Three Days In London Without Exhaustion

It's always such a treat to visit London. My first overseas trip began in the grand city and this visit was my third. All I really remembered was how big it was and with only three full days to explore we wanted to make the most of our time. The last time we came to London we stayed with friends and our sightseeing efforts were thwarted by pouring rain. This time we hoped to see a few things and eat some good food along the way. We accomplished both.

Westminster Abbey Big Ben

View of Westminster Abbey and the River Thames

The key to exploring London efficiently is to make use of the Underground trains (also known as the "Tube"). Tickets aren't cheap, but considering how far the distances can be, it's a better bet than trying to walk everywhere and wearing oneself out. Currently a one-way ticket within zone one costs £4. A better value is the £6.60 zones one and two travel card, which allows unlimited travel for one day. Travel one way to/from Heathrow airport and zone one costs £5. Get an Oyster Card and pay even less (see Matt's comment below - thanks, Matt!)

Visitors who want to go hard can opt for my alternate 'exhaustion itineraries' below, otherwise here is how we spent our time. Since we had so many nice meals, I've included the details of some great places to refuel along the way.

Day 1

We began in the popular tourist area alongside the river at the Westminster stop. We've seen Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and the London Eye before but it's always nice to visit these icons on a trip to London.

London Eye

The London Eye towers over the river and city of London, offering passengers 360° views.

After lunch we took the tube to the SoHo shopping district for a look around (Oxford Circus or Tottenham Court Road stops). The area bordering Regent Street is packed with expensive shops but as we headed towards Covent Garden things got a little edgier with a red-light district and more independent shops. We had a pint at a pub featuring summer ales and watched the crowds go by.

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In the early evening we met fellow bloggers, Christy and Kali of Technosyncratic and Christina of Jandal Road for drinks at Waxy O'Connors, a huge Irish pub near Leicester Square. For dinner we took a short walk to Covent Garden, which is full of nice places to eat. We chose Palm Court Brasserie (38 King Street, palmcourtbrasserie.co.uk, Covent Garden stop) for a delicious meal of lamb and chicken.

Add exhaustion

If you really want to tire yourself out, try visiting Westminster Abbey or take a ride on the London Eye (from £16.74, save 10 per cent by booking online). Afterwards, shop for something specific in SoHo and take in a West End show after dinner.

Tower Bridge London

The waters around the Tower Bridge are as busy as the city itself.

Day 2

It may seem silly to spend precious sightseeing time in a department store, but Harrods must be seen to be believed. It's so big we had to take advantage of the store's information booklet, which maps the departments over 7 levels and 4.5 acres. We started at the gourmet food halls and then took the escalators to the pet department. This was a little disappointing because they had so few animals but checking out all the over-the-top pet accessories was interesting (four-poster bed for your cat or little dog anyone?) We moved on to the electronics department where we checked out 3D televisions and the latest gadgets. The toy department kept us busy as well. With 32 restaurants, the massive store is designed so a person could spend an entire afternoon there and it's fun to poke around in the departments if conspicuous consumption doesn't bother you too much (Knightsbridge stop).

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Next we headed to Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, which don't compare to New York's Central Park for me but are still worth a wander. Afterwards we dined on yummy pizzas in Kensington at Da Mario (15 Gloucester Road, damario.co.uk, Gloucester Rd stop). The smells emanating from the kitchen of this busy eatery drew us in and the food and service did not disappoint.

Add exhaustion

Get to Buckingham Palace for the changing of the guard (arrive by 11.15 am on scheduled days) and then go shopping at not only Harrods but also the other posh Knightsbridge stores. Pick up a public bike and ride around Hyde and Kensington parks or go paddleboating in the former. Venture to Notting Hill for a walk around before dinner and then eat there.

John and Andrea London Bridge

Having fun on the London Bridge

Day 3

We headed to the Camden Market area, getting off at the Chalk Farm stop so we're closer to the Stable Markets. Never mind the kitsch and crowds at the Camden Markets, this is the place to be for clothing, accessories, fun items for the home and a plethora of other lifestyle items.

Stables Market camden london

Dig for treasures at the Stables Market.

We had trouble choosing from among the many international food options but settled on lunch at a fresh, delicious Lebanese cafe. We then made our way over to the more touristy part of Camden: the main street off the Camden Town stop is packed with souvenir shops and crowds but it's worth a quick look for the variety of things being sold and, if you're into alternative music, perhaps a look through the CD and vinyl bins.

Lebanese food stables market

A delicious Lebanese mixed plate at the Camden Stables Market

We then caught the tube to the London Bridge stop for great views of the Tower Bridge. We happened to be there at the end of the business day as the post-work crowds covered the bridges and flocked to tube entrances around the city. But this area offers a great atmosphere any time of day with boats cruising along the river beneath. Just over the bridge we found a bar with Happy Hour specials where we waited out the traffic and worked up our appetite for dinner.

motorcycle bar stools

Fun eatery seats at the Camden Markets

Some people might say the national dish of the UK is a nice bowl of curry. The Indian restaurants along the famous Brick Lane (Aldgate East stop) can be hit or miss with promoters hounding you every two steps with deals for their restaurants. We booked ahead before arriving, which makes it easier to focus and brush off the touts. Aladin relies less on touts and more on word-of-mouth referrals, which it deserves. The service was friendly and attentive, without being annoying and the staff seemed to be having as much fun as the patrons. As our waiter explained, "the customers are like family." We trusted their recommendations and had some of the best curry we've ever tasted, including what our waiter, Sam, promised would be a "mind-blowing curry." Known as the Chicken Tikka Blast, it was unlike any Tikka Masala we'd had before - Sam asked us how we liked our curry and then delivered perfection. We received a 20 per cent discount for booking our table online via their website.

chicken tikka blast aladin

Finish your day with a mind-blowing curry.

Add exhaustion

Visit Camden early in the day and then head to Tower Bridge. Take in the Tower Bridge Exhibition and see the crown jewels at the Tower of London or visit one of London's outstanding museums instead (many are free!)

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What's your favourite thing to do in London?

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Three Days In London Without Exhaustion


  1. paul 20 July, 2015 at 05:19 Reply

    For those who want to experience a different side of London, Maida Vale is the perfect spot. Also called Little Venice, it’s a quiet canal area where you can go for a boat ride and see a London you didn’t expect. When you’re planning your day make sure you add this on the list as well, it will be an incredible experience. The local cafes are the perfect hideout if the weather is moody or you’re feeling hungry, Vicki’s Café being a popular destination.

  2. Shanna 22 March, 2012 at 23:51 Reply

    Thanks!  This gives me some ideas about what to do next time we go back to London, now that we have gotten some of the first time tourist stuff checked off the list.  Thanks for the great tip about the bike rentals…I will look into that next time (I think I over-planned the first time we were there, underestimating how large it was and planning too much into each day.  Your itinerary sounds much more sane!)

    • Geert @ Inspiring Travellers 23 March, 2012 at 03:15

      Glad you found the post helpful, Shanna! London is such a massive city that it’s impossible to fit “everything” into a short trip. We just moved a very short flight from London so I can’t wait to get back there to explore some more.

  3. Dave and Deb 9 September, 2011 at 02:57 Reply

    Great recommendations and I love that you added the exhaustion factor if someone does so choose to be exhausted. I have to admit, Dave and I tend to be the ones exhausted all the time. We love seeing everything!

  4. Sabina 30 August, 2011 at 01:41 Reply

    Hey, London was the first city I traveled to on my first trip overseas too, and I also stayed for three days!  My trip, however, wasn’t thwarted by rain.  I just love London.  So much that I traveled back for another three days a few years later.

  5. suzyguese 28 August, 2011 at 11:01 Reply

    I haven’t been to London for a long time, but I remember just being amazed by its appearance as a kid. The architecture and grandeur of the buildings I think is an attraction in itself.

  6. Sandal Road 26 August, 2011 at 12:28 Reply

    Wow, you guys covered quite a lot of stuff! I’m glad you found a good restaurant in Covent Garden that night, and it was so lovely meeting you both!

  7. Natasha 25 August, 2011 at 15:10 Reply

    Great photos of London, I will have to check out Aladin – Brick Lane can be so overwhelming with choices at times that it’s so hard to choose. Your curry looks delish! 

  8. Robin 25 August, 2011 at 05:38 Reply

    Reall enjoyed this post and am looking forward to a walk down memory lane in London sometime around Christmas – it will probably just be a day trip so I think we will limit ourselves to the area arund Covent Garden. A fantastic place, London.

  9. Sherry 24 August, 2011 at 12:02 Reply

    Indeed it is always such a treat to visit London. You guys are rock stars for doing so much in such little amount of time. I especially love that you visited Harrods since so many travelers I know skip it. I’ve spent hours there just looking at their products. And, its the only place I was able to have a champagne lunch inside a deli department. London is so much fun!

  10. Technosyncratic 24 August, 2011 at 08:55 Reply

    Ooh, you captured some lovely photos!  We also love Camden and have discovered that Aladin is definitely one of the best places for Indian food on Brick Lane.  Still haven’t ventured into Harrod’s though… to be honest I’m a little intimidated/overwhelmed by the prospect.  😛

    It was great meeting you two!

  11. Stephanie - The Travel Chica 23 August, 2011 at 12:46 Reply

    London is really hard to see in 3 days.  I went for a week, and it was still exhausting.  This post brought back so many good memories.

    I am not a fan of shopping, especially malls and department stores, but Harrod’s is a must-see.

  12. Joe 23 August, 2011 at 07:05 Reply

    My first trip to another country (not counting Canada) was to London. I used to live about thirty minutes from London, I would visit every chance I got. Now that I’m not living in England anymore are really miss it :(

    This really makes me want to take a trip back!

  13. Emily @ Maiden Voyage 22 August, 2011 at 23:38 Reply

    Ohhh how I love London…this post makes me miss it! I agree that the Tube is incredibly helpful! I hate how packed it can get, but it really does the trick of getting you where you need to go in such a massive city. Westminster Abbey is one of my favorite buildings on earth. I also loved the Tower of London. The amount of history that took place there is mindblowing!

    • Geert @ Inspiring Travellers 23 August, 2011 at 08:43

      I haven’t been to the Tower of London since I was a teenager – probably worth another look as I don’t really remember it! We probably should have gone into Westminster Abbey as well but we were a bit short on time that day…oh well, next time! =)

  14. Jade 22 August, 2011 at 19:10 Reply

    Since I lived in London, my favorite thing really is just walking around the city. I love it. I also LOVE wagamamas and eat it about four times everytime I am there! I can’t get enough. I’m so happy to hear you guys enjoyed the city so much!

  15. Kyle 22 August, 2011 at 15:49 Reply

    Yummm, so much good ethnic foods in London, that’s for sure. 

    And OMG, I cannot believe there’s a huge pet section in Harrod’s! We went to the store but didn’t see that and since we have dogs that would’ve been the best part!

    Sounds like the riots didn’t get the way too much of your visit to London after all, I’m glad.

    • Geert @ Inspiring Travellers 22 August, 2011 at 16:42

      It’s on the 4th floor (I think) – they even have a doggie spa and we saw some cute little pooches coming out with bows on their heads. I’m a sucker for that stuff!

      As for the riots, they didn’t affect us much and that’s why I didn’t even mention them. The first night we got there we went to buy water at the Sainsbury’s in South Kensington and it was closed early out of fear that something would happen. We stayed in that night, more because we were tired than because we were afraid but we also thought it best just in case. That night they flooded the streets with police and nothing else major happened in London. And from there all was calm, unfortunately not for the rest of England, though.

  16. Matt 21 August, 2011 at 15:34 Reply

    The tube is very expensive if you buy paper tickets, but pay £3 for a pay as you go Oyster card and most journeys in central London costs around £1.60 and it automatically maxes out at the price of a one day travel card if you make a few trips. It also turns £2 bus journeys into 90p. And you don’t waste time buying new tickets all the time. 

    • Matt 25 August, 2011 at 08:03

      Shame you didn’t know before! It really is a good system. The idea is that no matter where you travel, the oyster card will automatically ensure that it’s the cheapest option. I think the trip from heathrow to central London is £1.90 with it and single trips within the same zone are £1.10 I seem to recall. You’ll know for next time!

  17. emilyinchile 21 August, 2011 at 11:03 Reply

    I LOVE London and cannot wait to go back. Both Harrod’s and Brick Lane are on my list for this trip…Rodolfo’s never seen the amazing food halls, so I think we’ll do lunch there one day, and I can’t wait for a good curry. Thanks for the tip on where to go, we may well take advantage of the 20% off deal and book there.

    • Geert @ Inspiring Travellers 21 August, 2011 at 16:11

      The food halls at Harrod’s are awesome but it’s so expensive to eat at the counters there (and crowded) that I’d suggest making a little ‘posh picnic’ and taking it to Hyde Park. Pretty sure I saw a wine cellar there too. Or one of the restaurants inside the store might be good – there are so many! Definitely try Aladin for curry – you’ll love it and the menu is huge. The waiters are so nice…be sure to mention about the 20% discount. We saw them touting people on the way in and I asked why no deals for the people who bothered to book ahead – the waiter said for us we got the biggest discount because we booked online =) So that’s how I found out about it!

    • Geert @ Inspiring Travellers 21 August, 2011 at 16:13

      I can’t recommend Aladin enough – best curry we’ve had in ages! And Chalk Farm is an awesome place to have a house-sit. It’s very chill out there and you have such great inexpensive shopping at the Stables Market…great food too. Congrats on the house-sit! I’m so jealous that you’ll have three weeks in London. Get an Oyster card for travelling around (see Matt’s tip in the comments above)

    • Piotr 21 August, 2011 at 18:07

      Hi. You don’t need a capital ‘H’ in Soho;) I would swap Hyde Park for Regents Park and Camden for Greenwich with its market. The best real curry is in the East End, Commercial Road or Whotechappel, but it’s place where tourists don’t dare to visit…cheers

    • Geert @ Inspiring Travellers 21 August, 2011 at 18:11

      Ah – the New Yorker in me didn’t realize the difference in capitalization on Soho =) Thanks so much for the tips – always love to hear about places we missed out on. Will have to try those curry haunts next time!

    • Piotr 21 August, 2011 at 18:37

      Yes, 3 days are definitely not enough for London. I live here for 3 years and still discover new places…have a nice trip. By the way, you should visit York in Northern England. Not so new, but very charming…

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