How to enjoy the best 24 hours in London
How to spend the most enjoyable 24 hours in London and see as many of the top attractions as possible
London, known by locals as the Big Smoke, is home to endless things to see and do. Even the most ambitious London itinerary would struggle to encompass all the city has to offer in just one day.
The capital city of England, London is celebrated for its iconic landmarks, unique markets and fascinating walking tours. From West End Theatre shows to modern art exhibitions, the grandeur of Trafalgar Square to the bohemian chic of Notting Hill and Camden's live music scene to world-renowned theatre in Shakespeare's Globe, every inch of London's bustling streets offers new places to visit, explore and discover.
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24 hours in London
There is so much to experience in this incredible city. 24 hours in London flies by, but one day can give you enough time to sample a little of everything. Our guide to the top sights to see, places to eat and areas to discover will ensure you spend your entire day exploring the best of London!
Where to eat breakfast in London
To make the most of your 24 hours in London, start early. Londoners love a hearty breakfast and some of the best fry-ups in town can be found at the Regency Cafe on Regency Street. Serving hungry city dwellers since 1946, the Regency Cafe has featured in several popular BBC series as well as the films Layer Cake and Brighton Rock.
For something a little more refined, begin your morning at Sky Garden in London's financial district. Housed in the so-called 'walkie talkie' building, Sky Garden is the city's highest public garden. It is free to enter and you can spend time relaxing into your busy 24 hours in London strolling through the exquisite gardens.
Sky Garden also homes the Darwin Brasserie where, from Friday to Sunday, breakfast is available from 8 a.m. (11 a.m the rest of the week), accompanied by panoramic views across the River Thames.
If such an early morning proves a challenge, make a pit stop at one of London's many independent coffee shops. One of the most famous markets in London, Old Spitalfields, is just a few minutes' walk from Sky Garden and offers an array of delicious brews with a sustainable twist. Savour the Department of Coffee and Social Affair's single origin espressos or sample locally-roasted coffee beans with a hand-brewed filter coffee at Climpson & Sons.
London's Iconic Landmarks
Of all the world's cities, London has some of the most notable architecture. Walking around, you will be amazed by the amalgamation of architectural styles, ranging from Gothic to Neo-Futuristic. Seeing London's beautiful buildings is a must during your 24 hours in London. Here are our top sights to visit.
St Paul's Cathedral
Designed by Sir Christopher Wren, St Paul's Cathedral is one of London's most historic buildings. Constructed in the aftermath of the Great Fire of London, it was the tallest building in the city for over 250 years. The cathedral's dome is still one of the largest in the world.
St Paul's has hosted funerals for several important British figures, including Lord Nelson and Winston Churchill, and was also the location of Prince Charles and Lady Diana's wedding. Definitely a must-see in London.
Westminster Bridge - Houses Of Parliament And Big Ben
Westminster Bridge links the north and south bank of the River Thames. It is the perfect spot to capture panoramic views of the famous city landmarks that overlook the water, including the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and the London Eye.
Taking photos at night can make for an especially impressive shot, though visit Westminster Bridge in the morning to capture the British capital's quintessential black cabs and red double-decker buses flying past.
The Houses of Parliament, formally known as the Palace of Westminster, is open for tourists to visit. There are a range of tours available through the political heart of the city, including a free option for UK residents.
You can also explore Big Ben (properly called Elizabeth Tower), though the famed building is currently closed for conservation work. It will reopen to visitors later this year.
From Big Ben, head to Westminster Abbey. It is a short walk via Parliament Square Garden, where you can glimpse the celebrated bronze of Sir Winston Churchill as you pass, or spend a little time admiring all 12 statues of figures central to the political development of England.
Westminster Abbey is a World Heritage Site and is a must-see during your 24 hours in London. One of the most prestigious examples of Gothic architecture in England, it boasts over 1000 years of history, including the coronations of every British monarch since 1066.
The Abbey is highly significant to the Royal Family and 16 royal weddings have been held here, perhaps most famously that of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
It is not only its royal importance that makes Westminster Abbey a staple of any self-respecting London itinerary. Art-lovers will marvel at the many oil, wall and icon paintings on show, as well as David Hockney's first stained glass work, the Queen's Window. Literature enthusiasts will be enraptured by Poets' Corner, where over 100 poets and writers, from Chaucer to Philip Larkin, are buried or have memorials. Every visitor will be astounded by the extraordinary artefacts displayed in the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Gallery.
No 24 hours in London would be complete without a visit to Buckingham Palace. Since 1837, it has been the official residence of the UK's Royal Family and today it is the main hub of royal activity, hosting grand ceremonies as well as the Queen's weekly audience with the Prime Minister of England. The Palace's state rooms are open for tours for 10 weeks in summer and on certain dates in winter and spring.
Outside, the magnificent centre gates of Buckingham Palace are a great spot to snap a selfie or two! Our top tip is to arrive in time for the Changing of the Guard, which begins at 10.45 am. The iconic spectacle is free to watch, but you will need to check that the ceremony is taking place on the day that you visit.
Trafalgar Square contains some of London's most noteworthy sights: Nelson's Column, the Trafalgar Square fountains and the four bronze lion sculptures that recline elegantly 46 m below Nelson's feet.
The pride of London, the 'Landseer Lions' are among the most popular statues in the city. Each lion is distinct, so spend some time spotting the differences!
A lesser-known London landmark, the colourful houses of Lancaster Road in Notting Hill are the most vibrant in the city. Locals call the road Rainbow Row and walking past the dazzling homes, you will soon see why!
The Natural History Museum Of London
Housing an enormous natural history collection, the Natural History Museum is a fascinating place to visit. One day in London may not give you time to do the full tour, but make a detour to admire the phenomenal building. Designed by the architect Alfred Waterhouse, who also conceived Manchester Town Hall, the museum building is one of the most striking in London.
The Best Tourist Attractions In London
With so many things to do in London, deciding which ones to fit into your trip can be tricky. Read on to discover our favourite tourist attraction picks!
Remember, you can get discounted tickets for certain places by booking a multi-attraction ticket.
Now world-famous, Madame Tussauds was founded in 1835 by the pioneering Marie Tussaud. In 1884, it was moved to its current Central London location and today the London venue remains the largest of the 21 museums worldwide.
Madame Tussauds's creations are incredibly lifelike. Sculptors spend around 6 months perfecting each waxwork and the figures' hair and make-up are regularly retouched.
The museum is a great place to take a photo with your favourite celebrity! Keep your camera eye-level with the sculpture to make the picture more realistic.
As well as appreciating the dedicated work of the sculptors, you can enjoy the interactive aspects of the museum, including entertainment from live actors.
Sea Life London Aquarium
The Sea Life London Aquarium sits beside the River Thames, but the real underwater action happens inside. There are over 500 species to observe in the Aquarium, including jellyfish, penguins, and sharks.
The pinnacle of the experience is the Ocean Tunnel. Walk beneath the sea and watch shimmering shoals of fish and serene Green Turtles sweep slowly around you!
The London Eye is a spectacular experience and should not be missed during your 24 hours in London. Formerly known as the Millennium Wheel, the London Eye is 135 metres tall. On a clear day, you can see up to 40 km across London!
From your capsule, you will be able to spot nearly all of London's major landmarks, including Tower Bridge (not to be confused with London Bridge). The London Eye is also a great place to watch the sun set across the capital.
Designed to commemorate the millennium, the London Eye was originally intended to be dismantled after 5 years. However, it proved so popular that it is still here today. Queues for the London Eye can be long, but it is worth the wait!
London's Cultural Scene
Like most cities, London is brimming with culture. However, the capital has many unique offerings that cannot be experienced anywhere else. Below are our recommendations for seeing the best of London's art, music and theatre.
The Tate Modern
The Tate Modern attracts visitors from all over the world. Works by Picasso, Matisse and Klein feature in its core collection, which is free to explore.
For an extra cost, you can enjoy the intriguing modern art exhibitions that make up its seasonal programme.
The legendary Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club was founded in 1959 by the acclaimed musician himself. Close to Leicester Square, the intimate setting hosts some of the most well-known names in jazz.
Indulge in a sumptuous meal downstairs whilst you enjoy the show, then head upstairs for a boogie in the bar!
Shakespeare's Globe Theatre
To be, or not to be? That is the question. However, there is no question as to whether you should go to Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. Stunning performances immerse the audience in Shakespeare's world, emulating the playing conditions of Shakespeare's own theatre and making the works of the Bard accessible to all.
The West End
The West End Theatre district is London's equivalent to New York's Broadway. It is home to the outstanding West End show 'The Lion King', along with many other hugely popular productions.
Most shows, including 'The Lion King', have matinee performances which are often cheaper than night-time showings. Book ahead to make sure you get a good view!
Where To Eat In London
Walking around London, you will find a myriad of restaurants, bars and cafes to tempt your appetite. London's melting pot of world cuisines makes it hard to whittle the options down to a choice few to visit during your 24 hours in London, however here are a selection that we feel truly reflect London's flavours.
Beigel Bake, Brick Lane
Beigel Bake is the oldest bagel shop in London. Its menu is inspired by its Jewish heritage and it bakes all its bagels the traditional way, ensuring an authentic chewy texture. The 24/7 bakery offers a delightful taste of Brick Lane's captivating history.
Afternoon Tea At The Ritz
The quintessentially English tradition of afternoon tea can be enjoyed in style at the Ritz hotel in London. Opulent surroundings, immaculate table settings and faultless service make tea at the Ritz an unforgettable experience.
Covent Garden is known for its sprawling market and boutique shops, however it also offers a delicious array of eateries. Fine dining restaurants, cocktail bars and chocolate shops galore can all be found here.
Many establishments offer a pre-theatre menu. Whilst you will not be able to choose from the full a la carte offerings, pre-theatre bookings make it easy to squeeze a sublime dining experience into a packed London itinerary.
Fitting Everything Into 24 Hours In London
Doing London justice in 24 hours is a tricky task, but it can be done! Here are our top tips for making the most of your trip to the British capital.
Decide what you want to see, do and experience in London ahead of time. There are so many choices that making a decision on the day can be overwhelming! Planning your itinerary also means you can minimise time wasted travelling between destinations.
With so much to fit into your day in London, you need an early start! Booking overnight transport is the best way to ensure you are ready to begin your day in London first thing in the morning.
Make use of Google Maps
Print off a Google map of the areas of London you plan to explore, or use the app for real-time navigation assistance. Google Maps can even tell you when and where to catch buses and Tube trains. The subway system is not complicated compared to places like Tokyo, but this feature can still be a lifesaver!
You can use your contactless credit or debit card to enter and exit the London Underground and pay for bus and black cab fares. However, you may wish to purchase an Oyster card in advance of your trip if you are entitled to travel concessions.
Spend some time exploring on foot
As easy as it is finding transport around London, walking between destinations is the perfect way to see more of the city. London always has surprises in store, from parakeets in Kensington Gardens to street performers in Covent Garden. Take a walk and see what you discover!
Night life in the city is colourful, exciting and eclectic. Exploring London at night is an utterly different experience to daytime adventures. See the lights of the Illuminated River installation, step back in time with a visit to Gordon's Wine Bar or simply people-watch as you sip a decadent cocktail in a luxurious Central London bar.
London is a 24 hour city and the fun does not stop at midnight! There is plenty to do, from grabbing a milkshake at Tinseltown to dancing the night away at Egg in King's Cross. Our favourite? Gazing over the lights of the city from 40th floor restaurant Duck & Waffle, where lavish dishes and an impressive menu of cocktails are served until 5.30 am.
A visit to England's ever-changing capital city is exhilarating. Every time you go there is something different to eat, drink, see and do. With so much to enjoy in London, we are sure your first 24 hours in London will be the first of many!
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