London in Three Days with Teens

A first timers itinerary in London. London has a wealth of child-friendly, fun, historic, educational, and cultural things to do. How then to make the most of 3 days in this fun UK capital? With so much to see and do, here’s an itinerary to get to those bucket-list sights and must-dos in London.

Day 1: Westminster Bridge, Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, St. James Park, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, London Eye, China Town

Day 2: Uber Boat to Greenwich, Royal Observatory (Prime Meridian and GMT), Cutty Sark, Burroughs Market, The Shard and Leake Street Tunnel

Day 3: Tower Bridge, Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, High Tea at The Wolseley, Fortnum and Mason, Harrods

In early 2022, we had planned on visiting Europe and then unfortunately, two of us came down with Covid a couple of days before our departure date resulting in cancelled plans. So, over the Christmas holidays, we made last minute plans to go back. Given that it was such short notice, we ended up going for 8 days and split that time between London and Paris.

We arrived early morning at 6:30am at London’s Heathrow airport. From there, we decided to take the train into the city to our hotel right beside Lambeth train station.

We decided against buying the Oyster card but instead bought single metro tickets for the four of us. The journey from Heathrow to central London takes around 45 minutes by taxi, 15 minutes by train, 35-45 minutes by London underground (Picadilly or Elizabeth Line) and 1 hour by the National Express bus.

When we got to the hotel, we kept our baggage at the front desk and decided to go on our way. Since we were hungry, we stopped by a bakery, grabbing some croissants and coffee to charge us up.

Tips: I planned the day with all the key sites we wanted to visit based on proximity to each other allowing us to maximize our time. The best way was to put the sites we wanted into Google Maps, sequence to optimize proximity to each other, and then follow the directions either walking or taking public transportation. We walked a lot – averaging 20,000 – 30,000 steps a day. As long as the two teens were well fed, they were troopers! (minus some exceptions!). I evaluated the cost of separately bought tickets to the various sights and realized it was cheaper and effective to use the London Pass instead.

Day 1: Westminster Bridge, Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, St. James Park, London Eye, China Town

We walked from our hotel to Westminster Bridge, past the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben and continued walking towards Buckingham Palace. To get to the Palace, we passed the Wellington Barracks, on the edge of St. James’ Park along Birdcage Walk.

Since it was a Sunday, we had to watch the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace. You can watch the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. You can watch them at Windsor Palace on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. https://changing-guard.com/where-to-watch.html

You don’t have to watch them at the gates of Buckingham as there are other options. The first troop movements for the Changing of the Guard ceremony take place at St. James’ Palace. 10:25 The St James’ Palace Detachment of The King’s Guard form up for inspection on Friary Court. During the inspection the St James’s Palace Band play a selection of music. (Check the calendar as on occasions there is no St James’s Palace Band). The Guards, normally led by a Regimental Band or Corp of Drums, step off to march down The Mall to Buckingham Palace.

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Since it was winter, you couldn’t do a tour of Buckingham Palace but we strolled outside the dates, and admired the statue of Queen Victoria. The Queen Victoria Memorial is located in front of Buckingham Palace and comprises the Dominion Gates (Canada Gate, Australia Gate and South and West Africa Gates), the Memorial Gardens and a vast central monument commemorating the death of Queen Victoria in 1901.

From there, we walked down the Mall to Piccadilly Circus. We planned on watching London’s New Year’s Day Parade and snagged a coveted spot. It was a cold, clammy day and some hot cocoa kept us going.

After watching the parade, we plugged in directions to our hotel in Google Maps and walked back, via Trafalgar Square, where had the kids been younger, they would have surely climbed on the lion statues at the base of Nelson’s column. Along the way, we enjoyed the sights of London. We walked right past the London Eye, where you had lines of visitors lined up for a ride up into the sky.

Being London, we had to try Fish and Chips and decided to check out The Fishcotheque an old-fashioned, long-standing chip shop offering fried fish, burgers & pies, plus a take-out option. After tasting the drool-worth fish and calamari, I think we’ll want to jet out there again just for that!

After lunch, we strolled back to the hotel and checked in. We lounged around in the room for a bit and then feeling rested, we headed out again. We wanted to experience the lights of London at night. Big Ben, London Eye, the lights on Regent street, it was so beautiful.

The London Eye, also known as the Millennium Wheel, is a cantilevered observation wheel on the South Bank of the River Thames in London. It is Europe’s tallest cantilevered observation wheel. It moves very slowly.

Big Ben, one of the most Instagrammed landmarks, has an iconic silhouette and is probably the world’s most famous clock. Did you know though that the Houses of Parliament and Elizabeth Tower, are commonly called Big Ben?

Six monarchs and 41 prime ministers have come and gone since the bells first struck their now familiar music across Westminster.  Unfortunately, with renovations, the tower was closed, but it’s a high  292 steps to the clock faces and 334 steps to the Belfry where Big Ben, the Great Bell, hangs. Big Ben is not the only bell in the clocktower. The bells are fixed and struck by hammers from outside, rather than swinging and being struck from inside by clappers.   

The streets were beautifully lit up with holiday lights.

The trick to keep moving with teens is to keep them well-fed. We snacked on sandwiches and finger-foods from bakeries and by the time we wanted to grab dinner, we realized most places were shutting down for the night. Fortunately, we were close to China Town and found a well-known restaurant that caters to late-night diners. There we feasted on Malaysian Laksa Noodles, Roast Duck and Roast Pork, Mussels in Chili oil and Sweet and Sour Ribs. The kids washed that down with Mango Bubble Tea. We then walked back to our Hotel, collapsing after a long but fun first day.

Day 2: Uber Boat to Greenwich, Royal Observatory and the Prime Meridian (GMT), Cutty Sark, eating traditional foods, Burroughs Market and a visit to the Shard ending with a walk home via Leake Street Tunnel

Day 2 started with a ride down the Thames via the Uber boat from the Westminster bridge pier all the way down to Greenwich. It’s a great way to see the sights of the capital as you jet down the river.

London’s central business district
The Tower Bridge
Canary Wharf

Greenwich, the tranquil borough on the bank of the Thames is home to the Cutty Sark, the classical buildings of the Old Royal Naval College, and the Royal Observatory, the site of the Greenwich Meridian line and Greenwich Mean Time (GMT)

The Cutty Sark, a British clipper ship, is considered the world’s only surviving extreme clipper. Most of the hull fabric seen on the ship is from it’s original construction. Clipper ships are marked by three design characteristics – a long, narrow hull, a sharp bow which cuts through the waves rather riding atop – and three raking masts. Launched in 1869, it was the fastest and sleekest ship of its time. She’s beautiful and dominates the waterfront.

After the Cutty Sark, you wind your way past the Old Royal Naval College and through the wide-open Greenwich park up a steep hill to the Royal Observatory.

The Cutty Sark
Greenwich Palace also known as Placentia
Royal Observatory The Shepherd 24 hour Gate Clock

This is one of the earliest electrically driven time public clocks, installed in 1852. Being a 24-hour clock, the hour hand marks noon at the bottom on the dial and midnight to the top.

Prime Meridian

Just as the equator divides the northern and southern hemisphere, the Prime Meridian divides the eastern and western hemispheres. It is longitude 0°.  In 1884, Sir George Biddell Airy, built the Transit Circle telescope at the Royal Observatory. The cross-hairs in the eyepiece of the telescope precisely defined Longitude 0° for the world.

Hungry after spending a hew hours there, the Pie and Mash at Goddards at Greenwich beckoned us and we enjoyed a delicious meal of pie, mash and absolutely scrumptious sticky toffee pudding.

Minced Beed Pie and Mash
Sticky Toffee Pudding
Cheese & Onion Pie and Mash

Well satiated, we made our way back to the pier and took the Uber boat back to Bankside Pier which is within walking distance of Borough Market, one of the largest and oldest food markets in London. It’s fun to just walk through the market and try out the wares of the vendors. A quick walk from Borough Market is The Shard, considered an Icon of modern London. A ride up to the  68, 69 and 72 floors gave us spectacular 360-degree views upto 40 miles despite it being a deary day. We spent over an hour there, watching the sun go down.

A view of The Shard from the bottom of the building
A room with a view

After enjoying the views from the Shard, it was time to head home, taking the boat back to Waterloo pier where we walked through Leake Street Tunnel on the way to the hotel.

Leake Street Tunnel: Tucked under Waterloo station is one of London’s coolest street art locations with its ever-changing colorful murals. This 300-meter tunnel is the city’s largest legal graffiti wall and very cool! The Tunnel is a short walk away from Waterloo Station. It takes about five minutes to walk it from the station via York Road or you can get there from Lower Marsh street. To learn more, check out: https://www.leakestreetarches.london/

Day 3: Ride along with the Big Bus Hop On Hop Off Bus, Tower Bridge, Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliament, High Tea at The Wolseley, Fortnum and Mason, ending with a visit to Harrods

We decided to use the Hop On Hop Off Bus as part of the London Pass. Buying the pass was the best decision we made. Not only did it include attractions that would have been more expensive purchasing individually, we were able to ride the HOHO bus on a cold wet day, seeing various sites from the bus, while staying dry from the rain.

Tower Bridge:

There’s always a waiting line for the Tower Bridge so we started the day there hoping to avoid the crowds. There’s a lot of narrow stairs to climb up that bridge – beware! But the view from the top is worth it. You can see up and down the river and walk along its panoramic glass walkway and see the mechanics of the bridge that make it open and close. This engineering marvel, is not only London’s most striking bridge thanks to its Neo-Gothic architecture and lifting central sections that can open frequently, but when it was first opened, it was the most sophisticate bascule bridge in the world.

Tower Bridge is often incorrectly called London Bridge. These are two separate bridges. Tower Bridge is the stately one, seen in the picture below and besides the Tower of London. When opened, it connected London and quickly made commerce easier. London Bridge, meanwhile, is slightly upriver, spanning the Thames from the City of London to Southwark. Walking from London Bridge to Tower Bridge takes less than 15 minutes.

Jump on the glass floor if you dare!
A mirrored ceiling makes the views more fun
Tower Bridge

From the Tower Bridge, we headed over to the Tower of London, a stone’s throw away.

Tower of London:

The Tower of London is one of London’s most important tourist attractions, an incredible palace and castle that you can’t miss on a trip to London. It will probably take you 1 – 2 hours to visit the Tower of London. The tour was included and was extremely informative and fun. Officially His Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London, this is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London. It also houses the Crown Jewels. The Tower’s been around since Roman times and has seen many changes over the years. During the Second World War, parts of the Tower were destroyed by bombing, including part of a building used by the Royal Mint and the Main Guard. War Prisoners, including the German deputy leader, Rudolph Hess, were kept as prisoners in the Tower. Another famous prisoner was Guy Fawkes who attempted to blow up Parliament with gunpowder, on November 5th 1605.




The Yeoman guard, in the middle, is a popular symbol of the guards of London. Henry VII’s personal guards were the first ‘Beefeaters’, so named as they were permitted to eat as much beef as they wanted from the King’s table, and Henry VIII decreed that some of them would stay and guard the Tower permanently. They carry out ceremonial duties, such as unlocking and locking the Tower every day in the Ceremony of the Keys.
Here’s where you will find the Crown Jewels, under armed guard, a dazzling collection of  dazzling collection of crowns, scepters, orbs, medals and rings handed down by British monarchs throughout history
Yeoman Warder. popularly known as the Beefeaters
The Tower of London

We then hopped back on the bus and got off at Westminster Abbey.

Westminster Abbey: The magnificent Westminster Abbey, one of the most famous places in London and a must-see on your visit to London. It will probably take you 1-2 hours to visit the Abbey. Since the coronation of William the Conqueror in 1066, all coronations of English and British monarchs have been held in the abbey, as have many royal weddings, including that of Prince William to Kate Middleton in 2011.Westminster Abbey was initially built by Henry III in 1245 and it is one of the most important Gothic buildings of England. At first it was home of Benedictine monks, then the coronation church since 1066 and the final resting place of 17 monarchs. It contains a treasury full of paintings, stained glass, pavements, textiles, books and various other artefacts plus the most significant collection of monumental sculptures of the UK. The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries in the Abbey’s Triforium opened in June 2018.

This Coronation Chair has been used at every Coronation ceremony since 1308. The Stone, which filled the space below the seat, was returned to Scotland in 1996, but will come back to the Abbey for future coronations.

After this, we hopped onto the Bus again, headed down towards Bond Street where we got off at The Ritz.

High Tea Afternoon Tea in Mayfair | The Wolseley, Piccadilly, London

Our 15-year old has been dreaming of London for a while now. It was sweetly amusing to see how enamored she was with the British accent and kept practicing it with dad! For her, the highlight of a visit to London would have been High Tea. And so we splurged with a visit to Fortnum & Mason followed by High Tea at The Wolseley, one of London’s oldest restaurants. These restaurants are within walking distance of each other.

At Fortnum and Mason, our 17-year old was able to pick up amazing Beef Wellington, something he had been craving while the 15-year old and the hubby entertained themselves checking out the selection of teas, chocolates and cheese.

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The Wolseley, established in 1707 and located in Mayfair in London’s iconic Piccadilly. is an elegant restaurant serving Modern European food & afternoon tea with grand, art deco glamour. We could understand why it’s renowned for it’s art decor, food and truly impeccable service, making it indeed an evening to remember. The server, a Texan transplant to London, went out of his away to make sure this was a special occasion and a memorable evening.

We also walked along Bond Street and Oxford Street, window shopping, checking out the fanciest of cars, and imagining the lives of the Rich and Famous.

We then hopped a car (Uber) that took us over to Harrods.

Harrods is London’s well-known high-end department store. It epitomizes British luxury retail, attracting millions of visitors from around the globe for its selection of world-class, high-end retail shopping. Set in a beautiful historic location on Brompton Road near Knightstbridge London Underground Station, the distinguished department stores boasts seven floors and more than 330 departments.  For one of my teenagers, Harrods was all about checking out the shoes – study hard kid!

This brought us to the end of our 3-day visit. The next day, we hopped on the Eurostar to Paris. We’ll be back – London was amazing!

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