London is a huge city that is spread out over many miles. This can make it a bit difficult to determine what to do if you only have one day or a long layover in the city. In this short guide, I’ll walk you through the places to visit to see London in a Day.
You won’t be able to cover everything, of course, but you’ll get to hit all the key landmarks. This guide features a mix of walking and subway-riding to get you around the city, so be prepared to be active!
Know Before You Go | London
To save you repeat information here, check out this same section in my London in 4 Days travel guide. In addition to the information listed there, I have a few key recommendations:
- Getting into London: Take the Heathrow Express or Gatwick Express trains to get into the city, depending on which airline you fly into. Both trains offer significantly reduced time in getting to the center of the city vs. taxis or the underground. Time is precious when you only have a day (or less)!
- Where to Stay: If you do have a night’s stay in the city, I recommend staying in Westminster city. This area offers many great hotels, like the Airways Hotel Victoria that we reserved on Booking.com. You’ll also find great shops, the Victoria underground station, and several landmarks, such as Westminster Abbey close by.
The Itinerary | London in a Day
Morning | Westminster City, Green Park, and St. James’ Park
Start the morning by grabbing breakfast in Westminster City. I recommend checking out Pimlico Fresh, for healthy and delicious breakfast options. They don’t take reservations, but people move in and out of the restaurant pretty quickly.
Once you’ve finished breakfast, take a stroll near Green Park, continuing on through St. James’ Park. While on this walk, you’ll be able to see the following landmarks:
- Buckingham Palace: The home of THE Queen, where you can witness the changing of the guard ceremony every day at 11:00AM.
- Westminster Abbey: 1000+ year-old church where many royals, such as Queen Elizabeth have been wed or coronated.
- Houses of Parliament: The major seat of government for the UK that is connected to “Big Ben”. Note: Big Ben is currently under renovation, and will be for the next few years.
- Trafalgar Square: End your morning walk here, where you’ll see the National Gallery and Nelson’s Column. This square is dedicated to the British Naval Victory during the Napoleonic Wars. You can use the Trafalgar Square tube station to get to your next destination.
Don’t forget to keep an eye on the hour as you complete your walk. It should take about an hour if you just walked straight through, but if you stop at any of the sites mentioned above it will take longer. You should plan to wrap up this part of the day by noon.
Afternoon | The Tower of London or the British Museum
I’ve given two options for the afternoon, based on what you prefer to see. I think that either will take at least 2 hours or so to see in any meaningful way.
- If you are interested in seeing one of the UK’s oldest castles and learning about life in the middle ages, you should checkout the Tower of London. It is one of my favorite sites in the city as it has been preserved so well for the past 1000 or so years. Purchase your ticket in advance here to avoid waiting in line. If you head to this area, you will also be able to see London’s most famous bridge – The Tower Bridge – up close. There are several stands outside of the castle where you can grab something quick to eat like fish & chips (a British standard). You can access both landmarks from the Tower Hill tube station.
- If you would like to walk through ancient history around the world, head over to the British Museum. Entry into the museum is free, and you can also opt to pay for special exhibits that are at the museum for a short time. You can grab a quick lunch in the museum or at one of the restaurants that line the street outside of the museum. Access the museum via the Tottenham Court Road, Holborn, Russell Square, or Goodge Street tube stations.
Evening | The London Eye
At the end of your day, visit the London Eye to get panoramic views of the whole city! It appears as a Ferris wheel, but moves much slower, so those who
don’t like rides should not have any issues with this one. You can get great shots at dusk or in the evening, so have your camera ready :). Purchase your ticket in advance here to avoid waiting in line. You can access the eye from the Waterloo tube station.
If you have time for dinner, I recommend eating at Dishoom for AMAZING Indian food or Duck & Waffle for Euro-British fusion. Make a reservation in advance for whatever dinner option you decide on to save the most time. You can access Dishoom in Covent Gardens from the Leicester Square tube station and Duck and Waffle from the Liverpool tube station.
City Map | London
This map will definitely come in handy as you navigate to this city in the short time you have there. Each location is listed in the order it is discussed in this post:
- Pimlico Fresh (Breakfast)
- Buckingham Palace Road (Getting to the Palace)
- Westminster Abbey
- Houses of Parliament (See Big Ben)
- Trafalgar Square
- Tower of London
- British Museum (Afternoon Option #1)
- London Eye (Afternoon Option #2)
- Dishoom (Dinner Option #1)
- Duck & Waffle (Dinner Option #2)
Final Thoughts | London in a Day
That wraps up a whirlwind trip to London in a Day! Of course feel free to modify your activities based on how much time you have there. I hope this guide was helpful in showing how much you can fit into one day in this trendy city.
Have you visited London before? What else do you recommend for a really short trip to London? Comment below!