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 iconic London landmarks you would like to see.
In this one day in London itinerary for first-time visitors in London, I suggest focusing on central London for this short London trip. Going for the big-ticket, London must see sights like the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, Covent Garden, Tate Morden, the West End and a few other London tours attractions like the hop-on hop-off bus tours.
So, what to do in London in 24 hours? I hear you ask. My advise would be to focus on central London. A bit basic but hear me out.
Focusing on central London and the main London tourist attractions, the ones that are easy to get to and within walking distance of each other, will make your 1 day 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 this iconic city without wasting your time on the tube or trying to figure out to get to these places.
For more from my London travel guide series check out my bottomless brunch Shoreditch, things to do in Peckham, Neals Yard Covent Garden, best brunch in London, things to do in Brick Lane, best brunch in Covent Garden, best places to stay in London, 5 day London itinerary and day in London.
Table of Contents
- 1 What to do for 24 hours in London – A 24 Hours in London Itinerary
- 2 Start your one day in London with Breakfast at Ottolenghi
- 3 Best coffee shops in London
- 4 What to do in London for a day?
- 5 WANDER COVENT GARDEN
- 6 Neal’s Yard Covent Garden
- 7 TRAFALGAR SQUARE
- 8 NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY
- 9 Do a Hop-on Hop-off London Tour
- 10 Check Out the Tate Morden
- 11 Have Lunch at the Duck and Waffle
- 12 PICCADILLY SQUARE
- 13 SKY GARDEN
- 14 What to see in London – Take in a West End Show
- 15 Blues Kitchen Shoreditch
What to do for 24 hours in London – A 24 Hours in London Itinerary
Start your one day in London with Breakfast at Ottolenghi
If you’re like me then starting your day with an amazing breakfast will be on your London to-do list. With only one day in London, then 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 cookbook, as you leave.
Half of London has one of their cookbooks 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.
READ MORE: The best 30 things to do in London
Best coffee shops in London
With only 24 hours to see and do the best things in London, you’ll need coffee! Londoner’s love good coffee preferably from one of the many independent coffee shops in London. You can grab a strong cup of ethically sourced coffee from two of the best coffee shops in central London Soho Grind or Department of Coffee and Social Affairs. Trust me when I say a cup of coffee from these two places will keep you buzzing far into the London’s midnight hours.
READ MORE: London Itinerary
What to do in London for a day?
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. You may also like my post on things to know before visiting London.
Covent Garden should be at the top of your list of places to visit in London and one of the top things to do in London in 24 hours.
This is one sight you must visit in London even if you’re only visiting London in a day.
Neal’s Yard Covent Garden
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 London.
Wander through the small alleyway of Neal’s Yard 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. T
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 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 weekday.
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. Trafalgar Square is one of the major London attractions and is worth a visit.
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 easily also catch the hop on hop off London 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.
Do a Hop-on Hop-off London Tour
Another top things to do in London in 24 hours in a hop-on hop-off London tour.
As touristy a hop-on hop-off bus tours are London, its still a great way of seeing the city from a different perspective, you learn a lot of historical factors quickly about London and you can decide quickly what sights are worth seeing for your one day in London.
Also there are lots of hop-on hop-off bus tour operators that are around Trafalgar Square, so if you were thinking of doing a bus tour this would be a great place to grab one of the many buses there.
Check Out the Tate Morden
Another gallery that is a thing you must do in London is check out the Tate Modern Gallery. It’s a London landmark with countless ongoing exhibition and if you need another reason to visit the Tate Modern, well you can get killer views of St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Millennium Bridge from the terrace of the cafe in the Tate Modern.
Have Lunch at the Duck and Waffle
The Duck and Waffle is not only notorious for its crispy leg confit, fried duck egg and waffle premier view of central London. Duck & Waffle is located on the 40th floor of 110 Bishopsgate in London, 110 Bishopsgate is one of London’s tallest buildings. Thus you’ll get a spectacular view of the Gherkin and the Shard. Duck and Waffle is also know as one of the top 24 hour restaurants in London. You may also like my post on the best places in London Chinatown to eat.
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.
I think visiting the Sky Garden is one of the best things you can do in London. So, 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 of London.
Top Tip: Make sure you book the Sky Garden a minimum of three weeks in advance through their booking system.
What to see in London – Take in a West End Show
A 24 hours in London itinerary would not be complete without taking in a West End show in London. You can pick discounted tickets up if you visit the TKTS Official Booth, in Leicester Square. Try to get there early so you don’t miss out on the (up to 50% discounted tickets) as these tend to go fast. I recommend seeing ‘The Lion King’ or ‘The Book of Mormon’.
Blues Kitchen Shoreditch
Finish your night off at Blues Kitchen Shoreditch, a blues kitchen and bar in Shoreditch, where the cocktails are strong, the chicken wings crispy and a live band that plays swing blues in to the early morning.
This is how to spend 24 hours in London like a local. How would you spend one day in London?
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