A one-day itinerary for London

24 hours in London, 1 day in London, London (Photo © Reid Bramblett)
24 hours in London

How to get the most out of just 24 hours in London

Doing London in just one day takes full-throttle sightseeing. No, you won't get to spend nearly enough time at each sight, but at least you'll get a good taste of the best London has to offer.

08:15

Get up early and be at the Tower of London before it opens 9am (it helps to buy skip-the-line tickets ahead of time) so you can get on the first Yeoman Warder tour of this bastion of London's Middle Ages.

Time: 110 min. (The tour lasts an hour. Budget another 30 minutes to tour the White Tower, and 20 minutes for the Crown Jewels.)

Transit: District or Circle to Tower Hill.

08:45
★★★
The Tower of London (Photo by Duncan)

The ancient Thameside castle at the heart of London, where London began, ravens roam, and Yoeman Warders guard the Crown Jewels

 
11:00

Head to the famed Westminster Abbey to pay homage to the British monarchs, English poets, and other notables buried inside.

Just before or after your visit (depending on how hungry you are), grab some lunch on the go. I recommend a quick sandwich at the kiosk by the Abbey's West Towers, though if you need a sit-down break, take 30 minutes to dine in the Abbey's Cellarium.

Time: 90 min. (70 min. for the Abbey, 20 min. for lunch. Not really enough time in Westminster, but we have a lot to do today.)

Transit: District or Circle to Westminster.

11:20
★★★
Henry VII's Lady Chapel in Westminster Abbey (Photo by Herry Lawford)

London's great Gothic abbey is packed with the tombs and monuments of British monarchs and some the world's most famous playwrights, poets, scientists, and other notables

 
12:50

Make sure you hop the Tube at Westminster station so you have a chance to see the iconic Elizabeth Tower of the Parliament building—which most people call "Big Ben" (technically, that's just the name of one of the bells inside the tower). Once the bells are chiming again (scheduled for summer 2021), stick around long enough to hear it to ring the hour with its famous Cambridge Chimes tune.  

Time: 10 min.

Transit: Walk.

13:00
★☆☆
The Palace of Westminster by the Thames at night (Photo by Maurice)

London's iconic exclamation point, the clock tower housing Big Ben, sprouts from the honey-hued complex of be-spired 1840 buildings where British Parliament meets (and you can attend sessions)

 
13:03

Make your way to the British Museum. You'll only have time for the highlights—Rosetta Stone, Egyptian mummies, Elgin Marbles, etc.

Time: 105 min. (Budget 75 minutes for the collections, and another 15 minutes at the awesome museum shop.)

Transit: District or Circle to Embankment, then Northern to Tottenham Court Road.

13:30
★★★
Lely's Venus and some lamassus at the British Museum (Photo by Jorge Royan)

One of the greatest museums on the planet, a repository of astounding artifacts from throughout human history all around the globe, from the Rosetta Stone to the Parthenon Marbles to an Easter Island moai and much, much, much more

 
15:30

Walk though the Covent Garden neighborhood to the north side of Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery, filled with Old Master paintings.

Time: 90 min.  

Transit: Walk. (You could take the Tube—Northern to Charing Cross—bit it's not far, and you really should see some of London's streets.)

15:50
★★★
A room at London's National Gallery (Photo by Alex)

England's greatest repository of Old Masters paintings, with works by Leonardo, Botticelli, Rembrandt, Monet, Degas, and more

 
17:30

Have an early-ish dinner, then spend the evening doing whatever floats your boat (some ideas are below)

Time: 90 min.

17:31
★★★
A dining room at Rules, London's oldest restaurant (Photo courtesy of the restaurant)

Recommended restaurants, pubs, cafes, and other dining options in London

 
19:14

For your evening plans, choose one of the following:

Sorry. Nothing fits that criteria.

19:15

Option 1: Attend a play or a show.

19:30
★★★
A play at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre (Photo © by Reid Bramblett)

London theatre, music, and other performance venues

 
19:15

Option 2: Indulge in a pub crawl (an early play may leave you time to pub-crawl a bit afterward).

19:30
★★★
Taps at a London pub (Photo by Robert S. Donovan)

Take a pub crawl through London, bending your elbow at historic and storied pubs and sampling Real Ales and London porters

 
19:15

Option 3: Just drink in the street acts and nighttime crowds milling around Leicester Square, Piccadilly, and Covent Garden.

19:30
★☆☆
A lone busker entertains the passing crowds in Leicester Square (Photo by Garry Knight)

A bustling plaza of buskers, tourists, theatre-goers, and pub crawlers at the heart of London's West End

 
What the grey and blue time bubbles mean

Since this itinerary takes into account travel time (walking, taking the Tube, driving, whatever):

  • The times in grey circles are the times by which you need to start moving in order to go to the next stop.
  • The times in blue circles are the times by which you should arrive at that stop to begin the fun.
Activities, walks, & excursions tours