Giving yourself 24 hours to experience London is nearly an impossible mission which is why we have created this one day in London itinerary so that you can see many of the capital’s quintessential landmarks and experience the taste, sights, and sounds of this bustling capital city in no time.
With so many neighborhoods, centuries of history, food cultures from around the world, and almost 200 museums, this is a bold mission. But if you start early and walk quickly, you’ll find the city has so much to offer someone, even just for the day.
First, you need breakfast. And not just any breakfast but a full English breakfast with sausage, bacon, fried eggs, baked beans, mushrooms, grilled tomatoes, and toast. If you’re using the underground, get out at the Hyde Park Corner station and head straight to the Lodge Cafe. With outside seating and a view of the Wellington Arch, this is the perfect place to start your day (as early as 7 am).
After you’ve had your fill, a ten-minute walk past Wellington Arch and through Green Park will bring you to Buckingham Palace, the residence of the Queen of England. Depending on the time of the year, what dates are available, and any possible COVID restrictions, there are opportunities to tour the palace. Visit their website to see if it works with your holiday.
Whether you can tour the inside or not, be sure to experience the changing of the guard. The opulence of the uniforms and the precision of the pageantry make this worthy viewing of any visitor to the city.
Transitioning from a Monarchy to Parliamentary System
To continue through UK’s history, make your way through St. James’ Park towards the River Thames. Your first stop this way will be Westminster Abbey, the still-active Gothic church that has held every coronation since 1066. This is also the burial place of countless royalty, politicians, doctors, scientists, and generals. Around the burial place of Geoffrey Chaucer, other poets, writers, and musicians have also been buried in what is now known as the Poets’ Corner.
Nearby is the Palace of Westminster, where the seat of the UK government is located. Here you can learn about the balance between the parliamentary system and their monarchy in this long, imposing building. For the best view of it, head out onto the Westminster Bridge.
Heading north up Whitehall will bring you across many of the other major government buildings in London. You can also cut off quickly onto Downing Street to see the house of the British Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street before ending at the other end of Whitehall and under Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square.
Choose Your Own Adventure: Museums or Neighborhoods
Before you make your choice, it’s probably about time for you to grab a bite for lunch. One of the best things about today’s London is the diversity in who lives in the city and the foods they brought. Near Charing Cross station is MOC Kitchen, a Vietnamese cafe offering delicious, health-focused, and traditional options for a quick lunch.
After a bowl of pho or some spring rolls, it’s time to decide: check out some of London’s world-class museums or explore the funky offerings of Covent Garden.
If museums are your thing, at the head of Trafalgar Square is the National Gallery. This art museum is free to enter and houses thousands of paintings ranging from the 13th to the 20th century. Adjoining this museum is the National Portrait Gallery, a collection of portraits of many famous and important British people.
For something a bit more physical and family-friendly, head a few blocks over to the London Transport Museum. Follow through 200 years of transport history and children under 7 can head to the playzone for an interactive fleet of mini vehicles.
If exploring Covent Garden was your choice, you will find a lively neighborhood with shopping options from local boutiques and a usual blend of live performers like acrobats and magicians. Covent Garden’s historic Apple Market is an indoor market with a unique blend of local shops selling crafts, artwork, homeware, souvenirs, handmade clothing, and much more.
Covent Garden also offers the perfect opportunity to take a break with an afternoon cocktail or tea. For those feeling a bit fancy, head to the Savoy Hotel for Afternoon Tea at The Savoy. Starting at 65 pounds, their afternoon tea menu is unparalleled under an impressive glass-domed atrium.
Cocktail-lovers can head to Blame Gloria for a hip, underground wine and cocktail bar. You’ll find classic and original cocktails built off of all the main liquors. They also offer brunch on Saturdays and a few snacks from Wednesday to Friday.
Since you’ve just had afternoon tea or snacked your way through the Apple Market, it’s a perfect day for an evening performance before a late-night dinner.
Within Covent Garden and across the Waterloo Bridge you will find many of London’s most important theaters and performance halls. In the heart of Covent Garden are two great options: Donmar Warehouse for new and contemporary plays and the Royal Opera House for classic opera and ballet.
Across the River Thames is the National Theatre and the Old Vic. Both specialize in classic and modern productions but the National Theatre is world-renowned for their performances of Shakespeare. If you’re looking for something a bit more edgy, some theaters focus on up-and-coming writers but these aren’t located in a centralized area. Check out the Bush Theatre, Arcola Theatre, and Theatre 503 for something out of the ordinary.
After the performance, you’re ready for a late dinner and maybe a few drinks before bed. If you stayed around the Covent Garden area, head towards Soho for a classic pub, the Dog and Duck. The current pub was built in 1897 and was the haunt of many historical figures like George Orwell. Grab a cask ale or two and some traditional pub food like a British pie. With a full stomach, a few drinks, and the one day in London itinerary completed, you’ll be ready for your bed and dreams of black cabs zooming by.