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Quintessential London In 2 or 3 Nights

Updated: May 11

classic underground sign reading Chalk Farm Station

London's calling but you have no idea where to start. With just a few days, you can easily visit the must see sights in London, but you'll surely have worn through your new sneakers walking and will have exhausted yourself completely.

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In my experience London is best seen as a few days stopover en route to somewhere else. Easily accessed from all over the globe you can fly into Gatwick (LGW) or Heathrow (LHR) and then onward to just about anywhere, especially if you include low-budget flights from London's Stanstead airport as well.

With just a few days in London you have to be choosy about what to see. I recommend making a home base in one of the two tube stop areas below and exploring it completely.

Trust me, there will always be another trip to London. All roads may lead to Rome, but for some reason they keep leading me to London too! With direct routes from either airport, read on for two easy itineraries for 2 or 3 nights in London.

London in 2 Nights

Recommended time: 2 nights

Transportation: From London Gatwick the Thameslink is the most direct route and takes about 35 minutes.

Where to Start: London Bridge Underground

The London Bridge area is a perfect starting off point and home base if you fly into Gatwick. Housing a lot of the Hilton's and Marriott's of the world (read: free nights on points) it is near some of the bigger attractions in the London area without being overwhelmed with tourists. Offering river strolls, good eats, a bustling marketplace and of course two major landmarks of London, this area is surely going to hit the spot for a quick stopover in London.

The sun casts a shadow over London Bridge
Tower Bridge

Tower of London

First thing in the morning, the Tower of London is a must. Get tickets online in advance to avoid the line and pick an early start time. Spend an hour or two visiting each of the tower's buildings within the complex before moving on to Borough Market.

The Borough Market

Feeling peckish mid-morning? Take a food tasting tour of the London Bridge area. The Borough Market is back across the river and a unique stop for the foodie or market lover.

Offering the typical farmer's market wares, you can easily spend an hour roaming the booths and sampling local products.

Entering Borough Market from the bridge
Entering Borough Market from the bridge

Lunchtime Liaisons

Tower Tandoori is a low-key spot a few roads back from the river. I found this because it was close to our hotel, but boy oh boy it hits the spot on a rainy or chilly London day.

Mercato Metropolitano is a hip food court with many options, also set back a bit from the river.

Tower Tandoori's heaping portions of curry near London Bridge
Tower Tandoori's heaping portions of curry near London Bridge

Nap Time!

You're probably jet lagged, and you are on vacation. Rest!

Tower Bridge (London Bridge) as seen from the walk to Borough Market
Tower Bridge as seen from the walk to Borough Market

It's 5 O'Clock Somewhere

Have a drink at the HMS Belfast bar on a sunny day.

Visit the 214 Bermondsey gin bar and speakeasy if you are a gin lover. Each gin flight comes with custom pairing sheets that can only be revealed after you have done your initial tasting. Such a fun concept (and delicious too)! You can read more here:

Three gin glasses, a bottle of tonic, and a reveal sheet of which gin is which
My gin flight reveal at 214 Bermondsey in London

Low lighting and leather furniture at 214 speakeasy near London Bridge
Chill vibes at 214 Bermondsey near London Bridge

Evening Entertainment

Want something a little spooky to fill your night? Take a Jack the Ripper Tour with projected streets scenes using "rippervision" on this highly rated tour.

London in 3 Nights

Recommended time: 3 nights

Transportation: From London Heathrow the Heathrow Express is the most direct route and takes about 20 minutes.

Where to Start: Paddington Station Underground

Arriving directly from London's Heathrow airport, Paddington Station offers travelers an option of staying in Notting Hill, Hyde Park or Regent's Park, without much wear and tear on the walking shoes. Centrally located to many of London's classic sights, first-time London visitors may enjoy starting here. Thrown together below in blips of chaos, choose your area and piece together the order of operations based on your preferences.

quintessential london photo in front of a red phone booth

A Walk Through Notting Hill

Obviously famous for Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts' fun romantic movie, this area is also popularly showcased in the Paddington movies with Sally Hawkins and Hugh Boneville. Cute row homes and antique stores are plentiful here, as are adorable lunching spots like:

  • Portobello Garden Caffe

  • Lemonia

  • Princess of Wales Pub Primrose Hill

Don't forget to visit the Portobello Road market on Saturdays ( while you are there.

Take in Bohemia at Camden Locks

Camden Market, in my opinion, is one of the coolest spots in London. Full of endless rows of bohemian scarves, handbags and jewelry, the outer market leads to even more booths of candles, soaps and other typical market wares.

Camden Lock sign
Camden Market is full of bohemian and foodie treasures

Gritty and crowded, you'll feel like a local as you browse the shops leading to the outer courtyard with the food stalls. Follow your nose to hawkers selling sausages, cheese, and other typical food truck flavorings.

Outside the chaotic buzz of the market you can find the famous Camden Locks, a lock system that can be enjoyed by the sidelines as boats come in, or you can hop on a site seeing boat. One boat even takes you straight to the back door of the nearby London Zoo if you have the time! Inquire at the dock for information on tickets.