One day in London

London: A Visitor’s Guide

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Idea #1Westminster, and West End

What you will see:A ride on the London Eye, a sightseeing trip taking in lots of the major landmarks, ending up in the West End for a show – all within easy walking distance of each other

If you only have one day to explore the city then it’s best to arrive into Waterloo station. Use the exit beyond platform 19, and cross the bridge to the other side of the road. Walk along the street and you should be able to see the London Eye.

The London Eye will give you a great view of the city. Buy your tickets beforehand though, as the queues can get quite heavy (allow for 30-45 minutes queuing, and 30 minutes on the actual wheel).

You should know where Big Ben is now… because you just saw it on the wheel. So cross over Westminster Bridge and take some snaps of the Houses of Parliament (allow for 30 mins) and then walk over to Westminster Abbey.

Westminster Abbey is the setting for coronations, state funerals, and the burial place of many celebrated kings and queens. It is well worth a visit if you’ve got the time (allow for 60-90 mins).

Cross over Parliament Square and head down Whitehall, which will take you past The Cenotaph and Downing Street. You might like to spend 10 minutes in front of the famous gates to see if you can spot the Prime Minister.

Continue along Whitehall until you get to Trafalgar Square. This is home to Nelson’s Column. There are also some toilets in the square, if you’re desperate for a wee.

You might like to spend some time exploring the National Gallery on the north side of the square (allow for 60-90 mins).

Continue your little tour through Admiralty Arch and up The Mall towards Buckingham Palace (allow for 15 mins walking time). Once you’ve taken some snaps, head through Green Park to Piccadilly – one of London’s grandest shopping streets (10 mins walking time).

A stroll down Piccadilly will take you past the Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington Arcade and Fortnum & Mason, ending up under the neon lights of Piccadilly Circus.

Welcome to the West End! This is the heart of London’s theatre land, so why not find a nice restaurant now and then take in a show? Or maybe you’d prefer to spend the evening watching a blockbuster movie at one of the cinemas in Leicester Square?

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Idea #2Museums, South Kensington

What you will see:A look around two of London’s best (and free) museums, followed by some shopping at Harrods, ending with a concert at the Royal Albert Hall

Take the train to South Kensington and then pick two of the following three museums. Our recommendation would be the Natural History Museum followed by the Science Museum. All three are within five minutes walking distance of each other.

The Natural History Museum is called the “dead zoo” because it is full of stuffed animals from all around the world. The most popular exhibits are the ages-old dinosaur bones (allow for 2-3 hours).

The Science Museum covers everything from the earliest computers and cars to the Apollo moon landings. They’ve also got an IMAX cinema and a roof-space full of airplanes (allow for 2-3 hours).

The Victoria & Albert Museum explores the history of art and design. You will see fabulous furniture, jewellery and clothes, and the world-famous Cast Room (allow for 2 hours).

All three of those museums are free, so you should have plenty of money left to splash out at Harrods – the world’s most famous department store. You’ll find it a short walk down the Brompton Road (allow for 1 hour shopping time, or more if you use the restaurant).

A perfect way to round off your day is with a concert at the Royal Albert Hall. You can find out what’s on here (allow for 3 hours).

If there’s nothing worth seeing then catch the No.14 to Piccadilly Circus (allow for 20 mins ride time). This is the heart of London’s theatre land, so why not take in a show?

Or maybe you’d prefer to spend the evening watching a blockbuster movie in Leicester Square?

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Idea #3The City, St. Paul’s, West End

What you will see:Tower Bridge, the Tower of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the busy financial district… followed by a night at the theatre in the West End

Let's start the day off by taking some pictures of one of London’s best-loved landmarks – Tower Bridge. If you’re lucky then you might be able to see it go up or down. Check out the scheduled lift times here.

Spend the rest of the morning visiting the Tower of London. It was originally built by William the Conqueror in the 11th-century, and is home to the Crown Jewels. Why not do a Yeoman Warder tour, with one of the famous Beefeaters? (allow for 3 hours in total)

You’ll need to get a map out now for the short walk to the Dickens-esque Leadenhall Market (a great place to stop for lunch). Just follow the directions to Fenchurch Street station, and then head down Fenchurch Street itself – you’ll see it on the right.

Now head down Cornhill towards Bank. The intersection here has three of The City’s finest buildings – the Bank of England, Mansion House and the Royal Exchange.

If you take a stroll down Cheapside you will end up at St. Paul’s Cathedral. No trip to London would be complete without looking around Christopher Wren’s masterpiece. We recommend going inside and climbing up to the dome for a fantastic view of the city (allow for 2 hours).

We recommend getting on a red double-decker bus at this point, as you will probably be knackered from all the walking. You can get the number 23 towards Trafalgar Square from the south side of the Cathedral. The ride will take you straight up Fleet Street and the Strand, past the Royal Courts of Justice and Somerset House.

There are a couple of different options about where to spend the evening. If you fancy catching a show then try getting off at Covent Garden. There are also plenty of great outdoor and indoor restaurants in the piazza.

Or you might like to stay on until you reach Trafalgar Square, where you can take a two-minute stroll to the heart of the West End – Leicester Square.

Either way, check out our theatre guide to see what’s on. Leicester Square is also home to the capital’s biggest cinemas.

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Idea #4London Eye, St. Paul’s Cathedral

What you will see:A ride on the London Eye, a walk along the Southbank to Shakespeare’s Globe and Tate Modern, ending at St. Paul’s Cathedral

Starting off at Waterloo again, use the exit beyond platform 19 and cross the elevated bridge to the other side of the road. If you walk along the street then you should be able to see the London Eye come into view.

The London Eye is the perfect place to start your day, as it will give you a great view of the city. It’s best to buy your tickets beforehand, as the queues can get quite heavy (allow for 30-45 minutes queuing, and 30 minutes on the actual wheel).

Let’s take a walk along the Southbank now, past the Royal Festival Hall and Southbank Centre. If you look across the river then you will have a great view of Cleopatra’s Needle (allow for 20-30 minutes walking time).

Once you get past Blackfriars Bridge you should see the Tate Modern gallery loom up on your right. This old converted power station is home to the best of Britain’s modern art collection. If you’d like to have a look around then allow yourself 60-90 mins. Even if you don’t want to venture inside for the art, you should still check out the Level 7 Restaurant for its fantastic views across the Thames.

Next up on our tour of the Southbank is Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. If you come during the summer then you might be able to catch a play, otherwise you can settle for a guided tour around the Elizabethan-style playhouse (allow at least 3 hours for the play, and 90 mins for the tour).

Crossing over the river on the Millennium Bridge will take you to St. Paul’s Cathedral. No trip to London would be complete without looking around Christopher Wren’s masterpiece. We recommend going inside and climbing up to the dome for a fantastic view of the city (allow for 2 hours).

If it’s getting late and you’ve missed the last entry at 4 PM, then don’t fret – you can still enjoy the Evensong service at 5 PM – a great way to round off the day.

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You might also be interested in the events and exhibitions in our London events guide

 

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