If you’re looking for where to go in London, you’re really spoiled for choice. But if you’re crunched for time and have as few as 24 hours to explore, there’s no need to worry. London is a highly walkable and well-connected city, with many of the must-see sites clustered into distinct regions. Just keep your sightseeing plans in mind when choosing from the abundance of London hotels.
Where To Go in London: Morning
There are two ways to start the morning off right:
1. With a traditional English breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausages, fried bread, mushrooms, baked beans and coffee. Ask the concierge for tips on where to find this, as many places claim to have a good English breakfast but then overcharge tourists.
2. With a bowl of cereal, slice of toast, orange juice and coffee, which is much closer to what most contemporary English people really eat.
Despite prevailing stereotypes about British food, London is actually a cuisine haven. You’ll do just as well grabbing pre-packaged fruit from a convenience store in a tube station or at a local grocery store and eating it on the way to your first site.
Things To Do
Let the sightseeing begin at the historic Houses of Parliament, also known as the Palace of Westminster. This is where the House of Commons and House of Lords meet for feisty debates. If you’re visiting on Saturday or during the summer when the houses are on recess, you can book a tour at the site or online. When parliament is in session, you can still get in to see free exhibitions, or you can line up from 1 p.m. on to catch a live debate (in which case you might want to swap the morning and afternoon sections of this itinerary). Though you won’t be able to climb to the top, you’ll also want your picture taken by the adjoining Big Ben, the city’s iconic clock tower.
Next up is Westminster Abbey, located just up Victoria Street. Take in the soaring arches beneath which royals ranging from Henry I and Matilda of Scotland to Prince William and Catherine Middleton exchanged nuptials. The Abbey also is the burial site of many notable English figures, including Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin, as well as the Unknown Warrior, a British soldier killed on the battlefield in WWI. Be sure to listen for the distinctive organ and the tolling of the bells.
It’s just a half-mile walk from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace, the official residence of British royalty. Admire Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Rubens and Vermeer paintings as you wander through the state room. Or, pretend you’ve been invited to one of the queen’s famous garden parties out on the luxurious grounds. Stick around until 11:15 to watch the Changing of the Guard.
Where To Go in London: Afternoon
On this itinerary, you have two main options for lunchtime fare:
1. Take a 15 to 20 minute stroll from the palace through the bucolic St. James Park to Trafalgar Square. Here you can grab a sandwich at any number of cafes located on the roads radiating out from Nelson’s Column or tucked into nearby alleys and bring it back to the square for a good round of people watching. Or, duck into the cafeteria at the National Gallery and observe the impressive and stately architecture while you dine. If you have time, you can also duck inside for a quick view of the paintings.
2. Hop a ferry at Westminster pier, the number 11 or 15 bus, or the District Line to Blackfriars Station and walk to the South Bank of the Thames. (Note: Walking the whole route only takes 10 minutes longer and will give you an excuse to cross the Millenium Bridge, which provides views of all the London hot spots.) You’ll be spoiled for dining choices all along the river, both in riverside restaurants and those tucked right into the bridges.
Things To Do
Though London’s South Bank was for many years the domain of industry, the area can trace its roots right back to the Bard of Avon (Shakespeare) himself. A tour of the re-created Globe Theatre will tickle his many remaining fans, as will a performance in the theatre that made the legend. Check the box office for both contemporary and Shakespearian fare.
Next, jump back to the 20th and 21st centuries at the neighboring Tate Modern, which houses an extensive collection of thought-provoking modern art in a former power station.
From here, you could take a 20-minute bus ride to our next destination, the London Eye, but we highly recommend taking the roughly 30 minute stroll along the riverwalk. While you may not have time to stop in, you’ll pass the National Theatre, the British Film Institute, an impromptu skate park and a bustling outdoor used book market along the way.
Once at the Eye, don’t hesitate to pay the hefty admission (prices start at £17.28) . The trip in this slow-moving, enclosed ferris wheel provides unparalleled views of the city and all of the places you’ve explored so far. Perfect one of a kind cityscape shot don’t you think?
Where To Go in London: Evening
Chances are, you’ll likely have spotted a number of attractive dining spots along the your adventures so far. If not, head back to the tube and take the Bakerloo line to Piccadilly Circus or the Northern Line to Covent Garden, where you’ll find a diversity of restaurants to fit every budget. Note that on the high streets and in other high profile places the prices will be at a premium, while down the smaller streets you’ll find less expensive and more authentic fare from just about every region of the world.
Things To Do
Evening is the perfect time to catch a show in London’s famed West End Theatre District, the rival of New York’s Broadway. Last minute tickets to top notch plays are generally available at the box office the day of, or you’ll find half-priced tickets at the booth in Leicester Square (hint: it’s pronounced Lester, not Lye-chester). However, for your whirlwind 24-hour visit, we highly recommend getting tickets well in advance so you can set your itinerary.
Bars and Clubs
Leicester Square and Covent Garden are both a haven for partiers, though you won’t find much authentic British culture there. Hang around the theatres to catch actors heading to the real pubs after the shows. The nearby SoHo neighborhood is also lively both during after the pub rush, with after hours eateries and dance clubs tucked away behind buildings with elegant facades.
If you’d like to circumvent the hubbub of the city at night, forget the theatre and clubs and book yourself on a dinner cruise instead. Cruises will treat you to four course meals, show tunes, and a jaw-dropping view of the city lit up at night.
Updated: June 22, 2016