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1 Day London Itinerary for First-Time Visitors

If you only have one day in London, then you really do need to plan it well. As you might imagine, a single day isn’t really enough time to spend in the UK capital. But it certainly beats no time at all! 

The good news is that it really is possible to experience some London highlights in just a day. Yes, this isn’t the time to be trekking around town in search of some hidden gem. But secret spots aside, a one trip to London will allow you to see some of the most iconic landmarks. 

This guide will take you through how to do London in a day, so you can plan your perfect London 1 day itinerary. It includes the top 10 sights to visit – though anyone would be pushed to get around them all. 

This itinerary is therefore intended to inspire your day, rather than being a rigid plan you need to follow. If you’re wondering how to use it, start by noting which London landmarks you want to see the most. List these in priority order to give you a starting point. 

Do allow a little wiggle room in case of delays – or you spot a cafe that’s just too cute not to stop at. So without further ado, let’s discover London in a day!

  1. 🗝 TOWER OF LONDONCeremony of the Keys
  2. 🪄 HARRY POTTER STUDIOS Making of Harry Potter Studio + HP walking tour of central London
  3. ⭐️ PRIVATE TOURDiscover Real London black cab tour of London
  4. 🇬🇧 HOP ON HOP OFF BUSCity Sightseeing Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour
  5. 🥟 FOOD TOURUltimate Food Tour of Borough Market
  6. ☀️ LONDON IN 1 DAY TOURSmall group tour of the main sights

Tower of London is a must in any 1 day London itinerary.
  • Where: London EC3N 4AB
  • When: Tuesday to Saturday 9am to 5.30pm, Sunday & Monday 10am to 5.30pm
  • Why: Crown jewels, Beefeaters, historic buildings & exhibits, & an iconic bridge
  • Closest tube: Tower Hill
  • Minimum time to visit: 2 hours+

Unlike some other top London attractions that open later, the Tower of London is open from 9 am most days. That means you can make an early start when doing London in one day, by setting off here first.  

You can see Tower Bridge from the Tower of London, so it’s easy to tick that one off your list while you’re here anyway. Though you can cross the glass walkway if you want to, and see the original Victorian engine rooms. 

The Tower is the main attraction, and we strongly advise buying tickets in advance. Come early if you want to see the Crown Jewels, as there’s always crowns of people waiting for their turn. The museums, suits of armour, ancient buildings and Beefeater guards also make the tower worth your precious time. 

Normally we’d advise allowing at least four hours for the Tower, but you can see some of it in half that time. 

Click here to book Tower of London tickets

  • Where: 24 piers by the Thames
  • When: Early morning until late night
  • Why: Kick back and unwind while seeing the city from the water
  • Closest tube: Varies
  • Minimum time: Varies

It would be easy to fit a Thames cruise into your itinerary after leaving the Tower, as boats depart from Tower Pier. This is a great way to unwind while seeing the city from the water. Pre-book one if you like, or grab an Uber boat by Thames Clippers from whichever pier you’re closest to at the time. They form part of the London Transport network. 

Make Westminster Pier your destination if you want to reach that part of London at this point. Or you could head south to the London Eye. 

  • Where: London SE1 7PB
  • When: Varies by season
  • Why: Panoramic views over the River Thames and city sights during a relaxing ride
  • Closest tube: Waterloo
  • Minimum time to visit: 30 minute ride + queueing time

A trip on the London Eye is a must if you want to experience the best views in the city. The ride will also give you a break, after walking all over town! Pre booking is essential, and anyway will save you time on waiting around. 

This is the UK’s top paid attraction, so unless you really cannot deal with heights, it’s a must-do when in London. It’s worth a look anyway, even if you decide not to ride on the biggest observation wheel in Europe. 

Click here to book London Eye tickets

  • Where: Dean’s Yard, London SW1P 3PA (Westminster Abbey)
  • When: Monday to Friday 9.30am to 3.30 pm, Saturday 9am to 3pm
  • Why: Where the British monarchy are crowned, married and buried
  • Closest tube: Westminster
  • Minimum time to visit: 1 – 2 hours

From the London Eye, it’s easy to walk across Westminster Bridge to reach all the key sights on the northern side of the Thames. Here you’ll find the Houses of Parliament, and Big Ben – as well as rows of red telephone boxes to photograph!

Westminster Abbey is also in this area. It’s where many key royal events such as weddings and funerals take place, and many British notables are also buried here, including Charles Darwin, Winston Churchill, Charles Dickens, and Issac Newton. If you do want to explore inside, book tickets ahead of time and allow an hour or two for your visit. 

Click here to book Westminster Abbey tickets

  • Where: London SW1A 1AA
  • When: View the exterior any time
  • Why: Home of the British monarchy and a major London landmark
  • Closest tube: St James Park
  • Minimum time to visit: 15 – 30 minutes

Buckingham Palace is one of London’s true icons. You cannot actually go in during most of the year, so you simply need to allow enough time to gawp at it. While taking some pictures from the Victoria Memorial out front, of course. 

The best way to approach the palace is from The Mall. Take a tube to St James’ Park underground station, then walk along The Mall. By doing so, you’ll be following in the footsteps of every royal procession you’ve ever seen on TV. 

  • Where: London SW1A 2AX
  • When: Any time
  • Why: See the Horse Guards and take a walk through a London park
  • Closest tube: St James Park
  • Minimum time to visit: 15 – 30 minutes+

While you’re in this part of town, take a walk across leafy St James Park to reach Horse Guards Parade. The parade lies on the eastern side of the park. 

You can see the Horse Guards themselves here. Perhaps take a break in the park, too, if you pick up a picnic at one of the many express supermarkets scattered across the city. It’s a good way to have lunch on the go during dry weather. 

  • Where: London WC2N 5DS
  • When: Any time
  • Why: London’s most famous square with Nelson’s Column, lion statues, & fountains
  • Closest tube: Charing Cross
  • Minimum time to visit: 15 – 30 minutes

Trafalgar Square is about ten minutes on foot from Horse Guards Parade, making it the ideal next stop. This iconic plaza is the city’s most famous, and always packed with people. And pigeons. You literally cannot miss Nelson’s Column, with its quartet of lion guards. 

Trafalgar Square is like a bustling crossroads, right in the heart of the city (which is officially Charing Cross station). Various museums, galleries, and grand embassy buildings line the streets close by. You can also head up Charing Cross Road to reach theatreland and Leicester Square. Covent Garden is also close by.

  • Where: London WC2H 7LU
  • When: Any time
  • Why: Two of the West End’s most famous areas, plus London theatres
  • Closest tube: Leicester Square or Covent Garden
  • Minimum time to visit: 15 – 30 minutes+

Next, wander up from Trafalgar Square to Leicester Square, which is also one of the city’s best-known plazas. It’s where all the big film premieres take place, so it’s seen more red carpets than you’ve had hot dinners. If you’re hungry, London’s Chinatown is tucked right by Leicester Square – ask any local for their restaurant recommendation. 

If you have the time and inclination, you could take a slight detour to Covent Garden while you’re in this part of town. It’s got a busy market, great shopping and dining, and a never-ending supply of street performers.

You’ll pass many top London theatres while walking around these areas, known collectively as the West End or Theatreland. 

  • Where: London Bridge Street, London SE1 9SG
  • When: 10am to 8pm in winter and 10am to 10pm in summer (The View from The Shard)
  • Why: Panoramic river and city views from one of Europe’s highest skyscrapers
  • Closest tube: London Bridge
  • Minimum time to visit: 30 minutes to 1 hour

We recommend saving The Shard’s observation deck for the evening, as it’s open later than other London sights. While you may be able to walk in, again timed entry tickets are your best bet. 

Expect 360 degree views over London from the Skydeck on the 72nd floor of one of Europe’s tallest towers. There’s a couple of indoor decks on lower floors, too. It doesn’t really matter whether you visit during hours of daylight or darkness – either way, you can expect spectacular, sweeping views. 

The Shard is also home to a swish five-star Shangri-La Hotel, plus three floors of bars and restaurants. By all means book a table at one of these if you want dinner with a view, but we also have a more budget-friendly suggestion to fill your belly…

Click here to book View from The Shard tickets

Sausage roll and picallili
  • Where: All over London
  • When: Varies, but typically 11am to 11pm
  • Why: Good pub grub including British and global favourites 
  • Closest tube: Varies
  • Minimum time to visit: 1 hour+

If you’re staying overnight or have time for dinner before departing London, then we reckon you must sample dinner at a traditional British boozer – aka pub. There are too many in London for us to pick any out, so we recommend asking at your hotel for a good one close by. 

Traditional dishes to order include fish and chips, any sort of pie, and sausage (or bangers) and mash. The Brits also do burgers, curries, pasta, and any kind of roast very well indeed. International favourites – are also included on many London pub menus, from Middle Eastern mezze to Thai stir-fries. 

And if you are in the mood for a snack ask for a sausage roll or Scotch Egg with your pint!

The key to seeing London – successfully – in one day is to plan ahead. Pre book timed entry tickets for all attractions you want to visit, and make sure you arrive in plenty of time for your slot. 

Don’t think about fashion – or your photos – think about your poor old feet! You will spend almost all day walking and standing around, so wear comfortable shoes. Sneakers or trainers are good for all seasons, while hiking sandals or boots are good for hot summer days or chilly winter weather respectively. 

Bring along a packable rain jacket or poncho, if you’re not already wearing a waterproof jacket. It rains a lot in London, so you don’t want to get caught short, as the locals like to say! Also bring along a water bottle that you can refill as the day wears on. Check out our packing list for more ideas!

The London Underground is the best way to get around the city on a tight timeframe. It’s fast, efficient, and iconic, too. For all the places listed in this guide, we’ve named the closest tube station. Though you can walk between many sites. 

We always say stay central when visiting London. It’s just not worth wasting hours of your limited time in travelling from one of the outer zones. If you’re only staying for one night, then it’s worth paying a little more for convenience – and feeling in the thick of things. 

If you have only one day to spend in London, then use it wisely! This means planning ahead – as well as prioritising what you want to see and do the most. Set out early, pre book your tickets, and make sure you’ll stay comfortable and dry all day long. That way, you should have a whale of a time. 

Just don’t say we didn’t warn you – you will leave London wanting more!

Find out more about what to see and do in London, including when to visit, where to stay, what to eat, and the answers to the most frequently asked questions, with this 5 day London itinerary or this 2 day London itinerary

London Travel Guide & Itinerary Planner Ebook (+ 4 BONUS ebooks)