Looking to plan the perfect one day in London itinerary but feel kind of stressed out about it?
Yeah, I totally get that. I mean, there is so much to see and do in this iconic city that it can be difficult to know where to start when planning a perfect day in London.
However, luckily for you, I’ve lived in and visited London more times than I can count. So, I really do know how to experience London like a savvy local, not a tourist.
So, if you want to quickly and easily plan 24 hours in London then this post is for you.
Because I’ve laid everything out in this one day in London itinerary so that you can quickly and easily enjoy all of the city’s top attractions.
This way, you can get a taste of the pure awesomeness that is London and maybe even plan a return trip to the immortal capital of England.
This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure for more information. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.
If you’re booking a trip right now then I IMPLORE you to get travel insurance – even if it’s not from me.
After all, this past year has been a wild ride and I don’t want you to lose money because government regulations have changed.
Truth be told though, I’ve never traveled without travel insurance and don’t think you should either – especially since I think we’ve all had plans drastically change because of the pandemic.
Therefore, find an insurance agency that covers travel changes related to COVID-19, like my two all-time faves World Nomads and Safety Wing. You can also read more about which policy is right for you in my full review here.
Where to Stay for One Day in London
When you’re planning a whistle-stop tour of London in a day you’ll need a decent place to hang your head after a busy day of sightseeing.
Save time scouring the web with my top picks for where to stay in London.
- KX Rooms (budget) – London isn’t exactly known for its budget-friendly digs and it’s a challenge to score a private room without forking out over $100 a night in Zone 1. So, your best bet is this cheap (for London) hotel where you’ll enjoy a private bathroom and clean, safe lodging for the night. Although veering on the snug side, doubles and family rooms are well-equipped with a kettle, hairdryer, and free Wi-Fi. This hotel also sits next to King’s Cross St. Pancras Station so you’ll save a fortune on travel.
- Citadines Barbican London (mid-range) – If you’d prefer to stretch out during your trip to London, choosing an aparthotel the way to go. In fact, studio apartments at Citadines come with a kitchenette, dining area, and private bathroom. Plus, regular guest rooms are a tad cheaper. And if you’re hoping for a lie-in the night before tackling London in a day that you’ll love that this aparthotel isn’t far from the first attraction on this itinerary!
- Yotel London City (mid-range) – This funky contemporary hotel is outfitted with bright rooms complete with an en suite bathroom and essential amenities. Continental breakfast is available at a surcharge and there is a 24/7 fitness room available for gym rats. The Farrington neighborhood is also central and well-connected but benefits from quiet evenings.
- St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London (luxury) – Fancy living like royalty during your 24 hours in London? Well, then you’ll love this 5-star hotel that comes with all the trimmings. For starters, all rooms are beautifully appointed with plush furnishings, elegant decor, and marble bathrooms. Top-tier rooms even feature clawfoot bathtubs and fireplaces. There’s also a pool, spa, sauna, gym, and a fleet of restaurants. Plus, it’s centrally located in the fashionable King’s Cross St. Pancras area.
Tips for Getting Around During Your One Day in London
London is famous for its eyebrow-raising prices and, inevitably, you will spend more than you’d like to in the city.
However, there are plenty of ways to reign in your spending! Therefore, here are my tips for saving money and getting around London in a day.
1. Get an Oyster Card
An Oyster Card is one of the easiest ways to pay for your travel around London. This is a rechargeable card that works out way cheaper than paper/single-fare tickets.
You can then use your Oyster Card to pay for the Tube, bus, and even the river bus ferry services. Also, do be aware that buses do not accept cash payments!
2. Go contactless
In place of a loaded Oyster Card, you can just use a contactless credit or debit card to get around. The fares are exactly the same and you’ll benefit from daily capping.
If you do have an Oyster card, make sure you don’t accidentally tap any contactless cards while tapping in or out. Card clash is a thing and it means that both methods get charged.
Pro Tip: Buses work out much cheaper than the Tube. Each journey is capped at £1.65 ($2.15) regardless of how far you travel.
Plus, if you change buses within one hour, you won’t pay a penny more thanks to the “hopper” fare.
3. Walk as much as possible
Despite the epic size of Greater London, the central area is actually fairly compact and walkable. And this 1 day in London itinerary is designed so that you can walk throughout most of the day and save money on public transportation.
For that reason – comfortable shoes should be at the very top of your London packing list.
4. Book tickets in advance
All the sights you’ll want to see while exploring London in a day are prone to crowds and long lines.
Therefore, book skip-the-line tickets in advance to avoid wasting valuable sightseeing time. To make this easy, I’ve included all the relevant links below.
5. Pick up a London Pass
If you’re spending longer than a day in London and want to tour top attractions and museums, consider getting a London Pass.
After all, this amazing resource will grant you free admission to over 80 sights. Passes are also available for 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or 10 days and are priced accordingly from $103.
So, browse through your options and choose the London Pass that is perfect for you.
6. Carry a reusable bottle
Tap water in the UK is perfectly safe to drink.
However, stay hydrated and do your bit for the environment by carrying around a reusable water bottle.
Plus, many cafes and pubs will be happy to top you off if you run out of water. And you can put all that money that you saved on bottled water towards a night out at the pub.
Yup, it’s a total win-win.
How to see the best of London in a day
So, if you follow the itinerary as outlined below, you can walk between the majority of the points of interest on this 1 day in London itinerary.
1. The Tower of London
But first: breakfast.
The first item on today’s agenda is located next to the handsome St. Katherine’s Docks. See, White Mulberries is a lovely little cafe that overlooks the marina.
Nourishing breakfast bowls, pastries, and brunch classics alongside excellent coffee are on the menu. The cafe also opens daily at 7:30 am.
So, once you’ve filled your tummy at one of the cutest cafes in London, you can walk to the first attraction of the day.
The Tower of London is a medieval fortress with a gruesome history of executions, beheadings, and imprisonment.
On a lighter note, it also houses the Crown Jewels and provides gorgeous views of the Thames.
Highlights of the Tower of London include:
- White Tower – At the heart of the Inner Ward, this turreted tower once provided lodging for the current king. Nowadays it houses the armor of Henry VIII.
- Wakefield Tower – Also known as the Bloody Tower, this is the goriest of all. The young princes, Edward and Richard, were imprisoned here in the days leading up to their slaughter by their uncle, King Richard III.
- Crown Jewels – As well as the Imperial State Crown, you’ll see the scepter and robes worn by British kings and queens at their coronation services.
- Ravens – Legend warns us that if the resident “unkindness” of ravens leaves the premises then the Tower of London will fall.
So, expect to spend around two hours roaming throughout the premises of the tower.
Pro Tip: Be sure to purchase a skip-the-line ticket well in advance of your one day in London to avoid long queues. Then, once you’re in, feel free to fire any questions you have at the Yeoman Wardens. They’re knowledgeable, friendly, and love to share trivia with eager visitors!
Address: Tower Hill, London EC3N 4AB
Hours: Open Tuesday from 9:00 am 5:30 pm, and Sunday to Monday from 10:00 am 5:30 pm.
Price: Tickets start at $40 for adult admission.
How to Get There: Tower Hill Tube Station (Circle and District Line) is located right next to the Tower of London and St. Katherine’s Docks.
2. South Bank and London Eye
London’s South Bank is a cultural center for theater, film, festivals, and food.
It’s the place to be in London whatever the season since there’s always something going on. So, expect to find Christmas markets in winter, sandpits/festivals throughout the summer, bookstalls on weekends, and more.
Also, getting here is the most fun on foot since you can soak up the energy and sights of London.
Then, Cross over the river via Tower Bridge (the huge blue suspension bridge) and follow the Thames Path west.
Along the way, you’ll walk past dozens of attractions, such as:
- The Golden Hinde – A replica of the ship that circumnavigated Sir Francis Drake around the globe.
- The Clink Prison Museum – Ghastly setting depicting a notorious prison from the 12th-century.
- Shakespeare’s Globe – A recreation of the original theater where punters can pick up “standing” tickets during the summer season.
- Tate Modern – A museum filled with mind-boggling contemporary pieces within a former power station.
Therefore, if you can manage to spend more than 1 day in London you might want to revisit some of these iconic spots.
Then, standing in stark contrast against the innumerable ancient buildings here, the London Eye oscillates at the heart of the South Bank.
After all, it’s Europe’s largest Ferris wheel and offers visitors lovely views of the city during a 30-minute ride.
So, do yourself a favor and avoid the ridiculously long queues by pre-booking a fast-track London Eye ticket now.
Pro Tip: If you’re feeling peckish, pick up an early lunch during your walk since Borough Market is open daily from 10:00 am (8:00 am on Saturdays). A second, and cheaper option is Southbank Centre Food Market. It opens Friday through Sunday. And then lastly, food trucks can usually be found dotted all around the South Bank at the foot of the Eye.
Address: Riverside Building, County Hall, London SE1 7PB
Hours: London Eye is open daily from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm.
Price: Tickets start at $35 when booked online in advance.
Getting There: Walking from the Tower of London to the London Eye takes around 45 minutes. Alternatively, you can hop on the Tube to Embankment Station and walk across the bridge. A more swashbuckling alternative: take the River Boat from Tower Pier to Westminster and cross over Westminster Bridge.
3. The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben
Once your feet touch the ground, catch your breath and make your way to Westminster Bridge. On the way, stop to snap some photos of your next attraction: the Houses of Parliament.
You’ll also be delighted to know that Big Ben has recently been liberated from its oppressive scaffolding to reveal a splendidly refurbished clock face.
Therefore, that means that now is the best time to plan your 1 day in London.
However, this place is also known as the Palace of Westminster. In fact, this vast building was at the center of controversy in 1605.
See, in an attempt to overthrow the Protestant monarchy and government, Guy Fawkes plotted to blow the complex up with his Gunpowder Plot.
And while this all didn’t go accordingly to plan, Brits nowadays “celebrate” his failure every year on the 5th of November with fireworks displays, giant bonfires, and sweet treats.
So, if you want to learn more about this intriguing place, you’ll be happy to know that guided tours of the palace are on offer. But, they operate on a limited schedule.
Accordingly, you’ll need to consult the UK Parliament website to check availability and make a booking.
Pro Tip: You can get unobstructed photos of the Houses of Parliament from the Victoria Tower Gardens.
Address: Parliament Square, London SW1A 0AA
Hours: You can visit the exterior any time of day. However, tour dates and times do not follow a set schedule.
Price: Free to view the exterior. Multimedia tours cost $30 per person while guided tours cost $38.
Getting there: It’s a 10-minute walk from the London Eye via Westminster Bridge.
4. Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey is the setting for royal weddings, coronations, and memorial services.
Besides monarchs, the abbey is also the burial site for prominent scientists, poets, and historical figures including Rudyard Kipling and Charles Darwin.
Therefore, as you might expect, this ornate church is a feast for the eyes with its Gothic towers and stained glass windows.
It’s also the site of Britain’s oldest door! So be sure to grab a ticket and explore the incredible interiors so that you can see Poet’s Corner, Lady Chapel, and the Quire.
On the downside though, lines to get into the abbey are always long, no matter what time of day/year you visit.
So, if you want to go inside, it pays off to guarantee your visit with a timed ticket.
Pro Tip: Although the abbey doesn’t have a set dress code, you are expected to dress modestly while inside the building. If the sun is shining while you’re exploring London in a day you’ll also need to remove your hat.
Address: 20 Deans Yd, London SW1P 3PA
Hours: Monday to Saturday, 9:00 am to 3:30 pm. Closed on Sundays and public holidays.
Price: $33 per adult.
Getting There: The abbey is in Parliament Square – yards away from the Houses of Parliament.
5. Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace is the official London residence and workplace of the Queen (and her beloved corgis).
And regardless of where your thoughts stand on the royal family, the building is well worth a visit.
Alas, you can’t tour the interior of Buckingham Palace outside of the peak summer season.
However, you can sneak a peek through the railings, marvel at the facade, and see the Queen’s Guard standing to attention.
You can also watch the Changing of the Guard ceremony, which takes place a couple of times a week. This is usually around 11:00 am so you will need to return to London in the future if you want to watch.
Spending one day in London during summer? You can pre-book a tour of the State Apartments and find out how the royal family really lives.
And per usual, this is an incredibly popular experience and you should 100% book your tickets in advance now.
Pro Tip: Make a detour via St James’s Park Park Bridge for a scenic view of the palace through the foliage.
Address: Constitution Hill, London SW1A 1AA
Hours: Visit the exterior any time of day. State Rooms tours are open from late July until late September on select days and times.
Price: Free to visit the exterior. Tours cost $40 per adult.
Getting There: A pleasant 15/20-minute stroll via St James’s Park.
6. Trafalgar Square, Covent Garden and the West End
Trafalgar Square and Covent Garden are two parts of London that everyone has heard of, and they’re actually right next door to each another.
See, Trafalgar Square is where you can pose with the lion statues, crane your neck to see Nelson’s Column and watch the red buses sweep through the area’s gorgeous fountains.
Also, be sure to check out the Fourth Plinth which displays a special piece of modern art that changes throughout the year,
This is also the setting for the National Gallery in case you are spending more than 24 hours in London.
Meanwhile, Covent Garden is a melting point for shopping, dining, and cultural enthusiasts in the West End.
In fact, the Apple Market is a historic fruit and veggie market that’s been reinvented with upscale boutiques and bistros.
So, while you’re here, be on the lookout for artisanal London souvenirs at the street markets and street performances!
In particular, Covent Garden actually backs onto the West End theater district which springs to life at dusk.
Pro Tip: If you have time, stop for macarons and tea at Ladurée. The Parisian-style cafe has sumptuous velvet seats inside and an alfresco terrace.
Getting there: Trafalgar is a 20-minute walk from Buckingham Palace via The Mall.
Swanky Harrods is one of the most extravagant places to shop in London.
As Harrods specializes in high-end luxury goods, this isn’t the place to bargain hunt. But, even if shopping isn’t on your agenda, visiting alone is an experience!
Founded in 1834, the interiors are palatial. A huge variety of British and international brands are also well represented across all seven floors.
Meanwhile, the Dining Hall features six restaurants. Therefore, you’ll be tempted to pick up a pastry or two for the next day.
Pro Tip: If your plan to visit London in a day are during December, you must visit Harrods purely to see the window display. The theme changes every year and it always resembles a work of art.
Address: 87-135 Brompton Rd, London SW1X 7XL
Hours: Open daily 10:00 am to 9:00 pm (11:30 am to 6:00 pm on Sundays).
Price: Free unless you want to treat yourself!
Getting there: You can walk along Piccadilly and Knightsbridge in 40 minutes. Alternatively, take the Piccadilly Line from Leicester Square or Covent Garden as far as Knightsbridge. Or – hop on the 9 or 14 bus.
8. Dinner at a traditional London pub
Nothing screams English culture like the great institute of the British pub. And now that you’ve successfully seen the best of London in a day, it’s time to reward yourself with a pint.
London pubs are casual affairs where a quick drink swiftly turns into a cheeky round (or three) before last orders are called.
As well as cask ales and British brews, you’ll find a solid selection of ciders, wines, and spirits.
The Bunch of Grapes is your archetypal British pub. It’s a few yards down the road from Harrods and is the best option if you’re gasping.
On the other hand, you could venture into Shepherd Market. This atmospheric square is swimming in traditional pubs and eclectic restaurants.
In particular, Ye Grapes (there’s a theme with pub names) serves Thai food alongside London staples of fish and chips. Plus, excited patrons tend to pour out onto the square which creates a fantastic buzz in the evenings.
What, would you rather drink with a riverside view? If so then make your way back to the London Bridge area.
The Old Thameside Inn, Anchor Bankside, and the Founder’s Arms all overlook the River Thames and feature seasonal cocktails on the menu alongside a hearty selection of classic pub grub.
Pro Tip: If you want to visit a pub closer to your hotel, ask the reception team for a recommendation. As locals, they’re in the know!
Best Day Trips from London
If you are spending more than one day in London then you might want to plan an excursion or two out of the city. Here are five different day trips from London that you can plan independently or as part of a tour.
- Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour – This tour spills the secrets behind the sets of the Harry Potter film. You’ll roam down Diagon Alley, peek into Dumbledore’s office, and sample sugary delights like Butter Beer. Tour includes return transport and admission and should be booked in advance now. It’s also amazing and perfect for all my fellow Harry Potter lovers out there. For more information, check out my guide to Harry Potter things to do in London.
- Windsor, Stonehenge, Bath, and Roman Baths Day Trip – This is an ambitious day out that combines history with more history before culminating in the postcard-perfect city of Bath. It’s a great way to experience the southwest of England during a quick visit.
Alternatively, you can just visit Stonehenge and Bath and tackle Windsor at another time.
- Full-day Cotswold Tour with Lunch – Journey through bucolic bliss in the charming Cotswold region. This tour includes stops at Burford, Bibury, Bourton-on-the-Water, and Stow-on-the-Wold. Rolling hills and dry stone walls are aplenty, complete with a pub lunch too.
- Isle of Wight Day Trip from London – Depart the “big island” for the day and catch a glimpse of what England was like centuries ago. The Isle of Wight is abundant in wildlife, coastal cliffs, and cute fishing villages.
- Oxford and Cambridge Universities Tour – If London hasn’t filled your quota for historical architecture, a trip to these beautiful cities will settle things. The tour takes you to such sights as Oxford’s Bodleian Library and Cambridge’s Bridge of Sighs.