1 Day London Itinerary | A Local’s Guide to the Best One Day Tour
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London is a massive, sprawling city. It can take longer to get from one area to another than travelling to a neighbouring city. So to help you, here’s a complete 1 day London itinerary.
From central London, ablaze with the lights of the West End and glamorous shopping streets. To edgy east London, an eclectic and alternative experience. The grassy parks, royal sights, buzzing markets and everything else in between.
It can be a bit overwhelming choosing the best spots to maximise a day in the famous capital city. As a loyal Londoner who’s lived in the city almost half my life—I’m here to help.
In this one-day London itinerary guide, I outline the best that London has to offer, as well as all the travel tips you’ll need for a day in London.
Here’s what to see in London in 1 day!
Tip: Got more time to spare in this beautiful city? Check out this guide on the perfect 3 days in London itinerary.
Locals Guide to London | What to See in London in 1 Day
Below is a list of all the must-sees and visits for your one day in London. Including these in your itinerary are sure to provide a memorable experience
Exploring the West End | Local City Guide
It all starts in the centre of London. The West End includes a range of famous central London districts. If it’s your first time in London, you may not know what places to consider for the best 1 day London itinerary.
West London is where you’ll find the quintessential London experience which makes the city so famous.
The best bit is that you can walk around central London, quickly ticking off a number of hot spots on your London sightseeing itinerary.
Otherwise, London is super well-connected, and you can hop on and off buses or the underground to get to specific areas.
Take a walk through Covent Garden to Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square. From there, stroll through to Trafalgar Square and stop by the Queen’s palace to say hello.
Each of these areas has a ton of things to see in London in one day.
Oh, how Convent Garden sparkles – especially over the festive season, with magical lights and decorations.
It’s a very touristy area, but for a good reason. If you love shopping, eating, drinking and feeling glamorous, then you’ll love Covent Garden.
This is the heart of the West End. Expect an 18th-century ambience with vibey street performers, glittering market piazzas and world-class food. It will entice you into falling in love with London.
There are big name brand shops sitting alongside stalls selling trinkets and souvenirs. It is a shopping haven.
You can visit the Royal Opera House, which was built in 1809, and check out historical artefacts in the Amphitheatre Gallery.
If you’re looking for the perfect Instagram picture, find the hidden courtyard, Neal’s Yard. A tiny, stunning courtyard bursting with colour and character and made up of a few shops and small cafes.
This district got its quirky name from a tailor in the 1600s who made a small fortune selling piccadills – a stiff neck collar worn by the fashionistas of that time. You’ll still see a lot of fashionable people milling about, sans neck collar.
Here is where most of London’s famous theatres are found, and the theatrical atmosphere is tangible.
There are a ton of memorials, monuments, and statues to be seen. On your London day trip, keep a special lookout for the Shaftesbury Memorial and the statue of Anteros.
Running up from Piccadilly Circus station is the renowned shopping street, Regent Street. Here you can kit yourself out with treasures from huge names such as Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren.
The square is a pedestrian-only zone and is often packed with people making their way to West End theatres.
The Swiss glockenspiel is the most well-known attraction in Leicester Square. The ten-metre tall clock towers over the square.
And when the clock chimes on the hours, figures inside the clock move around to the rhythm of the bells. The Shakespeare Monument stands in the centre of the square. And walking around, you’ll see a number of statues depicting icons such as Isaac Newton and Charlie Chaplin.
Still wondering what to see in London in one day? Well, read on!
Wandering Around Westminster
West End is technically part of Westminster, and you can stroll between the two taking in the sights.
I’ve put it as a separate section to give the deserving space to the government district, which is home to a lot of must-sees in London.
Walking distance from the districts mentioned above, Trafalgar Square is the public square of the city of Westminster, constructed in the 1800s. There are a variety of interesting sites and things to do surrounding the square.
Witness monuments such as Nelson’s Column and the Fourth Plinth statue base. Or head over to the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery.
Here you can see the works of famous artists such as Botticelli, Michelangelo and Rembrandt. Both of these museums are completely free, which is an absolute bonus.
The square is also the site of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, a historic church that is the official parish church of Buckingham Palace, built in 1726.
The Mall and Buckingham Palace
Walking through the grand Admiralty Arch on Trafalgar Square will lead you through the entrance to The Mall. This is a road shaded with huge trees and runs alongside St. James Park to Buckingham Palace.
Buckingham Palace is one of the most iconic buildings in the world and the official residence of the Queen. This royal site is unmissable when doing London for a day.
The staterooms of the palace are open to visitors for three months, from July to September. Here you can see the lavish decorative features of the royal rooms.
An exciting tourist attraction is watching the changing of the guards, which begins at around 10:45 every day and lasts 45 minutes. It’s completely free and incredibly interesting.
The staterooms of the palace are open to visitors for three months, from July to September. Here you can see the lavish decorative features of the royal rooms.
I like to walk along the Mall early in the morning. There aren’t that many tourists out, and the view and tranquillity is worth losing a few hours of sleep. It’s also two of the best places to visit in London.
Big Ben and Houses of Parliament
Big Ben is synonymous with London. It’s pasted on postcards and hangs in the forefront of skyline pictures. The clock is famed for its accuracy and massive bell.
The Houses of Parliament and the Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben’s official name) are incredible attractions in London. While Big Ben tours are currently closed for refurbishment, you can still book tours to the spectacular Houses of Parliament.
With these tours, you can learn about British democracy, tour Westminster Palace, and visit the cherished church, Westminster Abbey.
Discover the Best Markets | London Local Guide
Each district of London boasts at least one fabulous market. Some are bursting with colourful, fresh fruits and veggies. Others are home to vintage clothing and antique goodies.
Depending on which treasures you seek and which area you find yourself in, London has a market for you.
Below are a few of the top picks of markets to choose from for your London one-day tour.
Portobello Road Market
Located in Notting Hill, a gorgeous area in West London, made famous by the romantic Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts movie.
Portobello Road comprises several markets and comes alive every Saturday with antique goods stretching half a mile.
The pastel-coloured houses and bright red, yellow and green doors which line the street are picture-perfect.
The market is the star of the show, with an impressive selection of old books and vintage jewellery. But many people visit Portobello Road just to walk down the romantic, picturesque streets of Notting Hill.
Sitting on Regents canal, Camden Market is open every day and is a sprawl of stalls from the tube station to the canal. Technically, it is made up of several different markets, and there’s pretty much nothing you can’t buy.
Or eat – the street food options are plentiful and delicious and some of the best rated in London.
The market absolutely buzzes every day of the week. It is the fourth most visited ‘attraction’ in London.
If getting submerged in a throng of tourists doesn’t scare you, then you’ll love the edgy, alternative market with a hint of grunge and a lot of spunk.
Calling all foodies! Sitting on the River Thames in Southwark is London’s best food market. Londoners flock to Borough Market for their fresh daily produce, and tourists arrive hungrily and leave stuffed and content.
Open from Monday to Saturday, the market pumps with eager diners overwhelmed by the food choices.
The market is a great stop for a snack when meandering through the South Bank. It is within walking distance along the river from Waterloo station.
Old Spitalfields Market
Smack bang across from Liverpool station is this covered market, open seven days a week. This market is less about food (although there are some amazing food stalls) and more about clothes and artisan lifestyle goodies.
Every Thursday, Old Spitalfields Market becomes an antique and vintage paradise. Added stalls squeeze into the market space selling collectables and such. And if you’re still not shopped out, Brick Lane Market is only 5 minutes away.
Brick Lane Market
Although the market is only on Sundays, Brick Lane is worth a visit every day of the week. Emulating East London’s edgy vibe, the street is a colourful mess of street art, cutting-edge fashion and artisan coffee shops.
On Sunday, the market takes up every free space and visitors fight through the crowds, window-shopping literally every item you can think of.
The salted-beef bagel at The Beigel Shop on Brick Lane is an absolute winner, and the lines are so worth it.
While the market sells things you’d find pretty much anywhere, the vibe is great, and the eclectic Brick Lane is an attraction in itself.
Museum Hopping on Your One Day in London Itinerary
There are a million reasons to fall in love with London. And one of them is the unbelievable amount of amazing, free museums.
There are almost 200 museums in London, and most of the best ones are completely gratis to visit. With such a big variety, you can choose the best museum to suit your interests.
Wondering what to do in London for one day? Here are some of my best picks of museums to visit.
The British Museum
Unlike the name suggests, this museum is dedicated to human history, art and culture and are not confined to Britain.
It’s about a 15-minute walk from Covent Garden, so it’s a good stop for when you’re exploring central London.
The collection comprises around eight million pieces acquired during the peak of the British Empire.
It is one of the most extensive collections in the world and something you should not leave out of your 1 day in London itinerary. Taking visitors through two million years of human history. Take a journey through the interesting eras of arts and cultures spanning across all continents.
Keep a lookout for the famous Rosetta Stone and Parthenon sculptures on your visit.
Natural History Museum
Situated in South Kensington, a gorgeous cultural hub of London, is one of the most immersive museums in the world. This museum is an impressive exhibit of the history of the natural world.
The collection includes current and historical records of animals, plants, fungi, ecosystems, geology, climatology, and so much more.
It is a truly fascinating museum where you can stand before a life-size T-rex as it growls at you. Walk beneath the massive skeleton of a blue whale. Or visit the Darwin Centre to get up close and personal with creepy-crawlies.
The museum hosts awesome exhibitions such as Wildlife Photographer of the Year. And a seasonal Butterfly Pavilion where you can walk among thousands of exotic butterflies and moths.
Get up close and personal with scientific processes at this interactive museum. This is well worth a visit, even if you’re not a science enthusiast. The museum showcases over 300 000 objects and brings scientific principles to life.
The galleries include experiences such as blasting off into space with the Apollo 10 4D simulators. And exploring space galleries with an impressive 3-metre high telescope.
There is a whole lot of interactive fun to be had at the Science Museum, and is especially great if you’re visiting London with kids.
Check out my guide on how many days to spend in London.
Victoria and Albert Museum
For the artists and art enthusiasts, the Victoria Albert Museum is the world’s largest museum of applied and decorative arts, designs and sculptures.
With over 2.3 million items, the museum covers everything from jewellery to sculpture and fashion to photography.
The museum is in South Kensington, which is home to a couple of London’s famous museums.
You’ll also find a ton of mouth-watering french bakeries and cafes. So don’t forget to treat yourself to a delectable eclair after you’ve journeyed through the world and history of art.
Let’s leave all the history behind and jump into contemporary art at the Tate Modern. For lovers of modern art, the Tate Modern should definitely be included when going one day sightseeing in London.
For everyone else, staircases that lead nowhere and white-painted canvases might be frustrating, but they’ll certainly evoke some sort of emotion.
The Tate Modern is a strange and surreal display of art, performance and installations. It was the most visited London attraction in 2018 and often holds fascinating exhibitions.
Once you’ve worked up an appetite trying to figure out the meaning of blank canvases, head over to Borough Market for a snack. It’s only a 10-minute walk along the river.
Again these are just some of the top things to see in London in one day.
One Day in London Guide | List of Must-See Attractions
I’m sure you’re overwhelmed by the amount of apparent ‘must-see’ sights in London. It’s important that when you think about what to do in London for a day, you choose the spots which are most interesting to you. Rather than trying to cram everything into a few hours.
Here are a few of my favourite attractions in London to add to your itinerary:
- The London Eye – A massive Ferris wheel sitting on the South Bank of the River Thames. A ride on the London Eye will bless you with unprecedented views over London.
- St Paul’s Cathedral – The dome of this exquisite cathedral is a stunning feature of the London skyline. For those who love a cathedral stop, this is a fantastic one. Fast track the queue to maximise your time.
- Tower Bridge – The bascule and suspension bridge crosses the Thames close to the Tower of London. It has become a popular symbol of London.
- Cruise along the Thames – See London’s famous sights on a leisurely cruise of the River Thames. The River Red Rover ticket enables you to hop on and hop off for 24 hours at any of London’s main destination piers.
Now you don’t have to wonder what to do in London for 1 day, because you’ve got the perfect London itinerary for you.
Getting Around on Your London One-Day Itinerary
There are a million things to do around London in one day, and depending on your interests, you might need to traverse the entire city. No worries.
Not only is London an extremely well-connected city, with every transport option under the sun. But I’m here to help you figure out the best way to see London in a day.
Arm yourself with an oyster card, a tube map, and the confidence to decipher the underground – because it’s actually very simple.
Your best friend is the app Citymapper, which will tell you exactly how to get from one place to another—the quickest and cheapest way.
For one day in London, you will mostly be using the tube, some buses and your trusty feet. An oyster card or contactless bank card can be used on all public transport.
Taxis and Uber
London is notorious for being one of the most expensive cities in the world. If you’re travelling on a budget, I wouldn’t recommend using private taxis. Ubers are somewhat cheaper, but still significantly pricier than public transport.
And the traffic in London is crazy – especially on the weekends. So most of the time it is much quicker to jump in the tube if you’re looking to move around quickly.
Sightseeing Bus Tours
If you’re trying to pack in as many of the best things to do in London in one day as possible, hop-on-hop-off buses are a good idea.
The buses take visitors to all the iconic areas of London, depositing you on the doorstep of almost every attraction.
This is a great option if you want a carefree experience, not having to think or worry too much about getting lost or planning routes. Book your hop-on hop-off bus ticket in advance to save costs and ensure a space.
Saving Pennies with the London Pass | 1 Day Itinerary London
While planning your London 1 day itinerary, you’ve probably had a few heart-dropping moments when budgeting.
So much to do, so much to see, and so many pounds to do it. There are an endless amount of free, famous and fabulous activities in London. So don’t let the prices get you down.
However, there are also a lot of attractions that have entrance fees that can reach upwards of £20.
This is where the London Pass comes in. For around £79 the London pass gets you into an unlimited amount of attractions over a 24-hour period. There are more than eighty attractions which you can visit with the pass.
Of course, the more you see, the more you save. So it’s up to you to decide which attractions you want to visit and how much they’ll cost.
Each pass comes with a guidebook which is super handy for first-time visitors to London. The pass gives you access to some discounts at restaurants and shops around London and has the option of adding a travel card too. The London Pass will help you with the things to do in one day in London, plus save you some money.
Get Ready for Your One Day London Itinerary
Are you feeling jazzed up and ready to plan your epic one day in London itinerary? I hope so!
The famous city is a playground to suit anyone’s desires, and with this guide, you have everything you need to tailor it to become your personal wonderland.
Marvel at the neon lights in the West End, explore the royal history and pick up some goodies at the vibrant markets. Explore all the fun things to do in London that you can squeeze into a day.
However you choose to spend your day in London, you’re guaranteed an unforgettable experience of one of the greatest cities in the world.
One day in London what should I do? Everything in the above post! But seriously now you know how to spend a day in London.
Planning a trip to London for more than one day? Check out this detailed 2 days in London itinerary.
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