The Best One Day London Itinerary + Map, Guide & Tips

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What To Do in London in One Day

London, the capital city of England and the United Kingdom is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, and with good reason.

A true melting pot, London is famous for historical sites interspersed with modern skyscrapers, Royal traditions, British charm, and elegant green areas hidden amongst vibrant neighborhoods.

In this London travel guide, you’ll find a complete itinerary of all the most important must-see London attractions, with an interactive map, organized to make the best use of your time. We also share recommendations for central places to stay, ideas about where to eat local food, and tips about how to make the most of your perfect day in London.

one day London

Are you planning your trip to London last minute?

Be sure to book your accommodation and tours in London ahead of time to ensure availability! Here are our top picks!

  • Top Hotels in London:
  1. Luxury: The Trafalgar St James Hotel (central and very 5*!)
  2. Mid-Range: Sea Containers Hotel (ultra-modern with amazing views)
  3. Budget: The Z Hotel Holborn (great location, great price, our fave)
  4. Hostel: Kabannas St Pancras (best budget stay in town)
  • Top Activities & Tours in London:
  1. First-time visitors jump on London’s hop-on hop-off bus tour for the main attractions
  2. Get your London Pass for access to 90+ top London attractions
  3. Grab your London Eye fast track ticket for one of London’s most famous landmarks
  4. See London history at the Tower of London and crown jewels exhibition
  5. Get a different perspective with this Westminster Pier to Greenwich cruise

What to See & Do in London

Interactive Map

ROUTE: Tower of London – St Paul’s Cathedral – Shakespeare’s Globe – Tate Modern – South Bank – London Eye – Houses of Parliament and Big Ben – Buckingham Palace – The West End – Covent Garden

How to use this map – Use your fingers (or computer mouse) to zoom in and out. Click or touch the icons to get more info about a place, and click the arrow in the box top left to open the index. To add to your own Google Maps account, click the star next to the title of the map.

Itinerary Notes

  • The great thing about London is that a lot of the major sights that London is famous for are located a short distance from each other.
  • Outlying activities and attractions are easily reached once you get the hang of the London Underground public transport system, known as the Tube.
  • If you’re traveling with kids, check out these days out for families in London, a city known for its huge range of family-friendly attractions and activities.
  • If you want to get an overview of the city without taking up too much time, grab one of the London double-decker buses and take a city sightseeing hop-on hop-off bus tour and see all the top attractions with on-board audio commentary.
  • Is this your first time visiting the UK? Get all the information you need in our United Kingdom Travel Guide, including what to pack, the best time of year to go, getting there, and practical tips to help you have the best trip!


Explore the Tower of London

The Tower of London, officially known as His Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London, is a historic castle located on the north bank of the River Thames.

Built in 1066 during the Norman Conquest, it was initially a symbol of oppression imposed by the Norman ruling class. The White Tower, constructed by William the Conqueror in 1078, is the centerpiece of the castle.

Over the centuries, the Tower served various purposes, including as a royal residence, prison, armory, treasury, royal Mint (where Isaac Newton once worked!), and home of the Crown Jewels of England. It underwent expansions under kings Richard I, Henry III, and Edward I, with its general layout established by the late 13th century remaining intact.

During the medieval period, the Constable of the Tower held considerable power and responsibility in the absence of the monarch. Notable events include the mysterious disappearance of the Princes in the Tower, the use of the castle as a prison for figures like Elizabeth I and Sir Walter Raleigh, and the grisly execution of two of Henry VIII’s wives.

Today, the Tower is so steeped in history that it should be at the top of your London bucket list. When you visit, you’ll see the Yeoman Warders, commonly known as Beefeaters, and the famous ravens that guard the Tower. There is a legend dating back to Charles II that says the kingdom and the Tower of London will fall if the six resident ravens ever leave the fortress. 

Get an early start with this small group Tower of London opening ceremony, Crown Jewels and Beefeaters walking tour to see all the highlights before the Tower gets really busy.

TOP TIP: It’s a 25 minute walk from the Tower to your next stop at St Paul’s Cathedral. Instead, grab a tube heading west on the District and Circle Line (the green and yellow one) from the Tower Hill station to Mansion House station, a six minute walk from St Paul’s. Or, for great views of Tower Bridge, jump on a river boat from Tower Pier to Blackfriar’s Pier, 12 minutes to the east, then walk 7 minutes north to St Paul’s.

Turreted Tower of London from the River Thames

St Paul’s Cathedral

There has been a place of worship where St Paul’s Cathedral stands on Ludgate Hill for over 1400 years. This whole area of London is steeped in rich history, from Roman remains and medieval buildings to the Great Fire of London in 1666, which devastated much of the area, including the ‘old’ St Paul’s Cathedral.

Designed by Sir Christopher Wren and built between 1675 and 1710, this glorious cathedral is famous for its dome, at 111m high it is one of the highest in the world. St Paul’s has been a feature on the London skyline, surrounded by the smaller spires of Wren’s city churches, for over 300 years.

Highlights of a visit to St Paul’s include the Crypt, where you’ll find the tombs of Sir Christoper Wren himself, as well as those of Admiral Lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington, and the Whispering Gallery, which clings to the base of the dome structure and provides fantastic views both above and below. 

It’s worth booking entry tickets for St Pauls well in advance. As one of London’s most famous sites, you risk standing in line and using up your precious time waiting if you buy tickets on the day.

a red double decker bus passing a cathedral in London England


Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre

In the afternoon walk off your lunch with a stroll over the Millennium Bridge along Bankside, next to the Thames. Wander past cute local streets and shops while being serenaded by exceptional street musicians, until you arrive at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, where there will no doubt be a “poet for hire” outside to write you a sonnet for a fee.

Although not the original theatre, which burned down centuries earlier, this one stands close to the original site and is an almost identical replica right down to the thatched roof.

The circular shape helps achieve the best possible sound quality for the performances, there are cheap standing tickets, and only certain seats (the more expensive ones) are covered in case it rains.

And it’s London, so it very well might! Otherwise, the theatre is open to the elements, but well worth a tour, or if you have time and the performances line up, catch a matinee.

TOP TIP: If you have the energy, why not come back and catch a midnight matinee? Starting at 11.59pm, as the city is going to sleep (as much as it ever does), you’ll enjoy an atmospheric performance, with the added drama of watching the play under the stars.

An Elizabethan theatre lit up at night

Tate Modern

If you prefer your art to be a little more contemporary, skip the Globe Theatre and make for the Tate Modern, home to the nation’s collection of British and international modern art from 1900 to the present day. 

The Tate Modern London is housed in the former Bankside Power Station. The building is almost the same size as Westminster Abbey, with the iconic central chimney standing 99 meters tall. The building was converted and opened to the public in 2000.

TOP TIP: The best bit of this building is the top floor of the Switch House, which has an observation deck with far-reaching views over the London skyline, and can be accessed free of charge! The view of the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral is particularly impressive.

View of the Tate Modern across the river Thames

South Bank

With historical buildings at every turn, gorgeous views of this iconic city, and a less frantic feel than being in the center of London, you’re guaranteed to love the walk from Shakespeare’s Globe and the Tate Modern, all the way along Bankside and the South Bank.

You’ll pass the Royal Festival Hall, and the elegant steel pedestrian Golden Jubilee Bridge on the way, as well as a colorful and eclectic collection of market vendors, food trucks, and street performers.

square full of people under leafy trees with a view of a city over a river

London Eye

The London Eye is a fantastic way to see the city, with panoramic views over all of London’s historic and iconic buildings. You’ll have plenty of time to take photos of the best views and check out the key tourist attractions from the air!

The eye is one of the tallest observation wheels in the world, and London’s top attraction, so it’s essential to book well in advance. We recommend choosing the fast-track option with your ticket – you’ll get on board in half the time.

The London Eye overlooking a river boat on the Thames with county hall behind

Houses of Parliament & Big Ben

As you reach Westminster Bridge you’ll get an impressive view of the Houses of Parliament, also known as the Palace of Westminster, and Big Ben, London’s famous clock tower, which is properly called the Elizabeth Tower. The view just gets better the closer you are as you walk across the bridge. 

The British government buildings are anything but stuffy and boring. Consider spending longer here and planning a tour of the buildings. 

Westminster Bridge and the British Houses of Parliament

Buckingham Palace

Explore the area around Parliament Square Garden to see Big Ben and Westminster Abbey, where coronations, royal weddings, and funerals are held, before taking a right into Parliament Street for a quick view of Downing Street, where the Prime Minister lives. 

Parliament Street becomes Whitehall at this point, and if you continue along, you’ll see mounted soldiers of one of the Household Cavalry regiments guarding the entrance to Horse Guards Parade. Unless there is an event on, their role is purely ceremonial and you can pass through, whilst admiring their very shiny boots, to the parade ground itself.

You’ll notice an ivy-clad building on the corner of the parade square, this is the Old Admiralty Building, which is opposite the War Rooms (part of the Imperial War Museums), from where Churchill planned his World War Two victory.

From here, head right through pretty St James’s Park to The Mall. Stroll down this famous London street towards Buckingham Palace, known affectionately by Brits as ‘Buck House’, the residence of the King and his family.

The Palace, if you’re not at a time of year to be able to explore inside, is still one of the top attractions in London. It’s easy to see why, with its regal status and the ever-present hope that the King might be waving back from one of the windows. He probably won’t be, but fans of The Crown can pretend!

Our recommended Buckingham Palace tickets cover the opulent state rooms, home to the greatest treasures from the Royal Collection. You can also book tickets for Buckingham Palace Royal Mews, a working stables and responsible for all road travel arrangements for the King and the royal family.

TOP TIP: To see the Queens Guard close-up, heading back towards the Admiralty Arch from Buckingham Palace, take a left after the Africa Statue before taking a right into Cleveland Row. Here you’ll find the ‘back door’ to Clarence House and St James’s Palace, which is guarded by a soldier in full ceremonial gear, including a bearskin. Have a photo taken, but don’t try and engage – you’ll just get silence!

The front of Buckingham Palace from Constitution Hill

The West End

From Buckingham Palace, head through Green Park to Picadilly, then take a right to Picadilly Circus before walking along Haymarket and Pall Mall to reach Trafalgar Square. This famous large square is home to Nelson’s Column and the four enormous Landseer Lion statues, and the gateway to London’s West End theatre district.

It’s also home to The National Gallery and the adjacent National Portrait Gallery, which houses probably the most well-known painting of Queen Elizabeth I, by an unknown artist.

Before you leave the square, make sure to admire the architectural gem, St Martin-in-the-Fields church. From here, you can loop up to the ever-busy Piccadilly Circus at the bottom of Regent Street before meandering on to Leicester Square and Chinatown.

From there, make your way into the delightful tangle of lanes between Charing Cross Road and lively Covent Garden. Lined with bookshops, independent traders, cool cafes, and traditional pubs, these alleys are a lively place in the late afternoon.

People strolling in Covent Garden


See a Theater Show

After a filling dinner at a traditional British pub, a trip to the London theatre is the best way to top off any night in London.

The West End is littered with theatres big and small, showing everything from worldwide hits like Phantom of the Opera, Hamilton, and The Lion King, to independent plays featuring a celebrity actor or two if you’re lucky. 

Take the opportunity to get a little dressed up and soak in the majestic splendor of an old West End theater. If your show finishes early enough, enjoy a nightcap in a cool and quirky Soho bar before going back to your hotel.

Other UK Travel Ideas

Where to Eat in London

Borough Market

Surrounded by the London of Charles Dickens, this mid-19th century market standing under the south end of London Bridge is about as traditionally English as you can get and is the perfect place to find a variety of food for lunch.

On a nice day, grabbing some locally made food here and then wandering over to Bankside, just a couple minutes away, to sit on the wall and eat your lunch with a fabulous view of the city, is one of the best things to do when in London.

One side of Borough Market is mostly produce, fresh meats, and locally crafted deli items that you can take home. The other side has stalls stocked with crafts, baked goods, delectable sweets, and hot food where you can sample many different cuisines.

Daffodils in Borough Market

The Old Bank of England

A proper British pub, the Old Bank of England serves traditional English pub food such as fish & chips and steak pie, alongside more modern, but equally delicious dishes. The food is excellent, but the setting is even more so.

The pub is within the building that was the law courts branch of the Bank of England up until the 1970s, it makes the ideal setting for a hearty meal and cold pint of beer when you’re visiting London.

the inside of an olde worlde pub in London

Top Five London Travel Tips

  1. Get an Oyster Card. The Tube is expensive, but it will save you time (and feet). Getting a reloadable Oyster travel card gives you single fares for about half the price of paying cash, so even being in London for one day means you will save on getting around.
  1. Consider buying the London Pass. If you follow our itinerary many of our London sightseeing suggestions are free, but you may wish to use the hop-on hop-off bus element or switch up the itinerary a little and visit some of the attractions covered by the London Pass.
  1. If you want to time your visit with the Changing of the Guards ceremony at Buckingham Palace, you might need to switch your morning and afternoon activities as it happens daily around 11am (10am on Sundays). But whatever time you go you’ll see the guards on duty outside the palace.
  1. Plan indoor activities and be prepared to flip your itinerary depending on the weather. London can be rainy, but having a museum, exhibition, or other indoor activity as a backup plan is a great idea.
  1. Head to one of the ticket booths around Piccadilly Circus or Leicester Square for cheap ‘day of show’ tickets. The best way to see a West End show for less, if you’re not fussy what you see.
Changing the guard at Buckingham Palace

More Than One Day in London

If you have extra time in London, add these additional activities to your London itinerary:

Visit the London Museums

To try and beat the crowds, and sometimes long lines in busy seasons, start your day at the city’s museums, without doubt one of the best free things to do in London

The Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, and the Victoria and Albert Museum are all great options, offer free admission, and are conveniently situated next to each other on Cromwell Road at the South Kensington tube station.

Interactive and thought-provoking, the Science Museum is a great place to see, touch and experience science first-hand. From space travel to IMAX, there’s something for all the family. 

The Victoria and Albert Museum next door focuses on the history of art and designs, whilst bringing it to life for the visitor.

It’s a bit less stodgy than the British Museum in Bloomsbury, which has over eight million artifacts and could take you weeks to get around!

Central hall of the Natural History Museum

Visit Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace is a working royal residence. Historically important, Kensington Palace was the favorite residence of sovereigns until 1760. It was also the birthplace and childhood home of Queen Victoria.

Today Kensington Palace contains the offices and London residences of The Prince and Princess of Wales, The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, The Duke and Duchess of Kent, and Prince and Princess Michael of Kent.

Historic parts of Kensington Palace are open to the public and whilst there, you can visit the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection, with items of royal, ceremonial, and court dress dating from the 18th century to the present day.

Surrounding the palace are the beautiful Kensington Gardens, where you can visit the Serpentine Gallery and see various statues and memorials. Head east into Hyde Park to visit the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain.

colorful flowers around an ornamental pond with a grand house in the background

SEA LIFE Centre London Aquarium

Home to over 500 species in fourteen themed zones, SEA LIFE is a popular attraction, especially if you’re visiting London with kids.

Explore the frozen extremities of the Antarctic and meet Gentoo penguins, step into an incredible interactive jellyfish experience (if you dare!), stroke a starfish, and discover the UK’s largest living coral reef.

Another one to book in advance, SEA LIFE London tickets include a timed entry, so you know your slot is reserved.

coral reef and tripical fish

Discover Stonehenge

The ancient stone circle of Stonehenge is even more incredible in real life than it is in any pictures you’ve ever seen.

This fantastic, highly reviewed, full-day trip from London to Stonehenge also covers Royal Windsor Castle and the Roman city of Bath, giving you three historic British destinations in one!

stonhenge on a spring day surrouned by grass and yellow flowers

Visit Harry Potter!

There are ten Harry Potter filming locations in London alone, and you can take this magical Harry Potter London guided tour and visit famous filming locations like the Ministry of Magic, the Leaky Cauldron, Diagon Alley, and Platform 9¾ at King’s Cross, where the Hogwarts Express leaves at the beginning of term.

If you have enough time, the ultimate experience for Harry Potter fans is to take the Warner Bros. Studio Tour, just outside of London. Our recommended Warner Bros day trip includes transfers from central London, and you’ll get to discover behind-the-scenes secrets and visit sets including the Great Hall, Dumbledore’s office, the Gryffindor common room, the Ministry of Magic, 4 Privet Drive, the Weasley kitchen and Diagon Alley.

Harry Potter Diagon Alley set

London Practicalities

When to Visit London

London is a beautiful city no matter what time of year you visit. The summers are not too hot, the winters are not too cold. But I would say that rain is inevitable, so it’s best to embrace it, and don’t leave your hotel without an umbrella!

As a green city, London’s many parks spend the spring and summer months in full bloom with seas of colorful flowers and plants. Summer is also one of the only chances you might get to see inside Buckingham Palace, the Queen’s official London residence.

However, summer is also the busiest (and most expensive) time to visit London, especially from mid-July to early September, which is when the school holidays are in the UK. 

To avoid the crowds, the best option is to travel between late March and April, or mid-September through to November. It will be cooler, but to have more of the city to yourself and better deals on flights and hotels, so it’s perhaps worth it. 

December is a magical time to visit London with many Christmas celebrations, dazzling festive lights and decorations adorning the major streets, outdoor skating rinks, and plenty of shopping from busy high street stores to local Christmas markets. Much like summer, December in London can be busy and result in higher prices.

Getting to London

There are five different international airports you can fly into for London, and all offer great transport links into the city. Heathrow Airport is only 14 miles west of the city and is London’s main airport. Gatwick Airport is 29 miles south of the city and is London’s second airport.

You can also fly into London City Airport, which is the closest airport to the city being 6 miles east. Stansted Airport is 42 miles northeast of London and is mainly used by economy carriers, as is Luton Airport, which is 28 miles north of London.

From Heathrow Airport, the quickest way to get into central London is on the Heathrow Express. The train is available from all of Heathrow’s terminals 2, 3, and 5 and runs every 15 minutes. It takes 15 minutes to get to Paddington Station, where you can catch a bus or access the London Underground.

The Elizabeth Line, which was only opened in 2022, runs from all of Heathrow’s terminals, using the same line as the Heathrow Express, and the journey takes between 30-35 minutes depending on your chosen stop. The Elizabeth Line continues from Paddington to stop at Bond Street and Tottenham Court Road, so is ideal if you’re visiting Oxford Street or staying centrally.

The Piccadilly Line on the London Underground will be the slowest route but also the cheapest. You can catch the underground from all of Heathrow’s terminals and the trains leave every 5-7 minutes and take just under an hour to get to central London. There are many stops along the way that allow you to move through the underground system to get to your desired London location.

From Gatwick Airport the best way to London is on the Gatwick Express to Victoria Station. Trains leave every 30 minutes and take between 30-40 minutes to get into the city.

From London City Airport you should take the DLR (Docklands Light Railway), the trains leave every 15 minutes and take 21 minutes to get to Bank station, from there you can transfer to the London Underground to get to your final destination.

From Stansted Airport, take the Stansted Express, trains depart every 30 minutes and take roughly 50 minutes to get to Liverpool Street Station.

From Luton Airport you can catch a train from Luton Airport Parkway Station, which is a 10 minute shuttle bus ride away, once at the station trains run every 10 minutes and take between 25-40 minutes to get to London St Pancras.

It’s easy (and cheaper) to pre-buy tickets so you can just hop without finding a ticket machine, or you can use any contactless debit card or credit cards to tap in and out on the tube (underground trains).

For a great way to start your London trip book a private transfer from the airport with Intui directly to your accommodation in the city center – it’s more cost-effective than you think! Intui works with a large range of local operators to bring the best options and prices for your transfer.

Are you visiting Lisbon as part of a longer trip? A UK road trip is the best way see this gorgeous country, and our guide to road tripping in the United Kingdom has all you need, including maps, routes, highlights and tips, to help you plan the perfect trip.

Make sure you have travel insurance you can trust when visiting the UK. We recommend True Traveller for their 5-star TrustPilot reviews, variety of cover options, best activities cover as standard, great prices, and excellent service.

Where to Stay in London

Luxury: The Trafalgar St James Hotel – | Agoda

Centrally located by Trafalgar Square, the St James Hotel is housed in a historic building with beautiful Art Deco interior design. Renowned for world-class service, sumptuous rooms, and a fantastic rooftop restaurant with amazing views of London’s iconic skyline, this is the perfect spot for a celebration or special occasion.

Mid-Range: Sea Containers | Agoda

This ultra-modern and very cool hotel is right on the banks of the River Thames and most rooms have a sweeping river view from the South Bank. It’s a short walk to all of London’s major attractions and offers a gym, on-site Curzon Theatre, and an excellent restaurant, known for its full English breakfast!

Budget: The Z Hotel Holborn – | Agoda

Our go-to hotel in London, the Z Hotel offers everything you need in a good location that is close to a convenient tube station. Rooms are compact and there are no frills, but this is a central London hotel at a great price point.

Hostel: Kabannas London St Pancras – | Agoda

Kabannas offers a range of dormitory rooms and private rooms, some with shared bathrooms and others with en-suite. Centrally located with excellent tube, bus, and train links, this is one of the best places to stay if you’re visiting London on a budget.

Written for The Gap Decaders by Emma of Forever Lost in Travel.

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