See the best of London

See the Best of London in One Day

If you only have the chance to spend one day do not worry, because, if you are organised, you will still have the time to see a surprising amount of what the city has to offer.

London has a great transport network, which means it is easy to get around.

Plus, a lot of the sights are located close enough together for you to be able to walk between them.

Start with a traditional British breakfast

When you are in a new place, it is always good to try the local cuisine.

If you have never sampled a traditional British breakfast before, you really should.

Most people really enjoy this breakfast and it is a great way to set yourself up for the day.

Plus, eating at a local cafe is a lot cheaper than paying for a hotel breakfast, which is rarely as tasty as one that you buy in a cafe.

Finding a good cafe near your hotel

It is easy to find a good place for a “fry up” or a “Full English” near your hotel, using restaurant review sites, and travel forums.

Alternatively, click through to this page, fire up Google Maps, and see if one of the cafes listed is near where you are staying.

Most of the cafes that serve traditional British breakfasts open at 7 am, so they are a great way to get an early start, on what will be a busy day.

If you decide you cannot manage a full traditional English breakfast, do not worry because most of these cafes serve other types of food.

Plan what you do during rush hour carefully

However, before planning a super early start you need to be aware that the rush hour in London is a nightmare.

Between 7.30am and 9.30am London´s population is swollen by 2.5 million commuters trying to get to work.

Needless to say, between those times, you are better off walking to your first point of interest rather than getting on a bus or The Tube.

Another good alternative is to travel early to your first destination and eat breakfast nearby to avoid the worst of the rush hour congestion.

Take the river bus

If you are staying near the river you can use the Thames Clipper river boat to get to Westminster pier. This will allow you to take in some sights along the way. You can find out more about the service and see the timetables here.

Westminster Abbey

Once there get off and head towards Westminster Abbey. It is only 5 minutes away. Tours start at 9.30am, but given you have only a few hours it is probably best to get there early, take a few snaps outside and move on.

Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament

Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament are 5 minutes away from The Abbey. Unfortunately, the queues to get into the debating chamber are long and form early, so this is another place someone on a 1-day tour should only pause at.

No. 10 Downing Street

Next is No. 10 Downing Street. You cannot go down the street. However, it is virtually on the way to the next sightseeing point, so it is still worth including it in your itinerary.

Trafalgar Square

Walk through the iconic Trafalgar Square on the way to Buckingham Palace.

Buckingham Palace

During the summer, you can pause here and take the tour. The first one starts at 9.30 am, and takes between 2 and 2.5 hours to complete. It really is worth doing, but you have to stay with the group, so there is no way to cut this tour short.

Changing of the Guard

If you are lucky, you will be able to get out of the palace in time to see the changing of the guard. It takes place between 11am and 11.45am most days. You can check the schedule here. Even if you do not get there in time you can still potentially get the iconic photo of yourself with one of the guards.

Alternatives to the Buckingham Palace Tour

If you do not fancy, or cannot get onto, the Buckingham Palace tour, there are some interesting things to do nearby. The Victoria Memorial is just outside the Palace.

A walk through St James Park or Green Park is always pleasant. If you want to, you can walk through to the mall and see St James Palace, and walk up Pall Mall to The National Gallery.

If you have a ticket for the Hop-on Hop-off London bus you could potentially use that instead. The bus will take you past some additional sights on your way to Covent Garden.

Covent Garden

Next, head to Covent Garden for a quick lunch, using public transport it should take you about 20 minutes to get there. Walking there will take about 25 minutes from Buckingham Palace.

This lively area is a foodie heaven, so choose where you are going to eat before you get there to save yourself some time. This in depth review of the area will help you to narrow down your options.

While there, take a few minutes to watch some of the many street performers. If you want a few souvenirs there are plenty of nice shops to buy them.

Matinee show at a London Theatre

For theatre lovers, buying a ticket to one of the big musicals and taking in one of the matinee performances is a must. The majority start at 2.30pm and last for about 90 minutes, so you will usually have just enough time to fit one in. These performances do not take place every day, and they sell out fast, so you really should book before you travel.

Some alternatives to the theatre

If you prefer not to go to the theatre, there is still a lot you can do, in and around Covent Garden.

The Royal Opera House tour

The Royal Opera House is only a few minutes away. There are three different tours available, which take between 45 minutes and 75 minutes. You will need to check the times of the tours to make sure that they fit in with your itinerary. The backstage one at 2.30pm should be doable if you follow the schedule I have suggested so far.

The London Transport Museum

If you do not fancy the opera house, The London Transport Museum is an alternative.

St Martin´s Courtyard

Also, nearby is St Martin´s Courtyard. This is a nice place to relax and enjoy a coffee and some people watching.

The Hop-On Hop-Off Tour Bus

Covent Garden is also on the Hop-On Hop-Off bus route. Therefore, you could potentially get on and take some of the tour, and finish up at The Tower of London.

Tower of London and Tower Bridge

The Tower of London closes at 5.30pm, with last admission being allowed at 5pm. Once you come out of The Tower head towards Tower Bridge and take a snap for your holiday album.

A meal in St Katharines Dock

If you enough time left, you can enjoy a meal in one of the restaurants that are located at St Katharines Dock, which is nearby. Dickens Inn has some nice balcony tables near.

However, they get busy, so you really should pre-book if you want one of these tables.

Make your way to the airport

Eating here is a particularly good option for those who are flying out of City Airport, which can be reached in 30 minutes from St Katharines Dock.

However, you will need to be getting one of the last flights out of the airport to be able to enjoy a meal in Dicken´s Inn before you fly.

Flights leave the other three London airports far later, and they are only 80 minutes away from St Katherines Dock.

Buy attraction tickets in advance

If you fancy experiencing the above one day tour of the city you will need to do a bit of preparation before leaving home.

It is always worth booking and paying for any of the attractions you want to visit in advance.

In most cases, you can easily do this online. Taking this approach will often save you money and save you from having to waste time queuing to get in.

Get yourself an Oyster card online

It is also a good idea to buy a travel day pass. Doing this will save you money and allow you to get on and off the tube and buses as you want. Right now, the cheapest way to do it is to buy a Visitor Oyster card rather than a one-day travel card.

Click this link to find out more and buy yours.

Author: Adam Chapman is the founder of the Meet and greet parking service – A big Football fan who can travel to any part of the world to watch an England’s Match.

Kate Quigley

Kate Quigley Travel Writer

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