possibly stressful, to sift through everyone’s ideas of what they’d like to do, and put together a cohesive itinerary that everyone will agree on.
Instead, with a little flexibility from everyone in the group, it’s easier to just say “let’s follow this itinerary” and stick to it. You’ll find that less choice is more, and that choosing what to do from a very curated list that’s already taken into account travel time will be a lifesaver.
7. Ensures you’ll make the most of your time
Even the type of travelers who like to go with the flow and not overplan usually worry about not making the most out of their trip. It makes sense– you’ve likely spent a lot of money to get to London, so you want to make sure you experience as many of the best bits as possible.
Following a pre-planned itinerary can help you do that, but also in the most efficient way (if it was made with efficiency in mind.)
London has hundreds of tourist attractions, thousands of restaurants, and covers 1,572 sq.km, or 606 sq. miles…WOAH. If you’ve not planned out what you want to do and see before you arrive, you might hop off the plane and immediately be incredibly overwhelmed.
Less choice is always easier to handle, and will reduce that overwhelm, and a detailed itinerary like my 3-day one will do that just that.
9. Helps you get acquainted with the city
The first few days of being in London has a bit of a learning curve to it. You’ll be figuring out how to use the transportation system, and picking up cultural differences to your home country, in the least. Following a pre-planned itinerary will take out the guesswork out of “where do I go? What do I see?” as you’re getting to know how everything in London works. It’s kind of like learning on the job!
10. It’s like getting the answers to the test ahead of time
Any good, locally-made, detailed London itinerary will essentially be like getting handed the answers to a big test you’re about to take. There’s no extra work to be done, you just read through it, add a guidance map to your phone, and get going. Simple.
My 3-Day London Itinerary does everything I talked about in this article, and includes a 60+ page PDF guide detailing your options for the itinerary, as well as local knowledge like where to find free public toilets and what dish to order at a certain restaurant. It also includes an interactive digital map that you add to your phone that you can follow each day, step by step, making it super simple to follow.
If it’s your first time to London and you’re feeling a little nervous, don’t worry! I’m sharing five common mistakes people make during their first three days in London.
To help gather these common mistakes, I asked some Love and London community members what problems they ran into when they were here, so they helped me out with some of these.
Prefer to watch instead of read?
Mistakes not to make in your first three days in London
Mistake #1: Assuming everything you want to see is close together
This is a common London visitor mistake. When you’re planning your day, use the app CityMapper or Google Maps to find out how long it will take to get to each thing you want to do. Make sure you adjust for the time of day you’ll be doing it because the journey you’ll take will likely be different depending on if it’s rush hour or not, or if it’s quite late or early in the day, when trains and buses run less frequently.
The absolute best way to make sure you’re not spending hours on public transportation each day is to choose just one or two very close-by areas to explore so that you can walk to each thing you want to visit. Believe me, it will be much more enjoyable then trekking across the city to each thing you booked.
Mistake #2: Over-Planning Your Three Days in London
I’m ALWAYS going to suggest not to over plan your visit. I totally get why it happens though. It’s so exciting to finally be in London that you want to see EVERYTHING! But, you will exhaust yourself, I promise. It can be really tiring using public transportation, walking a few miles a day, and well, EXPERIENCING things.
Another reason I suggest not to over plan is that you will want to have time to experience things that you discover along the way. The magic of visiting London is that you might be walking around and discover a cool little cafe, a hidden museum, or a fun pop-up festival that you’ll want to spend a couple of hours exploring. Give yourself the chance to experience these great moments, they’re my favourite thing about this city.
However, if you’d like to make things REALLY easy for yourself, consider my 3-Day London Itinerary. It organizes your days based on major attractions that are close together and includes a variety of places to eat, drink, and shop.
Mistake #3: Planning too much for the day you arrive
I have traveled across many time zones many, many times, and I don’t think I’ve gotten any better with jet lag. The struggle is real, especially on your first day in London. If you’ve just arrived, give yourself some credit and be flexible with what you do.
Doing SOMETHING is a must so that you stay awake to get yourself on the London time zone, but don’t book anything you’d be upset to miss or be too tired to fully experience. Then try to get yourself to bed as late as possible, otherwise your body clock will be completely screwed up for your first three days in London.
Mistake #4: Sticking to the familiar
The city is super overwhelming for some people when they first arrive, so I think out of comfort, people stick to what they know, especially for food. For example, familiar chain restaurants or attractions they’ve heard of before, which you can find easily in the most popular areas for tourists. But you’ll often end up having some gross overpriced food or paying an arm and a leg for a lukewarm “attraction” like Madame Tussaud’s (ugh, please don’t go there!)
So if you’re going to be in areas like Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus, and Trafalgar Square, do your research ahead of time and find some local-approved hidden gem spots for food and drinks. TRUST ME, it will be much better for your experience, and your wallet.
Mistake #5: Using only TripAdvisor to find things to do, see and eat
If you’re trying to find a good place to eat in the most touristy areas, another common London visitor mistake is relying on the TripAdvisor app. Sometimes it can be helpful but I’ve had a good look on there and many of the best spots for food in these areas don’t even crack the top 20 on good ‘ole TA.
TripAdvisor reviews can be skewed and manipulated, as Vice’s video has shown us, in which one of their own journalists created a fake restaurant in their “shed” in London, and was able to manipulate the system into getting it to the #1 restaurant in London spot. It was quite literally a shed, and the photos of the food were completely faked.
My point is you’ll miss out on some great hidden gems if you stick with TripAdvisor, or even maybe get duped. Do you research and look for recommendations from actual Londoners that live here and actually know good food in London. If you don’t have a friend in London, hey… you’ve got me.
My 3-Day London Itinerary
If you’re like, “Jess, I still feel so overwhelmed with planning my first few days, PLEASE HELP ME!” My 3-Day London Itinerary will put your mind at ease. It’s a flexible, non-overwhelming plan for your first three days in London. It combines some of the top things to do and see in London along with local-approved recommendations for food, drinks and other hidden gems.
If you’re spending only three days in London, or if you’re just feeling overwhelmed when trying to plan your first few days here, I’ll tell you some of the top things to do.
Visit the London classics
I think even visitors that want to get off the beaten path in London will likely want to pass by a few of the city’s most iconic buildings and sights. This includes the London Eye, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge, and many more. It’s pretty cool to be able to see these famous sights in real life. Of course, if you’re keen, you can get tickets to go inside and experience them up close.
If you have a list of these classic London attractions that you definitely want to get tickets for, make sure you check to see if the London Pass or the London Explorer Pass will save you money. My two articles about the passes will help you figure out if that’s the case:
I love afternoon tea! England is the birthplace of it, so I definitely think you should work it into your itinerary for your first three days in London. You’d usually have afternoon tea between 12 and 3pm-ish, and DON’T have lunch because it will definitely fill you up.
Afternoon tea consists of, well, your choice of tea of course, but a traditional one also includes three tiers of treats, like finger sandwiches, pretty little sweet treats, and warm, delicious scones with jam and cream. Watch the video below to find out more about afternoon tea and how it works.
I’ve included some options for getting afternoon tea, including the spot in the photo above, during your first three days in London in my 3-Day London Itinerary.
Check out a museum
If you’re into museums, London’s has plenty of them, and most are completely FREE to visit. If you like modern art, head to the Tate Modern. Or if you prefer pieces that are a bit older, visit the National Gallery.
In terms of museums that aren’t just art, there’s the Churchill War Rooms, which is always popular with history buffs. Of course, it doesn’t stop there, there are many museum options depending on what you like. There’s even a cartoon museum!
While many of London’s museums are free, if you’re keen on visiting a few of the ones that do cost money (like the Churchill War Rooms), see if they are included in either the London Pass or the London Explorer Pass. Again, as mentioned before, you could save a nice little chunk of cash if they are.
For travelers who like to see smaller, more unique museums, here are a bunch that you should definitely visit but most likely have never heard of…
Browse London’s markets
London’s food markets are sooooooo good. The most famous is Borough Market, which has been in London for over 400 years and still is a great place to visit. Another option is Old Spitalfields Market, which has not only delicious and affordable food, but also antiques, clothing, accessories, and other trinkets that make for nice souvenirs.
A favourite of Londoners is Maltby Street Market, because of its really good food options, and because it’s nearby the Bermondsey Beer Mile, making it a fun day full of eating a drinking around the Bermondsey area (one that not many tourists venture to!)
The London skyline is gorgeous and iconic, so seeing it from above is a pretty special thing to do. Some of the highest and most famous points in the city include The London Eye and The Shard, which is the tallest building in the EU. For a free option, although not as high, try the viewing platform at the Tate Modern, a free contemporary art gallery, or visit the Sky Garden, shown above.
Visiting at least one sky-high viewpoint is worth it if you’re in London for three days minimum.
When you arrive to London, I think you’ll be quite surprised at how green the city. Londoners enjoy the parks here even when the weather isn’t very nice, so you should do the same, don’t wait for a sunny, perfect day.
London visitors usually love St. James’s Park and Hyde Park, but there’s also Victoria Tower Gardens, which most people completely miss but it’s a good spot for a rest or for some photos next to the River Thames.
If you do pop over to Hyde Park, grab a Boris Bike (the city’s bike rental scheme) and cycle around the park. You’ll see way more of it than if you were exploring on foot.
BTW, a favourite of Londoners that visitors rarely make it to (such a shame!) is Victoria Park, which for many years has been voted the best park in London by locals.
Here’s my video guide to what to do while you’re there.
Go shopping in London
If you want to pick up some things to help you remember your visit to London, you’ll definitely be able to find something great in this city. Visit We Built This City on Carnaby Street for funky souvenirs made by local artists, or visit one of the city’s famous department stores, my favourites being Fortnum and Mason and Selfridge’s, which is on London’s busy shopping street, Oxford Street. Those places are really great starts for your London souvenir hunt.
If you’re into vintage, Shoreditch is the area you want to visit. Go during the week and you’ll find tons of shops with vintage and secondhand items for sale, or if you go on a weekend, you’ll see the area teeming with pop up vintage fairs and markets.
For some of the city’s coolest shops that you should totally visit but probably never heard of, watch this video.
Now, if you’re feeling overwhelmed when planning your London trip, and just don’t really have the time to spend hours planning the perfect itinerary, then check out my 3-Day London Itinerary. It’s a flexible, non-overwhelming plan for your first three days in London, it combines some of the top things to do and see in the city, along with local-approved recommendations for food, drinks and hidden gems to check out. Everything mentioned in this article is incorporated into the itinerary. You’ll cover tons in just 72 hours.