Enjoy One Day in London

Enjoy One Day in London

You’ve booked your flights and you’re ready to go. But then you check out your trip itinerary and see an extended stop or layover in The Big Smoke–London, England’s capital. What to do with one day in London? 

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions 

You could spend the time exploring Heathrow, whiling away the hours at a Starbucks or shopping at one of its many stores. You could curl up by your next gate with a book or a show and count down the time until your next flight takes off. But why not head into the capital and explore all that the country’s largest city has to offer? Even if you only have a little bit of time, there is plenty to pack into one day in London.

From Heathrow (or any of the other five major airports in the city), you can hop on a variety of public transportation offerings and cruise into the city center. The Tube, the train, and the bus are easy ways for you to get into London from each airport. (You can, of course, rent a car, but remember to drive on the left side of the road!) Once you’ve arrived in the city, you won’t have to worry about finding activities to fill your time. London is truly a city that can offer it all no matter what you might be most interested in seeing or doing.

So what to do in London for a day? Sightsee, grab some famous cuisine, hit up a museum–or any combination of the three! In this guide, we’re going to explore all of the ways you can fill up a day in London. So grab your Oyster card, ready your cameras, and let’s be off!

For the Food

London is a foodie’s dream come true. A truly multicultural, diverse city, it has every cuisine you could hope to find. From quintessential British pubs to London’s world-famous Brick Lane, there are truly options to satisfy anyone’s appetite. One day in London still affords plenty of time to try some of the best offerings available.

From Pubs and Pints to Markets and Macarons

With over 3,500 pubs within the city, a classic British roast and a nice, crisp pint is truly available at just about every corner. Many of London’s pubs allow drinking outside of the restaurant, so happy hour is truly a bustling sight to see when the weather is nice and work is done for the day. 

Famous markets such as Borough Market, Spitalfields, and Camden Market offer a wide variety of cuisines within their boundaries, and are always fascinating to explore on any given day. It might be hard to believe, but Persian, Venezuelan, Southeast Asian, burgers, Greek, Italian, and Afghan options are all available within the London markets! 

The worldwide cuisine continues on London’s world-famous Brick Lane. Home to a large Bangladeshi community, Brick Lane has become famous for its mouth-watering array of curry houses. While wandering down the famous street located in the Tower Hamlets borough of London, you can whet your appetite with Britain’s national dish of chicken tikka masala. And while you digest, be sure to check out the vibrant street art as well!

Of course, no visit to England would be complete without tea time. After getting a pint, touring a market, and filling up on some curry, a pitstop for a spot of tea is absolutely necessary. Tea time doesn’t just involve a cup of Earl Grey or black tea, but a whole plethora of finger foods and desserts. It was dreamed up by a duchess in the 1800s who didn’t want to wait until the evening for food. Afternoon tea in England involves finger sandwiches, scones, pastries, and, of course, tea. To truly get the most out of your day in London, be sure to pop by a tea house for a cuppa and some scones!

For the Culture

Interested in soaking up all of the art and history a city has to offer? London is truly a gem of a city. From museums, palaces, cathedrals, and more, London has plenty of cultural spots to explore even if only visiting for a day. One of the best parts–all national museums throughout the city have free entry!

Museums and a Gallery

Arguably one of the most famous museums in the world, the British Museum is located right in the heart of the Bloomsbury borough. It’s just a short walk away from Tottenham Court Road Tube station. With the Rosetta Stone, one of the Easter Island statues, and so, so much more, you could spend the whole day itself inside the British Museum. 

The National Gallery (with Van Goghs, Monets, and da Vincis)  is located in the heart of Trafalgar Square, home to the famous lions and fountain. Visitors won’t have to stay in the Square for long to see an iconic double-decker bus pass by! Elsewhere, the Science Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Natural History Museum are all on South Kensington’s Exhibition Road. What a dream come true for culture fiends!

Living Monuments

For those looking to walk in history’s footsteps, the Tower of London is a must-see. Step back in time and lose yourself in the past with a visit to this ancient castle. Once a royal residence, the Tower is most popularly known for its time as a prison. In addition to hosting a few ghosts within its castle walls, it also holds the Crown Jewels still used by the royal family today. 

Visitors seeking the history and culture of London will also want to stop by Buckingham Palace, the official royal residence, right in central London. It’s quite possibly the quintessential British sight, especially with the king’s guards posted outside.

St. Paul’s Cathedral is another one to check off the list. Rebuilt after the Great Fire in 1666, it sits on the highest spot in the City of London, and is truly a beautiful spot to soak up the cultural history of the capital. Stick around in the square outside long enough and you’ll be able to hear the bells of St. Paul’s ring. You’ll also have time to admire the statue of Queen Anne located across from the church.

For the Sights

Beautiful tea times and ancient castles are undoubtedly sights to behold in and of themselves,  but there’s even more classic sightseeing spots to be enjoyed while spending one day in London. Thankfully, for visitors short on time but big on their travel bucket list, many London sights can be found along the River Thames. 

A Stroll Along the Thames

On both sides of the Thames, close to each other, you’ll find Big Ben, the London Eye, the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, and more. What’s even more exciting–the view from which they can be seen! At the top of the Fenchurch Building (affectionately known as the Walkie-Talkie), check out Sky Garden for rooftop views of all of your next stops. Best part–entrance is free! Just be sure to book ahead.

Back on the ground, on the South Bank of the river, go for a stroll along the Thames. There you’ll see Shakespeare’s Globe, the Tate Modern, the National Theatre, and of course, the London Eye. If you’re feeling adventurous (and aren’t scared of heights!), book yourself a ticket on the Eye, London’s famous ferris wheel. On the 30-minute ride enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the capital, and can map out your next stop!

Continue down South Bank and cross Westminster Bridge for your next stop. There you’ll lay eyes on arguably London’s most famous landmark–Big Ben. Attached to the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben has become synonymous with London itself. It is one of the sights most typically used in media to depict London, and has helped ring in events from the New Year to the passing of England’s monarchs. Fun fact: Big Ben is actually the name of the bell itself. The entire clock tower is called the Elizabeth Tower!

Just across the street from the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben is Westminster Abbey. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Westminster Abbey has been the site of weddings such as the Prince and Princess of Wales, the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, and the coronation of King Charles III. Nearly a thousand years old, Westminster Abbey is a must-see for a whirlwind day in London.

Plenty to See, So Little Time!

With over 14 boroughs in the central city, it may seem hard to pack such a vibrant, cultural city into just one day. London is truly a city that offers it all. There are beautiful green spaces in various parks across the city alongside the culture of a worldwide melting pot. There’s the history of thousands of years of monarchs and their reigns and the bustle of modern shops and restaurants. It might be easy to think one day can’t afford you enough time to get a good feel for the city, but spending one day in London is enough to allow you to get a taste, and want to come back for more! 

An Easy Access Pass to a Day in London 

With their easy-to-use public transportation, a day in London is even more easily accessible and possible. From the moment you step off the plane or train, you can truly hit the ground running. Plan the best route ahead of time to optimize your limited schedule, or get off the Tube and freely explore to your heart’s desire! Eat your way through the city. View a gallery at a museum. Snap away on your camera at some of the must-see sites. No matter how you spend it, London in one day is not only a possibility, but an adventure of a lifetime. 

Excited to discover other enchanting European destinations? Explore our guide to spending 24 hours in Luxembourg.

22 thoughts on “Enjoy One Day in London

  1. I must keep this article in mind if I have the opportunity for a one day stop over in London. So much to see and do!

  2. It would really be a shame to only have one day in London. BUT if I had to do it, at least I’d have this guide to get the most out of it. VERY nice.

  3. My mouth’s watering just thinking about hitting up Brick Lane for some curry and then winding down with some tea time treats. Can’t wait to whirl through London (one day!!) armed with this guide!

  4. London looks amazing! So much history and culture, it would be a dream come true to visit someday. I can’t wait to explore all the iconic landmarks and hidden gems the city has to offer.

  5. Good post! Your tips for enjoying one day in London are perfect. Hitting the must-see landmarks and experiencing the local culture sounds ideal for spending a day in the city.

  6. Wow. These are some great photos. Never been out of the country, but London is a place I want to visit. Thanks for the information.

  7. We visited London not too long ago. This is a really great guide if you only had one day in the city. We really enjoyed doing a Big Bus tour. Definitely allowed us to see a bit of everything and then we decided where we wanted to spend more time.

  8. It sounds like you had an amazing day in London! I’ll be there in the autumn, and these are all things I would love to see while visiting.

  9. You shared some great tips for anyone planing a day trip to London. it’s a big city so I suppose it was hard to optimize everything for one day’s stop. Thanks for sharing!

  10. I am lucky enough to live close to central London, we actually live in a London borough not that you would think it was London. I do love a walk along the South Bank and a visit to the Tate

  11. I have sern most of the living monuments. I will spend more time now on the markets, museums, galleries, and gardens.

  12. There is literally so much to do in London! I love going to the food markets and seeing all of the free museums.

  13. It’s crazy because one day doesn’t feel like nearly enough, but your guide really helps! I love everything you picked!

  14. I live so close to London and I’ve still not scratched the surface, especially when it comes to foodie places. A day must feel overwhelming, although that’s probably how I feel when I go to another city for the first time x

  15. There’s so much to see and do in London one day simply isn’t enough! I’ve long dreamt of visiting and hope one day to do so…what an exciting adventure!

  16. It is nice to fit some things in during your trip to London. It is nice to make the most of your travels and know which sights to check out.

  17. I am hearing for the first time that London has 5 major airports. Only heard about the London Heathrow airport. Thanks for this useful info!

  18. Happy to know that it is easy to commute in London. Love the idea of visiting the National Gallery. I am a Van Gogh fan and would love to see some of his work. A trip to St. Paul Cathedral is also something we look forward to.

  19. I have always wnated to visit London and most besepcially after seeing your post. I love all fo the pictures and what a beautriful city! I will have to get a vacation in soon and head on over as there is so much to do and lots of delicious foods too!

  20. These are great ideas to enjoy traveling to London for one day. We planning a trip to these and will write down your recommendations. Thank you for sharing!

  21. Thank you so much for this fantastic guide to spending a day in London! Your tips on hitting the must-see spots and trying the local cuisine are super helpful.

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