24 hours in London: The Ultimate Guide

London is a city where history meets modernity, and you can find iconic landmarks on every corner. With so much to see and do, crafting the perfect itinerary can be a challenge. But with our meticulously curated guide, we’ll ensure you make the most of every minute of your 24 hours in London.

So, grab your map and your sense of adventure, as we take you on a whirlwind 24 hour journey through the heart and soul of London.

Early Morning in London: Breakfast in Fortnum & Mason

Let’s kick off our 24 hours in London at one the most quintessentially British institutions, Fortnum & Mason

Founded in 1707, Fortnum & Mason may be less well known internationally than London’s other distinguished luxury department stores, (looking at you, Harrods). However, for us, its charm and connections to royalty make it an unforgettable and even more elevated experience. 

You’ll feel like you’ve stumbled upon a culinary wonderland, with so many delectable delights of every variety, in addition to the stunning The Parlour restaurant which is the perfect place for breakfast. If you’re in the mood to start the day with something sweet, order some of their famed ice cream (yes, even with breakfast). If you prefer something savory, they also have plenty of traditional options to choose from.

An ice cream sundae
Ice cream for breakfast? When in London! Photo credit: Madeline Tallman

Fortnum & Mason is located right in the heart of London at Piccadilly Circus so it’s easy to get to where you’re going next.

Late Morning in London: Greet the King at Buckingham Palace

Can you really say you’ve been to London if you haven’t seen Buckingham Palace? A short walk from Fortnum and Mason will lead you here to possibly the most famous royal residence in the world. 

A view of Buckingham Palace in London
Buckingham Palace is a must-visit on any trip to London, long or short. Photo credit: Dwi Wahyu Pagau

Home to the British royal family since 1837, seeing it up close is far more impressive that you would imagine. If you arrive on time, you might be able to catch the famous Changing of the Guard ceremony.

For a comprehensive insight into this quintessentially British event, consider joining the Changing of the Guard & Buckingham Palace Tour. This tour offers access to two separate ceremonies from four distinct vantage points (one of which includes horses), providing a deeper understanding of the fascinating traditions.

Early Afternoon in London: A Relaxing Stroll in St. James Park

Many are surprised by the abundance of beautiful parks in London, and St. James Park is one that stands out above them all. This place has a charming atmosphere, where you’ll find not just tourists, but also workers taking breaks and lucky individuals enjoying their days off on these former royal hunting grounds.

Make sure not to overlook the park’s main attraction, the lake, which is home to an array of exotic birds. You can even pick up a coffee here at some of the stalls spotted around the grounds and relax a little to take it all in.

A view of the lake and the surrounding landmarks at St. James Park in London
Keep your eyes peeled for exotic birds at St. James Park in London. Photo credit: Szymon Shields

When you leave, be sure to head towards the south-east corner and follow Birdcage Walk, as it will lead you to our next sights. Alternatively, you can take the underground one stop from St. James Station to Westminster Station.

Late Afternoon in London: Westminster Abbey and Big Ben

Continue along Birdcages Walk into Great George Street and you’ll find yourself in one of the most iconic sights in London, Parliament Square. Here you’ll be able to see Westminster Abbey and also the Houses of Parliament, overseen by the majestic Big Ben.

An aerial view of London, showing the Big Ben
Fun fact: London’s iconic clock tower “Big Ben,” is officially named the Elizabeth Tower. The bell itself is called “Big Ben.” However, people commonly use “Big Ben” to refer to both the clock tower and the bell inside. Photo credit: Jamie Street

If you’ve seen anything related to the royal family over the last 10 years, from weddings and funerals to coronations, then you’ll be familiar with the site of the Gothic architectural masterpiece that is Westminster Abbey. What you may not be aware of is that it is also the resting place of notable people like Sir Isaac Newton, Sir Charles Darwin, Handel and Steven Hawking. If you’re a history buff, this is another place to relish in history.

Insider’s tip: If you’re looking for an in-depth experience of British Parliament and Westminster Abbey, consider joining us on our Exclusive Houses of Parliament Tour with Guided Visit & Skip-the-Line Westminster Abbey Tour.

Afternoon/Early Evening in London: Walk Along the South Bank

Undoubtedly, one of the best experiences for a one-day visit to London is a leisurely stroll along the south bank of the River Thames.

Embarking from Westminster Bridge and following the historic river that once fueled the city’s life, you’ll encounter numerous picturesque landmarks, including the London Eye, London Bridge, and the renowned Tower Bridge (remember, it’s the one that rises in the middle!). Along the way, capture memorable shots of Shakespeare’s Globe theater, and even catch a glimpse of St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London in the distance.

A flow of people walking through South Bank in London
One of the hippest corners of London? South Bank. Photo credit: Yukon Haughton

If you’re up for some other cultural digs, consider a visit to the Southbank Center, the British Film Institute or the Tate Modern (which along with iconic art has a great cafe at the top giving you amazing views of the city). The walk is peppered with street performers and regular outdoor markets and events, as well as skaters and other trendy folk that make it an optimal place for people watching.

At this point, you’ll probably have worked up an appetite. Along South Bank you’ll find a range of reputable restaurants (nothing more London than a cheeky Nando’s) as well as food carts serving food from around the globe.

That being said, the culinary pièce de résistance is the famed Borough Market. With probably the best street food in London, Borough Market is so special that there’s a whole dedicated tour to get the best from this epicurean paradise.

Evening in London: Have a Pint in One of the Oldest Pubs in London

Fancy a bit of pub culture? Don’s miss the Hoop and Grapes Pub. Here, you’ll step back in time to a drinking haunt that has been serving punters for over 400 years. The Grade II listed pub is a miracle in itself having survived the Great Fire of London in 1666, still showing its aged timber frames.

The outside facade of Hoop & Grapes pub in London
London’s pub culture is unmatched. Photo credit: David

Insider’s tip: If you’re short on time or want a little rest, consider taking the 42 or 78 bus, which will conveniently take you over Tower Bridge and past the Tower of London on your way there!

Nighttime in London: End 24 hours in London With Our National Dish

A short walk away from the pub is the trendiest and most vibrant part of east London, Brick Lane. Home to more than 20 curry houses, here you can find the crème de la crème of south Asian cuisine. 

One of the first things you’ll notice about London is fervent obsession with curry, whether it be Indian, Pakistani or any other of the amazing cuisine from South Asia. So, if you want to finish your day really feeling like a Londoner, a curry meal is a must. Affordable and bursting with flavor, you can’t go wrong on this gem of a street.

Our picks are the award winning Sheba or Aladin, where you will find everything from your typical UK favorites of Tikka Masala and Vindaloo, to more traditional, authentic options.

Curry, rice, and naan
A delicious curry meal is a must when visiting London. Photo credit: Kalyani Akella

As you can imagine, in a city that is brimming with so much to offer, it’s impossible to do everything in only a day. But we’re confident that our 24 hours in London itinerary will leave you feeling quite acquainted with the British capital.

Another option for your visit: take part in one of our London tours, where you’ll not only discover the city’s diverse culinary delights but also gain invaluable insights and insider tips from our knowledgeable guides, ensuring you make the most of your London experience.

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