Day One – What you will see:A trip on the London Eye, a river cruise to Tower Bridge, then spend the afternoon at Tower of London, before taking in a West End show
A trip on the London Eye is a great way to start your first day. It’s one of the most popular attractions in the city, and no trip would be complete without it. Try and get their as early as possible and buy your tickets beforehand, as the queues can get quite heavy (allow for 30-45 minutes queuing, and 30 minutes on the actual wheel).
Buy a ticket at the City Cruise booth for one of river trips between Westminster Bridge and Tower Pier. Boats leave every half-hour and take about 30 minutes to reach Tower Bridge. Along the way you will see some fine sights including Cleopatra’s Needle, the Globe Theatre, Tate Modern and St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Get off the boat at Tower Bridge. If you’d like to go inside and see the exhibition (we suggest that you give it a miss, because you’ll run out of time for the rest of the day) then you’ll enjoy some fine views from the top walkways (allow for 60-90 mins).
It’s probably way past lunchtime by now, so have a bite to eat in 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)
The best way to end your first day is with a show. There are a couple of different places you can try – check out our theatre guide to see what’s on.
If your theatre is in Covent Garden then you can either take the No.15 bus (allow 30 mins), or catch the tube from Tower Hill to Embankment. There are plenty of great restaurants in the Covent Garden piazza, if you haven’t had anything to eat.
Alternatively, you can catch the No.15 to Trafalgar Square instead, and take a 2-minute stroll to Leicester Square – the heart of the West End. Leicester Square is also home to the capital’s biggest cinemas.
Let’s start the day off in Trafalgar Square. This is home to one of London’s most famous landmarks – Nelson’s Column. If you like art, then you might like to spend some time exploring the National Gallery (allow for 60-90 mins).
Bear in mind that if you visit the gallery, then you won’t have time to see the next bit – so make your choice! Take a 15 min walk down The Mall towards Buckingham Palace. This is where the Changing of the Guard takes place.
The ceremony starts at 11.15 AM but we recommend getting there by half-10 for a decent spot (you will need to get there by 10 AM if you want a spot right up against the gates).
The ceremony usually takes place every day in the summer, but alternate days thereafter. Check out our link for the schedule.
You will have to book up months in advance (3 months at least), but if you don’t make it, don’t fret – try the tea at Fortnum & Mason instead (book 1-2 weeks in advance). Fortnum & Mason is second only to Harrods as the most prestigious store in London.
Keep walking down Piccadilly and you will come to the neon lights of Piccadilly Circus. No trip to London would be complete without a photo of yourself standing underneath the Eros fountain.
You’ve probably had enough of walking by this point, so jump on the No.23 bus towards Liverpool Street. The 25-minute ride will take you past Trafalgar Square again, up the Strand and Fleet Street (past Somerset House and the Royal Courts of Justice), before dropping you off at St. Paul’s Cathedral.
St. Paul’s Cathedral was built by Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of London. Have a good look around inside and climb up to the famous Whispering Gallery. You will likely be pushed for time before it closes for sightseeing at 4.30 PM, so allow for 1 hour only. Last admission to the domes is 4.15 PM.
You don’t actually have to leave at 4.30 PM though – you can hang around for the daily Evensong service at 5 PM. This is well worth doing, and you don’t have to be religious to enjoy the Cathedral choir.
Day One – What you will see:Two of London’s finest galleries, some sightseeing around Parliament, Westminster Abbey, and a ride on the London Eye
On the north-side of the square is the National Gallery, containing the country’s finest collection of art works. You will see pieces by Vermeer, Cézanne, Monet, Rembrandt, Rubens, Titian, Turner and Van Gogh (allow for 90 mins).
Westminster Abbey is London’s most prestigious religious building – the setting for coronations, state funerals, and the burial place of many celebrated kings and queens. It is well worth a visit (allow for 90-120 mins).
If you don’t fancy walking the next bit, then jump on the number 87 bus towards Wandsworth. The quick 15-minute ride will take you down Millbank to the Tate Britain gallery. We definitely recommend walking it though, as you can take a riverside stroll through Victoria Tower Gardens.
Tate Britain focuses solely on British art from the 16th-century onwards. Artists include David Hockney, William Blake, Hogarth, Gainsborough, Constable and, of course, the great J W Turner (allow for 90 mins).
There are a couple of ways of getting back to Trafalgar Square. You can either catch the No.88 bus towards Camden (a 25-minute ride), or catch a shuttle boat from Millbank Pier. This quick 10-minute ride will deposit you at Embankment Pier. We definitely recommend doing that, because you’ll get a nice riverside view of Parliament and the London Eye.
Now cross over Hungerford Bridge to the other side of the river. We are going to end the day with a ride on the London Eye. 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).
Take the train to South Kensington and then pick just one of the following three museums. Our recommendation would be the Natural History 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 – elephants, birds and even a Blue Whale! The most popular exhibits are the ages-old dinosaur bones (allow for 2 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 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 – containing replicas of the world’s greatest monuments and statues (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).
No trip would be complete without a ride on the tube, so let’s get the underground from Knightsbridge to Holborn (10 mins journey). Follow the signs to the British Museum (left down New Oxford Street, and then right down Museum street).
The British Museum has exhibits from ancient Egypt, Greece, Italy, Africa and the Orient, including colossal works by the Romans, Greeks and Persians. Highlights include the Rosetta Stone, the Parthenon Marbles, and the world-famous Reading Room (allow for 2 hours).
You’ll probably want to get an evening meal at this point, so let’s head into the West End – find New Oxford Street again, and walk down Shaftesbury Avenue.
There are a couple of different places where you can spend the evening. Check out our theatre guide to see what’s on. You might end up in Covent Garden, Leicester Square or the Strand, depending on which theatre you pick. All three are within easy walking distance of Shaftesbury Avenue.
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