The Perfect London 1 Day Itinerary

So you've got 24 hours in London, and we've got the itinerary to help you make the most of it.

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London street lit up at night with red phone box

Stopping off for a single whirlwind day in England’s capital? We at Plum Guide know the pain of trying to take in a city in a single day, so we’ve devised the perfect London 1 day itinerary to make sure you see some highlights, soak up some history, and still have time for a spot of tea and scones in the afternoon.

Delve into the city’s past

If you only have a day in London, we cannot in all good conscience recommend you go to the British Museum – it would take about a month to get round the whole thing, and that’s if you skip the cafe. Luckily, there’s no shortage of museums in the capital that are just as interesting, as well as much more manageable on a tight schedule. If you can imagine it, there’s probably a museum dedicated to it in London (the Museum of Fans, anyone?) but if you’re looking for the best museum to fit into a London 1 day itinerary, we suggest checking out somewhere that focuses on the city itself.

The Museum of London is frequently overlooked, but takes visitors on a trip from the founding of the city right up to its modern history. There's all sorts here: brightly coloured Mary Quant dresses rub shoulders with Roman artefacts dredged from the Thames. It’s a fantastic glimpse into the lives of ordinary (and extraordinary) Londoners over the centuries.

If, however, you’re more interested in the criminal class of the city, a trip to the Tower of London is calling your name. Befriend the beefeaters, learn of the dark and dastardly deeds of kings and commoners, and pay a visit to the Crown Jewels.

Whichever you choose, head there for when it opens in the morning, to avoid both the crowds and losing the whole day ooh-ing and ahh-ing over royal bling.

Indulge in a spot of afternoon tea

It’s a quintessentially British activity, so when in the capital… No matter how tight your London 1 day itinerary may be, it’s worth setting aside a few hours to really relax with a rich and indulgent afternoon tea. Almost every hotel or restaurant will offer their own take on this tradition, but there’s only a few places that are truly worth going. The Ritz is undoubtedly the most famous example, and definitely an experience not to be missed if you’re feeling, well, ritzy. For a more modern update, make a booking at the stylish Sketch; you’ll no doubt recognise the pink interiors and tongue-in-cheek David Shrigley artworks from design magazines, but this establishment is far from style over substance. Afternoon tea in this restaurant may be a departure from the classic, but it’s no less indulgent for it. Pass the finger sandwiches, please.

Visit the city’s most iconic shops

London is a shopaholic's dream; it seems that around every corner, there’s a new boutique to be explored. If you really want to be in the centre of the action, though, we can’t recommend the bright lights of Mayfair and Soho highly enough. Award-winning Plum Home, the aptly named Shopper’s Paradise, would be the perfect base to explore the hallowed halls of iconic department store Liberty, search for your next holiday read in the cavernous independent bookshop Foyles, or simply stroll through the streets and pop into every shop with an eye-catching window display. The only worry you might have is carrying all those bags home.

Shopper's Paradise, Plum Guide home in London

Sample the best of London’s cuisine for dinner

As befits the capital, there’s no shortage of fine dining and hidden gems on the streets of London. With just one evening to sample the culinary delights of the city, our ideal London 1 day itinerary evening meal entirely depends on what you fancy. Craving a quality steak, cooked to perfection? Set your sights on the polished wood and even more polished service of Hawksmoor. Want to try something utterly new with an army of friends? Check out the eclectic modern European dishes of Ducksoup, designed to be shared. Belgravia’s Japanese establishment, Dinings, provides a high-end alternative to tired sushi joints, with sensational small plates which offer a mountain of flavour in just a few mouthfuls. But if we were forced to choose, we would go to Kitty Fisher’s - this modern British menu changes regularly, but the flavours and the atmosphere are always impeccable. Booking ahead is essential, but we promise you won’t want to dine anywhere else.

End the day with a show

If you only have a day in London, you’ll want to make the most of every moment - no early nights in this city, sorry. Which means that after dinner, you’re heading out to see some of London’s world-class entertainment. Finishing off our London 1 day itinerary is the West End, one of the best places to stay in London if you want to be in the heart of it all. The area's glittering pull is hard to resist, and why would you? There are some true stage classics to be found here; book ahead to avoid disappointment, as tickets to the most popular shows often sell out. If you’re going for a late finish, we recommend staying somewhere close to avoid battling with the night tube. This opulent Covent Garden Plum home, Riverbank Royal, would be ideal for an after-show base.

Riverbank Royal, Plum Guide home in London

If your tastes skew towards the more contemporary, the National Theatre and the Almeida Theatre fill their stage nightly with dramas to set the heart racing, and comedies that’ll have you in stitches. Sadler’s Wells is a classic for the ballet lovers amongst you, and the Royal Opera House is worth a trip for the luxe interiors alone, setting aside the world-class talent on the stage. Whichever entertainment you choose, we’re certain that by the time the final curtain falls, you’ll agree that our London 1 day itinerary has shown you a new side to this beloved city.

If you’ve got slightly longer to spend in London, make sure to check out our 4 day itinerary; and if you're looking to sample the city's most exciting neighbourhoods, we've rounded up the best places to stay in London for young adults, or you could check out our guide to Victoria instead.

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