How to see London in one day? Can it actually be done? Absolutely! While there is plenty to see in the capital city which is home to about 9 million people, if you have just one day in London you can still have a great day and see all the main attractions. 

What you need is a good one day in London itinerary to follow. I wrote this blog to offer a perfect step-by-step itinerary on how to spend your one day in London. Think of it as one day in London guide to make the most of your day.

I have lived in London for many years and have returned many times. I also work as a tour guide in Europe so I know how to create a great itinerary. So here we go…

London In One Day - The Perfect Itinerary London view

How to get around London when you have just one day?

Since you only have one day in London, it’s a good idea to decide how you are going to be moving around London.

London has a fantastic underground system known as the TUBE. It’s easy to use. You could either use your contactless debit or credit card to tap and top off to use the tube (you pay for each ride) or simply buy a 1 one-day unlimited Travelcard at GBP7.70 for the 1st-2nd zone.

You can buy this at any underground station, even at Heathrow airport underground station when you arrive in London.

There is also the option to purchase Oyster Card which is essentially a digital card for transport in London that you can load with money, but if you are in London for one day the Travelcard is a better option.

The Oyster card alone is £5, but you can get your money back when you return it to the ticket office (you can do this at Heathrow airport tube station before flying out).

Hop on Hop off Bus in London

The other option is to book the hop-on-hop-off bus in London. This can be a great option if too much walking or too many stairs (plenty in the underground) is a problem.

This bus is slower than the underground due to traffic, but it allows you to see London when commuting to the next attraction. 

London In One Day - The Perfect Itinerary underground

London In One Day – Lonon’s underground is referred to as TUBE and the unlimited Travelcard for 1 day is best when exploring the city for a day

The London in One Day Itinerary Overview 

Our London itinerary starts in the morning with a stop at Buckingham Palace, then walk through James Park to get to Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. 

We will then walk across Westminster Bridge for some views of the London Eye. Continue along the Southbank to the Shakespeare Globe, and then grab some food at Borough Market.

Walk across Tower Bridge and visit the Tower of London. Then shop on Oxford Street and grab a drink & dinner in Covent Garden and maybe see a show/musical in West End.

London In One Day - The Perfect Itinerary Tower Bridge

What to do in London in one day:

Buckingham Palace & James Park

Is there a better place to start your one day in London than at Buckingham Palace? Buckingham Palace is the Queen’s official and main royal London home and it’s impressive to see. It’s so huge!

And this is only one of their royal residences! How the other half live, right?

London In One Day - The Perfect Itinerary Buckingham Palace

London In One Day – Buckingham Palace is huge and access for the public is limited.

The palace is made up of an incredible 775 rooms and tourists can only visit during the summer when the Queen is not here. To do so, I recommend booking a tour which is listed below.

The other reason to come to Buckingham Palace is to watch the changing of the guards at 11 am (or 10.45 am) and it lasts about 45 minutes.

Note: This might not actually happen when you are in London as the changing of the guards happens every second day. Check this website for a schedule here.

If you happen to be here in summer and wish to do a tour, I recommend getting your entrance ticket for Buckingham Palace: The State Rooms here

And if you wish to combine the palace and the changing of the guards, this is the best tour for it: London: Changing of the Guard & Buckingham Palace Tour.

Buckingham Palace area gets very crowded when the changing of the guards is on and personally, I prefer to come here early morning to be able to take photos of the palace and the guards before the thousands of tourists arrive and then move on, unless you are doing a tour of the palace of course.

From Buckingham Palace walk across the green James Park toward the Westminster Abbey, which is our next stop on the London in one day itinerary.

The park gives you a better insight into the other side of London that many tourists miss out on as they race around the city to see all the attractions. You can also spot the London Eye in the distance.

London In One Day - The Perfect Itinerary James Park

London In One Day – The Perfect Itinerary James Park

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey is a gothic structure where all the royals of the British monarchy are crowned and buried (and a few important historical figures such as Charles Dickens).

It has also been the location for 17 royal weddings— including the marriage of Prince William to Catherine Middleton in 2011. We all remember that day.

Or you might also remember the memorial service dedicated to Lady Diana which was held here. 

London In One Day - The Perfect Itinerary Westminister Abbey

London In One Day – Westminister Abbey is the place of coronations and burials of British monarchs

If you love history and are a big fan of British monarchs, then visiting Westminster Abbey or doing a more inclusive tour is highly recommended.

If you wish to enter and simply tour Westminister Abbey on your own time, purchase the entry ticket here.

If you prefer to join a guided tour for a better understanding see these tours below. Just make sure the timings work with your overall plan to see London in a day.

Houses of Parliament & Big Ben

Virtually a stone’s throw away from Westminster Abbey is the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, two of the must-see attractions when visiting London in one day. 

The Houses of Parliament is as its name suggests is the seat of the parliament and even offers a free tour for visitors to see how the parliament operates!

Of course, this needs to be booked beforehand and it’s probably something for those who are interested in the politics of the UK.

Big Ben is not the clock tower that is adjoining to the Houses of Parliament. The name Big Ben actually refers to the huge bell that is rung each hour and the clock tower is called the Elizabeth Tower.

However, the great news is that after 5 years of restoration that cost £80m, the tower has been unveiled with a new glistening golden exterior, with intricate emerald details. Also, the clock hands were restored to their original blue.

So finally you can get that cheesy selfie before we cross on the other side of the river Thames.

London In One Day - The Perfect Itinerary Houses of Parliament

London In One Day – Houses of Parliament & Big Ben

Westminster Bridge & London Eye

Continue further to cross the Westminster Bridge to see the main attraction in London, the London Eye. You can see it from the bridge as well as the nice skyline of London. I think London Eye is the best attraction to see in London, especially if you are trying to see London in one day.

What I love about London Eye, is that it turns slowly so you get plenty of time to see London from above and take photos. The whole ride takes 25 minutes and on a clear day, you can see across 30kms! Amazing. 

I have taken my friends and family around London a few times and they all seemed to love this the most!

London In One Day - The Perfect Itinerary London Eye from the top

London In One Day – The Perfect Itinerary London Eye from the top

Don’t waste too much time waiting in line to buy a ticket. Book your ticket right here to skip the line and go straight up.

When you come back down, it’s time to continue along the South Bank.

Borough Market

Once you have seen the incredible 360 views of London, it is about 30 minutes walk to the Borough Market. You can follow the river Thames along the Bankside (you’ll get to see other attractions such as the Tate Modern or Shakespeare Globe) or simply cut through for the fastest way to the market.

This is where we refuel – there is plenty of food.

You could also jump on the tube – on the Jubilee line or use bus #381 to get to Borough Market.

The Borough Market is open daily from morning until 5 pm, but on Sunday it finishes at 3 pm and it is closed on Monday. In this case, just continue with the rest of the itinerary.

Borough Market is easy to love – there is amazing fresh produce from fruit to baked goods, deli meats and cheeses and of course a nice selection of international food that makes London such an excellent and vibrant city.

It’s truly an amazing place and for any foodies, this is not to be missed if you are trying to see London in one day, but also enjoy some amazing food. So eat up, refuel and let’s continue…

If you have more time in London: I recommend this 3 Hour British Food Tour (which includes a visit to Borough Market). 

London In One Day - The Perfect Itinerary Borough market

London In One Day – Borough Market is a must-stop for any foodies or hungry visitors

Time to leave the South Bank and head across the river.

Tower Bridge & Tower of London

Depending on how your morning went with a visit to London Eye and late lunch at Borough Market, you should be crossing Tower Bridge early afternoon.

It’s unfortunate, but Tower Bridge is often confused with and called London Bridge by many visitors.

The actual London Bridge is not so spectacular, so trust me, it’s the Tower Bridge you wish to see. Tower Bridge is the only drawbridge in London. It crosses the River Thames near the Tower of London and it allows ships through the bridge deck when is raised at an angle.

It’s pretty cool to see.

London In One Day - The Perfect Itinerary London tourists Tower Bridge

London In One Day – Selfie at the Tower Bridge

The Tower Bridge and both sides of it are a perfect spot for some photos before you adore the Tower of London.

This is another must-see attraction when exploring London in one day.

The Tower of London is a castle in the city centre where the history of London and England was literally written. There are so many fascinating facts and stories and you could easily spend two hours here. The main highlight is the crown jewels, there is usually a line to see the jewels, but it moves quickly.

To visit the Tower of London (and get eyes on the Crown Jewels), I recommend buying an entry ticket online here.

You could also join this 3 hour long Guided Tour that starts early morning and allows you to visit the Tower of London before everyone else.

In this case you just need to reverse this London in one day itinerary. Simply start your day here at the Tower of London and make your way to the Borough Market and so on. 

London In One Day - The Perfect Itinerary Tower of London

London In One Day – The Tower of London is a must-visit place

After the Tower of London visit, you will most likely start to feel the day and you can choose to visit a few places by simply taking the underground to one of these:

Trafalgar Square & National Gallery 

If you started your day early and you are able to pop into the National Gallery before 6 pm closing time, then I recommend you do it. It is free to enter and you can at least see the main highlights of the gallery: Vincent Van Gogh’s Sunflowers and Leonardo da Vinci’s The Virgin on the Rocks.

There’s also a 1 hour Highlights of National Gallery Guided Tour available.

Oxford Street & Carnaby Street

For high street fashion shopping, hit Oxford Street or the more intimate and smaller Carnaby Street.

Oxford Street is always busy as over half a million people a day visit this shopping mecca! The shops close late in the evening so you’ll have time to shop too.

London In One Day - The Perfect Itinerary Oxford Street

London In One Day – The Perfect Itinerary Oxford Street

Covent Garden for dinner or West End for a Show

For all-around great vibes with shopping and dining, Covent Garden hits the spot. For me, this is one of my favourite areas to take a friend who visits London.

Street buskers, great shops, a vibrant market and cool bars like Upstairs At Rules. It’s all here. 

And for all the Harry Potter Fans

It’s here you’ll find the cute 17th century alley lined with bookshops. Cecil Court is believed to be an inspiration for the cobblestoned wizarding Diagon Alley, in JK Rowlings Harry Potters’s book.

And if you love Harry Potter, don’t forget that London has some awesome tours dedicated to everything about Harry Potter. check out these top-rated Harry Potter Tours below:

And for an in-depth tour, check out this Fully Guided Making of Harry Potter Tour which takes you behind the scenes of Warner Bros Harry Potter’s Studio in London. 

Of course, I could also recommend having dinner at one of the typical English pubs in London. They seem to be on every corner and it makes for a stress-free, cosy dinner in London. 

London has also a lively arts scene and you can score a ticket to a musical or show for as little as 30 GBP. Check Ticketmaster for tickets on the day you visit. 

Final thoughts in London in One Day

Is one day in London enough? Well not really to see it all, but if you follow this one day London itinerary, you will see the best-known attractions in London. And while London has plenty more to offer if you have a few more days to stay, this blog proves that seeing the best of London in one day is possible.

PRO TIP for London: 

As for the attractions, I highly recommend pre-booking your tickets online to avoid disappointment or long lines. I recommend using Get Your Guide as they also offer 24 hour cancellations.

If you are planning to visit Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London and maybe go up to the top of the Shard, then buying the One Day London Pass is well worth it as it will save you money and it will include the Hop-On-Hop-Off-Bus too.

The price of the pass starts from £67 and it gives you access to 80+ London attractions. But here are the individual costs of entry tickets listed in the itinerary.

  • Tower of London (£29.90)
  • View from the Shard (£32)
  • Westminster Abbey (£25)
  • Hop-On-Hop-Off-Bus (£41)
London In One Day - The Perfect Itinerary London

One Day in London

One day in London Itinerary – Where to Stay in London

There are many areas you could stay in London and still be close to everything. I would suggest to stay in Covent Garden, Soho as it’s usually where you’ll finish your day.

Close by, you will find great bars and restaurants, not to mention the shows and musicals in the West End.

Here are my recommended places to stay in London

More Travel Inspiration for the United Kingdom

If you’re exploring the UK, you might be inspired to visit Scotland too! Edinburgh is an easy train journey from London, you can book the cheapest train tickets on Trainline, or book a cheap coach ticket with Megabus.

Here are the top 10 things to do in Edinburgh to have the best time in this cool city.

If you’d like to explore Scotland on a small group tour, we recommend Rabbies Tours. You can read our review of Rabbies Tours here as we absolutely loved our trip with them to explore the Northern Coast & Orkney Islands.

Oh, and the food in Scotland is wonderful – you definitely need to try these 12 most popular Scottish foods when you visit.

TRAVEL PLANNING RESOURCES  

✈️ Flights: Aviasales & CheapOair are the best websites to book cheap flights.

🏨 AccommodationBooking.comAgoda, and Hotellook are the top platforms to search for fantastic hotels and accommodation options at the best price.

🏥 Travel Insurance: Don’t forget travel insurance! We recommend World Nomads or SafetyWing.

🚌 Transportation: To book trains, Trainline is the best and cheapest website. To book transport in Europe, USA & Canada, we use Omio & FlixbusUS. For travel in Asia, we use 12Go. For all other countries, we use BookaWay to compare and book Bus, Ferry, or train tickets to get around.

🚘 Car Rental: DiscoverCars, & Europcar are reliable platforms to book rental cars.

👫 Group ToursG Adventures or Expat Explore offers the best group adventures around the world. Use our promo code VERYHUNGRYNOMADS at checkout to receive 5% off your Expat Explore Trip!

📸 Day Tours & TripsGetYourGuide & Viator are the only platforms you will need. They offer everything at unbeatable prices.

🎒 LuggageOsprey Farpoint 40L Backpack or Samsonite Luggage Range (we love this Stack’d Carry-On Spinner Suitcase).

🛄 What to Pack: To help you get started on packing, here is our ULTIMATE Packing List for all Travellers.

🐶 Become a House Sitter: Join Trusted Housesitters and enjoy FREE accommodation around the world. Use our personal invite to receive 25% off your new membership.

💰 Send Money Anywhere: WISE is the best online account that lets you send money, get paid, and spend money internationally. It’s so easy to use and way cheaper than any bank transfer.

📶 Stay Connected: Airalo eSIM allows you to get connected the moment you land at your destination and you can avoid those expensive data roaming charges. We LOVE this product!

✅ Check out our Travel Resources Page for more Useful Tips to Save you Money!