I’ll be honest, 24 hours is not enough time to see an epic city like London. But if 24 hours in London is all the time you have, make it worth your while by being strategic about the activities you would like to do in London such as sights and landmarks you would like to see. If this is your first-time visiting London, I suggest focusing on central London to visit the big-ticket sights. The ones that are easy to get to and within walking distance of each other will make 24 hours in London more manageable.
This guide will not have you running all over London, it is laid out to give you a taste of things to do in London with only 24 hours to see everything.
Here’s how to spend 24 hours in London by a Londoner!
Breakfast at Ottolenghi
If you’re like me then starting your day with an amazing breakfast will be on your London to-do list. Let me introduce you to one of London’s best breakfast and brunching spots—Ottolenghi. Londoners are eager and will wait 30 minutes for their delicious corn and polenta cakes, avocado salsa, fried egg, and the mouth-watering Middle Eastern Breakfast which includes tomato salad, tahini, chickpeas with lemon and parsley, sheep labneh, mixed olives, lemon marmalade, grilled pitta and za’atar focaccia. A real mouth full
Ottolenghi is where you should visit for breakfast, this place is not your faux brunch pop-up, but a British institution.
The menu presents a more simple and inventive selection of options to choose from. This is a far cry from the more traditional full English fried breakfast that the English are known for, but you will not regret opting to try something more creative and eye-catching. You’ll drool as you pass by the striking choice of rainbow coloured salads and fresh buttery pastries on display. Don’t forget to grab one of the many selections of pastry, or their world-famous cook book, as you leave. Half of London has one of their cook books in their kitchen, just in case we feel the need to cook.
Ottolenghi is a small chain of restaurants run by celebrity chef, Yotam Ottolenghi, with restaurants located in Belgravia, Soho, Spitalfields, Notting Hill and Islington.
Wander Covent Garden
Covent garden is one of those landmarks you must see, even if all you have is one day to explore London. First visit Ottolenghi Soho, then make your way from Soho to Covent Garden (10 minutes’ walk) and wander around one of London’s busiest piazzas. Once an orchard garden of Westminster Abbey, you can now find the Royal Opera House, and cute flower swings, along with the quirky characters of the many street performers displaying their talents in Covent Garden. I suggest visiting the apple market, which is filled with artisanal stalls selling handmade goods such as prints, watercolours and jewellery, Tuesday to Sunday, and antiques on Mondays.
This is one sight you must visit in London even if you only have 24 hours to spend in London.
Just six minutes’ walk from Covent Garden tucked away off Neal Street you’ll find one of London’s most colourful little corners, Neal’s Yard. Wander through the small alleyway and you’ll be taken aback by the bright, quirky, picturesque multi-coloured buildings, windows and shops, which will put a smile on your face. There you’ll find salad bars, cafés and independent shops such as Neal’s Yard Dairy, Neal’s Yard Remedies shop, Casanova & daughters and alternative plant-based restaurants such as Wild Food Cafe.
Neal’s Yard is in Seven Dials, and gets its name from Thomas Neale, who received land from William III in 1690, and created the Seven Dials area.
To really appreciate Neal’s Yard, it’s best to get there early to avoid other tourists and Londoners as the space and shops/restaurants there are very small, so they become busy and crowded quickly.
If you want the space to yourself then wake up even earlier, or visit on a week day. All the things you can do in London in 24 hours.
The views of London from Trafalgar Square are stunning to everyone, whether you’ve been in London for five minutes or 50 years. You can’t deny the grandeur of the square with the striking Nelson’s Column, and the fountain with the bronze lions placed on guard (designed by Edwin Landseer) at the base of Nelson’s Column.
Trafalgar Square is a sight to behold, and it will fulfil all the selfie photos your little heart could desire. The best place to take a photo is standing next to the lions, or looking straight ahead in the direction of Big Ben.
This is one of those sites to see the iconic big red bus of London, you can easy also catch the hop on hop off bus from Trafalgar Square.
Trafalgar square is also the main stage for numerous celebrations in London, such as the Chinese New Year Celebration; it is also home to the National Portrait Gallery.
National Portrait Gallery
You can’t spend 24 hours in London without visiting one of the many free museums that are on offer. With the museums being free there is no excuse not take advantage while visiting this beautiful city. The National Portrait Gallery houses one of the most extensive collections of portraits of historically and famous British people both past and present. Located in Trafalgar Square, there is no reason not to pay the interesting gallery a visit. This is one of the many free things to do in London.
Open daily 10:00 – 18:00 Late night opening Thursday and Friday until 21:00. Closed 24 – 26 December.
With such limited time on your hands its best to eat on the go by grabbing a meal deal (which includes a drink, sandwich/pasta and a pack of crisp) from Boots (£3.79) , Marks & Spencer (£3.50) Eat, or Pret A Manger for less than £6. Save your money for a nice dinner.
Take in the city lights of London by wandering through Piccadilly Square, and listening to the street music as you see London really come alive. The neon lights from the signs of Piccadilly Square seem to light up the city, giving London a whole new party vibe. There are also many well-known clubs and bars close to the area, so you’ll get to see how Londoners let their hair down.
Round off your 24 hours in London with views over this beautiful city for free, backed by amazing live music at Sky Garden, by checking out my “How to Spend a Weekend in London”. This Sky Garden is other is another sight you must visit in London. Until the Shard it’s free and you’ll get a 360-degree view off London.
Top Tip: Make sure you book the Sky Garden a minimum of three weeks in advance through their booking system.
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