How To Spend 24 Hours In London, England
Before moving to Canada in November 2016, I wanted go all out and have a big tourist day in London. Being my hometown it’s also my favourite city in the world.
I actually spent a lot less than 24 hours in London. But if you have limited time or perhaps a really long layover, this is a good route to hit up most of London’s top sights.
My first stop was London’s iconic landmark, Tower Bridge. This area is really cool to wander around and there are still fragments of the original Roman Wall that once stood around the city of Londinium. You’ll also find the famous Tower of London. If you have time, the tower is a great place to visit; it’s a huge piece of London’s history. If you get the chance, definitely visit this area at night, as both the Tower of London and Tower Bridge look fantastic lit up.
The South Bank
The South Bank is a really cool area located on; you guessed it, the South Bank of the Thames.
This area is home to attractions such as, Tate Modern, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, The London Eye, London Dungeon’s and London Aquarium.
The South Bank is a great place to come for a walk, grab lunch, or to get drinks.
As Tower Hill is on the District and Circle Lines, I took a tube train to Blackfriars. To get to the South Bank, all you’d need to do is cross the Blackfriars Bridge.
Palace Of Westminster & Parliament Square
Nestled on the North Bank of the Thames you’ll find the Palace Of Westminster. It is the meeting place of the House of Commons and House of Lords that make up the Parliament of the United Kingdom.
In Parliament Square you’ll find statues of important figures including that of Abraham Lincoln and Nelson Mandela. To the west of the Parliament buildings is Westminster Abbey; the location of several Royal weddings and every coronation of English and British monarchs since 1066.
No. 10 Downing Street
From the Palace of Westminster, I turned towards Whitehall. This is where you’ll find 10 Downing Street, the official residence of the British Prime minister.
At the end of Whitehall you’ll arrive at the stunning Trafalgar Square, named after the Battle of Trafalgar. Sitting in the centre of the square is Nelson’s Column. Horatio Nelson, who commanded the British navy at the Battle of Trafalgar, stands atop the column, overlooking the city of London.
The National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery and St. Martin in the Fields church can all be found in Trafalgar Square and are all free to visit.
Adjacent to Trafalgar Square is The Mall (actually pronounced Mail) A British flag lined street leading up to Buckingham Palace. On the right hand side of The Mall are statues of both King George VI and the Queen Mother.
Buckingham Palace is a must-do while in London. If you are visiting during the summer months, the palace is open to visitors and is something I’d highly recommend!
To the right of Buckingham Palace is Green Park, one of London’s famous urban parks. Walking through Green Park will lead you onto “Piccadilly”. Along Piccadilly you’ll find The Ritz, The Wolseley and Fortnum & Mason. All of which are great places for afternoon tea.
At the end of Piccadilly is the famous Piccadilly Circus. Piccadilly Circus is kind of like London’s version of Times Square, except not as busy and not as overwhelming. Here you’ll find Ripley’s believe it or not museum, and a boots pharmacy as big as you can imagine. Personally the main attraction for me is the boots pharmacy (I guess it’s a British thing)
Piccadilly Circus splits off to several roads. Regent Street is good for shopping; this will lead you to Oxford Circus and Carnaby Street. Shaftesbury Avenue, which is where you’ll find “Theatreland” for West End shows AKA the UK’s Broadway. Haymarket will eventually lead you right back to Trafalgar Square. And Leicester Square, which is where I decided to head next
Leicester Square is most European movie premiere’s take place. There are about 5/6 movie theatres in the area alone. My favourite place to go here is the Haagen Dazs café, which is a must after a West End show.
China Town is accessible from this area, and small in comparison to other China towns in other cities. But it’s a really cool area to check out, especially if you are craving Chinese food. Mmmm!
Covent Garden is by far one of my favourite places in London. While it is still a big tourist area I find that it’s much more laid back than areas like Piccadilly Circus. Covent Garden feature’s lots of quaint shops as well as designer stores. You’ll find independent cafes and street performers here.
The Royal Opera House is home to the Royal Opera and Royal Ballet. If you’re interested in seeing either, I prefer this venue to the London Coliseum as the seating is much more spread out.
British Museum And Afternoon Tea
A ten-minute walk away from Covent Garden is one of London’s biggest and best museums. The British Museum is the world’s first national public museum. It features artefacts documenting the story of Human culture.
My favourite exhibit in the museum is the Ancient Egyptian section, featuring real life mummies, you’ll even find mummified kittens here.
Be sure to check out the Rosetta Stone during your visit. The most visited object in the British Museum, the Rosetta Stone dates back to 196 BC and is the first document recording the translation of Egyptian hieroglyphic language.
We had afternoon tea here, which is always a must-do in London. Afternoon tea at the British Museum is one of the more affordable options in the city, and a great way to combine a visit to the museum.
A West End Show
I ended my day in London by seeing a West End show. My sister’s friend was working on the “school of rock” show and managed to get us preview tickets, with Andrew Lloyd Webber in attendance. The show was fantastic and highly recommended.
If you’re interested in seeing a show in London’s West End, I’d recommend buying tickets from the TKTs booth in Leicester Square. The earlier you get there the more options you’ll have. Prices in my experience are generally in the £20-£40 region, depending on the show.
The great thing I love about London is that everything is mostly on top of each other. I’ve spent hours wandering the side streets, not knowing quite where I am, only to pop out at a big landmark. If you learn your way around the city, you can save so much time, and will see so much more on foot.
Apart from my return train journey from Essex to Tower Hill, I took one tube journey, the rest I walked. None of the locations mentioned were more than a 10-minute walk away from each other. The tube is a cheap efficient way to get around the city if going further afield or on a time restraint. But I’d highly suggest taking time out to just wander.
Have you ever visited London? What were your favourite attractions?