One Day in London: A Local’s Guide

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London is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, filled with history, architectural wonders and many places where you can go sightseeing, eat and shop. As the capital of England, there’s a LOT to do here. With just one day in London you can have a great day, but you’re going to have to prepare for it! With so much to see and do, you need a plan.

London is best known for the Royal Family, the iconic views on the South Bank, and the legendary London Underground. Don’t worry, with this day in London itinerary, you’ll get to experience them all. Pack an umbrella, and your sunnies!

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Where To Stay in London

I’d recommend staying central. The YHA London Oxford Street Hostel starts from around £25, is centrally located and comfy. I’ve stayed there a few times, and love the convenience.

Alternatively, if you could stay at the Artist Residence in Pimlico. This hotel is gorgeous. It’ll be a lot more expensive than the YHA but honestly, the design is just unreal. They’ve also got a bar and restaurant downstairs.

Both are great and easy place to drop your bags off before embarking on this itinerary.

london globe

Morning Walking Tour

So, let’s get started on your one day in London itinerary, shall we? With everything we need to see in a single day, we will make our own walking tour. There are so many things to see with one day in London. Best of all, there are a lot of cheap and free things to do in London. This will let us see as many sights as possible!

Hyde Park

One of the best spots to start your day tour would be Hyde Park. This is easily reachable from either accommodation and you can walk, or get one of the famous London buses.

Hyde Park is the most popular of London’s 9 Royal Parks. Enjoy a peaceful walk with outstanding views from the gardens and the Serpentine Lake. It doesn’t matter which season it is; nature will reveal majestic colours all year long. Always look for free things to do in London! Pick up a coffee from one of London’s many coffee shops to enjoy on the walk.

Buckingham Palace

Walking through Hyde Park you’ll get to Buckingham Palace, the first must-see on your day in London. This Palace, as you might now, is home to Her Majesty, the Queen of England. What’s most notorious here (asides from the breathtaking building) is the Guard Change, which happens on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 10:45am. You can admire from the outside or from around £20 you can go in and see different exhibits, depending on the time of year.

St. James Park

Head over to St. James Park right after the Guard changing ceremony ends. You’ll get a glimpse of more green wonders and you’ll have a great view of both the Buckingham Palace on one side and the London Eye on the other one. The gardens are beautiful here.

Westminster Abbey

Map yourself to Westminster Abbey, only a few minutes walk away. As one of the most iconic buildings in England, Westminster Abbey is a remarkable landmark to see on any day in London. This has been the Coronation Church since 1066, and is one of England’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It’s also where Prince Wills and Kate got married all those years ago.

Houses of Parliament & Big Ben

A little further past Westminster Abbey you’ll find the Houses of Parliament, an impressive Gothic building that holds the seat of the British Government. You don’t actually need to go over, you can admire from afar as you have lots to do today. Don’t forget to look up to see Big Ben!

London Eye

Cross over Westminster Bridge and enjoy the views. You’re aiming for the London Eye. If you have the time and inclination, go up! I went during the first year it opened, and haven’t forgotten it. Mainly because my mum was so terrified she sat on the bench in the middle and wouldn’t stop holding on for the entire journey. It really isn’t that scary though, I promise.
market produce

Lunch Break

South Bank of the Thames

You must be ravenous right now, wander along the South Bank and you’ll find some great options for lunch. They are mostly chain restaurants, but if you look behind the Royal Festival Hall, you might find a street food market – depending on the time of year. If chain restaurants are fine, I’d recommend the happy hour at Las Iguanas, or Wagamama is always a winner. Cote Brasserie in the Royal Festival Hall is lush too.

Borough Market

It’s a 30-minute walk, or a 15-minute bus ride, to Borough Market. Go for the walking option and you can explore the South Bank. You’ll see Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, Gabriel’s Walk shopping area, the Tate Modern and the Golden Hinde ship as you pass.

At Borough Market you can get stuck into all the foodie offerings they’ve so carefully laid out for you. I can strongly recommend the chocolate brownies and salt beef bagels – you’re just going to have to look for the longest queues to identify the best places to buy from. If you’ve only got one day in London you’re going to have to double up on lunch to try as much as possible.

There are some great places round here to sit and drink, depending on the day and year. Weekends in summer are busy!

market shopping

Afternoon of Walking and Shopping

Brick Lane

From here I’d recommend going to look at Brick Lane and Shoreditch. There are some great markets here, and the vibe is just so London. You can chill out in the beer gardens, or pick up some vintage finds in the shops. Walk to Liverpool Street Station – popping into the Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town bar at The Breakfast Club on the way. From Liverpool Street you can ride the Central Line on the London Underground all the way back to Oxford Circus. The tube closes at around 11pm, depending on the day. So don’t get too stuck into those beer gardens!

Oxford Circus

If you do manage to make it back to Central London in good time then I’d recommend mooching on Oxford Street. The shops are open until 9pm most nights and so you can go on a bar crawl interspersed with checking out the shops.
london night

London Nightlife

For the best nightlife in Central London, head to Soho. Here you’ll find late night bars and nightclubs to keep you entertained all night long. You can enjoy some drinks and dancing at 68 and Boston or The Pink Chihuahua at El Camion. It’s also the epicentre of gay London if Village or G.A.Y are where you’d rather go dancing.

And that’s it, your guide to having an awesome day out in London. Of course there’s SO much more to explore – but this should keep you busy enough. You do need to come back though! There’s still Brixton Village, Shepherd’s Bush and Camden to explore. A picnic on Primrose Hill is a London must do – next time!

Author's Bio

Victoria Philpott runs This is the essential resource for guides and itineraries to England’s best days out. Searchable by interests, counties, cities and areas – they’re definitely not just for the kids! Follow her on YouTube.