London is truly an amazing city.
The capital of England has many treasures to be found, beautifully historic architecture to see, great things to do, sumptuous places to eat and landmarks galore.
If you are short on time, and have just one single day in London, you are going to need the ultimate itinerary to get round to all the best places, the most effective route and where you must include to and visit to enjoy London to the fullest!
This is no easy task!
I was born in London and live in London. I think now I have visited at least every underground station on the main underground lines, as well as visited every museum and (I think) every theatre.
You could easily spend a month in London and still not explore everything. Even London residents like myself discover new things each month.
It’s these surprises that keep me hooked to the best city on Earth!
Ultimate One Day London Itinerary
This itinerary has been put together on the assumption you will wake up in London, perhaps in a hotel and also stay in London the same night.
This way you can maximise your time and will give you a full 24 hours in the capital, and more places to explore.
If you are planning on travelling into London in the morning, or planning to leave London by evening, you may need to adjust this itinerary slightly:
6:00am – Morning Alarm
6:30am – Leave Hotel
7:00am – Tower Bridge and Tower of London at sunrise
7:45am – Breakfast
9:00am – Leadenhall Market
9:45am – St Paul’s Cathedral
10:00am – Millennium Bridge and Shakespeare’s Globe
11:00am – Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament
12:00pm – Buckingham Palace
1:30pm – Trafalgar Square
2pm – Covent Garden and Lunch
3:30pm – Oxford Circus and Oxford Street
5:30pm – Harrods
6:30pm – Hyde Park and Evening Meal
8:30pm – Piccadilly Circus
10pm – Arrive at Hotel
Places to Visit
Let’s have a look in more depth at some of the amazing places you’ll see and explore on your ultimate day trip, and 24 hours, in London:
Tower Bridge and Tower of London
Having worked in the city for a number of years, I managed to take in the views of Tower of London and Tower Bridge almost every lunchtime and was excited before every visit. So much history in one single view.
Literally next door to each other, you can discover and see both landmarks in a single visit.
The closest underground station, if travelling by train, is Tower Hill, which is served by both the District line (green) and Circle line (yellow).
The best way though to get a great sunrise photo of Tower Bridge, as the sun rises in the East, is to head towards London Bridge. Walk halfway across London Bridge, and look East.
Another great photo opportunity is to head towards St Katherine’s Way and to the Girl with the Dolphin Fountain.
You can walk under Tower Bridge, from St Katherine’s Way, along the Thames for some more photo opportunities and in to and around the grounds of Tower of London.
If you jumped out of bed early this morning filled with the adrenalin and excitement the day had in store, you may have forgotten to eat!
A full hardy breakfast is needed for such a day ahead. There will be much exploring, quite a bit of walking (although you can substitute some of the walking for a taxi, underground or bus ride).
The City of London has no shortage of places to grab breakfast.
Cafes and restaurants have been feeding breakfast to London City workers for well over a hundred years.
Whether you choose a small takeaway café and eat on foot or want to sit down in a quiet roadside café and watch the London world go by, you’ll find somewhere to eat and drink down almost every street, particularly in and around Tower Hill station and up towards Aldgate and Liverpool Street stations.
After breakfast, our next destination is the beautiful Leadenhall market. It’s just a 15 minute walk from Tower Hill Station, so you may want to walk off your breakfast and enjoy the City.
With Tower Hill Station on your right, and the Tower of London on your left, head West on Tower Hill and in to Byward Street. Continue straight ahead into Great Tower Street before taking the first right in to Mark Lane.
At the end of Mark Lane turn left into Fenchurch Street until you reach the crossroads with Gracechurch Street where you need to take a right. The Leadenhall Market is a 5 minute walk along Gracechurch Street and on the right.
Leadenhall Market is on the list not necessarily to stock up on fruit and veg, but to marvel at the architectural wonder that Leadenhall offers everyone fortunate to grace its door.
The brilliance of gold takes you aback when you come in from the light and let your eyes adjust.
It’s stood in the same location for over 700 years!
Every day welcoming residents, visitors and tourists through its doors.
For Harry Potter fans amongst you it will be a familiar sight, as it was the location used as Diagon Alley.
You could spend a week staring at every square inch of the ceiling of Leadenhall Market, and at the end feel like you want to go back to do it again. It’s exquisite.
It’s quite a small space. It isn’t the traditional market you may be imagining. There are no outside market stalls, but some of the indoor stores have resided within Leadenhall Market for over 100 years.
You can walk through Leadenhall Market within 5 minutes, but spend some time looking at the ornate sculptures. It is definitely a landmark to plan a photo or two.
From here we head towards another architectural marvel, St Paul’s Cathedral.
Return to the Leadenhall Market entrance at Gracechurch Street, and with your back to the entrance turn right into Gracechurch Street, and take the first right in to Leadenhall Street.
Look out for Bus Stop Z (St Mary Axe) and you want to take bus number 25. It runs every 8 minutes, so you shouldn’t have long to wait. If you can head upstairs and manage to take the front seats, you’ll get a great view of St Paul’s as your bus draws closer to your destination.
Bus number 25 is a great sightseeing route to get your first sight of St Paul’s Cathedral.
St Paul’s Cathedral
St Paul’s Cathedral has to be one of my all time favourite landmarks in and around London.
The architectural feat for such a building built so many years ago is impressive to say the least. Orchestral concerts including at Christmas time and other events still take place today inside St Paul’s Cathedral, as they have done for hundreds of years.
Just to wander around the grounds and take a step back to gaze at its magnificence is worth the visit alone.
St Paul’s Cathedral is situated immediately outside St Paul’s underground station, which is served by the Central line (red). As you come out of the station it will be staring you, literally, in the face.
15mins to wander around the grounds and stare up through the trees at it’s magnificence is all the time we can afford here, but some of the best views of St Paul’s can be had down Millennium Bridge.
Millennium Bridge and Shakespeare’s Globe
The best photo opportunity of St Paul’s Cathedral lies just across the main road. Safety cross and head down towards the Millennium Bridge. Walk right down to the end of the bridge, just before the entrance to the underground station, and turn back around to face St Paul’s.
It looks amazing from here.
You may need to be patient as there are a lot of people who walk across Millennium Bridge, but if you can get a shot with no people, it will certainly add well to your London photography collection.
At the end of Millennium Bridge turn left (East), keeping the Thames on your left, and within 200 meters you’ll find the Shakespeare’s Globe on your right.
Shakespeare’s Globe, built in 1970, is as close a reconstruction as plans and historic records allowed to the original Globe Theatre.
The Globe Theatre holds a huge amount of significance to one of the greatest, respected and well known authors in history – William Shakespeare.
Shakespeare wrote plays specifically for performances in the Globe Theatre which hosts many world class famous plays and events to this day.
From here we are going to take a 30 minute walk and enjoy the delights of a stroll along the Thames. Turn back towards Millennium Bridge, so that the Thames is on your right, and continue around the Thames for just over 1.5 miles.
You’ll pass Blackfriars Bridge, The National Theatre, Waterloo Bridge, Royal Festival Hall and The London Eye which from here you’ll see Big Ben across the water.
Take the steps up towards Westminster Bridge, from beside the Sea Life Centre, and head towards Big Ben.
Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament
For the past couple of years Big Ben has been undergoing a huge renovation and repair project.
Whilst this has been necessary, it has kept Big Ben shrouded in scaffolding and cover. Only did they, in early 2020, make the four clock faces visible.
We will have to wait a little longer for the grand unveiling!
As the plan is to reach Big Ben by 11am you should hear the wonderful hourly Big Ben chimes ring out to welcome in a new hour. Although I have heard it many times before, it still is a treat to hear to this day!
Fun Fact – Big Ben doesn’t refer to the clock tower, or even the four clock faces that look out and keep watch across the whole of London, but the name Big Ben is given to the bell that chimes inside Big Ben!
From here we want to hear towards the home of the most famous British resident, her Majesty the Queen.
With the morning done, we need to make tracks and keep on schedule to cover as much of the beautiful city of London as we can in a day!
Next stop Buckingham Palace, the official home and residence of the Queen and members of the Royal Family.
The quickest route will probably be on foot. It is just a 15 minute walk.
With Big Ben on your left, head away from Big Ben and Westminster Bridge (keeping them behind you) and head down Great George Street and then continue to head down Birdcage Walk – keeping St James Park to your right.
At the end of the park, as you reach Spur Road on your right, you will see the very grand Buckingham Palace to your right.
Whilst you are here, take some time to see the sights, and get some photo opportunities of the palace. You may even see the Queen!
Explore The Mall, which is not only famous for the Queen’s Guard Parade, but also an iconic spot in the London Marathon. St James Park is also nice to walk around.
Buckingham Palace is one of the only attractions and landmarks not close to an underground station, so once you are ready the quickest route here to our next stop, Trafalgar Square, will be on foot – unless you decide to take a taxi.
The walk is just under 20 minutes and just under 1 mile but a very easy route. Simply head away from Buckingham Palace (keeping it behind you) down The Mall. At the end of The Mall you will find Trafalgar Square and Nelson’s column.
Trafalgar Square, home to the Lions and Nelson’s column.
It’s a very busy and quite noisy area right next to the traffic heavy roundabout, but it is worth a visit to tick this famous landmark off the list.
Nelson’s column built between 1840 and completed in 1843 is a commemorative tribute to Admiral Horatio Nelson who lost his life in 1805 at the Battle of Trafalgar.
The famous lion statues have sat on guard at the foot of Nelson’s Column for over 140 years.
There are occasional pop up markets and events taking place around Trafalgar Square, particularly at the weekend, so you may get the chance to sample some of the wonderful cultural delights on offer.
It’s at this point we start to say goodbye to the famous historical landmarks of London, and spend the afternoon heading towards the West End with its range of shops, attractions, impressive lights, and a very famous store.
Next stop is Covent Garden. Although we have been doing quite a bit of walking, we’re not quite done. From Trafalgar Square, it is just an 8 minute walk to Covent Garden, and the fastest method of travel.
With Nelson’s column on your left walk north along the A400, pass St Martin in the Field on your right and continue until you reach the Edith Cavell Memorial. Cross the main road in front of you, when safe to do so, and continue heading north along St Martin’s Lane.
Take a right down New Row, just past Mr Fogg’s Tavern, and continue down to Garrick Street and you will reach the heart of Covent Garden.
Covent Garden is home to great restaurants, great shopping, an inspiring market and everything quirky.
The central indoor square is home to a wide range of independent boutique shops, with outdoor cafes, Covent Garden market stalls and often you’ll find live music being played, particularly at the weekend.
You’ll often find entertainers in the centre holding the attention of swarms of tourists.
If you’re looking for lunch options you could try The Ivy Market Grill (although you may need to book ahead), The Maple leaf, a nice Canadian bar and restaurant serving bar food (and I would recommend), or for a quick bite there is the fast food burger restaurant Shake Shack, in the centre of the indoor square.
Once you’ve had a chance to look around, and grab some lunch, it’s time to head towards the shopping centre of London – Oxford Street!
This time we’ll take public transport. One of the fastest routes, with minimal walking, will be to take the London Underground.
Head towards Covent Garden underground station, which is signposted from Covent Garden square. Only the Piccadilly line (purple) serves Covent Garden, and you’ll want to travel Westbound.
Alight at the next stop, Piccadilly Circus. You will need to swap lines at Piccadilly Circus from the Piccadilly line (purple) to the Bakerloo line (brown) and head Northbound two stops to Oxford Circus.
Oxford Circus and Oxford Street
Unfortunately, the Circus term in the name is just name only. In fact the word Circus actually comes from the Latin word for ‘circle’.
It would be amazing to see a fanfare of circus performers at the heart of the West End of London, but instead you will find a shopper’s paradise.
If you are visiting during late November or December, you will see Oxford Street come alive with beautiful Christmas lights to guide your way from shop to shop.
All the major high street chain stores and some independents are home to one of the most famous shopping streets in the world.
Although you start you journey at Oxford Circus, which is halfway down Oxford Street – and crosses with Regent Street which takes you to Piccadilly Circus, which will visit a little later – I would suggest heading west towards Bond Street station.
You’ll find a wider range of larger department stores, such as Selfridges and John Lewis, along this route.
Continue your shopping spree past Bond Street station and up to Marble Arch, which is well worth a quick look and a good photo opportunity.
At Marble Arch we will head down Park Lane (made famous by Monopoly), keeping Hyde Park on our right.
Park Lane is host to the most exclusive hotels in Mayfair, including the world famous Dorchester Hotel which has seen a whole host of celebrities spend the night.
At the end of Park Lane, turn right past Hyde Park Corner station, and within 5 minutes of walking you will reach Harrods.
Although we are late into the evening, you should still have a little time to explore Harrods.
If visiting Harrods is important to your visit, I would suggest cutting short time at one of the other landmarks or your shopping time along Oxford Street.
Harrods is only open until 7pm Monday to Thursday, it is open until 8pm on Friday and Saturday. It is open on Sunday but closes at 6pm. Many shops in London close early on Sunday so if shopping is important to your visit, then perhaps switch the itinerary around, and complete in reverse order.
Harrods is a huge department store covering more than 8 floors. If you are visiting near Christmas time it is well worth heading straight to the Christmas shop for wonderful decorations and trinkets.
Hyde Park is a literally opposite the Harrods store.
It’s a wonderful expanse of green space, and a welcome relaxing place away from the hustle and bustle of the street, shops and pedestrians busy about their business.
Around the Hyde Park area is a selection of different restaurants to choose from to have dinner and start to relax a little after a very busy day!
Relax a while, enjoy the sights of Hyde Park, we have just one final place to head towards – Piccadilly Circus.
Depending on where you have decided to dine, you will want to head back towards Hyde Park Corner station (we passed this station recently on our way to Harrods). Take the Piccadilly line (purple) northbound and alight at Piccadilly Circus station.
I purposefully saved this one until last.
Piccadilly Circus is very famous for the most expensive billboard adverts in the world!
Once fixed posters, the billboards are now an electronic billboard of very famous brands itching to get their brand in front of the biggest footfall London has to offer.
The billboard really comes to life at night.
Piccadilly Circus is a very busy place from early morning until very late at night with many tourists, theatres and nightlife abound.
From here you can head home, back to your hotel or sample some of the amazing cocktail bars and nightlife the London West End has to offer, well in to the early hours of the morning!
How to do London in a Day
To truly spend just one day in London you will need stamina, lots of energy and forego a little sleep.
Who said the best things were easy!
London itself is quite a size. In fact, London is 606 square miles in size. That’s pretty big.
This though includes all 32 London boroughs. We are going to keep within the heart of Central London (also known as Greater London) where all the main sights and sound are found.
This will also prevent a lot of wasted time commuting to and from different boroughs. Time is precious here.
We can enjoy the delights other outer London boroughs have to offer another time.
To be able to do London in a day we need to plan a route no bigger than 2 square miles across. This gives us ample chance to walk as well as taking public transport.
Underground is quick but can be busy. Bus routes, although more fun as you can take a free sightseeing tour around London, are often slow through the constant flow of traffic in London. It never relents.
Best Way to Travel Around London for a Day
By far, the easiest way to travel around London is on the London Underground.
Travel time between each station is between 1-3 minutes, and an average day time wait for a train is 8 minutes.
To travel between the City of London, for example Bank, to Piccadilly Circus in the West End – for example – will take around 15mins. Simply board the Central line train at Bank, westbound, at change on to the Piccadilly line at Holborn station, again going westbound.
By bus this will take a good 20-30 minutes depending on traffic. To walk this route, it is 1.7 miles and will take 35mins.
From Piccadilly Circus, Oxford Circus is just a 10 minute walk up Regent Street, and as quick if not quicker than taking the bus or tube.
The main sightseeing area of London is relatively small but traffic dense. This is why travelling on the underground is generally the fastest option. It is also generally safe during the day-time.
Just keep bags and valuables at of sight from would-be pickpocket opportunists that mingle within the crowds.
A one day travelcard (around £13) is a real bargain and will give you unlimited travel on all London Underground trains, and London Buses.
Taking a London bus is an inexpensive way to travel around the capital and enjoy the sights of London.
A London tour bus, although really good and recommended, are much more expensive.
With the right bus routes, and connecting at the right stops, you can see Big Ben and Westminster, St Paul’s Cathedral, London Eye, Trafalgar Square and Nelson’s Column, Piccadilly Circus and more.
This can be a really good sightseeing alternative in the rain.
A one day travelcard gets you unlimited travel on all the red London Buses. Hop on and hop off at your leisure!
Walking around London
It can surprise many people how close together some of the main sights and landmarks are around London.
You can walk from Covent Garden to the Embankment for views of the River Thames, Big Ben and the London Eye in just 10 minutes.
If you are on a tight schedule you wouldn’t want to be walking around London all day, but between some areas and sights it may make more sense – like in the example mentioned earlier where it will generally be quicker to walk between Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Circus and Oxford Street than to take the tube or the bus.
Enjoy 24 Hours in London
The best way to enjoy the splendours of London in just 24 hours is at your own pace!
This itinerary gets you round the main and most popular tourist attractions as well as making the most of the highlights.
There will of course be attractions, monuments and places to visit not on this list that will be questioned. And rightly so.
Having to take a large list of amazing places to visit in London and condensing it to only a select few and a route that sees you travel from the City of London across to the West End, it meant some places naturally had to be excluded.
Also, at such a pace you may feel rushed. In fact, you almost certainly will.
If Big Ben is still shrouded in cover and scaffolding at the time you visit you may find it best to travel from Shakespeare’s Theatre direct to Buckingham Palace by public transport. This will give you almost 1 hour and 30 minutes back into your sightseeing day.
Whatever way you spend your day in London the most important thing is have fun and enjoy your visit!
Frequently Asked Questions
You will need between £30-£60 per person to spend a day in London. Transport costs as well as food costs will be the main expense. Many attractions, landmarks and places to visit in London can be done for free. Budget should be £12 for travel and between £18-£42 for food, drink and souvenirs.
Greater London can be walked in a day. It is possible to walk between the City of London and the West End in one hour. It is 2.9 miles between Liverpool Street and Oxford Circus.
London is generally safe to visit. London has 8.9 million residents with a further 2 million commuters. Many areas of Greater London are busy with a large number of tourists and workers. Much of the crime in central London are more petty opportunist crimes such as pickpocketing and theft.
In Conclusion – A Day in London
This exhaustive itinerary should help you cover the main topical parts of London.
London in a day for anyone is a challenge. People, like myself, who have lived in London for many years are still experiencing and discovering new things all the time.
This helps to keep London the interesting and vibrant city it is.
Enjoy your day and 24 hours in London!