In this paper, an error analysis of a three steps two level Galerkin finite element method for the two dimensional transient Navier–Stokes equations is discussed. First of all, the problem is discretized in spatial direction by employing finite element method on a coarse mesh 𝒯 H with mesh size H . Then, in step two, the nonlinear system is linearized around the coarse grid solution, say, u H , which is similar to Newton’s type iteration and the resulting linear system is solved on a finer mesh 𝒯 h with mesh size h . In step three, a correction is obtained through solving a linear problem on the finer mesh and an updated final solution is derived. Optimal error estimates in L ∞ ( L 2 )-norm, when h = 𝒪 ( H 2− δ ) and in L ∞ ( H 1 )-norm, when h = 𝒪( H 4− δ ) for the velocity and in L ∞ ( L 2 )-norm, when h = 𝒪( H 4− δ ) for the pressure are established for arbitrarily small δ > 0. Further, under uniqueness assumption, these estimates are proved to be valid uniformly in time. Then, based on backward Euler method, a completely discrete scheme is analyzed and a priori error estimates are derived. Results obtained in this paper are sharper than those derived earlier by two-grid methods. Finally, the paper is concluded with some numerical experiments.