24 hours in London. The very thought is overwhelming, but don’t worry: we can help you make the most of the time you have.
The first thing is to pick a location with maximum potential, so you don’t have to spend too much time traveling. It's also important to consider how you like to get around: if you’re a keen walker, getting around on foot is very easy in London, but there are plenty of options using taxi service or public transport.
Breakfast in the Hub
If you’re only staying one night, you might as well choose some digs that are conveniently located. If you’ve arrived in the morning after an evening flight, you’ll want to freshen up and get some proper food.
Our favourite Notting Hill breakfast haunt has to be the Continental Pantry, serving breakfast until 2:30 pm each day, featuring hearty fare like smoked salmon and scrambled eggs on their signature sourdough toast.
Polpo, the artsy Venetian chain, how has locations throughout central London, and their new brunch offerings are a hit, including poached eggs and ricotta on toast or brunch pizzettas. Go for Tredwell’s in Covent Garden for healthy (but luscious) vegetarian options.
If you want to get in as much window shopping and sightseeing done in the morning hours as is humanly possible, sitting down for breakfast might seem like a luxury. Any bakery should have savory pastries you can nosh on with a takeaway tea or coffee; try a bacon butty, a tried and true English tradition.
But pace yourself, and make sure you take some time to refresh and rest a bit for the second half of your day. Perhaps a morning spent shopping in Covent Garden will mean stopping off at your B&B to drop off your bags, a quick spritz of rosewater (that you just bought at Neal’s Yard) and off for more adventures.
Walking Tour: The Thames Walk
If you’re up for a self-guided walking tour, the Thames Walk can’t be beat as a wonderful way to take in much of what Central London has to offer: historic landmarks (you’ll see the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and the London Eye as you walk along the river), arts (museums, theatre and cinema for starters), shopping and people watching along the river. You could easily spend half a day exploring destinations along the way, and if you decide to see a play at the Globe or a film at the BFI, add on some hours. But those spots also also have nice gift shops if you don’t fancy sitting for that long (or standing, if you catch a matinee at the Globe for only £5!). You’ll also pass by the Tate Modern, an exquisite upcycled structure that was once a power station, now home to some of the world’s foremost modern art.
You can start out at Westminster Station, or Waterloo, or Charing Cross, all close to the Millennium footbridge. If you’d like a meal first (breakfast was hours ago!), and maybe some mingling with crowds, perhaps try Trafalgar Square (which includes the National Gallery and the National Opera House in close proximity).
Pret a Manger is an organic chain that serves up tasty lunch for travellers on the go, or there are a number of pubs here too (like the Chandos with its charming nook seating in the upstairs Opera Rooms), right near St. Martin in the Fields (a lovely historic church).
There are plenty of places to refresh along the way, so enjoy your walk along the Thames and taking in the bedazzling urban jewel that is central London.
Evening Beckons: Nightlife or Chill?
“As the evening beckons with the promise of tomorrow...may your gratitude rise up and with strength answer, ‘yes’"
Mary Anne Radmacher.
Had your fill of excitement yet? There’s a few hours to go! Cat nap, coffee or aromatherapy massage, do what it takes to rev up your psyche for an evening in London.
If you spent the day walking, perhaps some seated refreshment is in order. The West End is the place to see a play, if the play’s the thing you’re after, and the TKTS booth in Leicester Square is the place to try your luck for tickets.
If you didn’t make it to the British Film Institute earlier, what about taking in a film and browsing their brilliant gift shop (open until 10:30 pm) full of books, DVDs and swag? You can book a table at their restaurant, or grab a cocktail or craft beer.
Then again, central London has the air of a Fellini film most evenings, so maybe you’re content to have a nice dinner somewhere and explore. If you did take in that afternoon matinee, then a walk through the city is a perfect way to unwind: there are a number of intriguing options for guided walking tours at night, like “Old Westminster by Gaslight” (bonus: you avoid the daytime crowds of tourists).
Dinner options in central London are too numerous to parse here. But luckily Eater London has gathered some ideas for the hottest dining spots in London right now.
London is famous for its many fine Indian restaurants, and its traditional English pubs, but world class cuisine is not in short supply, so you’ll have no problem finding a place to tickle your fancy and satisfy your palate. The gastropub is one of the most winning trends in a long while, so check out this list of delicious options.
Maybe you’ll realize you simply must stay on and explore more of London’s tasty food, and book for another night or two--?