London is a city that never goes out of style. Some of the most famous spots — Big Ben, the Parliament building, and Buckingham Palace to name a few — are always worth a visit. But my favorite trips are ones that combine must-see sights with the charming nooks and crannies of the city…and London has a lot of them! This 24 hour guide covers both, along with some additional suggestions for a longer stay in the UK, so you can make the most of your trip to London. You’ll have locals asking you where to go next time around…
9:00am — Coffee / breakfast
There are endless cafes to explore in London. If you’re a sucker for interiors (and exteriors), start your day off at Sketch, Peggy Porschen, or Saint Aymes. Depending on which neighborhood you want to spend your time in, I’d recommend staying in a boutique hotel. Leman Locke and Artist Residence are easy favorites, or go for the star treatment at Hotel Cafe Royal.
10:00am — Notting Hill and Portobello Road
Why not take your coffee to go and wander around some of London’s most photogenic neighborhoods? Notting Hill is famous for its colorful rows of houses and local cafes. Don’t forget to swing over to the nearby Portobello Road Market for antiques and vintage fashion shops.
11:30am — City views from Sky Garden
Fancy a view of the city? London’s Sky Garden is a three story glass building with 360 degree views of London. Inside, you’ll find beautiful gardens, observation decks and an open air terrace. Entrance is free, but booking in advance is a must. If you find it hard to leave, sit for lunch at one of their five restaurants.
1:00pm — Afternoon Tea
Afternoon tea is a quintessentially British experience. During our last visit we filled up on scones and jam at the Marriott’s Library at County Hall while overlooking the thames river. If tea isn’t for you, head over to Bourne and Hollingsworth for an entirely different, yet still picturesque, lunch experience. Or, skip a sit-down lunch and hit the food stands at Maltby St Market.
2:30pm — Museums and art galleries
After lunch, visit one of London’s famous museums. The Natural History Museum and National Gallery are classics. You can also opt for the lesser-known museums in the city, like the Museum Of Comedy (all the British humor you’ll need in a day), Churchill War Rooms (perfect for history buffs), or The Sherlock Holmes Museum (a spirited recreation of his home). If you’re lucky enough to get good weather, I suggest stopping by Chiswick House & Gardens.
5:00pm — Chinatown, Covent Garden, Churchill Arms
After you’ve had your fill of art for the day, grab a drink in one of London’s quirky neighborhoods. The Duck + Rice in SoHo serves up some of the best beer and dim sum around. The Churchill Arms is worth a visit for the façade alone, but also features some delicious Thai dishes amongst their many ciders and ales. Or, stroll around Covent Garden until something catches your eye!
6:00pm — London Eye / Tower Bridge
We experienced the London Eye around sunset and it made for such a perfect way to end our day in London. With views over the thames river, parliament building, and Big Ben, this is one activity you can’t miss. Tip: the lines get crazy, so purchase in advance and opt for the fast pass if you can. Alternatively, catch the sunset over Tower Bridge from a viewpoint with less crowds.
7:30pm — Dinner and drinks
Our favorite dinner in London was at Leicester Square Kitchen, which serves up the tastiest Mexican and Peruvian tapas. We’ve also heard great things about Salut! and Palomar. Don’t go into a full food coma, because you can’t miss a visit to one of Britain’s famous pubs. The Mayflower is one of the oldest in the city and filled with character. Or, venture out to Holborn for Ye Old Mitre Tavern, which was built back in the day for Queen Elisabeth I’s servants.
- Buckingham Palace – see where the Royals live. A must for anyone if it’s your first time to the city.
- Big Ben & Westminster Palace – two classics for anyone visiting London for the first time. Note: Big Ben was covered in scaffolding during our recent visit, and construction is still underway through 2020.
- Shows and performances – in my opinion, London is one of the best cities to see live performances. Check this page for the latest shows.
- Warner Bros. Studio Tour – explore the sets of Harry Potter in person. We didn’t get a chance to go here during our last visit, but it’s high on my list for next time!
- London Markets – you can buy everything from food to clothes to antiques at a London market. For a full list of markets happening during your stay, check out the Visit London website.
- Harrod’s – arguably one of the most famous department stores in the world, Harrod’s has everything from home goods to clothes to gifts and more. Get wonderfully lost in one of their eight floors.
- Getting around — the London tube is the easiest way to get around the city. Buy a 1-Day Travelcard if you’re in London for a short visit. You can order an Oyster card before your visit if you’re planning a longer trip, or pick one up at the Gatwick Express ticket offices at Gatwick Airport Station. More info here.
- Other cities to visit — I recommend checking out our travel guide to Manchester, which is a great city for those who love street art, food and architecture. Manchester is a 2-hour train ride from London, which makes it a great weekend stopover.
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