Buckingham Palace, Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, The Globe Theatre, River Thames, and of course, the natural treasures — the Princes of Wales — London is one of the most visited cities in the world with more than 300 direct connections into five local airports, but for a quick escape, what will you do with 72 Hours in London…other than stop by 221B Baker Street? Travel Expert Elise Felixson has the ultimate three-day itinerary to The Smoke!
Day 1: London City Tour, Show at West End Theatre
7:05 a.m. — Total London City Tour
With so much to see and do in London and so little time to do it, one of the best ways to explore the city is a guided tour. The tour starts at 8:15 a.m., but Premium Tours will pick you up at your hotel. Then you’ll explore many of the famous sites, starting with a panoramic drive to see iconic sights like Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, House of Parliament, and the London Eye, before heading to Tower of London to be the first group inside. Afterwards, head to the Mall to see the Changing of the Guard and then take a short boat trip on Thames to see St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Globe Theatre, and more. End the tour with a visit to the St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Coca-Cola London Eye.
Elise says, “The guide was very knowledgeable, funny, and engaging. With a smaller group, we were able to tour the city by bus, as well as walk around a bit. The day of the tour there was no Changing of the Guard, but there was a practice run for the Trooping of the Colour. We were able to get very close and see the mounted Horse Guards and the band march down the Mall.”
After being dropped off at your hotel, you’ll want to freshen up, but then head out to the Terrace Restaurant at the National Theatre. The contemporary, warehouse feel of the restaurant is distinctively modern, and the small sharing plates and local spirits make this eatery distinctively English. The views of the London skyline at sunset are just breathtaking.
7:30 p.m. — Show at the West End Theatre District
You cannot go to London, home of The Bard, and not experience the sensation that is the “theatre.” Shows range from Broadway favorites like The Lion King, Cats, and Phantom of the Opera, to classical favorites like Hamlet and Wuthering Heights. And you never know who you will see as English A-listers love coming home to perform — Tom Hiddleston, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Dame Judi Dench recently completed stints.
To get to the West End, “Take advantage of the Tube system,” says Elise. “It is a very easy way to get around the city without the use of taxis. What makes it easy to use is each individual line is color coded, which helps differentiate between them all.”
Day 2: Harry Potter and the Tour of Stonehenge
5:00 a.m. — Stonehenge, Salisbury, and Bath Tour
Splurge for the Stonehenge, Salisbury, and Bath with Private Viewing at Sunrise. After being picked up at your hotel, Premium Tours will take you to the 5,000-year-old Stonehenge where you’ll receive direct access to the circle, something not many are allowed to do. You’ll also see the breathtaking sight of the sun rising over the structure as the guide explains the bloody history of the stones.
Then continue onto Lacock, a Saxon-era village used in numerous movies and TV series, including Pride and Prejudice and Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (or “Sorcerer’s Stone” as it’s known here) . Enjoy a late breakfast at the George Inn, a traditional English pub with free range poultry and savory options like char-grilled pork rib eye steak and blade of beef slow cooked in Wadworth Corvus stout.
The tour finishes in Bath with a trip to the Bath Abbey before exploring the famous Roman Bath, which has more than a quarter million gallons of boiling water spilling from a hot spring daily.
4:30 p.m. — Harry Potter Filming Sets in London
Finish up the day at Warner Bros. Studio Tour London, where you’ll see the actual sets used for the Harry Potter films. Amble through the Great Hall at Hogwarts, Dumbledore’s office, Diagon Alley, Gryffindoor Common Room. Walk Privet Drive. Peer into the Knight Bus. Drink Butterbeer, and fly on a broomstick.
“For any Harry Potter fan, this is a must see!” exclaims Elise. “Seeing all the different sets and costumes that were used in the making of all eight films was just unreal. It really is amazing how much detail went in to every aspect of the movies to bring this world alive.”
The last tour leaves at 4:30 p.m., but the studio is open until 8:00 p.m.
Day 3: The Royal Treatment Plus Pubs
7:05 a.m. — Windsor Castle
You can’t go to London without visiting the weekend residence of the Queen, the State Apartments, and the Royal Gardens. While at Windsor — where royals from William the Conqueror to the current Queen have lived — wander the quaint town with traditional shops and historic pubs, the latter which is rumored to have hosted Shakespeare as he wrote The Merry Wives of Windsor.
11:30 a.m. — Lunch at authentic English pub
Grab lunch at Two Brewers on Park Street, a vintage pub dating back to 1792 that serves homemade favorites like pate of chicken and duck livers pan fired in red wine and onions with apple and real ale chutney. The pub also offers pastas and salads as well as freshly-made sandwiches, and don’t miss the English beer and fine wines.
1:00 p.m. — Buckingham Palace
Visit the official London residence of Her Majesty The Queen and receive an audio guide through the State Rooms which are used by the Royal Family for entertainment, ceremonies, and official functions. The tour also includes the Royal Garden and a man-made lake, plus free time to explore the magnificent architecture.
Another must when visiting London — afternoon tea. Tea at Grosvenor House, known as Anna’s Tea, named after the 7th Duchess of Bedford in the early 1800s, wows with a selection of finger sandwiches, plain and raisin buttermilk scones with Devonshire clotted cream, a choice of British jams, scrumptious cakes, and a choice of leaf tea. Just remember to look into the cup as you drink and do not raise that pinkie.
5:00 p.m. — Dinner at a pub
Sleep on the plane! This is your last night in London, so head to one of its most famous pubs! “Off of Oxford Street, there’s a place called Shakespeare’s Head. We loved it,” exclaims Elise. Built in 1735, the pub was originally opened by distant relatives of William Shakespeare and overlooks the famous Canaby Street, once an 18th century street market. Choose from usual pub grub like chicken wings, burgers, and pulled pork nachos, as well as British favorites like fish and chips.
“I had steak and ale pie and became obsessed. It was so delicious,” raves Elise.
Head to 221B Baker Street. Cross the Tower Bridge. If it’s a Friday, enjoy one of the many open house nights at British Museums like The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, Victoria & Albert Museum, or Tate Britain. London is easy to navigate with the Tube Map app!
Explains Elise, “It is an application that helps you map out your point to point location to help get you on the correct tube line and make the correct connection if changing lines. It works with Wi-Fi, so you easily stop by a pub for cider and then head on your way.”
Where to Stay in London
Specialist Recommends: K+K George (My Time)
K+K George enchants with a private English garden in the middle of this contemporary city and is less than a quarter mile from the Underground Station (Earl’s Court), connecting you to the famous sights of London. Comfortable and well-appointed guestrooms offer mini bars, satellite TV with international channels, and even an electric travel adapter.
Splurge: 41 Hotel
With only 28 rooms and suites, the intimate 41 offers unparalleled pampering service and complimentary snacks all day, including meat, cheese, salads, and fresh bread. Black and white flooring contrast dark mahogany woodwork for elegant, five-star accommodations, and located opposite the Royal Mews and just behind Buckingham Palace, this luxury hotel is perfectly placed for your London adventure.
Trendsetter: The Arch London
A luxury boutique hotel in Great Cumberland Place, The Arch London offers exquisite amenities like complimentary Wi-Fi, complimentary soft drinks in room, an exquisite Martini Library, a stylish Champagne Lounge, and a modern twist on British traditions like fish and chips and afternoon tea. Each of the 82 rooms boasts unique décor and modern technology for the ultimate boutique experience in London.