A one-day trip to London can be absolutely satisfying or entirely frustrating, which is why I wrote this how to spend 24 hours in London itinerary. Make no mistake, London is a great and beautiful city with a lot of stuff for visitors to see and sample. The frustration can only arise from having too little time to go through so much in this city that serves as UK’s administrative capital and Europe’s financial centre- remember we are talking about having just 24 hours to spend in London.
The difference between a totally satisfying and a completely underwhelming stay in London is having a well-planned itinerary. Keyword: Well-planned.
An itinerary that has strict timelines for particular activities and a priority list of places to visit. Due to the wonderful nature of London, having a flexible/loose itinerary will probably see visitors spend too much time in one captivating area and have too little time for other areas.
How to spend 24 hours in London – Hour by hour Guide
When making plans on how to spend 24 hours in London, I considered two guidelines to preparing my itinerary: A guide from a Londoner and another one from a visitor. I ended up settling on the visitor’s guide because, well…birds of a feather. I noticed that what a local will consider attractive and worth seeing may not exactly be what a visitor will enjoy. Rather, the features of London that pass as ordinary to locals are what are likely to appease most visitors.
The Big Ben, for example, is something almost every Londoner has had their fill of. It will thus be probably missing on your everyday Londoner’s guide to the City. For a visitor, however, this is a great site to visit. You have not really combed London if you have do not visit the Big Ben. The same goes for the London Eye, The Tower Bridge and any one of the beautiful places.
This then is my visitor’s guide on how to spend 24 hours in London. It is an hour-by-hour itinerary to help visitors make the most of a short trip to London- enjoying to the fullest without straining physically or financially. It takes into account factors such as proximity of sites, ease of getting around and minimizing costs. Come with me…
The first thing to have in mind when you think of how to spend 24 hours in London is the arrival. The best time to get into London is in the night, so you can have some good rest and be in shape for a long day of getting up and about. Getting into London is possible and easy by any one of several means- air, land- water- depending on where you are coming from.
I touched down at Heathrow Airport from Hamburg. It is also possible to get in by bus or train when traveling from other parts of the UK and Europe. The immigration officials at the entry points are quite thorough with their job, but I really wouldn’t call it a pain.
Pick a comfortable place to put up in for the night. There is a variety of accommodation choices from hotels, couch surfs, Airbnb stays and staying with friends. I prefer hostels because they are simple and pocket-friendly (it’s only a day’s stay) and also offer the opportunity to meet new people.
How to spend 24 hours in London – Morning
Starting on your day
When looking to see the whole of London in 24 hours, it is only logical that the day starts out early. I would advise on getting up at 6 a.m. and getting prepared within an hour. The exact waking up time will, however, depend on how fast you get through with preparations. I personally get prepared moderately fast but I also don’t like doing everything in a huff.
Make sure you have dressed appropriately for the day’s weather. Check the day’s forecast and go with it. No matter the day’s weather, a comfortable pair of shoes and a camera are must-haves on the day.
Bonus tip: I have learned that a shoe half-a-size larger than your normal size comes in handy for such trips.
The how to spend 24 hours in London itinerary is divided into one and two-hour splits to help visitors get a sample of all the main attraction sites while spending a reasonable amount of time at each one of them.
8am – 9am
The first point of the how to spend 24 hours in London itinerary is to start with a traditional English breakfast. It is heavy and energy filled. An English breakfast will get you full and energy stacked without making you sleepy or sluggish. This breakfast may contain any of the following items: eggs, sausages, mushrooms, tomatoes, potatoes, toast and blood pudding. Pretty mighty, huh?
You can enjoy it full or pick what works for you. It is served in most early morning brunch restaurants within the city.
The Ottolenghi Restaurant will serve your order within 30 minutes, and offers corn cakes, tomato salad, grilled pitta and other foods to make for a full serving. The Mediterranean type restaurant opens at 8 a.m. and thus you would have a few minutes to walk around before sitting down for breakfast if you start out early.
A place called Breakfast Club on D’Arblay St, Soho offers a variety of British and American foods. It opens up at 7 a.m. Its location within the city makes it a convenient point to start out the how to spend 24 in London schedule from and easily get to nearby sites. If you check in at 7 a.m., you could get through breakfast ahead of schedule. Trust me, saving these few minutes will prove fruitful at the end of the day.
9am – 11 am
The second point on the how to spend 24 in London itinerary is a slow-paced stroll around the majestic city centre. London City gives a new definition to the phrase old meets new. The history of London reveals that its development was pioneered by Romans around 2.000 years ago.
It has continually evolved to stay in touch with modern progress, but much of the themes from those ancient times can still be seen in the present city. There are several ancient buildings that have been standing for several centuries, and the modern architecture still borrows a lot from the old designs.
The result is a unique mesh of architecture that is really pleasing to the eye.
What you’ll also see
Enjoy the flow of London as people get down to a new day. The city does not seem to be in a hurry, but it is not what you would call lazy either. The expansive streets allow for a free flow of traffic and the observation of rules is almost automatic.
There is a lot of friendliness in London, so you might be answering to a lot of hellos on your way around.
The streets are dotted by red call boxes, which appear like a really insightful design afterthought. Make a point of making communication from one of these boxes and enjoy the classical feel of it.
The big red public transport buses are a sight to behold by themselves. The double-decker buses stroll comfortably between different points across the city. After an hour or so of walking around, you can hop onto one of these to get a better-elongated view of the city and get around much faster.
To make this easier, a one-day travel pass will come in handy. This ticket allows travellers to use any public means of transport- bus or subway- for a fixed price over duration of 24 hours.
Get off your bus or whatever means you are using to get around at the London Tower before the clock hits 11. The London Tower is a marvel in itself; you could spend the remaining minutes to the top of the hour taking it in.
11am – 12am
The next highlight from the how to spend 24 in London schedule is the one and only Tower Bridge. Hop onto it right next to the London Tower. The Bridge that crosses the mighty Thames is often confused for the London Bridge, which is higher up the river’s course. Astounding, I know, seeing as it is right next to the tower, hence Tower Bridge. But the confusion happens a lot, I’m told.
The suspension and bascule bridge has stood the test of time since it came to use in 1894 after construction works that took the better part of 12 years.
From the Tower Bridge, it is possible to view London expansively from a vantage point. The almost overhead position of the sun as the time approaches noon, coupled with the waters of the Thames down below, offers a picturesque view at this hour of the day.
Pull back your lens shutter and click away! Midday pictures from the Tower will be probably some of the best shots any visitor will get in London. Unfortunately I was a bit unlucky 😉
12am – 1pm
Don’t worry, of course does the how to spend 24 in London itinerary also include the mighty Big Ben. Wind down the hour towards lunch with a visit to the Clock Tower, which is officially known as the Elizabeth Tower but everyone calls it the Big Ben. This four-faced, 159-year-old, clock tower stands on the northern end of the Palace of Westminster.
The Big Ben was the nickname given to the bell of the clock on the tower, but it eventually became so popular and is now used to refer to both the clock and the tower. The Big Ben stands a proud 96 meters high with a foundation that measures 12 meters by 12 meters from the base up.
This is a great place to end a morning in London and watch as the clock winds down to lunchtime. There will, unfortunately, be no bongs from the 13-tonne bell in near future as it has been silenced until 2021, as refurbishment works are ongoing on the tower. If you happen to be in the city on special occasions like New years’ or Remembrance day, you will be lucky to hear the bell which now rings on special occasions.
How to spend 24 hours in London – Lunch
1pm – 3pm
After a fruitful morning with walks around the core part of the city, 1 pm is the perfect time to put the how to spend 24 in London itineary aside, to take a break and recharge. With only 1 day in London, however, even activities like lunch ought to be an opportunity to sample the city, right? London is a melting point of recipes, literally. Here, you can have dishes from all over the world at reasonable prices.
The choice will depend on whether you want to stick with your indigenous dish or try out an entirely new recipe. I personally prefer the latter, but that’s because my digestive system has been good to me.
- Kazan Kitchen is a great resource for Turkish dishes
- La Trompette has a good number of positive reviews and their French dishes are top-drawer
- At Liman Restaurant you can choose from a wide collection of dishes from across the world
- Osteria Romana was my pick and their Italian cuisine is nothing short of amazing
- Hit Bar 61 for a variety of Spanish, vegan, Mediterranean and European dishes
3pm – 4pm
Next on the list of how to spend 24 hours in London is to kick off slowly with a visit to the largest Royal Park in Central London. The park was Henry VIII’s hunting ground until it was opened to the public in 1637.
A diagonal non-stop through the Park will only take around 15-20 minutes, but it will be more enjoyable if you take time to enjoy the features in there. The park is home to the beautiful Rose garden, a variety of flowers and birds, and numerous memorials and fountains.
There are also Frisbee, boating and horse riding games. The Speaker’s corner is also a great place to listen to free speeches.
4pm – 6pm
Get on board the world’s tallest Ferris wheel at the turn of the 21st century. The London Eye is a MUST SEE from the how to spend 24 hours in London itinerary. It’s a giant wheel standing at a height of 135 meters and boasts a diameter of 12 meters. The wheel has been in existence since 1999 when it was officially launched by then British Prime Minister Tony Blair. It opened to the public in 2.000 and had been ridden by over 30 million people within eight years.
Hop into one of the cars on the rotating viewpoint and get to see far away corners of London from a high vantage point. There will be around 25 of you in any one of the 32-oval cars, so you don’t really have to panic if you are afraid of heights.
You will enjoy viewing the skyline from this point too. Maybe I should have mentioned carrying a pair of binoculars for this particular task. Here is what I usually take on my trips.
How to spend 24 hours in London – Afternoon
6pm – 7:30pm
You may want to find time to visit the seat of Britain’s Monarch. To visit the palace, you will need to be in London during times when it is open to the public (22nd July – 31st August and 1st September- 1st October). Visits are between 9.30 am and 7.30 pm.
Don’t fret if your trip falls outside these dates though. You could always visit the (almost) equally spectacular Palace of Westminster which has a higher visitor rating (4.5/5) than Buckingham (4.3) anyway. I just didn’t put that on the how to spend 24 hours in London schedule, because I’d recommend to rather visit the original 😉
8 pm – 10pm
Visiting a football ground is not a priority of the how to spend 24 hours in London itinerary, but England prides itself as the home of football. It is only fair that some of the best football in the country is found in UK’s capital. You don’t even have to be a football fanatic to enjoy a football afternoon in London.
The atmosphere is just charged and you’ll enjoy it even if the game is not really your thing. If your 24 hours in London happen to fall on a weekend match day, make a point of getting in the game. The day starts much earlier than the game. There are dedicated pubs for certain clubs and people just tend to get on a new level of busy on such days. Arsenal and Chelsea are London’s biggest football clubs, but there is just as much charge in other clubs.
The Premier League- English’s top-flight competition- has expanded to include weekday matches on Mondays and Fridays. There are also matches in other competitions like Champions League and local domestic competitions on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
10pm – Open End
Hitting the city’s night lights is the last point from the how to spend 24 hours in London itinerary. After attending a football match in London, believe me you will be pretty charged and ready for a night out. Whether you love clubbing, cultural shows or a quiet late dinner, there is everything on offer. It depends on your remaining levels of energy and your London exit schedule.
Well, now there is no reason you would use a short window of available time as an excuse for not getting the most out of the wonderful city of London, right? Just 24 hours in London? On your mark, get set…enjoy!
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