How to Spend One Day in London: 24 Hour London Itinerary

In this post we answer the question – is one day in London enough? We will take you through how to spend one day in London, including where to visit, how to get around, and travel tips to help you along the way. We’ve also included a comprehensive itinerary complete with suggested tours and maps showing the route you’ll take so that you can get the most out of your visit.

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Quick answer: how to spend one day in London

There’s tons of useful info in his post but if you’re looking for a quick answer then below is a snapshot of how I’d spend a day in London if I was new to the city.

Stop 1: Buckingham Palace

Stop 2: Westminster Abbey

Stop 3: Houses of Parliament

Stop 4: Big Ben

Stop 5: Downing Street

Stop 6: Horse Guards Parade

Stop 7: Trafalgar Square

Stop 8: Tower of London

Stop 9: Tower Bridge

Stop 10: Borough Market

Stop 11: Shakespeare’s Globe

Stop 12: Tate Modern

Stop 13: London Eye

Stop 14: Leicester Square

Stop 15: Covent Garden

First jump on the tube and head to St. James Park or Green Park station and take in a view of Buckingham Palace, from here it’s a short walk to see all the popular sights in Westminster (like Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament). Straight up from Big Ben is Horse Guards Parade continuing up the road to Trafalgar Square. 

Hop on the tube at embankment station and get on the circle or district lines to Tower Hill. Opposite the Tower Hill station is the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge.

By now its lunch time so walk the 15 minute walk to Borough Market and enjoy some of the delicious food stalls.

Continue along the South Bank to Shakespeare’s Globe, Tate modern and the London Eye. I’d absolutely recommend taking in the views of London from the eye and you can get a deal if you buy tickets for that and the London Dungeon at the same time.

Once you’re finished on the South Bank jump on the tube at Waterloo and get the northern line to the Leicester Square station.

Spending your evening in this area gives you loads of options like seeing a show, visiting a bar in Soho, wandering through China Town or watching the street performers in Covent Garden – all of these are within less than 10 minutes of Leicester Square.

What’s in this itinerary?

You’ll find all of the sections included in this article below. You can click to start with one particular section or just keep scrolling to read the full article.

Are you planning a trip to London?

Planning a trip to London takes more effort than just deciding when to travel, and what hotel to stay in. There is so much to plan from how to get around London to how easy and safe is it to walk around London and even which international airport in London to fly into.

Whether you’re spending one day in London or planning a trip of the UK, we have loads of information to help you plan your vacation down to the smallest detail, from creating a travel itinerary to which airport to fly into, and things to do in each region from Legoland in Windsor to Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland.

How to Spend One Day in London: 24 Hour London Itinerary

London is a city steeped in history and culture with some of the world’s most iconic tourist sites like Buckingham Palace and Big Ben. There’s so much to see and do in London that you could easily spend a week there and still not see everything.

Given that there’s so much to experience in London it’s really important to have a plan in place, this is especially true when you only have one day in London. We’ve provided a complete London itinerary below but if it doesn’t hit everything you’re looking for then pick out a list of must see stops to form the basis of your own itinerary.

Whether you’re visiting London as part of a wider trip to the UK or have a brief layover before a connecting flight, this itinerary will give you everything you need to make the most of just one day in London.

Morning: Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and Trafalgar Square

Where else could we start a London itinerary other than Buckingham Palace! The closest tube stations are Green Park or St. James’ Park. We prefer Green Park as it’s a nice walk across the park to the palace. Unless you visit on one of the select few days that they’re open to the public for a tour you can get the best view of the palace and the Victoria Memorial from The Mall. If you are planning to visit on one of the tour dates you can book a Buckingham Palace Tour on the Royal Collection Trust website for between £16 and £32 depending on the ages of your party.

Once you’re finished at Buckingham Place take a stroll through St. James’ Park, exiting at the bottom corner of the park where you’ll be a few minutes from Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. If you’re going to book entry in to one of these three I would stick to Westminster Abbey or the Palace of Westminster. Both are incredible buildings with so much history to experience. Big Ben isn’t a recommended activity for families with young children, it isn’t suitable for children under 11 as you’ll need to climb 334 steps to get to the actual Big Ben bell.

This is a jam packed itinerary on limited time so if you’re not content seeing them all from the outside l’d only choose one of the above 4 sites to visit the inside and keep your visit short.

Once you’re finished in Westminster head up Parliament Street and on to Whitehall where it’ll take about 15 minutes to walk to Trafalgar Square. On the way, there are a few stops you can add to your itinerary depending on how you’re doing for time. Firstly, is the cenotaph, a WW1 memorial that is the site of the National service of remembrance every year. Just past the cenotaph is No. 10 Downing Street – the home of British Prime Ministers since 1735, and The Horse Guards Parade where you can take a picture with the royal horse guards.

Trafalgar Square, which has been a site of significance since the 1200s features the famous Nelsons column among other statues and attractions. When you’re ready to leave Trafalgar Square head to the Embankment underground station and jump on the Circle or District lines to Tower Hill.

Depending on how fast you are the full walk from Buckingham Palace to Trafalgar Square takes around 45 minutes.

Afternoon: Tower of London, Shakespeares Globe and London Eye

The first step in this part of the itinerary is the Tower of London which is just opposite the Tower Hill tube station. However, before you head over the road consider stopping at the Tower Hill Memorial. Its a sobering memorial of both World Wars and only takes 10-15 minutes to walk around so easy to add on if you have the time.

A castle, a palace and a prison, The Tower of London has had many facets since the first parts of it were built by William the Conqueror in the late 11th century. Now one of the most recognisable symbols of London.

Another recognisable symbol of London and one of the most famous bridges in the world is the Tower Bridge. Built in 1894 this stunning piece of British architecture has been the filming location for several movies and tv series, including Spiderman, Bridget Jones’ Diary, and Friends. 

Cross the bridge and stroll along the South Bank for around 10 minutes until you reach the London Bridge station. Just a stone’s throw from the station you’ll find your spot to grab some lunch – Borough Market. Known around the world this 1000 year old market offers plenty in the way of delicious and appetising food with over 100 stalls. There are two key things you need to know before you visit Borough Market, it’s popular so the thin lanes and walkways get congested very quickly – not great if you’re not a lover of crowds! Also, it’s closed on Mondays so if that’s the day you’re visiting then you’ll need to eat elsewhere. Luckily the South Bank area is full of cafe’s and restaurants for you to choose from.

If you have time for a pit stop The Shard is between the London Bridge station and Borough Market. Whilst it’s not much to see from the outside if you’re not a lover of ferris wheels it is an alternative way get those sprawling views of London without having to go on The London Eye.

Continuing along the South Bank you’ll come across Shakespeares Globe a replica of a circular Elizabethan theatre and the Tate Modern. You could easily spend a whole day in the Tate Modern but you don’t have that kind of time so I recommend checking out their latest exhibition on their website and deciding if it’s something you want to do. They normally have one main exhibition running that is immersive, interactive and loads of fun!

The final step on the afternoon itinerary is the London Eye. Built in 1999 and opened to mark the turn of the millennium in 2000, the London Eye has become a recognisable feature of the London skyline. You can either marvel at it from the ground or brave a ride in one of the capsules to get a 360 degree view of London at over 400ft in the air.

If you’re visiting with young children the Jubilee Gardens next to the London Eye has a great play area. If the children in your party are older or you’re all adults then you can also stop at the London Dungeons. It’s easy to visit both as they’re right opposite each other and you can get a discounted multi-attraction ticket on The London Eye website.

Depending on how fast you are the full walk from the Tower of London to The London Eye takes just over an hour.

Evening: Leicester Square, Covent Garden and the West End

After your visit to The London Eye head to the nearby Waterloo station and jump on the Northern line to Leicester Square. 

Here you have many options as Leicester Square is pretty central to Oxford Street, Piccadilly Circus, Soho, China Town, and Covent Garden. 

For the purposes of this itinerary, however, were going to stick in the Leicester Square area to grab some dinner. However, if you don’t see anything you like at Leicester Square then continue on to Covent Garden which is located just a 10 minute walk away. Not only will you find more excellent restaurants here but the area is best known for it’s variety of street performers and cool vibe.

While in Leicester Square you’re so close to China Town you have to nip up one of the main streets to see the lanterns hanging from above your head – these are best seen in the evening. You’re also just a few minutes from Soho with some of the best bars and nightlife to finish your evening. If bars aren’t really your thing or you’re travelling with kids then this is a great area to catch a show with many famous theatres nearby and plenty of stalls selling tickets at a discounted price.

Depending on how fast you are the full walk around Leicester Square and to Covent Garden takes around 20 – 30 minutes minutes, this includes a brief deter to Soho and China Town. 

What to do if you have a few days in London?

London is a huge city with so much more to see than what we’ve managed to fit into this one day itinerary. Below we’ve included some other things to do in London if you’re there for a few days.

Camden market: with more than 1,000 stalls, bars and cafe’s Camden market is one of the most popular in London. Open everyday from 10am, Camden market is located in north west London and the closest tube station is Camden Town.

Notting Hill: famous for many things including portobello road market, the Noting Hill carnival and the movie starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant. Wander the brightly coloured streets on a Notting Hill tour

Greenwich (pronounced gren-itch): explore one of the most historic and green parts of London with several parks. One of the main draws to the area is the Royal Observatory where you can enjoy plenty of family friendly activities and shows.

Visit the free museums: pretty much all of the museums are free in London. The main ones I’d recommend the most if you’re travelling with kids are the Natural History Museum, Science Museum and the London Transport Museum.

See a musical: there are many options to enjoy a musical or show in London. Our all time favourite is the Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre. A tip for the Lion King is to book tickets in the Stalls and next to an aisle as you’ll have a great view as the animals (people in costume, not actual animals!)walk down the aisles to the stage.

Visit the Harry Potter Studios: book a tour to visit the Harry Potter Studios and in just I hour you can be exploring the sets, props and behind the scenes secrets of making the Harry Potter films.

Hyde Park + Kensington Palace: a historic home of royalty Kensington Palace is the current London residence of several royals including the Prince and Princess of Wales. Surrounding Kensington Palace is the sprawling Hyde Park. Visit in December and you can enjoy winter wonderland with rides, shows, attractions, food, and even a visit to Santas grotto

Explore the markets: one thing London does really well is a market! Some of the most popular are Borough Market, Spitalfields Market and Camden Market.

Book a day trip from London: there’s so much more to explore outside of London. You can visit Stonehenge, Windsor Castle and Bath, take a stroll through a Cotswold village, or travel further afield to Oxford, Stratford-upon-Avon and Warwick Castle.

How to get around London if you’re only there for one day?

The easiest and quickest way to get around London is the underground (also known as the tube). There are trains every couple of minutes from most stations and you can get all across London as the tube network runs on 12 separate lines. Aside from the tube there are many other ways to get around London like the the bus or riverboat, even walking is easy as London is a very walkable city. If you don’t have the time to wander the streets of London then the tube is the best way for you to get around as anything else would likely take too long and eat into your sightseeing time.

Where to stay in central London?

If you only have a short stay in London you don’t want to waste time trying to get in and out of the city centre so l’d suggest staying somewhere within zone 1 or zone 2. You could stay in zone 3 or zone 4 at a push but spend some time researching the transport links and tube journey before you book anything. We’ve pulled together a few options with budget, mid-range and luxury price tags so that you can find the right London hotel for you.

Budget London Hotels

Premier Inn Waterloo: this is a budget chain hotel that is renamed for it’s incredibly comfortable beds – you can even buy a bed and mattress set to get the comfort at home. This is a great hotel option for because they’re located all over the UK.

Book Premier Inn Waterloo

London Hilton Metropole: located in central London this hotel is perfect if you’re flying into London Heathrow and want to stay somewhere with easy reach of the airport and the city. You can be at Heathrow Airport in 15 minutes on the Heathrow Express and just a 15 minute walk from Hyde Park.

Book London Hilton Metropole

Mid-range London Hotels

Riu Plaza London Victoria: based in the heart of London this hotel is just a few minutes walk from Victoria station in Westminster. From here there is a strong connections to get you around London with the Victoria, Circle and District lines all running through the Victoria station.

Book the Riu Plaza London Victoria

Sea Containers, London: inspired by a 1920’s transatlantic liner, the Sea Containers sits on the South Bank and offers comfort and luxury even in a standard room with designer furniture, free WiFi and rainfall showers. If you’re travelling with kids then you can opt for a family room with two double beds, and if you want to upgrade your stay then opt for a superior room for a stunning view of London’s skyline.

Book the Sea Containers

Novotel London Paddington: the Novotel London Paddington is the perfect spot for exploring the city with its central location between Hyde Park and Regent’s Park. Being situated minutes from Paddington station it’s easy to jump on the Heathrow Express or the 5 tube lines that run through the Paddington underground station and across the city.

Book the Novotel London Paddington

Luxury London Hotels

The Chesterfield, Mayfair: the epitome of luxury, the Chesterfield, Mayfair has everything you’d expect from a luxury hotel plus more! From outstanding and personal customer service, intimate restaurants and bookable exclusive tours.

Book the Chesterfield, Mayfair

The Guardsman: hidden away less than 10 minutes walk from the gates of Buckingham Palace this 5 star hotel is just a 2 minute walk from St James’s Park tube station. From standard double rooms to xx, each room comes with several amenities including underfloor heating in the bathroom, Nespresso coffee machine and 24 hour room service.

Book the Guardsman

The Montage on the Gardens: moving to the other side of London you’ll find the Montague on the Gardens, offering easy access to Covent Garden, the West End and Bond street for some designer shopping. This hotel is just minutes from Kings Cross underground and St Pancras International station so you can pair your London trip with a few days in Paris.

Book the Montague on the Gardens

FAQ for a 24 hour London itinerary

Is one day in London enough? 

Ideally you would want at least 3 -5 days in London to see all the main sites and experience everything that London has to offer. If you only have one day in London you will be able to see most of the main tourist sites, enjoy some food, and maybe even see a show.

Does the London tube have a day pass?

Yes, you can buy a day travel card that will give you a unlimited travel across London. Or you can buy an oyster card which is a pay as you go travel card that caps your total spend so no matter how much you travel it won’t cost you more than a day travel card.

What is the least busy day to go to London

As a capital city and tourist destination, London is almost always busy. However, it’s busiest on the weekend, during the summer months or in December in the lead up to Christmas. If you can be flexible on the dates of your visit then it would be best to try and avoid the English bank holidays and the holiday dates for English schools. These are split into one week at the end of February, two weeks around Easter, one week at the end of May, six weeks from the end of July to early September, one week at the end of October, and two weeks over Christmas and New year.

Summary: how to spend one day in London

Hopefully you’ve found this 24 hour London itinerary helpful, even if you only use part of it. London is such a vibrant city you’ll easily find enough to fill your time. 

If I had to give just three pieces of advice to give to anyone planning 24 hours in London it would be book entrance tickets in advance – even for the free attractions, plan your route based on the tube map for easy connections, and look at one of the many markets across the city for a quick bite to eat for lunch to save time and money on a sit down meal.

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