The Big Smoke is full of fun things to do and famous landmarks to see, but if you’re short on time, it’s difficult to know what to prioritise. If you’re visiting London for just one day, or you want to show your friends and family around the city, it’s best not to cram too much in. Therefore, we’ve planned the perfect one day in London with plenty of landmarks, cultural spaces and coffee stops to keep you going.
Related: 21 Quirky Things to Do in London
1. Trafalgar Square
At 8:30am start your day in one of London’s most famous cultural spaces, Trafalgar Square. Here you can find the National Gallery and the towering Nelson’s Column, which is guarded by 4 lion statues. Use your 45 minutes to marvel at the square and take some photos before it’s packed with tourists.
2. Buckingham Palace
After a 15-minute walk past St James’ Park, you’ll find yourself at Buckingham Palace just in time for its opening at 9:30am. Here you have half an hour to explore the outside of the royal headquarters and see the famous Queen’s Guards. If you’d like to witness the inside and the state rooms, we’d recommend skipping the next café stop to make up time, however you’ll need a ticket to do this. Bear in mind you can only do this between July and October.
3. The English Rose Café
After seeing two major sites in central London, it’s time for a well-deserved coffee break. Aim to get to The English Rose Café for 10:10am, where you’ll have 50 minutes to peruse their menu, with breakfast favourites such as croissants and a Full English, or a variety of teas and coffees to keep you going.
4. Big Ben
Walk past Westminster Abbey to arrive at Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament at around 11:20am. Although this well-known name is often used to describe the clock and the tower, the name Big Ben was originally given to the bell which chimes every 15 minutes. Use your 30 minutes to take in the architecture and snap some photos. Bear in mind that the Big Ben is under renovation until 2021 and will unfortunately be covered in scaffolding. If you’re visiting during this period, it might be best to focus your attention on the Houses of Parliament.
5. Borough Market
Next stop, lunch. One day in London could not be complete without a visit to the famous Borough Market. This is London’s oldest food market and has been serving locals for over 1000 years. Here you can find every type of food, from exotic dishes to cheese and charcuterie boards, this is the perfect spot for even the pickiest eaters. Spend 1 hour and 50 minutes choosing your lunch and exploring the many stalls.
6. Shakespeare’s Globe or Tate Modern
After lunch, treat yourself even further with a show at Shakespeare’s Globe. This famous performing arts venue shows Shakespeare’s plays most Tuesdays-Saturdays at 2pm. However, if you don’t make a show you can always opt for a tour of the iconic building, which is a reconstruction of the Globe Theatre, an Elizabethan playhouse for which Shakespeare wrote his plays. If theatre isn’t your cup of tea, you can spend this 2 hours and 45 minutes exploring Tate Modern, which is just 5 minutes’ walk away.
7. Riverside Terrace Café, Southbank
After the show, head to Southbank via the Circle or District line for a much-needed coffee. The Riverside Terrace Café is a great pitstop for 45 minutes which offers views of the River Thames, as well as a pastry counter to keep you going until dinner. After your break, the walk to your next destination is only 5 minutes. However, take 30 minutes to enjoy a leisurely stroll by the river and take in the views, or use this time to walk through the nearby Jubilee Gardens if the weather is nice.
8. London Eye
If all goes to plan you should arrive at the London Eye at 6:30pm, giving you roughly half an hour to queue and half an hour to ride this giant observation wheel and enjoy panoramic views of the city from 135 metres high. Depending on when you visit, a 7pm ride could offer sunset views if you visit in Spring or Autumn.
9. Sherlock Holmes Pub
London in 24 hours has to include this stop for all Sherlock Holmes fans. Avoid the crowds at 221b Baker Street and enjoy a 2-hour dinner in this Sherlock Holmes themed pub. Here you can find a complete recreation of Holmes and Watson’s sitting room and study, as well as a traditional British menu.
10. Leicester Square
At 9:40pm walk for 10 minutes to the renowned Leicester Square which boasts some of the best nightlife London has to offer. The best places for a tipple include The Perception at W London, The Light Lounge and Opium Cocktail Bar. Finish your one day in London with a cocktail of your choice. You’ve earned it!
Other places to visit in London
If you have more than one day in London, other places we’d recommend visiting include:
- Hyde Park
- Tower of London
- Tower Bridge
- St Pauls Cathedral
- Regent Street
Have you tried our one day in London itinerary? Let us know how you got on in the comments!