London is one of those cities every traveler should visit at least once in a lifetime. Taking a selfie with Big Ben, riding on top of a red double-decker bus, taking a ride on the London Eye with the most spectacular city view in front – that’s probably the first scenario we think of when it comes to visiting London. And while spending only one day in London can be pretty challenging, it’s still enough time to visit all the most popular sights and London landmarks. But one thing is for sure – it’s definitely going to be a busy day for you!
London in a day
1. What’s the best time to visit London?
2. One Day in London Itinerary
2.1. Start your morning at the Buckingham Palace
2.2. Relax in the St. James’s Park
2.3. Pass by Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament
2.4. Get on the London Eye
2.5. Have lunch at the Borough Market
2.6. Pass the Tower Bridge
2.7. Visit the St.Paul’s Cathedral
2.8. Visit the Museums
2.9. Relax in the Trafalgar Square
2.9.1. Evening at Soho
3. Where to stay in London?
4. Day trips from London
5. Extra tips for visiting London
London can be visited all year round. There are always enough activities and sights to explore. Winters can be cold and it gets dark early, so it’s better to visit during the warmer months. Like in the rest of Europe, some sights can be crowded during summer. Early fall and late spring may be the best options in that case.
The route that follows includes a lot of walking. Bring on some super comfortable shoes, a bottle of water and you’re pretty much ready to go. Follow this guide and make the most of your trip even if you’re short on time. These are the top sights and things to do during your one day in London.
Start your morning right in front of the Buckingham Palace, the London residence of the reigning monarchs of the United Kingdom. The palace is pretty much globally known for the balcony from which the royalty greets the citizens on special occasions. And while there are several Buckingham Palace tours that include a visit to the Palace, due to the tight schedule you should visit it only if you’re really into it. Make sure to check out here when the changing of the guard is to see the marching band and the horses parading which makes all the experience quite interesting.
Just a few meters away from the Palace you’ll find St. James’s Park, one of London’s Royal Parks. Since London is very well known for the beauty of its lush parks, you shouldn’t skip a visit to at least one of them. St. James’s Park can be pretty busy, but it is still a calm and relaxing park with amazing greenery, lakes and fountains. Besides that, you’ll see swans, ducks, pelicans and many other bird species. And of course, you shouldn’t miss the squirrels. St James’s Cafe and a few Refreshment Points are in the vicinity, so this can be a great place to drink your morning coffee, eat your breakfast or enjoy some ice-cream or snack.
It’s time for Westminster Abbey – a gorgeous Gothic abbey, the traditional place of coronation and the burial home for more than 3,000 monarchs and poets. It’s beautiful inside out and can be explored every day except on Sundays. However, it takes at least 2 hours and 20£ to explore it, so if you want to stick to the schedule, you’d better leave it for the next time.
Just next to the Abbey stands the Palace of Westminster together with the Elizabeth Tower, best known for its huge bell – Big Ben. Of course, you’re going to take a selfie with that one. There is an audio tour here, in which you can explore both chambers, Westminster Hall and many other rooms. For those interested in architecture, exploring this Neo-Gothic wonder is a must.
The London Eye is definitely one of the most exciting attractions. It gets you so high you can see the whole London beneath you. Since many other tourists think the same, it’s mostly crowded at any time of the day, year-round. Make sure to book an online ticket because otherwise the long queues will leave you no time for any other sights.
You’re probably starving by now. And while London truly has many restaurant options, Borough Market can be a much more exciting and cheaper place to grab some amazing food. The lively, vibrant atmosphere and amazing smells will make you want to stay there forever. It’s also a great place to shop for spices, cheeses, mustard, tea, chocolate or basically anything you can think of.
Another great London landmark, the Tower Bridge, is a perfect place to capture some amazing photos of the city and the river Thames. This great piece of Victorian engineering consists of two bridge towers that are tied together at the upper level. If you’re into it, you can go up, inside the tower and walk along the glass floor above the road.
St.Paul’s Catedral is a magnificent, 111 m high Baroque church that dates from the late 17th century, designed by Sir Christopher Wren. Its dome, one of the highest in the world, truly makes it a world-class architectural sight. Even though the entrance is a bit pricey, it’s definitely one of the most impressive buildings to visit. It’s also possible to climb the dome for the breathtaking views from the Golden Gallery.
Hopefully, you woke up early and you still have plenty of time for visiting at least one museum. The great thing about London museums is that their permanent collections are free of charge. There are many great museums in London, however two of them – Tate Modern and the British Museum – are really extraordinary experiences.
If you’re more into modern and contemporary art, check out the Tate Modern. What’s more interesting is that the museum itself is situated in a former industrial building. You’ll also happen to see so many masterpieces of the world’s most famous modern artists like Picasso, Dali, Roy Lichtenstein and many others.
For those who are more into historical art, cultural art objects and antiquities, British Museum is definitely a perfect place. Its permanent collection is the largest one in the world with the artifacts from all the continents documenting the story of human culture. The most impressive are the artifacts from ancient Greece, ancient Rome and ancient Egypt. With a guided tour you can explore it in under 2 hours.
Trafalgar Square is a lively London square, a nice place to chill out and relax after an exhausting day. Sit under Nelson’s column and just people watch. You’ll be amazed by how many buskers are around the area. Musicians, dancers and all kinds of different artists come to perform on this square which makes the whole atmosphere pretty amazing.
The last stop is Soho. This buzzing district is a perfect spot to eat, relax and shop. If you’re into Chinese food, there’s a Chinatown in the southern part of the Soho, with its multitude of delicious restaurants. Don’t skip Piccadily Circus, either. This square got pretty famous for its video display and neon signs (something like Times Square in NYC), which is why it’s preferable to visit it at night.
CitizenM Tower of London
40 trinity square, City of London
Somewhere between artsy and alternative, CitizenM Tower of London offers rooms with relaxing rain showers, Vitra-furnished lobby spaces, 24/7 dining and stunning art. It’s perfectly located right on top of Tower Hill and close to the Tower of London and Tower Bridge.
Montcalm Royal London House
22-25 Finsbury Square, City , Islington, London
Montcalm Royal London House is a new five star hotel located in the heart of the capital, in between London’s financial district and its most creative quarter. Rooms and suites are modern and stylish, with mood lighting creating just the right ambiance. The hotel also features a spa with a superb fitness centre.
Motel One London-Tower Hill
24-26 Minories, City of London, London
Motel One London-Tower Hill is a boutique style accommodation located in the heart of London’s financial center, just a short walk from the Tower of London and Tower Bridge and therefore a great pick for those who are limited by time.
20 Upper Ground, Southwark, London
Modrian London is an exquisite five star hotel, located on the banks of the Thames River in the famed Sea Containers building, just a short walk from Tate Modern. Decorated by the award-winning designer Tom Dixon, rooms feature custom furniture, rainfall shower in the marble bathrooms and river views in many of the rooms.
Day trips from London
Sure, London is a great city with a lot to do and see. However, there are plenty of great sights outside the city limits, and it would be a shame to miss out on them if you’re staying here longer than just one day. Consider making a day trip from London because there are plenty of fantastic destinations to visit.
Who hasn’t heard of Stonehenge? This prehistoric ring of massive stone slabs is famous all over the world and has a certain mystical aura around it. It is estimated that it was build between four and five THOUSAND years ago, but its function and the origin of its architects are still subject to many debates. Nevertheless, it is quite a fascinating sight to behold, and you can reach it from London in a couple of hours, maybe a bit more, be it by bus, car or train. Oh, and while you’re here, consider visiting Windsor Castle, the residence of the British royal family. It’s just an hour away.
Yes, Paris. Thanks to the Eurostar train, you can reach this incredible city in about two and a half hours. So, if you have a day to spare, why not make this incredible day trip from London? You can take off in the early morning and have brunch with a view of the Eiffel Tower and then walk down the Champs-Elysees. If you’re lucky, you may be able to get in the Louvre, plus you can go see Arc de Triomphe and many other fascinating feats of architecture. All that, and you can be back in London for dinner. Sounds, great, doesn’t it?
Oxford is home to one of the most famous universities in the world, but it is also a very charming town worthy of a day trip. For almost one thousand years, the university has stood as a beacon of knowledge in this part of the world, and countless notable scholars and scientists have studied here. Therefore, walking university grounds will fill you with awe and reverence for this institution. Once you’re done with that, consider visiting Warwick Castle, another fascinating piece of medieval architecture in England and just an hour’s drive from Oxford.
Cliffs of Dover
The famous White Cliffs of Dover are also a fantastic choice for a day trip from London. Their mesmerizing beauty will leave every visitor speechless, and the sight of them looming over the sea really is something very special. The town of Dover is also quite an interesting place to explore, but just 45 minutes away from the town is Leeds Castle, a 900-year-old castle build on several islands in a lake. This makes it quite unique among all English castles and gives you a fantastic surrounding to accompany your visit.
– London’s public transport is an icon like no other. Take a ride on top of a double-decker bus, use London Underground (Tube) or get in a black London cab.
– London is quite an expensive city. Everything from food to attractions is pretty pricey, so even one day in London can cost you hundreds of dollars.
– However, London can still be explored even if you’re on a strict budget. Most of the museums are free of charge, and exploring the beautiful squares and parks costs you nothing.
– Wear layers and a raincoat. It’s the only way to conquer London’s tricky weather.
– In London, cars drive on their left side. Make sure to look left while crossing the street. Even if you forget about it, you’ll see the sign written beneath you.
– If you want to save lots of money on attractions, purchase a London one day pass.
– For unlimited rides on buses, Tube, DLR, trams, London Overground and National Rail services, purchase a 1-Day Travelcard. It also gives you a 30% discount on riverboat services.
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Anca is a travel writer and the founder of One Day Itinerary - the biggest collection of travel itineraries for those who are time-limited or just want to maximize their time while traveling. Although she easily becomes homesick for Croatia, she thinks travel is essential to her happiness. She has traveled to more countries than she is years old and doesn’t plan on changing that fact. In her travel guides she aims to inspire people to travel whenever they have a spare day (or two).