London is one of the world’s most exciting capitals, a city of nearly 9 millions inhabitants spread over 32 boroughs. London’s broad range of cultural attractions and historical sights could keep you entertained for months, but if you only had a day to visit the city, where would you go? Here are my top tips to touring London: what to do in a day and make the most of your time in this wonderful city!
1. Visit the Tower of London and Tower Bridge
Do you love history? The Tower of London was home to so much scheming, plotting, betrayals, and deaths. Archbishops, princesses, and even Queens died here. Expect to spend at least 3 hours exploring the Tower, crown jewels, and the execution block. You can expect to pay an adult entry fee of £21 or get in free of charge if you have a London Pass (you can also save 10% on all goods you purchase at the Tower of London shops).
Take the London Underground station to the Tower Bridge. Capture souvenir pictures of yourself at the Tower Bridge as you cross over to the famous river Thames. The Tower Bridge will give you a magnificent view of London 42 meters above the river, and you will learn about the bridge and how it works. It is free to walk across the bridge and to watch as it opens and closes.
2. Take a Trip to the New Forest
If you are looking for a beautiful destination in the English countryside, not far from London, to escape to, look no further! The New Forest is the closest you will get to experience a safari if you don’t have a plane ticket. The journey is around 2 hours by train from London Paddington Station, making it an ideal destination for a day trip. You will enjoy seeing the famous ponies, pigs, and highland cattle as you go down the heath-covered dappled lanes.
One of my favourite things to do in the New Forest is have lunch at The Pig restaurant, near Brockenhurst. The Pig is a fantastic restaurant with an emphasis on locally-grown food and boutique hotel with 26 cozy bedrooms, surrounded by an extensive walled garden. Or if you prefer to spend the day by the sea, drive down to Christchurch and Southbourne Beach. Perfect spot to enjoy a traditional Fish & Chips!
3. Seek Cultural Experiences at London Museums
The London museums are visited by several tourists every year. You can enjoy free access to some revolutionary interactive exhibits. A great place to begin is the Museum of London that focuses on London’s history from the time of the Romans to the present day. The Natural History Museum is located in South Kensington while the V&A and Science Museum are a walking distance from each other. With permanent exhibitions being free, you can just walk into any of them.
London is also known for some of the best paintings in the world. If this is something you fancy, visit Tate Britain or Tate Modern, the National Gallery, and the National Portrait Gallery. Remember to visit the lesser-known art galleries situated in spaces like crypts, old police stations, and Georgian estates. Check opening hours before you visit the smaller galleries.
4. Cycle to Box Hill, North Downs, Surrey
Box Hill is a summit of the North Downs in Surrey, approximately 31 km south-west of London. It was one of the routes used in the 2012 Olympics. From the top, you will enjoy a marvelous view of the North Downs. Start cycling from Richmond Park, go down to Hampton Court, and once you’re past it, you will come across a 1.6-mile climb and some bends before you get to Box Hill itself. Before you start cycling, carry the following essentials: a map, to help you plan the route you’ll be taking, a bicycle, a repair kit for any emergencies, snacks and water.
If you still have some space after consuming your snacks, enjoy a slice of cake from the National Trust Café. Save some space for crumbles and homemade pies at The Tree. To get back to Waterloo, load your bikes on a train at Westhumble station.
5. Visit the Houses of Parliament
It is home to the bell known as Big Ben and the English lawmakers. Many people don’t know this, but you can go inside the Houses of Parliament for a guided tour as opposed to looking at it from the outside. Although you can’t just show up and go inside, do some research and planning on the days when it is suitable to visit.
If this turns out to be too much trouble, you can view the building from outside or pop into Westminster Abbey that happens to be behind the Houses of Parliament to quench your thirst for history. Westminster Abbey is home to some of the most famous people like Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and some notable royals. It has also hosted many historical events like 50 coronations, memorial services like that of Princess Diana, and 16 royal weddings.
6. Tour the Stadiums and Watch a Football Match
London is home to some of the greatest football stadiums like Wembley Stadium. If you want to relive the triumphs and tragedies of English soccer, walk in the footsteps of football champions, tour the player’s dressing rooms, raise a model of the FA Cup and enjoy the feel of a live game, you can book a tour or buy a ticket to a game.
You can also enjoy your evening by watching an online match, but remember to get some tips from Dermot Gallagher. If you want to brush up on your knowledge of football, you can visit the National Football Museum in Manchester.
7. Visit Chinatown, the West End, and Trafalgar Square
Starting from Westminster Abbey, go up Whitewall to see 10 Downing Street, which houses the official residences and offices of the Prime Minister. The Cenotaph, which is on your way, is known for the UK’s primary war memorial. You will arrive in Trafalgar Square, home to the National Gallery and Nelson’s Monument. You don’t want to miss taking a photo with one of the lions! From there you can walk to the West End, which is home to Covent Garden and several theatres where major films were first shown.
Walk up along Charing Cross Road (renowned for its specialist and second-hand bookshops) all the way to the West End. The district of theatres, restaurants and nightlife, which is today considered the beating heart of the city. Walk around Leicester Square and then immerse yourself in the colours. sounds and aromas of Chinatown. Stop in Gerrard Street, the pedestrian lane bordered by Chinese gates and decorated with red paper lanterns, for a delicious meal of steaming dumplings, tasty noodles, Peking duck and more.
8. Watch the Changing of the Guard in Buckingham Palace
The Queen, who happens to have several houses, resides in Buckingham Palace. It is the most famous amongst her other houses. You can watch the Changing of the Guard or just wave and hope somebody waves back. Plan your itinerary so that you don’t miss this event. There are also openings during the summer when you can visit and go inside Buckingham Palace.
9. Fall in love with Kensington
There are many reasons to fall in love with Kensington, the affluent and elegant neighbourhood in West London. What I love the most about this area is the architecture: striking Georgian and Regency houses line the streets around South Kensington, Gloucester Road and Kensington High Street. I also love the parks and gardens, like Hyde Park, which borders the north side of Kensington. The combination of beautiful houses and green spaces, plus the proximity to the capital’s most famous free museums, makes Kensington a perfect place to stay in London. There are many cool and unusual things to in Kensington in a day!
10. Experience London’s dining scene
London is a dream destination for food lovers. The food scene is dynamic and exciting, a hub for the world’s top chefs, baristas and barmen. It is a melting pot of cuisines where in a single day you can eat Israeli shakshuka for breakfast, drink a cortado at an Aussie speciality coffee shop, Malaysian roti canai for lunch, try the traditional Afternoon tea, and finally eat a pub dinner of Fish & Chips or Shepherd’s Pie at dinner.
The dining scene in London has radically evolved over the past 10 years. Londoners and visitors will be spoilt by London’s best restaurants, starting from its beating heart: Soho. Here, you will find some of London’s best restaurants and coffee shops. Other great neighbourhoods for eating out are: Fitzrovia, Marylebone, Mayfair, Shoreditch, Brixton, Peckham, Bermondsey and London Bridge.
For those looking to move away from the crowded streets of central London and have a more authentic experience of a London neighbourhood, I recommend heading to Connaught Village. One of London’s hidden gems, it is a mix of elegant Georgian and Victorian mews terraces, just a stroll away from Hyde Park, Paddington and Marble Arch. The village is home to many independent restaurants or cafés: from Abasto, an Argentinian deli and wine bar, and Buchanan’s Cheesemonger, to French wine merchant Connaught Cellars, Indian restaurant Bombay Palace, and Colbeh who specialises in Persian and Middle Eastern cuisine.
Another destination I love for eating out in London is my former neighbourhood of Brixton. I recommend spending a few hours around here, at the vibrant and multicultural Brixton Market and the foodie haven Brixton Village. You will get to taste dishes and ingredients and learn about cuisines from around the world.
Where To Stay in London
I have had the chance to review many hotels across London over the years and I can recommend some of my favourite, in different categories and boroughs: The Curtain, a hotel and private members’ club sits at the heart of Shoreditch, nestled between Shoreditch High Street, Old Street and Liverpool Street stations. Roseate House London, a luxury boutique hotel with 48 rooms and suites across three connecting Grade-II townhouses. Shangri-La at the Shard, a 5-star hotel which occupies the 34th to 52nd floors of Renzo Piano’s iconic building, The Shard.
London is one of the best holiday destinations in the UK. Just by going around the city – by Underground, on foot, on bicycle, in a black cab, on a double decker bus or on a river boat – you can have amazing experiences! London will offer visitors endless opportunities for sightseeing, all day entertainment, shopping, tantalising dishes, and day trips to the nature!
Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post.