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Things to do in London in 1 day

You only have one day to see London and it's your first time in the city? You need to read this route!

Isabel Catalán

Isabel Catalán

8 min read

Things to do in London in 1 day

Big Ben, London | ©Lucas Davies

The British capital is a huge city where there is a lot to see. But if you plan to visit London in one day during a getaway you will have to explore the most important sites, as taking it all in is very complicated. Especially if it's your first time there.

So that you can get to know several of the most important tourist attractions in London in one day I have made this small route that will serve as a guide. All the sites are relatively close to each other so you can visit them in a long walk. Put on some comfortable shoes because we start!

1. London in a day, in the morning

The famous Tower Bridge| ©Ericson Fernandes
The famous Tower Bridge| ©Ericson Fernandes

We started the day at Tower Bridge, which you can reach by subway getting off at Tower Hill station or at the London 362 Tower Hill tourist bus stop, both very close to the Tower of London.

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge, another of the most prominent symbols of the city that attracts all eyes. It is a nineteenth-century drawbridge built in a beautiful Victorian style whose photo can not miss in your souvenir album.

Although Tower Bridge can be visited inside to learn how it was erected and how its lifting system worked, it is not really something so important in which I advise you to invest time if you can only see London in one day.

On this side of the river, before continuing with the tour of central London, I advise you to take a break and recharge your batteries. In the post Where to eat near the Tower of London you will find several proposals and restaurants to go to.

Book the Big Bus sightseeing bus

Tower of London

The next stop on the route: the Tower of London. You will be surprised to see a place as well preserved as this, an ancient fortress that has been standing for almost a millennium and over time has witnessed many important chapters in the history of England.

Around the Tower of London there is a halo of mystery and fear because of several sinister events that occurred within its walls.

Perhaps that is why it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city although there are other reasons to explore the monument such as the collection of the Crown Jewels, the exhibition "Line of Kings" or the Medieval Palace, to name a few.

In the post What to see in the Tower of London you can read a summary of the most outstanding places to see inside.

Book a guided tour of the Tower of London

St. Paul's Cathedral

St. Paul's Cathedral| ©Olga Lioncat
St. Paul's Cathedral| ©Olga Lioncat

Continue this one-day tour of London by visiting the fabulous St. Paul's Cathedral, one of the largest in the world and second in size only to St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican.

Did you know that there have always been religious buildings on the site it occupies? There is evidence that a dolmen was built here, a Greek temple and by the 6th century A.D. there was already a church on this site.

Before the present St. Paul's Cathedral there was another one made of wood that was destroyed by fire during the Great Fire of London in 1666. A few years later the architect Christopher Wren was commissioned to rebuild it and the work was completed in 1710. Fortunately, nothing happened to it again and it survived the bombings of World War II.

If you have time I advise you to go inside because the decoration is a marvel, especially the beautiful ceilings adorned with fresco paintings.

Book tickets for St. Paul's Cathedral

London Eye

Cross Westminster Bridge to go across the river to the London Eye, the spectacular Ferris wheel on the banks of the River Thames that changed the skyline of the city until the arrival of the imposing skyscraper The Shard.

From this side of the river you will have a completely new and very beautiful views of the Palace of Westminster, Big Ben and the Thames itself but how you will really enjoy it is riding the London Eye to see the beautiful cityscape from a bird's eye view.

This is one of the must-do experiences during your stay in the British capital. Take a look at the London Eye opening hours and London Eye ticket prices to plan your visit and as soon as you have some free time challenge your vertigo to climb to the top.

Book tickets for the London Eye

2. London in a day, in the afternoon

Big Ben by Night| ©Daniel Coyle
Big Ben by Night| ©Daniel Coyle

After a lunch break, the early afternoon is a good time to take a guided walking tour in London around Westminster and Buckingham Palace. It is a great option to learn from the hand of a guide, all the secrets of central London and very curious anecdotes that will add value to your trip.

Big Ben and Palace of Westminster

The next stop on this route of London in a day is the Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster.

Also known as the Houses of Parliament, this fabulous Victorian Gothic style building has always been a symbol of political power both when it played the role of royal residence and today it houses the two chambers that make up the British parliament.

The rooms of the Palace of Westminster are decorated in an exquisite classical English style. If you have time during your trip, I advise you to take a guided tour to enjoy the magnificent architecture of the building but if not, do not worry because you can always take a walk around to take some pictures.

There are some areas that are open to the public such as its beautiful gardens, from where you can contemplate the Houses of Parliament more closely.

Do not forget to take the relevant photo with Big Ben in the background, the legendary clock of the Palace of Westminster which is an icon of the city itself.

Book a guided tour of London

Westminster Abbey

After visiting Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster continue walking and you will arrive at Westminster Abbey, the oldest Christian temple in England and one of its most important monuments. So much so that it is considered a living piece of the country's history. That's why you should not miss it while doing the route of London in a day.

On the outside it is a beauty but you will enjoy this Gothic jewel the most by taking a guided tour inside Westminster Abbey, as it houses a lot of wonderful artistic works and amazing places like the Royal Pantheon, the Poets' Corner or the Chapter House, among many others. Did you know that it is the church where the royal coronations are held?

If you are curious, I recommend you to read the post What to see in Westminster Abbey where you can discover everything this national shrine has to offer.

Book tickets for Westminster Abbey

Buckingham Palace

Exterior of Buckingham Palace| ©Craige McGonigle
Exterior of Buckingham Palace| ©Craige McGonigle

The next stop on this tour of London in a day is the famous Buckingham Palace, the residence of the British royal family since the time of Queen Victoria and currently home to Queen Elizabeth II of England.

And this is precisely where its charm lies: it is one of the few active palaces in the world. Many visitors come here to watch the spectacular changing of the guard ceremony in London.

If you have a little time and your visit coincides with the day this event is scheduled (check on their Twitter profile when it occurs), I recommend you stay because it is a very curious spectacle to see and you can take lots of souvenir photos.

To enjoy the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace I advise you to place yourself in the area of the Victory Monument in the center of the rotunda in front of the palace gate because from there you will have the best views.

And if you want to see the Queen's residence inside, you can also do it but only during the summer in London when the monarch goes on vacation. I tell you more about this experience in the post How to see the Changing of the Guard and Buckingham Palace.

St. James's Park

You can walk from the gates of Buckingham Palace to St. James's Park, the oldest of the Royal Parks of the city. In the sixteenth century King Henry VIII acquired the land to make it his private hunting ground but it was not until the seventeenth century when the park as it is known today was erected.

Although it is not one of the most famous parks in the city, St. James's Park is located very close to Buckingham Palace so its plants and flowers look very neat. It is the perfect setting for a nice photo shoot on a sunny morning with the palace in the background.

I recommend you to visit its artificial lake wrapped among the trees. From there there are beautiful views of the park and a sense of tranquility reigns only interrupted by the singing of birds. You will not feel you are in the heart of bustling London!

3. London in a day, by night

Trafalgar Square| ©a.canvas.of.light
Trafalgar Square| ©a.canvas.of.light

After taking a break in St. James's Park and taking some pictures of the scenery at sunset it is a good time to continue this route of London in a day and do the final leg.

Trafalgar Square

Leaving St. James's Park take The Mall and you will arrive at Trafalgar Square, another of the most lively and famous in London.

This square was built in the nineteenth century to commemorate the British victory in the "Battle of Trafalgar" and today we can see several tourist attractions that you will surely want to take some pictures.

On the one hand, Nelson's Column erected in honor of the English admiral Horatio Nelson who died during the battle. It is surrounded by several lions built with the molten bronze of the French cannons. On the other, the National Gallery, the most important art museum in the city that I advise you to visit inside when you have time.

In Trafalgar Square you can also see a statue of U.S. President George Washington donated by the State of Virginia. This monument has a curiosity and that is that it was placed on imported soil from America because the character swore never to set foot on British soil again. Curious, isn't it?

Piccadilly Circus

And taking Regent Street will take you to Piccadilly Circus, the last stop on this one-day tour of London!

This central square will ring a bell for its large illuminated advertising signs and for having in its center the Eros fountain, one of the emblems of the British capital.

Located in the West End, Piccadilly Circus is always crowded at any time of the day because in its surroundings there are plenty of restaurants, stores, theaters and cinemas.

You will see that it is a very lively place where both Londoners and tourists come together to have a good time. Especially at night, when the neon lights of the signs on the buildings of the square give it a magical and futuristic look very cool.

What to do after the tour?

To end a day as fabulous as this one touring the streets of London, how about taking advantage of ending at Piccadilly Circus to relax and watch one of the West End musicals?

Their shows are a marvel and rival those of the famous Broadway in New York, and London' s musicals are sure to leave you in awe!

Buy tickets for London musicals