London Drum

Spend One Day In London – Example 24-Hour Itinerary

Here are six one day itineraries to help you plan a sightseeing day trip to London

Idea #1 – Sightseeing bus, parade at Horse Guards, meal in the West End

Tootbus Tour
Westminster Abbey
House of Commons
Churchill War Rooms
Downing Street
Horse Guards Parade
Dismounting Ceremony
Leicester Square
Covent Garden
What you will see:
Open-top sightseeing bus, Westminster Abbey, Churchill War Rooms or House of Commons, ceremony at Horse Guards, followed by a meal in the West End

If you just want to see as many landmarks as possible then how about a sightseeing bus? We suggest catching the Tootbus Tour from Trafalgar Square. You can find their ticket office on the southwest corner.

The bus will take you up Fleet Street past the Royal Courts of Justice and St. Paul’s Cathedral. You will get a great view of The Shard as you cross over the river, before re-crossing over Tower Bridge and then driving round the back of the Tower of London.

You’ll see the Globe Theatre before turning left at Trafalgar Square down Whitehall towards Big Ben, which is where we suggest you get off (allow for 70 mins in total, and hopefully you won’t get unlucky with the traffic).

Walk around Parliament Square and take some photos (allow for 20 mins). Then stroll over to Westminster Abbey on the south-side of the square. This is the burial place of many of England’s greatest kings and queens. If you want to look inside then allow for 1½-2 hours.

Option 1 – House of Commons

Now you have a choice of two things (just choose one). How about watching MPs inside the House of Commons? Tourists are usually surprised to find that not only is it free to get inside Parliament, but they don’t even need a ticket. But remember to check the date first because it closes for extended periods (allow for 1-1½ hours).

Option 2 – Churchill War Rooms

If you’re a Second World War buff then you might like to visit the Churchill War Rooms which has been preserved exactly as it was during the war (allow for 1½-2 hours).

Walk down Whitehall and see if you can spot the PM through the gates of Downing Street. Two mins further along is one of the most popular photo-spots – the sentry boxes outside Horse Guards.

It should be mid to late afternoon by now so let’s try and catch the Dismounting Ceremony at 4 PM (allow for 30 mins). Then continue walking to Trafalgar Square and take some photos of Nelson’s Column.

How about ending your day with an meal in the West End? There are plenty of great restaurants around Leicester Square (5 mins walk), or you could just have a drink in Covent Garden (10-15 mins walk).

View this itinerary on the planner

Idea #2 – Big Ben, Parliament, Trafalgar Square & Buckingham Palace

London Eye
Houses of Parliament
Westminster Abbey
Downing Street
Horse Guards Parade
Trafalgar Square
National Gallery
Buckingham Palace
Royal Academy of Arts
Piccadilly Circus
What you will see:
See the landmarks from the top of the London Eye, then walk around the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus

It’s basically impossible to see all of London in one day – you’re going to have to pick and choose which places to see. That’s why we’ve written four completely different itineraries so you can select the one that interests you the most.

Idea No.1 makes a good introduction to the city because it includes many of the most famous landmarks, and we always recommend riding the London Eye first because a) it’s quite an exciting thing to do at the beginning, and b) it will show you lots of famous landmarks in a relatively short amount of time. Note: Buy your tickets beforehand as the queues can be long, and you don’t want to waste time if you’ve only got a day (allow for 30-45 mins queuing, and 30 mins on the wheel).

You should know where Big Ben is now because you just saw it on the wheel, so cross over Westminster Bridge and take some photos of the Houses of Parliament (allow for 15 mins) and then walk over to Westminster Abbey.

Westminster Abbey is one of the most historic buildings in London and is the setting for coronations, Royal weddings and burials (allow for at least 60-90 mins inside).

Cross over Parliament Square and head down Whitehall towards the Cenotaph. Just past that is No.10 Downing Street. You might like to spend 10 mins trying to spot the Prime Minister.

Next to that is one of the most popular tourist spots in London: the soldiers at Horse Guards. Remember to walk through the central arch into the parade ground for one of the finest sights in London.

Now continue walking down Whitehall until you reach Trafalgar Square and Nelson’s Column. If you’re into art then you might like to spend 60-90 mins inside the National Gallery.

Head through Admiralty Arch and walk up the Mall to Buckingham Palace (allow for 10-15 mins walking time). Now turn right into Green Park and keep going until you reach one of London’s poshest shopping streets: Piccadilly (allow for 10-15 mins walking time).

As you walk down here you’ll pass the Ritz Hotel, Fortnum & Mason and Royal Academy of Arts, ending up under the neon lights of Piccadilly Circus. This is another one of London’s best photos.

Depending on what time you arrived in London it will probably be late afternoon or early evening now, so how about spending the night in the West End? Perhaps you could find a nice restaurant and then see a theatre show? Or you might like to watch a blockbuster movie in one of the big cinemas in Leicester Square.

View this itinerary on the planner

Idea #3 – London Eye, Tate Modern or Shard & St. Paul’s Cathedral

London Eye
Cleopatra’s Needle
Tate Modern
St. Paul’s Cathedral
St. Paul’s Cathedral Evensong
Globe Theatre
Golden Hinde
Borough Market
The Shard
What you will see:
Ride on the London Eye, then walk along the river to see the Tate, Globe Theatre and St. Paul’s, or climb to the top of The Shard

One day is nowhere near enough time to see the whole of London, but lots of people try and rush around at supersonic speed trying to cram everything in. We think it’s much better to concentrate on just a few of the best attractions so you can enjoy them more, and then climb up something tall to see the rest. That’s what Idea No.3 is all about: you’re going to see some of London’s most famous landmarks, but from 1,000 feet in the sky!

The London Eye is a great place to start your day (it’s No.2 in our London Bucket List). It’s also a great way to see lots of London landmarks in a very short time, and if you get lucky with the queue you can be on and off the ride inside an hour (allow for 30-45 mins queuing, and 30 mins on the actual wheel).

Let’s have a walk along the Southbank past the Royal Festival Hall. If you look across the river then you’ll see Cleopatra’s Needle. Once you get past Blackfriars Bridge the tall chimney Tate Modern will loom up on your right (allow for 20-30 mins walking time in total).

Option 1 – Tate Modern and St. Paul’s Cathedral

This is home to the UK’s largest collection of modern art and is No.2 in the list of London’s most visited attractions (allow for 60-90 mins). It’s fair to say that not everyone is going to enjoy it, so that’s why we’ve given you a few different options to pick from. You should choose just two out of the three.

Cross over the Millennium Bridge to St. Paul’s Cathedral. Tourists will probably remember it as the place Charles and Diana got married. Try climbing up to the Whispering Gallery for a view of the cathedral floor. If you’re a bit braver then you can climb to the top of the dome! (allow for 2 hours).

Option 2 – Globe Theatre and St. Paul’s Cathedral

Alternatively you could visit Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. If you come during the summer then you might be able to watch a Shakespeare play (it’s an open-air theatre so they always hold them in the afternoon). Otherwise you can settle for a guided tour of the playhouse (allow at least 3 hours for the play, or 90 mins for the tour).

Depending on the time you you finish you can either enter St. Paul’s Cathedral or do the Evensong service at 5 PM.

Option 3 – Borough Market and The Shard

If you don’t fancy either of those two options then how about The Shard? If you keep walking down the river then you’ll pass Francis Drake’s Golden Hinde. We recommend taking a detour into Borough Market for its gourmet food stalls.

The highlight of this option is the view from the top of the The Shard. This is the tallest skyscraper in London and rises 1,000 feet above the streets. You can see absolutely everything from up there.

View this itinerary on the planner

Idea #4 – Changing the Guard, tea at The Ritz, shopping and a show

Trafalgar Square
St. James’s Park
Buckingham Palace
Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace
Afternoon tea at the Ritz
Piccadilly Circus
Carnaby Street
Leicester Square
What you will see:
Changing the Guard, afternoon tea at The Ritz or Fortnum & Mason, Piccadilly Circus, shopping in Regent Street, theatre show in the West End

One of the most popular events for tourists is Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace, but you need to be aware that it’s really busy and you need to get there quite early to secure a decent view, so we recommend reading Craig’s review before you go.

Ideally you need to get there by 9.30 AM if you want an okay view, and even earlier if you want to stand right against the railings.

Most of the big attractions don’t open until 10 AM, which means that you won’t have enough time to do anything beforehand (especially when you remember that it’s an extra 10-15 min walk down the Mall to Buckingham Palace), so perhaps you can kill some time in the morning by taking photos around Trafalgar Square and St. James’s Park.

One of the best photo spots in the park is on the lake’s bridge. If you turn one way then you’ll see Buckingham Palace beyond the trees, and if you turn the other then you’ll see Horse Guards Parade.

When the ceremony ends at around 11:30 AM walk through Green Park to Piccadilly (10 min walk). There’s not much to see in the park itself, but Piccadilly is where you’ll find the luxurious Ritz Hotel.

How about treating yourself to one of their famous afternoon teas? You should have plenty of time to make the sitting at 1.30 PM okay, but bear in mind that you need to book up at least 2-3 months in advance to get a table (seriously!). They also have a very smart dress code (definitely no jeans, trainers or t-shirts) so check their website first. You should be out by 3 PM.

If you can’t reserve a table at The Ritz then try the afternoon tea at Fortnum & Mason instead, which is the second poshest shop in London after Harrods. You only have to book that about 1-2 weeks in advance for this one, and you should be out by 2.30 PM.

At the end of Piccadilly is Piccadilly Circus (10 min walk). You can return here in the evening if you like, but for the next 3-4 hours you might like to fit in some gift shopping down Regent Street and Oxford Street – two of London’s busiest shopping streets. You’ll find Hamleys down Regent Street, Carnaby Street is close to Oxford Circus, and Selfridges is up the Marble Arch end of Oxford Street.

If you want corny tourist gifts then try the shops around Leicester Square.

You can spend the evening watching a West End show. Most of the big shows start at 7 PM or 7.30 PM. The cheapest tickets are from the TKTS booth in Leicester Square (that’s where they sell all of the evening’s unsold seats for knockdown prices).

View this itinerary on the planner

Idea #5 – Tower Bridge, Tower of London, The City & Covent Garden

Tower Bridge
Tower of London
The Monument
Sky Garden
Leadenhall Market
Bank of England Museum
Royal Exchange
St. Paul’s Cathedral
Covent Garden
Leicester Square
What you will see:
Tower Bridge and Tower of London, then walk around The City for St. Paul’s Cathedral, and end with a meal and a show in the West End

Idea No.1 showed you some important landmarks in the City of Westminster, and this one does the same for the City of London. Start by taking some pictures of Tower Bridge. You might want to check the scheduled lift times before you go and see if you can catch the drawbridge opening. We don’t recommend going inside, but allow yourself 45 mins if you do.

Spend the next 2½ hours at the Tower of London. We’d normally suggest 3-4 hours but seeing as you’re only in London for one day you’re going to have to rush it – sorry! Try a Yeoman Warder Tour and then nip into the White Tower and Waterloo Barracks afterwards for the Crown Jewels.

Option 1 – The Monument

Head down Great Tower Street and Eastcheap, and turn left when you see Pudding Lane. This was where the Great Fire of London started in 1666, but it’s a rather ugly street these days. We’ve come to see Christopher Wren’s Monument. Allow yourself 45 mins to climb it (and 10 mins to recover after!)

Option 2 – Sky Garden

If you don’t fancy climbing up The Monument then the Sky Garden has a lift (allow for 1 hour). This skyscraper has a tropical garden at the top – a bit like the Palm House at Kew – and some great views of the London skyline. Bear in mind that you need to book a time slot on their website in advance, so you can’t just turn up on the day.

After you’ve completed one of those two options walk to Leadenhall Market and then down Cornhill towards Bank. This intersection has three of London’s best buildings: the Bank of England, Mansion House and Royal Exchange.

Now walk down Cheapside until you reach St. Paul’s. If you’ve been dawdling then it might already be too late to enter, but if took our advice and stuck with the timings then you should be able to see inside. If you fancy another climb then head up to the highest dome for another great view (allow for 1½ hours).

You’ll probably be tired from all that walking by now, so catch the No.23 towards Trafalgar Square from the south side of the Cathedral. This will take you straight up Fleet Street past the Royal Courts of Justice.

What you decide to do with the rest of your night is up to you, but you have a couple of good choices. If you fancy something to eat then try one of the restaurants around Covent Garden. Or you could stay on the bus until you reach Trafalgar Square and then walk to Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus. This is the heart of the West End and so maybe you could get tickets for a theatre show?

View this itinerary on the planner

Idea #6 – Free museums, Harrods & Royal Albert Hall or London Eye

Natural History Museum
Science Museum
Victoria & Albert Museum
Royal Albert Hall
Piccadilly Circus
Leicester Square
Trafalgar Square
London Eye
What you will see:
Two museums, Harrods to do some shopping, ending with a concert at the Royal Albert Hall, or an evening ride on the London Eye

Not everybody is interested in ticking off lots of landmarks when they come to London. Maybe they’ve seen them before, or maybe they’d rather just have a nice quiet day walking around the museums. That’s what this next itinerary is all about: you’re going to see two of London’s best museums and end with a concert at the Royal Albert Hall or a night-time ride on the London Eye.

These three museums are all next-door to each other, but you’ll only have time to visit two of them.

Option 1 – Natural History Museum

The call the Natural History Museum the ‘dead zoo’ because it’s full of skeletons and stuffed animals. They’ve got lions, tigers, zebras, elephants, monkeys, gorillas, giraffes, birds, fish, insects… everything! They also have a huge collection of dinosaur skeletons and a robot Tyrannosaurus Rex (allow for 2-3 hours).

Option 2 – Science Museum

If you’re more interested in technology then try the Science Museum. It goes all the way back to the Industrial Revolution and traces the evolution of computers, clocks and cars. They’ve also got a hangar full of airplanes and some rockets and probes, including a full-size lander from the Apollo moon missions (allow for 2-3 hours).

Option 3 – V&A Museum

The Victoria & Albert Museum is for people interested art and design and it’s full of old furniture, fashions and jewellery from all over the world, plus an impressive collection of art by the likes of Constable, Turner and Raphael. Their Cast Room contains life-size models of some of the world’s greatest monuments and statues (allow for 2 hours).

All three of those museums are free, so you should have plenty of money left over for some shopping at Harrods. If you’re going to buy some holiday gifts then you may as well do it at the world’s most famous (and expensive!) shop. You’ll find it a short walk down the Brompton Road (allow for 1 hour).

You’ve got two choices for what to do in the evening:

Option A – Royal Albert Hall

If you enjoy classical music then how about a concert at the Royal Albert Hall? They show everything from rock and pop concerts to comedy here, and you can walk it from Harrods: just return to the museums and continue up Exhibition Road until you reach the park. The Royal Albert Hall is on the left (allow for 3 hours).

Option B – Evening ride on the London Eye

If there’s nothing worth seeing at the Royal Albert Hall then catch the No.14 to Piccadilly Circus (20 mins ride) and enjoy a 20-min walk to the London Eye. We recommend a route through Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square, and then down Whitehall to Big Ben. You can then cross over Westminster Bridge to the London Eye.

The great thing about the London Eye is that it stays open late so you can enjoy a view of the skyline with all the twinkling lights – quite a memorable way to end your day.

View this itinerary on the planner

London Squire bookThe owns and has spent the last decade reviewing the capital’s landmarks, attractions and hotels. His guidebook is available from Amazon

Your comments and questions

Daryl I am visiting London with my wife for one day, arriving about midday and leaving again about 6 PM and I'm trying to work out the most cost effective way of travelling around. The one day travelcard is £13.50 each but I have calculated that if I buy 2 Oyster cards, I can do all the journeys for £7.20 each. Is this the best way or is there a cap on Oyster card to prevent me from doing this? Any help much appreciatedl

Craig That sounds all right, but the only problem is you have to pay a £5 deposit the first time you set up a pay-as-you-go Oyster card, which wipes out the difference. You could claim back the deposit afterwards, but that's probably too much hassle. If would suggest just using your contactless bank card instead. It's the same price as Oyster and you don't have to pay a deposit.

Daryl Ah ok thanks, that was helpful. So if we use contactless debit cards, can we use those at the ticket machines instead of an Oyster card? Thanks again

Craig That's right, you just tap them down on the same yellow readers, the same way you would for an Oyster card

Bill Thul I am so excited that my daughter and I have scheduled 24 hours in London on our way to Helsinki. We will be spending the entire day in London. What do you think about tours? Primarily about hop-on bus tours vs walking. (I found several self-guided 3 hour walking tours). Thanks in advance for your help.

Craig Hi Bill. I don't recommend bus tours much for day trips, if I'm honest. They are very expensive for what they offer, and eat up a lot of time. But if all you want to do is see as many landmarks as possible in one day, then maybe it's a good idea. Personally I would go for a walk and have a boat ride instead. Maybe you could start the day off in Trafalgar Square, and then walk up Whitehall to look at Downing Street, Horse Guards, Big Ben, Parliament and Westminster Abbey. Then you can catch a City Cruises or TRS boat from Westminster Pier (by Big Ben), and get off at Tower Bridge. That ride will take you past the London Eye, St Paul's, Globe Theatre, Tate Modern, Shard, HMS Belfast and the Tower of London. All of that will cost you less then a sightseeing bus, and will show you just as much stuff.

Bill Thul Thank you, this is very helpful. I will come back later for more questions!

Kellyn Hi, I plan to visit London next year, my itinerary as below: 1. Tower of London (not entering as I only have limited time) 2. Tower Bridge 3. Borough Market 4. Westminster Abbey & Big Ben 5. Buckingham Palace 6. Trafalgar Square 7. Piccadilly Circus 8. Leicester Square & Chinatown 9. Oxford Street 10. Dinner in Soho/Convent Garden. As the time is short I will shorten the visiting time on every spot, please advise if these spots can be walked or I have to take train in order to save more time, thanks! Regards, Kellyn Lye from Malaysia

Craig Hi Kellyn. It's not possible to cram all of these into one day, unless you're only going to be walking past them and not actually entering any of them. They definitely can't be walked either. You'll need to catch a tube to the Tower of London/Tower Bridge (which are nextdoor to each other), plus another one to Borough Market. Numbers 4-10 can be walked (but it would be easier if you dropped Oxford Street). If it was me I would start at the Tower of London, maybe give it 2 hours, take a photograph of Tower Bridge nextdoor, then get the tube from Tower Hill back to Westminster. Then I would take some photos of Westminster Abbey, Parliament and Big Ben, walk up Whitehall to see Trafalgar Square, then walk on through Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus, then walk down Lower Regent Street to the Mall, go and have a look at Buckingham Palace, then walk through Green Park and back down Piccadilly and on to Covent Garden for my dinner. That is a lot of walking to do in one day, but it's doable.

Darren Hi Craig my wife’s birthday is on 21st may she really wants to experience the sights of London. Her ideal attractions are Buckingham palace, Houses of Parliament, London eye and tower bridge is there a tour that can do all?

Craig Hi Darren, if you mean a paid tour then no, I don't think so. But you can certainly visit all of those in a day easy enough, they are all within easy walking distance apart from Tower Bridge. I would recommend visiting Buckingham Palace, then walking to Parliament (via Trafalgar Square and Whitehall past Horse Guards and Downing Street) then walking over Westminster Bridge to the London Eye, then you can maybe catch a boat from Westminster Pier afterwards (City Cruises and TRS both depart from Big Ben) and ride it all the way up to Tower Bridge, giving you a look at landmarks like St Pauls, the Globe, the Shard, HMS Belfast and the Tower of London along the way

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