I lived in London for three years and absolutely LOVED it! As NDBee said, the tube is incredibly easy to use, as are the buses, so you should have no problem using public transport there. Whatever you do, do NOT rent a car for London – it will be a much bigger hassle than it’s worth. There is so much to do in London, 3 days will really be cramming it in. The Tower of London is well worth a visit, as is a bit of shopping on Oxford Street. Take a walk through the parks (St James is my favourite) and stop by the Natural History Museum in South Kensington (unless you’re a massive history buff, I’d say you can skip the British Museum, Nat Hist is much more interesting). Spend a morning wandering around Chelsea. Check out Buckingham Palace at some stage and wander around Covent Garden for a little while. These are all pretty touristy things to do but if you are only in London for three days, you have to see them!
For Paris, just learn a few key words and you won’t have any trouble. Most people speak some English but if you don’t attempt to speak some French at the start, you will not receive a very warm welcome. Just key phrases is enough (hello, please, thank you, numbers, I would like…., table for two, bathrooms etc) As to what to see, definitely wander around the Left Bank for a while and just take in the sites. The Louvre is pretty awesome (and I don’t like art), Sacre Coeur and the surrounding area is quite nice, and Notre Dame Cathedral is a must do. If you can, try to book in dinner at the Eiffel Tower – it’s pretty awesome and well worth the money. Also, climb the stairs to the top of the Arc de Triomphe as you’ll get amazing views over all of Paris. Take a day trip to Versailles as well – it is AMAZING! And most of all, just stroll the streets, pop into little patisseries and practice this sentence: “Je voudrais un pain au chocolat s’il vous plait” – you won’t regret it when you have a yummy chocolate croissant in your hand! 🙂
The Metro in Paris is equally easy to use so you should have absolutely no trouble using public transport there either. Just grab a handy little Metro map (you’ll want to do the same thing with the Tube) and you won’t have any trouble, but just be prepared for a lot of stairs on both systems. They do have escalators at some stations (elevators are pretty much unheard of except for a few, newer, wheelchair accessible stations) but for most stations, it will be lots of stairs to/from the trains and when switching lines. Not a big deal at all….. unless you have all of your luggage with you!
Are you going to be spending any time in Lisbon before flying out to Madeira? If so, Lisbon is another AMAZING city (DH and I got engaged in Portugal, although in a coastal town north of Lisbon).
That’s going to be such an awesome trip – enjoy!!!