London is one of the biggest, most popular, most important cities in the world. It has played a crucial role in shaping the world over the past several centuries, and it remains one of the best places to visit in the world. Most travelers to London block out several days to enjoy this city, but that isn’t always possible.
We had both been to London several times, but never together. Our most recent trip to London wasn’t supposed to be a trip to London at all, but British Airways cancelled our flight to Milan that was laying over in London Heathrow, and we were left with a full day to explore London for the first time together before catching our new flight the next day. Oh and did I mention this was our first time traveling internationally with our six month old baby? Yup. What an adventure indeed!
If you only have a day to spend in London, or you are choosing to turn your London stop into an extended layover for an onward flight, you probably want to make the most of one day in London! This post is going to highlight the 10 things that you need to see in London in one day, and it will lay them out in an order and timeline that makes visiting them all in one day easy and possible without too much transiting back and forth.
Start Your Day at St. Paul’s Cathedral
St. Paul’s Cathedral is an epic Anglican cathedral located in the heart of London. This church is absolutely massive, and it has served as the seat of the Anglican bishop of London for over three centuries. The church was Catholic before the Anglican church was founded, and the artworks and decorations inside are absolutely stunning. I recommend catching a service in the cathedral if you have the time, or if you prefer, grabbing a coffee in one of the nearby cafes to wrap up an hour around the cathedral.
Take a Selfie in a Telephone Booth
For whatever reason, London’s red telephone booths have become an icon of British culture all throughout the world. There are telephone booths everywhere, and they all look exactly the same. When in London, you simply need to do the touristy thing and take a selfie or picture in a telephone booth! You could do this at any time of the day, but I recommend doing it a few times if you want to make sure that you get a good picture with a nice backdrop.
Explore the Tower of London and Tower Bridge
The Tower of London is one of the biggest tourist attractions in all of London, and it is located less than 15 minutes away from St. Paul’s Cathedral via the Tube. This former palace and fortress now houses several museums, and the structure’s imposing stature and surrounding moat are really cool to see. While the outside is great, the inside is equally worth seeing, as your ticket includes access to things like the Crown Jewels, the torture museum, and the grounds around the tower. Afterwards, head over to the iconic Tower Bridge to take a picture with a great London backdrop.
Eat Fish and Chips for Lunch
While we typically avoid the most touristy parts of any place that we visit, London is one place where you simply need to do them. If you only have one day in London, it means you need to really cram them in, too! Eating fish and chips for lunch in London may be touristy, but it is absolutely something that you need to do. It is such a London staple around the world, and you simply can’t say that you went to London and didn’t eat fish and chips.
If you are still around the Tower of London, there are two fish and chips vendors on the western side of the Tower’s block: Josef Traditional Fish & Chips and while there are definitely better places in the city, these two are convenient and taste just fine!
Check Out Piccadilly Circus
Located just 25 minutes from the Tower of London via the Tube, Piccadilly Circus is another popular area of London that you don’t want to miss. Piccadilly Circus is a large traffic circle, basically, that has become recognized for its neon signs and large amount of restaurants and cafes. The statue in the middle of the circle has become one of the most popular landmarks in London, and walking around this area is one of the best things to do in London in one day.
Grab Some Bubble Tea in Chinatown
Located just a couple blocks to the east of Piccadilly Circus is Chinatown, which is another cute part of London to check out. Angel is a bubble tea fiend, and she loves to try to find the best bubble tea in each city that we visit. To her, nothing even comes close to the summer that we spent in Shanghai. In London, there is actually pretty good bubble tea, and it is absolutely worth walking a few minutes out of your way to get some! We opted to stop into Kissaten and we were not disappointed.
Walk to Trafalgar Square
Just a quick walk south of Chinatown is Trafalgar Square, which is another one of London’s most famous public squares. Sitting atop of what used to be known as Charing Cross, this square is lined with great restaurants and souvenir shops and is one of the best places to go souvenir shopping in all of London. Seeing the tower in the middle of the square is one of the best things to do here. Some of the best museums in London are also located around Trafalgar Square, making it a great place to visit if you have more than one day in London.
Admire Big Ben and Westminster Abbey
Big Ben is one of the most iconic structures in London. Well, kind of. People think that the whole clock tower is named Big Ben, but that is actually just the name of the bell inside it. Still, seeing the Great Clock of Westminster, as it’s called, is one of the best things to do in London as a tourist. This clock tower is located just a 15 minute ride on the Tube away from Trafalgar Square. Even grander than Big Ben is Westminster Abbey, whose huge main doors are located just a few steps away. Westminster Abbey is a stunning, ornate abbey church with thousands of years of history within its walls. It is one of the things that you absolutely cannot miss while visiting London, especially if you only have one day in London.
Check Out Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace is the administrative headquarters of the monarchy of Great Britain, and it is one of the most epic palaces in all of Western Europe. Located just a 15-minute walk from Westminster Abbey, this palace can be visited with a pre-arranged ticket, and it is absolutely worth doing…if you have more time in London. If you only have one day in London, it will likely soak up too much of your day to make it worth your time. However, at least visiting the palace is something that you should absolutely do, and walking around the garden surrounding the palace is really special, too. If you have more time in London, you should also try to watch the changing of the guard, which takes place most days at 11am.
Wander Through Harrods Department Store
Harrods is a giant department store located just a quick walk from Buckingham Palace that is known for its luxury shops and sprawling floor plan. This department store is a really unique part of London that is absolutely worth checking out, if you have the time. It is rare that a department store becomes iconic, but that is the case with Harrods in London. While most things will likely be above your budget, it is still cool to see all that the building offers. This is a great way to finish your day in London before grabbing dinner and heading back to your hotel or accommodation.
End your Day with some Shepards Pie
Ok, so before you start slamming us, we know that this is NOT a picture of Shepards pie. Our waiter called it Shepards Pie so we believed him…until we posted about it in our Reel linked above and the entire internet shamed us…So although we didn’t eat Shephards Pie, we recommend YOU get Shepards Pie when you are in London.
Finally, if you have a lot of luggage with you, I recommend leaving it in luggage storage near Heathrow Airport. This is much more convenient than hauling suitcases around London. The city is massive, and hauling bags around can really slow down your day.
Thanks for reading our post on the best things to do in London in one day. Hopefully this post helps you to plan an exciting itinerary for your one day in London! You’ll be happy to know that while our 32 hour day was exhausting we had lots of fun before crashing in our hotel and catching a new flight the next day. Even better, it meant that Nicola didn’t have to suffer through a jetlag. Win Win!
Everywhere on this list is easily connected by the Tube, which is one of the best metro systems in the world. If you have any questions about visiting any of these places in London, don’t hesitate to reach out – we’ve got you covered.