London is truly a world-class city with a rich history, incredible museums, shopping, restaurants, nightlife and some of the planet’s most recognised landmarks. It’s a magnificent city which deserves every hour you can give it, but if you find yourself with just 24 hours to enjoy this spectacular place, then fear not, you can still see many of the must-see sights, soak up plenty of atmosphere and taste some of its culinary delights.
Fuel Up with a Big Breakfast
Unless you have a chauffeur for the day you’re going to cover some miles, so put aside your reservations about calories and start your day with a full English breakfast. True Londoners always head to a “greasy spoon” for the best breakfasts and the no-frills Regency Cafe in Pimlico, a stone’s throw from Westminster, has been serving up great breakfasts to politicians, cabbies and many other characters for decades.
See Some Sights
Now you have plenty of fuel on board, it’s time to hunt down some of London’s best-known landmarks. Head along the river towards Westminster Bridge where you’ll find Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and a view of the London Eye. From here, head up to Whitehall (don’t miss Downing Street and Horse Guards along the way) to Trafalgar Square and Nelson’s Column. When you’re ready, take a walk down The Mall and through beautiful St. James’s Park until you reach Buckingham Palace. Despite your breakfast, you’re probably starting to feel like lunch, so walk across elegant Green Park to jump on the underground.
Covent Garden (only three stops on the Piccadilly Line) is a fascinating place to spend an hour or two watching the many street artists and musicians, so it makes a great lunch spot. Eateries of all kinds are in abundance here, so there’ll be something to suit all appetites, tastes and budgets.
There are a few ways to choose to spend your afternoon, all fascinating in their own way.
On a rainy day, you might choose to head back onto the underground toward one of London’s incredible museums. For art lovers, there’s Tate Modern, Tate Britain or the National Gallery, all world-class. If you have children with you, it’s hard to beat the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum, both in Kensington. The British Museum and The V&A also have the most incredible collections of objects from around the globe.
If you prefer to be outside and are itching for more sights, then you could give your feet a break by taking a river tour heading east along the water from nearby Victoria Embankment. You’ll spot St Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge and the famous Tower of London before you reach beautiful Greenwich.
For shoppers seeking some goodies, Oxford Street is shopping paradise and is home to many flagship stores. Don’t miss Hamleys toy store or the exquisite Liberty London on nearby Regent Street for high-end luxury.
As evening arrives make your way to the West End, where 40 theatres are packed into the square mile south of Oxford Street. It is an unmissable London experience and you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to shows. If your trip was planned at short notice and you have nothing booked, worry not: the Tkts booth in Leicester Square can provide tickets for last-minute availability. There are plenty of restaurants in the area for a pleasant pre-show dinner, too. Chop Shop is a quirky and well-located restaurant offering pre-theatre meals.
For non-show goers, there are incredible dining options all over London; there’s seemingly an almost infinite range of cuisines, locations and atmospheres to choose from. A dazzling experience can be had 31 floors up within The Shard at Aqua Shard, where you can experience the best of British Cuisine. Alternatively, Brick Lane offers “curry mile”: a vast array of Indian restaurants that is a favourite destination for Londoners. You could also head toward vibrant Chinatown for a Chinese feast.
It’s hard to imagine leaving London without experiencing a proper London pub! Covent Garden and Soho are bustling with energy in the evenings and are a great place to grab a drink or two. Or you could finish the evening in style, hiring a car chauffeur service to take you to either the renowned Savoy Hotel or the Ritz for some champagne!
If you’ve got the stamina, the night need not stop here. London’s legendary nightlife will be in full swing for a while yet. Ronnie Scott’s has been entertaining late into the late night for decades with it’s well-known jazz sets, while Fabric and Ministry of Sound are the giants of London’s clubbing scene.
The Small Hours
And if you’re still hungry or craving the last look over London at night, a worthy finale to your 24 hours in London could be The Duck and Waffle on Bishopsgate in the city. It’s a smart venue 40 floors up, open 24/7 and serving food all the way through to 5 a.m. before a 6 a.m. restart for breakfast.